The above comment is Amy’s response to the Doctor when he admits he can’t always save people. Amy has just lost Rory and this is no time for her discover that the Doctor isn’t the fairy tale being that she thought him to be. If he can’t bring Rory back to life than what purpose does he serve?
‘Amy’s Choice’ is very much about death. Right from the outset the Dream Lord reveals that in one of the scenarios they will have to die in order to live in the other. The climax of the story has the characters commit suicide, not once but twice.
Players should know that their characters can die and in fact they probably will. The Games master Guide even says that it is inevitable that at least one character will be killed during play.
This shouldn’t be surprising in a game where many of the alien races have weapons that do lethal damage, able to kill with one hit. The game would loose its edge without this danger and the opponents wouldn’t be nearly as frightening.
The important thing is how the player characters respond to this. Not just in the demise of the player characters but in the deaths of NPCs. In my own campaign the player characters couldn’t prevent someone from dying, even after they thought they’d saved the day.
The first issue is how the death affects the definition of their character. Their concept might be ‘the man who always saves the day and never lets anyone die’ but the reality is very different just as ‘the man who never would’ sounds better than the reality of their actions.
This is the danger of basing a character around a concept that demands certain things never happen. The concept could never survive actual play because characters can’t always control the natural path of a story.
People make bad decisions, story points run out and let us not forget that the game does have a random element. Eventually things will go wrong. The important thing is what the character does next.
If they embrace the reality of the situation they can make their character much more real. They have been exposed as fallible but this puts them on the level of the other players. Playing the time lord of the group is often seen as the more prestigious role, especially if they are playing the Doctor himself, but set backs like this can show that everyone is equal, everyone is capable of failure.
From the Dream Lords taunts it is clear that one of the Doctor’s greatest fears is that he will let people down. Amy’s confidence in him is a great burden to him. No matter how many times he reminds her he doesn’t always succeed she still expects him to perform miracles.
This fear of letting companions down could be represented by the Obligation bad trait. Rather than representing a dedication to a specific group or organisation it could cover a protectiveness for any companion. Even as a minor trait it means the character risks a lot to protect them from harm while the major trait indicates the character would die rather then let anything hurt them.
NPCs are likely to die with a greater frequency than player characters, given that their lives are entirely in your hands. It can be depressing for player characters to be unable to save a character but it also gives that more meaning to those that they are able to keep alive.
The death of a player character can actually be a very memorable way for them to end their story. It makes their loss all the more tragic and, if they sacrificed themselves to defeat evil, all the more heroic.
In the series few of the Doctor’s companions died but those who did are easy to recall. Even short lived companions such as Katarina or Sara Kingdom have earned their place in history due to their tragic demise.
The alternative is that the companion just decides to stop travelling with the Doctor, which is also a theme that ‘Amy’s Choice’ explores. In the Leadworth scenario it has been five years since Amy and Rory settled down.
In later conversation Amy says that the TARDIS means that they can have as long as they want before they have to get married. Rory counters that they have to grow up eventually. The meaning is clear, one day the fun and adventures must stop, the companion must leave.
The Dream Lord brings this point up with the Doctor himself. He prefers the company of the young. The things he asks of his companions can not be done forever, age will take its toll, if they survive that long.
Just as players should be prepared for death they should also think about how their companion will leave. Are they looking for something specific in their travels? Those looking for love might meet the right person and stay behind to be with them. Those looking for a cause might find it and realise they can do more good in one specific time period than they can in the TARDIS. Like Tegan they might tire of the death and horror and simply return home.
Not that the end should be treated with too much sadness. The player can make a new character, allowing them to tackle adventures with a whole new perspective. It also doesn’t mean that their old characters are gone for good. The time lord might visit them to see how their lives are progressing and they might even resume their travels.
We may have no choice of how we come into the world but we definitely have a choice in how we go out.