Intended to help you run adventures in the very best Doctor Who style, this book comes in two parts. The first is a collection of hints and tips to empower your game, and the second is three complete adventures to get you going. Needless to say, the adventures are designed to showcase some of the ideas suggested in the first part.
Beginning at the beginning, so to speak, the first chapter is Starting Out and it talks about preparing to run a new game. Perhaps this is your first time ever on the far side of the GM screen, or you may be a veteran GM running the Doctor Who RPG for the first time, or maybe you are just starting a new campaign - you will still find something to think about here. The first suggestion is quite startling: tell your players what your core concept is and kick it around a bit, refine it collaboratively. You'll need to keep it pretty broad else all the fun of finding out what is happening in the adventure will be spoilt. However, it's worth discussing things like which Doctor you are using (or era/style at least), do the party want to be UNIT operatives or random folk picked up along the way, are you all more interested in Earth-based adventures or in bouncing around all of time and space... things like that. It may be that the group knows what sort of characters they want to play (or if they want to play ones who have appeared on TV), so you can then go off and build adventures that are suited to them.
Two major questions are whether or not the Doctor will be a player-character and how much you want to stick to 'canon' (i.e. be true to what has appeared in the show on TV). For some people canon is vitally important, others maybe don't watch the show as avidly or don't think it matters if things pan out differently in your game. But once everything is settled, it is probably worth setting up individual characters as a group exercise and then working how come they are adventuring together. (I was once asked to introduce my church Young Women's group to role-playing, so took the Doctor Who RPG along and used every single Companion I could find - we had about a dozen Young Women - and ran an adventure in which it was the Doctor's 1,000th birthday so he gathered loads of past Companions for a party!) There are plenty of ideas thrown out here, use them or come up with your own.
Next, a look at Adventures. Now we have a concept and a bunch of characters, what are they actually going to do? Adventure-writing is an art in itself, and here the model of creating an episode of the TV show is used to good effect by exploring what each of those folks whose names whiz past on the end credits actually contributes. Of course, your life is easier. You have a limitless budget for your production and you don't need to write a full script as the players will provide a lot of it once you've set the scene, indtroduced NPCs and problems and so on. We then get into good advice on putting together a plot, notes replete with ideas that, if you like them, could easily be developed into a full adventure. There's adventure structure and pacing, all kinds of useful things here - many of general application to writing compelling adventures for any game, but all of use for this one. The chapter ends with a random adventure generator that could keep you going for literally ages.
Then we turn our minds to Villains and Making Monsters. Even if we have already determined our adversaries, there's more to be done before they can face the party. The main villain benefits from having at least as much care and attention lavished on his development as any player-character. There are also many ideas to help you construct good original monsters and aliens. The next section looks at Settings, the places in which the adventures will occur. Important here is how you describe them, what you choose to describe and so on... but first you need the overarching concept for that space station, planet or wherever it is that the action is going to take place. Then you can get down to the details and decide how you are going to introduce them to the group. Even the most exotic setting has parallels with things they are familiar with - most of us haven't visited a space station but we all know what to expect in an airport, for example.
The final section in the first part of the book looks at Running Games, Campaigns and Stock Footage. This is mostly about actually running the game when all the prep work is done and the players are sitting expectantly around the table. There's plenty of good advice about pacing, keeping people engaged, providing a bit of order when things get chaotic and everybody's shouting and so on. Read it now, because you won't be able to refer to it once the game starts. On campaigns, there's a look at what makes a real campaign as opposed to a string of completely unrelated adventures. Plot arcs, quests, recurring villains... loads of ideas, and plenty of references to things that happened in the show, feel free to use them especially if your group have not been obsessive watchers of the show right back to the 1960s. You also may face issues like players wishing to change character or a character dying, there's advice for handling such events too, as well as on ending a campaign with a proper finale rather than fizzling out. And stock footage? On the TV screen, that's when something happens relatively frequently, so it gets filmed once and then replayed every time it's needed. Here, it's a collection of ready-made NPCs and settings to drop in when you are stuck, maybe the party jigged left when you expected them to go right.
Finally we get to the adventures: Death Comes to Toytown, The Grip of the Kraken and The Bellagio Imbroglio. The first one begins with a toyshop where passing drunk students claim that the toys come alive at night... then the characters wake up and find that they ARE toys, in the toyshop! In The Grip of the Kraken there's a monster dragging starships to their doom, and needless to say it grabs the ship the TARDIS happens to be on at the time. In the last adventure, The Ballagio Imbroglio, the party finds themselves in a 1778 Venice replete with intrigue and with individuals such as an aging Casanova popping up, not to mention the Inqusition... All three provide plenty of action and problem-solving to keep your group happy.
I'd rate this fairly essential for Doctor Who RPG GMs, and indeed pretty useful whatever game you want to run. Much of what's here is applicable to any game system and you'll find yourself applying its principles across the range of your GMing activities.
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Reviewed: 8 January 2018