Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Doctor Who by Mister Mercury

It's been two and a half days since the latest highly strange Google Doodle to celebrate Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday, and I don't have a plot idea that would suit him.

So I thought I'd do the old "adventure hooks based on song titles" trick instead.

Which took two days, hence the delay here.

Since I'm making this list myself, let's go with one track off every album. The first? (looks at track list) Make it the third. "Keep Yourself Alive" gives me an idea of trying to stop your own assassination in the past, but it means I can dodge having to do something for "Tie Your Mother Down".

This misses some of the most immediately appealing titles, like the Richard Dadd reference in Queen II, but hey, it's a challenge.

My "We Will Rock You" idea would have involved aliens threatening a meteor strike... and with an extra day's thought, "Fat Bottomed Girls" would have been about the bustle making a surprising comeback.

Great King Rat

London, the 1870s. A grumbling workman heads down into one of Bazalgette's new sewers to investigate reports of strange sounds... and is horrified by what he finds...

The city's sewer system is a hidden wonder of the Industrial Age... and home to a Rat King, five rats with fused tails and minds giving them the intelligence of a man and the power to command their species to do their bidding.

Things To Do: Why are rats stealing things and carrying them away, sometimes in groups? Yes, it's time for the PCs to venture into the sewers. Ah, the glamour of the adventurous life.
Antagonists: Great King Rat. And his army of hundreds that can squeeze in just about anywhere. And possibly some human minions working for riches the rats steal. And an optional Giant Rat, although be careful not to make it too cute.
Action Scenes: Sneaking through sewers. Chasing rats stealing a vital possession.
Visuals: Five rats intertwined and giving hordes of rats, and possibly people, orders. The opulence of a Victorian sewer turned throneroom, with food everywhere. And hordes of rats.
Problems: Conflict with lots of small bitey things. Getting this one past the censors.
Things To Prepare For: Sewer maps? Certainly sewer imagery (some of it was beautiful!)
Continuing The Adventure: What is the King building down there? Are all the rats in the city becoming intelligent? Is that the King's ultimate plan, the overthrow of the human race?

White Queen (As It Began)

A young noblewoman about to marry a king and take the throne at his side, rather reluctantly, jumps at the chance to run off with the man she really loves, a penniless knight. But he was reported killed in battle a year ago...

Things To Do: Who is interfering with history, and to what end?
Antagonists: The young knight and the mysterious forces behind his return, the middle-aged king and his guard.
Action Scenes: Find the runaway not-quite-queen princess bride and her guardian, dodge the angry King's knights, disrupt the antihistorical effect... ideally without breaking hearts or otherwise ruining lives.
Visuals: Castles, courts, knights, jousting, big frocks, strange out-of-place visitors.
Problems: It could all get political and complicated, or swashbuckling and romantic depending on preference.
Things To Prepare For: I haven't specified a historical setting for this. You can pick a real one, or make one up. A space empire or a fantasyland planet like Peladon (or the world of Rhye as covered in Queen's first two albums) could work too.
Continuing The Adventure: There's nothing like a court full of scheming nobles to bring trouble that will affect entire nations, where every decision alters the course of history.

Tenement Funster

A self-sufficient city block in 22nd Century London, with a rash of strange disappearances, seemingly connected to some inventive graffiti in the corridors outside each victim's apartment.

Things To Do: The artist is not responsible - the disappearing victims have been pulled into his work by the Higher Aesthetic, a species of sentient art criticism.
Antagonists: The tenement authorities, jobsworth types. The youth gangs suspicious of people asking questions.
Action Scenes: Chasing the graffitist. Escaping the things coming out of the paint.
Visuals: Future high-rise living a la Judge Dredd. Epic graffiti. Art monsters.
Problems: Getting around a future tower block without a good explanation for one's presence. The block having tens of thousands of residents could make it daunting as well.
Things To Prepare For: What does the work look like? Banksy would be the obvious modern answer, although I'm thinking of more colourful mural style work.
Continuing The Adventure: The artist's work drew the Higher Aesthetic's interest because it depicts something interesting... like an impending apocalypse.

I'm In Love With My Car

I'm tempted to say "see The Doctor's Wife" but...

The near future, and intelligent vehicles are commonplace. But this one seems more intelligent than most... and has something to say about the driver's lifestyle.

Things To Do: Rescue the companion who just got kidnapped by the car for talking too long with its owner.
Antagonists: Crazy Robot Car Who LURRRRVES YOU!
Action Scenes: This has to have car chases, doesn't it? Like the one in Minority Report with all the automated cars programmed to get out of the way, being redirected by Crazy Robot Car to block your escape.
Visuals: Super-futuristic cars, voice displays with snarky Knight Rider backchat, gigantic highways, cars going up walls...
Problems: Could be a bit too straightforward. So...
Things To Prepare For: Detail the car, and the owner. And other kinds of vehicle available for the chase.
Continuing The Adventure: How did an AI prone to psycho envy get onto the market? Is every car with this make of nav system like this? And if so, how many is that?

Long Away

With a time machine, you could go away for a year and be back in a day with no-one the wiser.

So why does everyone know you've been away?

Things To Do: Deal with the unexpected knowledge of your absence, even though barely any time has passed in reality. And find out what's happening.
Antagonists: The Thieves Of Days, quietly unassuming and apparently human. They normally steal a moment here, an hour there, nothing that would really be missed except to ask "where did the time go?" But they saw a chance to take a whole year from so many friends and loved ones.
Action Scenes: How do you follow a man who went through a door which no longer exists?
Visuals: Dapper suited men flickering in and out of view like everything else is in slow motion.
Problems: A potential Big Emotional Episode.
Things To Prepare For: The reactions of the traveller's family and friends.
Continuing The Adventure: What are the Thieves collecting all this potential time for?

Sheer Heart Attack

If all these deaths are natural causes, what is the TARDIS detecting?

Things To Do: Find a connection between the deaths and a laboratory running experiments into time travel, perhaps the result of observing the TARDIS visiting one time too many.
Antagonists: A researcher now able to affect the timestreams of those he touches, knocking their hearts out of rhythm or stopping their blood flow. Ageing at a hundred times normal speed himself, seeking revenge before he turns to dust.
Action Scenes: Chasing a being who can slow people down to gain a boost of speed. How to catch something that can stay literally one step ahead of you.
Visuals: People slowing or accelerating, including the travellers themselves.
Problems: How to bring an affected character back to normal time.
Things To Prepare For: Work out the staff of the research facility.
Continuing The Adventure: Any other interests in the experiment? This is a perfect method of assassination...


The travellers have been together for a while now, and gotten used to each other. But now things seem a little... tense. Any romantic feelings among the group are complicated by jealousy, seemingly from nowhere.

Things To Do: Sort of which of these feelings are genuine... and which are the result of an emotion-eating entity from beyond that slipped aboard the TARDIS last planet over.
Antagonists: Possibly the travellers themselves. And a typical bunch of blaster-wielding alien invaders they're trying to stop in the background.
Action Scenes: Arguing in the middle of being chased by maniacs with zap guns.
Visuals: Typical alien invasion stuff. Possibly jealousy-inducing hallucinations.
Problems: A potential Big Emotional Episode. Make sure the players are willing to go along with their characters going slightly mad. Decide if it's played straight - a psychodrama of emotions running rampant - or for laughs - for an example see Doctor Who Magazine's comic "The Green Eyed Monster", collected in The Betrothal Of Sontar.
Things To Prepare For: Making the aliens sufficiently unthreatening for a lighter version, or sufficiently threatening but absent for a serious one.
Continuing The Adventure: What other emotions could the effect produce in other circumstances?

Another One Bites The Dust

A remote colony world, and one of the terraforming team has just been killed, dried to dust, in a locked room.

Things To Do: Investigate, find traces of silicate dust in the vents, and...
Antagonists: The Dust, a silicon-based hivemind. Very much alive. And angry.
Action Scenes: A Base Under Siege where the besieging force can get through very small spaces. Disrupting its attacks, confronting it, trying to make peace?
Visuals: A small, very isolated, dingy colony on a big, empty, dusty planet. People being eaten away by dust devils in seconds. Sandstorms chasing the travellers.
Problems: Personalising the Dust. Forming into a Marvel Sandman style giant lump of sandblasting danger is one option.
Things To Prepare For: Space colony plans, and characterising the small, worried crew. Watch The Waters Of Mars, and that episode of The Next Generation I'm thinking of.
Continuing The Adventure: The Dust could make peace, but might not, and could return as a threat to humanity during this colonial era, an almost untraceable killer.

In the Court of Ming the Merciless

It's actually relatively unusual to meet a proper space tyrant. Empires larger than a planet usually need regional government of some kind which inevitably dilutes the power structure, or a standing army with light-speed communication like the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans, which also usually leads to a decentralised power structure rather than a single mastermind ruling for very long.

Still, every now and then someone gets powerful enough by himself to lead armies, conquer planets, survive multiple assassination attempts...

And of course have big gladiatorial games where the likes of you and me are thrown to the space lions.

Things To Do: We only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!
Antagonists: The Emperor, his army and personal guard, gladiators, carnivorous animals, assassins...
Action Scenes: Escaping the arena, outrunning the Emperor's guard, flying speeder chases, sabotaging his weapon of mass destruction pointed at Earth...
Visuals: A grand, decadent court. An arena of monstrous beasts and inhuman gladiators. Dancing girls. Stuff like that.
Problems: Making the Emperor and his realm pulpy and slightly over-the-top but not pushing it too far.
Things To Prepare For: Visuals of grandly-attired aliens, dangerous-looking gladiators, unearthly monsters - be sure to give them weaknesses as well. For a classic example look at DWM's The Iron Legion, where the Doctor realises the Ectoslime monster about to eat him is sentient and partial to a good joke.
Continuing The Adventure: A proper space tyrant has a way of coming back from the dead.

Back Chat

While investigating the death of an unknown alien on a distant trading planet, the travellers are rather surprised when he comes back to life, says something that the TARDIS translation pins down as "goodbye, my friends" after a moment's delay, then gets up and stumbles off... backwards.

Things To Do: Follow that formerly-murdered victim! Investigate the attack, and the reverse life of a creature moving through time the wrong way.
Antagonists: The killers, who want to know how to escape regular linear time.
Action Scenes: A chase going two ways.
Visuals: A character moving backward through a world going forward.
Problems: How do you talk to someone who answers your questions before you ask them? A lengthy conversation could be a staging nightmare.
Things To Prepare For: Working out the actions of a being that lives backwards. See the IDW Doctor Who special Room With A Déjà Vu, or that Two Ronnies sketch.
Continuing The Adventure: How many more are there? A whole race of people going through the universe backwards, noticing things we never can?

It's A Hard Life

The workhouses of Victorian Liverpool, backbreaking work for barely a slave wage, a life expectancy about half what we enjoy now. About half what a time traveller trapped there could have expected...

An attack on the TARDIS forces it to dematerialise, leaving one or more of the companions stranded in the early 1860s with no current money and few possessions. She has to keep a low profile while waiting for the TARDIS to be fixed and come back for her, and what if it never does...?

Things To Do: Try to fit in, and survive with little or no money. Leave messages to the future - do postal services really keep letters until specific dates?
Antagonists: The workhouse overseers. And the thing that attacked the TARDIS in the first place, hunting the lost traveller.
Action Scenes: A chase through an industrial mill full of workers.
Visuals: The grimy side of the Industrial Revolution.
Problems: With some of the travellers away, you'll need to recast those players, probably as characters who belong in that era. Somebody rich and philanthropic could save the lost traveller a lot of trouble, but the adventure's called It's A Hard Life so perhaps make the local temporary PCs poor and desperate as well. And the rules of time may be needed to stop a cleverclogs gamer "inventing" the zip or something to become rich by altering history.
Things To Prepare For: The outside threat that attacked the TARDIS. Plans for a workhouse?
Continuing The Adventure: This could become a Big Two-Parter if the traveller is lost long enough to start making a new life. And meanwhile, on the other side, the damaged TARDIS shifting in and out of time unable to land.

One Year Of Love

He gave away his life for a chance at a lost love. He only has one year before his debt comes due.

Things To Do: Of course, a companion would be the perfect character to be the deal-maker's beloved...
Antagonists: This would be a good fit for the Trickster. But aliens of indecipherable and strange purpose would fit as well. Maybe beings who revel in romance and tragedy. "We inspired the Romantics, Doctor. Through the heights of love and suffering. Who would settle for less?"
Action Scenes: A confrontation with those responsible. A race to save a life about to given away.
Visuals: Life working like a romantic drama for one of the travellers.
Problems: Definitely a Big Emotional Episode. Make sure the players are up for it.
Things To Prepare For: Prep the lover character as someone the targeted traveller could/would fall for, and get the player on side.
Continuing The Adventure: What if you save the love of your life... who shouldn't be in your life? Does the traveller settle down or does the lover join the TARDIS? And how many more lives could the revellers enhance and then ruin? What if, say, everyone in London fell madly in love with someone in a single day? How many would be happy, and how many would be heartbroken for life?

The Miracle

One day... no-one dies. No, wait, it's been done. Ghosts? No... Breaching the Time War! No... Gallifrey Rises! No...

This year's Series Finale.

Someone has been studying different ways of travelling in time, hoping to gain that power and become the new Lords of Time. And their experiments are about to shatter Time completely.

Things To Do: Stop them.
Antagonists: The Kronos Project, seeking to make Twenty-First Century Earth a hub of time travel, and themselves its rulers, using various methods stolen from other cultures and even nature. The temptation of a new form of time travel that allows actions a TARDIS does not... like going back to Gallifrey...
Action Scenes: Chasing agents who can alter the flow of time around themselves. Attacks by everything from dinosaurs to super-advanced robot assassins. Very possibly both at once.
Visuals: Time portals. People speeding and slowing, moving backwards, stopping completely. Controlled and uncontrolled paradoxes. Different eras crashing into each other.
Problems: Making the Project dangerous enough but not unstoppable.
Things To Prepare For: Where are they based? When are they based? Perhaps like the Thieves of Days, their base is hidden outside of regular time. What forces can they muster, with or without pulling them through time?
Continuing The Adventure: This is already a "Continuing The Adventure" for Long Away, Sheer Heart Attack, Back Chat and It's A Hard Life. But rogue time travellers have a way of returning...


This year's Christmas special... set during celebrations inside a moving city. A slightly ramshackle wonder of technology on a partially colonised world, always driving to stay ahead of the winter, as the planet's sun is too weak to stop the planet turning arctic for long.

And something just attacked one of the outrider vehicles. And the winter is just hours away now...

Things To Do: Keep the dilapidated engines running. Stop the attacks. Keep ten thousand people from freezing to death.
Antagonists: Raiders, exiles who want to conquer the city. Can they be reasoned with? It is Christmas...
Action Scenes: A constant chase against near-instant freezing death, which at some point the travellers should definitely have to outrun. Attacks by raiders into the bargain.
Visuals: A city-sized vehicle. Mad Max on ice. Instant arctic-level winter, a la The Day After Tomorrow.
Problems: Keeping this at all Christmassy other than the snow.
Things To Prepare For: What can the moving city do to defend itself? How can the raiders attack it? And work out who these people are, on both sides.
Continuing The Adventure: Why is the sun failing like this? Has its orbit changed, has the atmosphere been affected? Is there something the travellers can do... maybe fixing a sabotaged solar collector in orbit?

And a bonus track because I couldn't really not do this one...

Bohemian Rhapsody

Prague, just days before the Great War breaks out, a hotbed of international intrigue, anti-Imperialist politics and danger. And now a series of assassinations has begun, designed to shift the start of the war just enough to alter its course and the history of Europe to follow.

Things To Do: Stop the assassins before modern history comes crashing down.
Antagonists: Shapeshifting assassins from beyond, looking to profit from the redirected war.
Action Scenes: Chasing the alien assassins, dodging police and spies. A battle around the city's astrological clock. Stopping a final assassination at the Prague State Opera.
Visuals: Narrow cobbled streets. Bomb-throwing anarchists. Fleeing killers turning into animals to speed their escape.
Problems: Multiple sides could get complicated.
Things To Prepare For: Visual info on the city and the times, a list of the assassins' targets, what their powers can and can't do.
Continuing The Adventure: Meeting Franz Kafka and having him witness the assassin's metamorphosis into an insect is optional but recommended.

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