Monday, 30 June 2014

DW Companions as PCs: Romana

Leela leaves at the end of the fifteenth season. The campaign has been a fairly odd one for some time now, with only two players for the last three seasons, and for some extended periods before that. Perhaps more significantly, there has been something of an imbalance between the two characters. Sarah Jane and Leela were certainly competent characters, but even they were clearly sidekicks to the Doctor, the character who has been there, in one form or another, for, well... fifteen seasons now.

So, perhaps inspired by an NPC in The Invasion of Time - the first time we'd ever seen an adult female member of the Doctor's species - the other player decides to create a character who can truly be the Doctor's equal. She creates the Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, better known as Romana.

Romana is a recent graduate of the Time Lord Academy, and there's some indication that she is even more intelligent than the Doctor. Certainly, she passed the Academy's final exams with much higher marks than he did, although, to be fair, the Doctor may have been the sort of person who was too busy messing about to actually study. Be that as it may, Romana is, for obvious reasons, vastly less experienced than her co-traveller. This, as it turns out, affects both the skills on her character sheet and, more generally, her personality.

She is clearly enormously knowledgeable about science and the history of the universe, and highly skilled at engineering and repair. Unfortunately, neither of these are quite as useful as they might be. In the former case, while her knowledge of physics is certainly impressive she also seems to have had a particular interest in entomology (especially butterflies), which comes up... basically never.

Even in the case of the more obviously useful science skills, it's worth noting that the breadth of her knowledge comes, at least in part, from a very high native tech level, and may not require a huge skill rating as such. Understanding how time travel works, for instance, is presumably no harder for a Gallifreyan than understanding the theory of relativity is for a 20th century scientist. (Which is to say, not that easy; it probably needs a pretty good skill and intelligence score, but not necessarily best-in-the-world sort of levels).

Similarly, in the case of her history knowledge, while she seems to be able to name planets and interstellar wars with ease, it's all obviously learned from books alone. Which does rather handicap her understanding of alien cultures and what the outside universe is really like.

Her engineering skills are, perhaps, even more limited. That's because, brilliant though she is with Gallifreyan technology, she's not much good with anything else. In The Pirate Planet, for example, while she can casually identify the crucial part of the planet's engine that has broken down, she has no clue how to fix it. Because, basically, a planet-sized interstellar jump drive is too primitive a thing for her to know anything useful about. She's also initially stumped by the TARDIS itself, because it's too ancient a model.

In DWAITAS terms, she may be a Time Lord, but she doesn't have the Time Traveller advantage. Because, as yet, she hasn't travelled.

Her other skills include driving an air car - she says that somebody bought her one for her birthday, possibly when she was the Time Lord equivalent of a teenager. The one she drives in The Pirate Planet, though, is presumably quite a bit more low tech than her birthday present, so the controls must be quite universal. (Although it's not as if she has to repair it). She's also not bad with a blaster gun, as we see on a couple of occasions.

Her upbringing has clearly left with her an innate understanding of etiquette and general savoir-faire, and while she can be haughty at times, she also seems good at getting people to talk to her. This is, we're explicitly told, helped by her having the Attractive advantage. As, let's be honest, every female companion has since Polly turned up at the end of the third season.

And then, of course, she regenerates at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks for no sensible reason that's ever explained on-screen.  Her second self, it turns out, has clearly been spending some experience points - mostly in buying off her unfamiliarity with non-Gallifreyan technology. From here on in, she seems at least as skilled as the Doctor at such things, and possibly rather better, since there are a couple of occasions where he hands jobs on to her, apparently believing she'll get them done quicker.

Her first self affected an emotional distance that sometimes implied she wasn't taking threats terribly seriously, and had a habit of psycho-analysing strangers at the drop of a hat. Her second incarnation is far more amenable, although she can at least act imperiously when she needs to. In game terms, she has probably bought off some sort of social disadvantage (Arrogant and Sesquipedalian, according to her DWAITAS stats, which seems fair).

She even builds herself her own sonic screwdriver. Given that the Doctor tries to swap it with his own, it's presumably pretty good, although she seems to lose it in The Horns of Nimon, so she may not have spent enough character points to 'fix' it as an item on her character sheet.

We know next to nothing about her early life, since she's as vague about that as the Doctor is. Clearly she comes from a cloistered, high status, background, but that probably goes hand-in-hand with being a Time Lord, so it doesn't necessarily tell us much.

She really likes trying on different costumes, which manifests in her first incarnation in trying to find clothes that fit in wherever she's going. Of course, most companions try to do this when visiting Earth's past, but she's unusual in also making the effort for societies that exist in our future (as in both The Androids of Tara and The Power of Kroll). When she isn't dressing up, her preference appears to be for long flowing white dresses, which are nice looking, if rather impractical.

Her second incarnation, on the other hand, seems to try on costumes at random, often mixing-and-matching from different periods of history. She has at least some preference for figure-hugging clothes with trousers, rather than skirts, but even this isn't a universal.

The biggest challenge when playing her is likely the very fact that makes her appealing - she is very much like the Doctor. Her second self, in particular, excels at the same things he does, so it will be important to play up the differences, and find a way to divide up science and technology related tasks between the two characters, so they both have something to do. Of course, this problem (such as it is) disappears if she is the key Time Lord character in a campaign, with the Doctor as some distant NPC.

Romana leaves the series when she decides to stay in the pocket universe known as E-Space, together with K9. Although, from this point forward, Romana is really only referenced in the odd flashback, K9 claims to have all the schematics necessary to build a basic TARDIS, so there's no reason to assume they're stuck in E-Space permanently.

Indeed, the spin-off media have been unusually unanimous on this point. In both the novels and the audio plays, not only does she return to normal space, but she goes back to live on Gallifrey, and eventually ends up as Lord President of the Time Lords. She is accompanied by K9 throughout this, and, in the sci-fi political thriller Gallifrey, also takes on Leela as her bodyguard. According to the novels, at some point, she regenerates again; her third self is rather more ruthless, and may still be the leader of the the planet in the early stages of the Time War.

We can, of course, ignore that if we stick solely to the TV series, although she'd have to be trapped on Gallifrey following the events of The Day of the Doctor (or still in E-Space at that point) since there are apparently no other Time Lords in our universe. Certainly, if she ever was Lord President of Gallifrey, she is either dead or replaced by the end of the Time War, since we know that Rassilon is in charge then.

If we put our minds to it, though, there are any number of ways she could have survived, and, if need be, acquired her own TARDIS. Indeed, we see her doing just this in a cameo appearance in the 2000 spin-off novel The Tomb of Valdemar, in an ebony-skinned incarnation that doesn't match any of the first three...

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