Monday, January 18, 2010

I Bought the Doctor Who RPG

I just got Cubical Seven's new "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space" RPG. I wanted to post my impressions here, because I am a dedicated Doctor Who Fan as well as a gamer, and I believe just the sort of person most likely to purchase this game.

First, I live not in merry ol' England, but rather across the pond in the Americas, so I opted for the PDF download of the game to save myself some expense. Perhaps I cheated myself a bit there as the many posts I have read have been quite enamored of the game's packaging and physical content/presentation. I have sacrificed that with the download and am left with simply this: the game.

The game is simple and concise, perfect for introducing new players (who happen to be Doctor Who fans) to the wonderful world of RPG's. I haven't played yet, but I have played enough RPG's in my time to get a good sense of this one from the processes described. Roll 2d6 and add stat plus skill to beat difficulty is easy and straight forward enough. The initiative system that is designed to encourage talking your way out of trouble, or failing that, running away (no attacks of opportunity here) is perfect for Doctor Who and one of the truly inspired bits of game mechanics presented.

High marks should be (and has been) given for the wonderful presentation that is sure to attract new gamers, so all the way around "Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space" appears to be a winner.

The character creation chapter bogged down for me. I think that new players who grab a sample character and play the doctor or a companion will be up and playing quickly and will have loads of fun. I also think the "templates" that do the work of assigning skills, stats, and special traits for the player are a brilliant and accessible idea, so maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill considering these excellent alternatives are available, but I found myself going a bit glassy eyed as I read the example of character creation (from scratch.)

I know that "point buy" is the way things are done these days ... but, honestly, I am biased against it. Systems based on random designation and narrowed selection have merits in my opinion, whether dealing with class based or template based systems. Like comic book super hero RPG's, the Doctor Who RPG suffers from a universe of character possibilities so vast as to be virtually insurmountable to the casual observer. "Creating a character concept" for someone new to the genre or who simply doesn't know what they want can seem more like homework than fun.

The sample characters and templates provided are a necessary and welcome solution. I would encourage any GM thinking of running the Doctor Who RPG to present new players with the template pages and avoid the point buy all together. I think most players will be happier. Anyone who wants to jump in and mess with the numbers themselves ... can always do so. The tools are there. For everyone else, I think the templates are the best choice.

I do worry about running the game from a GM stand point, I look at the example character sheet of the Doctor and all the special traits that he has (that whole second page) and I wonder how hard these kinds of things might be to deal with in mass for myself as a GM. The other character templates aren't quite so busy, the Doctor has a lot more going on than the other character types, perhaps unfairly so. Personally, I think if I do choose to run the game I might like to do a game sans the Doctor.

To me Doctor Who is about what happens when ordinary people encounter the fantastic (and the Doctor is as much a part of that "fantastic" as the Daleks.) To me, the player of a game like this is meant to be the "ordinary" man. And I do think this game handles the challenge of "ordinary man encounters the fantastic" well. It provides a system where by that ordinary man can emerge the hero, and this is the kind of story that I would want to tell.



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