RPG Thursday – Five Rounds Rapid (Doctor Who and UNIT)

Courtesy Cubicle 7

If you recognize the quote in the title then this RPG sourcebook is for you. Defending the Earth: The UNIT Sourcebook is a supplement for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (DWATS) roleplaying game. The book provides background for playing members of the United Nation Intelligence Taskforce – or is it the Unified Intelligence Taskforce?  Either way you can be a member of U.N.I.T!

For a sourcebook that basically lays out the how-to of a military-style campaign, I find it a bit humorous to see a text box titled “Guns are Still Bad!” DWATS tries to get away from guns; hence the order of actions (Talkers, Runners, Doers) that keep with the Doctor Who feeling where guns are often a last resort. Or at least they were in the older series; the more modern versions have way more gunplay than the past. But since Doctor Who is filled with TV tropes, there has to be a way to play “Five Rounds Rapid.” To explain, I will reference the TV Tropes website (I have purposely left all the crosslinks here to show just how awesome a resource the TV Tropes website can be for RPG adventure development):

When military personnel or the police encounter the Monster of the Week, they invariably attack it with small arms fire. Unfortunately, this never works. The monster is always Immune to Bullets. This gives our heroes an opportunity to save the day with some Applied Phlebotinum. 
An important part of this trope is that, in almost all cases, the good guys will only ever use small arms fire. Rockets, tanks, air support, artillery — all the things the military is known for — are hardly ever involved (unless the monster is a KaijuRobeast, or similarly gigantic). Not only are they more expensive for the producers to incorporate in to the film/show, in most cases, they might actually work, thereby stealing the thunder of the heroes of the story. 
If the monster in question is absurdly slow moving, expect the soldiers to remember what their mommy told them about how you Do Not Run with a Gun. If, after they discover their guns are useless, the good guys still won’t stop wasting ammo shooting the baddie, it’s I Will Fight Some More Forever.Very often in instances of this trope, a Technical Pacifist will urge the army/police/whomever to try and understand the monster before trying to kill it. Depending on the attitude of the series, they may either be considered a naive idiot or a paragon of virtue.If the army just wants to Nuke Em, the heroes’ job will be to find a solution with less collateral damage before it’s too late.

Named for a line in the Doctor Who episode “The Daemons,” where Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart orders a UNIT soldier to shoot the Monster of the Week five times, quickly.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Jenkins?
Jenkins: Sir!
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Chap with wings, there. Five rounds rapid.

Defending the Earth has eight chapters. The first two are background and a history of UNIT. Chapter 3 is modern UNIT and has rules for making a base of operations. Chapter 4 is the chargen chapter with many example characters (named and generic), and Chapter 5 has new rules for firearms and mass combat. Chapter 6 is the MIB chapter –  or how to cover up all that alien action. Chapter 7 is gamemaster advice for a UNIT campaign and Chapter 8 is a pre-made adventure.

The book very good. The production values are very high. I like the page edges that make it lok like you are flipping through a government file folder complete with stapled, paperclipped or taped pictures and notes. Very evocative of the setting and effective at setting the mood. Not good for a home print job, but beautiful in the hardcover deadtree edition!

For those looking to add a bit of Torchwood to their campaign, this book will be a slight disappointment. Cubicle 7 obviously has a license limited to the Doctor Who TV series so where Torchwood has been mentioned in that series it can be tied in. An enterprising and resourceful GM will find this book useful, but if one is looking for pre-made Torchwood then this sourcebook is only inspirational.

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One thought on “RPG Thursday – Five Rounds Rapid (Doctor Who and UNIT)

  1. Thanks for introducing the book! A while ago we had a “Doctor Who” themed music night and I was looking all over for a guide to UNIT uniforms. Oh, and the Brigadier was giving what we in the Canadian Army (which, when I was in it, was very much like the British Army) were taught was a standard Fire Order: person or unit to fire, target to fire at, how much to fire.

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