September 30

Cartoon RPGs

Being sick seems to have sparked my creativity somewhat and coupled with an email about Cartoon Action Hour Season 3 I thought I’d write a few words about cartoon based roleplaying games.

The great thing about cartoon games is that unlike most games you can throw all the rules out the window and instead rely upon cartoon physics and sensibilities.

As such some gamers tend to look down upon these games as they aren’t really sensible but can be a lot of fun to try.  The shocking thing is that there doesn’t appear to be many games that play with this genre; the great grandaddy of them all Steve Jackson Games Toon, and Cartoon Action Hour .  There is also Big Eyes Small Mouth but this seems more suited to anime gaming than emulating the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth.


I first found the original Toon game and its supplements in my friendly local game store Games Unlimited.  I was able to afford the all the books and I was able to read them all on my way home on the bus.  The game was a revelation to me; well that shouldn’t be too much of a suprise as I was new to the hobby and all new games were an eye-opener!

I did try to play it with my group at the time but I didn’t have any takers as none of the players were interested in it.  It wasn’t until I meet up at the Twilight Zone comic shop where two people were trying to start up a games club did I find any takers.  The game proved to be popular as the fast character creation rules made it easy and you could run one-shot adventures in an evening.  I had at this point upgraded the single books into the later books that complied the material into a single volume plus an additional setting book.

Characters are defined by a set of fixed attributes and skills and uses a single d6 for resolution.  This also leads to one of the frequent abuses of the system, in cartoons you can be completely oblivious to a situation until you’re made aware of it; this caused many players to assign a 1 to their intelligence so that they can be oblivious to anything.

Toon has been long out of print but it can still be had a pdf from the e23 webstore.


Cartoon Action Hour.

Currently in its third edition this game seeks to continue the tradition of cartoon gaming. The pdf is a riot of colour and is well laid out with plenty of advice given in the body and sidebars of the book.

Rather than having fixed stats characters are defined by their traits and qualities which adds more of a free form nature.  The game seems to be very solid and robust and makes use of the forgotten die in the gamers dicebag, the d12!  To round off the genre simulation of the Saturday morning cartoons of the 1980s there are also rules to cover what happens during a commercial break.

I’m also rather pleased to see that the game is very well supported by supplementary material and other campaign settings.

I’d certainly love to give this a good read through and play with the right group as it looks like a lot of fun.


Big Eyes, Small Mouth or BESM

This is a very strange beast of a game, relying upon three stats and either a roll under or roll over mechanism depending on the edition.  You can pretty much create anything you want with this system which seems to emulate the anime genre.  I’d love to comment more on anime but all I’ve really seen is Akira or Ghost in the Shell.  I suppose you could pull off Battle of the Planets using it but the version I have is a rather slim book with just the rules.

I understand that there were supplements produced for it but I heard about the game long after it had ceased printing and trying to find these books on the second hand market is tricky.

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Posted September 30, 2014 by GeneralTangent in category "fantasy", "RPG", "sf", "supers

About the Author

I've been gaming on and off since about 1989 and during that period have played with numerous game systems. I'm fluent in a few, have a basic understanding of quite a few more and can get by in others. Somewhere along the way I found time to be a playtester, contribute to an unpublished game supplement and be associated with another gaming magazine written by far more talented people than I. This lead to one infamous article being written in which I followed the letter of the adventure and torched the parties river barge. I'm also listed on as a game designer.

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