Level 58 Time Lord: Envisioning a Doctor Who MMORPG

One of the ways to reach Movement Point is to type “doctor who mmorpg” into a search engine, owing to our twin fascinations with Dr. Who and gaming here. This site doesn’t show up until the third or fourth page on that search, though, so you have to be pretty desperate for news about a potential Dr. Who Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game to click through to here. And yet my site stats indicate that someone did.

Derivative work based on Dalek, by theholyllama, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike license

I can understand the desire. Over forty years, Dr. Who‘s writers and producers have populated the show’s more-or-less coherent universe with plenty of planets to explore, characters to revisit, and enemies to defeat yet again. MMOs, and role playing games generally, put the player into the story universe, to shape it and become a part of it, a form of “active” fan fiction. Millions log in to fight dragons daily; it’s not such a stretch to imagine gamers going online to take down Daleks.

So what, then, would a Dr. Who MMORPG look like?

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Game Artifacts: The Twenty-Sided d10

Twenty sides, ten numbers.

While inventorying my game collection, I opened up a recently acquired copy of Fantasy Games Unlimited’s solitaire-friendly Star Explorer (1982) to verify the contents.

Map? Check. Countersheet? Check. Log sheets and rulebook? Check. Two six-sided dice? Check. One twenty-sided d10? Um, check?

I’ve worked with all manner of odd polyhedron in my time, from oblong d3s (which have more than three faces) to those hundred-sided “Zocchihedrons” that never quite stop rolling. But a twenty-sider that serves as a d10? New one by me. Silly me—I’ve always used a ten-sided die for a one to ten random distribution.

The typical twenty-sided die, in the shape of an icosahedron, caries the numbers one through twenty, one number per face. The twenty-sider in Star Explorer carries the numbers zero through nine, each number appearing on two faces.

The oddity of this die required special rules for its use in Star Explorer:

1.2 Game Equipment and Scale


6) Dice. Two six-sided dice and one twenty-sided die are included. The twenty-sided die is labelled 0-9 twice. When a roll of 1D10 is required by the rules, players should roll the twenty-sided die, treating a roll of 0 as a roll of 10. When a roll of 1D20 is required by the rules, players should roll the twenty-sided die and a six-sided die. If the six-sided die roll is 1, 2, or 3, the twenty-sided die is read from 1 to (1)0. If the six-sided roll is 4, 5, 6, the twenty-sided roll is read from 11 to (2)0, creating a range from one to twenty. (Players also have the option of coloring in one set of numbers on the twenty-sided die with a fine point felt-tipped marker and reading the colored numbers as 11-20, while the uncolored numbers are read 1-10.)

Ostensibly, providing a single twenty-sider (albeit with oddly numbered faces) to serve as both d10 and d20 proved less expensive than providing a separate d10 and d20. Indeed, SPI stopped providing any dice at all with their games at one point in the 1970’s, blaming the “world-wide petro-chemical shortage,” but likely owing to cost [1]. Whatever FGU’s reason, this little die provides for a great bit of rules verbiage, even if I will break out my own d20 and d10 when I play Star Explorer.

[1] Balkoski, Joseph. "The Perils of Youth: The Lighter Side of SPI." Strategy & Tactics: 128 (Origins 1989), 48-49.

"The Game is the Thing": Gary Gygax on Rules

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, passed away on March 4, 2008. His influence on role playing games of all types is inestimable.

61-68 gets you an Otyugh!

One of the richest sources of his thinking on rules and games is the original Dungeon Masters Guide (TSR, 1979). The DMG, while a thick book of rules itself, contains many exhortations to use the rules as tools to further the game rather than as constraints. Yet he was also mindful that too loose an interpretation of the rules could undo the base consistency he felt players had a right to expect from the game.

A collection of Gary Gygax’s thoughts on gaming and rules from the DMG, after the jump.

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