The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game (1985)

What an odd choice for an RPG license. Now, sure, the Russell Davies reboot of Doctor Who successfully exported the show to America and tidied up the massive pile of lore into something comprehensible to new audiences. But back in 1985? Doctor Who was still high nerd arcana back then. My exposure to the show was the occasional static filled Tom Baker episode broadcast by my local PBS affiliate. Beyond novels and maybe some comics, I am not sure US folks got much Doctor Who back in the day. FASA must have understood this fan base was made out of re-run watchers — why else was Tom Baker on the cover of the box despite there being two subsequent doctors by 1985? Leela, the lady with the knife, hadn’t been on the show since 1978!

Anyway, the system is based on the Star Trek RPG, which means it is skill based and weirdly martial for Doctor Who. The game assumes you are part of the CIA. No, the other one, the Celestial Intervention Agency, an Earth group that travels time and space to intervene, like the Doctor, in important events. There are stats for all the classic baddies — Daleks, Cybermen, the Master, Silurians, you name it. There is a lot of space for tactics. Which is weird, because most baddies can disintegrate you with one shot, so you should really not be engaging in combat.

The approach to time travel (and space travel for that matter) mirrors the show — it is pretty hand-wavey. Most potential paradoxes are addressed by the Tardis — it won’t travel to where you already are, or where your grandfather (who you have unaccountable homicidal impulses toward) is. There are exceptions to everything, but they are presented as a narrative problem for players to shout their way through, which sounds rather fun.  

Lots of stills from the show, but also lots of fun art too. There aren’t clear credits, but I am pretty sure that sonic screwdriver is Dana Knutson.

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