‘Tales From The Vault’, written by Jonathan Morris, is unusual for a Companion Chronicle in that it is pretty much a full production with 6 voice actors. The main actors are Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso, not reprising their roles from the 8th Doctor movie but playing UNIT soldiers Captain Ruth Matheson and Warrant Officer Charlie Sato.
They work at the Vault, a facility not unlike The Black Archive (which I examined here), which houses dangerous alien artefacts that comes into UNITs possession. Researching the background of several exhibits reveals an on going threat that involves Jo Grant, Steven Taylor, Zoe Heriot and Romana (mark 1).
It is an enjoyable premise which gives a small taste of what the other Companion Chronicles are like. It is also interesting that this came out before ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ and shows what a great premise a UNIT based show could be.
There is plenty of material that could be useful for running your own adventures centred in or around the Vault.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!
THE FRAMEWORK OF AN ANTHOLOGY
A campaign could be based upon those working at the Vault. Their study of various artefacts can shift the adventure back in time, where the players now take the roles of the different incarnations of the Doctor and his various companions.
Not only does this provide variety it allows you to explore large stretches of time. The discoveries made by those in the past will be revealed to the the UNIT soldiers in the Vault.
You can take the approach shown here, with several mini adventures building into a larger plot arc. It doesn’t always have to relate to something in their present, it could be that the UNIT personnel are just carrying out some research.
A STORY DECADES IN THE MAKING
From the perspective of the UNIT staff the events they uncover span from 1900 to the modern day. To the Doctor they take place even longer as they run from his 1st to 4th incarnation, which means it could be several hundred years.
This shows the advantage of skipping around the personal timeline of a Time Lord. You can show events over many decades or centuries. Only a time travel can really appreciate how individual incidents interrelate and be around to see their consequences.
You can be subtle about this, slowly revealing that what appeared to be a series of stand alone adventures were actually interconnected. This is perfect for explaining apparent plot holes from previous adventures are revealing what caused events to be put in motion.
THE TIME CAPSULES
The Vault would receive time capsules, containing artefacts or messages only to be opened on certain dates. This could be to prevent future knowledge (for example details about the 90s should only be read once the 9os have arrived) or to allow enough time for an artefact to be neutralised.
In this case the message enclosed from Steven Taylor is pertinent to what is happening on that date. Captain Matheson suggests that the Doctor read her report on what happened and then went back in time to make sure the message reached her at the appropriate moment.
This does mean that there is always the potential for a new time capsule to spark a new adventure. This could keep life interesting for those working at the Vault but could also involve outsiders, particularly if the contents of the time capsule relate to them.
PCs might make use of the time capsules in their own time travelling. It is an easy way to get a message to those in the future along ‘the slow path’ as long as you are confident that the time capsule will remain secure.
ZOE THE DIAMOND
The 2nd Doctor encountered an alien diamond that could rob people of their memories. After recovering it from a group of bank robbers it was placed into the custody of UNIT. Zoe allowed the diamond to create a copy of her mind to act as a sort of user manual.
By the 21st century the diamond, with Zoe’s mind inside, is still active within the Vault. With her future knowledge and experiences with the Doctor PCs and UNIT might use the diamond for more than just its memory erasing powers. This can be an unusual way for PCs to encounter a classic companion.
PCs could encounter similar alien devices, creating back up copies of their minds. Long after they’ve left the Doctor or died others could encounter one of these recordings, allowing their character to return in some form without changing the fate of the original.
THE PAINTING OF DEATH
Another artefact in the Vault is a painting that shows the viewer how they will die. This frequently leads to madness as the viewer is tormented by the knowledge of their own, inevitable demise.
All that is known is that the 4th Doctor says it was stolen from the Braxiatel collection. There is certainly an adventure to be had around its theft and how it ended up on Earth. Why did someone want it and why was it on sale.
One possibility is that it was a trap for the 4th Doctor (maybe planted by the Master). If he hadn’t averted his gaze he might have seen how he died. Maybe he did explaining how his death was prepared for.
There is certainly an element of time travel in the painting, in that it shows the viewer his future. Since each viewer sees something different there is also a psionic element, with the painting just acting as a reflective surface for a subject to see their own biodata.
UNIT THINK OF EVERYTHING
As with the Black Archive UNIT is quite prepared to wipe the memories of those who work for them. Here Charlie Soto is tricked into consuming a drug that will erase his memory of being offered a job at the Vault unless he accepts.
It could be that those who work for UNIT understand that from time to time their memories will be erased. Others might find the idea disturbing. This could be made even worse if they find out that they’ve already had memories taken away from them.
An adventure could begin with the PCs, whether they work for UNIT or not, realising that someone has erased their memories. Will they go against UNIT to recover what was lost or trust that it was the greater good?