The greatest problem with any licensed property is the agonising wait between releases as each product waits to be signed off. The Star Trek, DC, Marvel and Buffy roleplaying games all struggled to release books, with the license expiring well before several products were able to be released.
When other roleplaying systems can produce several releases during the year not only do those publishers receive a steady source of income but they also stay in the game buying’s consciousness. It’s hard to forget about a game when every time you go to the store there is a new product on the shelf, promising to reinvigorate your campaign.
Sadly Cubicle 7s ‘Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space rpg’ hasn’t managed to escape the trend of licensed properties. There are several exciting supplements waiting to be released, including a revision to the core rules, but the longer the wait the more people loose interest with the game itself.
What if they were able to operate without these restrictions? What would the line up look like to better support the roleplaying game and how could it best target the young audience of Dr Who who may never tried a roleplaying game?
What follows is how I’d answer that question. Of course it is easy for me to provide outlines of books I never have to write, pay for or get signed off by the BBC, but it is an exercise in what I think would help the game.
The key would be appealing to both experienced role players and new Doctor Who fans. People should not only want to buy it because it supports the game but because it has the Doctor Who name on it, promising to give more insight into the Who universe.
Doctor Who: Yesterday Today!
Anyone who reads this blog regularly, particularly the reports on my own campaign featuring the Inspector and Phillipa, will know I love history. One of the greatest things about a Dr Who game is that the past becomes your playground.
This book would make the past accessible and exciting. A new games master could find the prospect of running a game set in a historical setting intimidating. There is so much of history where do you start? What if you get the details wrong?
Starting with a brief chapter about looking to the past for ideas for adventures and pointing out the difference between realistic and portraying a fictional version of the past the rest of the book would have a chapter for different time periods.
For added accessibility entries could be written in the style of the Doctor addressing the reader, giving them personal anecdotes of the time period covered. Bonus points if Matt Smith’s picture can be used so the Doctor’s face keeps popping up as the casual reader flicks through the pages.
Each chapter would give an overview of historical events with a few key moments. Events related to the fiction of Doctor Who would be presented in boxed text so the reader was clear on what is real and what isn’t. Then there would be a break down of useful things to know about the era, such as how people spoke, what clothes they wore and what had been invented.
Hopefully this would give the players and games master the confidence in the era without worrying about anachronisms or getting the details wrong. Not only that it could prove to be education, as well as entertaining, which is sure to impress parents who are the potential buyers of these supplements.
Next would come a selection of player character options with era appropriate skills and traits. Finally there would be a section for the games master, giving ideas for adventures in that time period and providing examples of what genres would make the most of the setting.
The supplement wouldn’t be designed to be a text book, with a limited page count the chapters would deal with huge swathes of history, selected for their potential to provide the most adventure.
Prehistory would cover everything from dinosaurs to cave men (although not within the same time period). This chapter could also include a section on Silurians and the long reaching consequences of changing history at such a vital point in human history.
Next would come a chapter on Rome and the Egyptians, touching on the other empires that were growing up around the same time. An age where historical figures have become legend and their achievements have still left a mark on the world. A section on the Osirians and advice on using gods and mythical creatures as a basis for exciting alien races.
The medieval period would cover the period between the 5th to 15th century focusing on the struggles between nations and their kings and queens. It is an age of blood and turmoil, sword and shields. This chapter would draw comparisons between this period in history and the settings of Lord of the Rings and other fantasy epics.
The next chapter would cover periods of exploration, discovery and expansion. Everything from Marco Polo, the discovery of America and rise of piracy. Players and games masters would be encouraged to have adventures when there seemed to be no limit to what could be discovered.
A chapter on the Victorian era would discuss the birth of the classic mystery genre and include write ups of Jago & Litefoot as well as new fan favourite Madam Vastra. This section would also cover the American Civil War, giving suggestions of how the player characters could become involved in this period of conflict.
The theme of war would continue in the next chapter as World War 1 and 2 are detailed, explaining who was involved and what the stakes were. This section would have a wealth of new equipment and weapons on offer with an essay on why killing Hitler is a bad idea for a time traveller.
The rest of the 20th century would have a single chapter, a brief section on each decade. Mad scientists and UFO fears dominate the 1950s. Flower power and new age mysticism would reign supreme in the 1960s. The 1970s to 80s would chart the rise of electronics and the corporate power. The Cold War would be covered, spanning several decades, with advice given on creating spy stories.
To round out the book there would be a selection of adventures, putting the advice given in the previous chapters into practice. The adventures would cover several of the eras presented in the book, featuring historical figures with character sheets provided.
The popularity of the ‘Horrible Histories’ books show that a good writer can make the past interesting and fun. With this supplement on their shelf players can make the most of having a time machine.
Next, Doctor Who in space.