It was not super-orchestrated on my part, because my personal experiences have confirmed that while spending time on a strong set-up to a role-playing adventure pays off, giving any thought to conclusions does not. In fact, I’ve been frustrated in the past trying to tie what the player characters are doing to my own preconceptions about how things “should” end.
This time, I went ultra-loose, deciding to rely on the players taking most of the initiative. I chose a very bare bones set-up of people being snatched from various points in the history of Earth. They awake to find themselves in a curious metal room with a window . . . overlooking the Earth. From there, the players interacted for a bit — a situation that, in retrospect, probably wasn’t wise to force, because this was the first outing for everyone. But it worked all right. Meanwhile, Victor, Nonny’s runaway Time Lord scientist, first appears in intercut scenes of fleeing Gallifrey during the climax of “The End of Time,” breaking through the transduction barriers and triggering a systems overload that knocks him out for the count, prompting disquieting dreams of pain and fire, of flights of Daleks blotting out the sun and darker creatures Victor knows are his.
The abductees meet their “hosts,” the grey-like Tzun, who take extensive prodding to reveal that they brought the humans here because they have abnormally high levels of artron energy, which is entangled with a space-time event smeared across history that terminates in a moment just a short time away. This turns out to be the arrival of Victor’s TARDIS, on an uncontrolled trajectory since bursting through Gallifrey’s defenses, which takes the form of an obsidian monolith. Victor is bothered by the Tzun messing with lower life forms and cows everyone with a sonic burst, intending to shepherd the humans home. He’s also troubled to notice that the TARDIS’ navigation systems are offline, lacking any known beacons to orient itself by.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Gorman the starfighter pilot and Ed the starship deckmate have concocted a plan to steal a ship from the Tzun to escape. Unfortunately, they’re all scaled for the Tzun, who are quite short, so space is at a premium. They contrive a way to slave one ship to another, allowing them and Trey Bingham, the terminally clueless game show host and television personality to cram themselves into two ships and flee the Tzun craft. Airfor Nostep, a technology scavenger from the future, takes the much simpler route of entering Victor’s TARDIS when invited.
On trying to land on Earth, however, Gorman discovers the Tzun ships lack conventional radios, as they are a telepathic species, which makes it difficult to explain to the various military installations on Earth launching fighters and missiles why they shouldn’t do so while zipping along the equator to find a place to land. Victor manages to patch into Trey’s IFB earpiece, trying to guide the runaways to a rendezvous. Before they can do that, Adam’s evasive maneuvers go awry, causing them to auger into Pearl Harbor, much to all the nearby tourists’ delight and astonishment.
Victor takes advantage of their relative motionlessness to materialize the TARDIS around them, directing the crashed saucers to arrive in the Olympic-sized swimming pool. There are introductions all around. Some people put their feet up for a bit. Airfor wanders off to explore and help herself to interesting-looking technology. The TARDIS lands, tolling an enormous, far-off bell once to signal this.
Adam and Ed start prowling for a way out of the TARDIS, eventually finding the main door, where they find they’re on a wide open plain, with red mountains in the distance. Victor’s ship has disguised itself as a sod hut, which Adam inspects with interest, reconciling the interior and exterior dimensions as best he can. And then an arrow comes whizzing through the air, landing solidly in the wall of the hut, just to the right of Adam. In the distance, hoofbeats approach . . .
So that was a pretty decent first episode, I thought. It felt stilted and uncomfortable in the beginning, unsurprisingly, because the characters were brand new and few of the players at the table had role-played together. Board games, yes, but not role-playing, which tends to need a little more time for people to loosen up.
I loved the characterizations brought to the table. Munk’s game show host, Trey, ferociously clung to the delusion he was still on Earth, wandering from sound stage to sound stage and demanding to see a contract before he took a part. Victor, played by Nonny, has no clue about human biology. At one point he exclaims, “Oh no, you’ve laid eggs, or whatever it is you humans do!”
All in all, I’m happy with it. Everyone had fun and laughed a lot. Here’s to the next episode, in which we welcome a new player and go horseriding.