Faith and belief are reoccurring themes in ‘The Curse of Fenric’. The Russian soldiers believe in the existence of vampires, Reverend Wainwright has lost his faith, Commander Millington believes in Norse mythology and the haemovores are held back by strong beliefs.
What do your player characters believe? The Doctor has faith in his companions and Ace believes in the Doctor. In this case faith means trust, knowing that a person will do the right thing.
Travelling through space and time can be stressful so can the player characters depend on each other? Look at how they behave during an adventure. Do they work against each other, ignore their advice and engage in inter-party conflict?
Being able to trust each other saves time and lives. Everyone can be assigned a goal and know that it will get done. Mistakes will be made but players have to believe that as a rule they can depend on their companions.
Of course faith can mean more than just trust. Sorin uses his faith in Revolution to protect him and Wainwright briefly uses his faith in the bible. What ideas do the player characters feel strongly about?
This information is not only useful to provide characterisation, after all what we believe in dictates much of our actions, but it can lead to very personal adventures. An adventure can be centred around this belief, challenging a character’s faith. At the conclusion of the adventure their faith has either been reaffirmed or their beliefs changed.
An example of this is shown by Wainwright’s personal crisis. He believed that people were naturally good, that everyone could be saved. Britain’s actions, causing the deaths of innocent German people, made him doubt that good could exist. Jean and Phyllis, transformed into haemovores, further break him by convincing him that they were damned from the day they were born.
Just as an example if one of the player characters was an adjudicator they might strongly believe in law in order. An adventure could be built around a colony where the law enforcemencers are corrupt, abusing their powers and ruling through fear.
Would the player character decide that rules and regulations can not adapt to the many varied experiences that occur in real life or would they decide that this is exactly why the law is necessary, to stop people like this and bring them to justice?
In game terms any crisis of faith can be dealt with through Convince vs Resolve. This can go both ways with the player characters making their opponent doubt what they believe in.
A specific faith could be seen as a free Specialisation , providing a +2 bonus if the attack is against a strongly held belief.
The player characters are in a privileged position as time travels. When they travel into the past they know how things turn out. The natives don’t have that luxury. For those people they can fear that there won’t be a future, a depressing thought.
Ace offers herself as a representation of the future, something for Wainwright to believe in. Player characters can act as beacons of hope, providing assurances of how things will turn out. Their existence proves there is a tomorrow.
It is up to you to decide how true that is. The Doctor and his companions generally travel along one time line. They know that if they go to the 1980s it will be the same 1980s they visited before and not some alternative timeline.
This is not always the case. ‘The pyramids of Mars’ shows a 1980s devastated by Sutekh and in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ the Doctor says he has visited a future where humanity has mutated into the haemovores due to the release of toxin.
Knowing this stops the player characters from becoming cocky. If they travel to the 17th century they can’t guarantee that London won’t be destroyed just because they know it didn’t. In some way their actions are already part of their own time line.
An example of this is shown by Ace’s interaction with Kathleen and the baby Audrey who later turn out to be her grandmother and mother respectively. Ace tells Kathleen to go to an address in London where she can stay with her grandmother.
Since Kathleen is her grandmother we can assume that when she arrives at the property it will be empty, allowing her to move in. This becomes a pre-destination time loop. Ace gives the address because that is where her grandmother lived and her grandmother lived there because Ace told her to go there.
In short Ace didn’t change history.
This neatly demonstrates how time works in Doctor Who. Events are predestined but still allow for free will. Everything the time travellers do has already happened, but they have the choice not to and thus the time line will change.
This can allow for brief trips to potential futures. Presumably the Doctor visited the poisoned Earth and knew that he needed to go back and perform some action to put time back on the right track.
Stumbling across a bleak time line could be a good way to start an adventure. If the characters arrive in the 1992 to find America was destroyed by a plague in 1973 they know they will need to go back and prevent it, because they were always supposed to.
This cuts both ways. Jean and Phyllis say that they were damned the day they were born. One could interpret this as meaning that they were always destined to be turned into vampires.
The player characters can’t save everyone and it might elevate some guilt if they know that this is the way it was supposed to be. It also reinforces that they can’t just keep going back in time to save everyone. Some are just destined to die.
For those interested in exploring alternative time lines may I suggest the Doctor Who book ‘Festival of Death’ written by Jonathan Morris and ‘The Time Travellers’ by Simon Guerrier.
In ‘Festival of Death’ the 4th Doctor and Romana arrive at the end of their adventure finding out that the Doctor had died saving the day. They now must travel back to ensure those events occur, even though the Doctor will die and knowing that there are people that history demands also die.
This story is an exciting exploration of pre-destination and works largely to a well realised time line, allowing the time lords to loop back on themselves several times without causing paradoxes.
In ‘The Time Travellers’ the 1st Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara arrive in 2006 but its very different from the world we know. This is a world where their adventures never continued past ‘Planet of Giants’. In this time line people were driven mad by WOTAN and the cybermen have managed to secure territories in the north, among other changes.
It is a good exploration of how the Doctor and his companions have helped ensure that history have proceeded correctly. It also has some interesting exploration of time travel and how paradoxes can make things go very wrong.