Friday, 31 December 2010

Campaign Toybox

In which I yield the floor to SteveD, who has been writing RPGnet's Campaign Toybox for almost two years now, firing off game ideas at a fair old clip.

And inevitably, some of them could make great Doctor Who adventures due to the bigness of its kitchen sink setting. There are two different time travel campaigns in there, for starters, as well as Twenty Six New Ways to Travel In Space.

And going all the way back to the start, 70s cops dealing with a Stargate at Stonehenge. Put poor old underfunded UNIT on the job and that's a Pertwee-era series idea.

I'm not the only one...

MightyGodKing recasts the first seven Doctors

Some interesting alternatives here. I still think Bonneville for Six would be awesome, though.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

An extra Christmas present

As pointed out by Kit, The Twelve Doctors Of Christmas in which various clever people talk about the Doctors.

Apparently this is my hundredth post here. Goodness.

Where to...?

Currently setting blood boiling on RPGnet is a thread which started innocently enough about the Doctor visiting America. This has lead to arguments about internationalism, Americanisation, parochialism, some deliberately obtuse posts and various other reminders of why I don't go to Outpost Gallifrey. I've held off posting a somewhat grumpy "come back when you give us a Star Trek episode set in Britain" because the thread's ugly enough already.

Now with a currently-less-baity companion thread for where the show might go.

But in an endeavour to be a bit more positive, it got me thinking about how I portray other countries in Who games.

A lot of it has to do with the PCs - when and where they come from inevitably factors in to when and where the game visits.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Have we met?

In which The Green Ood causes excessive thought...

Putting a hint of a Dalek into the trailer at the end of my Shalkaverse short story, I made the light from the eyestalk blue without really thinking about it. A 2005-2010 Dalek eye. But the Shalkaverse is a parallel world where the show came back via the web in 2002, so nothing from the Davies and Moffat eras is necessarily true, not even the Paul Cornell episodes. So why should Daleks have blue lights? Shalkaverse Daleks could be completely different.

If a monster reappears there's no reason it can't be very different from previous appearances. Even if it was one way a few episodes ago, the next episode could be set centuries apart for the monster.

Of course, the show doesn't generally bring back old versions of monsters who have been revamped - I doubt we'll see the cloth-masked Cybermen again, because they dropped them as soon as they had a bit more money for the effects. Big Finish and the comics (and probably the novels) have featured them, though.

But anyway, you still have free rein to do something leftfield with classic elements, and if it doesn't work (and the players don't like it, or Doctor Who Magazine's lettercol fills with complaints) you can go back to basics next time.

Give some thought to the changes, the reasons behind them as well as the effects of them. This can be as simple as "we have more money" or "I found a really neat Dalek redesign on the web" or as complicated as "this is a story about the end of the Cybermen where they transcend metal and free themselves, making the universe a better place from then on with their millennia of stored knowledge, so the last metallic Cybermen have to be pretty strange" but it deserves thinking about whatever the case.

And revealing a bit of the new look is likely to cause some speculation about it.

... Why is that Ood green?

Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

All a bit steampunk, innit?

Rory got his name in the credits!


Ahhh, double meaning, clever.

Peculiar. Bit convoluted. But fun.

And then...




A familiar set!

A green Ood?!

Happy Holidays!

The Only Good Dalek

... is the first original Doctor Who graphic novel from BBC Books.

... is a Base Under Siege, then thanks to escape pods becomes a chase, then another Base Under Siege. It could have done with one less plot twist, and more/any laughs.

(Look away if you want to avoid spoilers, as this refers to the main point of the thing... although I think it’s spelled out on publicity blurb.)

Christmas presents, an early roundup

So, as well as the Christmas Special on which no doubt more later, the Beeb also gave us a rousing Christmas carol from some studenty types who I believe may have something to do with the show, a themed short story collection, and a new computer adventure game.

Shadows Of The Vashta Narada is a pretty straightforward Base Under Siege until a late twist, with a really big base (seriously, it’s big) inhabited by three people and a computer, and we get some justifiable motivations adding to the trouble in among the lumbering suited skeletons and alien megasharks.

I also got The Only Good Dalek. I’ll get back to you once I’ve read it. For now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Classic Who Themes: Knockabout Action And Adventure

Knockabout Action And Adventure is the “default setting” for most Doctor Who adventures. And most roleplaying game sessions. So there isn’t that much that needs to be said here.


Example: The Maelstrom
(A Knockabout Action And Adventure Aliens Of London story)

The travellers, a UNIT fast response team and a group of civilians are caught between an alien marshal and an escaped carnivorous monster on a Dorset peninsula cut off by artificially bad weather. Can they find the monster before it kills again, and deal with the marshal before she calls in an orbital bombardment of the area to save the rest of the world?

Classic Who Themes: Game For A Laugh

Comedy stands alongside adventure, drama and horror as one of the things Doctor Who contains in many stories and gives pride of place to in a few. This is something that often happens around the gaming table anyway, but more out-of-character than in, and comedy in gaming can feel forced. (I’ve played some great games of Toon, but also some really flat ones.)

Classic Who Themes: The Big Emotional Episode

The Big Emotional Episode is a story of some other kind that happens to hit one of the PCs where it hurts emotionally. This is the sort of thing that should definitely be discussed with the player beforehand, as some players aren't keen on putting their characters through the wringer.

Classic Who Themes: Behind The Sofa

Following “a series-ful of classic Who plots”, some ideas for themes and moods that “flavour” plots rather than defining them. Yes, my Vampire Storyteller hat is sitting by my desk.

I’ll be including an example adventure hook with each of these - all Aliens Of London stories to show how different each theme makes this basic setup.

If Doctor Who is known for one thing, it’s the Fear Factor. Which is interesting since the Doctor is so mighty, but his enemies are so many and so terrible and have a tendency to pick on puny humans.

Because we know the Doctor isn’t always there to stop them. And he’s almost never there in time to save everyone. (The classic series had an on-screen death toll over twelve hundred in a hundred and fifty stories.)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A plug

Paul Cornell's Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Fan Fiction

Tricks Of The Light proves to be one of four Shalka-setup stories, a way behind Faiza Hussain but equal to Bernice Summerfield. There only being one Pulse story rather makes me want to get writing.

Guest starring the Doctor

So, you don't have the Doctor in your game, you're doing something else in the Whoniverse. But you're thinking of a special episode (a Christmas special, a series opener) and drop hints about bringing the Doctor in for one night only.

Having the PCs work with the Doctor will of course give fannish players a bit of an egoboost, but maybe they find themselves working at cross purposes instead.

But which Doctor, and to what end? Which one can you do well, which would suit the tenor of your game, which would the players geek out over?

The First Doctor would suit mysteries and sense-of-wonder fantasies, the Second would fit romps, the Third dashing space-opera adventures or UNIT stories, the Fourth a mix of comedy and horror, the Fifth dashing adventures again, the Sixth confrontations with authority, the Seventh sinister machinations, the Eighth dashing adventures with a bigger effects budget and theoretically Time War stories, the Ninth quirky romps and gloomy war stories, the Tenth dashing adventures with angst, the Eleventh a bit more comedy and horror again.

Or of course there are other Doctors. The Richard E Grant version(s), the Unbound, DIY versions, here's eleven fan film Doctors, and check out the shot at 2.51... These give you more freedom, but lack the immediate fanjoy response of the televisual ones.

Or if you really want to mess with the players' heads, imagine their first meeting with the Doctor and it's actually the Valeyard. (How? I dunno, wibbly-wobbly...) And maybe away from confrontation with a normal Doctor he's more Doctor-ish, working for the good in his own way, but a bit sinister and Seventh-like. So they have to wonder if they can trust him, which could make for an interesting dynamic.

The main question, after which Doctor to use, is how to give him enough to do without overshadowing everyone else. Let's look at two handy examples: The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith and Death Of The Doctor from The Sarah Jane Adventures. In both of these, he only appears around the halfway point (at the cliffhanger of part one of two) so there's plenty of time for the regulars and other guests to interact, investigate and chat. He also spends most of his appearance time split off from some of the group, so they have to carry on without him solving problems on their own. And in both cases he has a hand in saving the day, but he's not the central hero of either.

Reading is an adventure...

The Christmas issue of Doctor Who Magazine includes a one-off comic strip called “The Professor, The Bookshop And The Queen”. As well as making my list of Celebrity Historicals for people the Doctor hasn’t met slightly out of date, it presents the TARDIS as a bookshop which can leap into any book it contains. A Land Of Fiction thing, I suppose, but a TARDIS in that form controlled by opening and moving books would be quite appropriate, as Doctor Who has always been a writerly sort of show.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Something fairly important.

The Eleventh Doctor Edition


After thirty years (and a few years after his "And Company" sidekick Sarah Jane) K9 got his own series this year. Sort of. It's not a BBC show, and not canon even by the we-don't-have-a-canon standards of the Whoniverse. And he gets redesigned to look oddly like Gromit as Robocop.

Apparently it's set in a future London where (because it was made in Brisbane) everyone sounds sort of Australian. So like the future London of Mass Effect 3, then...

(Though I can imagine editing around the Sheffield/Melbourne sniper to make that a pretty cool "next time..." trailer for a Who adventure...)

But, y'know, it's got monsters and stuff. And it's getting its first terrestrial UK outing on Five for the next couple of weeks, in the mornings starting tomorrow.

Thanks to The Acrobatic Flea for the notification.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Meeting Jane

In honour of Jane Austen's birthday, it's surprising that she hasn't had a Celebrity Historical yet. The BBC love adapting her work, so I suppose we'll get there.

Of course, she doesn't have a monster. Northanger Abbey suggests it will, but turns out not to. She's in one of SteveD's eighteen song title adventures, sussing out the emotional heart of a time distortion caused by someone's longing. That fits rather well, I think.

And I can imagine a companion who's read all the novels thinking she can busk it in Regency society as a result, and making a bit of a mess of it.

Using your android

A DWAITAS thread about using iPads and iPods and all such Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy like flatscreen computer widgets in GMing brought up the comment from Curufea: "I do use my android for the Starblazer campaign I'm in". I presume he means an Android phone/computer thingy, not an actual android, but it still made me doubletake.



The TARDIS arrives in the present, but there are bipedal humanoid robots out on the street, manning reception desks in fancy businesses, carrying the shopping for people leaving Fortnum & Mason. Obviously they're expensive, they haven't trickled down to the ubiquity of I, Robot, but they're still too good too early...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cold World

The Dravidium mining colony of Irte III is cut off from the rest of the planet by freezing polar conditions, so that only a convoy of massive off-road vehicles can reach it in the height of summer, crossing icy wastes and treacherous mountain passes, never sure if the road ahead will crack under them.

The travellers hitch a ride with one of the trucks in order to see a scientist at the mine due to Dravidium leakage causing trouble on another planet.

And then one of the drivers sees something moving in the ice floes...

(Yes, as an example of how Doctor Who can take on anything, this is the result of seeing a trailer for Ice Road Truckers while trying to come up with a Doctor Who adventure hook...)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

And the presenters of Blue Peter as themselves.

Following on from this, which was itself following on from this, comes the idea of playing yourself in an RPG.

And it's a short step to playing other real people. It is for me anyway, because the last time I tried this trick the players got the idea to trade roles and play each other.

For a group with less familiarity and less willingness to take the mickey out of each other, a safer option might be to run with the Celebrity Historical in a slightly unusual manner - with some or all of the PCs as historical figures.

I'm not alone in this notion, of course. Joan of Arc was an example PC in one of FASA's Doctor Who adventures, and in a more extreme example Pacesetter Games produced a TimeMaster adventure book where Boudicca, Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Miss Marple, Robin Hood, Merlin, Sgt. Rock and Hercules had to team up to save reality. None of the men are definitely real figures in history, but never mind.

Ms. Earhart was also nearly a companion in one of the never-made incarnations of the Doctor Who movie in the 90s, which is why she ended up meeting the PCs in The Door In Time when they visited The Shadow Proclamation. I erred on the side of "printing the legend" when portraying her as she was a throwaway extra, unlike the more central portrayal of Alan Turing in a previous episode, more like Churchill in Victory Of The Daleks than Van Gogh in Vincent And The Doctor.


Example: The Key

New England, 1766. A colony close to revolution, and a scientist close to a discovery that will change the world even more. And the TARDIS crew must stop an alien intelligence destroying both before they can happen. If humanity fails to harness electricity all of its history will be unwritten, so Benjamin Franklin joins the adventure to save the future.

The Shadow Proclamation

The Writer's Tale also features the original plans for The Shadow Proclamation in The Stolen Earth, complete with a page-sized illustration of the scene as pictured by Russell T Davies himself. I stole this wholesale for the end of The Door In Time, even printing out the scan of the drawing, because I was so disappointed by what we finally got on screen. I understand the reasoning, as discussed in the book, but damn. After being mentioned as far back as Rose, I really wanted their first appearance on screen to be awesome, and it so nearly was. And sure, we got a similar scene two years later, but it's just not the same...

So whenever The Shadow Proclamation shows up in my things, it's a big deal, with a lot of Judoon and humanoid troops, alien lawyers, different species arguing, holographic scans for dangerous equipment, red-eyed psychic magistrates, bases built out of asteroid debris (which in my head used to be part of a planet destroyed in the Dalek War) and more, and bigger, and you still need to queue to see someone...


The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook is a great resource for new Who gaming as well as a fascinating read in its own right. I've swiped discarded adventure ideas, scenes, visuals, character notes and more from it.

And one bit I'd like to do something with is a flashback dropped from the final two-parter in series four. Skaro in the last years of the atomic wars, Davros before being blinded and crippled. The recent BBC4 showing of the new Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart reminded me of it - a slightly SF slightly horror take based on the end of World War I, with cluttered hospital corridors and bunkers and plastic sheeting and modernish ECG machines and officers in big grey coats. Add a boiling red sky and we're good to go.

Imagine meeting Davros before he started down that road...

Monday, 13 December 2010

The (X) Doctors

A thread on RPGnet at the moment has people imagining what games they'll be playing and running in five years' time. One suggestion is the new edition of Doctor Who with rules for the Matt Smith era. But that's coming out soon, and by late 2015 there's a good chance we'll be onto Ga - whoever we get as the Twelfth Doctor.

And there's nothing like a Time Lord regenerating into a new actor to get you thinking about a reappearance by a former self.

Prison Break

One of the ideas that fell out of Steven Moffat's purposefully vague description of this year's Christmas Special as "like a compilation of every Christmas movie" was the joking suggestion it would be like The Great Escape because it was famously on TV just about annually in the 70s and 80s.

So that got me thinking of what a Doctor Who version of The Great Escape would look like. Alien prison, maybe a whole planet or a satellite in space. Robotic guards and corrupt humanoid warders. Prisoners from various species and possibly time periods having to work together to get free. And more time on the escape than the plan, of course. And if anybody does the motorcycle jump, it would be the Doctor.

But last night I had a different idea. Start in medias res, in a Porridge-style underfunded Victorian-built prison in 1960s Britain, with its beaten-down cons, its fixers, hard men (the version in my head features big bald character actor Steve Speirs as a surprisingly sensitive soul) and bosses (maybe Kevin McNally, since he was in The Twin Dilemma and deserves better)... and we see a van full of new prisoners being brought in. And the third one out is the Doctor.

Why is he there? A place like this would be impossible for him not to escape from. So why is he in here?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Digging for gold in the dirt

Inspired by Bigger On The Inside as it looks at the game applications of Doctor Who adventures, taking it from the top... I thought I’d look at the bottom of the barrel.

After The Caves Of Androzani came in at number 1 in Doctor Who Magazine’s Mighty 200 poll of stories from An Unearthly Child to Planet Of The Dead, its immediate followup The Twin Dilemma came at 200. It’s almost poetic.

But even in the real clangers, there are always ideas. The Twin Dilemma has potentially interesting threats in the creepy kids and the alien kidnappers, a regeneration crisis (which is a nice idea, but a bum note for introducing a new Doctor - it was when the Tenth Doctor slept through most of his debut adventure, and it’s worse here when it means the Sixth Doctor goes mad and gets violent) and so on. The kids not being creepy would have made their situation more easy to sympathise with, which might have helped... but their being creepy really made them stand out.

And just above it at 199, Timelash is a fascinating mess full of good ideas buried in its dubious plotting, garish design and wonky direction.

Bow ties are cool. Discuss.

So I went in to work yesterday, on our local "weird cool alternative stuff" street of small galleries, record shops, indie clothes stores, memorabilia outlets, goth shops and old pubs built of several knocked-together rooms, and I saw the local kid who has taken the Tenth Doctor as his style icon. He was holding hands with his girlfriend, who sadly wasn't cosplaying Rose, so I resisted the temptation to ask if he thought bow ties are cool.

But anyway, seeing a reasonable Ten lookalike walking around drawing only the occasional curious look on a street full of arts students and emo kids got me thinking, further to the LARP essay, about Cool.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Steven Moffat's rules for Christmas Specials

From the Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Steven Moffat's rules for Christmas Specials which are decidedly Christmassy.

(Yes, I know, if I keep this up I should give Christmas Specials their own category.)

1: Santa Claus Is Real.

2: There Should Be Flying.

3: Snow!

4: The Greatest Christmas Story Is A Christmas Carol.

Make of that what you will, but is suggests in a fortnight we'll be seeing something festive, storybooky and Dickensian.

With sharks.

If you want lashings of RT-style spoilers, read the whole article at Combom.

Random scene idea

The assassin bursts into the darkened penthouse office, levels his silenced pistol and fires, striking the CEO three times in the chest.

And as the assassin turns to go, the CEO gets up.

"What are you?" the assassin gasps, emptying his gun into the advancing figure, as he sees a fiery glow start to rise from his eyes.

"I am the Master."

And with that he grabs the assassin, pressing his hands to the man's face, as his body explodes with power, burning the assassin alive. Laughing all the while.

Fan Films

Leading to my LARP thoughts, I was reading SciFi Now (a result of looking for something to read on the train down to Dragonmeet) because it had a few pages on Doctor Who fan films.

I've dabbled in the murky world of fan films before (writing a serial-numbers-filed-off Mage campaign comedy, dating someone who would later be the DoP of a Buffy fan series, giving ten bucks to the making of RVD2) and Doctor Who is a natural for the fan film treatment, since it already has a dozen Doctors so recasting the role isn't a deal-breaker, the classic series often had production values that anyone with a modern digital camera could better and the new series is almost entirely written by fans...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Doctor Who LARP

(Or Doctor Who LRP to catch more Google pageviews...)

Definitely another one for Mad Notions, this...

Other people have considered this.

Other people have even done it.

Long ago and far away, when Magic The Gathering was a new idea, m'colleague Steve Ironside ran an impromptu Doctor Who Live Action RPG at a convention. I believe he still does this from time to time. I volunteered as the monster, a humanoid Ancient Evil about to be awoken by foolish mortals when a Time Lord and companions stumbled in. Props there were none, for this was an age when one could not walk into any high street toy shop and choose a variety of light-and-sound Sonic Screwdrivers and pick up a keychain that makes the TARDIS and EXTERMINATE! noises while you're there, but since this was early in the wilderness years, the zero budget improv style fitted fine.

But there's nothing like an impending games convention to get me thinking on the matter again. I generally think that LARPs should go for props and gear and suitable locations as much as possible and "you see X..." descriptions as little as possible, because if I have to imagine everything you can imagine me standing up and acting while I sit at a tabletop and roll dice. :P

But anyway...

Nine-word thought experiment

So... what are the Thals up to these days?

Doctor Who: Snowfall


A possibly topical Doctor Who short story from the Adventure Calender.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Speak, spirit!

I find that I'm still thinking about Christmas Specials. The RPGnet thread is still plodding along, I'm avoiding being spoilered about the real deal as much as possible, it still exists in the Maybe for me. It looks like a bit of Dickensian heartwarming, but also spaceyness, and creepiness. (And sharks.)

A full-on M.R. James Ghost Stories For Christmas Special would work - it'd stand out less than The End Of Time does, really. Pale faces and heavy coats in dark streets with a touch of frost. Less The Eleventh Hour mad romp, more The Empty Child sustained chiller.

And since we're getting a modernised M.R. James story from the BBC this year, let's set it now rather than a traditional ghost story period like the 19th Century.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Tricks Of The Light

Tricks Of The Light

A short story.

By way of an explanation, this was prompted by Paul Cornell asking for links to fanfic based on his own creations, and he created a Doctor and companion for BBCi before the series returned to TV, so...

Christmas game advice comes twice a year

I linked to this in this RPGnet thread about, yes, Doctor Who Christmas Special ideas. Lots of possibilities (check out the list of events occurring in late December throughout history) and I threw in two of my own.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Random notion of the afternoon

In TARDIS, the (decidedly short) third of the Adventure Games, Amy is asked if the Weeping Angels send their victims to the past, present or future.

Wouldn't the latter be an interesting twist?

(Wouldn't work with the "leaving messages behind" method of Blink, of course, but following someone suddenly wrenched into a future after everyone they know is gone is always... "fun" may not be the word...)

The Brilliant Book

A title like that would seem to be tempting fate, but what the heck. The Brilliant Book 2011 is sort of an annual by the Doctor Who Magazine people, with a mix of episode overviews, behind-the-scenes stuff (including an interview with Steven Moffat and a look at old-school Silurians as might have been), stories (one by Brian Aldiss!) and a grab-bag of other stuff, like a two-page spread on the Drunk Giraffe.

It's not as immediately game-friendly as the 2007-2010 Storybooks were ("hello, we're about a dozen fully-developed adventure ideas each book by people involved with the show!") but I imagine it'll keep you amused over Christmas. Along with the Christmas Special. And the new Adventure Game. And...

Friday, 3 December 2010

The most random Doctor Who adventure idea ever

How random? Inspired by Captcha phrases, that's how random.

Relevance to Doctor Who is that it's the Captcha to comment on Rich's Comixblog, home of The Ten Doctors. And when I mentioned something inspired by my first Captcha on this strip, someone else added to it, and then someone else, so...

Synod Acarti - The theocratic government of Colus IV, about to be assassinated by servants of the Dark Horde.

Agent Nizons - an assassin sent by the Dark Horde to kill the Synod Acarti. (thanks to Pippa)

the henchman is from Earevic. (thanks to justawanderer)

Archill Codes - how the Dark Horde to sent vital information for it's assassins out kill the Synod Acarti. Also best selling novel of the same name. (thanks to M'reen)

And finally:

Okay, I'm putting the Archill Codes and Agent Nizons into an adventure idea on my Doctor Who RPG blog. Also featuring Hietedge Gnathus, the smuggler indirectly responsible for the whole thing.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Arsenic Eating Bacteria From The Pit!

NASA tease with an announcement that turns out not to be about alien life, but is still interesting.

The triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism

Following Craig Ferguson attempts to explain Daleks to America, Persons Unknown leaked the Doctor Who song and dance routine from the Matt Smith episode so we can see why he was so pleased with it and so annoyed about not being able to broadcast it.

What if... the movies went back to Doctor Who remakes?

Back in the day ("the day" being 1965) a spinoff company of Hammer's horror rivals Amicus were the first people to make Doctor Who in colour, remaking two Dalek stories for the cinema and applying actual production values to them, casting Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who" and setting Bernard Cribbins on his heroic lifelong battle against the threat from Skaro.

Now these days the show has actual production values itself, but since Hammer Has Risen From The Grave, it amuses me to think what they'd do if they started up again today.

Probably a run of Dalek stories.

In case you're wondering, this is a roundabout excuse to recast some Doctors with modern actors.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Well, that was odd.

FilmFour showed The Seeker: (loosely adapting) The Dark Is Rising last night. I knew Christopher Eccleston was in it. So I knew about this. But I hadn't known about this.

I don't think he works the look quite as well.