Wednesday, May 10, 2023

FASA Doctor Who RPG: Part 3 The Supplements

Getting back into my exploration of the FASA Doctor Who RPG.  Each adds more detail to three of the Doctor's deadliest foes.  Each was also sold as a two-book set, a player's book and a GM's guide. As expected, it more difficult to find the Player's books in the 2nd hand market these days.

Doctor Who supplements

The Daleks

Naturally the first supplement covers the Doctor's and the Time Lords' greatest threat, the Daleks. Here we have a Game Master's guide (the full color cover) and the Player's in-universe guide. 

The Daleks

Game Master's Book

This 40 page book covers everything known about the Daleks up to 1985.  We are given some background on them for the show, how they were created by Terry Nation (who still owned the copyright then) for Doctor Who and so on. We then get right into the in-game background.  We are given a time line of the Daleks from the time when the first humanoids evolved on Skaro to the "modern" day.  There is a lot of background on Skaro, the Kaled/Thal wars, and Davros.

I should point out here that while there is a lot of cannon taken directly from the show, there is also a lot of added material. Designed mostly to feature the exploits of the fictional C.I.A. (Celestial Intervention Agency) and to help "smooth out" some of the time line inconsistencies from the show. One example is a picture of a pre-mutated version of Davros. Another are some of the planets that the Daleks have conquered. 

There are some sections on the various aliens that have the most contact with the Daleks such as the Movellans, the Ogrons, and the Thals.

Dalek psychology is discussed and since Daleks are think alike and rely on tried and true methods, there are some handy flowcharts of what any given Dalek will do in any situation.

The Player's Book: The Dalek Problem

Now this 24-page book covers the Dalek from the point of view of the characters in the game, or more to the point characters that will be working for the C.I.A.  So there are truths, half-truths, and outright lies here. For example, the same timeline is repeated here with many omissions.  I am okay with that. Players entering this game will already know a lot, so there should still be some mysteries.

Overall the two books could have been combined into one book with a Players and Game Masters sections, but I do like the presentation.

What strikes me most about this book is how in hindsight you can see how the Time War was built up. Yes neither the Doctor Who writers or FASA were thinking about these things then, but the seeds are all here.  Honestly I can see a rogue bunch of C.I.A. agents breaking the Time Lock and trying to go back and stop the Daleks as they are presented here in a sort of "Let's kill Hitler" scheme. 

The Master

The greatest foe the Doctor has ever faced is the renegade Time Lord known as the Master.  Like the Daleks he is responsible for countless deaths and like the Daleks product, comes in two books.

The Master

Game Master's Book

This 64-page book is packed full of information. Like all the FASA books though, there is information from the show and stuff created for the game. So fantastic for a game resource but less useful as a guide to the character on the TV show.

In a very nice touch, there is a dedication to Roger Delgado on the first page. But I understand they could not use many of the photos of either Delgado or Ainley in this book, so there is a lot of art here. Even the cover is a painting of the Delgado Master in Ainley's normal costume. 

We get a recounting of his adventures from the Meddling Monk (which I don't agree with) up to the run of the 6th Doctor. I mean, even the War Chief is presented as a different Time Lord here. 

Like the Dalek book, there is a long timeline presented, but as a time traveler, this can get messy. 

We get the motivations behind what the Master does, his goals, and a bit of psychology/history. We also get some of his equipment and listings of other Renegade Time Lords, some of who now work for the C.I.A. We end with a full character sheet for his latest incarnation. 

Player's Book: The Master CIA File Extracts

This 16 page book covers what CIA field agents will know about the Master. This covers similar material including the Prydonian Academy Rebellion mention in the previous book and the Core rules. I can't recall if that was ever mentioned in the classic series or not. I am leaning towards not. 

The Cybermen

While certainly a deadly enemy of the Doctor, and a reoccurring one, they never quite matched the evil of the Daleks or the Master. These two books also were published in 1986 and they do feel different in a way.   

The Cybermen

Game Master's Book

Moreso than the Daleks the Cybermen have a very convoluted history. We start with Mondas, the "twin planet" of Earth aka the 10th Planet. The coverage of Mondas is way beyond anything given in the show. In fact I get a solid feel of "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun" here, which , honestly, I am ok with.  There is also the ubiquitous timeline, with bits added in. 

The interesting parts come from how the Cybermen deal with others and other planets. Since they are cybernetic race controlled by a central "cyber mind" (this would later be called the Cyberiad in the time of the 11th Doctor) there is a hand flow chart for any Cyberman interaction.

There is coverage of the various Cyberman models over the years. And ideas on how to use them in adventures. We even get a nice map of the Tomb of the Cybermen, an episode I recently rewatched.

Player's Book: The Cyber Files CIA Special Report

This 16-page book is notable because it tries to explain Mondas. The book covers some more time line; fewer entries but in greater detail, and has a whole long section on the companions of the Doctor that have encountered the Cybermen. Ok that part is less useful. 

In reading both these books I fear there was a tendency to make Mondas and the Cybermen into pale imitations of the Skaro and the Daleks. Something that the 10th Doctor episode "Doomsday" proves to be pointless. 


All three of these supplements are very useful for the FASA Doctor Who RPG.  I wouldn't say you *need* them to play, but they are fun to have. There is even enough information here for use with the other Doctor Who RPGs as well, though as to be expected there will be contradictions.

Sadly they are long out of print and finding them is a bit of a struggle. I can't recommend them unless you are playing the FASA RPG and are a super-fan of the topics covered.


Dick McGee said...

Poor cybermen, always kind of a distant third among the big Who baddies, if they even manage that these days.

"(this would later be called the Cyberiad in the time of the 11th Doctor)"

See, that doesn't help me take them seriously at all, because Stanislaw Lem wrote an absolutely hilarious collection of short stories called the Cyberiad. Pretty much robot fairy tales and myths, not quite like anything else he wrote although you can still see some of teh absurdist humor shining through.

PT Dilloway said...

So is any of the stuff they wrote in these for the game actually canon? Or is it like a lot of the Star Wars stuff that came out in the 80s-2000s and not considered an official part of the lore?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

If any of it made it into canon, then it was by accident or coincidence. I have gone through these books and nothing jumps out at me save for maybe the seeds of the Time War, but that had been building on the show too.

In this case, it is rather like the Star Trek RPG also from FASA. Here though I feel the show writers went out of their way to contradict things in the game. Or at least it felt that way.

And to be honest "canon" is a slippery topic in Doctor Who anyway. We are constantly reminded that time can be rewritten.