Doctor Who Role Playing

Ian Marsh, co-writer (with Peter Darvill-Evans) of 1991's "Time Lord" Doctor Who role-playing game, asked me to post the following document for the perusal of all. Ian would appreciate any and all commentary, on these rules or on the original game; his E-mail address is

There is also a Doctor Who Roleplaying Website that you may find of interest.

Time Lord Companions

Creating human companions for the Time Lord roleplaying game, by Ian Marsh

Time Lord presented only scanty guidelines on creating companions to adventure with the Doctor, for two good reasons. First, for a beginner's roleplaying game it seemed advisable to present characters that could be quickly given out ready for play; character creation can rather get in the way of welcoming newcomers to what is a rather unusual pastime.

Second, the whole prospect of designing a comprehensive character generation system for Time Lords as a race, human companions and sundry aliens and robots was rather daunting and threatened to consume too much space in the book. Such a system might also be rather complicated for a newcomer to roleplaying to understand.

A third, and not so good reason, was that as the author of the rules system, I hadn't much idea how to go about it!

I believe I have already said that inspiration strikes in the strangest places. Well, it has happened again, and now you will all know what thoughts disturb the mind of one commuter as he contemplates wind-swept Earlsfield station in the early morning.

One obstacle to the character creation system is that I wanted to use the consistent dice-rolling mechanism of the whole game in some way. Uniform systems are all very well, but they can also be a pain in the game designer's neck! None the less, the dice are used to provide a variable element for each character.

The final note I have to say about character creation is that companions are not superheroes. Although some of them may be quite competent in certain areas, in general a companion is just an ordinary person who has found himself or herself caught up in the Doctor's adventures. This character creation system is intended to create such ordinary, human companions to accompany one of the existing Doctors; it has no ambition to be anything else.


There are two ways of shaping a character. First, you can imagine a person, his background, how he will react to certain circumstances, and his likes and loathings and then tailoring the numbers to fit this concept. Second, you can work out all the numerical information, assign common abilities and pick special abilities, using such game-related material to help envisage the character as a person. Either way is satisfactory. If you are stuck for ideas, try modelling a companion on one of your friends or a well-known actor. As a player you have a free choice whether your companion is young or old, male or female, and which time period the character belongs to -- there are no rules here to help you decide these factors! The only limit is that the character must be human and of Earth origin (descendants of space colonies are all right, too).


Each player starts with a number of points with which, in effect, he buys the character's skills. As the procedure involves juggling numbers, a pencil and paper will prove handy to make notes before filling in a proper character sheet. A pack of cards may prove useful, as will be explained later.

Creating a character

Each character starts with eight abilities at 3, four abilities at 2 and eight abilities at 1. In addition, the character gains anything from zero to twenty 1-point abilities decided by the roll of the dice. These additional abilities are calculated by rolling a pair of six-sided dice four times and summing the differences of each roll -- for each roll of the dice, therefore, the character gains from zero to five 1-point abilities. The result on the dice is read the same way as in the Time Lord rules -- and similarly, rolling a big difference each time is best.

The best possible combination, therefore, after the dice have been rolled is a character with eight 3-point abilities, four 2-point abilities and twenty-eight 1-point abilities (the worst leaves him with only the basic eight 1-point abilities).

These values are then assigned to the character subject to the rules regarding combination and limitations. The player must assign values to each of the eight main abilities, and can spend the rest as he likes on the special abilities listed in the rule book.

It is highly recommended that characters that opt for low Strength acquire the Cheat Death ability at 2 points if they have Strength 3 and at 1 point if they have Strength 4.

Combining abilities

Any ability can be combined with another ability of the same value to obtain a single ability that is one higher in value. But a high value ability can never be broken down into a lower value ability. Thus, two 2-point abilities can be combined to yield one 3-point ability, but a 3-point ability cannot be broken down into two 2-point abilities.

In effect it costs thirty-two 1-point abilities to gain one 6-point ability, sixteen 1-point abilities to gain one 5-point ability, eight 1-point abilities to gain one 4-point ability, four 1-point abilities to gain a 3-point ability and two 1-point abilities to gain a 2-point ability (most cost-effective!). Thus a 3-point ability is affordable and within the reach of most characters, but to gain several 4-pointers requires careful budgeting.

The best approach is to ensure the eight common abilities have values of 3 or 4, perhaps with one 5, and to enhance these with well-chosen special abilities. This way a character can get a total ability of 6 cheaply through using two 3-point abilities (a cost of eight 1-point abilities instead of thirty-two); the downside is a low general value in the appropriate common ability.


A value must be assigned to each of the eight common abilities -- Strength, Control, Size, Weight, Move, Knowledge, Determination and Awareness -- subject to the minimum and maximum possible values for a human companion given in Table 1.

Table 1 Ability Minimum Maximum Notes Strength 2 5 2 = child, 5 = strongman Control 1 6 2 = klutz, 6 = daredevil acrobat Size 2 5 2 = a giant, 5= a child or dwarf Weight 3 4 3 = small adult, 4 = large adult Move 1 4 1 = crippled, 4 = sprinter Knowledge 2 6 2 = primitive, 6 = genius Determination 1 6 1 = subservient, 6 = obsessive Awareness 1 6 1 = not in tune with surroundings 6 = sensitive to surroundings

Certain values will very much shape the appearance and possible background of a character. A character with Size 5 is either a child, and must select his other background skills appropriately, or a dwarf; the character cannot be imagined as resembling an average adult human. Referees should look for such potential discrepancies in generated characters and advise the player accordingly.

In addition, special abilities may not be greater in value than the governing main ability: a character with a Control of 3 cannot have a Marksmanship of 4; the maximum ability he can have is Marksmanship 3. To obtain a total ability of 7 the character must have Control 4 and Marksmanship 3.

Bookkeeping suggestions

Players with access to a number of packs of playing cards can use them to keep track of their changes in ability -- about four packs will be necessary. Issue the player with cards whose numeric value is equal to the abilities of the character, using court cards as ones if there is a shortage of aces. Thus a basic character will get eight threes, four twos and eight aces. Each time the player wishes to combine two abilities, he hands the referee two equal cards and receives one higher value card in exchange: filling in the character sheet is then a simple matter of comparing remaining cards with spaces on the sheet. The referee is also completely in control of the bookkeeping, eliminating any `creative accountancy' on the part of the player.

Starting equipment

Characters start with a set of clothing and nothing else. They may, however, trade in abilities to secure equipment. None is a particularly cost-effective purchase, but then money is of no real use to most of the companions and they will be hard-pressed to find shops on places such as Metebelis 3. Abilities can also be spent to buy status, such as rank within an organisation such as UNIT (organisations may also require purchasing of a pass, representing membership and security vetting).

1-point ability

This will secure a trivial item of no apparent worth, or a common, everyday item for the character's time period. Examples: a pocketful of loose change, a plain metal ring, golden star of mathematical excellence, walking stick or umbrella, a set of house keys, cricket ball, string, bag of jelly babies, pen knife.

2-point ability

This secures a useful item of some worth. Examples: skeleton keys, hunting knife, gold jewellery, binoculars, mobile telephone, transistor radio.

3-point ability

This secures an item of notable worth or a low position of authority Examples: hand-to-hand weapons such as a sword or mace, primitive missile weapons such as a bow, unreliable firearms such as muzzle-loading pistols and muskets, partial armour or a shield, rank of sergeant.

4-point ability

This will secure a valuable item or a position of moderate responsibility Examples: security pass for a secret service or UNIT, reliable guns, full armour, motorized transport, rank of captain.

5-point ability

This will secure an exceptionally valuable item or a position of power Examples: technological device of equivalent ability to the sonic screwdriver, national head of UNIT, presidency, membership of the royal family

Referees might also like to invent special devices that characters can own, for example:

Infallible firearm (5-point ability) A revolver, automatic pistol or laser pistol that always begins any new adventure with a full magazine or charge. This makes the weapon far more attractive than the run-down or partly empty guns that characters may be forced to use in the course of an adventure.

Bullet-proof pocketwatch (4-point ability) A one-use item that automatically stops the first bullet to strike the front of the character; the watch is destroyed in the process.

Unused abilities

A character need not be generated using all his abilities; some may be held unspent to gain an appropriate skill when the player needs. This helps reflect an inherent talent for a subject that the character has never tackled before.


Time Lord characters should advance their skills only slowly as gaining even one point in an ability represents a great leap in skill. To this end, at the end of each adventure, a player may make one roll of the dice to increase one of his character's abilities by one point. If the player chooses not to roll the dice at the end of one adventure, it increases his chance of learning at the end of a subsequent adventure.

The basic object is to beat the difference between the number of adventures a character has gone without making an experience roll and the desired total ability.

Example: Patrick has Knowledge 4 and wishes to learn Cybernetics 1 after a close call with the Cybermen and a number of robots in his first adventure. He must therefore beat a difference of 4 to learn the ability (desired total ability for Cybernetics eqaals 5). If he waited until the end of his second adventure, he would need to beat a difference of 3.

After a player makes an experience roll, regardless of whether it succeeds or fails, the number of adventures resets to zero.

Each time a character successfully makes an experience roll, the difficulty to make the next roll increases by 1. This penalty is cumulative.

Example: Assuming Patrick gained Cybernetics 1 and then wished to gain Cybernetics 2, a penalty of 1 would be added to the total desired ability. The total desired ability would be 6, but the penalty raises it so the difficulty becomes 7. He would need to complete three more adventures to have a chance at gaining Cybernetics 2, at which point he would need to beat a difference of 4. If he succeeded at this and wished to progress to Cybernetics 3, he would incur a penalty of 2, making the base difficulty 9 and requiring the completion of five more adventures before a roll could be made.

At all times the referee decides when an adventure concludes and an experience roll can be made. A character may never improve more than one ability whenever he earns an increase. Also, the eight common abilities may never be increased; only special abilities may be gained or increased.

The experience roll assumes that a player is attempting to increase an ability which was appropriate to one of his adventures; if it is not appropriate, the referee should increase the difficulty of succeeding at the experience roll.

The referee should keep a log of attempts made or failed, and the experience gained. The general intention of these rules is to allow characters to pick up one or two abilities that may be useful as they become more experienced with roleplaying and Time Lord in particular.


This is the mark one version of the character generation system. Comments are welcome, as is the pointing out of errors!

Sample character: Simone

Simone starts with eight 3-point abilities, four 2-point abilities and eight 1-point abilities. She rolls the dice, generating differences of 0, 1, 3 and 2, gaining her six extra 1-point abilities (giving a total of fourteen 1-point abilities).

To start, she assigns values of 3 to Control, Size, Weight and Determination, a value of 2 to Strength and a value of 1 to Awareness. The four remaining 3-point abilities, she combines twice to give a Knowledge of 5 (four 3-point abilities = two 4-points abilities = one 5-point ability. She must still assign a value to Move, so she combines two 1-point abilities to give a two-point ability, which in turn is combined with the remaining three 2-point abilities to give one 4-point ability.

Her abilities currently are as follows:

Strength 2 Control 3 Size 3 Weight 3 Move 4 Knowledge 5 Determination 3 Awareness 1

She is left with eleven 1-point abilities, and elects to take the special abilities of Cheat Death 2, Bench-thumping 2, Driving 2, Mechanics 1 and Engineering 1. On reflection, she believes her Awareness to be too low, and combines the remaining three 1-point abilities with it to give Awareness 3.

Her final abilities are:

Strength 2, Cheat Death 2 Control 3, Bench-thumping 2 Size 3 Weight 3 Move 4, Driving 2 Knowledge 5, Mechanics 1, Engineering 1 Determination 3 Awareness 3

Simone starts only with the clothes she wears. She envisages her character as an enthusiastic car mechanic who loves tinkering. Heaven help the Doctor when she gets loose in the TARDIS!