When the BBC wanted a children’s spin-off from the main program they suggested ‘Young Doctor Who.’ Luckily we got ‘The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures’ instead but one has to wonder what it would have been like.
The most obvious answer is to combine Doctor Who and Harry Potter, telling stories of the Doctor at the Time Lord Academy. While this would have doubtlessly been a terrible show, removing much of the mystery of the character, it would make a good campaign setting.
First of all every character can now be a Time Lord. Secondly the characters don’t need to spend their character points all at once. This should be their formative years, where they develop their skills and find out who they are. Finally, once they graduate they can take their characters into a normal campaign.
Such a campaign would also be ideal for players who aren’t that familiar or confident in their knowledge of the series. Being a Time Lord can be a daunting prospect and a stretch at the Academy might give them the experience they need before they head out on their own.
When starting the game decide how old the player characters will be. If you want to take the flashback in ‘Sound of Drums’ literally you can have them as 8 year old children or if you prescribe to Looms then they can be adults. Pupils also spend centuries at the academy according to the 8th Doctor audio ‘Mortal Beloved’ so you have room for any age group.
It is also up to you whether you want to give them the ability to regenerate or whether you want this to be a gift imparted on those who graduate. Removing the ability to regenerate from a Time Lord character makes them more vulnerable, perfect when you’re trying to get the player in the mind frame of a child (or youth).
I’d suggest giving players 12 character points and 7 skill points. At the end of each adventure you can give them more character and skill points, the amount of which depends on how many games you want to run at the academy. Once they have a total of 24 character points and 18 skill points then they are ready to graduate.
At this stage in their lives the characters aren’t going to be the best at anything. They might be better at some things than other pupils but the adults (and specifically the teachers) are going to be superior. The player characters are young and still have a lot to learn.
Players should also have the option of changing their character traits, reflecting their maturing personality. This lets players experiment with traits that best suit them. It can also foreshadow future personalities when they regenerate.
You can also introduce traits that apply only to the academy. These provide benefits or penalties, like any other good or bad trait, but only while the character is at the academy. Once they graduate and head out into the universe they leave those traits in the past, regaining or losing the appropriate character points.
The skills the player characters start with will tell you a lot about their background and you may wish to set limits. A player better have a good reason why their young character has any levels in ‘Marksmanship’ or had cause to learn ‘Survival’.
Knowledge can cover a lot and if you want the player characters to have never gone off world then you might not want them to have knowledge of alien worlds, or at least only a few levels of it, representing data they might have gleaned from books or computer files.
Given that the player characters will spend the majority of their time living at the Academy you will need to establish how gadgets are dealt with. Small devices might be tolerated but weapons and anything that could compromise security or put other students lives at risk most certainly wouldn’t be.
If a character is particularly sneaky they might be able to smuggle a device in or build it from make shift parts but they should be careful not to let it be discovered. If it is the gadget will be confiscated and the player character could receive a punishment or even expelled.
The default assumption is that the player characters will be Gallifrayian. This doesn’t have to be the case. A change in President might lead to the Academy being open to other races. It is even rumoured that Ace was to join the Academy if the series had continued in the 80s.
‘Alien’ students would almost certainly have a hard time of it, particularly for those whose life spans weren’t long enough to accommodate the centuries of study. They were be viewed with a mixture of suspicion and disgust.
There would be factions that would love to see them fail, to prove that the Academy should only be open to Gallifrayians. Such students would have to band together or seek out other pupils who had more liberal views.
If not all of the players want to be students then some could be teachers or other members of the faculty. In which case they can use the full allotment of character and skill points to make their characters.
Being a teacher will mean that they won’t always be in contact with the other players, especially during classes they don’t teach. When they do have opportunity to meet up care should be taken to ensure that their relationship remains that of teacher and student, otherwise questions could be asked.
Next we will look at what students actually do at the academy and how it is run.