Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Space goth junkie skeleton dungeon

Many old Doctor Who stories make good RPG scenarios, in that they're largely about rootless adventurers arriving in a complex -- but not too complex -- situation with a variety of competing oddballs at work. There are even a few dungeons -- like one I recently watched for my Doctor Who podcast. This is the Fifth Doctor story Terminus and it's ... not great. But like a lot of not-great things, it has excellent game potential.

Check it out. This is Terminus: 

It is a giant space station built by an unknown alien race; seemingly derelict, it sits at the centre of the universe. 

The Doctor and his companions wind up for unimportant (for our purposes) reasons on a spaceship which is travelling to Terminus. The ship is occupied only by a robot crew and has a bunch of sealed compartments. Meanwhile, some space pirates also land on the ship. They look like this: 

As the ship nears Terminus, the compartments open revealing that they are full of people who suffer from "Lazar's Disease," which is basically leprosy but a sort of future plague. They are a bit medieval. It transpires that Terminus is basically a sort of leper hospital and/or place that lazars go to die, owned and operated by a shadowy company called Terminus, Inc. Running the place for the company are these guys, the Vanir: 

... or Space Skeleton Goth Viking Slave Knights, as I like to think of them. They are hooked on a drug called Hydromel, which the company controls the supply of; it is a glowing green liquid that comes in vials they plug right in to the front of their armour. They have high-tech staffs, or possibly staves. Oh, and they all hate each other and are vying to be Top Vanir, presumably because that guy gets first pick of the drugs. 

Their armour protects them from the radiation that floods the station, except in the Forbidden Zone, where they dare not go. Only the Garm walks there: 

The Garm looks like a big scary monster (well, a big stupid fat space dog, actually, because 1983 Doctor Who budget) but is actually a pretty chill dude who is trying to use the radiation to cure the lazars. He is also wicked strong. 

Despite the Forbidding, one of the Vanir, a particularly brainy specimen named Bor, has gone off into the Forbidden Zone to figure out what's up with some anomalous readings he's getting on his staff thingy. He is missing and the others are arguing about what to do about it. 

Bor has discovered that there is a big-ass radiation leak (which is what creates the Forbidden Zone) and is trying to fix it. Also (relatedly?) there's the abandoned Terminus control room, which is inhabited by a dead alien in a space suit, who was killed when Terminus, I shit you not, travelled back in time, experienced an engine malfunction that caused the Big Bang and was rocketed forward to now. The remaining engine is also malfunctioning and could blow at any moment. You can deactivate the engine, but the deactivation lever is stuck. 

I think that means this guy is actually God, doesn't it? 
So anyway, you've got several distinct zones -- docked spaceship, where the Vanir hang out, medical bit, lazar quarters, Forbidden Zone, engine room. You've got multiple factions, each with their own particular agenda and resources. And you've got a weird old structure that none of the different groups inhabiting it currently understand. Once day I'll write it up for Stars Without Number. In my copious free time.

Unsuccessful shows are often actually the best for game-ifying, since good games and good stories don't necessarily require the same things.


  1. I'm very much with you on this one. It's gonna fuel some games I'd like to have which include space skeletons and other laien undead actually. Sometimes teh best of ideas are the hardest to put in motion , that might be what happened here. Thanks for the ideas anyway !

    1. You should post about it if you do something with it -- it seems like the kind of place Rogue Quest characters might turn up.