“So, what do Time Lords pray to?”

room11The Doctor initially believes that the minotaur in ‘The God Complex’ is talking about himself when he describes an ancient creature, drenched in blood and drifting through space. That is until is made clear the Beast is talking about the Time Lord.

Stories like this can highlight aspects of Doctor Who and force us to re-examine them in a new light. By literally making the setting of this adventure a series of corridors it could almost be a parody. Instead it is just putting the larger themes of the show into a context that is easier to understand.

There is little difference between the corridors that lead to a countless number of rooms containing people’s fears and the Doctor piloting the TARDIS along the Time Vortex to countless worlds with something waiting to terrify his companions. At least in the hotel the monsters in the room aren’t real.

Seen in this context what the Doctor is doing seems very sinister. Just like the hotel/prison he snatches people from all over space and time (we’ve already established their choice is just an illusion) and takes them to places he knows they’ll be scared of.

Granted this is an over-simplification. There is plenty of evidence that the Doctor and his companions have plenty of periods where they have a nice relaxing time. We don’t see them because they wouldn’t be exciting for the viewer. 

That being said within the story this simplification is important for the Doctor to realise he has to let Amy and Rory go. We see some indication this might have had a last effect on him in ‘Closing Time’ and ‘The Wedding of River Song’ but it remains to be seen if there is any genuine character growth from this realisation.

In your own campaign problems within the game can be addressed by building an adventure that reflects those issues. The hope being that players seeing the problem from the outside might come to appreciate the errors of their own ways.

If the player characters routinely cause a lot of collateral damage when defeating an opponent they could encounter a world that was freed from slavery but at the cost of planets environment. Now the planet is dying and their saviours have no idea why the locals aren’t more grateful towards them.

Player characters who routinely fail to keep their promises, lie or cheat could met a race who trusted another alien species to help them, providing them with resources. Centuries later the naive aliens still hope the other species will keep their promise, refusing to face facts and deal with the problem themselves.

These are good sources of adventure in themselves, which is important. If  the story is only about pointing out the players flaws then it won’t be fun for anyone. If they don’t get the hint or choose to ignore it then they can still enjoy the adventure. If it makes them reflect on their own choices so much the better.

Taking this route to solving issues within the game can be better than basing an adventure on the consequences of their own actions, for example making them return to a planet to see the terrible mess they made of the place. It is less direct but also less confrontational.

To return to the metaphor of the hotel this can be seen as taking the characters to their own room of fears. It is said that when you find your room whatever it contains is so obvious you realise it could never have been anything else. We all know what we’re really afraid of, even if we can’t admit it to ourselves.

It is eventually revealed that the room itself isn’t the important thing. It isn’t the fear that the minotaur wants. That is just cathartic moment that makes a person turn to their faith. It is how they respond.

Every adventure players know that their characters are going to be scared. They want to encounter that source of fear. What is interesting is how they respond. What do they turn to in order to save themselves?

Is it the Time Lord character? Is it themselves? Is it science, faith or their ability to inspire others? Who do they think with protect them? What makes them feel safe?

This information can be valuable. It can help you fulfil the players expectations or confound them. If they turn to the Time Lord character to help them making sure he is available can strengthen their bond or you could prevent his appearance, making the player character find another way to save themselves.

Even getting the players to recognise the source of their faith can help their characters grow. They might not even realise that they find such comfort in it. Recognising each others sources of faith could help player characters better understand each other.

Within the games NPCs could also learn the player characters sources of faith and use the information to benefit themselves. They might pose as someone that the character has faith in, deny them the thing that they always use when they’re in trouble or uses the source of faith as bait in a trap.

Whole campaigns can be built around putting elements of the Doctor Who genre in different contexts.

In an idea I’ve explored several times previously the TARDIS could function like the hotel, its rooms containing the adventures. The TARDIS acts as the hub, stationary and inescapable.

Guests of the TARDIS can explore the corridors, finding out what is in each room. Each room is a different time or place where the player characters are needed. They can save the day and all they have to do to return to the TARDIS is remember which door they emerged from.

Occupants of rooms could become aware of the TARDIS and interact with other rooms. The TARDIS could become a means for species all over the universe to rapidly travel from place to place. The player characters might have to police who is emerging from their room and prevent invasions or time meddling. This would be much easier with a set of keys.

Keys would allow player characters of who can open the doors from either side. A whole series of adventures could be built around discovering sets of keys which might be in remote sections of the TARDIS or in individual rooms. It could be that you need a certain key to unlocks rooms that lead to the 18th century, Dalek occupied planets or those related to the Time Lords.

Another campaign model could have the player characters as a member of a race who are suffering serious depopulation issues as their young keep being lured away on exciting adventures with exotic aliens, never to be seen again. The player characters have to track down these runaway children and get them home.

shadowTo really put the shoe on the other foot they could be part of an species that is trying to gain dominance throughout the galaxy only to have an annoying Time Lord deem them evil, leading him popping up every time and thwarting their plans. Worse still he goes back in time and messes with their history.

Can the player characters ever win? Must they build their own time machine to beat him at his own game? Could they appeal to his own people to stop this Time Lord or will they join forces with his enemies to deal with him?

In closing ‘The God Complex’ leaves us with two continuing mysteries. “What was in the Doctor’s room?” and “What do Time Lords pray to?”

There is nothing wrong with raising questions about player characters that aren’t answered. They help create mystery and encourage speculation. In a long running campaign this is just what you need to maintain interest and generate new ideas.

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5 Responses to “So, what do Time Lords pray to?”

  1. Rishi says:

    Following “The Day Of The Doctor”, 50th Anniversary episode, I think the Doctor’s room was John Hurt’s Doctor or even Gallifrey burning, maybe with the children of Gallifrey dying as well, seeing as most of the 50th Anniversary’s ending was due to the innocent of children.

  2. Scott Murohy says:

    The Doctor fears himself and his own end. Behind the door is the warning sound from the Tardis. I believe inside Room 11 is the scare in time that is in his tomb (Trensolore) The whole episode culminates in a comparison between the God monster and the Doctor.

    The monster just like the Doctor is kept alive by people believing in him, he Scoops them up,in his box with many rooms(corridors all similar inside) and scares them. Leaving them with only one choice “trust me” and converting their faith in to faith in him. Most of the time this faith leads to their death and or emotional dependence on the Doctor. if this ever ends he shows them the door, much like Rory by the Gods Monster prison. Then after the doctor shows both Amy and Rory the door to save them from him!

    The Doctor the man who cant turn round or go back because of what he may see. who turns people into weapons but never carries one himself. But what is he running from, all of time and space he needn’t be running from the past he could be running from the future and a event that is so catastrophic to him that he wishes to escape from it. I believe its his death… or the things he will do to prevent it and the sacrifices he will make to avoid it … people he loves … whole worlds and galaxy are not safe from him … even his own people and Galaxy where not safe from him.

    Fear is always played out by the person becoming worse than the thing they fear. He will become worse than all and he has not fallen that low and to that point yet. Perhaps the Bad Wolf describes a possibility for the doctor to avoid his own death and destroy the universe in the process Creating a vengeful god out of the doctor ‘The Bad Doctor’. The doctor has already been offered a job by the angel of death on Gallifrey… what did it see in him?!?

    • Chris K says:

      Well even though I’m very late and you’ll probably never see this nor respond to it in any way I feel like replying anyways. You theory about the doctor fearing himself and therefor he would open the door to find himself standing there is a good one, but I don’t think the doctors greatest fear is himself. Because the doctor doesn’t “fear” himself because what he realizes he has become in the end of “the god complex” isn’t something he fears, it’s something he hates. The Minotaurs dying words imply that the doctor is a madman flying throughout the galaxy kidnapping people and guiding the through their worst fears resulting in their death almost every time. This conclusion isn’t something the doctor holds onto for veary long though. during “the wedding of river song” she takes him onto the roof of area 52 and tells him about all the people that showed up the second they learned he was in danger. I think she did this because she understood the personal crisis he was going through because he started seeing himself as sort of the monster in the maze and she wanted to let him know that, that wasn’t the case. She showed him that throughout his travels he had helped countless of races and planets survive and befriended so many people that a single call for help prompted a billion aliens and humans and whatnots to fly to his rescue. So yes he has taken many companions on trips and made them trust him in so many weird ways and they died in the end. But does that really make him a monster? Because he didn’t move on to the next one right away each time. No he mourned them and tried to not take another one but he couldn’t stop himself because of a very simple fact that is hinted at many times during the series. The doctor can’t be alone. And this isn’t some viewer pleasing rule but a fact about the doctor that also leads to a probable conclusion about his deepest fear. The doctor needs a companion to run around the space and time with him, to admire him he has said multiple times. He needs someone to tell him that he’s amazing. That he is good. He needs people who when are faced with death, they turn to him. Because who do you turn to in that situation? The hero. And a hero always does the right thing. Always has. A bit of a comic from the 10th doctors archive comic provides the information that after traveling alone for a while he ending up sitting and doing nothing lost in his mind which for some reason seems to be a thing he suffers from doing. But why is that? Where does his mind go? Well I believe that without that insurance from his companions about how great he is. It goes to the decision he always doubted was the right one. The destruction of galifrey. It’s the one thing the doctor did that he has always questioned. And he has lived for so long without anyone to tell him because in his eyes only a fellow gallifreyan can do that. And he killed them all. He doubts if he did the right thing ending the Dalek war in that way. So he does what he has always done. He runs. He runs away and keeps surviving and when finally faced with unavoidable death he first seems to accept it but then ends up with a major plan stretching throughout time and several races to survive. Why? Because the doctor fears death? No I believe he fears what most people thinks comes after death. Judgement. The doctor fears facing the true answer if erasing his homegirls was the right choice. Therefor he runs from death and he has sworn to never use a weapon again. So I think that behind the doctors door lies a form of judgement. What exactly it might be is a harder question. Might be the gallifreyan council or maybe a younger doctor from before he erased the planet. But someone who can judge him. He fears that they’ll tell him that it was the wrong choice and that he destroyed the whole race for no good reason and he is what he hates the most. After all the doctor isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. He’s just some random guy from a random planet who stole an old spaceship and ran like hell and ended up destroying his home. Might as well have been Rory

  3. etheruk1 says:

    Good observations.
    I think prior to ‘The Day of The Doctor’ the 11th Doctor doesn’t think of himself as a good person. He feels guilt for what he did as the War Doctor and thinks he is going to have to go down the path of abandoning the name of the Doctor again in ‘The Beast Below’. ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ both have instances where he makes it clear how many rules he follows to keep himself in check, something someone who genuinely good wouldn’t need.
    ‘The Day of The Doctor’ gives him some degree of acceptance for his past actions and ‘Time of the Doctor’ allows the 11th Doctor to redeem himself by not running away.
    Yet the 12th Doctor is obsessed with the question of whether he is a good man. Capaldi’s performance certainly would indicate the thought that he is a bad person scares him. He clings to Clara because she helps him overcome his worst tendencies.
    I don’t think he fears judgement from others. He has been put on trial before, been admonished by for his actions. The Doctor doesn’t believe that others have the right to judge him unless they’ve been through what he has.
    Rory tried in ‘The Girl Who Waited’ and the Doctor responded by putting him in his shoes and forcing him to make the impossible decisions he makes every day.
    ‘Heaven Sent’ was a judgement of sorts and the Doctor let himself be tortured for billions of years just to spite his jailers.
    The only person who can judge the Doctor is the Doctor and I think he worries that one day he’ll go too far and become the very thing he fought against. The often mentioned Valeyard is the personification of this and the Titan comic mini-series ‘The Four Doctors’ touched upon this idea.
    The destruction of Gallifrey was a turning point for sure, an act he believed was necessary but caused untold number of deaths. He fears that this type of difficult decision will become easy and routine.
    The 11th Doctor Titan comics have been doing a really good job of exploring the notion that he is capable of terrible, dark things. That he hurts those around him for the greater good and can do things that disgust even the Master.
    The very fact that the Doctor questions whether he is a good person shows that he is not evil. Someone who doesn’t question their morality is in real danger of becoming evil. That is why he needs companions who will question him, who make him think before acting.

    • Chris K says:

      Good point.
      And am I the only one who’s slowly getting his old image of the Doctor crushed and stomped on as they paint a clearer and clearer picture that he’s actually not some all good doing hero who runs around the universe saving everybody but actually a man capes let of the darkest of things who will sacrifice even his friends to obtain his goal? And also the fact that they stripped him of the “magnificent and amazing last time lord” status as one realizes that he was just a random galifreyan who didn’t even have a tardis so he has to steal one. And then blew up his planet. It’s really getting darker and darker for the doctor. I wonder how the 13th will turn out considering that 12 is clearly obsessed with if he’s a good person or not which comes from 11’s guilt

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