Doctor Who Roleplaying Game (Twelfth Doctor Sourcebook)

[If this is your first exposure to the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, You may want to also read our look at the Core Rulebook. -dc]

My internal relationship with the Twelfth Doctor is a complex one. On the one hand, Peter Capaldi is brilliant. Every performance he put out was top notch, and then some. Unfortunately, it has always felt like the writers just didn’t know what to do with him. At the 11th hour, Jenna Coleman decided she wasn’t going to leave with Matt Smith. The Impossible Girl’s story arc was over, but look, more Clara. There were some great moments, there were some mind-boggling moments, and the tale-end of Series 9 had some of the best episodes of the modern era. Series 10 was a lot of fun, but the nearly year-and-a-half break made it feel out of sync somewhat. (Maybe because of the overall improvement?)

Jump forward a bit, and I got to review the Core Rulebook for The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game. The current edition of that rulebook is heavily focused around Capaldi’s first season, and it made me want to rewatch his run. When I did, I found that if you binge it, things are very different. The Doctor’s character progression feels less sporadic, although still a bit all over the place. With the additional separation from Matt Smith’s run, Clara felt less two dimensional and more tolerable, although still not very “Clara.” But I still couldn’t fully shake that poor first impression. 

Jump forward a bit further, and The Twelfth Doctor Sourcebook got handed to me, so hot off the presses that many stores probably hadn’t gotten it onto their shelves before the world came to a crashing halt. (But give your local brick-and-mortal game store a call. Many of them are doing things like contact-free curbside pickup orders, and need the extra support.) I now want to watch his run yet again, but I’m hoping to wait until Mackenzie Flohr’s Binge Watchers Guide to the Twelfth Doctor comes out.

I assume this sourcebook is laid out similarly to that of the previous Doctors, but so far this is my first time digging into any of them. In comparison to other games, and other sourcebooks for those games, there is a very different feeling as you work through this one. The Core Rulebook had a similar feeling and that was honesty one of my biggest takeaways from it:

“To me, the mechanics of the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, which are both simple and solid, are honestly secondary. To me, the most important thing about this game is that it FEELS like Doctor Who.”

That is what I said about the Core RULEBOOK. A book, that by definition, is full of mechanics and rules. A “sourcebook” isn’t restricted to just the rules, and there aren’t actually very many rules in here at all. All the rules that players need are all in that Core Rulebook. This sourcebook is intended to be mainly a resource for a Gamemaster to bring their players into the Twelfth Doctor’s adventures in time and space.

The first chapter takes an in depth look at this Doctor and his various companions, including character sheets to allow players to step into those characters. Some of this was included in the Core book, but The Doctor of Series 8 is not the same man as he was by the end of Series 10. That gives GMs, and by extension Players, some extra flexibility in their stats. If you compare those listed in the Core book to what’s in this book, there are some differences. More stuff listed under Stuff an obvious update, but certain Traits and Attributes have also changed in some cases. The other major change is Missy’s character. Her personal growth took her from antagonist to protagonist, from enemy to companion. 

The second chapter focuses on Playing in the Twelfth Doctor’s Era. A number of old foes found themselves back in the crosshairs of the Doctor, and several are mentioned with notations referencing previous sourcebooks. It talks about what sort of Companions the Doctor chose to surround himself with, and even what sorts of adventures they might get into when he’s not around. Where was UNIT when a Pyramid appeared on the border of three countries? What happened to Gallifrey between it’s “destruction” and the discovery that it wasn’t destroyed? The storytelling opportunities are endless.

The third, and final, chapter presents each of The Twelfth Doctor’s adventures, distilled down to a few pages each. Each entry begins with a synopsis of what actually happened in the episode(s) and where the story takes place in the continuity of the Whoniverse. From there it goes on to discuss how a GM could run the episode as its own adventure, or where the action could go after the TARDIS leaves. Each entry concludes with the stats and details of the major (non-player) characters involved, on both sides of the action. In the case of Twice Upon a Time, this even includes David Bradley’s First Doctor. In the same way that The Twelfth Doctor has slightly different stats as his character evolved between books, I’d be curious to compare the First Doctor Sourcebook (presumably William Hartnell’s incarnation) with this book. Heck, I also wonder if Richard Hurndall’s First Doctor got a mention in the Fifth Doctor Sourcebook for The Five Doctors episode? Someday, I hope to find out the answer to both of those musings.

If a student came up to me and said they had to write a paper on a fictional character, and wanted to do it on this Doctor, I would give them The Twelfth Doctor Sourcebook book as their first reference point. Reading through it was nothing short of eye-opening. It pulls forward little details in The Doctor’s personality that I simply overlooked before now. I started to see him in a different light, and I like what I saw. I want to see it again. I want to see it on my television and I want to see it at my gaming table.

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