Stenza Technology is really annoying and hard to decipher. One-hundred and thirty-nine wires, seven of which don’t make sense.
To kick off the new Doctor Who series — and, to be really clear right now, SPOILERS AHEAD! — we have a couple of additions to the Renegade RPG from The Woman Who Fell to Earth that could certainly find immediate use as the seed for an adventure or two.
The Stenza warrior-race, blue-skinned bipedal Conquerors of the Nine Systems, place the honour of the hunt above all else and value trophies as much as they value their lives. The heart of their society rests in the tradition of the hunt, the careful and methodical tracking of a single prey target to the exclusion of all others.
For the Stenza, the hunt matters sufficiently that they train and prepare ceaselessly, to the exclusion of all else, fasting and focusing themselves through rites and ritual. They carry the honour of their family-clan with them in their armour, an item handed down, renewed and maintained.
Stenza perceive status through the outward display of their trophies, a single tooth from every felled opponent embedded (painfully) into the flesh of their faces.
Stenza Warrior: Sub-Zero Touch, Peerless Tracker, Driven By Honour
Tim Shaw (Tzim Sha) represents the worst characteristics of youth in the Stenza warrior-race. With an attention span shorter than his muscular arms and an ego too large to carry far in battle without fatigue, he savours the prospect of leadership too much for tradition to matter.
To that end, the “big blue cheat” has done everything in his power to cut through to the conclusion, skipping the dull business of tracking by sneaking additional support onto the planet.
Tim Shaw: Sub-Zero Touch, Short-range Teleport, Driven Beyond Honour, Trophy Pause
To sidestep the tedium of the hunt, Tim Shaw smuggled a Gathering Coil on to Earth, an advanced hive-entity scouting module normally used in small numbers for reconnaissance. The enhanced Coil consists of hundreds of squirming modules contained within a spheroidal gravi-static induction shield, allowing it to glide and levitate within the atmosphere of a planet with a standard gravity range.
The Coil possesses scanning clusters and data nodules designed to handle a rapid absorption of a vast amount of information, drawing on sensory and signal based observation to build a complex database. Tim Shaw used this data to locate his quarry without needing to sully himself in the business of the hunt.
For those unlucky enough to meet the Coil, the visitation seemed harmless at first, but the Stenza leader-apparent had fitted it with DNA Bombs that embedded themselves painlessly into the geno-structure – and would, on activated, annihilate the target in a matter of moments.
Gathering Coil: Hive Sense, Gravi-Static Levitation, DNA Bombs, Unfiltered Total Data Transfer
Skeleton Key. The player characters must track down a long lost member of the royal family of Ixat, the only individual with the means to deactivate an ancient defence system on a rogue planet that threatens to collide with Earth. However, the family are long dead – the last of them wiped out by a disgraced one-time leader of the Stenza – but if they can find him they can access the royal Ixat DNA from a certain jealously guarded trophy.
Insider Dealing. Once a small start-up, Swarm has become a part of every day life with their life-changing search engine. Interacting and intersecting with everyone and everything, Swarm can deliver data with a rapidity no competitor can match. However, truth-be-told, they have the unfair advantage of access to a captured Gathering Coil hive – Swarm has tapped into the modules of the Coil’s quantum database using a crude reciprocal interface. However, the Coil already had a mission – and now the Stenza battle wave approaches with all the information they need to make the entire planet the ultimate trophy.
It’s noted in section 3.1 of Renegade, that characters don’t die – they tend to find themselves in a worse situation than the one faced before the conflict. Take, for example, the end of The Magician’s Apprentice (spoilers… spoilers… SPOILERS!), where both Missy and Clara succumb to the evil of the Daleks (as does the TARDIS for that matter) – destroyed even as the Doctor seeks to plead for their lives. That’s a good example of a hindrance – as Clara (as a player character) ends up separated from the Doctor and in the clutches of Missy. It makes the adventure harder for Clara, because she has to (a) depend on the unreliable assistance of Missy and (b) survive in the hostile wastelands (and sewers) of Skaro.
Of course, that’s not always the way. Sometimes companions do die. However, this is not an ordinary humdrum death – these tend to fall into Destination deaths. I would say Destiny, but somehow Destination seems more suitable for the likes of Susan or Tegan, who end up somewhere – whether they wanted to leave or not. Another example of a Destination would be the Library, for example – or maybe the Singing Towers of Darillium would be the better spot to describe River Song’s Destination – because the Library (as is her want) happens to be where she started rather than ended, dying before we had even got to known her properly.
Setting Your Destination
Destinations shouldn’t be commonplace – but, a player who chooses one will know they have a finite lifespan for their character. River Song might have had a fair run before she met her Destination – less so for Adam or Danny Pink.
In return for choosing a Destination, the character earns a Time Token at the start of any adventure, without needing to roll a triple fail; their finite destiny means that the end always looms.
To give an appropriate sense of what the end means to that character, the Player should lay down some rough details. It can be an absolute location – like ‘Heathrow Airport’ – or it might be more vague – like ‘Love is the Ultimate Sacrifice’ or ‘Helping Those Who Cannot Help Themselves’. Such a loose end point will be easier to pair off with a narrative conclusion, but when you have a TARDIS, T-Mats, Vortex Manipulators and other mechanisms of random transportation, an actual spot isn’t too tough to justify. Of course, saying farewell to friends and companions in the heart of an interstellar plague ship has more emotional resonance than just disappearing and never being seen again.
When does the Destination arrive? If you want a manageable number of appearances before destiny steps in, separate a single suit of cards from a normal deck and shuffle. At the start of each adventure AFTER the end of the first, draw a card. If the card is an ACE, the character has reached their Destination and should narratively work with the Gamemaster to reach that conclusion before the close of the adventure. Given the selection of knowing what that Destination should be, the whole group might seek to find a way to satisfyingly find it without totally ripping up the adventure! The conclusion of The Angels Take Manhattan, for example, or Earthshock present skewed Destinations that don’t necessarily precisely fit the overall adventure. Think cracks in time, dimensional rifts, malfunctioning devices, narrow escape plans, or last ditch defences against an invincible foe.
If the player character removes any other card, set it aside – the pack should get smaller and smaller, the chances of pulling the Ace greater and greater. Characters like River Song and Tegan Jovanka were not around forever – they just packed a lot of time and adventures into their travels with the Doctor.
Tomorrow, the Doctor and companions ride out once more upon the airwaves. Adventures anew with a brand new Doctor, three new companions, a new theme, a new TARDIS (perhaps).
That seems as good a time as any to sort out the Pocket Mod PDF for Renegade, the minimald6 driven micro-RPG of time-travelling adventure.
Expect more in the future, with new adversaries, character archetypes, specials, adventures, random generator and more besides.
The link will remain static, while the content remains flexible and in motion. Expanded content will appear in supplemental pages to keep the core to a single printed A4 side.
Download Renegade – and prepare for adventure.
As if posting Renegade wasn’t sufficient for minimalist time travel gaming, I present Electric Schemes. Intended to emulate TV series like Stranger Things or stories like Tales from the Loop, it could probably handle Sarah Jane Adventures-style games where Sane Jane happens to be out of the picture for the length of the investigation.