D&D 5E So Doctors & Daleks...

overgeeked

B/X Known World
While some will insist on being a broken record and saying, "ew, 5E" again and again without adding anything to the conversation, here's to hoping that's kept to a minimum or left off entirely.

The "Bad"​

A couple of iffy and/or negative things really stood out to me. There's a lot of copied & pasted text from the other Doctor Who RPG line. It makes sense, though. They already make a Doctor Who RPG, so why not. Most of the ideas and advice will naturally carry over. Yes, agreed. It's still odd and more than a bit jarring and off-putting as someone who's bought a goodly chunk of the exact same text before. There's also quite a bit of repetition in the book. Sometimes several paragraphs are repeated 3-4 times in different places in the book, but more often it's a few sentences repeated verbatim again and again. They likely could have saved several dozen pages by not doing that, lowered the page count, and lowered the price tag. Some stuff just seems awkwardly shoe-horned in, like classes and subclasses. It's a show about smart, witty heroes outsmarting bad guys trying to take over worlds...the use of six classes and 18 subclasses just doesn't quite work. There's so much conceptual overlap that I see these class and subclass distinctions being incredibly confusing at the table.

And the quips. A lot of them are copied & pasted SRD spells with the names changed and only ever so slight alterations made. For example, goodberry is basically copy & pasted here as Jelly Baby. There's also a weird balance hold-over from D&D with quips that are largely verbal, as in they have a V component, and affect anyone who can hear you...up to a bizarrely limited range, 30-60 feet is the common range. Then there's the dozens of Quip Cantrips that are basically variations on "target makes X save, takes Y damage, and suffers Z minor effect." These could have been one game effect with a few options to pick from rather than dozens of individual entries.

Many Quips are largely disassociated mechanics despite the frequent admonitions in the book to keep them utterly grounded in the fiction. For example, the Grease Quip. The book says that, "When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target." Okay. The mechanics for the Grease Quip are identical to the grease spell in the 5E SRD. So the character using this Quip can cover a 10x10 area with grease by "quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby". The material component for 5E spells as Quips is left to the referee to decide. So they can easily declare that this action is impossible without a sufficient amount of "slick and slimy" stuff nearby. But, if there is sufficient "slick and slimy" stuff nearby...why is the character without this Quip unable to achieve the same effect? Likewise, is the character able to use this Quip regardless of the presence of sufficiently "slick and slimy" stuff nearby? Then aren't they in fact summoning "slick and slimy" stuff from the aether?

The book seems to suggest both yes and no. Yes, because it's the character using their brains, verbal wit, and experience to cobble something together. No, because Quips aren't magic and you cannot summon these effect from the aether. Then there's the question of their limited uses. All leveled Quips are limited to once per long rest. So, regardless of the presence of "slick and slimy" stuff in the environment, your Thinker can only use the Grease Quip once per day. Sure, that works in a balance and mechanics sense, but it creates ludonarrative dissonance when the character's brains, verbal wit, and experience are able to achieve these things only a limited number of times per day...regardless of the presence or absence of various materials in the environment to replicate these effects. So it's either summoning "slick and slimy" stuff from the aether or it's an environmental effect that doesn't require a Quip to achieve in the first place...and shouldn't be limited to once per day. Disassociated mechanics and ludonarrative dissonance.

Lastly, the species. Two stand out. Aliens and Time Lords. For aliens not listed you're told to use the human species and pick appropriate stats and feats to get close enough. Makes sense given the sheer variety of aliens the Doctor has encountered. Not sure that's going to go over well. The whole point of crunchy games is the crunch. And then Time Lords. Ugh. Time Lords are inherently incredibly powerful. Which the game honors. Despite letting the players pick Time Lord as their starting character species. So one player option race lets you start with more stat bonuses, more power, more abilities, more skills, oh...and your ability score caps for INT, WIS, and CHA are 30...and the others get less...a lot less. Can't imagine which species is going to basically be the default for most 5E players trying this game.

The Good​

But enough of that. On to the good stuff. Speaking of materials in the environment, I really like Environmental Actions. By interacting with the environment in fun and creative ways, PCs can impose a condition on their target. Either the PC makes an ability check or the target has to make a save. Damage may or may not be involved. The condition lasts until the end of the next turn. It's simple. It's elegant. It's Doctor Who. I honestly wish the list of Quip Cantrips and their minor variations were handled like this. Make a roll (or save), take some damage, and pick an effect to impose on the target. Done.

The Doctor Who RPG's famous and amazing initiative order makes a (slightly altered) appearance here. Here initiative order is: Talkers, Doers, Fighters. Importantly you seem to only get to do one action in a round, though if that's explicitly stated, I seem to have missed it, because there are penalties for switching your action for the round and there's no discussion of doing multiple things in a round. You either: Talk, Do (work machinery/tool, run), or Fight. Not a combination of those. This perfectly suits Doctor Who.

The Escalation mechanics is great. The line between talking (roleplaying) and an encounter (combat) is incredibly blurry in Doctor Who RPGs considering in Doctor Who talking is combat. So in comes the Escalation mechanic. If anyone on your side (PCs or enemies) takes things from just talking (including inflicting emotional or logical damage) to actual physical harm (any other type of damage), then going forward your opponents have advantage on all saves against emotional and logical damage. Basically, as long as your side keeps things civil (emotional and logical arguments), then you can talk your opponents down. If you try to talk them into giving up while also trying to beat them into submission, they're going to basically ignore your appeals to reason and emotion. Wonderfully Doctor Who.

Collaborative Checks are interesting. They're a combination of 5E's group checks and 4E's skill challenges...but in a good way. Everyone involved gets to describe what they're doing and make a check. The PCs don't get to roll the same skill in a given round, i.e. if one PC rolls Engineering, no one else gets to roll Engineering that round. And yes, Collaborative Checks occur over rounds. If half or more of the PCs succeed on their individual checks, that counts as a group success for that round; if not, that counts as a group failure that round. The PCs want three successful rounds before three failed rounds. It's a great idea and I want to see it in play, but if I remember right, the math on skill challenges doesn't quite work out, especially the three successes before three failures part. So that's likely going to be house ruled, at least at my table. Still, great subsystem.

And then Encounters. This is the good stuff. Instead of individual enemies having hit points to whittle down, the whole encounter has a pool of plot points (functionally identical to hit points) and when those plot points are gone, the enemy gives up. This pool can represent any number of enemies. So anywhere from one to a billion, billion Daleks. That's great. The game also provides advice on how to handle the actual number of enemies in regards to their number of attacks and damage. The idea being to challenge the PCs but not slaughter them in the name of giving every single enemy an attack. If your PCs are equal to or outnumber the enemies, the enemies attack individually. If the enemies outnumber your PCs, the enemies as a group get one attack per PC with advantage. That's fantastic. Again, simple and elegant. And interestingly, the numbers are almost identical to baseline CR in D&D proper.

There's also a lot of little things throughout that make the book useful. Rules for time travel, space travel, working in various environments and atmospheric conditions, gravity, vacuum, radiation...on and on. There's a lot.

The Ugly​

Absolutely nothing. The book is gorgeous and absolutely festooned with great images from the TV show.

#

So, for those with the book (well, PDF), what do you think so far? How much have you read? Spotted any fun stuff? What's neat? What's lame? Etc?
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Many Quips are largely disassociated mechanics despite the frequent admonitions in the book to keep them utterly grounded in the fiction. For example, the Grease Quip. The book says that, "When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target." Okay. The mechanics for the Grease Quip are identical to the grease spell in the 5E SRD. So the character using this Quip can cover a 10x10 area with grease by "quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby". The material component for 5E spells as Quips is left to the referee to decide. So they can easily declare that this action is impossible without a sufficient amount of "slick and slimy" stuff nearby. But, if there is sufficient "slick and slimy" stuff nearby...why is the character without this Quip unable to achieve the same effect. Likewise, is the character able to use this Quip regardless of the presence of sufficiently "slick and slimy" stuff nearby?

The book seems to suggest both yes and no. Yes, because it's the character using their brains, verbal wit, and experience to cobble something together. No, because Quips aren't magic and you cannot summon these effect from the aether. Then there's the question of their limited uses. All leveled Quips are limited to once per long rest. Sure, that works. But it creates ludonarrative dissonance when the character's brains, verbal wit, and experience are able to achieve these things a limited number of times per day and again, the presence or absence of various materials in the environment to replicate these effects. So it's either summoning "slick and slimy" stuff from the aether or it's an environmental effect that doesn't need a Quip to achieve...and shouldn't be limited to once per day. Disassociated mechanics and ludonarrative dissonance.
I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like quips are what it at least used to be popular to call “director’s stance” mechanics. They give the player a little bit of authorial control. When a player takes the Grease Quip, the rules are giving that player permission to, once per “day,” declare that there is something slick and slimy nearby that their character can use to quickly spread on the ground in a 10x10 area, and have that be true. The character isn’t summoning it from thin air, the player is establishing that it was there all along.

These sorts of mechanics are not to everyone’s tastes, but they’re fairly common in modern RPG design.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like quips are what it at least used to be popular to call “director’s stance” mechanics. They give the player a little bit of authorial control. When a player takes the Grease Quip, the rules are giving that player permission to, once per “day,” declare that there is something slick and slimy nearby that their character can use to quickly spread on the ground in a 10x10 area, and have that be true. The character isn’t summoning it from thin air, the player is establishing that it was there all along.

These sorts of mechanics are not to everyone’s tastes, but they’re fairly common in modern RPG design.
That absolutely could be the intent, but it’s not really worded that way. At least that’s not how I’m reading it.
 



MarkB

Legend
Many Quips are largely disassociated mechanics despite the frequent admonitions in the book to keep them utterly grounded in the fiction. For example, the Grease Quip. The book says that, "When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target." Okay. The mechanics for the Grease Quip are identical to the grease spell in the 5E SRD. So the character using this Quip can cover a 10x10 area with grease by "quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby". The material component for 5E spells as Quips is left to the referee to decide. So they can easily declare that this action is impossible without a sufficient amount of "slick and slimy" stuff nearby. But, if there is sufficient "slick and slimy" stuff nearby...why is the character without this Quip unable to achieve the same effect? Likewise, is the character able to use this Quip regardless of the presence of sufficiently "slick and slimy" stuff nearby? Then aren't they in fact summoning "slick and slimy" stuff from the aether?

The book seems to suggest both yes and no. Yes, because it's the character using their brains, verbal wit, and experience to cobble something together. No, because Quips aren't magic and you cannot summon these effect from the aether. Then there's the question of their limited uses. All leveled Quips are limited to once per long rest. So, regardless of the presence of "slick and slimy" stuff in the environment, your Thinker can only use the Grease Quip once per day. Sure, that works in a balance and mechanics sense, but it creates ludonarrative dissonance when the character's brains, verbal wit, and experience are able to achieve these things only a limited number of times per day...regardless of the presence or absence of various materials in the environment to replicate these effects. So it's either summoning "slick and slimy" stuff from the aether or it's an environmental effect that doesn't require a Quip to achieve in the first place...and shouldn't be limited to once per day. Disassociated mechanics and ludonarrative dissonance.

But enough of that. On to the good stuff. Speaking of materials in the environment, I really like Environmental Actions. By interacting with the environment in fun and creative ways, PCs can impose a condition on their target. Either the PC makes an ability check or the target has to make a save. Damage may or may not be involved. The condition lasts until the end of the next turn. It's simple. It's elegant. It's Doctor Who. I honestly wish the list of Quip Cantrips and their minor variations were handled like this. Make a roll (or save), take some damage, and pick an effect to impose on the target. Done.
So, this seems like you've provided both the problem and the solution. When someone with grease prepared uses it, they get to declare that they've found something suitably slick and slimy, and they get the full effect of the grease quip. If they've already used it, or if it's a character who doesn't have it, they can still find something suitably slippery, but they instead invoke the lesser effect of the Environmental Action. The only thing the grease quip is doing is allowing them, once per day, to attain a greater and more reliable effect from something they'd be able to do anyway.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So, this seems like you've provided both the problem and the solution. When someone with grease prepared uses it, they get to declare that they've found something suitably slick and slimy, and they get the full effect of the grease quip. If they've already used it, or if it's a character who doesn't have it, they can still find something suitably slippery, but they instead invoke the lesser effect of the Environmental Action. The only thing the grease quip is doing is allowing them, once per day, to attain a greater and more reliable effect from something they'd be able to do anyway.
That's absolutely an option. If you house rule the game to make it work that way. The book itself is rather explicit that the quipper does not summon the goo from the aether, it's explicitly not magic. The book also does not indicate or even hint that the quip gives the player permission to change the fiction in the scene to make an appropriate quantity of goo happen to mysteriously already be there. Hence the Catch 22.
 

MarkB

Legend
That's absolutely an option. If you house rule the game to make it work that way. The book itself is rather explicit that the quipper does not summon the goo from the aether, it's explicitly not magic. The book also does not indicate or even hint that the quip gives the player permission to change the fiction in the scene to make an appropriate quantity of goo happen to mysteriously already be there. Hence the Catch 22.
As you quoted from the book, "When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target." Not they're trying to find something nearby - they're just doing it.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
As you quoted from the book, "When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target." Not they're trying to find something nearby - they're just doing it.
Absolutely could be. I haven't found any text in the book to that effect. Only a few lines like the above which, if read in a certain way, might suggest that's the case but not outright say so. Most games that give players that kind of narrative control explicitly say so. Like, for example, Cubicle 7's other Doctor Who RPG. There are mechanics therein that give the player explicit control over the narrative. And the text is not subtle about that. It's odd that if that is what they mean here that they've decided to suddenly be subtle about it.
 

MarkB

Legend
Absolutely could be. I haven't found any text in the book to that effect. Only a few lines like the above which, if read in a certain way, might suggest that's the case but not outright say so. Most games that give players that kind of narrative control explicitly say so. Like, for example, Cubicle 7's other Doctor Who RPG. There are mechanics therein that give the player explicit control over the narrative. And the text is not subtle about that. It's odd that if that is what they mean here that they've decided to suddenly be subtle about it.
Obviously I've only got your quote of the text to go on, but it reads to me more like "find some excuse in the fiction to let it happen rather than treating it as magic" than "only let them do it if there's already something established in the fiction to support it".
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Obviously I've only got your quote of the text to go on, but it reads to me more like "find some excuse in the fiction to let it happen rather than treating it as magic" than "only let them do it if there's already something established in the fiction to support it".
Right. And I'm saying there's no text that explicitly says that. You could 100% be right. It absolutely could be the right way to go. It absolutely could be what the writers meant. The hangup is that's not what the text actually says.

So here's the big sections of text that cover this.

Quips are defined as "special abilities that represent the power of knowledge and the strength of words in Doctors and Daleks."

Some other relevant sections of text on Quips are:

Quips are at the core of combat in Doctors and Daleks and are sort of like spells in the 5th-edition rules. Quips represent your character's special abilities and the strength of words, allowing you to do incredible things and hopefully dissuade your enemies from hurting anyone.

Are these Spells? If you’re familiar with the 5th-edition rules, you may recognise that Quips are very similar to spells. Quips are used to represent the power of conversation in Doctor Who and the Doctor’s persistent attempts to stop conflict with words alone (and sometimes a few sparks of technical ingenuity). Words are powerful in Doctors and Daleks, and Quips are the ultimate example of that. Below is some guidance for describing the effects of your Quips.

When a Charmer uses the Heart-wrenching Argument Quip, they are actually making an argument (that you don’t have to roleplay if you don’t want to), and that is dealing emotional damage to the target. The argument has affected the target so profoundly that they hesitate before taking action, meaning they can only take an action or a bonus action on their turn.

When an Empath uses the Beacon of Hope, they’re not bathing the battlefield in holy light, they’re just using their comforting presence to aid their allies. When a Thinker uses the Grease Quip, they’re not summoning the material from the aether, they’re quickly finding something slick and slimy nearby and throwing it at the target.

Many spells from the 5th-edition basic rules are suitable for use in Doctors and Daleks. Guidance on which spells work well can be found on page 124. Whenever an SRD spell is mentioned it will appear in italics, like this: charm person.

Spells as Quips: The following table presents a list of spells from the 5th-edition rules that can be used as Quips by the Charmer, Empath, and Thinker in Doctors and Daleks. When using these Quips, keep in mind that these are not spells, and are a representation of characters using the power of their words, experiences, or ingenuity to accomplish otherwise improbable things.

Contrast that with the 10-pages of discussion about the meta-currency of Story Points in the Doctor Who RPG where they go into detail about using SP to alter rolls, avoid damage, not die, dramatically alter the narrative, etc...along with earning and losing SP.

Quite simply, "Story Points are used to change events in a player’s favour." Meta-currency, pure and simple. No "mask" of in-character abilities covering for explicitly player meta-shenanigans.

Here are two illustrative examples of what you can spend Story Points on. Note the numbers are how many SP you spend to achieve the described effect:

5–6 | Medium: This is a pretty hefty amount, but this could be a lifesaving plot twist — a squad of UNIT soldiers turn up to investigate the strange happenings, just as you are finding yourselves outgunned.

11+ | Climactic: There are few events so massively important that they would need this many Story Points, and it’s rare that a character has so many points to spare. This is up there with trapping villains for eternity in the heart of a star or rebooting the universe, and your character would have to do something serious to earn that many points, like removing your memories to go undercover, or getting trapped in a time-loop until you can figure out the solution to the mystery.

Editorial: As someone who's played the Doctor Who RPG...it's not that hard to get 11+ Story Points.

In the Doctors & Daleks RPG the writers repeatedly say that Quips represent in-character abilities, to keep Quips grounded, and that Quips are not magic, while in Doctor Who RPG the writers flat out tell you the players can simply decide that a squad of UNIT soldiers just happens to come bursting through the door...for 5 Story Points, or can trap a villain for eternity in the heart of a star or reboot the universe...for 11 Story Points.

So, while yes, it's certainly possible the writers meant Quips as both in-character abilities and meta-currency for the player to use to take control of the narrative...they have gone out of their way to describe Quips only in terms of in-character abilities and never as meta-currency that allows the player to alter the narrative.
 

Obviously I've only got your quote of the text to go on, but it reads to me more like "find some excuse in the fiction to let it happen rather than treating it as magic" than "only let them do it if there's already something established in the fiction to support it".
Not how I read it. "I pick up a bottle of oil from the table and throw it" does not require it to be already established in the fiction that there is a bottle of oil on the table. Generally speaking, there is a lot of stuff in an RPG that is not explicitly established, from the contents of the table to the design of the wallpaper.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
So, other than that bit of quips, what do people think of the game? Anyone planning on running it? Stripping it for parts?
 


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