Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Key to Space (3/3)

Third Fragment: The Twilight City

I. The Shadow Theatre

Penelope’s quest for the final fragment of the Key takes her to Paris. While Louis XIV is busy building Versailles castle and becoming the Sun King, a sinister Harlequin is treading a secret stage before an entranced audience. But what is the true purpose of the Laughing Mask’s comedy of madness?  Together with her old friend Bellegarde, the Time Lady investigates…

II. The Final Masque

The Shadow Theatre has given its last performance - but the Laughing Mask is on the run, plotting a terrible vengeance against Louis XIV and his court of sycophants. Penelope and Bellegarde must stop the mad Harlequin before his actions derail History. But first, the Time Lady must face the three faceless rulers of Twilight, also known as the Gods of Ragnarok…

 

And thus ends The Key to Space, our six-part baroque cycle, set in the cities and courts of 1668, from Charles II’s London and Oxford to legend-haunted Prague and Louis XIV’s Versailles…

To be fair, it was more of a trilogy or triptych, with each of its three segments being divided in two parts for convenience and ease of play.

So how did our final two-parter go down in actual play?  Well, wonderfully!  But before we get to Penelope’s final decisions, a few words about the historical context, references and personages of the City of Twilight.

The scenario featured many historical NPCs from the world of French classic theatre, including cameos by the famous playwrights Molière (whom Penelope had already briefly met 20 years before, in her previous incarnation) and Racine, as well as some slightly more substantial parts for the doomed actress Thérèse“Marquise” du Parc and the actor La Grange, Molière’s most talented and trusted disciple in his later years.

But the historical figure who dominated the whole show was, of course, the King of France LouisXIV, then aged 29 and in the process of becoming the glorious, so-called Sun-King. The monumental construction site of Versailles castle and the extravagant royal feast that took place there on the 18th of July 1668 played a major role in the plot, embodying the heady mix of splendor, vanity, domination and extravagance that would define Louis XIV’s reign in history… While he hardly appeared in the scenario itself (he didn’t even have a single line of dialogue!), Louis XIV’s presence loomed over the story from its beginning to its end.

This story gave me the opportunity to create my own imaginary solution to one of France’s most fascinating and enduring historical mysteries – that of the Manin the Iron Mask!  But instead of presenting it as a riddle to be solved, I orchestrated things to make the whole Iron Mask business the consequence of Penelope’s adventure.

To cut a long story short, I made Eustache Danger (the purported, enigmatic identity of the Man in the Mask) a young, revenge-mad architect who had been socially destroyed by his association with Superintendent Nicolas Fouquet, whose fall from grace and imprisonment were one of Louis XIV’s most dramatic demonstrations of power – and have, incidentally, often been associated with the Iron Mask mystery.

Armed with the second Fragment of Morrolan’s Key (which allowed its user to open passages to other dimensions…), the driven architect had come into contact with the Gods of Ragnarok, who had transformed him into a sinister Harlequin, not only able to drive his audience mad with his sarcasms and antics but with the powers of masking himself to other people’s perceptions and of changing his face at will – think of him as a Vampire – The Masquerade Malkavian adept at Obfuscate and Dementation and you won’t be far off. His powers could have given him the possibility of precipitating the King into utter madness – and even to steal his face and rule in his place…

Luckily for history as we know it, the Laughing Mask was stopped in extremis by Penelope and her friend Bellegarde (acting as His Majesty’s most special agent). Naturally, the only way to prevent Harlequin-Danger from using his sinister powers to escape and wreak havoc once again was to trap his ever-changing face in a cage of its own… And thus the Laughing Mask became the Iron Mask…

As for the Gods of Ragnarok (whom Penelope had already encountered with her long-lost friend Everett Blake in this special episode), they played the proverbial role of the “unseen hand”, the “power-behind-the-scene” (quite literally, in this case) that had observed and, sometimes, manipulated events before revealing themselves in the final act.

And yes, Penelope did manage to outwit them and send them back to their out-of-reality place of exile… a feat which she achieved by destroying the three Fragments of the Key to Space, her father’s flawed artefact of power – a dramatic gesture which was the perfect way to close this story.

In a very touching epilogue, the Time Lady decided to go back to Prague to reunite with the English student of alchemy and seeker of arcane knowledge John Wycliffe, who had helped her during the Secret City segment and whom she had to leave without a word of explanation to pursue her quest. And yes, you guessed it, their reunion ended up with Penelope welcoming the 17th century dilettante scholar as a new travelling companion in the TARDIS…  

See you in a couple of months (give or take) – for season 17 of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey and more adventures in time and space!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Character Archetypes or: what is your D&D doing in my DWAITAS?

While I definitely don’t intend to convert from my own heavily house-ruled brand of 1st edition DWAITAS to any other system, I must say that several features of the new DOCTORS & DALEKS rulebook published by Cubicle 7 have struck me as particularly well thought-out, with a very strong accent on genre emulation. 

One of these features is the list of six basic character classes – reminiscent of the old D20 Modern ones (IIRC) but re-designed DW-style. The idea is simple: each of the six basic D&D attributes (Strength, Wisdom, etc.) is tied to a specific character class, which is clearly defined more as a heroic archetype than as, say, a profession or career, which is, IMHO, the perfect way to go. 

The six classes are: the Charmer (Charisma), the Thinker (Intelligence), the Empath (Wisdom), the Trickster (Dexterity), the Protector (Strength) and the Stalwart (Constitution). The names are self-explanatory and if you want more details on these classes, well, I direct you to the Doctors & Daleks players book. 

Each class provides a wide array of special talents and other signature abilities which (this being, basically, D&D) are acquired as the character gains levels (and which, incidentally, take this iteration of DW in RPG form in a completely opposite direction to the one followed by DW 2nd Edition, which took all our beloved traits out of the equation but I won’t elaborate on this).

As I was thinking about these six classes (let’s call them ‘archetypes’), I realized that they could be readily translated into Doctor Who RPG 1st edition terms, since the six attributes of the Vortex system are almost identical to the classic D&D six (with a few variations – Wisdom being replaced with Awareness and Constitution with Resolve… but these actually make things even more logical, e.g. Stalwarts being defined by their high Resolve). 

These six archetypes could simply be used as simple and elegant templates for beginning player-characters (especially with new players, I’d say), with their associated special abilities and talents being represented by (wait for it…) a list of possible good traits – YES!

 So here is the result of my little conversion work – and I must say I find it quite interesting. (BTW, for simplicity’s sake, I’ve limited the listed possible good traits to the ones listed in the 12th Doctor rulebook, leaving special traits out).

Let’s start with the ‘prime requisite’ attribute – the one which should be at least equal to 4:

Charmer = Presence

Empath = Awareness

Protector = Strength

Stalwart = Resolve

Thinker = Ingenuity

Trickster = Coordination

And now, on to the typical/recommended good traits:

Charmer: Attractive, Charming, Friends, Lucky, Noble, Owed Favour, Voice of Authority

Empath: Animal Friendship, Charming, Empathic, Friends, Hypnosis, Psychic Training, Sense of Direction

Protector: Brave, Indomitable, Military Rank, Noble, Quick Reflexes, Tough, Voice of Authority

Stalwart: Brave, Face in the Crowd, Fast Healing, Indomitable, Military Rank, Sense of Direction, Tough

Thinker: Biochemical Genius, Boffin, Percussive Maintenance, Photographic Memory, Resourceful Pockets, Reverse the Polarity of the Neutron Flow, Technically Adept

Trickster: Face in the Crowd, Keen Senses, Lucky, Owed Favour, Quick Reflexes, Resourceful Pockets, Technically Adept

Yes, by some quirk of fate, each list has the same number of typical traits (seven). These lists are not exclusive lists; they simply show which good traits would go well with each archetype; if you really want to make a rule about this, you could say that the character must purchase at least 2 points worth of these recommended traits.

I was amazed by how easy this little conversion work was – and, if anything, it shows that the underlying idea behind the six Doctors & Daleks classes is a very sound and apt one in terms of genre emulation, since it translates so nicely and easily to TOSTIL (That Other System That I Love J).


Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Key to Space (2/3)

Second Fragment: The Secret City

I. The Cursed House

Lady Penelope’s search for the second fragment of the Key to Space takes her to Prague, a city full of stories and secrets, memories and mysteries. Her steps soon lead her to the Jewish Ghetto, where the shadows of the past and the threats of the future lurk at the threshold of a troubled present. There, in a forsaken house, a dying man of wisdom is waiting for her…

II. The Hidden Legend

Now in possession of the second fragment of the Key, Penelope must confront a man who should have been dead for 75 years – former charlatan Edward Kelley, now known as Doctor K, hidden master of the Imperial Secret Cabinet. Meanwhile, a religious pogrom is brewing and a well-kept secret is about to step out of the shadows, into the streets of the Ghetto…

Of course, the Golem of Prague made a spectacular appearance - but it was a reinterpreted golem, made of the very stones of the Ghetto and given life by the combined powers of telluric energy (the 'signature shtick' of Penelope 7 - see our last season) and the collective unconscious of an entire community. Part two was extremely moving, with some very emotional scenes dealing with the trail left in Prague by Morrolan, Penelope's long-dead Time Lord father... Also, that scoundrel Edward Kelley finally met a fitting end - yes, it was the Third Defenestration of Prague!

Next stop: Paris!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Key to Space (1/3)

In this six-chapter mini-series, Lady Penelope goes on a quest all around 1668 Europe to retrieve the three fragments of the Key to Space, a prodigious (and quite hazardous) device crafted by her late father, the Time Lord Morrolan, also known as the Architect… Who knows what hidden perils, mysteries and revelations await her?

First Fragment: The Shining City

I. The Hollow Court

Lady Penelope’s quest for the Key to Space first takes her to Whitehall Palace in London, the seat of King Charles II’s decadent and intrigue-riddled court. Her search soon brings her to join forces with England’s rising star architect, Christopher Wren, to whom her father had entrusted the first fragment of the Key – which has just been stolen by an unknown party…  

II. The Invisible College

Penelope’s search for the stolen fragment of the Key takes her to Oxford, where she quickly draws the attention of the Invisible College, an ancient secret institution fallen under the influence of the mysterious Twilight People. But what is the true agenda of these elusive entities?  And why are they so interested in Christopher Wren’s dream of a new London?


Aside from Christopher Wren himself, this first two-parter featured quite a few historical guest stars and cameos, including Charles II, his various mistresses (well, as far as 1668 was concerned: Barbara Palmer née Villiers, Moll Davis and Nell Gwynn), his wife and his brother James, the inevitable Samuel Pepys, John Denham (reinvented here as a truly tragic figure), the polymath genius Robert Boyle and Lady Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle and author of that strangest of utopias, The Blazing World

Next stop: Prague!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Lady Penelope Rides Again!

 Our sixteenth season was great - but clearly left us wanting for more, probably because its two halves had been separated by a longer time gap than usual, because of the Not So Great Hiatus. Sylvie and I were supposed to start the first season of a new campaign for another, completely different game... but in the end neither of us felt ready for this. So we decided to bring our Time Lady back far sooner than was planned - not for a seventeenth season but for a limited 'mini-series' of six heavily connected episodes (or, if you will, a trilogy of two-parters). Yes, that's right, we're going a bit FLUX here - but this mini-series will have a very different feel. I'm not divulging anything yet (SPOILERS!) but the basic premises we agreed on was to use a single historical setting, for a longer immersion than is usually the case...

I started working on the storyline one week ago or so and the ideas have been flooding in... We'll play the first episode next Saturday... A bientôt ! 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Season 16 Finale (Episodes 14-15)

Episode 14: Trail of the Lloigor

Channeling their eldritch energies through a trans-temporal nexus, the Lloigor are trying to use the Cardiff Rift to break the quantum barrier that imprisons them in a single continuum. Racing against Time itself, Penelope must reach 2024 to prevent the realization of the sinister entities’ master plan – but her old enemies are determined to throw her off-course…

Episode 15: Cwlwm

Having (at last!) arrived in 2024 Cardiff, Lady Penelope must deal with the traitor at the Torchwood Hub, before facing the primal might of the Timeless Lloigor as they prepare to wreak havoc on our reality (not to mention solving the mysteries of the National Eisteddfod). A climactic conclusion to the Power of the Earth story arc – and the end of another season…   


Aside from a dramatic dimensional showdown with the Lloigor, this definitely Welsh episode also featured the historical character Iolo Morganwg and the pseudo-historical character Geraint the Blue Bard. If you’ve never heard about them, check them out on Wikipedia – their story is just fascinating!

And so concludes the sixteenth season of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey – a season which was split in two because of the aforementioned Not So Great Hiatus. And perhaps because of all this, it will definitely fill a special niche in my memory as a veteran (nah, grizzled) GM. Aside from all this, the interruption actually allowed me to steer the direction of the season finale in a completely different direction than what I initially had in mind (and hadn’t quite managed to foreshadow yet, so all this reshuffling happened off-stage, unbeknownst to my dear player and compagne).

When I immersed myself back in my old notes and re-read the blurbs of episodes 1-8, I had something of a brainwave (no, it was not another stroke…): the whole “Power of the Earth” theme, which had been running like an underground river in the background since Penelope’s latest regeneration in season 15, was definitely the way to go and gave me a perfect opportunity to bring back Penelope’s arch-enemies, the Lloigor, with some unexpected revelations about their origins and answers to some very old questions about Penelope’s father, the Time Lord Morrolan… old and new, past and present, the perfect way to end up the seventh Penelope’s second season!

So what about the other idea, the one that I dumped for this Big Lloigor finale?  Well I’m not telling (since Sylvie is reading this blog) and I’ll keep in store… perhaps for season 17? 

See you in a few months – and thanks to those who sent me words of support and kindness. 

La vie continue…

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Season 16: Episode 13

Episode 13: Last of the Wampanoags

New England, 1774. Answering a call for help from an old friend, Penelope discovers two communities in turmoil. As tensions flare between colonial settlers and Native Americans, dark forces from a forgotten past are awakening in the depths of the Earth. With the help of allies from each side, the Time Lady must once again face her old arch-enemies… the Lloigor!

As implied from the title and the blurb above, this scenario mixed a somewhat Lovecraftian vision of colonial America with a strong ‘Last of the Mohicans’ vibe and some elements from Algonquin folklore. It also involved several key ingredients from our own continuity about the Lloigor, different time continuums and the telluric Power of the Earth. The “old friend” mentioned above was Alicia McLaren née Maddox, a psychic / time sensitive first introduced in “Stolen Pasts” (season 9, episode 7) and later seen in “Hellfire” (season 10, episode 7) and “Cry of the Banshee” (season 12, episode 1).

As is often the case, actual play brought its fair share of unexpected turns and twists – including a very amusing ‘oops’ moment by Penelope herself during the initial reunion with Alicia ; the NPC had just mentioned the Boston Tea Party – a reference which was not understood by either of Penelope’s companions, so the Time Lady explained that this event was “the first step leading to the birth of the United States of America”, which caused Alicia (whose husband Sean had joined the ranks of the American rebels) to shed tears of hope and joy: “So we ARE going to win!  This changes everything!”  What made this especially funny is that Penelope had, mere minutes before, sternly warned her companions about the dangers of meddling with history and judging the past with the benefits of historical hindsight…

We had a GREAT time. The episode marked a high point in the current season; it was quite epic, with a constantly rising dramatic tension, some very moving moments and quit a few memorable scenes. “Fantastique!” said Sylvie, right after the end…

As the antepenultimate (I love that word…) episode of our current season, “Last of the Wampanoags” also opened the doors to the final diptych, in which the Lloigor will, of course, play a prominent part… See you soon for the penultimate episode!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Season 16: Episode 12

Episode 12: Time and the Land

Penelope is back in the alternate 22nd century of New Camelot, in the court of King Arthur the Second – but her true destination is the Hidden Kingdom of the Tanu, where her former lover King Fenn is about to face his ultimate destiny. There, she will discover the answer to the Riddle of the Two Dragons and the last secrets of Excalibur, her father’s masterwork.

As usual, a few notes about this episode:

It was a very character-driven episode, centered on Penelope’s decisions and with no real antagonist or conflict – but it was certainly not a “time-off” story. Indeed, it marked a pivotal milestone (so to speak) in our Time Lady’s personal evolution, as well as in the whole King Arthur / Tanu plotline that has been around since our first two seasons.

Penelope’s seventh incarnation seems to be clearly marked by the pursuit of wisdom and the “great-power-great-responsibility” theme.

The story itself revolved around her interactions with various key NPCs, including the Tanu King Fenn, who played a major role in several previous stories – his last appearances were in the first episode of season 14 (where he was at the very heart of the story) and, less prominently, in the third episode of season 15 (Penelope’s latest regeneration, which gave her an even greater link than before to the Power of the Earth, the telluric energy which has played such an important role in our various New Camelot / Tanu / Lloigor stories). There were still some loose ends to tie regarding this character and his ties to Penelope and NOW seemed the perfect time to do so.

Having recently realized that her old arch-enemies the Lloigor seemed to be entirely absent of the main future continuum (as opposed to the alternate timeline New Camelot) and that her father Morrolan’s own discoveries about the Power of the Earth hadn’t yet revealed all their secrets and mysteries, Penelope had decided, at the end of our previous episode, to seek some answers from the Tanu – particularly from Queen Alba (wife of King Arthur II) and her half-human, prescient daughter Princess Dana.

So I decided to wrap up my various New Camelot / Tanu loose ends into a coherent storyline, adding two new narrative elements: the aforementioned Riddle of the Two Dragons (my own interpretation of the well-known tale about the boy Merlin discovering two fighting dragons beneath King Vortigern’s tower) and the first clear indication of a “new deal” regarding the Lloigor, Penelope’s most enduring arch-enemies… who have apparently completely vanished from this continuum too. Could this have something to do with the incoming season finale?  We’ll know soon enough!

An important aspect of this episode was how it brought Penelope back to the very first elements of her unique heritage and odyssey: the sword Excalibur, the very existence of the New Camelot future, her father Morrolan’s secret experiments and his connections to Arthurian legend… and even the mysteries of her own TARDIS…

Last but not least, New Camelot also provided the perfect new home for Just Penny (Penelope’s single-lived clone – see last episode). We’ll take a short break next weekend – see you in a fortnight or so for the antepenultimate episode of our season!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Season 16: Episode 11

Episode 11: Lady of the Future

Cheem has been saved – but the battle has just begun!  On New Earth, Penelope and her allies have decided to strike back at Lady Cassie… but how do you fight a quasi-immortal, über-rich, mega-famous galactic icon? In the New New York Senate? At the Galactic Stock Exchange?  In the dark streets of the Undercity?  And what will be Lady Cassie’s next move?   

 As usual, a few notes about this episode:

 A direct follow-up to last week’s episode, this story had an even stronger RTD-vibe, with a serious dose of political satire and social commentary. Set in New New York, a hundred years or so after the Bliss disaster (and several decades after the Renaissance of New Earth), this episode also gave me the opportunity to play former Novice Hame (yes, I’ve decided she was still alive after all this time – this is the far, far, far future, OK?), now Mother Hame, founder of the Sanctuary (the new, post-Plenitude galactic hospital) and leader of the Church of Boe (waiting, of course, for the Face’s Second Coming).

As an extra nod to the RTD era, the story also featured a clone of Lady Penelope (à la Metacrisis Doctor), nicknamed Just Penny, created by none other than Lady Cassie herself (who else?) and whose very existence proved to be the pivotal element of the story.

In the end, Penelope resisted her urge to go all “Time Lord victorious” on Lady Cassie, wisely illustrating the proverbial saying about great power and great responsibility. A great episode, which proved quite personal and emotional in actual play.

Next week: Penelope take Dorian, Xara and Just Penny to her beloved alternate New Camelot timeline, where she intends to delve further into the mysteries of Earth Power…

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Season 16: Episode 10

 Episode 10: Evergreen

In the impossibly distant future, Penelope and her companions visit the lush, beautiful green world of Cheem, home of the noble Tree People, humanoid descendants of Old Earth’s primordial forests. Unbeknownst to the travellers, their arrival will set into motion the cogs of a long-prepared plan threatening the freedom and the very life of the Forest of Cheem…


A usual, a few notes about this episode:

This story was long overdue, since Penelope and Dorian had been invited to Cheem by the Tree Lady Twane (cousin and lookalike of the beloved Jabe) back in episode 5 of season 13 (yes, that was three seasons ago…), during a brief but memorable encounter in New New York’s hospital. At the time, my intention had been to run a Cheem-based episode before the end of the season but this was not to be, mainly because I couldn’t find a suitable slot in the ongoing season arch and by the end of season 13, Penelope and Dorian had had their own (and quite moving) parting of the ways.

But I kept the “Cheem rendez-vous” idea in store, should Penelope and Dorian get reunited, which they did in our last episode. The presence of Penelope’s other current companion, the young Xara Anderson, a would-be ethnologist-planetologist, made the green world of Cheem an even more relevant choice of destination for their reunion trip…

The episode obviously made heavy use of RTD-era lore – the Forest of Cheem, New Earth (which Penelope and her friends will visit next episode!) as well as the main villain of the story, who was none other than a certain Lady Cassie, clone-child of the original Lady Cassandra and heiress to her fabulous fortune (and an interplanetary corporate empire known as Cassandra Unlimited), still looking like a beautiful woman in her twenties, since she was only in her eighties…  And unlike her progenitor who found redemption at the moment of her death, this Lady Cassandra was as callous, greedy and narcissistic as the original when she first appeared in The End of the World

Due to the structure of the story (and to her role as the hidden mastermind of a very ugly corporate conspiracy), Lady Cassie remained mainly off-stage, appearing only in a single scene (and as a hologram!) but she’ll definitely play a prominent role in our next episode, which will see an angry Lady Penelope take the fight against Cassandra Unlimited to New New York (more on that below* and next week).

The plot dealt (quite predictably) with ecology, as well as with politics (we could sum up the main themes as political independence and ecological integrity), allowing me to develop my own version of the Forest of Cheem’s society, which I divided into two opposite political factions: the Anthropophiles (eager to preserve and even strengthen their ancestral ties to Humanity) and the Primordians (in favor of an isolationist return to roots). In the end, the two factions had to unite in order to save their beloved world from either ecological destruction or corporate enslavement, heralding a new age for the Forest of Cheem… 

And of course, this particular Gordian Knot could only be cut by the Lady Penelope, using her current incarnation’s unique connection to the power of primal Earth. This special link, which owes to the circumstances of her last regeneration (see episode 3 of our last season), already played a significant part in some of our latest episodes… Wait, could this be the hidden theme-meme-McGuffin of the current season?  Well, only Time will tell.

* POST SCRIPT: NEXT EPISODE

Originally, our next episode was supposed to be a New Earth-based futuristic yet retro mobster story, somewhere between “Dick Tracy” and “Judge Dredd”, called (you’ve guessed it) “Gangs of New New York” (too hard to resist, eh?) but since Penelope’s player has decided that foiling Lady Cassie’s Evergreen scheme was not enough and that she deserved a swift, devastating and fully-fledged riposte (yes, episode 10 ended up on a somewhat Time Lady Victorious vibe), I’ve decided to throw away “Gangs of New New York” to the scrap heap to cook up a direct follow-up story to “Evergreen”, set in New New York and centered on the clash of these two very special Ladies. 

This will give me the opportunity to fully play Lady Cassie (whom I already planned to keep in store for a future comeback, since she makes such a perfect ‘reverse image’ foe for our Time Lady), while making Penelope’s own decisions the “prime mover” of the story – something that does not happen that often in an ‘adventures-in-time-and-space’ type campaign, where things tend to follow a ‘destination of the week’ pattern. As a GM, I always try to favor players’ ideas and decisions over preplanned possibilities and Sylvie’s choice to initiate a “round two” against Lady Cassie (which really flowed logically and made perfect sense in actual play) gives me the perfect opportunity to do so.

So it’s adios “Gangs of New New York” (hey, I even have my own Lost Stories now!) and hello “Untitled Episode” – see you next week for the actual title, the blurb and some after-play notes.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Season 16: Episode 9 (yes!)

Episode 9: Under the Loch

After some R&R time on Avalon, Penelope decides to pay a visit to her former companion Dorian, now living in the “M.I.7.” alternate reality, working with its own earthbound Doctor and a young Kate Lethbridge-Stewart for Her Majesty’s most secret service – just when the team is investigating some weird happenings in the depths of Loch Ness. Sea Devils, anyone?

A few notes about this episode:

It took place in an alternate 1980, with its own alternate (and earthbound) Doctor acting as a super-agent for the M.I.7. (think of UNIT, Torchwood and UNCLE all rolled into one). Both had featured prominently in the two final episodes of season 12 and this alternate reality was the one where Penelope had dropped her former companion after their own, bittersweet parting of the ways at the end of season 13.

The overall story bore deliberate similarities to that of Doctor Who and the Silurians, but with a much shorter and simpler plot.

Of course, my use of the Sea Devils was not entirely unrelated to their imminent TV return but it also allowed me to explicitly introduce in play a notion which had only been implicit so far – the fact that Silurians and Sea Devils are NOT native to Lady Penelope’s own continuum. So far, these two species had never been featured (or even mentioned) in our past fifteen seasons – and for a good reason. In Penelope’s home reality (which also differs from the continuum of the TV show in other, more obvious ways), Silurians and Sea Devils simply do not exist - so the so-called “M.I.7.” reality, with its strong Third Doctor vibe, was the ideal setting to introduce these creatures in play.

Aside from the emotional aspect of Penelope’s and Dorian’s reunion, one of the strongest moments of this episode was a very tense (albeit purely verbal) confrontation between Penelope and the new incarnation of the alternate, earthbound Doctor, who now insists on being called “the Major” – think of the Third Doctor, but with a personality resembling a particularly unpleasant caricature of the Brigadier (who, incidentally, was prematurely killed off in this specific alternate reality). I had anticipated some tension between this character and the usually more pacifist Penelope – but it actually went beyond my expectations, making the entire episode even more focused and emotionally charged.

So, Dorian is back in the TARDIS – at least for a few adventures. Both he and Penelope have changed since their last encounter but they instantly “clicked back” as soon as they got reunited. The presence of Penelope’s new travelling companion, the very reasonable and responsible Xara, will undoubtedly add an interesting element to the mix!  

Next stop: the forests of Cheem, in a very, very far future, to honor a promise made a few seasons ago between Dorian and one of Jabe’s cousins…

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Other (Not So) Great Hiatus

Hello everyone!  Season 16 of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey is finally back, after an unforeseen and unprecedented mid-season hiatus of SIX months… Yes, the last time we played was back in September 2021 – which now seems like another era entirely.

So why such a long break?  In early December, I suffered a vascular stroke, which led me to six weeks of hospitalization (with restricted visits because of the COVID situation) and left me with a half-paralyzed right arm and right leg. I was very lucky, though, since I suffered no cognitive, memory or linguistic damage. The old brain is still here and fully working. As for the body, well, I’m on the mend. I can walk and type again but other fine-motor activities and things like long walks are still very difficult – but I’ll spare you the ugly details.

As far as our DW campaign was concerned, this unfortunate incident robbed us of our 2021 Xmas Special, on which I had just begun to work when the stroke hit. Needless to say, playing a Xmas Special six months after Christmas would have been slightly silly – and perhaps a bit too emotional for Sylvie and I, considering the way last Christmas turned out (or should I say did NOT turn out). So I’ve scrapped the intended story and cooked up something new to re-launch our interrupted season. We’ll play it in a week or so. See you then!