It’s time to open up The Geek Closet once again, and in honor of this being Doctor Who weekend, I’m pulling out the Doctor Who Role Playing Game from Cubicle 7. With all the sci-fi franchise roleplaying games out there (such as Battlestar Galactica, Serenity, Star Wars), you knew there was going to be a Doctor Who game eventually. Thankfully for all the fans of The Doctor’s long, long legacy, this one’s worth the name.
Firstly, I love this packaging. It may sound like a minor thing, but too many RPG’s don’t come with everything you really need, or they come in boxes where everything bounces around everywhere. Not only is the core set (which they call Adventures In Time And Space) box fun to look at, but it’s very neatly organized. Once you open it (from the side, FYI), you’ll see all the books you need neatly stacked inside, along with a set of very cool-looking dice. It’s neat and easy to put back when you’re done. Furthermore, the books included (the Player’s Guide, Gamemaster’s Guide and Adventure Guide) are the same way – fun to look at, brightly colored, well-illustrated, but most importantly, easy to understand. I can look at pretty pictures all day, but if I don’t know what I’m doing, a game gets trashed in a hurry. No such problems playing this one.
Doctor Who plays just like all the other dice-based RPG’s out there. Anyone who’s played a few games of AD&D in their day can figure out their way around the game. More importantly, those of you who are not entirely familiar with Who can play the game. In my case, the friends I play RPG’s with don’t watch many of the shows the games are based on, so it’s very important to me that I can make the game accessible to them. Since this is a sci-fi universe based more on fun than technical terminology, it’s the kind of thing that fans of sci-fi/fantasy in general can fall right into, because it’s not that far removed from the worlds they’ve explored in the past. They might not always know exactly what’s going on, but my friends and I had our fun with the game regardless. (More on that in a moment.)
Of course, the biggest question with any Doctor Who game is content. There’s decades of Who and the game can’t possibly cover every single character and plot point. Even in the “new” Who universe – which is what this game is set in, specifically during the adventures of the Tenth Doctor, if you didn’t notice from the fact that David Tennant is on the box – there’s a lot of stuff that could be included. Don’t include enough, and you may disappoint the fans; include too much, and the game gets cluttered. Thankfully, the Doctor Who RPG has covered the parts fans will expect. For example, you have the choice of all his major companions – Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and, much to my delight, Captain Jack Harkness. No one is going to be upset that their favorite got left out.
That’s just in the starter kit. Cubicle 7 also makes an Aliens and Creatures set that covers exactly what it says on the tin. If that’s not enough, they’re still developing the line; a UNIT sourcebook and Companion guide are coming in the next two months, just in time to make Christmas gifts. (You can check all the Doctor Who RPG material out at Cubicle 7’s online store.) It’s great that they’re really developing the property (how many RPG’s do you know that have died off after they get started?) – but if you’re like me, and cringe at the idea of dropping $30-40 on a new book every couple of months, you can still have plenty of fun with the starter kit.
Which brings me back around to the gameplay. Doctor Who has always been, even at its scariest, a witty and fun adventure, and the game reflects that. Everyone in my playtest group had a good time; as the book says, there’s a little arguing over who gets to be The Doctor, but that’s to be expected. (I was Captain Jack, so I just let them argue it out.) Doctor Who reminds me a lot of my AD&D youth, with the fantastic monsters and the opportunities for humor; since a few of my friends had actually played AD&D with me, it was unsurprising that we regressed to middle school. To give you an example, I have a TARDIS bank that sits on my desk, and the friend of mine playing The Doctor ended up using it as a prop every time the TARDIS went somewhere. A little dorky, yes, but a whole lot of fun. Probably some of the most fun I’ve had since I started playtesting games; all the games we’ve played have been fun, but this is probably the least serious one.
If you need any more convincing to give this one a shot, the Doctor Who RPG has won plenty of critical acclaim. It was named Best Roleplaying Game 2010 at the UK Game Expo and was nominated for several other awards. It’s a pricey $59.95 at Amazon (Dr Who Box Set (Doctor Who)), which is about $30 more than most starter sets go for these days. If you have enough interested friends, though, it’s worth the investment – you’ll probably get enough use out of it that it will be worth the cash. This one’s worth coming back to again and again.
Now to see if they’ll introduce the Eleventh Doctor…
Until next time, I’ll be over here, cleaning out The Geek Closet.