Amy and Rory spend a large majority of ‘Night Terrors’ apart from the Doctor, trying to work out what is going on. Their experiences, along with Rory’s fascination with science fiction, make them quite adept at putting things together and working through the clues.
This makes them a great role model for player characters, especially ones who find themselves in odd situations without a Time Lord on hand to explain everything. Here are some rules to follow.
Your surroundings provide you with the information you need to work out what is going on. Are things clean, which would indicate the place is well used or maintained, or is it dirty or covered in dust, which would suggest it is abandoned?
Can you hear anything? The sound of machinery makes certain suggestions about the level of technology in use. The sound of people could be a good source of information or protection, unless they’re shouting or laughing manically, in which case you should run.
Nothing should be dismissed and you should never stop looking. If there is something that doesn’t fit in with everything else perhaps this is a clue that your surroundings are not what they appear.
WHERE ARE YOU?
For most companions this will fall into the category of ‘Are you on Earth or not?’ Few have the travel experience to identify which alien planet they might be on. It is probably best to just try to identify if the building you are in is human, either based on its architecture or its contents (copy of the Radio Times, name brand soda in the cupboards, etc).
The style of the building and the appearance of the surrounding landscape can also let a companion know where in the world they’ve arrived. Even someone who has never been abroad will recognise whether they are in an English stately home or a Japanese pagoda.
If you are on an alien world the environment can give clues about the local species. The shape of the door frames, design of the furniture and any nearby tools could give an indication of what the aliens look like, how they behave and if they are humanoid.
WHEN ARE YOU?
An important one for a time traveller, especially if you don’t want to accidentally reveal future details to the locals. This is most easily done if there are people around. Either their fashion or conversation should let you know what time period in. Failing that you can always swallow your pride and ask, as long as you don’t mind the strange looks.
Without people information must be gathered through observation. Level of technology and style of building are all good clues, as are newspapers or recordings.
Care must be taken to weigh this against the appearance of the evidence. A newspaper might say the year is 1954 but if the pages are yellowing then it could be decades later.
Even then this can tell you what time it isn’t. In our above example you’d know that you aren’t in any time period prior to 1954. Unless a time traveller put it there, which is a possibility.
WATCH FOR PATTERNS
When you don’t have the experience or the knowledge to gather information from your surroundings you can look for patterns. Do lights turn on when you enter a room? This could suggest either someone is watching your or that there are automatic sensors. Do doors lock or unlock around you? This could mean that someone is controlling your route through a building.
In ‘Night Terrors’ Rory and Amy learn that the dolls touch is infectious by witnessing someone else being transformed. This is a good use of a NPC to provide information about the rules of the adventure.
Once a pattern is recognised, it can be predicted. PCs can use these to anticipate events and plan accordingly.
Rory does this constantly during this particular story, guessing that they’ve both died to the TARDIS malfunctioning and sending them to the past. The Doctor also demonstrates this in ‘Curse of The Black Spot’, constantly voicing theories only to replace it with a new one a moment later.
It is a universe of possibilities and it could take a while for companions to find all the clues they need to put the puzzle together. By creating theories they can at least act like they know what is happening.
The important part is not to ignore clues that contradict the theory. Instead the theory should be adjusted to incorporate the clue. Rather than starting from scratch the theory is adjust, building up the big picture.
In ‘Night Terrors’ Rory and Amy appear to be in a 17th century house. The presence of electric lights suggest they are closer to the present day. Then they find that the food is fake and the hands are painted on the clock faces. So maybe this is just supposed to look like a manor house.
When the dolls appear the natural conclusion is that they are in a doll house. The question then becomes how and why? In the short term they can stop worrying about where they are and concentrate on getting away from the monsters.
DON’T DO WHAT YOU CAN’T
It is useless to waste energy on actions that can’t succeed. Companions should learn to recognise when a situation is hopeless. Rather than accept defeat they should instead look for a course of action where they can succeed, even if the odds aren’t good.
Cornered in a room, dolls beating on the door, Amy realises that they can’t defend the room. Eventually the dolls will get in and they will be trapped. Even though it doesn’t seem wise their only hope is to go on the attack.
It is true that Amy is caught and transformed but at least Rory escaped. If they had both stayed in the room then they would have shared the same fate. This demonstrates that it is worth trying another strategy if there is any chance of survival.
If all else fails just hope to be rescued and that your rescuer knows what is going on.