Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Doctor Who:Night of the Jackal

I had planned to run a Doctor Who RPG session at my birthday party last year, but that never came to pass. However, we managed to do it this year and it was a lot of fun.

Our characters were:

Bob Ross: Soft-spoken be-afroed painter of public television fame. In this universe, he has some kind of a Dorian Gray kind of immortality (he keeps meaning to complete that self-portrait, but always gets distracted by all those happy little accidents)

A time-displaced Anne Boleyn: Rescued the day before her execution. She is not sure what to make of the futuristic world of Victorian London, but she is determined to live her life to its fullets.

Coraline Magnus: Apprentice Time Lady working who had heard from her friend Romana that earth was a pretty great place. She’s working at the Red Tavern.

We also had two characters who dropped out of the game after an hour. Both players were kids, and they were expecting something different than what they got.

Chrysanthemum “Chrissie”  Íroas: A gallfreyan Time Tot who was enrolled in Hogwarts and sorted into Ravenclaw. She graduated at fifteen, but was unable to go home, because the Time Lords weren’t scheduled to pick her up for three more years and there were no protocols in place to bring her back early. Her player decided that her parents had sent her to earth because Gallifrey was going to be destroyed, which was news to Coraline.

Reaper from Overwatch: Hilariously violent and inappropriate. The party was attending a funeral as part of their investigation. When asked by the dead man’s sister how he knew the deceased, Reaper(falsely) claimed, “I killed him.”

Also of note was the Terminator trying to pass (unsuccessfully) as Sherlock Holmes. He overshot his mark by about a hundred years and he's just killing time solving mysteries while he waits for Sarah Connor to be born.
I modified a published adventure, Night of the Jackals, from Cthulhu by Gaslight.  My original intent had been to run A Night in the Lonesome October game, but that idea fell by the wayside and the only vestige of it was that the two games happened to share the same Victorian London setting.

Of our three adult players, only one had ever played in a tabletop RPG, but they really took to it extremely well. Most people with whom I played began in adolescence.  They were great for first time role-players. They even came in costume!

We opened with Coraline receiving a message on her space-time telegraph.

Just then, Alan Paice, the owner of the Red Tavern (in this continuity) showed up and apologized to Coraline. He’d have to miss their weekly lunch because he had to attend the funeral of an old army buddy.

The party tagged along to the funeral and began investigating.  The kids disappeared at this point, and we all agreed that their characters were keeping an eye on Alan.

The other characters unraveled the mystery and the whole thing went very smoothly. I’m of the school of thought that players should never miss a vital clue due to a bad roll.  The trick shouldn’t be getting the information; the trick is putting it together correctly to reach the proper conclusion.

I think the biggest failure of the night was on me. I introduced the baddie later than I should have, and the scenario is set up to establish another character as a red herring. I didn’t want to lead them to the wrong conclusion by not giving them enough information. That’s not fair to do to new players and it’s a good way to sour them on the game. Unfortunately, I think I laid it on a little too thick. As soon as he showed up they called a sidebar and basically said, “This guy is obviously the villain.”

(In my defense, we were four hours by that point, and I think hurrying things along was probably the best choice, but it certainly could have been handled with a bit more finesse.)

We had some memorable moments, like the women putting on pants in order to pass as men to sneak into a gentleman’s club and the climax of the adventure came when Anne Boleyn chopped the head off the jackal-headed monster. Everybody was good, but Anne’s character was simply born to play that role.

It was all delightfully silly and everyone had a lot of fun.

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