Funko Pop Who

CNET posted a Tech Culture article on new Doctor Who themed Pop character figures coming soon. The whole range of Pop cuties looks great – with figures for Rose, River Song, Captain Jack Harkness, Sarah Jane Smith, The Silence and the Ninth Doctor.

The steal of the collection, for me, has to be the K-9, which according to the C-NET blurb will be an exclusive (in the US at least) for GameStop. I hope that someone will have these available outside the US – whether international GameStops or otherwise – because I have money in hand right now to get one of these!

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Thumbs up to Bonnie Girl for posting this article and pictures.

Gallifreyan Games

Doctor-Shobogan-Standoff

The Doctor Who RPG needs to be played.

I need to run it more often – and take the time to get into the nuances of Cubicle 7‘s Vortex system.

Simple post really.

While the reception to the last series might be mixed – and I can’t think of a single creative realisation in any media that won’t raise an argument amongst fans – I enjoyed it a great deal.

Indeed, I think I’m enjoying thinking back on it now than when I watched it the first time.

For example, the Degradations of Skaro – I so want to investigate that concept more and the horrific experiements actualised by the Dalek Command upon their own forces in the battle against the Time Lords.

I want to delve more into Gallifrey as well.

When I ran a couple of games at conventions this year, I offered a Shobogan as an option amongst the characters. I don’t consider these Outsiders in Gallifreyan society so distanced from the common citizenry that they can’t interact.

In the New Adventure All Consuming Fire, the Seventh Doctor refers to the Shobogan as New Age Time Lord dropouts. In the recent Hell Bent, the Doctor starts the episode living amongst the simple and peaceful Shobogan in the outback of the Gallifreyan wilds. They seem interesting enough to make more of, to understand how they have taken to a simpler lifestyle and cast aside all the pomp of “High Gallifrey”.

When Cubicle 7 originally released the boxed set of the Doctor Who game I attacked it with gusto and set about creating stats for all the various characters of the new series. I think my first attempt was in statting up Charles Dickens from The Unquiet Dead. I could do with recapturing some of that figure for invention while I have the recent series fresh in my mind.

While I’m at it I could do with reviewing a few of the more recent books also, as I’ve really enjoyed reading them and scribbling notes about what I’d like to use out of them. It seems a long while since I last wrote something – and All Time and Space is the answer to all my calls for morer adventures that I might have mentioned in the reviews for one-shots like Cat’s Eye, Medicine Man and The Ravens of Despair.

Dimensions in Lego Time

With Christmas less than a week away and the prospect of a festive episode, I’m quite excited already. Knowing that River Song will be centre stage makes it even better, in my personal opinions. However, better yet – Lego has gifted us, in 2015, with Doctor Who sets; I got a chance to open a Christmas present early today – the Lego Dimensions Doctor Who expansion pack.

I’m not overly bothered by the game (I rarely get the chance to sit down in front of a console and give any game the attention it deserves), but I really wanted to pick up whatever Doctor Who Lego materializes.

I have the main TARDIS set to open and construct come Christmas week (and a period of well-earned holiday), so this serves as a taster. It also helps ‘complete’ that set, as the Peter Capaldi version of the Doctor in the TARDIS set only comes in post-regeneration outfit… effectively wearing Matt Smith’s old clothes. The Dimensions set includes the dark blue frock coat with red lining (which he’s even now moved on from in the series!). I like the look – though the coat bottom only appears on the front, not on the side or back.

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The set includes the Doctor with the old incarnation of the sonic screwdriver (and, as a small component, you get a spare screwdriver, which I thought was nice). You also get K-9 – possibly a little over scale – and the TARDIS – somewhat under scale. Perhaps with this TARDIS you can recreate Logopolis and the shrinking time machine?

The K-9 model has sloped side panels, a movable head and tail, plus a smooth tile with his name. The build includes a silvery circular tile on the front that looks like K-9’s collar tag. Oddly, the same spot on the back is left uncovered and, as a result, appears to my warped mind like the robot’s arse. I’ve covered it with one of the spare light grey bricks. It seems only decent.

As mentioned, this set connects to the Lego Dimensions game, so they all come on bases with near field tags embedded inside. However, they also serve as perfect good and solid bases for the minis.

Awkwardly, the instructions with the set only instruct you how to build the Doctor – which, in all truth, isn’t something that really needed any sort of guidance. It isn’t as if you might make a mistake putting his body on the wrong way around and then spending hours puzzling how to sort it out.

You have two options:

— You can go to the Lego website and access individual instructions for the standard and alternate builds. Go to the Building Instructions for 71204 and select the book icon that matches the item you want to build – like TARDIS or K-9. Once you’ve selected the desired item, scroll down and click the black Download PDF button to get the instructions.

— Build the items by staring really hard at the pictures on the box – which was my preferred option. You can figure out K-9 pretty easily with this option. The various angles and alternate builds shown provide enough of an idea for you to work out what pieces you need and how to sling them together.

The TARDIS needs a little more thought. Once you built K-9, you have a pile of pieces left and most of those go into the build with a spare of every small, single-spot piece. The “inside” of the TARDIS involves layering the angled black brackets with small piles of the other various small components and cones. I won’t say any more than that – to retain the challenge – but, it did take me a little while to work it out!

Neat, fun and massively over-expensive due to the tie-in and components related to the console game. However, completists will want it for the K-9 and Doctor minifigs.

Hell Yes

Hell-Bent-12th-Twelfth-Peter-CapaldiIf anyone cares about my opinion, I enjoyed Hell Bent.

I liked the stand-off at the beginning, with connections back to earlier episodes in the ‘barn’ – and the sense that the Doctor had the people behind him as a hero. The line in the sand and the escalating interest from the Time Lords… that worked for me, and I found it amusing.

The resolution of the Hybrid might not have necessarily been quite as expected, but I guess that was the point. It shouldn’t have been as expected, as then we would have been complaining it was all obvious. I think this sort of harkened back to the unofficial history of Gallifrey and The Other. The Doctor is a figure of significance in the history of Gallifrey, but not one who stands front-and-centre such as Rassilon or Omega.

I liked the Cloister Wraiths. I look forward to seeing more of The General – if for no reason other than the increasing possibility that The Doctor really might one day regenerate into a female form (Missy, The General and Romana show you just how brassy and ballsy a female Time Lord can be, so I say, why not?!).

I really liked the end because it turned the tables and left us knowing something The Doctor doesn’t. Personally, I’m all for the notion of what happens and the possible adventures ahead for The Diner.

For me, this was Maisie William’s strongest performance. Me felt self-assured and Maisie came across really well. It might have been the intention all along, but her turn as Ashildr has never really convinced me. Even in ‘Face the Raven‘, Me didn’t quite have the solid sense of the actor in control. I’m not quite certain what it was. ‘Hell Bent‘ finally served up the character played right and Maisie acting with the confidence you feel in Thrones. Heck, maybe I’m misplacing the blame and should aim my finger toward the director or the script? Who knows…

I hope that we can now have an accessible Gallifrey and a prospect of Time Lord intervention now and then. I sort of liked the arrogant and mildly incompetent touch of old. With Rassilon gone, why can’t we have a Gallifrey once more without the sense of being the greater evil?

Quick Doctor Who Characters – Part 2

doctor-who-vortex-quick-charactersI ran The Blood of the Zygons this last weekend for Doctor Who (Vortex system) and I declare Quick Characters a workable option. Not flawless, but workable.

I introduced the base game mechanic (2d6 + two character scores) and got going with the adventure.

When the time came for some action, I laid out the college cards – which show the Attirbutes and a Trait or two – and asked the players who wanted to meet a challenge which card they wanted. At that point, most of the players committed to taking a card. I had the roll based on two Attributes at that point.

Next challenge, I revealed the bottom row of cards, which display Skills and an Attribute adjustment, with a Gadget thrown in for good measure. The players all opted to take something straight away this time – probably because the unfolding adventure put them in immediate peril.

The final card followed before the scene closed and the theme music cut in.

I Don’t Have That…
Over the course of the game, I did find once the characters split up some found having the right skill an issue. When I declared a combination of Attribute and Skill, the response was they’d have one and not the other. With a full character, this would simply be a Skill with a low or zero value.

I think I’ll plug that gap with Story Points. In a short convention game, Story Points don’t actually get spend as quickly as you might like as a GM. At a push, characters in a bind can get a Skill in something – as a one off – by spending a Story Point like the “Like This, Doctor” ability. A straight +3 modifier for a single Point should suffice and make the difference where there’s a shortfall.

That should keep the story moving and the Story Points flowing, so by the end of the adventure the players might get the sense of impending doom that comes with a Story Point overdraft…

Link to card sheets:
Doctor Who RPG Vortex Quick Characters

Quick Doctor Who Characters

IMG_20151011_160018-2I’m running one or more convention games of Doctor Who (from Cubicle 7) over the next few months, starting with this coming weekend.

This past weekend, I finished creating a set of “pre-generated” character cards for the game.

Essentially, they’re not complete characters by any measure – just enough to get through a session. While I could easily have done six or seven fixed character sheets, I have been pleased with card-based characters when running The Dee Sanction and Night’s Black Laundry. My thinking, why not!

I plan to lay the cards down on the table and players get to choose one (or more) from each row as the game progresses. In practice, when someone pushes a challenge, then would be a good time to choose a card.

Alternatively, they could take one from each row at the start of the session. Or I could hand them out at random. That’s the approach with the other games I’ve used character cards. Indeed, my last game of The Dee Sanction generated some fantastic characters right off the bat based on the cards alone.

I think these cards might warrant some tweaking to achieve something like that. I’d quite like to add a random naming suggestion and maybe a motivation or two.

In use, characters will possess any Skills not listed, but they’d have a value of 1. Or zero. I don’t want to go down that route. I’d rather people stick with what they’re good at. Otherwise, players can make rolls based on Attribute alone if no one has the right Skill at the given location or a specific scene.

I tweaked the character generation process of my Call of Cthulhu game on the same basis around skills. I dislike the standard method that creates characters with tiny percentile chances of success on skills.

All characters start with 12 Story Points. Because I’ve created the cards without the full spread of abilities, I don’t want to penalise them further! While I have given everyone a gadget worth a Story Point, it still doesn’t quite compensate.

The three cards align in a column. I noticed that you could actually boil the standard character sheet down into a half an A4 column – so, why not do it with cards.

sample-vortex

The top row of cards has each of the six classes from the Time Lord Academy, plus a Gallifreyan who opted to ‘go wild’. The Shobogan made their appearance in Classic episode The Deadly Assassin. I wanted a non-Time Lord as an option, but with the potential to be involved and of value. Herein, the Shobogan fills the base roll of a more physical Gallifreyan.

The middle row has aspects of personality, which serve up good and bad Traits.

The bottom row fits a sort of career path, offering an extra Attribute point and key Skills. Also, extra Traits and a Gadget.

My adventure concerns students escaping Gallifrey at the start of the Time War, which (from a plot perspective) excuses the shortfall in points here and there. They are, however, the best and brightest the Academy has to offer.

Link to card sheets:
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B2zIvdT-XhJieFlRMkQtZks0NXc&usp=sharing

Under the Lake

Doctor_Who_Under_the_LakeOtherwise known as Echoes of the Baker.

Seriously, for all the right reasons, this could easily have been an episode featuring Tom Baker as The Doctor with his trusty screaming, but supportive, companion Sarah-Jane Smith.

An undersea base – once a military base in a village drowned by a broken dam – has been reopened because of the potential for profit. It would appear fuel reserves under the valley make a visit by a survey team worthwhile. Alas, they come across an alien spaceship containing an indecipherable message – and things go wrong from there.

Ghosts! Spirits of the dead, I tell you!

In short order, the ‘base under siege’ plot kicks in, with The Doctor and Clara as trapped as a crew – though, perhaps our time travels entrapment comes down to curiosity and the need for adventure more than physical restriction.

From the point of view of tie-in novels, the gap between here and the last episode must be huge. Clara seems positively buzzing on the potential for more excitement and adventure – which, upon arrival at the base, a gloomy and silent corridor doesn’t seem to offer.

However, once the traveller come face to face with the ghosts and then the crew, the excitement ramps up enough for Clara to stay.

Best bits?

Well, the gloom, claustrophobia, detective-work monologuing, and the sense of the alien about The Doctor harken back to Tom Baker’s turn as the Time Lord. Ghosts and mystery clash with technology and profiteering.

Clara has clearly set herself a goal of giving The Doctor a better bedside manner, providing him with convenient flashcards with calming and reassuring statements – which he proceeds to delivery in the most mechanical and unconvincing way. Lovely stuff.

Yes, we have been in the siege situation before. However, isn’t there some old truth about only a finite number of plots existing, so you have to recycle them eventually. Nothing wrong with that. I personally love the opportunity to run around the same lengths of a dimly-lit corridor from different angles time and time again. A curve, a junction and a couple of doorways – and voila! A whole base to have fun in.

You get Alien, Aliens and Alien3 thrown in for good measure, with the crew hunted, the gobby military personnel, the profiteering rep of the company with only his interests in mind, and the attempt to lure the adversary into a trap. Thankfully we pulled short of emulating Alien Resurrection – perhaps with The Doctor playing an over-enthusiastic and brutal game of tiddly-winks.

The episode just felt packed with nice touches and gentles nods at firm favourites – the TARDIS uneasy and the sound of the cloister bell, The Doctor quite forward about who he likes and who he has no time for, the brainstorming session for ideas where The Doctor just needs people to bounce his own ideas off, the House-style realisation that what The Doctor thought was completely wrong and suddenly the clues all fall into place.

And UNIT. The psychic paper flashes a UNIT ID and one of the personnel in the station has heard of The Doctor. No need for the traveller to worry they lack the credentials to take charge – UNIT still pack some clout and they’re not to be argued with.

Oh, and interesting to see the reuse of a known quantity in the Tivolian ghost. David Walliams played the Tivolian Gibbis in The God Complex – so we have a baseline understanding (assuming you’ve seen the episode) that they’re meek and pathetic by way of a defence mechanism. As The Doctor muses, what would turn such a cowardly alien into such a menacing and psychotic ghost?

I loved it and I can’t wait to see the next episode. The cliff-hanger ending was excellent… and simply leaves me wanting more, more, more.

More Capsules Please

Doctor-Who-coverNot so long ago, Cubicle 7 released several short and punchy PDF only adventures for Doctor Who. While they have since spent their time concentrating on the Sourcebooks for the individual Doctors – with some excellent content – I’m hankering after more of the snappy capsule adventures.

With the promise that they’ll soon be filling the current core rules void with a swanky new edition featuring Peter Capaldi, would there be a better time to support that release with more PDFs. When a newcomer tries the game for the first time, they will have already spent almost £40 – so, they’re unlikely to go all in and spend another £25 or more on a Sourcebook. However, having finished the introductory adventures, why not draw them in with something a tad more accessible and cheap?

Doctor-Who-Ravens-of-Despair-DWAITASCat’s Eye, Medicine Man and The Ravens of Despair are all less than £2 a pop in PDF, which seems a lot more practical and less of a gamble. I think The Ravens would probably be the best bet for a Capaldi-centred game while, thematically, Medicine Man suits Matt Smith and Cat’s Eye feels more David Tennant. Admittedly, it’s the Doctor and should be pretty interchangeable – and if you run a game for a player-created Time Lord and crew, it doesn’t much matter.

That aside, I thought these little adventures were great fun and great value – you can read individual reviews of Cat’s Eye, Medicine Man and Ravens over on Geeknative. I’d just like to see more – and the opening of the new series mid-September seems a prime time to launch them.

Wing It for Adventure

winter_for_the_adept_wallpaper_by_hisi79-d5zdo7xI ran the third and final session of the adventure Ice from the Eighth Doctor Sourcebook at the weekend. I think I could have finished this in two four-hour sessions, but we had more of a social thing going on and the focus wasn’t quite there. At a pinch, I think you could throttle this up to run in a single session or at a convention, but you would need to keep all the action tight.

On top of that, you would need to be really sharp in hitting the beats associated with building the threat. The ultimate secret of the icebound alien colony doesn’t work so well unless you have done ground work on the back story. I think, despite having three sessions to run it over, I failed to do enough of that very ground work. Ah well – lessons learned.

Overall, I enjoyed running the adventure – though I found myself increasingly improvising and casting the system to one side. I have to say that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with the Vortex system. When I want to get a game to a conclusion, the system goes out the window. Yes, the players still roll dice – because many of them enjoy that part of the process – but the nitty-gritty mechanics don’t trouble me.

I liked the way the characters starting to do their own improvisation around the situation. When they realised that they didn’t have an easy escape route, they used some fast talking and deception to find an alternative. The adventure has a traditional aspect of putting the TARDIS off-limits early on, so Tegan and Nyssa found a way to get it back – and then I threw the big threat in their way. Panic ensued, followed by the sonorous tones of the Cloister Bell. Yes, you have the TARDIS back; no, it won’t budge because the time rotor is making all the wrong sounds.

I enjoyed running the game and all the players go involved for the final session (after some patchy player participation in earlier sessions). The final showdown had just the right level of cricket involved (it was the Fifth Doctor!) and a final-final scene with a touch of Flash Gordon about it. Did the villian die or did he simply slip away to return another day?

Bigger Hair

There’s one thing I like about the second series of each new Doctor – and that’s the business of making the character their own. Somehow, the first appearance isn’t enough.

From the scant pictures we’ve had of Peter Capaldi so far, it seems like he has more of a personalised image. I especially like what I’ve seen of his hair. It seems to be growing, bigger and wilder. That works for me. The mop of hair thing worked big time for Tom Baker – but that isn’t exactly what we’re doing here. This is all Capaldi’s own thing.

I also like the continued sense of channelling Pertwee’s red-lined jacket. I really like that. Maybe there’s a touch of the Third Doctor in the hair. Maybe.

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