When the Doctor confronts Magnus Greel in his lair we get a lot of background about the 51st century and seems a much grimmer era than you might have thought from ‘The Girl in the fireplace’ and tales told by Captain Jack.
Earth in this period is in the grip of a new ice age. One can imagine that conditions are harsh, with limited resources. Since we know that space travel is routine at this point those who are left on Earth might be the poor and desperate, unable to afford the trip to more prosperous worlds. The perfect conditions for a brutal regime to rise up.
Magnus Greel is identified as the Minister of Justice in the Supreme Alliance. One can only imagine how terrible the other members of the Alliance are. One gets the impression that they were monsters as well.
From what we know of the Supreme Alliance they assassinated the commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance by using the Peking Homunculus, a toy for his children, to kill him. This is certainly a devious way to attack an enemy and speaks volumes for their underhanded methods.
The conflict the Supreme Alliance initiates and the duration of their rule can be the setting for tough adventures exploring both the depths of human depravity and their ability to overcome adversity.
It presents a time of large scale upheaval where it is very clear who the bad guys are. There is something very satisfying about defeating absolute evil and anyone in the Alliance certainly fits that bill. It allows you to transpose any World War 2 story into a similar bleak time but with lasers and cyborgs.
The ministers of the Supreme Alliance would all make despicable villains for any adventure. Player characters can find themselves working to remove each one from power, either on their own or with the help of rebels and the Icelandic Alliance.
Adventures could be small scale or epic. On the smaller end of the scale the player characters could rescue human test subjects from the Supreme Alliances inhuman experiments, aide a family in getting off world, providing a community with supplies or even act as spies, providing information that will help bring the Supreme Alliance down.
Alternatively the time travellers might find themselves in the middle of large scale conflict, either helping innocent people caught in the cross fire or tipping things in the Icelandic Alliance favour.
All of this is set against the background of the Ice age, the planet slowly freezing with no end in sight. Everything would be covered in a layer of snow, freezing cold winds howling across the landscapes, people forced to cower together for warmth. Whole species dwindle while the remaining animals have to become more savage in order to feed on the rapidly depleting food supplies.
Science has reached the stage of robots, cyborgs, laser weapons, teleportation and primitive time travel. The dangerous experiments conducted by Magnus Greel and others most surely have led to the creation of the Time Agency. Mankind had reached a stage where time travel had to be monitored to prevent further horrors.
The other experiments conducted by the Supreme Alliance could lead to further experiments. The player characters could find themselves as test subjects are be alerted to an unstable device that they must prevent from being activated.
The final scenes with Magnus Greel show an interesting development from social conflict to physical conflict. Initially the two parties negotiate, both have something the other wants and are afraid to take it by force for fear of losing their goal.
When dealing with a villain player characters should expect betrayal. In this case this comes in the form of Mr Sin, firing a laser gun, hidden within a Jade dragon statue. This shows the advantage of having a villain employee a sidekick or two who can surprise the heroes or do things the villain can’t.
In their second encounter Mr Sin acts a wild card, opening fire on the Tong members and then on his master. It was already established that Mr Sin loved killing and conceivably an inventive player could spend a plot point to take advantage of this nature, suggesting that the homunculus might go berserk.
It is also suggested that Mr Sin fires on Magnus Greel because the Doctor revealed that activating the time cabinet would have destroyed the surrounding area, including Mr Sin. Manipulating enemies so they turn against each other can be a good way to use Convince to turn the tide of battle.
The 6th episode of ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ achieves a lot in its short screen time. The Doctor reaches the villains lair, learns his origins, is captured before escaping in an entertaining manner a leading to a big fight where not one but two of the reoccurring villains are despatched.
It just shows that as you reach your final act you can still pack it with further adventures. It works because the House of Dragon is well designed, with a strong visual centre piece in the form of the Jade Dragon that combines the themes of the plot.
This ornate statue represents the Chinese origins that have provided much of the threat of the story. Inside is a deadly laser the technology representing the threat that has come from the future, the source of all the apparent supernatural power of Weng-Chiang.
The Jade Dragon also transforms the threat posed by Mr Sin. His small frame has allowed him to attack covertly and his artificial nature made him partially immune to attacks. Yet his diminutive stature didn’t make him a physical threat. This can be seen in his final attack on the time travellers as the Doctor is able to easily manhandle the pig brained brute.
Putting him in the Jade Dragon makes Mr Sin, an established killer, a powerhouse. Using the laser weapon he can kill instantly and able to hit anyone in the room. Attacking him is more of a challenge because the statue protects him.
Having a focus gives something for the player characters to think about. All their actions and plans have to take into account this element. Without the Jade Dragon these final scenes would have been much more humdrum, a simple conflict between the hero and villain that would have been resolved much like every other challenge they’ve faced.
Reaching the end of this story there is another lesson to be learnt. As much as you enjoyed the setting and the supporting NPCs don’t dwell to long after the villain has been defeated and the day saved.
Your characters haven’t got time to stand around all day discussing tea. Have them say their good byes, enter their TARDIS and then whisk them away for a new adventure.