Wanting, Needing and the Third Option: Why I’m Not Buying the New Doctor Who RPG

When I first heard Cubicle 7 got the license to produce a Doctor Who RPG, I was psyched. I’ve been a fan of the show since running across it in the mid 90s. Through novels, audio plays and the 2005 revival, I’ve followed the development of the series with a more or less avid eye. Also, adapting Doctor Who to the roleplaying medium is an evergreen topic on many discussion forums, usually in terms of modifying existing material to emulate the show’s changing style and content, although there’s also been that nostalgia element of “I had Doctor Who show up in my Champions game.”

So in the beginning, I was enthusiastic about the prospect of a dedicated Doctor Who roleplaying product. Then, as people discussed what it might be like and I thought on it and development dragged on and details like the US$60 price tag came to light, I came to the realization that I can’t justify buying Doctor Who – Adventures in Time and Space.

Here’s my thinking: Doctor Who is a sufficiently pliable premise that whatever rules system you prefer can emulate it satisfactorily. All one really needs to do is drop the skin of TARDISes, Daleks and bench-thumping over whatever one knows best. Moreover, from the reviews I’ve read on RPG.net and comments on the fan forum, Cubicle 7 chose to make their own version, Doctor Who – Adventures in Time and Space, rules-light without much in the way of unique mechanics, excepting the idea that the type of action affects the character’s position in initiative order — which really is very clever, because it lets the Doctor gabble and his companions run long before the Cybermen start firing. Overall, though, Adventures in Time and Space seems on par with Eden StudiosCinematic Unisystem in complexity and speed, a system with which I am not only comfortably familiar, but possess a copious amount of material that requires little work at all to apply to a Doctor Who campaign. Jason Vey’s Doctor Who for Unisystem netbook is icing on the cake, removing the very little amount of system crunching to launch. Granted, it’s written to mesh with Conspiracy X and I’d probably use the Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel version, but the two are interchangeable for the most part.

So for me, there’s no game-related reason to throw down for Adventures in Time and Space. On other scores, while the box is undeniably pretty, and presumably the materials inside are equally so, if I want pretty pictures of David Tennant and Billie Piper, I’ll trawl the numerous fan-run image archives on the web. If I want Doctor Who setting material — which the core set is reputedly light on, particularly considering there are reports of future supplements covering aspects of the Whoniverse in greater detail — I can hit up the indefatigable Doctor Who Reference Guide or any number of other sites, including good old Wikipedia.

It’s honestly kind of a bummer, to find myself not wanting an RPG about something I like so much, but it’s also reassuring. I have confidence in the tools I already possess, both bought and built, that I don’t have to run out and snap up something just because it’s shiny with a particular logo on the front.

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5 thoughts on “Wanting, Needing and the Third Option: Why I’m Not Buying the New Doctor Who RPG

  1. I’m getting very skeptical about how stories are treated nowadays – io9 posted up a fantastic article on how they disliked franchises, because that’s what the stories have become, prepackaged and not all that great, and honestly, I’ve never been all that compelled to game in someone else’s universe. I’ve had friends play the Firefly RPG, but said that it’s basically only designed to recreate the TV series cast. Same goes for the Stargate SG-1 RPG.

    • A lot of licensed RPGs are written to be slavish imitations, because that’s what the licensors require, or so I’m told. It’s all done with a wink and a nod, though.

      The Buffy RPG was filled with character sheets for the main cast throughout various stages of the series, but still implicitly acknowledged that most roleplayers were going to fold, spindle and multilate whatever content they used to suit their tastes.

      There is, however, a fraction of roleplaying people in the “real” hobby don’t talk about, the chat and message board games and LiveJournal communities where the whole point is to take the persona of an established character and run with that. I don’t quite get the attraction myself, but it’s out there.

  2. Sorry you won’t be joining us in our fun. Having played Cinematic Unisystem (and the regular version), I have to say I think the Doctor Who game’s system is better, but that is of course a personal opinion. Enjoy your gaming in any event 🙂

  3. Pingback: #RPGaDAY 16: Game You Wish You Owned | Held Action

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