With a ruleset that regenerates as often as the Doctor does, here's the latest version of Cubicle 7's Doctor Who game, this time in a single hardback volume. Just in case you don't know anything about Doctor Who Chapter 1: The Trip of a Lifetime explains the scope of adventures that you can have and the roles that you can play... complete with Peter Capaldi (who plays the current regeneration of the Doctor) staring out at you. It also explains the basics of role-playing in case this is the first role-playing game you've picked up, a particularly wise move as Doctor Who fans will pick anything up if it bears those magic words or shows the Doctor, and it's a good introduction to the hobby for those who don't know about role-playing (I've even run it for church youth groups!).
Chapter 2: Old-fashioned Heroes from Old-fashioned Story Books then describes the process of creating a character for this game. If you are in a rush, or want to play characters from the TV show, there's a collection of ready-made characters including the Doctor, Clara (the most recent companion) and various other people who have turned up recently, as well as a few 'archetypes' - like a UNIT soldier or an archaeologist - that require only a little personalisation before they are ready for play. That thorny problem of who gets to be the Doctor is touched on in a side bar, but there's no easy answer... even if it does suggest that budding timelords bribe the GM with chocolate! Work it out as a group - maybe someone really knows the show well, or take turns each adventure, or even (in a long-running campaign) change players when the Doctor regenerates! - but don't let it get acrimonious. Of course, just because you are playing in the Doctor Who universe, you don't need to actually have the Doctor around. Maybe you are Torchwood or UNIT, or something else of your own devising. The Doctor might drop in occasionally as an NPC, or never be seen at all.
It's worth reading how to create characters from scratch even if you do not intend to do so - then you'll understand how they work. Characters are defined by Attributes, Skills and Traits, and you have points to distribute between these to work out what your character is like, what he knows about, and what he can do. You start, however, by working out who the character is and what they are bringing to the party, and only then start the relatively small amount of number-crunching involved. Everything is explained quite clearly, with examples and a walk-through of the creation of a sample character. There's also a lot of information about how to use skills and traits from a game mechanical standpoint, so reading through this gives a good overview of how to actually play the game.
Next, Chapter 3: I Can Fight Monsters, I Can't Fight Physics goes into the rules in detail. It all boils down to a simple rule: add Attribute + Skill (+ Trait if applicable) to the roll of 2d6, and if the result is higher than the Difficulty of the task you have managed to do, well, whatever it was that you intended. There's loads of detail about how to set Difficulties, how to do things when you don't have a relevant Skill, how to chose which Attributes and Skills you want to use and so on, but whilst the Gamemaster will need to understand them, players can get by with the basic formula. Complications, contested rolls, and more are there as well. The more everyone understands, the faster the game will flow during play as people can just make rolls without needing to ask or check the rules - but this comes with practice even if you find such details hard to learn cold. Unlike many games, out-and-out violence ought to be rare: it's just not how the Doctor does things.
In Chapter 4: Time and Time Again, we take a look at time travel and the problems that it can cause... all the way up to paradoxes like the classic one of going back to kill your grandfather when he was a little boy (hence your father never got born and where does it leave you...), something you could not do if you never got born in the first place. It can fair make your head hurt. Most of the time paradoxes get sorted, either naturally or by the actions of other time travellers, but if they don't all manner of trouble can arise. Of course, even if you do manage to tamper with the past, you may make it worse not better! So take care when you step into your TARDIS! There's some advice, fortunately, for the Gamemaster as to how to keep things (mostly) on track and cope with any issues that might arise. This chapter also contains information on the nature of a Time Lord including their biology, special abilities and even a section on the game mechanics of a regeneration. Likewise, the nature and operation of a TARDIS is also discussed at some length.
Then, Chapter 5: All the Strange, Strange Creatures provides an array of alien lifeforms. It's not really a monster collection, in the main it concentrates on sentient creatures. There's a lot about how to design and play them, primarily as NPCs but perhaps even as characters, as well... although this is something to be embarked upon with caution considering the nature of Doctor Who as a show.
This is followed by Chapter 6: It's a Rollercoaster With You, which explores what role-playing is in depth looking at what both players and Gamemasters can do to make it a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone. Very useful if this is your first role-playing game, but there are notes here on cooperation, staying in character and more which many seasoned gamers could benefit from reading. Some of it, of course, has particular reference to playing the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game but much is of general application. There's plenty of good advice directed at Gamemasters in particular as well.
Chapter 7: History is a Burden, Stories Can Make Us Fly is for Gamemasters, and following on from the more general ideas in the previous chapter looks at how to run adventures and how to create your own. There are recommendations about structure and elements that can be included to make a good adventure - and mention of the sheer wealth of material that over fifty years of the show has generated (although I'd take issue at the aside that 'unlike boring academic research' it's fun to go through it in its own right - academic research is far from boring and great fun!) Investigation, exploration, setting, climax - all these and more are discussed, then on to campaigns and personal story arcs.
Finally, Chapter 8: All of Time and Space is Waiting, Don't Even Argue (and how's that for a chapter title?) presents two full-blown adventures to get you off to a flying start. The first is Stormrise, the characters visit a coastal village as it is engulfed by a horrific storm and will need to find out what's going on - and put a stop to it. It's fast-paced and exciting yet quite complex, and should get any campaign off to a flying start. The second is Seeing Eyes which opens with the characters waking up in a strange and dangerous environment and having to figure out where they are, what is happening and what they can do about it. Plenty of excitement here, too...
Visually, the book is quite a treat with loads of excellent images from the most recent episodes of the show. The only problem is a lack of captions so unless you have a good visual memory and comprehensive knowledge of the show you are left wondering who they all are!
Overall, this is a masterful re-presentation of Cubicle 7's Doctor Who rules, well worth a look even if you own previous editions and certainly if you do not!
[5 of 5 Stars!]