In preparation for writing another historical adventure I read about Tycho Brahe, a noted astronomer from the 16th century. Not only did he make the discovery that the stars were not unchanging but were born and died, coining the term ‘nova’ in the process, he was also a rather strange person.
Losing the bridge of his nose in a duel he had it replaced with a replacement made of gold and silver which he kept in place using paste. He tamed an elk which wandered his castle until it got drunk and fell to its death down some stairs. Tycho also employed a dwarf court jester called Jepp who Tycho believed to be clairvoyant.
Tycho just cried out to have an adventure written around him. It would be an historical adventure set in the 16th century in Denmark but with all these surreal elements. The trick would be to write something that would tie it all together.
I could have centred on the astronomer aspect of Tycho, maybe having him spotting an alien craft landing while star gazing but it would be difficult to include the elk or the jester. Instead I decided that it would be more interesting to explore Jepp’s clairvoyance.
Being time travellers the player characters would know if his predictions were correct and if they were that would be a mystery worth investigating. Thinking about the time period I thought how the locals would probably view his short stature and second sight as not only supernatural but evil.
I decided his mother would have been burnt as a witch, the locals whispering that her son had been cursed because of his mother’s evil arts. Since this is a Doctor Who game there had to be a rational explanation to any witchcraft she was accused of.
The obvious thing was to have Jepp’s mother be an alien but I decided it would pack more of an emotional punch if she was also a Time Lady. I like to consider the Doctor Who books to be canon and that includes believing that the Time Lords are infertile and spun from genetic looms. That left the problem of how Jepp could be a Time Lady’s son if she wasn’t able to have children.
Returning to the theme of witchcraft I decided that Jepp’s mother, Ruthimia, had practised forbidden time magic and fled the home world durnig the Dark Ages, when Rassilon purged all those who used pseudo-magic over science. Arriving in the 16th century Ruthimia bound a chronovore.
Being a being with many dimensions she was able to ‘unfold’ it, removing some of its dimensions to weaken it. One dimension was then crafted into a child, Jepp. This transformation was imperfect resulting in his small size and his origins bestowing upon him the ability to see through time. Another dimension was changed into the elk and let loose in the woods so that chronovore could never be whole.
The local villagers on the island of Hven where she made her home would be fearful of her abilities but eventually storm up to her cave in the mountains and kill her. Tycho Brahe, overseeing the construction of his castle Uraniborg, would take the boy in rather than see him punished for his mothers crimes.
Years would pass and the chronovore, more bestial following its unfolding, would never stop trying to be free. When Tycho Brahe tamed the elk and brought it into the castle the close proximity of the two fragements of itself would have given it a boost in power to start damaging time.
This damage would manifest itself as a rift in time, similar to the one in Torchwood or in the book ‘Unnatural History‘ by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman. In that book the TARDIS becomes trapped in a time fissure left over from the Paul McGann Dr Who movie.
Having had such trouble with the TARDIS being overused by the player characters in the last few adventures this was a good way to take the time machine ‘out of play’ and increase the stakes of the adventure. Opening with the TARDIS about to be destroyed felt like an exciting way to begin.
The TARDIS would hit the time fissure, become trapped and ‘eject’ the occupants, materialising them never the Uraniborg where they could meet Tycho Brahe and Jepp. From there they would need to find the TARDIS, uncover what was going on, and prevent the chronovore from ripping free and destroying a good chunk of space-time in the process.
I knew that I wanted to create a strong surreal atmosphere in the castle and I had the vision of one of the player characters encounter a ghost only to find it was their own spirit. Since the plot required them to eventually encounter the bound chronovore it was easy to justify this by having it send that player character back in time in an immaterial state as a display of its power.
To bring the normally tame elk to the foreground, rather than it just being a strange bit of background detail that they could miss as being significant, I decided it would attack the time lord character. It would resent him because it was his species that had trapped the chronovore in the first place. The fact it was singling him out would suggest there was something more to it than just being a woodland creature.
Both of these encounters would occur when and where they were best suited. Having several such scenes, including ones that would highlight time beginning to crack due to the chronovores struggles, would allow me to adapt to what ever the player characters decided to do.
Since one character was going to be sent back in time it made sense for the other to do so as well. The Inspector would be sent back in time to meet Ruthimia first hand, find out what she did and how it could be undone. The villagers would arrive at her cave during the conversation, just as the Inspector would be returned to the present. His sudden disappearance would be the last straw for the villagers who would then kill Ruthimia for dealing with spirits.
In all of this Tycho was becoming a little lost in the detail. I decided that he would show the player characters his observatory and while there they would notice that the night sky had a ‘double image’ showing stars from two weeks in the future, a clear indication that time was splitting.
I re-read his entry on wikipedia several times, picking out facts that might come up during the game, such as his discoveries, the name of his wife and the number of his children as well as a guide to his personality.
One interesting fact was that Tycho’s uncle and foster father, Jorgen Brahe, had died of pneumonia after rescuing Frederick II of Denmark from drowning. I’d already decided that when the player characters were ejected from the TARDIS they would appear in the nearby lake and have to swim to shore, in the night, in the middle of storm.
Tying that together I decided that Tycho would be very concerned about the player characters well being when they arrived, giving them new clothes. This allowed his concern about them to continue throughout the game, acting far and beyond how most people would to strange travellers.
Further research gave me pictures of 16th astrology tools, floor plans of the Uraniborg and a map of the island of Hven. The outline of the plot was drawn up and I was ready.
Now I just had to run the game.
To be Continued…