Many Doctor Who stories were inspired by the concerns and worries of the day. The ‘About Time’ series of books do a good job of examining this, with each episode having its own ‘Where Did This Come From?’ section.
What follows are some adventure ideas suitable for most Doctor Who campaigns.
Note: This was written before ‘The Bells of Saint John’ aired.
We live in an era where we are able to keep in contact with people online through twitter updates, video and voice chat. What happens when that is all we are?
In the early 21st century (the modern day) people are going missing but strangely they are still communicating with their friends and family, apparently unaware that anything is wrong.
Those using voice chat, such as Skype, can clearly be seen in their homes even if their house is empty. If someone was to enter their home the could occupy the same space as where the video is being transmitted from and not find the person (nor would they appear on the video).
The PCs could stumble into this situation, be called into investigate by UNIT or Torchwood or have someone close to them go missing. They are put in the strange situation of being able to speak to the person who has gone missing.
The culprit is a race called the Unreal. They were brought into existence by a race (possibly the Time Lords) that theorised there could be a species that didn’t exist. This thought alone allowed the Unreal to have slither of reality.
They now steal reality away from others, removing them from the physical world. They still exist, just not in a way that would allow you to see, hear or touch them. Their presence is felt only through electronic devices.
With their stolen reality the Unreal can manifest, appearing as strangely ill-defined humanoids. If you saw them you wouldn’t realise anything was strange until you tried to recall them later and realised that you can’t describe their face or what type of clothes they were wearing. They exist just enough for your mind to fill in the blanks.
The PCs must hunt down the Unreal using the help of the missing people. The location of each disappearance can point to where the Unreal are operating. Those who are missing can also see them in their limbo existence, allowing them to warn or advise the PCs where they might be hiding.
Once captured an Unreal can be exorcised from reality by making those around it realise they don’t exist. The more people who realise that the Unreal are just a fantasy the greater the psychic push that will make it so.
This is easily achieved as the Unreal don’t register under any kind of examination or sensor reading. They emit no heat, they have no weight, they lack any kind of physical presence.
With their weak grip of reality removed their victims will pop back into existence. Yet there will always be the lingering worry that the person you are speaking to on the phone or on Skype isn’t really there.
On a human colony sometime in the future renewable resources are limited. The ruling body were forced to ration what little supplies they had but decided to make the process democratic. Each colonist was able to vote on where the resources would be allocated. It was supposed to be a fair way for resources to be allocated to the most important part of the colony. Instead it became a popularity contest.
Each colonist can Like or Dislike others, improving their status. The more Friends you have the more resources you are allocated each month. Losing Friends can be devastating and even lead to starvation and death.
The PCs arrive on the colony and witness first hand how things have gone wrong. Worthy and important causes are left underfunded if they are seen as ‘dull’. The most terrible people are in control simply because they have more friends and can black mail them by threatening to unfriend them.
Things have reached a tipping point and the government have decided to eliminate anyone who has zero friend status. Such people surely can’t contribute anything to society and are simply a drain on resources.
To this end they have constructed Unfriends, robot drones that scan a persons social status and eliminate them on the spot if they have no Friends. Unfortunately this includes the PCs, strangers to the colony.
To make changes to the society the PCs will have to play the game. They need to gather Friends and Likes so they can influence others. Once they’ve reached sufficient stature they can shutdown the social network for good.
That is if they aren’t Unfriended with lethal force.
In the near future where surveillance and computer systems are integrated into everyday life people are motivated by Achievements. Companies know when you buy their products, when you talk about them to others or carry out an action that reflects well on them (for example running a certain number of miles in a companies running shoe) and can give appropriate Achievements.
These Achievements are ultimately meaningless, at most they give discounts on certain products, but people are obsessed with gaining them. They appear in each persons readily available electronic profile and act as a status symbol.
The authorities are puzzled by strange behaviour and criminal acts carried out by members of the public. The PCs become involved and discover that the source are messages promising rare Achievements if they carry out specific tasks.
An individual may have no idea what the consequence of their actions are but the PCs discover that these separate acts have resulted in tragedies and accidents. Some is manipulating people with Achievements to attack local communities.
This could be the result of a corporation attempting to take over society or the first stages of an alien invasion. The PCs will need to investigate and discover who is responsible for sending out increasingly dangerous and deadly Achievements.