Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Matte Painting, the Styrofoam Rock, and the Rubber Suit

I’d borrowed the FASA Doctor Who Role Playing Game from a friend for a good while back in the day. I was not really game master material at the time, but I would spend hours paging through the lavish books of the set attempting to find some clue of how to play the game. I stayed up late on Saturdays to watch episodes on public television… I bought novelizations… I bought the figures and even an adventure module for the game… but I never could wrap my head around it. The closest I came to running anything was when I attempted to run a disastrous GURPS Humanx adventure for some friends….

Nowadays, though, I eat games like this for breakfast. I broke it out the other night, rolled some dice and filled out a System Log, World Log, Alien Creature Record, and Civilization Log and… bam! I immediately had this fully formed idea for an adventure plot. Yeah, it was a total rip off of a novel from the seventies, a comic book from the eighties, and elements of an otherwise completely horrible science fiction series… but you know, it was my rip off. And of course, “rip off” means recognizable plot elements which means players can focus on playing rather than listening to me and… and…. Hey, what the heck has happened to my brain…?! I mean seriously….

Ah well… never mind. I was pleased with the results, so I ran off six copies of the various Logs and started filling them up with the idea that I could someday pull them out for inspiration. On the off chance that you might want to do the same, let me tell you the basic features of these systems:

  • The planetary and civilization stuff were pretty much lifted start from the second edition FASA Star Trek. This is why the various record sheets are designated as “logs” and why the rule books are called “manuals”.
  • The focus here is entirely on terrestrial worlds. You know nothing else about the system except for these– there is no star map, no information on gas giants or asteroid belts, nothing!
  • Not only is it extremely likely for there to be two or more terrestrial planets in the same star system, but those worlds are also extremely likely to share the same orbits! (If you’ve never made a Rosette system for Traveller, here’s your excuse.)
  • Density is assumed to be earth-like, so your gravity level determines planet size and diameter.
  • There is no hydrographics roll like in Traveller, but there are two independent tables that tell you how many continents and oceans there are. Together they can create awesomely impossible results.
  • You will most assuredly be able to beam down. At worst, you will need either oxygen pills, breathing masks, or cold weather clothing.
  • The technology level of the world is broken down into several sub-levels. Interstellar civilizations can only be made with game master fiat. Some of the science levels can influence the others slightly, but wild variations are possible.
  • The government type is determined with what is essentially a 1d10 roll and (unlike Traveller) it is completely independent from all the other details.
  • There is no population level.
  • The alien creature system (custom tailored to Doctor Who?) painstakingly breaks down attribute rolls in a matrix of size and type. Body covering is rolled independently from creature type, so you get a lot of reptiles, mammals, and insects with feathers.
  • Particularly fun is rolling for the senses. You roll three times and multiple results of the same type indicate more powerful sensory abilities.
  • You also get 1d6 combat abilities, though they unfortunately don’t explain what to do with multiple results of the same type here. That’s a missed opportunity, but hey… we can figure this out.

That’s the highlights. I’m pretty sure that any self respecting space gamer of the eighties would be able to savage this game effortlessly, but for me… a system that ignores sector maps and ecologies and that just focuses on a dumb Class M planet with nothing but a matte painting, some styrofoam rocks, and some monster in a rubber suit… well… sometimes that’s really all you need.

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3 responses to “The Matte Painting, the Styrofoam Rock, and the Rubber Suit

  1. Jimmy Anderson June 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I actually had this game… A sister gave it to me for Christmas one year. We only “played” (used) it once, but like you just reading the manuals was a grand time!

  2. Pingback: Notes for Players on FASA’s Doctor Who Role Playing Game « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

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