No Future

Overview

nofuturePursuing a lead from their previous adventure the Doctor, Bernice and Ace arrive in London in the year 1976. The foe who has been altering time is revealed to be the Time Meddler, Mortimus.

Bernice ends up joining a punk rock band and discovers that Mortimus, posing as the head of Priory Records, has introduced CDs several decades early and planning to use a live concert to take control of the world for his allies, the Vardan.

Ace apparently betrays the Doctor by stabbing him at Stonehenge and UNIT get involved in a siege at the BBC, during which the Brigadier is killed . What chance do they have of stopping the Time Meddler when it is revealed that his power comes from a captured chronovore?

This book is an appropriate climax to the ‘Alternate Universe saga’. The Time Meddler is a better dark reflection of the Doctor than the Master ever was. Here he tries to take everything away from the Doctor, including his companions loyalty.

The Vardan were a good choice to bring back, showing they have much more potential than they short appearance in ‘The Invasion of Time’ would suggest. Here they energy based abilities are developed in a unique way, taking over minds through broadcasts, not unlike ‘The Idiot Lantern’.

The 70s setting establishes an appropriately gritty and pessimistic atmosphere. Right from the start, where we apparently witness the destruction of London due to Ace’s botched attempt to stop an Cybermen invasion only to find out it was virtual scenario, to the death of the Brigadier we know that the stakes are high.

The 7th Doctor, who usually plans ahead, finds himself thwarted when we discover that Mortimus introduced CDs for the sole purpose of preventing a future Doctor from sending  himself a warning. Here the Doctor swears that he’ll no longer meddle in his own timeline to aide himself, no more plans within plans.

Despite the bleak tone this story still has its funny moments. I especially enjoyed the references to 1970s celebrities, such as Pink Floyd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Paul McCartney and Wings.

The mind control involved removes emotions, leading to scene where a governmental minister calmly states how furious he is about the whole thing. The Vardan invade the mediasphere, an artificial realm made up of the UK’s fictional unconscious where the Doctor encounters a very thinly veiled parody of himself, Professor X.

The result is that ‘No Future’ is a bold adventure that feels like the TARDIS crew have been made stronger for the trials they have faced.

PLOT

The Meddling Monk does his best to take over the Doctor’s life, even going as far as stealing his position as Scientific Advisor to UNIT. This can be an interesting tact for a villain in your own campaign.

How would someone steal your player characters identity? Rather than threatening the player characters allies the villain would instead try to sway them to his side, earning their friendship. They might even do good deeds to win their trust.

If the player characters make a fuss they could appear to be jealous, making up lies to discredit the villain. They could find people turning against them, unless they can prove that the villain is not who he appears to be and that his motives are suspect.

Villains who can alter time can stay two steps ahead of the player characters. This allows the games master to cheat slightly. Players can find their actions countered, only discovering later that the villain has gone back and altered the timeline to stop them.

There is a limit to this, as the player characters will be experiencing the most recent timeline, the one in which they hopefully stop the villain before he goes back to make any more alterations.

It does mean that player characters who like to exploit time travel to gain support from their future selves will find themselves alone here. Any messages or equipment will already have been intercepted by the villain, or could even be falsified to mislead them or equipment sabotaged.

This could lead to a chase through time adventure, where the player characters are pursuing an enemy who is trying to alter their timeline. They would find themselves having preserve the continuity of their past adventures without altering their earlier selves.

Alternatively the player characters could find that their timeline has actually been altered for the better. What if they found out that they had a guardian angel, saving them from scenarios in which they died horribly? What would they do if they found out they should have died? What would the motives be of this kind stranger?

Their benefactor might be a future incarnation of themselves, ensuring that he comes into existence. It could be as terrible for a Time Lord dedicated to preserving history to find out that his future self breaks the rules of time so freely.

It is revealed in this story that Eternals take champions. The Doctor is Time’s champion, while Mortimus is Death’s. This is an interesting idea, providing a reason for why characters do what they do.

Player characters could either freely choose to be an Eternals’ champion or find themselves chosen. Working for a higher power not only would this give them great responsibility but it could give them boons relating to the Eternals dominion.

Clashes between champions in the service of Eternals become much more important, forming part of the mythology of the setting. This is far outside the realm of mere mortals, where worlds tremble at their passing.

Part of that mythology is the chronovores. We find out that they help maintain the universe, devouring threats to the universe created by alien races able to use time technology. This makes them more intelligent versions of the Reapers from ‘Father’s Day’.

They could serve as threats in scenarios involving time paradoxes. Player characters who tie time in knots could find themselves targeted by a chronovore who wants them to stop the mess they’re making.

No Future’ does a great job of creating the feel of the era. It is a good example of how to capture a particular period by focusing on the culture and celebrity of the time. Getting the player characters involved in these details, such as Bernice joining a punk band, can help immerse them in era.

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2 Responses to No Future

  1. Matthew C says:

    I lot of fans don’t like this novel, but I love it. The monk is portrayed so well.

    Trying to steal the Doctor’s companion and make her own is such an inspired idea. The monk is just so jealous of the Doctor!

  2. siskoid says:

    I love it too, it was one of my favorite New Adventures up to that point.

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