Thursday, 30 June 2011

How Big is your Big Bad?

I've reached an unprecedented 16 followers (hello Tatiyana and labcoatman!) so I suppose I should provide content of some sort. While you wait, try my non-Who gaming blog with its hundred-plus articles and measly seven followers...

One thing the revived series picked up from its modern influences like Buffy was a seasonal arc, with some episodes standing largely or totally alone and some tying in directly even before the big two-to-three-part finales. Bigger On The Inside has been talking about these recently.

These came complete with a Big Bad to fight at the end. Russell T Davies brought back the four classic Big Bads that earlier viewers would think of for his four years of full series - in the order they appeared in, and pretty much the order of importance old fans would list them.

Steven Moffat has gone a slightly different way with this, bringing in an apocalyptic threat the Doctor can't argue with last year (as well as a vast number of his enemies who refuse to listen to his arguments) and then a new Big Bad from out of nowhere in the current mid-series cliffhanger.

Since the series is built to continue until the end of the universe or the BBC, whichever comes sooner, it doesn't follow a strict Sorting Algorithm of Evil where we start with the least powerful Big Bad and end with the most. The RTD run did, effectively, although the Time Lords' plan to destroy absolutely everything including themselves is only very slightly bigger than Davros and the Daleks' plan to destroy absolutely everything except themselves.

So Moffat pulling it down and ending with a much smaller threat (even though the universe was in the process of collapsing, it came down to a fight with one barely-functional stone Dalek) lets it build up again, or veer off in different directions.

I've gone up the Sorting Algorithm myself when running Buffy, ending with Death itself, so while I don't mind pulling out an omniversal threat every thirteen sessions in The Door In Time I might end one run in an entirely different manner.

So if you're going to build a Big Bad, how do you go about it? Do you bring out a classic, or is that cribbing too much from the Doctor? What themes do you have running, or think the players might find interesting? What's the villain's gimmick this time? Is the new threat bigger than the last, or smaller, or a different style entirely?

Example: The Infinite Man

A project to access parallel worlds has gone disastrously wrong, allowing other realities to invade ours - and giving its creator the ability to draw power from any and every reality. If he continues, he will become a living black hole and a threat to every parallel at once!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Doc Who

Bizarrely, a post about what a blogger would like Joss Whedon to do after The Avengers has stirred up the An American Playing The Doctor debate at WHEDONesque.

Whenever this comes up, I'm reminded of an exchange with a friend:

Him: You couldn't have an American play Rincewind!
Me: What about Steve Buscemi?
Him, without missing a beat: Yeah, okay, he'd be good.

When the subject of An American Playing The Doctor comes up, a lot of us get patriotic about it. When we do, it seems we're not imagining any particular American actors, but An American. I envisage An American as having a Malibu tan, perfect teeth, washboard abs and no discernible talent. An American would be a bad fit for the Doctor, of course. See Episodes, which Steven Moffat has described as very nearly a true story, for what casting An American could do to the show.

They aren't thinking of, say, Alan Tudyk, or David Krumholtz, or Jason Schwartzman, or Neil Patrick Harris, or Fran Kranz, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or Clarke Peters, or Lance Henriksen, or Masi Oka, or Tony Shalhoub, or Jake Gyllenhall, or...

Logic Of The Cybermen

Some content, not from me.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Mighty 200

My 200th post...

Planet Of The Dead was the 200th story in Who’s TV history. (Shortly after the 50th episode of the revived series, Midnight, and just a couple years before the 777th episode overall, A Good Man Goes To War. The show is vast and contains multitudes.)

Doctor Who Magazine ran a poll to rate all 200. The Caves Of Androzani came first and its immediate followup The Twin Dilemma came last. As I discussed last time I raised this topic this says something about the variability of the series. It's always something new.

(So much so that the DWAITAS system seems to model the Davies era better than the Moffat one, with Story Points better for last-minute “aha!” solutions than clues laid in but slyly hidden earlier on.)

So who knows what will be at the top of The Mighty 300 in a decade or so...

“The Fifteenth Doctor and Sudipta face the Anti-Daleks for the final time in The Infinite Man!”

(Shot on location on the Moon. Reviewing it for SFX, kudos notes “the episode had a distinct lack of atmosphere”.)

Untold Tales

Episodes and Shows That Never Were

I knew about some of these (I already stole the basics of The Suicide Exhibition for Series A and likewise Century House will happen on my watch!) and it's more intriguing highlights than an exhaustive list but it's always interesting to see more commentary on the meanwhiles and neverweres.

Would Scratchman have been a classic? It certainly would have been interesting. Though I'm not so sure about the giant pinball game...

The Chase might have made a good film...

The Dark Dimension would probably have been better than Dimensions In Time, although having read a treatment, not by that much. Like the 1996 film, it would have pushed in too much because it was one shot after years away, and it would also have been The However-Many-They-Could-Get Doctors while also really being a Tom Baker story...

The cartoon would certainly have been interesting too...

A Doctor World


The first that made me laugh dirtily

A strange idea I felt I should share.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Rory Williams is meek. He shall inherit the Earth.

Slightly overstating Rory's awesome. But only slightly.

Rory is one of those characters who snuck in to being a hero. From a gaming perspective, does he work by the DWAITAS rules? It looks like an NPC turned PC with some judicious use of Story Points. He certainly seems to have bought off an early Unadventurous trait (as well as several cases of Lethal damage) as well as a possible skill upgrade from his time as an immortal Roman Auton, all while retaining his sense of “is this really a good idea?” when Amy’s Impulsive and Insatiable Curiosity get the better of her.

He’s also a good example of group character creation, or adding to an existing group by building on previous connections. If a theoretical game started with the Doctor and Amy, a typical addition would be another companion type, but adding Amy’s future husband is something Amy’s player must be cool with, or maybe suggest herself, as it affects her significantly.

(As for Melody, pregnancy and parenthood is not something one drops on a PC lightly or without the player’s agreement, even if the PC is only effectively pregnant for a session it will change how they’re played from then on. And River, I’d suggest making sure the players wouldn’t mind a big possibly emotive plot twist...)

Despite this, Rory is still sidelined in some spinoff media. He hasn’t yet appeared in the Doctor Who Magazine comics (except in an imaginary story) and doesn’t have an action figure even though they made a non-specific Roman. But I’m sure he doesn’t mind. If he did, he’d destroy the universe with his bare hands and make a new one where he gets an action figure.

Game-wise, that might reflect his on-off appearances in his first series, before Arthur Darvill got his name in the credits. Maybe his player couldn’t make every session... and there was going to be a big gap at one point, so the GM and Rory’s player came up with a plan to kill him off and then bring him back at the series finale.

(Did they tell Amy’s player? Good question...)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Man With The Future In His Pocket

Random thought spawned by this question about TARDIS forms.

How big does a TARDIS portal have to be? Big enough to get in and out of... but only when you want to get in and out of it. So instead of having a TARDIS key... the TARDIS could be a key.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hello Wembley!

I now have a record fourteen followers here. More than the Doctor has lives. (For as long as that rule stays anyway.)

Which makes me think about group size...

Classic Doctor Who has two people in the TARDIS, which is doable and which I've done at times, but it does mean if one player misses a session it's a wash. It can work for mystery games very well as it gives you someone to bounce ideas off, and splitting up means you're both totally alone. It's also easy in rules terms - one gets the alien superpowers and one gets the narrative control of Story Points.

It's also possible to play with just one player, but the dynamic is very different - what you've got to run can go really fast when there's nobody else to distract you.

Three or four is common enough and still feels Who-ish (the show started with four, after all).

More than that, and we get to see, or need to see, a wide variety of characters. It's easier to have one crazy-powerful being like the Doctor than half a dozen, and one not-so-powerful-but-narratively-significant companion-type. If there's a lot of superpowers or Story Points around the table, the game will change. Six people are less inclined to run from a monster than two, even if you have six players who individually would be happy enough running and don't get one who'd rather get out there and twat it.

It also lessens spotlight time, although you can endeavour to give everybody a focus episode.

A classic 'party' structure can be fun, but it can feel un-Who-y having enough people to man the TARDIS properly.