Remembering FASA's Doctor Who

Back in the 1980's I remember seeing FASA's Doctor Who RPG at my local Waldenbooks. Being a boxed set I couldn't flip through it but I remember being intrigued by the back cover text:
The Master has stolen a weapon that will give him ultimate control of the universe and of time itself. The Daleks are invading Earth. The Cybermen are terrorizing the space lanes. And the Sontarans and the Rutans are battling to see who wins the galaxy.
Only YOU, the Time Lords and Companions of the Celestial Intervention Agency, can stop these villains from changing the course of history. Your weapons are your wits and your TARDIS. To join the Doctor in his adventures to defeat the foes of the universe, you only need your imagination, a pencil, some paper, and this game.

 I wasn't familiar with the television show but my father would sometimes watch it on our local PBS station, WEDW Channel 49. I eventually picked up the game and was pleased to discover the rules were remarkably similar to FASA's Star Trek RPG. It made use of a series of attributes and skills, though in place of Star Trek's percentile systems, these ranged from I to VII (rated by by Roman numerals). You would match your stat with the difficulty rating and roll some d6 (I am pretty sure it was 2d6 but it might have been 3). Like Star Trek there were definitely signs of the wargaming origins of the hobby with action points used to break down actions during a round. I remember that going by the rules there were no official options for using a skill without a rating in it.

To be honest, going by system I'd have to favor Cubicle 7's more modern incarnations of the RPG, with mechanics designed to favor characters who avoid combat. That's not to say that the FASA version encourages combat - it has many rules for such combat but once you start getting into battle with Daleks and Cybermen a single shot will likely take you out.

FASA had the challenge of providing to gamers a consistent setting which was true to an inconsistent television show - and one which was missing a ton of episodes. With that in mind, here are some of the background information featured in the FASA game, many of which can be found in the modern show and/or RPG. (Not that FASA's game was necessarily used as a reference, but it would be neat if that were the case.(

  • The basic assumption was characters worked for the Celestial Intervention Agency (CIA), a group dedicated to protecting the universe but violating the Time Lord's rule of non-interference.
  • Certain worlds are temporal nexus points - places which are vulnerable to intervention. Earth was one as was Gallifrey.
  • There is a sort of "absolute" time - the present day on Gallifrey represents the furthest in the future characters can travel to. This also explained why characters like the Master and Doctor tended to meet each other sequentially. 
  • The Meddling Monk that the First Doctor met eventually became the Master. Though some sources indicate FASA also had the Master as the War Chief, this was not the case.
  • Both the Doctor and the Master fled Gallifrey in the aftermath of a revolution.
  • A detailed history of the Cybermen was developed, with Mondas traveling throughout the galaxy at slower-than-light speeds and its inhabitants adapting cybernetic life as a means of survival.
  • The future of humanity involved an Earth Empire which eventually fell and was followed by a more cosmopolitan Federation.

I had most of the supplements to the game, though I never did get the adventure The Warrior's Code. My memory of them is as follows:
  • The Daleks - A sourcebook for the Daleks. Like many FASA sourcebooks, it consisted of a brief player book and a longer GM book. It had a timeline of the Daleks, an outline of what typically happened in a Dalek invasion, and ideas for what characters might do during the various phases of an invasion.
  • The Master - Another sourcebook, dealing with the Master. It had a number of assumptions about the Master - how he survived certain death many times, what his past consisted of, etc. I didn't get as much use from this sourcebook than I did from others - the Master was a deadly foe and I was hesitant to unleash him.
  • The Cybermen - The final sourcebook. This was a handy one as it contained summaries of many of the Second Doctor's adventures with the Cybermen, all of which were lost at the time and only available via novelization.
  • The Iytean Menace - A fun adventure dealing with an alien able to possess humans running around Victorian London - a very loose version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
  • The Lords of Destiny - Characters must stop a black hole powered planet-eating world-ship from destroying inhabited worlds in its neverending journey throughout the galaxy.
  • The Legions of Death - The War Chief is causing trouble in Roman Briton.
  • Countdown - One of my favorite adventures dealing with Cybermen taking over an Earth Empire courier ship carrying medicine for a disease-ravaged world. Without that medicine the Cybermen believe the inhabitants of that world will be willing to be Cybermen to save their lives. Featured tons of deck plans, an interesting crew of the TSS Leander, and a bunch of reptilian space pirates. I think it would make a great tv episode. 
  • The Hartlewick Horror - A 1920s architectural dig in England uncovers a ship containing a powerful alien. It had the feel of a Lovecraftian adventure, much like those the Fourth Doctor had.
  • The City of Gold - Silurians change history at the time of the conquistadors. The characters' own TARDIS was used to implement the change which wiped out humanity. They must go back in time and restore history - while facing the fact that so doing may also prove to trigger the change in history. Felt like an 11th Doctor adventure.  

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