Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/06/08/tabletop-review-do-
When I got my grubby little paws on this game, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve seen some pretty terrible licensed games and I’ve seen some fantastic ones. I love RPGs, and I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since Christopher Eccleston took on the role for the 2005 restart series. My wife had been trying to convince me to watch the show long before then, but I’m stubborn, and I’d only seen part of an episode of Sylvester McCoy’s run and it was a Dalek episode and I had no idea what was going on. So the 9th Doctor was the perfect in for me. I’ve since picked up the 8th Doctor audio adventures and devoured whatever I could find of the others through episodes and audio dramas, but the 8th has held a special place for me. That’s not to say I don’t like Matt Smith’s take on it, I love it, but each actor brings out a different aspect of the Doctor, and while I do think the Eleventh is fun, let’s face it everyone ends up having “their” Doctor, and the 8th just happens to be mine. But I digress. What you get with this boxed set is a slick looking, well thought out RPG that’s as easily accessible for people who’ve never played an RPG as it is to veterans.
It’s broken down like most boxed sets are, and I got the PDF version so I didn’t get any dice (I already have access to over twenty sets so I’m good), but they do have printouts for the tokens and equipment cards in the PDF. The meat of what you get though is character sheets, a 97 page Player’s Guide, a 164 page GameMaster’s Guide, the 44 page Adventure Book, and a quick start guide. Like the Tenth Doctor’s Boxed Set, the GameMaster’s Guide does double up on information present in the Player’s Guide a bit, but it is nice having them in entirely separate books, even as PDFs.
The Player’s Guide is broken down into 4 chapters, the first giving some very brief but useful information about the Who-verse and roleplaying games. The second very lengthy chapter deals with creating characters and how they fit into the Who-verse, the third is all the rules a player might need to know as far as what will need a roll and what won’t and life and death and timey-whimey bits, and the last chapter is a little more in depth bit on roleplaying games and how it all works. Overall I like the layout and the guide does exactly what it’s supposed to do and introduce players to the universe and things they need to know to be able to play. There are some layout errors in the PDF for this book, re-displaying the same chapters titles from the first chapter all throughout the book along the edge of the pages, but the main chapter page for each chapter is fine. It’s a little thing, but it might make it a bit difficult if you’re not using PDF bookmarks to get where you need to go to quickly.
The Game Master’s Guide has seven chapters to it, but don’t get too excited as three of these are basically slightly expanded chapters from The Player’s Guide, which I mentioned earlier, as the GM would need these as well. If this was a standalone set I’d be more picky about this, but as a boxed set you get everything you need and you don’t have your player’s hogging your book looking up rules and information this way. The first chapter is a very brief intro and a warning that there are, as River would put it, Spoilers ahead if you’re reading and aren’t the GM. Very cute. The second chapter deals with character creation with a few touches here and there the GM might want to know about but player’s might not need. Chapter three delves into the rules with again, more information that the GM will need to know about resolving conflicts, combat and awarding points for player use. Chapter 4 gets into the ins and outs of time travel and is again expanded on what was in the Player’s Guide. Chapter 5 finally gets into stuff we haven’t seen or hasn’t been expanded on, in this case, aliens and monsters. There’s a nice variety of them here, most carried over from the previous Doctor but would run into again and a few new ones. The classic Who aliens and monsters are here as well, at least the big ones anyway. Chapter 6 gives you helpful hints on running a Who game and GMing a session in general and Chapter 7 follows up on that with how to run a single shot story and turn that into a campaign by creating new adventures or using the seeds they’ve provided in the Adventure Book.
The last book in the box is the Adventure Book, another GM only book. This one is broken into three parts, the first two being fully fleshed out adventures, one featuring the Cyber-Men and the other the Daleks, both tying into what’s been going on in the more recent series story-wise since Smith took over as The Doctor. The last section is a selection of adventure seeds. The seeds aren’t fully fleshed out adventures, but give enough information that they can easily be fleshed out by a GM into full blown adventures with a few minutes to a few hours work, depending on how much improvising you can do on the fly. There are 8 adventure seeds to go with the two fully fleshed out adventures giving you ten of them just about ready to go, which is three adventures short of a full series, or two over a series if you’re going by the audio adventures.
Overall I like how the books are written. They get specific when they need to, don’t over complicate when they’re talking about rules and make things pretty clear and concise, something I love in a good gaming book or set. It all feels very much like Matt Smith’s run on the Doctor, the visuals fitting right in instantly. You know which series this was written for and it looks very splashy and clean with that slick feel the new series has had. The main basic rule to determine success is pretty easy to learn and applies to pretty much everything you do in the game. It makes it very fast and easy to play. Character creation is pretty much the same way. This is not an experience based game, but a game based on points, so actually doing something in the story and using your character’s strengths will help your character grow, which is very dependent on the GM as to how fast that happens. If you really want to play fast you can pass out pre-generated characters and hand out the ‘Read This First’ page that has all the information you’d need to really start playing and just go.
As a self-contained box set, the PDF price is very good. This is something I’d pick up for an afternoon or two of fun and the price there is very comparable to a board game that you’d play about the same amount of time and you get to be more inventive. While you could do a campaign with it, and I would love to at some point, it’ll require the right group to do that with. I think one of the better things this does is let you play with or without the Doctor, meaning the GM could step in as the big guy, or you can have a player do it, or you can have them playing as random people who never meet the Doctor and just get sucked along these adventures, or one of my favorites, as Torchwood or UNIT members. I’m not fond of the GM based leveling system. I’ve had too many stingy GMs over the years who don’t like to reward players for doing extraordinary things. The Storyteller and West End Star Wars games used this system and I think if you have a stingy GM you may not have as much fun. With the right group though, this game would be a blast and I’d recommend it easily to any current Doctor Who fan, or even an older fan, as you can just regress the Doctor back to a previous incarnation and run that one instead using the same rules.