Monday, September 19, 2022

(Mis)adventures in Space and Time

Humble Bundle is doing a, um, bundle of the Doctor Who role-playing game from Cubicle 7! As ever with these Humble deals, what you get is a bargain, and it helps a good cause too!

I don't think I've said it on here, but Doctor Who is my favourite television programme. I'm also quite fond of rpgs, which I think I have mentioned now and then. I've heard good things about the C7 Who rpg. You'd think I'd be all over this.

And yet.


I've always been a bit put off trying it. I find the idea of playing a Doctor Who game a bit weird, for a few reasons:

  • Playing the Doctor seems weird. From a practical perspective you could have one person play the Doctor and everyone else play their companions, and then switch that around for the next adventure, sort of like Ars Magica with spaceships. But playing a character as well-defined as the Doctor seems a bit limiting, even with 15+ incarnations from which to choose. It seems odd to go into a role-playing game and playing such a specific character; it feels more like acting than a game at that point.
  • Playing another, non-Doctor, Time Lord is also a bit weird. Why is this Time Lord solving problems instead of the Doctor? Where is the Doctor? One of the unique things about the Doctor is that they care about the "little people" of the universe in a way that the Time Lords in general do not. If you have other Time Lords running about saving the day then you're upending the entire premise to a certain extent.
  • Playing without Time Lords at all also seems a bit weird. If you play as a bunch of "normals" then how do they get around? Do they have a TARDIS? You've got the same questions as the Time Lord Campaign above, except you've also got to work out what the Time Lords are doing, if they even exist at all.

None are insurmountable problems, but they all niggle at my mind as a sort of drifting from the central premise and then I begin to question whether it's worth playing a specific Doctor Who rpg at all.

Still, if I put those reservations aside, I can think of a few fun ideas for campaigns in a Whoish setting. Perhaps an alternate universe where the Doctor doesn't exist, or has been eliminated, and other Time Lords take up their mission. Maybe we play with a hypothetical 15th Doctor -- or one of the "minus" Doctors -- and sidestep the whole problem of playing a pre-defined character, letting the players define them as they do the Ars Magica shuffle. Or perhaps the premise of the campaign is that the Doctor is missing, the players have their TARDIS, and the goal is to find the renegade Time Lord before some cataclysm occurs. Or maybe you would just play a ground-level campaign with the players as some sort of UNIT, Torchwood, or Paternoster Gang equivalent. Or perhaps the Doctor's most recent regeneration went wrong and they split into multiple beings, a sort of meta-meta-crisis.

Hang on, I quite like that last one...


  1. I've loved the Doctor for many decades. I had set up a 'season' of episodes for an RPG using the vortex system but finding table top players for this sort of game is extremely hard.

    I do follow a blog about an ongoing Dr Who RPG game called A Journal of Impossible Things.


    1. Thanks for the link, Tim!

      My group are somewhat keen to play the Who rpg -- a couple of them pointed the Bundle out to me -- but I've been reluctant for the reasons above. So I have the opposite problem to you!