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Doctor Who RPG – First Impression – Pt. 2

Having never played the Doctor Who:  Adventures in Time and Space RPG before, last week I unboxed the game and started one of the included adventures together with my family. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, neither my wife or son had ever played a role playing game so this was going to be a new experience for them.

We chose to play the “Judoon!” adventure which puts the players on board a Judoon ship that appears to have had an outbreak of some sort of infection that has affected it’s crew.   The Judoon Captain quickly requests the Doctor’s help to locate the source of the infection and stop it.  So off my players ran, as the Doctor and K-9, to uncover the evil aboard the Judoon vessel and hopefully a chance to use the sonic screwdriver!

The Doctor Who RPG uses 6-sided dice in combination with attributes and skills to determine the outcome of different situations or interactions.  Characters also have traits, both positive and negative, that may affect results if they relate to the particular encounter.  A good example of this is the “Lucky” trait which allows the character to re-roll anytime they roll a 1.  I could sure use that with my DnD 4e Cleric! Since my players chose pre-generated characters we didn’t get into character creation although I did read through the system in the Game Master’s guide.  It is pretty straight forward, simply assigning points from a pool to the various attributes and skills.  You can get additional points to help buy up stats by selecting negative traits, these also add a bit of flavor to your character.

The game also uses a ‘Story Point’ mechanic that seems to be popular with many of the newer RPGs.   You can spend Story Points to better your rolls, so a disastrous result can become a positive one.  Also, many NPCs have Story Points too, so the GM can use Story Points to turn your successes into failures!  If you trying to perform an action that your character may not have the best skills to do, you can spend a Story Point to add another die to your roll before rolling the dice.  Story Points can also be used to get clues from the game master should you become stuck during the adventure.   Players can even give Story Points to other players.  To keep players true to the series, if a player resorts to killing they can lose all their Story Points.

To be honest, this is my first time playing a system that uses them and my first impression is to dislike the system.  I would put the blame more to my lack of experience using Story Points rather than a flaw of the system itself.  During most of our adventure the Story Point system was implemented to better dice rolls and a couple times to gather a hint when my players were unsure which direction to take.  Near the end of our adventure, when the tension was starting to mount and when I thought we would have some interesting drama develop, Story Points were used and essentially gave the players an easy walk to the finish line.  Again, this may have been my own ignorance of the system and the adventure, but it left me wanting to put some limitations on the use of Story Points.

The complete adventure did take us about an hour and a half, well within the time frame quoted in the Adventure Book.  I didn’t really enjoy the adventure from a GM perspective because I didn’t feel I was equipped well enough to provide the players with an engulfing story.  The Adventure was more or less a detailed outline, while I had expected a more guided experience since this was supposed to be an introductory outing.  I often had to hand hold players through situations because the gaps in the story were just too large for the players to fill on their own.   Having said that, looking through the rest of the Adventure Book there are many great adventure ideas provided in the last few pages to help GMs design their own episodes for the Doctor.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space is a good RPG, especially for my family as the focus on resolving situations non-violently keeps adventures “safe” for kids.  The openness or lightness of the mechanics is my biggest hurdle and not necessarily a flaw in the game’s design.  Admittedly I may be more accustomed to using difficult mob encounters to build tension as opposed to developing difficult mental puzzles.  So perhaps Doctor Who is a great chance for me to expand my mastering talent by forcing me to create deeper storylines,  richer encounters and adventures.  I’ve already gone ahead and purchased an expansion; Doctor Who: Aliens and Creatures, to help as I design a more in depth adventure for my new players.  I hope I can bring them a challenging, yet entertaining adventure true to the Doctor Who spirit which my son enjoys from this wonderful tv series.

Doctor Who - Aliens and Creatures

Doctor Who - Aliens and Creatures

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