Since the release of ‘Doctor Who: Adventures in Space and Time’ those playing have always had to set their campaign pre or post Time War. The default assumption is that you’d play within the current era, with Gallifrey gone and the Time Lord PCs would be the last of their kind (at least until the Classic Who books were released).
With ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ we know that Gallifrey isn’t destroyed, just lost. With that knowledge brings hope and a challenge for the player characters to find it. This will change any campaign set after the events of this episode.
The first thing to consider is how the PCs find out. If they are taking the role of the Doctor then he’ll already know. If they are playing a different Time Lord how do they find out?
The easiest way to do this is have the Doctor tell them. If they have met before he could arrange a meeting or send them a message via the TARDIS. If not the Doctor might cross paths with them and give them the good news.
Now we know what really happened you might find another way to reveal the truth to the PCs. They might return to the constellation of Kasterborous and realise that there should be some physical trace of the destroyed planet amongst the destroyed Dalek ships. They could recover data from a Dalek vessel and find records of the unexpected arrival of 13 versions of the Doctor’s TARDIS moments before Gallifrey vanished.
They could encounter the ‘Gallifrey Falls’ and work out the meaning of its double title. The painting could also act as a way to introduce new Time Lord PCs, who might climb out of it, just as the three Doctors did, in an unseen scene.
Doubtless the return of Gallifrey will be dealt with in the forthcoming series of Doctor Who so you might be cautious about exploring the plot yourself. There are two approaches you can take with this.
Firstly the PCs can be content that the Doctor will find it eventually. They might find clues along the way which they can pass on to him (if he isn’t a main character in your game) or they can just get on with their own adventures they no longer have to worry about being the last of their species.
Secondly this can be an ongoing quest that won’t reach a conclusion (at least until it happens in the series). Plenty of television series have open ended quests where we know the characters aren’t going to achieve their goal. ‘Star Trek: Voyager’, ‘Sliders’ and ‘Quantum Leap’ are all prime examples of this.
Players must be willing to go along with this format, knowing that their quest to find Gallifrey is just a framing device to have them have exciting adventures each week. For a sense of progression they might still find clues that seem to bring them closer.
If you are not concerned with eventually contradicting the television series (or ret-conning what you have already revealed) then you can have an end goal in sight. The PCs can be responsible for finding and freeing Gallifrey.
Just what can PCs do to try and find Gallifrey? All we know is that while there is a painting that is linked to the final day of the Time War the planet itself is said to be lost in parallel pocket universe.
Therefore they must either search for a link to that pocket universe in our universe or shift through countless other dimensions, until they find the one that holds their world. Either method has massive scope and potentially take them into uncharted waters.
They might try to expand their knowledge of stasis cube technology. If other people and places and be put in pocket dimensions if the PCs can find those then it can give them valuable information about where Gallifrey might have gone.
Things might have been placed into pocket dimensions for safety but they might also be put there as a means of confinement, like the phantom zone from Superman. In which case the PCs might accidentally release something dangerous.
They shouldn’t hope for any help from Gallifrey itself as it is said to be frozen in time. You might be lenient and have it broadcast a signal or provide some other indicator that can be used to track it.
If the PCs are able to find Gallifrey what then? We saw how disastrous releasing the planet near Earth was in ‘The End of Time’ but can the PCs find an empty region of space to put it. Will they be able to clear the debris from Kasterborous so it can take back its rightful place or is there a better location?
If the Time Lords are returned to the universe what is to prevent the Time War starting again (since ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ indicates they still have a sizeable fleet)? It could be up to the PCs to give them the leadership they need (or persuade the Doctor to become president again).
The Doctor’s dream at the end of ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ suggests that returning to Gallifrey is in his future. Will a Time Lord PC also return home and will that signal the end of his adventures?
This is something that characters can think about before Gallifrey is restored. What will it mean to them? Are there people they are hoping to see again? Will they settle down or do they think they’ll continue to explore the universe but maybe on behalf of their people.
These thoughts might encourage them to prepare the rest of the universe to the eventual return of the Time Lords. They could also make an effort to ensure that they can show their people that they’ve done a good job of protecting time while they were away.
Regardless of the approach you take this is an exciting new era for games to take place in. One in which the lost might eventually be found.