The UNIT Campaign: Liz Shaw

lizshawLiz Shaw mysteriously left the Doctor’s company between ‘Inferno’ and ‘Terror of the Autons.’ Subsequent books and audios have added further adventures but there is always room for more, especially in a UNIT campaign.

A write-up of Liz Shaw is provided on page 71 of ‘Defending The Earth: The UNIT sourcebook’ allowing her to be used either as a PC or a NPC. With an emphasis on scientific knowledge at the expense of combat abilities she works well alongside a more combat focused group of PCs.

Liz was initially hired by UNIT as their scientific adviser, a role that was increasingly filled by the Doctor. To give Liz the spotlight an adventure can have her take the lead on an investigation, most likely because the Doctor is absent.

There is plenty of evidence to indicate that the Doctor didn’t always take an interest in UNIT activities. If the Brigadier was unable to get the Doctor out of his lab he would have turned to Liz, allowing her to perform the role she was meant to play.

It could also be that the Doctor is already involved in another operation or there is a large scale threat that requires he and Liz to split up. Liz was strong willed and capable enough to handle an operation in his absence.

PCs would primarily act as protection for Liz, although they might be roped into helping with any experiments that need performing or collecting evidence. Some soldier might chafe under the leadership of a woman, especially considering the time period, or disagree with her methods or conclusions.

Not that Liz wouldn’t listen to the ideas of others. During her few adventures she became much less sceptical, opening her mind to the amazing world the Doctor revealed to her. She might find it helpful to bounce ideas off UNIT soldiers assigned to her.

Without the Doctor overshadowing her Liz could really shine. She might also have the time to build a friendship or something more with UNIT soldier PCs. Creating a bond between the characters can help Liz become an integral part of the campaign and make her resignation from UNIT have more impact.

Liz was an expert on meteorites so an adventure could be focused on this. Liz and the PCs could be sent to investigate a meteor shower to determine whether it is natural or another alien invasion. Having the meteor shower occur in a remote location (for example the Scottish Highlands) would give the characters time to get to know each other and isolate them should a threat be discovered.

The Ambassadors of Death’ revealed that Liz can speak French so an adventure set in France could take advantage of this. Liz could liaise with their French UNIT counterparts while the UNIT PCs get used to operating across the Channel.

Not only must the PCs prevent alien invasions in France but ensure good relations between countries. Their actions could bolster or set back how the UK and French branches of UNIT co-operate in the future.

You might want to explore Liz’s scepticism. Scully from ‘The X-Files’ can be a good model for this. Just because Scully accepted that aliens did exist it didn’t mean that she believed everything had an other-worldy explanation.

Adventures can be based around this premise, revealing that source of strange events or sightings have a logical explanation. Liz can act as the level headed one, who ultimately comes to the right conclusions.

This can be a good opportunity to wrong foot the players since they are expecting the presence of aliens or monsters. Mysterious lights might not be UFOs but a smuggling ring signalling each other at night, the mutilation of cattle might not be the work of a werewolf but a rival farmer sabotaging a rival and the disappearance of a woman could be a case of abduction or murder by an entirely human source.

You could even model an adventure after ‘Scooby Doo’ with an apparent alien or supernatural threat revealed to be a ploy by a criminal to frighten others for some purpose. Liz can be instrumental in unmasking them.

Rather than a disappointment this is an opportunity to have the UNIT PCs deal with something different. Uncovering the truth and stopping a crime can be just as important and exciting as uncovering a Zygon infiltration.

It also helps to add some uncertainty to each adventure. Players will never be entirely sure if what they are encountering is truly alien or if there is a simple explanation. Hopefully they won’t be so kick to jump to conclusions.

You can have a small character arc for Liz, as she gradually expands her view on what she believes. She might now accept the existence of aliens but that doesn’t mean she believes in ghosts or demons. An adventure can be based around challenging this belief, with her either finding an explanation or expanding her world view. For example ghosts might be revealed to be holographic projections produced by alien technology.

Much of the fun of the audio adventure ‘The Blue Tooth’ is having Liz encounter the Cybermen, a race she never met on screen. There are plenty of iconic Doctor Who aliens for her to meet in your own adventures.

Over the course of your campaign you can have Liz grow more and more dissatisfied as UNIT and her role there. She might confide in the PCs and even turn to them for advice. Could they persuade her to stay?

Even after Liz leaves UNIT she could return, either visiting old friends or persuaded to use her expertise on an investigation. This can allow her to reconnect with the PCs, allowing them to relive days gone past.

Eventually Liz would rejoin UNIT, apparently with an interest in their lunar operations. You could possibly foreshadow this by having an adventure based on the moon, with Liz and the PCs setting foot on its lunar surface.

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1 Response to The UNIT Campaign: Liz Shaw

  1. Matthew C says:

    Great ideas!

    Lawrence Miles made the intriguing suggestion that the reason Liz Shaw was recruited for UNIT was perhaps because she had been involved in the mopping-up operation after The War Machines or the Web of Fear. She might have been involved in studying those incidents without being aware of alien involvement.

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