Saturday, 22 March 2014

"I Play RPGs Now. RPGs Are Cool"

A big book of wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

RPG night this week was the start of a two session game of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space.  This is a game system I've ran twice before - once for my usual RPG group for one night, another time for a two session game with a different RPG group I colloquially called "The Anime Nerds".  That was a few years ago, though, and my regular group has cycled through a few faces since then.

Interestingly,  I used the same general plot in both previous games - an arcade game tournament held in Disney World in the 1990s turns out to be cover for an alien wanting to turn Earth's children into combat computers, in a twisted Last Starfighter sort of thing - but for some reason it worked much better with the Anime Nerds than it did with my standard group.  There are a few possible reasons for that - reasons I figured I could account for when I ran again on Wednesday night to win the team round.

The core engine of the game is pretty straightforward - 2D6 + attribute + skill, try and roll as high as possible.  Characters also have "Story Points" which can be spent to negate failures and ignore damage sustained, as well as gain extra dice for big rolls - these are a major balancing feature as characters playing more unusual characters with gadgets, alien bodies, supernatural powers etc start each adventure with fewer story points.  So normal human characters like Martha Jones or Ace start with 12 Story Points; somewhat more hopeless characters like Donna Noble or Dodo Chaplet start with 15 to reflect their lack of skill but their good luck; and characters with notable special powers start with even fewer - Time Lords who can regenerate or Captain Jack with his immortality power start with 9, 7 or even fewer Story Points to pay for their special power.

I keep toying with getting some of Crooked Dice's Doctor Who-alike figures.

Part of my problem before was that you really need to run a adventure across two or more sessions to pace the Story Points correctly and allow a difference between these sums to develop.  Unless you call for a lot of dice rolls - say, you're shooting Dalek death rays them pretty much constantly - you can't make enough dice rolls in a single session for the difference between 7 and 12 story points to come up.  Another problem last time round was that one character played The Doctor and then left an hour before the ending of the night - the Doctor was therefore an NPC in the denouement, making for a rather flat ending as I mostly spoke to myself.

This time round things flowed much better.  A pile of pre-gens was provided and our time-travelling group was assembled from them - a mixture of C-List Doctor Who characters from the spin-off media.  The Minister of Chance was the Time Lord of the group - his companions were the android Antimony, the alien shapeshifter Frobisher and the Time Lord-descended Miranda.

Goooooooooooooood Evening Good Evening Good Evening Good Evening!

This group tried to make their way to the Third Holy Roman Empire and instead landed in 19th Century America, on the eve of Abraham Lincoln's assassination..... which was interrupted by a mysterious time traveller using a primitive Osmic Projection system to appear, shoot John Wilkes Booth and then vanish.  This being a rather important fixed point in time the Minister became a bit distressed and thought they would have to do something to re-establish the timeline.... and work out why someone would have catapulted themselves back a millennium to tinker with this event, especially when it looked like it wasn't humans.

Not Humans.
A little bit of TARDIS jiggery pokery and they found themselves on a Sontaran vessel where the potato-heads had somehow found themselves in possession of a broken TARDIS.  Unable to use it for time travel, they could turn it into a receptacle for temporal paradox energy.... energy they intended to weaponise, making a sort of anti-time-gun they could blast their enemies away with.  This is of course stupid, but no stupider than most Doctor Who villain plans.  (I mean, hitting Big Ben, come on.)

It all started to go a bit Timey-Wimey about here. The Minister was captured by the Sontarans and interrogated by their commander.  The others managed to make the TARDIS work and escaped - having a Time Lady of sorts in the group helps with this.  She then took them back in time an hour, where the aforementioned shapeshifter impersonated the aforementioned commander.  So, in fact, the NPC I had been playing was one of the PCs all along.  Or: It was me that stole my dad's keys.

Miranda using that Time Lady brain.
We ended, as Doctor Who should, with a cliffhanger - no sooner had the group been reunited together and the shapeshifter unveiled the ruse to The Minister, the real Sontaran Commander appeared and starter ordering people get shot.  Our group now have to break out of prison, destroy the paradox-powered gun and get Abraham Lincoln killed in their second part.

Overall, things went much better than last time.  Raj, a big Doctor Who on TV fan, was underwhelmed the last time we played but he seemed to get into it much more this time.  The atmosphere was quite light - lots of jokes abounded, but in a way that would fit a Steven Moffat-written episode.  Assuming I can keep the second part together, then job's a good 'un!

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