Adric was originally supposed to be a thief, along the lines of the artful dodger. These origins can be seen in ‘Kinda‘, from his sleight of hand with the cell key to his attempts to convince Hindle he is on his side.
Yet this isn’t what we remember about the character. Most people would describe him as the maths genius who caused more problems than he solved. Why did the character change so much from the original idea?
I think the route cause is Adric regularly failed in everything he did, apart from when he was doing something science related. Our opinion of him would be very different if he used his skills to free the Doctor and the others from imprisonment and successfully conned the villains.
In ‘Kinda’ Hindle spots the passing of the cell key and his madness makes him so unstable that any trust Adric gains is unable to be capitalised on. Hindle becomes obsessed with building a model city, something that Adric has no interest in and wouldn’t have helped anyone if he’d gone along with the plan.
‘State of Decay’ showed a similar situation. Adric sides with the vampires in the hopes of freeing Romana only to be captured. His apparently traitorous behaviour got him no where and just made him look untrustworthy to the time travellers.
Failing to exert any influence on Hindle Adric then tries to take control of the TSS and accidentally causes it to go wild, firing at the Kinda. He will still be reminded of this error in judgement in the next story ‘The Visitation.’
Is it any wonder then that we have such a low opinion of Adric? If care is not taken then player characters can suffer similar damage to their reputation, to the point where they aren’t playable.
How then to avoid this? The first step is to look at the difficulty that you set tasks. If you set them to high then it is inevitable that unless the player is spending story points they won’t succeed.
Another factor to this is that the player character might not have the attributes and skills to live up to their own concept. A con artist isn’t going to get far with low presence and convince scores just as a fighter won’t win any fights will low strength and fighting scores.
If the player character is regularly failing on ‘normal’ to ‘hard’ difficulty checks on things that their character should be good at then it might be appropriate to reallocate character and skill points.
A generous games master might also want to reward a player characters efforts by rewarding them with an extra character or skill point. After all, we learn from our mistakes.
If Adric was created using the Doctor Who roleplaying system then his player might have been stretching himself too thin. Rather than concentrating on putting points into coordination (for sleight of hand) and presence (to use his charm to trick people) he also put lots of points into ingenuity and the knowledge and science skills. There was no reason to do this as the Doctor is the resident genius on board the TARDIS and he was soon joined by the nearly as bright Nyssa.
Player characters shouldn’t be jacks of all trades and masters of none. They should be able to fulfil one particular role in the group and that role shouldn’t duplicated as at least one person will be rendered redundant. Much better to have everyone have a particular talent that shows their value to the group.
None of what Adric does during ‘Kinda’ is actually a bad idea. It just seems that way because it fails. A games master should allow at least some of the player characters plans to succeed unless there is a real level of difficulty to them.
For example Hindle is very unstable. Did there really need to be a check made to see if he spotted the key being passed in the cell? A games master could rule that he is so distracted by his own erratic behaviour that he isn’t paying attention to the cell at that moment.
Similarly just why was the TSS machine so difficult to control? Adric had chance to examine the machine earlier and knew that it was controlled by the brain of the user. Such an intimate control system should have allow him to move the vehicle as easily as he moved his body. Even if the games master still wanted to impose a transport skill related check the easy user interface should have given it a low difficulty level.
Adric makes matters worse for himself with his behaviour. To distract attention from his own failure he berates Tegan for allowing herself to be possessed, boasting that he’d have the control to prevent a similar situation if it occurred to him.
It is natural to try to shift the blame but all that it does is spread the ill will around. The only way that this can be avoid, other than preventing the failure in the first place, is to encourage the players to be supportive of each others failure. They have to understand that all it takes is a bad dice roll to fail at something.
When player characters repeatedly fail at one course of action it is natural that they stop trying and instead focus their actions somewhere else. This is where we can see the drift away from the original concept in Adric.
Failing as a rogue he repeatedly shows off his intelligence, which is where he does at last find some success. This is taken to such a degree that he becomes a human computer, able to do block transfer computations in his head and work out how to get back to E-Space on his own.
I see no reason why Adric couldn’t have been a popular character if he’d been handled correctly. Sawyer from ‘Lost’ is a con artist that was extremely popular and even Captain Jack, in ‘The Empty Child’ at least, was a rogue.
Is there a difference between serious scientific investigation and meddling? Only in whether the character has succeeded or failed.