Sunday, February 25, 2018

Under the Stethoscope - the Doctors Career

Somebody call a Doctor!

This time out I will examine the Doctors career, introduced in Supplement 4, Citizens of the Imperium. Can a Doctor become an heroic adventurer? Let's find out.

My first impression is that the Doctors career models a University Medical school or Major City Medical system. The first thing that suggests this to me is the fact that the Doctors career is not easy to get into. The enlistment throw is 9+, one of the hardest. Only 28% of applicants get in. Intelligence and Dexterity are the key characteristics; odds of getting in improve to 72% (6+).

Once you're in, on the other hand, Reenlistment is easy, only 4+. Survival is almost automatic at 3+ (97%). With the Intelligence DM, survival IS automatic. This is the second indicator. The low Survival throw points to a safe, stable environment.

This by itself makes the Doctors career a desirable one. Will this encourage players to stay in service longer? Doctors get the automatic 2 skills per term, after all. With no worries about Sudden PC Death Syndrome (SPCDS)tm, players may want to pile on the terms for that sweet pension and loads of skills.

What skills are available?

Medical skill has the most slots. This is no surprise. Four tables with six slots makes twenty-four skill entries. Six of them are Medical. If Medical-3 makes you a doctor, what does Medical-5 or -6 mean? Yes, this could happen.
Actually, the odds are even greater than 1-in-4 that a character will get Medical several times. Table 1 has only characteristic bonuses. Skip Table 1 and Medical becomes 1-in-3.

Note well though, here's another reason to stay on at The Hospital. Starting in term four, if you take one skill slot on Table 1, the aging table throws could be mitigated or neutralized!

Besides Medical, what skills can a PC get?

They can get Electronics, Streetwise, Blade Combat (combat scalpels?) Mechanical, Computer, or Administration. Doctors are not going to be front-line fighters, but you don't want that anyway. More bonuses to INT, EDU and DEX are also in the mix. Maybe this was the designers' way of avoiding too many slots for Medical, or slots for combat skills.

A Doctor is a valuable addition to an adventurer party because of the Medical skill. With a good mix of technical skills behind the main skill, Doctors can solve problems of all sorts. Adventurer parties need a broad array of skills to handle situations, and Doctors can cover the Technical Skills cluster.

The Swag!

When the time comes to leave the service, Doctors are on easy street. They have the highest base Cash value of any of the COTI careers, so there's no fear of starting off dirt poor. Benefits are unremarkable. It is possible for a Doctor to grab a Gun skill with two or three receipts of the Weapon benefit. There's always the Experience rules as well. So Doctors do not have to be non-combatants. Remember: never bring a scalpel to a gun fight.

Given all this swag, why would a Doctor trade out his comfortable gig at The Hospital for life aboard a tramp trader or a secondhand scout wandering around the edges of Civilization?

That's for the player to decide. But to help with the imagination, here are two Physicians I can think of that went for this life. They are very different.

Dr. Leonard McCoy (Star Trek)
I'm a Doctor not a Mechanic!

Big ship, professional crew, best of facilities and supplies, lots of nurses and aides to help a fellow out. His best friend is the Captain. Went out for the chance to “explore strange new worlds” and “Seek out new life and new civilizations”. This is all the explanation I need.

Dr. Simon Tam (Firefly)
She Can Kill You with her Brain. In 3D!

Small ship, scruffy crew, limited facilities and he has to steal his supplies. Occasional help from other crewmen. Captain only eventually became a friend. He takes pains to avoid being noticed by anyone. He went out there to escape the Scary Government Forces that were trying to arrest him. Again, that is completely legit, and is the starting point for lots of adventures. Most of which we never got to see (darn it Fox Channel!). I notice that Dr. Tam is an example of Working Passage, and the transition into regular crew.

In summary, a Doctor can be an awesome adventuring character. Why is your Surgeon PC roaming the galaxy? Leave a comment and tell us about him/her.


  1. Another physician in science fiction I like is Dr. Karin Chakwas in the Mass Effect trilogy. She's a highly experienced professional, who goes out into the unknown with Commander Shepard in the second out of loyalty to them and another character. A physician may look for a way to apply their skills in a new environment.

  2. Some of the doctors in Fallout 3 are surprisingly good at what they do, given the tools they have.

  3. And of course there's Doctor Conway from Jame's White's Sector General series. That series shows how you could take a bunch of doctor characters and make a whole campaign out of their exploits.

  4. Doctor Janet Frasier, Stargate SG-1. Deploys in the field sometimes as well as working at the base as the head physician. Pretty unflappable too.

  5. Another great blog column looking at an underappreciated career. Thanks for helping us look outside of the box, Mr. Weaver.