Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/08/11/tabletop-review-doctor-who-aliens-and-creatures/
When I received Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, I received Doctor Who: Aliens and Creatures at the same time. I took care to not touch Aliens and Creatures until I was done reviewing the original boxed set. I did this for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to make sure the Adventures in Time and Space boxed set was self-contained enough to stand on its own. Secondly, I wanted to make sure Aliens and Creatures was not overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of content of these two products combined. As I explained in my review of Adventures in Time and Space, the Aliens section in the Gamemaster’s Guide is quite robust. If I had acquired Adventures in Time and Space without Aliens and Creatures, I would have had a hard time justifying the purchase. Honestly, how much better could this book be than the frankly spectacular content of the Adventures in Time and Space box?
The answer is “Loads.” A perfect example are the Daleks. In the Gamemaster’s Guide, the Daleks get a generous two pages. That seemed like plenty until I saw the Dalek section in Aliens and Creatures. There, the Daleks get 12 pages of content. There are stat blocks for Davros and the Cult of Skaro and the Emperor. Even the Pig Slaves get a write-up. The nine pages on the Cybermen is so thorough it even harkens back to the old type of Cybermen. Want to have the Sontarans make an appearance in your game? Here they are, with a fantastic entry that gives the gamemaster real insight into how they function as a species.
Beyond the alien descriptions and stats, which are top notch, Aliens and Creatures greatly expands on the alien creation chapter from the Gamemaster’s Guide. In step with the combat light style of Doctor Who, the emphasis is not on stat generating, but on fleshing out the place the new alien species fill in the universe. After coming up with a why, then you create the how. This makes for more interesting aliens, which usually translates into more interesting scenarios. That the stat aspect of alien creation mirrors character creation makes for a smooth process.
A chapter on players playing as aliens follows. With the right group of players, this could be a blast. Heck, the designers even mention the possibility of players playing as Daleks, though I do not envy the gamemaster who has a whole party chanting “Exterminate!” in unison. This process is simplified with the two pages of supplied Race Packages, which are a collection of stat modifiers and Traits that a player can take at a points cost. I appreciate that the designers took the time to add this, since PC aliens would almost assuredly pop up in character creation.
The final chapter of the book is a doozy: the New Worlds Generator. This series of charts and tables enables the ambitious GM to create entire solar systems or individual planets. Given the spare time and the desire, a GM could roll up a galaxy and its inhabitants. A handful of example planets and aliens are included, to either steal for your own use or as an example of what can be generated. Even in games with more robust rules, like Stars Without Number or Traveller, I could see using this system to generate planets.
The other book included with Aliens and Creatures is a 32 page Adventure Book. This book has two long-form adventures, which I will not spoil here, and nine adventure ideas. The long adventures are a nice bonus, especially for newer GMs. The adventure ideas are almost a full page each and are almost full-fledged adventures in their own right. While my favorite aspect of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space is the sandbox nature of the game, the Adventure Book is basically a free add-in with the Aliens and Creatures book and adds value.
As with Adventures in Time and Space, Aliens and Creatures is laid out extremely well. The text is in two columns, with occasional sidebars. The art design of the book is fantastic and the photos used for each alien species are well chosen. The stat blocks are easy to find at a glance because they are separated from the main text in red text boxes. My non-gamer wife even used the book as an art reference for a Doctor Who project she is working on. One negative, for the PDF version, is the lack of comprehensive bookmarks. This is a minor quibble, for most, but it is noteworthy to a primarily digital GM, like myself.
Aliens and Creatures is a worthy successor to the Adventures in Time and Space set. There is plenty here to admire, from the sheer volume of aliens described to the New Worlds Generator to the Adventure Book. If you own Adventures in Time and Space, do yourself a favor and pick up Aliens and Creatures.