‘The Mother Road’ by Gareth Wigmore was printed in the Big Finish collection ‘Farewells’. Featuring the original TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara it begins with the Doctor losing his ship in a poker game, forcing them to drive across the US in 2006 to bid on it in an auction.
The story fits this group of characters, forever prone to making long journeys in the hope of reaching home whether it be in the company of Marco Polo or across the surface of Marinus.
Luckily for them there is precious little peril to be encountered as they drive along the famous Route 66. The story is divided into short chapters, highlighting a small moment as they pass through each state.
Without an outside threat the travellers have a chance to get to know each other better. Whether it is Ian teaching the Doctor how to drive a car or Susan and Barbara sun bathing by a pool and musing about their future. For once they can just enjoy themselves.
In an on going campaign there is certainly a place for adventures which serve as a holiday. It can be a welcome change of pace to have at least one session where the player characters aren’t fighting for their lives.
It is particularly appropriate if something traumatic has occurred in a previous adventure. If a character dies, regenerates or is forced to do something which disturbs them it can be a good opportunity to slow things down and give the group time to adjust and let off steam.
These ‘down time’ adventures can also be a good opportunity to develop the characters, letting them gain new good traits and eliminate bad traits. One character might teach another how to use a particular skill or another might finally reveal his dark secret now that he feels he can trust his travelling companions.
It can be used to help heal wounds and patch up differences. For example if a character broke his leg in the previous adventure the holiday could be set during the time they are waiting for the limb to heal or if one character betrayed the others they could use this opportunity to make amends.
During the course of the story the TARDIS crew come to appreciate each other to a greater degree, almost becoming a family in many ways. At this early point Ian and Barbara’s main motivation was to get home but with this quiet period they can actually appreciate the places that the Doctor and Susan take them.
The construction of the story is like a travelogue, allowing the characters time to see the sights and sample the local delicacies. Ian and Barbara buy souvenirs in New Mexico and the Doctor entertains and educates children in a national park in Arizona.
There are countless tourist guides, providing travel routes around the world and information on what to see and do. By keeping in mind your player characters you should be able to find things that will engage their interest. Simply note down these locations and skip the time between.
Don’t forget to consider the time period as well. The groups journey is made more exotic to them because it is in Ian and Barbara’s future. Credit cards, internet banking and the ballooning size of the general population are all very different from their time.
The same works in reverse. Setting an adventure several decades earlier than a player characters home time further emphasises the distance they’ve travelled. Part of travelling is coping with these differences, from the way people speak to the currency they use to the local customs.
The group could still find themselves running into trouble on their holiday. Their money could be stolen, their vehicle might break down stranding them in the middle of nowhere and they could be involved in a disaster. All types of mishaps befall travellers every day and all of them could happen to the player characters.
They also have the chance of doing good deeds whether it be picking up a hitch hiker, helping a lost child find a parent or helping to put out a forest fire. They never know who they might run into where their skills can come in useful.
Some player characters might enjoy these holidays so much that it becomes their primary motivation for travelling. Rather than using the TARDIS to fight evil where ever it might be they instead use it to go sight seeing and have new experiences.
This gives you free reign as the games master to take them to the most spectacular places in all time and space. If they should just happen to stumble upon something despicable or arrive just in time for an alien invasion so much the better.
The whole reason that this adventure is put in motion is because the Doctor looses the TARDIS. Without it they are stranded. Over the long history of the series the loss of TARDIS has been used to increase the tension in the plot.
Sometimes it is simply being held hostage by someone else, other times it becomes inaccessible such as by falling off a cliff or blown out into space and in a few rare occasions it has even apparently been destroyed.
Denying the player characters access to their time machine immediately cuts off an avenue of escape. If it appears that they will never be able to get to it they will need change how they live their lives and start thinking about getting money and a house.
All of this means that it is an excellent motivator. The player characters will do anything to get it back, facing any challenge and travelling to the ends of the Earth. You can use this to full advantage and even use it to add tension to an otherwise sedate adventure.
Although the drive down Route 66 is without danger the journey has a serious purpose. The time limit they are given to reach their destination before auction is generous enough to allow them just enough time to stop at the places they encounter while still giving them a reason to press on.
In your own games this time limit is how you control the pace of the game. If you want them to take in the scenery give them plenty of time, if you want it to be a whistle stop tour then give them a strict deadline.