In the mini-episode ‘Night of the Doctor’ we get a glimpse of what life was like during the Time War. The universe is on the brink of destruction and only the Doctor can save it, but only by changing his very nature.
When we first meet the 8th Doctor he is resolutely trying to avoid any part in the conflict. He is just doing what he always does, swooping in at the last minute to save a life. In this case it is Cass, aboard a gunship about to crash.
The fact that it is a gunship could mean that it was involved in the Time War itself. The fact that Cass obviously hates Time Lords and says that you can’t tell the difference between them and the Daleks indicates that she is not allied to either side. In all likelihood the gunship is designed to protect the interests of her race (which could be human).
Cass’s extreme reaction and knowledge of the Time War suggests that it is common knowledge in this particular era. We know that if the Time War was localised to a particular part of history that the 8th Doctor would avoid it, therefore we might take this to mean that all of time is being badly affected by the conflict. This is further confirmed by Ohila, who says that Cass understood there was no escaping the Time War.
This would seem to contradict the Doctor’s statement that the Time War was invisible to lower species, unless Cass was actually from a ‘higher’ race. It could be that what the Doctor actually meant was that lower races just no longer remember the Time War, now it has be time locked and history expunged of its corruption influence.
Campaigns (or isolated adventures) set during the Time War should keep this in mind. Time Lords PCs won’t be able to find anywhere that isn’t eventually touched by the conflict.
This might be a gradually process to begin with. The PCs might encounter the beginning of the Time War infrequently. Eventually it becomes so frequent that they can’t go anywhere without finding themselves on a battlefield.
If this is the case then what happened on the most important planet from our perspective, Earth? This obviously could be the setup for a UNIT campaign during the Time War, centred on one particular decade or spanning the life of the whole organisation.
Caught in the cross-fire between two time travelling combatants what can UNIT do to protect itself? If the Doctor is avoiding the Time War then he won’t be there to help them. They will be on their own.
UNIT soldiers must face unbelievably powerful beings. The threats they struggle against aren’t even directed at them, just by-products of their war. Such a campaign could be very gritty, with NPC soldiers dying in their scores.
Will they be ale to keep their sanity knowing that at the end of the conflict all they’ve experienced will be wiped away? All those who died might be restored to life but everything the PCs have done will vanish. Not even they will know the role they played in protecting their planet.
With all time being fair game for the Time War you can have adventures in a variety of historical locations, besieged by those fighting for the Time Lords and Daleks. There is no chance to protect history, only finding away to make sure that people at least survive.
Will the PCs fight with the Time Lords, help those caught in the middle or simply avoid the whole thing? Events during the war might force their hand or help them change their mind.
‘Night of The Doctor’ indicates that the 8th Doctor didn’t fight during the conflict until his regeneration. This at least gives us some basis for running a 8th Doctor campaign, with a clear character arc.
He is resolute, right to the end when he states that he would rather die than fight in the war. Given this incarnations past history with the Daleks (as the Big Finish audios must now be considered canonical) the Time Lords must already be taking very unethical actions for the Doctor to not ally with them.
Either he believed that the Time Lords could eventually defeat the Daleks or he felt so strongly about his role as a healer and wise man that he didn’t want to sully himself by becoming a soldier.
Cass’s reaction to the Doctor could be common across the universe and throughout history. Time Lord PCs might have to hide their true nature during the Time War. They might even have to hide the truth about themselves to their own campaign. Of course this is an excellent candidate for the Dark Secret trait.
Cass would rather die than accompany the Doctor and considers the fact that he’ll die in the crash good news. This shows how much she hates his race as moments ago the Doctor was saving her life.
We know that Cass was a good person, willing to risk her own life by staying on the ship to save others. If she reacted like that then the response of someone less heroic is likely to be a lot more violent.
This gives us a taste of what a hellish existence people are experiencing. The Sister of Karn’s dire predictions indicate that all of reality was threatened. It is likely if the conflict continued to escalated that fixed points in time would be destroyed resulting in situations like that seen in either ‘The Big Bang’ or ‘The Wedding of River Song’.
It is tragic that this is how the 8th Doctor died and that it forced him to become something he struggled against but if he hadn’t the consequences could have been much worse for everyone.
A Time War campaign can be dark and brutal but ultimately produce stories of sacrifice, bravery and redemption.