“I don’t think the universe makes bargains.”

bargainIn ‘The Snowmen’ Clara lies dying and the Doctor has no way to save her. Yet he tells Clara he knows she will live, because he knows she will be his companion. He makes a bargain with her that if he saves the Earth she’ll come away with him.

Not long after Clara does die but the Doctor realises that he has met her before and sets out to find her. Vastra comments that maybe the universe does makes bargains after all. The implication being that the universe has some how reincarnated Clara so it can uphold its part of the bargain.

The God Complex’ asked the question what do Time Lords believe in. The answer would seem to be, at least in the 11th Doctor’s case, that they believe the universe is a conscious force.

The 8th Doctor once commented that humans see patterns in things that aren’t there. Here the Doctor views events that occur thousands of years and millions of light years apart and becomes convinced that they relate directly to him. An answer to his prayers.

At time of writing there is still mystery about Clara’s origins. The Doctor maybe right or he maybe deluding himself. What is important is how this shapes your view of the Doctor Who universe when you run your game.

Story Points have always been a means to influence events in an adventure. What if rather than just being a game mechanic this is a begin with the universe itself. By saving the day the player characters are ensuring that reality is tweaked to favour them.

This could be taken to extremes, as in the above example, where the universe breaks its own laws to ensure that a bargain is upheld. As long as the PC carries out their part of the bargain the universe will give them what they want.

Now it could be that only very important people can actually enter into these pacts with the universe. After all the universe is probably bombarded with prayers from a vast number of people every second of every day. Only someone who has saved the universe so many times will actually be heard.

PCs who prescribe to this belief would probably be optimists. No matter how bad things get they have faith that the universe will set things right, somehow. This can give them the confidence and courage to push through, knowing that the future will be brighter.

They might also be egotists, believing that they are so important the universe will not only hear them but obey them. This can give them a certain arrogant air, that could be seen as delusional by others.

If that belief is correct in your campaign it allows you to explain unlikely events and coincidences. The universe is deliberately influencing events, putting the PCs in the right place at the right time. It can also step in and save them or make sure things turn out okay for the PCs, no matter how bleak things have become.

You may begin to think of what the character of the universe is like. What does it want and what are its goals? Does it prescribe to a specific morality? What does it find abhorrent and what does it consider good?

The universe could be unimaginably big organism, the planets, stars and suns interacting in much the same way as our internal organs, antibodies and nerves act together in our body to keep us healthy and functioning.

Evil could be the equivalent of viruses, infections and cancers corrupting and poisoning of the universe. PCs would be the equivalent of anti-bodies, find and eliminating the source of these problems.

It might also be that the universe doesn’t have a morality, that its is only concerned with survival. Evil might be equally capable of protecting the universe as good, in fact it might be better. In which case the PCs could find that the universe favours their enemies.

The universe might also undergo personality changes. There is plenty of evidence that there have been universes before and there will be a universe after ours. Even the current universe was ‘rebooted’ during the events of ‘The Big Bang’.

You could consider these as regenerations, with the universe being essentially the same but with a new disposition. This could change the arrangement the PC had with the universe. They might even conspire to trigger another regeneration if they are displeased with the current state of the universe.

Having the universe as an active entity in a campaign can lead the PCs taking part in epic adventures. In return for the universes favour they must deal with threats to all of existence, not just single worlds.

The PCs are likely to find themselves dealing with Chronovores, Eternals and Guardians rather than Daleks and Cybermen. The stakes will never have been higher but the rewards are so much greater.

On a metatextual level the universe is the GM. The PCs faith in the universe is actually the players belief in the person running the game. They believe that you will play fairly and give their characters a certain level of plot immunity and control.

Taken to far the players might feel that their characters are untouchable but dealt with carefully it can allow for greater sharing of narrative control. Through bargains the players can take control of their destiny and bring in elements they want into the campaign.

All of which does push the Doctor Who universe into the direction of fantasy rather than science fiction. It is harder to believe that some of the earlier incarnations of the Doctor, particularly those who considered themselves scientists, prescribing to a belief in a benevolent universe.

Your campaign might emphasises that the universe is a cold, uncaring place. Which is why it is so much more important what we do in life. We are the only ones who can give existence meaning.

Adventures could centre on false religions, people who would rather bargain with the universe than save themselves or how apparent patterns are just random events and coincidence.

Either approach is valid and will help you set the tone of your campaign.

This entry was posted in 11th Doctor, Doctor Who, The Snowmen. Bookmark the permalink.

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