Sunday, April 30, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Zygons (and Vogons!)

Doctor Who Z
Doctor Who has had many writers over the years who have contributed to the deep lore of the show. But some writers stand out and some creatures stand out. 

Today I want to wrap up my A to Z of Doctor Who with the best-known Z creature they have, the Zygons, and maybe their related species the Vogons.


The Zygons are great creatures. They first appeared in "Terror of the Zygons" where they were controlling the Loch Ness Monster. They are shapeshifters, but require special technology to achieve this, and look like they could be related to cephalopods.  This seems confirmed when we meet them again in "The Day of the Doctor."

I like that idea, to be honest. An octopus has natural camouflage abilities, it is likely that the Zygons did too, and then used their superior technology to take it to the next level.  They are the perfect doppelgängers in Doctor Who. 

Like the cryptids I mentioned yesterday, the Zygons kind find their way into myths and legends of the Earth by replacing doppelgängers or changelings (the faerie kind, not the Star Trek kind, though they work too).


Their planet was destroyed as collateral damage in the Time War, so they have taken to settle on Earth. At first they wanted to take it over, but soon realized trying to live in peace and hiding, is a better choice.

But what about their lesser-known cousins? The Vogons?


Now to be fair. Vogons are not really related to the Zygons, at least not in canon. They do share some similarities, though. But their biggest connection comes from the creator of the Vogons, Douglas Adams.

Vogon reading poetry

Douglas Adams has a deep connection to Doctor Who. He was a script editor during the Tom Baker years. He was good friends with Lalla Ward (Romana II) and Richard Dawkins. In fact, he introduced them to each other and they were married. He also wrote some Doctor Who episodes, namely "The Pirate Planet" and "Shada."

Adams' character of Professor Chronotis, aka Salyavin, is a renegade Time Lord (much like the Doctor) and appears in the serial "Shada." Shada is the Time Lord's prison planet where Salyavin was supposedly kept.  Professor Chronotis also appears in a not much-changed appearance in his own novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency."

This has lead some to conjecture that Adams' own "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is part of the Doctor Who universe.  It was at least what we all thought back in the 1980s while reading HHGttG and watching Doctor Who.  My first Doctor Who characters were versions of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Zaphod Beeblebrox. All three of these characters also appear in the 8th Doctor's version of Shada as prisoners. Zaphod I get, but certainly not Arthur.

To make the connections deeper, the BBC TV series of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" aired in 1981. The show has a solid Doctor Who look and feel to it. I swear that they were the same sets half the time. Also Sandra Dickinson, who plays Earth scientist Trillian, was married to Peter Davidson the Fifth Doctor at the time. Their real-life daughter is Georgia Moffett, now Georgia Tennant, who is married to David Tenant, the Tenth Doctor, and Georgia played "Jenny," the Doctor's Daughter in "The Doctor's Daughter."  Confused? Yeah not surprised.

These connections were finally canonized by the Tenth Doctor in "The Christmas Invasion" when walking around in a robe and his "jim-jams" (pajamas), he remarks that he looks "very Arthur Dent. Now there was a nice man."  The novelization of The Christmas Invasion also makes more mentions of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and the Vogons.

So back in the 1980s we just assumed that Zygons and Vogons had to be related and used them as such in the FASA Doctor Who RPG. 

While the Zygons are deadly, I doubt they have anything near as awful as Vogon Poetry

This has been an absolute blast to do. And today's post is a good segway into next month's Sci-Fi Month's topic of the Doctor Who RPGs.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

And that is another April A to Z in books.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 30

 The last room on this level can be accessed via Room 23 or Room 29. The doors to this room are locked.

Room 30

This room appears to have been the start of something, but unfinished in many aspects. There is a flight of stairs carved into the stone with wood for supports. The wood is old, but newer than the rooms above might suggest.

The stairs descend very far down and there is a glow seen at the bottom of the stairs some 100' below.

There are no monsters and no treasure here.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Yeti (and other Cryptids)

Doctor Who Yeti
The Doctor has battled all sorts of monsters over the years. But some of those monsters (ok, more than some) have had their genesis in the myths and legends of Earth. I already talked about Vampires, but today let's look at a few cryptids, starting with our featured creature, the Yeti.

The Yeti

The Yeti first appeared in the Second Doctor serial, "The Abominable Snowmen" (1967). At first, we are led to think these are actual yeti, but they are, in reality, robots controlled by The Great Intelligence, a disembodied entity trying to take over the Earth, but it needs a physical body first.  The Yetis and the Great Intelligence appear again in 1968's "The Web of Fear." 

This reminds of the various "Bigfoot" episodes of The Six-Million Dollar Man. Here Bigfoot was revealed to be a robot sent by aliens. 

Interestingly enough, when we meet the Great Intelligence again in the new series, it is in an episode called "The Snowmen." This time the GI is using animated snowmen (as in made of snow) to do the same thing. 

Patrick Troughton (the Second doctor) often said he would have liked to come back to Doctor Who and just play a monster like the Yeti. No one would know it was him under all that costume.


Reptoids and reptilian humanoids are an old favorite among cryptid hunters and UFOlogists. I even featured them twice in last years A to Z of Conspiracy Theories under C Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis and E Extraterrestrials on Earth.  The Silurians and the Sea Devils fit these ideas perfectly. They are reptilians, and they come not from outer space but from the inner Earth.  The Draconians fit the notion of reptile-like humanoids from space.

Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness monster might be one of the most famous cryptids ever, and good old Nessie appears in Doctor Who's Season 13 opener "Terror of the Zygons" as well.  In this case, as a creature controlled by the Zygons (more on them tomorrow). The Zygons are using Nessie (in reality a creature from the Zygon homeworld called a "Skarasen") to destroy oil rigs that are digging into their underwater base.


Other cryptids like the Chupacabra and the Australian Yowie has appeared in prose and audio dramas of the Doctor not televises.

Like the creatures mentioned above and the Vampires there is a lot of cryptids in the world now that could be made to fit Doctor Who. Creatures from the past, future or other dimensions or planets are all great choices.

I might have to try my hand at stating a few up for the various Doctor Who RPGs.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 29

The door at the rear of Room 28 leads to a finished room exactly like Room 23.

There are four statues in each corner of demonic women standing 7 ft tall. Each holds a sword. There is a fifth statue in the center of the room holding a staff.
Room 23

The statues are really Caryatid Columns

They will only attack people if they attempt to go throw the door straight ahead. 

Whenever a character strikes a caryatid column with a weapon (magical or nonmagical), the weapon takes 3d6 points of damage. Apply the weapon’s hardness normally. Weapons that take any amount of damage in excess of their hardness gain the broken condition.

The caryatid columns do not have treasures, but their swords can be used.  Each Caryatid Column has two masterwork swords they wield. These swords require an 18 strength to use but are treated as a +2 weapon that does 1d10 hp damage.

Additionally, there are two dead orcs here with no treasure or weapons.

Adapted from Pathfinder.

Friday, April 28, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Xoanon

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Xoanon
Doctor Who: You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.

- The Fourth Doctor, The Face of Evil

Ok. The quote is connected to today's topic, but only tangentially. It comes from the same episode, and it is just a great quote. 

If there is one thing you can pretty much guarantee in Sci-Fi, and Doctor Who is no exception, if there is a brilliant artificially intelligent computer then at some point it is going to go mad.

Such is the case with the supercomputer Xoanon from the Mordee expedition. We meet this computer centuries later when the expedition had failed and the Survey Team and Technicians are separated and evolved into different groups of primitive humans, the Sevateem and the Tesh, who both worship the god Xoanon.  The trouble for the Fourth Doctor, the computer is mad and has part of the Doctor's own personality stuck inside it. So it's "Face of Evil" is that of the Fourth Doctor.

I rather enjoyed the whole idea of the insane computer. It is something that Doctor Who would come back to a few more times.

In "The Armageddon Factor," the sixth part of the Key to Time series, the computer Mentalis on the planet Zeos (not sure if the computer company was named after it) was at war with the planet Atrios. The computer is running everything and even takes over K-9.

We get another one in the semi-lost story of "Shada" on Skagra's (our bad guy) spaceship, but it is reprogrammed in end by the Doctor (you think he would have learned by now).

Our next encounter with a crazy computer comes much later on in the time of the 10th Doctor.

We meet up with the Doctor and River Song on The Library where everyone has gone missing. Here we encounter the computer CAL who just keeps repeating the same message over and over.  In this case we learn the computer CAL is actually "Charlotte Abigail Lux" and she is not a computer per se but the consciousness of a girl who died early. Her father created the library so she had every book in the universe to enjoy. She downloaded all the minds of the people in the Library to "save" them (as a computer would) and it was driving her crazy.

The Doctor (ok, really River) fixed her and the Doctor uploaded River to Library computer to watch over her.

There are some others of course. These stories were popular in the 70s when computers started becoming a thing. Now if we want to scare viewers it is less about computers and more about out of control AI.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 28

 In room #25 the other exit (not the one that leads to Room #26) is a locked door. The corridor leads a square room.

War Pigs

Inside this room are two War Pigs. These are Orcs infected with the Devil Swine lycanthropy.  When they see the party, they transform into large boars and attack the party.

They were part of a larger group coming up from the lower levels.

These creatures have 3x Treasure Type C, looted from their previous companions.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who War (The Time War and the War Doctor)

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who War (The Time War and the War Doctor)
DORIUM: The asteroid, where you've made your base. Do you know why they call it Demon's Run?
MANTON: How do you know the location of our base?
DORIUM: You're with the Headless Monks. They're old customers of mine.
KOVARIAN: It's just some old saying.
DORIUM: A very old saying. The oldest. Demons run when a good man goes to war.

- Doctor Who, "A Good Man Goes to War"

Today's quote does not come from the episodes I am covering, but it sums them up very well.

When the new series of Doctor Who was released in 2005 Russel T. Davis was very smart on how much detail to give the viewers. Just enough to get the old fans like me hooked and not too much to scare off the new fans (like my wife).

Over the course of many episodes, we learned something very, very terrible. First, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords. Then later, it was because Gallifrey had been destroyed. Then later because it had been destroyed in the Last Great Time War between Gallifrey and the Daleks.

Over the years, more details emerged. The Time War was so great that there was collateral damage across all of Time and Space. The Daleks and the Time Lords had destroyed much of the universe. Even to the point that regular humans like Cass (Night of the Doctor) knew of Time Lords and their science. 

At one point, the Doctor, tired of running, tired of death, regenerated into something new. The War Doctor, played by veteran actor John Hurt. This time Lord, no longer the Doctor, was a warrior.

The War Doctor with The Moment

"No more."

- The War Doctor

The War Doctor steals a weapon so terrible even the Time Lords won't use it. Known as "The Moment," it will destroy all of Gallifrey and take all the Dalek with it.

This is all detailed in the 50th Anniversary story, "The Day of the Doctor."

After "The Day of the Doctor" aired, I realized that the "New Who" doctors fell into the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief.

  • The Eight Doctor - Denial. He avoids the war he knows he caused and tries to help where he can.
  • The War Doctor - Anger. He turns to fight against the War. Not against the Daleks or even the Time Lords, but the War itself.
  • The Ninth Doctor - Bargaining. He runs. He runs as far away as possible and hopes to make something good.
  • The Tenth Doctor - Depression. I mean, look how he acts. The silly façade is only that. Underneath, he was weighted down with guilt.
  • The Eleventh Doctor - Acceptance. He knows he can't change his past, no matter what.  Or can he?

The Time War was something hinted at in the Doctor Who novels. No surprise, really, since some of the novel and short story writers would later come on to the show, most notably Steven Moffat.

It could be one of the more exciting pieces of Doctor Who lore created for the show. 

House: Fear me! I've killed hundreds of Time Lords!
The Doctor: Fear me. I've killed all of them.

The Doctor, "The Doctor's Wife"

Rewatching old episodes, especially the old Dalek ones, you get the notion that the Daleks have been ramping up their ability to fight, particularly the Time Lords. I mean, from their point of view, the Doctor has been the center of all their most significant defeats. He was there when they were created and slowed down their progress. He was there when they finally broke out of their destroyed cities on Skaro. He was there to defeat them in their attempts to revive themselves or even against their ancient enemies the Movellans. Even the Time Lord's "weapon" (really a scientific device to harness the power of a star), The Hand of Omega, was used to destroy their homeworld of Skaro.

The Doctor may have wanted to avoid this war, but he picked this fight.

DOCTOR: Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that's it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek.
SARAH: Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn't hesitate.
DOCTOR: But I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent lifeform, then I become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks.

The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, "Genesis of the Daleks"

The Time War, and thus the War Doctor, were always going to happen.

The idea was so pervasive that even the novels and the audio productions did their own versions before we saw details of it on TV. The two most powerful groups in the Universe were going to butt heads sooner or later.

As I mentioned before, in the language of the Gamma Forests, the word "Doctor" translates into "Great Warrior."  Another tidbit from "A Good Man Goes to War."

In the time of the 12th Doctor's regeneration, we see what being "The Doctor of War" means, in a way only Capaldi's Doctor could. "Try to be nice, but always be kind."  Which, in a way, influences how his 1st incarnation sees things right before his regeneration into the 2nd Doctor.

The Time War was great, but I hope it holds true to it's name as "The Last Great Time War."

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 27

 A secret door on the far wall of Room #26 opens to a very tight tunnel (party can only go single file at 1/2 speed). It opens to a room with the same dimensions and general layout as Room #23.

The opening into this room is also a hidden door.

Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 27

Once the party enters this room 1d4+1 Wraiths will appear. 

The wraiths will attack. They each have treasure type E.

This room also has another secret door that leads back to Room #20

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Vampires

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Vampires
The Doctor: Do you know, it just occurs to me there are vampire legends on almost every inhabited planet.
Romana: Really?
The Doctor: Yes.

- The Fourth Doctor and Romana II, "State of Decay"

Honestly, it would not be an April A to Z V-Day if I didn't do Vampires, and Doctor Who is no different. You might think a sci-fi family show would not have much to do with Vampires, but it does, and they are part of the show's history.

State of Decay

The first use of vampires was the later Tom Baker story from the Fourth Doctor era, "State of Decay." The Doctor and Romana had fallen into a CVE, or a hole in the universe into another universe (E-Space). 

Here we get the background on vampires in the Doctor Who universe. Long ago in even the ancient times of Gallifrey the Time Lords, led by Rassilon, fought the great Vampires. These creatures were huge (maybe related to the Dæmons as some of the books say) and they "swarmed" across the cosmos draining entire worlds. Rassilon invented the "bow ships" to impale them on a massive spike of steel, the only way to truly kill them. The time Lord destroyed them all except for their leader, the Great Vampire. The Doctor, Romana, and Adric find them in E-Space. Here three human explorers from Earth got trapped in E-Space and began to feed the Great Vampire. It has taken thousands of years to restore him, but the Doctor manages to destroy him once and for all.

One of the vampire humans in this story, Camilla, was obviously named after Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla." Likewise, Camilla shows more than a casual interest in Romana II.

There is an implication here that Time Lords and Vampires share a long history, maybe even before their war.  The various novels in the "New Adventures" series expanded on this.  

Doctor Who Vampire books

I watched "State of Decay" for my October Horror Movie Marathon a while back. I don't have the DVD, but as part of the Tom Baker Season 18 Blu-Ray.

The whole episode was a huge homage to Hammer Horror, much like The Brain of Morbius was.

The Curse of Fenric

This story from the 7th Doctor era is also a favorite of mine. In the far future when the Earth is a toxic dump, it is the home of the Haemovores or mutated humans that needed the blood of others to survive. They could pass on their mutation to others, turning them into vampire-like creatures. They were not undead, like the human-turned-vampires of the Great Vampires, but shared many of the same features.  They were, for example, very suspectable to psychic attacks and a strong-willed human, even ones with no psychic ability, could keep them at bay.

I am uncertain if these creatures are related to the Great Vampires or not; it seems that they are not.

Smith and Jones

The first episode of David Tennant's 2nd season as the Doctor introduces us to Martha Jones and a Plasmavore, a type of vampire-like alien that feeds on blood. This creature is another variation on the vampire theme but has no relationship (as far as I know) to the Great Vampires or even the Haemovores.  Though they do seem more closely related to the Haemovores in their need for the salt content in their victims' blood.

Vampires of Venice

A run with the 11th Doctor exposes Amy and Rory to the Saturnyn, another type of vampire (sexy fish vampires, according to the Doctor). They could live off of the water content in people's blood. They could make humans into their own species by replacing all their blood. 

Fish Vampires

The Saturnyn lost their homeworld due to the cracks in the Universe (caused by the Doctor's exploding TARDIS in the future) and "the Silence" a major plot point for this season.

We will likely see more vampires in the future, hopefully going back to the original Great Vampires. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images (expect for personal ones) are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 26

 There are two exits in Room #25. One to the right as the party came in an one straight ahead.  The exit straight ahead leads to Room #26.

Room #26 is a very rough-cut room. Little more than a cave that has been cleared out. 

Room 26

Inside this room are several (5) Ochre Jellies. But these are bright purple in color. There are others here that are smaller and do not attack.

These Purple Jellies are Ochre Jellies that have been subjected to necromantic magics. Thus they have a bonus +4 to all saves vs. any type of magic. 

They have no treasure but if they can be collected in a glass vial they will fetch 50 gp per standard oil flask/holy water flask size to an alchemist or other arcane researcher.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

New Release: The Nightmare

I woke up to a very pleasant surprise today.

The Nightmare

An adventure I worked on was released in PDF on DriveThruRPG last night. 

The Nightmare

From the Back cover:

You wake up unable to move. There’s a presence in the room. Then you see it. You’re terrifified beyond anything you’ve experienced before. The dark shape with glowing eyes approaches as you lay helpless. You try desperately to move, knowing that you must in order to stop this evil, malevolent thing from attacking. Still the entity nears. A scream forms but doesn’t come out.

The creature is pressing down upon you. Its eyes are all the more horrifying, and now you can make out a hag-like face. “She” has a menacing smile, and apparently is whispering something.

You feel that if you don’t move soon, you will die from sheer fright...

Known by many names across many cultures, the entity commonly referred to as the “old hag” has been a literal nightmare for humanity for centuries. Now it stalks the streets of Stockton, California, returning to locations still haunted by its presence decades before. Spectral forces have incaded the Central Valley. Eliminating them from the community is up to you.

The Nightmare is an exciting new adventure for the FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS roleplaying game module series. Inside you’ll find character cards, a sleep lab map, and a fun night of terrifying gaming.

I really had a lot of fun with this one. 

When I was contacted by Richard Ravalli of Yeti Spaghetti and Friends to do a Fright Nights Classics adventure, I jumped on it.  

The game is designed for games like Chill and Cryptworld, but you can use it with almost any modern horror game. Yes, even NIGHT SHIFT.

I have wanted to write a Chill adventure for years so I was very pleased to get to do this. 


Fright Night Classics is currently in the middle of defending their trademark. So you can get the adventure AND help them out for the same price of the adventure alone. Just head on over to their GoFundMe page and donate $5 then tweet out your donation, tagging Fright Night Classics @chillcryptworld (tag me as well! @timsbrannan) and tell them you want a copy of "The Nightmare!"

Yeah, this won't help the standing on DriveThru, but the money goes to a good cause. 

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who U.N.I.T.

Doctor Who U.N.I.T.
While not a companion in the strictest sense, a group of people have played a similar role for the Doctor, and that is the fine men and women of U.N.I.T.

U.N.I.T., originally the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, is a military organization controlled by the UN. We see U.N.I.T. officers in Britain, America, Germany, and China. 

The task of U.N.I.T. is to protect the Earth from alien threats. Though the history of U.N.I.T. is murky (different on-screen explanations), one thing is for certain U.N.I.T. owes a lot to the Doctor.

We (and the Doctor) spend the most time with the U.N.I.T. HQ in England, first under the command of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, played by the amazing Nicholas Courtney. The Brig was the perfect foil to the 3rd Doctor's shenanigans. But you knew there was always respect between the two, and even a fondness as seen in the actions of the 5th, 7th, 11th, and 12th Doctors. In fact every Doctor from the 2nd Doctor on (with the exceptions of the 6th Doctor and the 8th Doctor of course) has a U.N.I.T. story. Even the 1st Doctor, played by David Bradley in this one, has an encounter with Army officer "Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart" the Brigadier's Grandfather. Though agewise it is more likely it should have been his father. 

The Brig and U.N.I.T. have been so important to the history of Doctor Who that in the modern era when have Kate Stewart, the Brig's daughter and current leader/scientific advisor to U.N.I.T. and played by Jemma Redgrave. 

U.N.I.T. and the Doctor

I talked about U.N.I.T. a bit when I talked about Quatermass. They share quite a number of similarities. 

U.N.I.T. is also a great stand-in for the Doctor in various stories and Role-Playing Games

We had a Torchwood spin-off, I always thought a U.N.I.T. spinoff would be fun. There are U.N.I.T. novels, audio dramas, and supplements for the major Doctor Who RPGs. So one can get involved in the Doctor's universe and never even see the Doctor. He becomes, as Maj. Blake says in The Christmas Invasion, "the stuff of legends." 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 25

 This tunnel leads off of room #24. This room (Room #25) appears to be a natural cavern that had been carved to appear more finished.

Room 25

If the characters have been to Room #23 then this room looks like it was being carved to look like that.

There are no creatures in this room, but there are still some cutting tools that would work as weapons. Two pick axes that do 1d6 hp damage per attack.

Monday, April 24, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who TARDIS

"It's bigger on the inside than on the outside!" 

- Every companion when they first enter the TARDIS.

Nearly as ubiquitous as the Doctor themself and more so than say the Sonic Screwdriver is the Doctor's TARDIS.

The TARDIS, an acronym for Time And Relative Dimensions in Space, is the Doctor's time and space travel machine. It is powered by a captured black hole known as the Eye of Harmony.  It can (or at least is supposed too) blend in with any environment, and most famously it is bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The Doctor's TARDIS (and it is never "Tardis" or "tardis") is presently stuck in the shape of a late 1950s early 60s style Police Public Call Box. The mechanism that allows it to blend in, the Chameleon Circuit, was broken, so when he landed in 1963 it was stuck in that form can could not change to anything else. The Doctor tried to fix it on a couple of occasions, but it seems now (at least implied by Donna in her DoctorDonna incarnation) he just doesn't want to fix it. The Sixth Doctor tried to fix it ("Attack of the Cybermen") but it still ends up not working right. 

We learn from the 10th Doctor that a TARDIS was not really built but grown on Gallifrey. And there seems to be an organic structure to them as seen in "The Doctor's Wife" when his TARDIS' consciousness is given a voice. 

The Doctor's TARDIS is old. Typically referred to as a "Type 40" or even a "Mark 1" this TARDIS has been called a "museum piece" by River Song on one occasion. When we encounter "The Fugitive Doctor" (Jo Martin) for the first time, her TARDIS looks almost brand new. Leading more credence to the idea that her Doctor was removed from the Doctor's memories a very long time ago.

The TARDIS has the ability to rearrange its own internal environment as seen in more than a few episodes. The ability to add or remove rooms as needed. And even change the configuration of the control room, or as the newer Doctors have put it, "changing the desktop."  Something that usually prompts an older Doctor to comment, "Oh, you've redecorated. I don't like it."  In fact, it has become something of a running gag in Doctor Who.

As much as "The Enterprise" is a character in Star Trek, the TARDIS is even more so. It has a mind and will of it's own. And as the TARDIS herself (in the form of the wonderful Suranne Jones) says:

The Doctor: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go.
Idris/The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

Which is true. 

To summarize the TARDIS in a single blog post is folly. Sixty years of television has made for a lot to say. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 24

Going all the way back to Room #17 the other exit on the far side of the cave. This winding tunnel opens up to a semi-finsihed cave system. 

Owl Bears

This cave is the home to a small family of Owl Bears. There is a male, his mate, their "chub" and an adolescent male. 

If the party does not attack the owl bears they will also not attack in return. They are hungry, but wary of others. If the party tosses them some meat the owl bears will lead them to a small stash of treasure they have discovered (but have no use for) Treasure type C x5.

If the party attacks the oldest three will attack. 

Note: It has become generally accepted that a baby Owl Bear is called a "Chub."

Sunday, April 23, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Day (and Night) of the Doctor

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Day (and Night) of the Doctor
Another Sunday special today. In 2013 we were hit with a bunch of Doctor Who special event episodes to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the show. At this point, Doctor Who had never been more popular, and in addition to a series of stories leading up to the 50th, the Anniversary episode itself was going to be shown in select theatres. 

It was all quite exciting.

The Anniversary episodes had always featured all the Doctors. But now we 50 years in. The first three Doctor Who actors had passed, Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, was nearly 80 years old. Christopher Eccleston, the ninth Doctor, had already announced he was not coming back. Then we got hit with the big surprise!

The Name of the Doctor

This was the penultimate episode before the Anniversary. In this the Doctor is forced to go to his own grave in the future in the fields of Trenzalore. When a Time Lord dies the scars of all their travels in Time and Space are laid bare; there is no body. Here a former enemy (going back to the Second Doctor days) The Great Intelligence, has set a trap for the Doctor. The plan is to lure the Doctor into his own time stream and collapse it, removing the Doctor Who history.  

The Doctor is, however saved by Clara, who jumps into his time stream, where she interacts with all his past lives. Sometimes he remembers her most times he doesn't but it explains why she has popped up in his life in different times and places. He is further saved by what can only be described as a "time ghost" of River Song. 

In this episode we see all the Doctors (well as fleeting ghosts and flashbacks) but there is one here we do not recognize. Clara says she sees 11 faces, 11 Doctors, but not this one. The Doctor tells us that this ghost is him, but not "The Doctor!"

Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor

And then we had to wait six months!

Night of the Doctor

Our next adventure with the Doctor is almost as exciting. Ok, It actually., and you can watch the whole episode online.

"I'm the Doctor. But probably not the one you expected."

- The Eighth Doctor, Night of the Doctor

Paul McGann is back as the Eighth Doctor! And so are the Sisterhood of Karn and Clare Higgins (well-known to many Hellraiser fans). This also gives the Eighth Doctor his proper regeneration scene, and he regenerates into a young John Hurt who is called "The War Doctor" now.  

The Day of the Doctor

This movie-sized event brings back the 11th Doctor and Clara, the 10th Doctor and we see what the deal is with the War Doctor. I will be going into much greater detail on him and the Time War on "W" day.

The Day of the Doctor

We also get "Rose Tyler" back, or more to the point, "The Bad Wolf." So even Billie Piper was on board. The War Doctor is about to use The Moment to destroy all of Gallifrey and the Daleks, but he is shown his personal future with the 10th and 11th Doctors. He is sent back to Time War to commit the act that "Silences the Universe" (and turns him into the dark legend that the People of the Gamma Forests know as "The Great Warrior" which in their language is "Doctor".)

This time (or originally as the case maybe) the 10th and 11th Doctors meet him there (something they are not supposed to be to do) and all three decide to do it together.  Until 11 has an idea.

Using the stasis cubes used to create "Time Lord Art" (a moment in time frozen forever) they are going to freeze the whole planet and remove it from time and let the Daleks kill each other in the cross fire.

What happens is one of the best Anniversary moments ever.

I mean, wow! Not just all 12 Doctors, but even Nine (from a previous episode like the others) AND a sneak peek at the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi who had only recently been announced.

We even get something special in the very end. The Doctors are all headed back to their own time streams while the Eleventh Doctor is still looking at the painting of "Gallifrey Falls" that gave him the idea when a familiar, very familiar, voice is heard.  Tom Baker walks in as "The Curator" but leaves you doubt of Who he really is.

This sets things up rather nicely for the 60th Anniversary coming up. How?

Well here is the last episode we got. Jodie Whitaker's 13th Doctor regenerates into...well let's just say "an old favorite."

Now we have to wait six months. Again!

I am not sure how the 60th Anniversary will be able to top the 50th, but right now it is off to an interesting start.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 23

A secret door in room #22 leads to a hallway of cut stone and not a cave passage. It opens up to a perfectly square room. There are four statues in each corner of demonic women standing 7 ft tall. Each holds a sword. There is a fifth statue in the center of the room holding a staff.

Room 23

The statues are really Caryatid Columns

They will only attack people if they attempt to go throw the door straight ahead. 

Whenever a character strikes a caryatid column with a weapon (magical or nonmagical), the weapon takes 3d6 points of damage. Apply the weapon’s hardness normally. Weapons that take any amount of damage in excess of their hardness gain the broken condition.

The caryatid columns do not have treasures, but their swords can be used.  Each Caryatid Column has two masterwork swords they wield. These swords require an 18 strength to use but are treated as a +2 weapon that does 1d10 hp damage.

Adapted from Pathfinder.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who River Song

River Song
The Doctor: Oh, you're not, are you? Tell me you're not archaeologists.
Professor River Song: Got a problem with archaeologists?
The Doctor: I'm a time traveler. I point and laugh at archaeologists.
Professor River Song: [offering handshake]  Ah. Professor River Song, archaeologist. 

The Doctor and River, Silence in the Library

There can be endless debates on who was the best companion. Rose vs. Clara, Sarah Jane vs. Leela, Mel vs. Ace. Just kidding, no one liked Mel (poor Bonnie Langford!).  But there can be no doubt the companion who had the biggest impact on the Doctor and his stories was "the child of his best friends" and his wife, Professor River Song. Played by the AMAZING Alex Kingston.

We are introduced to River in the episodes she dies, Silence in the Library/Forrest of the Dead. She meets the 10th Doctor, and she seems to know him well, but they are also "squabbling like an old married couple." And then River does something. Something no other companion has ever done before or since.

She tells the Doctor his name. Not "The Doctor," his real name, the one he tells no one.

I mean, how is that for an entrance?  

We do go on to see River more and more, but her history and the Doctor's ar all messed up. They keep meeting out of order. So they keep diaries to figure out where they both are at any given time. 

River was the brainchild of writer, then showrunner (during the 11th and 12th Doctors) Steven Moffat. He based her somewhat on the book "The Time Traveler's Wife," which he would later adapt as a series on HBO.

THAT in an of itself would have made River very interesting. But it was her next big reveal that stunned everyone.  

In the episode "A Good Man Goes to War," the Doctor and Rory assemble an army to take back Rory's wife, Amy, and their baby daughter, Melody.  The Doctor calls in all his favors, and everyone shows up, except for River Song. When she finally does she tells the Doctor there was nothing she could do to stop it. Why?

She would have been erasing her own timestream is why. Because River Song is Melody Pond.

NO ONE saw that one coming. 

The Doctor and River had all their adventures, just not always in the same order (we still don't know much about Jim the Fish) but one day was going to be the last day the Doctor saw River and he tried to avoid it as much as he could.

To quote River herself,

“When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it'll never end. But however hard you try you can't run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever for one moment, accepts it. Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair, and the Doctor comes to call... everybody lives.”

I could spend the next few days talking about how awesome River Song is. While I do want her to come back I also accept that her story has been played out in full. We know she and the Doctor had a wonderful life and we all also knew there was no way the Doctor would have been able to stay with her forever. Their story is wonderful and sad in all the right places and that is good.

If anyone asks how do you kill off a beloved character and make it matter, I always point to River Song, the Doctor's Wife.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 22

This rough-cut hall straight on from rooms 18 and 20 leads to a room that is half natural cave and the rest is cut and shaped walls.

Room 22

This room is full of crystal balls. They show scenes from different parts of the dungeon and different worlds, but it is difficult to tell what is what.

Many are broken and dark. All are too massive to carry and will not fit into a bag of holding. The crystal balls can be destroyed, but each one requires 340 hp of blunt damage. Every hit with a weapon has a 50% chance of that weapon being broken.

There are no creatures here, but many gems are embedded in the various stands for the crystal balls. Each (20) grants Treause Type L.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Fundraiser Friday

Photo by Liza Summer
Photo by Liza Summer
Something a little different today.

I have been rather fortunate. I have a great job. I have a wife who has a great job. We have a roof over our heads, we can put food on the table, and we are all healthy and happy.  That has not always been the case. I can remember times where I didn't have money for food, or when I did it was lean times. I was a grad student in the 90s and went 3 months without a paycheck because the State of Illinois could not make their budget. I was out of a job in the early 2000s for the longest time. I grew up without much. So when people have it rough I can empathize. 

Professional Game design is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Lots of game designers live paycheck to paycheck. So when an unexpected hardship hits, it is felt.

Here are a few game designers that could use some help and every little bit helps.

Owen's Medical Bills Bundles

Owen K.C. Stephens suffered a pulmonary embolism back in February. As you can imagine, the bills have been pretty bad. There are two bundles from publishers he has worked with in the past on DriveThruRPG that you can buy to support him.  He gets some help and you get over 180 PDFs. Even if you just find one or two in here to use it is worth the price.

Jonathan M. Thompson Memorial

I mentioned this on before and it should be repeated. But a good friend and publisher Jonathan M. Thompson passed away a while back and left his family with some expenses. There is a DriveThruRPG bundle and a GoFundMe in place for him.

Fright Night Classics

Another good friend and publisher Richard Ravalli is having to go to court to defend his trademark. 

Cam Banks Support Fundraiser

Another designer in need of a bit of help from a lawsuit is Cam Banks. No lawsuit is fun and no matter which side of it you are on it is a messy and expensive affair. He has a Givealittle campaign (the GoFundMe of NZ I think) set up to give him some help.

So instead of giving $8 a month to a narcissistic billionaire, why not spend it on someone that will actually benefit from it all AND you can help out their lives.

Note: I am not getting any "kickback" from any of these and there are NO affiliate links here. I am asking this because these folks all need our help. RPGs is based on communities and group work. We as a group can make things better for others. And we should.

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Role-Playing Games

Doctor Who RPGs
You didn't think I would do this whole A to Z and not mention RPGs?

My exposure to Doctor Who was coterminous with my exposure to RPGs and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. When I would go to bookstores, my goal was always a new D&D book and a new Doctor Who novel.  So when in the mid-80s I discovered that FASA (a company I knew of from their Star TrekRPG) had also done a Doctor Who RPG. Well, I had to get it. 

Well. Actually, my brother got it first. But I spent a lot of time reading it. 

FASA Doctor Who

I enjoyed the Star Trek RPG (and still do), and this one was a new experience for me. I had tried to play Traveller back then (I finally got around to it) and played Star Frontiers, but this was Doctor Who. It was an officially licensed game, and I loved it. 

The FASA Doctor Who game took some liberties with the Doctor Who cannon. It had to. Even in the 1980s, Doctor Who was 20 years old and had stories all over the place. Some were contradictory to each other, and some others had taken place in "the future," which was now in the past. It was always entertaining to read about something that was supposedly going on then. Reading in 1985 about the Cyberman Invasion of 1986 in the past tense was fun. 

Over the years I have collected the entire FASA Who series. It hasn't been cheap but it has been fun.

FASA Doctor Who RPG

FASA Doctor Who RPG

Given the closeness of the rules to their own Star Trek RPG I am still half-tempted (ok, more than half) to run a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover.  Tom Baker era Who with TOS era Trek. 

Time Lord

Time Lord was another Doctor Who RPG. This one was written by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans and published in 1991 by Virgin Publishing. I knew of it, but never played it. I also never owned a copy.

Much like the original release of the Indiana Jones RPG there were no character creation rules, just pre-gens of the Doctor and various companions. 

The game was released in paperback book form. This was not a surprise since the publisher, Virgin, was a book publisher and not a game publisher. Virgin had made their mark in Doctor Who fandom with  Target books novelizations of the classic Doctor Who episodes and the "New Adventures" product line of new stories featuring the Seventh Doctor at first and then moving into the Eighth and other Doctors. 

In 1996 the entire game with some unpublished supplements was released online.

Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space

The latest version of the Doctor Who RPG comes to us from Cubicle 7. If you have been a long-time reader here you know my fondness and history with this game. It is now currently in its Second Edition.

Doctor Who RPG

Doctor Who RPG

It is a fantastic game and has provided me an endless amount of fun. There has been a printing featuring in turn the 10th, 11th, War, 12th and 13th Doctors. I don't have them all since they had minor changes between each one, though I did get them on PDF.

Additionally, I have all the guides for the various Doctors. 

Doctor Who RPG books

Honestly, I could spend forever talking about these games.

Since I typically dedicate May to Sci-Fi RPGs maybe I'll spend my May going through all of these.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 4, Room 21

Going to the right in Room 20 leads to a small tunnel that opens into a huge cave.  The cave is bright with eldritch light.  But that is not all that is strange about this room.

Les Yeux sans visage

The walls are covered in thousands of eyes. All sorts of eyes. Human eyes, demon eyes, elf eyes, dragon eyes.

The eyes watch all movement in the room and follow the party as they walk through.  If any of the eyes are stabbed, then they bleed.  At some point, all the eyes will shut and the cave will go completely dark.

If the characters spend more than a turn in this room they need to make a save vs. Petrification. A failed save means the character will try to get out of the room as quickly as they can.

There is no monsters or treasure in this room.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Rose Sisters, Witches of the Hill (B5 Horror on the Hill)

B5 Horror on the Hill, Rosabella and Rosalinda

I was going through all my notes for my 1979 Campaign centered around the Keep on the Borderlands as a Pathfinder-like adventure path.

I have found that there are a lot of people out there who are equally fascinated with the B1 and B2 adventures, that this is something I spend a long time doing. I would not even have to add anything else to it all.

So, of course, what am I doing?  Adding something else to it.  

I noticed I did not have a copy of B5 Horror on the Hill. I always kind of wanted it since I knew a little bit about it and it was from the "Golden Age" of D&D. I had never bought a copy because by 1983 (when it was published) I had moved on to AD&D instead.  More folly for me I guess.  The recent GM's Day Sale at DriveThru had it on sale, so I grabbed the PDF and Print on Demand versions.  While waiting for the print I read through it a bit and found it would make a great addition to the surrounding of Keep. In fact, I think I would merge Guido's Fort and the Keep into one place. I am certainly not the first to think this or try this.

I was reading through the rumor table and saw this:

rumors of witches

I don't think you quite get the thrill I get when I am reading an older D&D product and there are witches in it! It is not something I am going to get to experience much more of, but it is always special.

So B5, Horror on the Hill has a rumor about an evil witch, and it is marked as TRUE?  Hell yeah!

Well, not so fast. There are two spellcasting women living on the Hill. But they are not really witches and they are a far cry from evil.

At least it is encounter #13.  

I am fine with them not being evil, but a cleric and a magic user? Must be something in the water around here that they all decide to live together. But I also know an opportunity when I see it.

We have two elderly women, Rosabella, 5th level and Rosalinda, 6th level, living near an area where there are ghouls, hobgoblins, rumors of a dragon, and more? In a cabin that is bigger on the inside?

Yeah, they are certainly witches.  But what kind?

Since this is overtly a BECMI product and from 1983 no less, I think my earliest OSR Witch book would be best suited for these two.  I also could not help but think of the sisters Ada Brook and Agnes van Rhijn in The Gilded Age on HBO played by Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski, as Rosabella and Rosalinda, respectively.

Rosabella & Rosalinda, The Rose Sisters

How these two witches came to live on the Hill is something lost to time out of mind. It is known that they are the last of the Rose Witch Coven that had operated in the area for many years and they inherited their magic home from their mother.  

Both sisters are Family Tradition witches, with their knowledge of witchcraft handed down throughout the ages. Rosalinda had a son, but he seems to have had no intention of marrying and has so far not produced any female heirs to their family's tradition.

They now live in this cabin/mansion and barter and trade with the local Keep when possible and with the various demi-humans who fear them.

B5 Horror on the Hill, Rosabella and Rosalinda

5th level Witch, Family Tradition

S: 12 I: 13 W: 14 D: 12 C: 13 Ch: 17

AC: 6 (Ring of Protection +3)
HP: 20

Attack: 1, by spell

Occult Powers: Familar (Spirit of a long-dead ancestor)

Cantrips: (5) Alarm Ward, Clean, Detect Curse, Mend Minor Wounds, Quick Sleeping
First Level: (2) Detect Invisible, Magic Circle vs. Evil
Second Level: (2) Hold Person, Scare
Third Level: (1) Stop Thief

6th level Witch, Family Tradition

S: 10 I: 13 W: 12 D: 10 C: 10 Ch: 15

AC: 9
HP: 17

Attack: 1, by spell

Occult Powers: Familar (Spirit of a long-dead ancestor)

Cantrips: (4) Arcane Mark, Daze, Mend, Spark
First Level: (3) Cause Fear, Sleep, Spirit Dart
Second Level: (2) Minor Image, Phantasmal Spirit
Third Level: (2) Fly, Mirror Image

Pretty good if you ask me. They are high-level to characters of the 1st to 3rd level to be sure.  Though I think they should be higher to keep the various monsters at bay.  Mind you they have desire to fight them, just scare them a little. 

And like all proper witches, they have a Tea Ritual. They are not above adding a sleeping draught to the tea of rude guests and sending them on their way. 

Looking forward to seeing what else I can do with this adventure!

Basic Witches