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.

September 29

Campaign idea: Go to jail, do not collect $200

At the moment I’m sick and not so I’m trying to keep myself entertained by watching movies; sometimes these films inspire me to come up with an adventure idea, in this case the film is Escape Plan.  The premise is simple, a person who has the ability to break out of prisons.  So why not spin this on its head and present the setting to the players and allow them to plot their escape.

So I got to thinking, how many campaign settings do I know of that use a prison as a backdrop and there are surprisingly few.


Dream Pod 9 devised Sub-Attica for Cyberpunk is one such book, a prison created miles beneath the waves, the ultimate objective for the players is to form an escape plan and break out.  The setting is very well detailed complete with a colourful array of personalities for the players to interact with. This is probably one of the more traditional settings for the players to work with and has plenty of opportunities for role-playing.

Abandon All Hope

By is another prison setting, this time the characters are violent criminals incarcerated aboard a giant spaceship which slips through a dimensional rift.  Here the adversaries are robots, mutants, other inmates and things that have come aboard during the dimensional slip.  Unlike Sub Attica there is no chance of escape; the players have to survive for as long as possible.

Death Valley Free Prison

Was originally another Cyberpunk style setting but this was written for the old Iron Crown Cyberspace system.  This is probably the more open of the three settings, a sandbox world full of opportunities for the players and not just working out a way of escaping.

Set in a prison constructed from Death Valley there are more than just inmates here; some people willing settled within the walls and eke out an existence.  The whole theme is very much inspired by Mad Max.

My idea.

If I was to come up with a setting then I would set it in the future and base it upon the idea of a penal colony.  The player characters would be dropped there on a one way shuttle and then would have to find a way to survive.  I did plan this as a surprise for my players with the Star Trek Colony game.

No matter what route you go down, in the end the players have to escape their jail.  While a closed setting with an escape proof prison may sound like fun, I know I would soon lose any motivation to play the game.

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September 28

Feng Shui 2

Feng Shui was one of those games I always wanted to play but never had the chance to do so.  It ticked so many boxes for me; a multi-genre war for reality; mixed parties of different genres and a light rules system which sounded perfect.

The book has had a bit of a chequered history as the full colour first edition was supposedly sold at a loss.  So each copy sold cost Daedalus Entertainment money and that’s not the way to run a business.  The second edition was a more reasonable black and white edition but compared to today’s modern games the layout looked a bit dull.

I did eventaully get around to playing this game at Killercon in Runnymede a long time ago and had a lot of fun with it.  Our group was tasked to recover a crystal skull before it fell into the hands of Nazi Germany.  The adventure worked really well and the game hurtled along; just the sort of convention game I like.
I was somewhat surprised to find that there is currently a Kickstarter project under-way to fund a second edition of the game and I am interested to see what it looks like.

You can find the Kickstarter link here :

September 23

Star Trek Colony

Note: I started writing this post back on 10  July 2012 and since then it fell by the wayside as things moved on.  Rather than let it go mouldy and have bit rot set in I thought I’d finish it off and post it to the world.  I should also mention that Starblazer Adventures is no longer available and is out of print.

So I’m spending time preparing a stand-by game so that we’ve got something to play when one of us goes on holiday.

I’ve always been enchanted by the various incarnations of the Star Trek RPG; from FASA through Last Unicorn Games and Decipher’s take on things.

Since we’d played the Decipher incarnation of the game I hunted out the books and thats when I hit a snag, a big snag; the important books for the Decipher edition were missing!  Sure I had the players books but the Narrators guide wasn’t there.

So rather than abandon the whole concept I decided to fall back onto another system and hack that to match Star Trek and one book caught my eye; Starblazer Adventures by Cubicle 7.  It’s not hard to see why this book attracted my attention, it is the largest gaming book I own and is over 600 pages of FATE powered Sci-Fi.  The book is crammed to the gills with all sorts of interesting bits and bobs; rules for aliens, starships, mutants and cyborgs.

Of course I had to figure out what parts of the game I needed to keep and how to deal with some specific Trek related themes.   Races became aspects as this seemed to be the best way of handling them, that way you could invoke the aspect to duplicate what we saw of that race in the television series.  Some races were better than others, but then that’s always the way in games.


I had previously run a Trek game set during the Original Series movie era but wanted to move things into the Next Gen side of things. I wanted to run a game that wasn’t the usual Star Trek trope of Federation vs Romulans or Klingons; I wanted to use a villain that would make the campaign stand out and that called for another alien.  I read all sorts of history for research and found an area of space that was between two of the global powers in the game and seemed to be ripe for using; this was between the Federation and the Cardassians.

So with the history done I turned to Starblazer Adventures and started to hack it to be the game I wanted.  I ran into a few problems with how to handle psionics but the game never got beyond the planning stage so I never addressed this issue.


What with the history and the era addressed I needed a world so I decided to generate one from scratch and I used NBOS Software Astrosynthesis to lay down the planetary bodies in the area and followed it up by using the Fractal Terrains software package from ProFanstasy software.

In the end I turned out some interesting planetary maps even if Fractal Terrains kept producing worlds that were a little too Earth like.

Current Status

I don’t want to abandon this idea so that’s why I’m dusting off this old setting and publishing it just to get it out of my system and perhaps revisit the idea soon.

I know if I was to create it now, I would use FATE Core to do so and perhaps the accompanying system toolkit to make it work; or I may use one of the other narrative systems I bought.  When it comes down to things, I feel the mechanics are secondary now to a good idea for a story.

I would reuse the software as they both work very well together and compliment each other perfectly.


Fractal Terrains 3:


FATE Core:

August 24

#RPGaDAY 24th: Most Complicated RPG Owned

When I started gaming I was all up for the complicated rule systems as I was a fan of the games as being as realistic as possible.

I was going to suggest Phoenix Command but that’s not a proper RPG rather a replacement combat system which leaves me to consider another candidate and I can’t really choose between either of them.

So I guess the most complicated games I own are Earthdawn and The Babylon Project.


On first glance the game appears to promise so much in the way of background; which it has in spades and a unique resolution system which is where it gets complicated.  Trying to keep track of all the different values and the different die types is a real pain in the behind.

The Babylon Project.

I loved Babylon 5 and I when I heard of a licensed role-playing game I had to have it, the downside was that at the time it was only published in the US; luckily I was going on holiday to the US that year and tracked a copy down.  The game has nine or ten stats and a very complicated combat system.


August 18


David F Chapman came up with the great idea of having people discuss role-playing games each day during the month of August.

I know I’m a little late to the party as I was on holiday for the first couple of weeks but I’m going to try and catch up.

I’ll start the ball rolling later tonight.

1st – First RPG Played
2nd – First RPG Gamemastered
3rd – First RPG Purchased
4th – Most recent RPG purchase
5th – Most Old School RPG owned
6th – Favourite RPG Never get to play
7th – Most “intellectual” RPG owned
8th – Favourite character
9th – Favourite Die / Dice Set
10th – Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction
11th – Weirdest RPG owned
12th – Old RPG you still play / read
13th – Most Memorable Character Death

14th – Best Convention Purchase
15th – Favourite Convention Game
16th – Game you wish you owned
17th – Funniest Game you’ve played

18th – Favourite Game System
19th – Favourite Published Adventure
20th – Will still play in 20 years time…
21st – Favourite Licensed RPG
22nd – Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
23rd – Coolest looking RPG product / book
24th – Most Complicated RPG Owned
25th – Favourite RPG no one else wants to play
26th – Coolest character sheet
27th – Game You’d like to see a new / improved edition of…
28th – Scariest Game you’ve played
29th – Most memorable encounter
30th – Rarest RPG Owned
31st – Favourite RPG of all time


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