Diary of the Doctor Who Role-Playing Games #1 - Humble Beginnings...

By the time I discovered it, this PDF magazine was already on its 13th issue (it's now on its 18th), but being a Doctor Who RPG fan, I had to print them all out on the spot. Since then, I've read bit and pieces, but I've only recently decided to read them from cover to cover, and I'll report my findings here, as occasion permits.Issue 1 PDF - April 7th 2010
The title refers to how short the first issue is. At 20 pages (including covers), it's a far cry to the magazine's eventual standard size at 54 pages. It is nonetheless in full-color, making liberal (fair) use of full-color pictures from the show and the 'net. The black front and back covers are a bit of a pain for would-be printers, gobbling up toner even in grayscale. And notably, none of the articles have credits, which may mean editor Nick "Zepo" Seidler is responsible for all of them (he even signs the cartoon).

I probably won't mention the editorial in future issues, but I'll use it here as an opportunity to talk about the project, its origins and its focus. What is most impressive and surprising is that the fanzine marks Zepo's Doctor Who campaign celebrating its 25th anniversary. That's quite an accomplishment! I don't know if the group started out with FASA's version of the RPG and ended up using Timelord and DWAITAS, but the 'zine will at least publish material for all three, and more besides. In fact, it hopes to take a look at every kind of Doctor Who gaming, and two years after this issue, it's possible to say it succeeds, and that a real effort is made to make fans of ANY version quite happy.

The issue features two reviews. The first is the then just-out Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG (Cubicle 7), surely part of the impetus to create the Diary. A new Who RPG in print creates a demand for relevant gaming resources. Though it spans two pages, it feels a little perfunctory to me, and doesn't go into the things I personally felt made it special, like the initiative system. The "Retro-Review" features the War of the Daleks board game and makes me want to play it RIGHT NOW! Look at this beauty:
Oh, vintage games, why you so outside my prince range? I could definitely see myself integrating it into an actual RPG encounter as the characters scramble to get to the Dalek control chamber.

When the 'zine finds something interesting, it makes sure to let you know. In this case, there are short pieces on a custom dice service and a TARDIS control room floor plan available on the Internet. The issue's biggest feature article, however, is a Game Mastering Tips column on character death. It covers all the bases, including the added wrinkle of regeneration, and even gave an old dog like me (my role-playing "career" is as old as Zepo's Who game) a couple of ideas. The tips on fair play sidebar seem to be coming strictly from a place of Old School gaming however, and seem to infer some kind of mistrust between players and GM. One story told in the main article of 32 deaths occurring in 33 adventures harks back to those olden times, and due to the timing of the issue's publication, there doesn't seem to be a Newer School approach to the topic inspired by DWAITAS' handling of it.

One of the most useful tools gaming magazines offer, especially for an aging GM on the go, is adventure scenarios, which the Diary calls "Modules" (charmingly retro!). Issue 1 has two, neither with any stats or mechanics, making them easy to adapt to whatever system is your favorite.
-Matchstick Men: A Torchwood crossover that could conceivably be played only with Your Own Torchwood(TM), but also allows the GM to play the part of your Cardiff favorites opposite the players' TARDISeers. It's a relatively good mash-up of TW procedural and Whovian troubleshooting, though it could have used a better use of pronouns in the writing of it and avoided some awkward repetition.
-Sparkles in the Sky: You know when Doctor Who does an episode whose events inspire a work of fantastic literature? This is it, and I won't ruin the surprise for prospective players. A clear winner, it's clever and has great potential for varied tasks and emotional content. I'd give extra Story Points for figuring it out before the end and somehow playing into it. The best recommendation I can give, it that it makes me want to play.

And more
The only other feature this time around is Zepo's "Our UNIT" cartoon, a primitive drawing of a clever joke. I, for one, don't mind the naive style so long as the joke is a good one. At 20 pages, that's all there is, though I should remark on the 'zine's tradition of announcing what material can be found in the next issue, which is a great way to let us know there's more to come.

With the next ish, the page count goes up to 44, but I'll let you know what I'm done.


Anonymous said...

What a nice review of the fanzine. Happy to see that people are enjoying it. cheers for all your gaming contributions as well!

Feel free to contact us directly at seidler@msoe.edu sometime. Would love to feature some Siskoid stuff in our 'zine.

Siskoid said...

A message from the zine that was gobbled up by the system:

What a nice review of the fanzine. Happy to see that people are enjoying it. cheers for all your gaming contributions as well!

Feel free to contact us directly at seidler@msoe.edu sometime. Would love to feature some Siskoid stuff in our 'zine.

Siskoid said...

And my answer:
I'll make that happen! And watch for a review of the second this very weekend.


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