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     Doctor Who Role Playing Part 1 - What is Role Playing    
     Author:  voradams
     Dated:  Friday, April 28 2006 @ 06:20 AM EDT
     Viewed:  4,158 times  
    DW Reviews

    Role Playing in the Doctor Who Universe.

    The Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Dr Harry Sullivan and Nigel the scaffolder knee-wrencher rushed down the corridor. Behind them, the hideous Bug Eye Monster crackled in pain and began to lumber after them.

    Unfortunately after turning the door, the fleeing group find a large foreboding door appearing in front of them.

    Doctor, can you open it?” asked Harry.
    Why cant you?” threw back an irritated Doctor.
    I am a doctor, not a locksmith” was Harry’s reply, earning him a filthy look from the Timelord.
    Hurry Doctor!” cried an alarmed Sarah Jane, “The monster is getting closer!”

    What happens next? Does the Bug Eyed Monster kill all the people, or will the Doctor, Sarah Jane or Nigel think of something (after all, Harry will not!).

    Bad news, that decision is up to you and your friends!

    In a nutshell that is what Role Playing is all about. A group of people telling a story in a collaborative way, with most of them assuming a single role in the story (like the Doctor, Sarah Jane, Harry and Nigel) with one player supplying the scene description and plays the roles of all the other characters in the story (like the BEM). The single player (traditionally called the game master) also helps resolve conflict in the game, in this case, whether the door gets open in time, and if needed, how the players fight the Bug Eyed Monster in order to survive.

    In order to Role Playing Games (or RPG) all you really need is 2 or more players and a sense of imagination. Dispute what game manufacturers tell you, that is all you need, however, there is a whole industry that make RPG games. Each of them contain most of the following:

    • Help you define the strengths, weaknesses and abilities of the people who you play in the game.

    • Provide a system to resolve puzzles and combat.

    • Help the game master design the world that the characters will live in

    • Allow the game master to create the villains, and innocent bystanders that inhibit the world.

    • create or list the technology and equipment used by the characters (heroes, villains and innocent bystanders

    Here Harry, use this!” Nigel hands Harry a big wrench.

    With a mighty hurl, Harry throws the wrench at the Bug Eye Monster, hitting it in it’s eye!

    I meant use it on the door Harry!” sighs Nigel in disbelief.

    Meanwhile, the doctor has managed to get his sonic screwdriver, and used it as a sonic lance, blowing away the locking mechanism on the door.

    Ah HA! Ok every one, through the door”

    But what about my spanner?” wails Nigel.

    Here we have 2 examples on how an RPG system can be used to resolve the situation. Harry’s attack on the BEM, and the Doctor’s attempt at lock picking.

    Every RPG system has its own way of resolving conflict. Some of them will go into massive detail on how much damage a wrench can cause depending on Harry’s strength, and the location the wrench hits on the BEM. Others will simplify it to simply a set damage value. However, the thing that adds a risk to the action is that most systems use random numbers to determine if the attack succeeds or fails, and the easiest was of doing this is with dice.

    Dice (singular die) can come in many sizes, from the famous 6 sided dice (called d6 by most games) to 4 sided die (d4) to a 100 sided die (d100).

    Let say we are using d20 Future (a game based on the popular Dungeons and Dragons game). A BEM is a tough Monster, so the rules could say that Harry’s player needs a 18 or greater on one 20 sided die, or a d20. Harry’s player roles a 20. In d20 Future, this is the best possible roll, which means that Harry was very successful, and the Game Master states that the BEM’s eye was hit, causing it great pain.

    If Harry’s character rolls a 1, this would be the worst possible result. The Game Master could have had Harry drop the wrench on his foot, or miss and hit the Doctor instead. If Harry’s player rolled better that 1 but less that 16. This means a failure and Harry fails to hit the monster. If the player rolled between 16 and 19, Harry would have hit the BEM, but not cause as much damage.

    Now Nigel is a better wrench thrower than Harry. So in d20 Future terms, Nigel may need only 12 or better to hit the BEM. And Sarah Jane may have needed a 20 just to hit the monster normally.

    This is a very simple example on how combat works, I don’t want to throw in stuff that may confuse people, and this article is just to show how the beastie works.

    The same system also works for the Doctor’s attempts on the door. The Doctor is an old hand at breaking locks, so the game master says that the Doctor’s player only needs to roll 10 or better to open the lock. Having the trusty sonic screwdriver makes the task so much easier, making it only 6 or better to break the lock. The Doctor’s player rolls a 12, more than enough to open the lock!

    If Harry could have picked up his shoe and smack the BEM into green goo, it would be no fun for all concerned. The thrill of risk and the risk of failure (if only in the minds of those playing the game) adds challenge to the game. And while the Doctor is almost perfect in the TV series, he does sometime fail, and no matter what path he takes, people generally die.

    So risk, conflict and chance play big parts of a RPG game, as well as a normal Doctor Who script. The job here is to make the gaming experience like a serial like the old cliffhanger episodes of the older series, but also the sense of adventure and wonder that Doctor Who has. The rules make it easy for players and game masters to make the worlds of Doctor Who, but don’t get bogged down in them. The primary rule in all RPG games is “to have fun”, and that should be your goal as well.

    Games that would be easy to use in the Doctor Who Universe:

    This is not a complete list, but many of these games are available for free on the internet (at least a light version which is enough to start playing with), or easy to buy online or at friendly gaming stores worldwide:

    1. GURPS:

    The Generic and Universal Role Playing Game is a modular and complete system that is capable of running any possible location in the Doctor Who universe, including e space! Almost perfect for Doctor Who, even the Doctor’s regeneration is covered under the rules. The new fourth edition is out, but the third edition has the excellent GURPS Time Travel supplement and many source books usable for a time and space spanning campaign , including books for the ancient Greece, China and Rome, even the stone age, as well as books for the far future. Other rules include rules to have starship battles and create vehicles from horse and carriage to grav cars, just perfect for the gadget crazy Jon Pertwee period!

    Further articles will treat GURPS as the default system, as it uses generic measurments and terms, which makes it easy to port to the other systems.

    GURPS lite can be found here

    2. EABA & CORPS:

    BTRC is a small company that has produced some of the most flexible RPG systems known. EABA is the newer system, while CORPS is an older system that is my favourite system from this range. Both systems have vehicle design rules, weapon design rules, and have Greg Porter’s own Timelords campaign setting converted to the system to help with the time travel aspect of the system (if it has a totally different background and method of time travel).

    EABAnywhere can be found here

    D20 (

    D20 Modern and D20 Future derive from the famous Dungeons and Dragons systems, and also forms the basis of the current Star Wars RPG game.

    There is no default background in d20 Future.

    Not as flexible as GURPS or EABA, it can be used for time travel with a little more work. The d20 system is an open system, which means most of the rules are available for download here:


    The oldest of all Sci-Fi RPG games. Set in the far future during the Third Imperium, it is a more Golden Age literary Scifi feel, with a lot of 1970's scifi thrown in. Generally capable of low tech and high tech civilisations, with some work it can handle Doctor Who quite nicely. Traveller has been converted to d20 (Traveller20), and GURPS (GURPS Traveller). Older versions of the game can still be found (Classic Traveller, Mega Traveller, Traveller The New Era and Traveller 4). If players like the d20 system Traveller20 is a better option as it is more focused on a star spanning game and would convert more easily to Doctor Who. As well, the vehicle and starship rules in both Traveller 20 and GURPS Traveller are easy to master and converts to all versions of Traveller, and easily to most other systems.

    Traveller 20 lite can be found here

    I will be using a mix of d20 and Traveller 20 as my second system, given the penetration of the d20 system.


    Origionally an anime based game, BESM uses the Tristat system, which is a nice clean system that is capable of creating Doctor Who quite well. The core rules can be downloaded for free here:


    As reviewed in the Galefreyan Embassy website, this is the only dedicated Doctor Who system available today (the other system , FASA’s Doctor Who RPG is no longer available and takes large liberties with the Doctor Who setting).

    See the review here:
    Download the full game here:

    So check out the systems, and next article I will look at Doctor Who characters for GURPS and d20!

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  • Doctor Who Role Playing Part 1 - What is Role Playing | 1 comments | Create New Account
    The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
    Doctor Who Role Playing Part 1 - What is Role Playing
    Authored by: timwhite on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 10:50 AM EDT
    Nice article!

    Thanks for the info!!!