‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, by Steven Moffat, introduces the Teselecta, a time travelling vessel able to assume the form of others and piloted by tiny people from the future. From the little we know it would appear that the Teselecta isn’t unique, meaning it is very likely that player characters might encounter one in their own game.
The crew work for the Justice Department, located somewhere in the future. It is unknown what their relationship, if any, is to the Time Agency. If they preceded it then it is possible that their actions were later seen as dangerous, the Agency taking their place to police rather than punish the past.
According to the Torchwood episode ‘Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang’ the agency has been shut down by the 52nd century. The Justice Department could have taken their place. Certainly the technology displayed here, along with their bold decision to alter the past, suggests a greater deal of sophistication.
The crew are assigned missions to travel into the past and punish historical figures who escaped justice. Ideally this occurs towards the end of their time line, implying that once they have made their contribution to history the Justice department is then free to interfere without causing further disruption.
Punishment takes the form of a hellish red beam that envelopes the subject. The experience is agonising and almost certainly results in the death. It is unknown how this beam would affect non-human life forms.
It is suggested that should they manage to punish River Song the Justice Department would give the crew of the Teselecta at least a year off. From this we can assume that the crew are assigned a tour of duty, carrying out missions on a regular basis with occasional periods of rest depending on how well they have performed. It also tells us that the Justice Department view some historical figures as worse than others.
The shape-shifting capabilities suggest some attempt to avoid being noticed when travelling into the past. ‘The Wedding of River Song’ indicates that after eliminating targets the Teselecta fills their place in time, possibly until their part has been played and it is safe to leave.
Just why might the Teselecta need so many people to operate it? The answer would appear to be that as sophisticated as the computers running the machine are they still make mistakes.
Likely the many different components and functions of the robot need to be overseen by specialised crew. It would also appear that the difficult morale decision they encounter require strong leadership, resulting in the crew being led by a captain.
Player characters could meet a Justice Department vehicle in a variety of ways. If their TARDIS deposits them near a reviled historical figure they might encounter one of the time travelling robots, assigned to punish the person. Should they stop them or help them?
They might also meet someone who is acting out of character, even putting in motion events that will change history. Upon investigating the player characters find that the person has been replaced by a Justice Department vehicle. What is their mission and is the person they are impersonating still alive?
Having a game set in our future frees players from thinking too deeply about the historical ramifications of the time travellers actions. If they arrive in the year 3000 and are told of the atrocities that a warlord has committed would they be more likely to help?
The Teselecta might even serve as a reoccurring enemy for the player characters. The Justice Department records could show that one or more of the player characters is on their list of people to punish.
Are they correct? Are they fated to do something terrible or have they been framed? This can lead to an on-going story as the Teselecta chases them through time and space. Anyone could be the robot in disguise.
There is a lot of potential in the idea of basing a whole campaign around the crew of a Justice Department vehicle. It combines Doctor Who with the framework of Star Trek combined with the Terminator.
Each adventure could be based around getting close to a target and punishing them with the minimal of changes to history. There are many complications they might face, from landing in the wrong time or place to the Teselecta malfunctioning in a variety of ways.
Essentially the player characters will be controlling the same character, the robot, but they can bring their own expertise to it. One player character might be an expert on languages, another on history. One might be the best at controlling the shape shifting while another is better at piloting it or dealing with combat situations.
The captain might be an NPC, reigning the player characters in, or this responsibility could be given to someone at the table. To prevent this player from simply telling everyone else what to do the others should be his advisers, able to air their own opinions on the situation.
The dynamics of the crew and the stress they are put under could lead to some interesting games. There are also plenty of interesting scenarios to explore, such as trying to eliminate a target during an alien invasion or finding that they have to carry out a terrible act in the guise of a target in order to preserve a fixed point in time.
This kind of campaign will put the player characters in opposition to the Doctor and also his allies. It is clear that the Justice Department idolises the Doctor so this would be a difficult situation for them.
Not only would the Doctor try to stop them if he became aware of their presence but UNIT and Torchwood are two organisations that wouldn’t take kindly to the actions of a time travelling robot interfering in Earth history.
Would the crew remain loyal to their cause or might they go rogue? Following the Doctor’s example they might try to find a better way to do things, finding that the Justice Department have now added their own names to their list.