I 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 spent 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…
I’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.