Doctor Who – The First Doctor Sourcebook is the first in a series of sourcebooks to support Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG and to celebrate the 50th anniversary year of Doctor Who.
It all began on a November night in 1963. Two schoolteachers followed one of their students, a strange girl called Susan Foreman, back to the junkyard she called home. There, they found a police box that was bigger on the inside, and a cantankerous old vagabond who claimed to be Susan’s grandfather.
He was a wanderer, an exile in the fourth dimension, a Lord of Time. He was the Doctor, and from that junkyard, they saw all of time and space. A thousand adventures, seen and unseen, followed on from that cold November night.
Who knows what adventures you’ll discover, if you walk down the right street and see a strange blue box waiting there for you?
The Sourcebook, although interesting for players, is really a resource for the GM. It helps you run adventures that conjure up that First Doctor feeling.
After all and as the sourcebook expertly reminds us, the First Doctor was very different. Physically he appeared far older than his previous reincarnations and although he showed great stamina at times he was not as strong. In fact, one of the very first new snippets of rules is the New Trait, a “major bad for time lords only”, called Faulty Heart.
The first Doctor was far more cantankerous than later Doctors too. As a result all his Companions, with the exception of Susan, tended to be on board by accident rather than invitation. If you’ve seen any of the original Doctor Who episodes it is easy to remember the first rule “The Doctor lies”.
If you’ve not seen any of the original Doctor Who episodes from the 60s then there’s extra value in this sourcebook. This is a fantastic archive and summary of the very first adventures in the famous sci-fi series.
The world of Doctor Who does feel very different when it comes to the First Doctor. I’ve seen the shows and they feel similar and yet oddly distant – and credit to this sourcebook for managing to capture that. This is a time when the TARDIS was very faulty and the Doctor could barely control it (though better after some parts were ‘borrowed’ from the Meddling Monk’s own TARDIS) and here we’re given stats for this young TARDIS, reminders on how it(she) acted and GM hints and tips on how to cope.
It’s important that the sourcebook does well with the actual history of Doctor Who. There will be fans, players of the game even, who have no idea that the first Companion was Susan and that Susan was the Doctor’s granddaughter.
It’s also important that the book doesn’t turn into a history lesson or a 101 on early Classic Who. This is still a RPG sourcebook first and foremost. The first chapters make reference to episodes, citing examples, without elaborating on the details.
The bulk of the book (which is 150+pages) is a GM’s guide to running very specific scenarios. These aren’t pre-written scenarios but are summaries of the First Doctor’s adventures. Could this book contain any clues about New Who? We will have to wait for Doctor Who – The Second Doctor to read up on the Great Intelligence but it was the First Doctor who met the Daleks.
Each of these summaries ends with adventure ideas and tips. Where necessary there’s stat blocks too. There are, for example, new stats for the first generation of Daleks, The Animus found at the heart of the Vortis and Mavic Chen.
The takeaway from The First Doctor Sourcebook is that adventures can, and should be, slower and more complex. The Sourcebook not only pushes us in that direction to conjure up the feeling of the First Doctor’s adventures but also provides us with what we need to do just that.
I appreciate The First Doctor Sourcebook won’t be for every gamer. There’s no “big gun evolution” here in which the sourcebook shows characters new attributes, abilities and tech they could aspire to achieve in game (thus starting that relentless evolution sourcebooks can bring to some RPGs). In fact, this sourcebook does the opposite by providing alternative stats that tend to be weaker and plots that, although grand in scale, are far less showy than recent Who plots which have seen the TARDIS towing planets (Journey’s End, Tenth Doctor, written by Russell Davies) or rebooting the universe (The Big Bang, Eleventh Doctor, written by Steven Moffat).
The layout and design of the book is easy and clear. It’s an absolute blast to study the old black and white images from the earliest classic Who that have been included here. We range through fantastic period costumes to budget restricted attempts to create robots and futuristic designs. These photographs, I think, pay homage to the birth of the show.
This sourcebook is a must have for all fans of Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG and is a pretty strong recommendation for geeks who just want a well-designed primer on the First Doctor.
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