Not 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?
Cat’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.
I 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?
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.