The ‘Doctor Who’ Roleplaying Game: RPG Spotlight
Early episodes of Doctor Who may be lost to space and time, but you can still jump in your police box and go on wibbly-wobbly adventures of your own.
In the more than fifty years since Doctor Who first premiered it has been a staple of sci fi and nerd culture. I recognized the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf years before I ever watched any Doctor Who for myself, and that wasn’t until its revival in 2005. The Doctor is one of those pieces of pop culture that doesn’t permutate through to everyone, but manages to stay relevant through generations. So it should be no surprise to know that there are multiple tabletop roleplaying games that allow you to become The Doctor, one of the companions, or a government agent tracking this mysterious time traveling alien’s movements.
FASA published the first of these games in 1985 with The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, and despite being based on a show with a budget of “I don’t know, put a plunger on that inverted trashcan and glue some balls to it. Who has the spray paint?” the RPG system boasted three rulebooks and numerous separately published adventure modules and supplements. This version of the system included many of the classic Doctors and companions as well as their various enemies, though most of those enemies have stuck with the show through the decades and are causing havoc even today.
FASA’s Doctor Who game implemented a similar system to their earlier published Star Trek game which utilized a percentile system. Two D10s give players a roll between 1 and 100, and then any modifiers or bonuses are added in to determine if they’ve beaten the GM’s difficulty level.
Given what a niche following Doctor Who has always had, it’s hard to say if this game was popular or not, but books were only published into 1986 with a number left unproduced, and mirroring The Doctor on TV, the next incarnation of a Doctor Who tabletop RPG wouldn’t come about for quite a few years with the 2009 Doctor Who Roleplaying Game.
Previously known as Doctor Who: Adventures in Time And Space, this game was published by Cubicle 7 Entertainment instead of FASA and uses a simpler D6 based gameplay system but still has that same timey-wimey spirit. Characters can also acquire “Story Points” through clever roleplaying and problem solving which can in turn be spent to adjust their influence on the world around them. Just like in episodes, thinking outside of the box is rewarded both with a fun time at the table and with a built-in game mechanic. Also just like the show, The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game doesn’t forbid violence, but encourages players to find a nonviolent solution.
Cubicle 7’s version has also seen more success than it’s older sibling and has gone on to see multiple editions covering the eras of Doctors Ten through Twelve as well as winning UK Game Explo’s Best Roleplaying Game award and then Grog d’OR for Best Roleplaying Game award, both in 2010.
For more information on the Cubicle 7 Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, you can visit their official website, here. For the FASA Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, you’ll either need to jump in a TARDIS or do a little digging on the internet and visit the electronic bay.
Have you played either of the Doctor Who Roleplaying Games? Who is your favorite Doctor? Which was your first Doctor? Let us know in the comments!