So, last night I had a couple friends over. One of which, let’s call him M, lives a few hours away, so I don’t get to see him so much, the other, G, lives relatively close by but due to being super busy I haven’t seen him in a while either. Being the geek-types that we are, we decided to get a table top game going. I was thinking something casual, maybe Munchkin or some Magic: The Gathering. Then, my wife chimes in:
“Or, we could play some Doctor Who,” she said, referencing the RPG published by Cubicle 7. We have a newborn, so I would be the one running it.
I was immediately apprehensive. Not because I don’t enjoy the game, quite the contrary. My favorite campaign of all time was a 4-6 session Doctor Who game ran by my wife sometime last year. I was apprehensive because it was nearly 10 pm, meaning I had to leave for work in a little over 2.5 hours, & I had nothing prepared, I’d never run this system, & M had never played table top RPG’s aside from some dabbling several years ago.
Despite this, I didn’t make a fuss & the let my friends cast their votes. G, who had played in the aforementioned campaign from a year ago, was all about some Doctor Who adventuring. M, who was always curious & willing to try new things, was also all about it. So, I said:
“I guess I’ll put my improv skills to the test,” to which my wife reminded me that I tend to be a much better GM when I improvise as oppose to planning. Go figure.
Anyway, I was a little excited, because I had just picked up the 2nd Doctor Sourcebook at my FLGS during a Free Comic Book Day sale on May 3rd. It’s a great product, new traits, gadgets, & many 3-4 page adventure seeds using serials from Patrick Troughton’s reign as the Doctor. I, being put on the spot, chose the Tomb of the Cybermen adventure, because no one else present had watched those episodes & I have.
So, I pulled out some of the pre-gens from the box set we already had (the 11th Doctor version) & let them all pick out some. My wife chose River Song, G chose Rory Williams & M chose “The Alien,” a generic pre-gen suited for Subterfuge & Coordination. After a quick rundown of the rules & his character’s traits, M seemed more than ready to go. I skimmed the adventure seed & tried to fill my brain with my memory of the episodes from the serial, & we were off!
I’ll say right now, of course the story did not at all follow the episodes, but was still most entertaining. The Vortex System which powers the Doctor Who RPG is a brilliant piece of work & is, in my opinion, a perfect balance of complexity & simplicity, & what follows is a brief recap of the game, which I feel is a testament to the greatness of this system.
I had the Doctor be something of a background NPC & allowed my players to drive the action. M, who decided his character was a Silurian named Jym, stealthed his way about rather successfully. G’s rolls did not help Rory much, while my wife played River pretty much how one would imagine River being in this story.
They met up with the expedition & got into the tomb, after Jym allowed a man to be electrocuted to death from touching the door, which Jym knew had a lot of juice flowing to it (thanks to his gadget). River’s squareness gun removed the need for a strength check as well. Inside, Jym hacked the system to open the hatch down into the Cybermen’s labyrinthine lair, which River, the Doctor, & 2 NPC’s entered. Rory & Jym stayed above with the distrustful scientists & managed to access the rest of the tomb. Instead of exploring, Jym stole a datapad from one of them, but was caught by their security officer, & a fight ensued.
Down below, River convinced the 2 men to head back to the hatch, while she used her technology to map out the maze & made her way to the Cybermen’s central hibernation chamber. Between her & the Doctor (& a fair use of Story Points) they managed to short circuit the hibernating Cybermen’s brains, although the Cyber Controller survived & emerged, stumbling & glitching towards them.
Meanwhile, upstairs, a tussle took place, with some blaster fire going off. Jym & Rory ran down separated corridors. Jym triggered a fire defense system & lost his pursuer, while Rory used speed & stealth to lose his. Jym, being able to shapeshift, took the form of one of the other workers exploring the tomb & made his way back to the control room. Rory stuck to the shadows & remained out of sight but within earshot, but not before finding a Cyberman transmitter & mercilessly beating a conversion chair into pieces with a hot pipe, which burned his hands rather badly. Jym managed to fool to scientists about his identity & went down the hatch to catch up with River & the Doctor.
He found them running for their lives from the stuttering & malfunctioning Cyber Controller & eventually made their way back to the other 2 NPC’s who became lost down there. Due to River’s poor navigation, they all remained lost down there for quite some time, but eventually found their way back to the hatch. The NPC’s, being horribly confused as to why their friend (whom Jym had taken the form of) was speaking to these outsiders like he knew them, confronted the group, only to be socked in the face by River Song.
“She hit me! Why did you hit me?”
At this point they made it back up to the control room, only to be held at taser point by the scientists. River told a pretty convincing story (aided by the sounds of the damaged Cyberman below) & most of the staff ran out, confused & overall just over the craziness. The two main scientists remained, unswayed. They wanted the Cyberman, they wanted to harness the technology for their own purposes.
Rory, hiding in the background, managed to silently signal River with his transmitter & mobile phone. River made an educated guess & sonic’ed the devices from across the room with the quickness. Claxons roared out, & blast doors began closing up the only exit from the tomb. A hasty escape was needed!
Throughout all this, Jym was casually assembling a bomb using jiggery-pokery.
They all escaped (Rory having to spend a couple Story Points), just as the self-destruct sequence began. They ran down the mountain side back to the expedition base, hardly stopping to hear the questions of “What about the other 6 or 7 people still in there?” Jym, as casually as he made it, tossed the bomb at the expedition’s ship as the party escaped to the TARDIS, safe & sound as the entire expedition lost their lives to a self-destructing Cyberman tomb & a Silurian homemade bomb.
*cue Final Fantasy victory music*
It got a little rushed at the end, because I was going to be late for work otherwise, but it was an extremely fun session. This game was a blast. Zero prep, one inexperienced player, a GM not entirely familiar with the system, & a time crunch. Thanks to the system, these didn’t hurt the game at all. M had no problem grasping the rules, I had no problem running it & many laughs were had by all. I never would have expected such a fun session to come out of a zero prep game. Granted, I had more than fair knowledge of the scenario, but other than that, that’s it.
I just really wanted to share this because it was such an awesome, unexpected, Game Night.
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