Adventure: The Master, The Time War and the Daleks
Since Doctor Who returned to our screens we’ve been teased with mentions of the Time War. Now would seem to be right time to finally show at least some of the events, taking the characters into its midst.
For those using the previous adventures the player characters should already have their reason to enter the Time War. They have been tasked to find the Master and retrieve secret information placed in his head with a mind probe, in the hope of restoring Gallifrey. A convenient rift allows them the means to enter and leave these Time Locked events.
If the characters haven’t been given this mission then they could fly through the rift by chance. This should be a traumatic event for their TARDIS, with much shaking and sparks flying out of the console. It will come as quite a surprise when they try to get their bearings and find that the Time War is happening all around them.
Once the PCs are through the rift the next stage of their plan is to find the Master. You can make this as easy or as difficult as you want, depending on how long you want the PCs to spend in this period.
Making it difficult requires the PCs to gather information, most likely having to make contact with the Time Lords currently engaged in battle. This can be tricky, especially as they’ll have to hide the fact their from a future in which Gallifrey is destroyed.
If they do gain access to tactical information they’ll learn that the Master was despatched to Arcadia, to deal with the Daleks. If the Doctor is part of the group he’ll find that he knows he was there and that something terrible happened there but his memories are cloudy, most likely a side effect of stepping back into his personal time stream.
To make this part of the quest easier Romana could have provided them with the Master’s location, which should be part of historical record. To make it even easier, especially if the PCs weren’t given the mission, the TARDIS can simply crash land on Arcadia.
Arcadia was a beautiful planet, dominated by rolling hills, glistening lakes and cloudless skies. The Daleks have since conquered it, the many cities burn, ash spewing into the sky. The waters are polluted with toxins from crashed ships and Dalek weapons.
Only the capital city is in one piece, used as a prison camp by the Daleks. The Master has apparently betrayed the Time Lords, providing the Daleks with the plans for a Chrono-bomb, a weapon capable of wiping out entire species from the web of time. The Daleks plan to launch it at Gallifrey.
Captured Time Lords and Arcadians are forced to work on the Chrono-bomb. Progress is slow as the radiation that has been unleashed during the war is slowly killing the prisoners and the Daleks refuse to provide any medical treatment.
The 8th Doctor is already there (with Paul McGann reprising his role), making this a multi-Doctor story. The PCs will have to decide how much they want to interact with him and reveal about the future. Currently his mission is to stop the Daleks and the Master, so their goals are similar.
Conditions are harsh on Arcadia but the situation isn’t hopeless. The greatest advantage that the PCs have is that the Daleks are over-confident, believing that they have total control of the situation.
They also don’t keep an accurate log of the prisoners, especially as the Time Lords tend to regenerate due to radiation sickness, making keeping track of their physical appearance impossible. If a Dalek encounters the PCs it will believe that they are escaped prisoners and simply take them to either the camp or the work area where the Chrono-bomb is being built.
The Master is frequently present at the work site, overseeing its construction. If the PCs observe him they witness the Master talking about how the Time Lords never appreciated him and that when he is the only one left in existence he’ll been in his rightful position. He’ll also make reference to the Daleks allowing him to rule sections of the universe, including Earth.
At some point the Daleks should leave the Master alone, allowing the PCs to confront him. He’ll be surprised by their appearance, especially the Doctor. If accused of being a traitor the Master will explain that he is still loyal to his people and that he has tricked the Daleks.
The Chrono-bomb will work but he has pre-programmed it to target Skaro. In one strike the Time War will be won. As devious as the Master is, he has no wish to see the universe ruled by the Daleks and relishes the chance to betray his partners for once, rather than the other way round.
The PCs will need to decide if they trust the Master and whether they agree with his plan. Wiping out the Daleks would win the war but not only would it change what they know about the conclusion of the Time War it could have potentially massive ramifications for the web of time if the Daleks never existed at all.
They won’t have too long to ponder this as the Daleks arrive in force to capture them and the Master. They were monitoring the conversation and learnt of the Master betrayal. Their engineers have already re-programmed the Chrono-bomb for Gallifrey and initiated the launch sequence.
Taken prisoner the group now have a race against time. They won’t be able to reprogram the bomb but they could prevent it from launching, wiping Arcadia from existence. This can be done in a variety of ways.
The simplest is that the PCs escape and make it to the launch site, carrying out some sabotage even as the Daleks try to stop them. This should be incredibly tense, with the Chrono-bomb slowly dematerialising while the ground shakes and the air is filled with the deafening sound of grating. They’ll also have to think about making it to their TARDIS in time to escape the detonation.
To take advantage of having multiple Time Lords and their time ships stopping the Chrono-bomb could require the use of their TARDISes. If you have two Doctors present then this could work because it is the same TARDIS, meaning that these events were pre-ordained in order to prevent the Time War being altered. The Master might also have placed his TARDIS near the prison cells, knowing he might end up there.
The TARDISes could be materialised around the Chrono-bomb, their time fields holding it in place. Alternatively the Chrono-bomb could launch and the TARDISes would need to catch up to it in the vortex, working together to push it back on to Arcadia.
Which ever method they use the decision should be a terrible one to make. They’re not only killing the Daleks on the planet but the captured Time Lords and Arcadians. It is worse for the native species as they’ll be wiped from time. These are the kind of choices that made the Time War so terrible and emotional scarred the Doctor.
If the PCs don’t want to accept this then you might want to provide an alternative for them, such as stopping the Chrono-bomb from detonating. They’ll still need a way to destroy it to prevent the Daleks from using it.
Possibly the threat that it might explode on Arcadia might cause the Daleks to retreat. This will allow the chance that the planet could recover, especially once the Time War is over. The Doctor’s memory of the Fall of Arcadia might just refer to its initial conquest.
Those PCs who wish to change the Time War could be allowed to change its target back to Skaro. This would have huge consequences and when the PCs emerge through the rift they’ll find themselves in a very different universe.
Ultimately the PCs should have what they came for, the Master. His guard should be done, boasting about his part in their success. This should allow the PCs to take him by surprise in order to extract the secret information.
They might want to do this immediately, in which case their TARDIS could already have a Mind Probe on board. A Time Lord PC might want to telepathically extract the information, although this would mean matching their will against the Masters.
This sequence could be expanded into another adventure, taking the PCs inside the Masters mind. This would be a good place to explore his history and encounter his previous incarnations. The Master might even extract details about his future from their minds.
Alternatively, if the PCs aren’t worried about removing him from the Time War, they could take him through the rift back to Gallifrey. Once there Romana oversees the Mind Probe, recovering the secret information. They can then either return him to the Time War or wipe his memories and change him into human so the events of ‘Utopia’ can play out.
Another option is to allow the Master to escape on his own, leading to further adventures set during the Time War as they try to track him down again. If the Master is on their TARDIS he might take them by surprise and hijack their time ship, forcing them to do his bidding.
So what is the secret information that the PCs have worked so hard to obtain? It is the time-space co-ordinates for a secret project built in the distant past of the Time Lords. The ultimate fail-safe, the Time Regenerator. What that is will be explored in the next adventure.