Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Blatant trawling for comments

Would folks be interested in a one-shot adventure for a group of Normal People type PCs? Pregens all ready to go, suitable for conventions and the like? Perhaps with the option to NPC them as a bunch of PC time travellers crash the party?

I'm thinking about it after chiguayante on RPGnet put up a thread fishing for one-shot ideas without a definite decision as to the power level of the characters beyond modern humans.


eryx raised this over on DWAITAS. When you regenerate, are you as Steven Moffat puts it "the same man with a different face" or as Russell T Davies puts it "a different man goes sauntering away"?

Now, I'm tiptoeing around things covered by the NDA for The Time Traveller's Companion here, as regeneration gets a big new writeup, but I can safely say that it addresses some of the different ways of looking at it.

Because the answer to both options above is "yes... kinda".

The Doctor is notably worse at regenerating than other recurring Time Lords, because they can be played by similar-looking people for ease of recognition much more easily than he could. But I must admit I've never been able to get past the out-of-character reasoning and suspend my disbelief on this.

So when Kai regenerated in the finale of The Door In Time he came out looking like himself after losing a bit of weight and getting a haircut. (And Effie, who was standing a bit too close, lost forty-three years of age, but that's just one of those things...) So I suppose that's how I'd play it, unless I had a hefty reason not to. Watch as I deviate from canon because I don't have to worry about finding a replacement actor!

The robes are just a formal thing, really.

Kit over on the DWAITAS board mentioned the possibility of a game set around Gallifrey. I think too much time spent there takes away its sense of mystery and wonder, making it too much like a hybrid of Westminster and Cambridge. (And if I want to run that, I had a Buffy game set in Cambridge already.)

Quoting myself:

There is a lot of Douglas Adams's Cambridge experience in the makeup of Time Lord society, but it also gave us the Doctor and the Master, much like Cambridge gave us the Cambridge Four as well as its more "normal" graduates. It's a hotbed of great thinking as well as an institution of arcane tradition, as much a home to those determined and brilliant enough to get in as those privileged enough to make the cut through family and school connections. And there's the town as well as the gown - even in the citadel, there are still normal Gallifreyans (and quite possibly other species) working in the guard towers and the kitchens. An "Upstairs, Downstairs" game with them could be interesting too.

And for a game focusing on the wildly inventive side of the Time Lords, world-saving craziness mixed with intellectual snobbery, check out SHIELD from Marvel Comics, which reveals the mad science secret history of the Marvel Universe and sets Galileo against Galactus. The portrayal of Newton could certainly make a suitable basis for a scheming Time Lord politician.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Dragonmeet 2010

Despite the best efforts of the snow, I managed to get back last night after attending Dragonmeet in London. Among other people, I got to geek out at C7's Angus and Dom and Andrew Peregrine, went "ooh" when they announced that Gar Hanrahan is in the process of finishing a Primeval RPG adapting the Who system (I imagine Talking won't be the most favoured action in the initiative order in this version, and Gar also mentioned a system for building up paradoxes until time changes) and got to talk a bit about the Doctor box sets.

While I was away, Siskoid's Blog Roundup linked to a very kind review of A Series-ful Of Plots.


And since you come here for ideas rather than bloggery, the sudden massive snowfall makes me think...

Winter World

The travellers return to present-day Earth after adventures in the past and future, to find Britain (and much of northern Europe) buried under two feet of snow. Services are grinding to a halt, UNIT doesn't have enough snow tyres... And there is talk of strange figures in the snow. Footprints are soon filled in by more snow and lose their shape, but they're large and deep, suggesting something big and heavy is abroad in the frozen land. Could this connect to the Pharos Institute reading strange energy fluctuations from a series of weather monitoring stations around the country?


Ice Warriors of course (see Midwinter in "A Series!") or maybe Abominable Snowmen, or anything that wants to disrupt things and doesn't mind the weather. And the wider madder Whoniverse being what it is, undead Vikings bringing about Fimbulwinter are just as likely.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Right then, off to Dragonmeet on the morrow, there to possibly meet people involved in the game.

I leave you with this: Count the shadows! And here Steven Moffat always thought Blink was the idea they could have made into a horror movie.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Since I've managed not to post it here somehow...

My Doctor Who PBP trailer

Happy Doctor Who Day!

So there's this girl at Coal Hill School, an ordinary comprehensive, who seems a bit strange. Apparently she lives with her grandfather, who is a doctor... in a scrapyard on Totter's Lane. When her teachers go to visit, they find them lurking around a police box, of all things...

So this man steps out of a police box, of all things, hunting something only he can see...

So there's this girl working late at a department store, when she hears something, and then sees something move...

So there's this girl with a crack in her bedroom wall...

So there's... what next?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Digging back

Last night I remembered a pre-DWAITAS Doctor Who plot hooks thread over on RPGnet from 2007 (here) so here are my contributions, including an opening scene I'd completely forgotten about.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Eighth Doctor: A time that never was

Due to the new fancy edition box set, I now own Doctor Who: The Movie (aka Enemy Within, for those wanting a less silly name) on DVD. As the pilot for an unmade revival, it makes for interesting viewing.

A quick thought on the Children In Need trailer

It's obviously echoing A Christmas Carol... which as I recall doesn't have sharks in it...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Another in that occasional series of historical oddities

Where Cracked.com points out hinges in history. This time, 5 Minor Screw-ups That Created The Modern World.

"For want of a nail" and all that. With, it being posted on Cracked, added swears.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

Julie Graham was perfect casting as "the new Sarah Jane" because after Bonekickers and Survivors she'd seem like the BBC's go-to casting for "attractive middle-aged woman in modern-day genre series about investigating strange mysteries" which SJA is, if they were making it primetime and not basing it on an existing already-cast character.

What was being done rather bothered me - Sarah Jane affected with symptoms like Alzheimer's. And who wouldn't want to have a monster to stop if someone was suffering from that?

Gamewise, new monster(s).

So now, no new Who for... well, three days counting the Children In Need special, but then a whole five weeks, egad.

Craig Ferguson attempts to explain Daleks to America

A noble effort, hampered by the Dalek's inert state.

Update - the further attempt to explain the show itself.

And because he's earned it after all that, Matt Smith!

Monument Valley? Hmm.

Monday, 15 November 2010

And Finally, Thirty Adventure Hooks

Yes, thirty.

Admittedly some (like The Hidden Door / The World Next Door) are recycled and expanded on elsewhere in this collection, but hey.

Actual Play: The Hammer Of Time character stats

Since I had to make them for a convention, I have all the numbers for everyone. So...

Actual Play: The Hammer Of Time

The TARDIS stops in orbit of Earth, above the Moon.

The Doctor: Fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Amazing. Pity there's so little in space these days...

He trails off as something hits the side of the TARDIS with a clang, throwing him off his feet.


Red and white laser blasts tear through space.

A battered Federation T-Wing fighter painted with red stripes roars through the stars, chasing a grey Torlan Scimitar fighter shaped like a pair of curved blades.

We pull in to the T-Wing cockpit, where a young pilot looks over at her gunner.

Drummond: They're getting away!
Eckner: Whatever they just fired scrambled our navigation. I don't even recognise the system!

The camera whips around to follow the ships, flying towards a massive battle between two fleets, human and alien. Human fighters surround a bar-shaped carrier, the others swarm around a repurposed asteroid bristling with technology.

And it pulls back to show the two sides are in the shadow of the Moon.

Eckner: Getting an anomalous blip on the scanners.
Drummond: Looks like... an escape capsule or something?

She squints at the blue box hanging in the middle of the battle, just as a Scimitar wing smacks into the side of it.

Eckner: Tough, whatever it is.
Drummond; Maybe it's local, we might be able to find out where we are.

She peels away, and we see the fighter silhouetted by the Earth behind it.


Inside, the Doctor gets up, and another jolt throws him about.

He reaches the doors and pulls them open.

The Doctor: Oy!

Drummond and Eckner share a look - and we go to the credits.

Adventure Hook: The Hammer Of Time

And finally, one I've actually used!

Which I stole from Russell T Davies.

To see how it went, read the Actual Play! And if you're more interested in the story, avoid reading past this cut beforehand to avoid spoilers.

The Hammer Of Time

Adventure Hook: Into The Leviathan's Maw

From and RPGnet Forum thread on adventures based on titles alone:

Into The Leviathan's Maw

Adventure Hook: The Trident

A non-modern one. A Pseudohistorical with a classic monster. This owes a bit to FASA's adventure The Iytean Menace, especially the alternate story hook created by this Actual Play and borrowed by a GM in my playtest group.

The Trident

Adventure Hook: Hinges Between Days

I like this one so much it might end up becoming a novel.

Hinges Between Days

Adventure Hook: A Little Piece Of Home

A play on the classic timeslip as well as a bit of an autobiographical indulgence.

A Little Piece Of Home

Adventure Hook: The Games Of Kings

I actually wrote this one up for a Big Finish short story competition afterwards, featuring the Seventh Doctor.

The Games Of Kings

Adventure Hook: Voices In The Dark

This has monster stats too, come to think of it. A classic "rich landowners are not to be trusted" setup.

Voices In The Dark

Adventure Hook: Men Of Power

This one comes complete with monster stats. Ooh!

Men Of Power

Adventure Hook: Set A Thief

Since I have all this space, this is a good place to repost my adventure hooks from the DWAITAS forum. All roughly modern and basically Aliens In London or possible Secret Invasion types, originally designed for a UNIT game.

Set A Thief

Sunday, 14 November 2010

And as a break from me, here's Paul Cornell talking about Fortean aspects of Doctor Who.

Linked from his own site, where in what may be a fit of madness, he's inviting fanfic.

A series-ful of classic Who plots: A Series!

And finally...

So what could one do with all this? Something like this, perhaps.

I've thrown in half a dozen new one-sentence episode ideas (and moved The House That Screamed forwards several centuries because of one) but listed what's what to give an idea of the shape and rhythm, trying not to put too many modern stories or varieties of historical next to each other for example.

The Complete Series N

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Christmas Special

I couldn't end this series without including one of these.

It doesn't have to be anywhere near Christmas when you play it, either - they generally shoot them around July and August, and The Next Doctor is about the Doctor visiting Christmas because he wanted a bit of cheering up.

(These are actually more often the start of a new series filming block, and included in the DVD box set for the series that follows next year, but never mind.)

X: Get Away From The Christmas Trees!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Children In Need Special

A Children In Need special is not an essential (we've only had them in 1993, 2005 and 2007, and The Sarah Jane Adventures had a sketch in Comic Relief 2009, not to mention the short-lived Ninth to Thirteenth Doctors in Steven Moffat's The Curse Of Fatal Death - and looking back, Rowan Atkinson was rocking a very similar look to Matt Smith...) but since it's Children In Need week I thought I might as well add this to the list.

Think of a story the show can tell in eight minutes flat. At most.

This can be a bit tricky. It would be a great use for an idea that doesn't feel big enough for a proper episode, though, perhaps for a shorter-than-usual session or as part of a session also involving a normal-length game.

It could be an important character moment, a bit of knockabout comedy, or a blatant fan squee bit like an appearance by a different incarnation of your group's Time Lord. Or indeed a wildly inappropriate crossover. In 3D.

Or, since we can chip in for a larger budget than "none at all" it could be a full-tilt romp with a horde of monsters chasing the travellers through BBC Television Centre (see TV ACTION! in the Format-Bender article - Format-Bender is probably a good guide here). Whatever the case, ideally it should be funny and/or heartwarming. Children In Need isn't the night for appearances by anything with a Fear Factor higher than 1. When in doubt, lean towards silly.

If you're stumped, you can always just give them the pre-credits scene from the Christmas Special instead.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Season Finale

The opposite of the season opener, traditionally a Big Two-Parter or even Three-Parter in its own right as well as possibly the end of a series arc, this could be a jumping-off point for players or their characters, and will certainly be a major conflict with possibly life-changing ramifications. It's possible for the core cast of travellers to survive unscathed and go on to more adventures, but endings tend to be where things end...

12: What?


Thursday, 11 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: (Insert Ominous Word Here) Of The Daleks

The Classic Monster Story is an essential of the series. As Steven Moffat noted (somewhere, I'll try and find the actual quote) you could make an entire series with only new monsters and it would work fine and not many people would really notice.

However, ultimately one must have Daleks at some point or the fans in front of the TV or at the gaming table will feel a bit shortchanged. Likewise Cybermen, the Master, and there's bound to be something in thirty-odd series of monsters that you'd like to bring back. Of course, I already talked about uses of the Daleks and friends here, so I'll try not to go over the same ground too much, and instead talk about how they might fit into a game series.


A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Doctor-Lite Episode

The Doctor-Lite Episode is a subset of The Format-Bender that appears in the show for very practical reasons - they can shoot it at the same time as another story and the Doctor (and/or Companions) who misses most of the episode can devote their time to that or take a few days off. It generally ends up being a Format-Bender as well, because one of the main characters is absent so they do something a bit different.

I split this off from the previous article because it has some obvious effects on the story, and it would factor in to how a game using it might run.

10: Doctor...?

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Format-Bender

Most genre shows have the occasional format-bender and sometimes a total format-breaker. Doctor Who has such a flexible format that it can bend quite easily to contain fourth wall breakers, locked room dramas, live stage appearances, cartoons, out-and-out horror, out-and-out comedy, episodes almost entirely lacking the main characters...

The trick with a Format-Bender is to still provide a fun evening's viewing or gaming, so grab something you know your players would be interested in.

Since these are all as different from each other as from the more common story types, I won't try and delineate common features except in the latter case, but instead offer some examples.

9: They'll talk about this for years to come...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: Secret Invasion

A subset of The Big Two-Parter, and worth going into detail over because a lot of Big Two-Parters are Secret Invasion stories and they're different enough from a regular Aliens Of London story to have their own common features.

Modern Britain (or some similarly recognisable culture) is threatened by sinister forces working in secret in part one, and then more openly in part two.

Another of the classic Who adventure models, largely lifted from Quatermass II. So, in that spirit, I'll be lifting a bit from the DWAITAS forum post by sutekh which inspired this entire series of articles. ;)

(Look at the rest of his story type rundowns while you're there, I won't be covering them in their own posts but they're all gold dust if you want to run something like them.)

7: What's going on?

8: RUN!

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Big Two-Parter

Somewhere in the middle of the run there's generally a Big Two-Parter. This is basically one of the other formats on a bigger scale with a cliffhanger. In particular, it's most often a Secret Invasion, a bigger version of Aliens Of London which involves more sneaking at the start and a bigger fight at the end, different enough that it gets its own entry. But a large enough threat, a complicated enough story, or a fun enough enemy, can be reason enough to go Big Two-Parter with another format, or even something a bit outside the format - Series Three had two Big Two-Parters which were an (Insert Ominous Word Here) Of The Daleks and a tragic romance Pseudohistorical, and bolted the Secret Invasion on to the Season Finale.

All you really need are bigger stakes and a good cliffhanger.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Base Under Siege

6: They're Coming!

The Base Under Siege is a perennial Doctor Who story archetype, so this one gets almost as much detail as the subsets of Historical put together...

The travellers arrive in a smallish, enclosed structure. They get separated from the TARDIS and/or each other. The few residents are besieged by outside forces. The enemy is close to getting in, supplies and morale are both perilously low, there may be a traitor in the camp, something is about to go badly wrong and there's no way out!

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Not coincidentally to my writing the last three entries, this week sees our heroes Lost In Time, in which the not-normally-time-travelling investigators are thrown by a literally handwavy outside force into three different periods of British history. Rani gets a Celebrity Historical, Clyde a straightish Historical with the alien artefact as an excuse and Sarah Jane a full-on Pseudohistorical with time warps in a haunted house. We've got teaming up with concerned locals, fighting historical villains, threats to the fabric of time and space, and dressing up.

Gamewise, we have A Mysterious Man (deliberately left vague as anything) who can open portals in time and send unwilling investigators to deal with threats to history, a metal that warps time, a crystal ball that can keep up with the heroes' progress in the present... You could base a series on this episode by itself.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Celebrity Historical

5: Stumbling Into History (and wishing you had an autograph book)

A subset, but common enough to get its own entry since I'm doing the Historicals today, the Celebrity Historical is a (pseudo)historical where the travellers meet someone famous, and the monsters often have something to do with the guest star's place in history.

There are degrees of "celebrity" of course. Tooth And Claw assumed more knowledge of Queen Victoria on the part of the audience than The Girl In The Fireplace did of Madame de Pompadour.

Since they're dealing with real historical figures in family entertainment, they don't want to cause offence and tend to "print the legend" rather than go for any grim real details.

The ones about historical figures that the travellers (and writers) would like to meet show their subjects being heroic, bravely facing their monsters and having a hand in saving the day.

In terms of typical plot points, these are pretty much Pseudohistoricals with the addition of starry guest casting.

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Pseudohistorical

4: Stumbling Into History (with aliens)

This rather horrible word is apparently standard Who fandom terminology for "a story set in history but with aliens and the like instead of only historical events," i.e. every period adventure for the last thirty years, including every one from the revived series.

Since it's been six whole Doctors since a "straight" historical, these have picked up most of the features of those (historical mysteries and disasters, meeting both famous and unknown people of the era, dressing up) as well as regular Who stuff like arguing with monsters and running from laser beams.

The earliest example was The Chase, which explained the Mary Celeste mystery by having Daleks exterminate everybody on board. That set the standard for answering historical mysteries by saying "aliens did it" as seen in quite a few of these. Grab a historic mystery (there are sites cataloguing them) and run with it.

It also provides an easy reason for the travellers to leave the TARDIS and follow the adventure all the way through, rather than leaving before things get dangerous as they might choose to in a straight historical. Something weird is messing with time, and sorting that out is their job!

Side note: While counted as a type of Who story, it's really more a setting for Who stories unlike the more has-its-own-rules straight historical. So it can and does mix with the other types on this list...

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Historical

This was originally the first one on the list, but the season opener had to go in front really.

3: Stumbling Into History (without aliens)

The "historical" seems like a sensible place to start even though there hasn't been one in about thirty years, as it was the original model for the series, as set by An Unearthly Child.

The travellers step out of the TARDIS and run into events from Earth's history, which doesn't go quite as expected...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: Aliens Of London

The travellers visit the present (possibly visiting a present-day companion's home and family) or a present-like bit of the future, and find that aliens are up to something odd.

This is snuck in behind the season opener as the standard format from which all other Doctor Who adventure types (and The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood and so on) all deviate. As such, there isn't much to say about it...

2: Something that shouldn't be here...

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Season Opener

Flagrantly borrowing an idea from A Journal of Impossible Things, let's poke around some of the classic adventure formats and see what makes them tick. If I go on long enough, we can build a whole thirteen-episode series of adventure ideas. Remind me to include some two-parters.

This run originally started with the Historical, but the Season Opener leapfrogs it because it has to really.

1: Hello, Faithful Viewer!

The Season Opener (and indeed Series Opener) is the jumping-on point for new audiences, characters and players. It might be the actual first adventure in a run, or it might be a later jumping-on point when you gain a bunch of new players, but either way it's an introduction, setting up the format of the show.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Aliens And Creatures for Doctor Who arrived today, preordered back when. It's as far as I can tell unchanged since the pdf release in the summer, so it still doesn't include monsters from the last three specials, but hey, I don't need them as the game's lighter than a feather, and it's here, on shelves, and has the nice 2005 Daleks on the box.

It still has the adventure hook grabbed straight out of the Fourth Doctor comics, but there are worse places to steal from. (I still think a credit would have been good, though.)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Retro New Monsters

New looks for classic monsters always draw a bit of discussion (mutter mutter new Daleks mutter) but, just for grins, what about classic looks for new monsters?

Pertwee-era Judoon! ;)

Okay, one cheap gag about old special effects is probably plenty. I'll be good.

And since we're here...

... might as well discuss the earlier episodes in this run too.

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Let's make a habit of this, as it's new Who TV and thus handy for turning over and looking at.

The Empty Planet

The characters find that the world has been deserted. Why? Why have they been left behind? And if they're alone... why did that lift just open?

(The latter creepy moment didn't make it into the story, having been part of an earlier version that was almost one of the 2009 Doctor Who specials, as discussed in Russell T Davies's great big behind-the-scenes book The Writer's Tale.)

It's a great way of cutting some characters off from others and from their support network, looking at isolation, loneliness and the fear it can bring and connections it can strengthen, giving them a chance to shine while others are absent... and have big robots stomping around.