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.

Category: horror, RPG, sf | LEAVE A COMMENT
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 24

GM Merit badges

Over at they are discussing the concept of merit badges for Gamesmasters.  I don’t remember how I first heard about the site but I think it’s an interesting idea; you can indicate where your gaming preferences lay and announce them to the gaming community.

The only downside I can think of behind this is that the individual GM gets to select their badges and not their players, you may think you’re great at improv but your players have other ideas 🙂


So without further ado, here are my badges:

Hover over each badge for an explanation.

If you want to pick your own, this webpage has a script that will allow you to select your own:

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:

September 13

September 2014 Blog Carnival RPGBA Blog Carnival: The RPG Blogging Community


In the beginning…..

This months carnival host is the Dice Monkey and they want to talk about the blogging community; something I’m proud  of.

I started an attempt at blogging a little over five years ago with an abortive blog on the blogger platform to chart our progress through the Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign and for one reason or another my blog never materialised.

Then I sort of fell out of favour with writing, I guess I got a bit disillusioned with it.

Fast forward a few years and the creative urge hit me again so I revived the idea of a gaming blog and decided to write once again.

Thats when I realised that once I had written something I needed an audience, someone to read my writing and I looked at ways I could publicise it.  The web had moved on from the early days of webrings and free hosting but networks were becoming popular and I could see that once you had joined a network you could become a part of that community.

The RPGBA was the first network I applied to and I’m glad they took me aboard.  Not only did I like the fact that I was part of something bigger than myself, the blog carnival meant I could collaborate with other network members on similar topics, like this one. Back in May I hosted my first carnival article about Star Wars.

It seems that I got more traffic via the network than I do through search engines and that makes me somewhat happier.

So if you like this article, please comment on it and let me know what you think.

September 11

Closing comments

It was a measure of regret that I have taken the decision to close comments on posts older than two weeks.  I haven’t made this choice lightly, despite the best efforts of me attempting to moderate all comments on this blog, having to deal with the thirty or so spam comments on one page has convinced me that this is probably the best choice for me to make.

So I’d rather spend the time being creative and writing new content for this blog than have to clean out the junk on a daily basis.

September 10

Top 10 RPG list – number 3 Spirit of the Century

Evil Hat Productions

This game is another example of one of my happy accident purchases.  It all stated when I’d heard a lot of good things online about the upcoming Dresden Files RPG and thought that it may be right up the alley of the gaming group and after seeing the short lived television series of the same name I thought I’d give it a try.

It was only when the game arrived did I realise that it required special Fudge dice to play it and that was something I didn’t have so I visited the website of Leusire Games who had sold me the Dresden Files to see if they had the dice I needed.

As it happens they did have a set of dice, the Fudge Gamesmasters pack which had several sets of dice within and I looked for another game that used them that’s when I saw Spirit of the Century.

I decided to do a little reading on this game and the more I read about it the more I fell in love with it, the whole era of the 1920s which I was a fan of excited me more and more. On top of that it was a pulp genre game, although some critics claim it is a very specific pulp world.

The FATE system is built upon the very flexible but often overlooked FUDGE RPG, which I think is a crying shame.  FUDGE gives you a complete toolkit to make your own game but there is a lot of work involved in setting it up; FATE is FUDGE with some extra house-rules grafted to it.

Character creation is quite easy, just answer a few questions, come up with ties to the other characters, pick skills and stunts and away you go.

Since the release of this excellent game FATE has undergone an evolutionary step going beyond the version here and The Dresden Files into something a little more streamlined. I’m looking forward to seeing the revised Spirit of the Century set in the 1980s when the Evil Hat crew are finished with it.

Honourable mention.

There are a number of pulp themed games on the market and I have several of them which makes picking a runner up hard to do.

Thrilling Tales

Adamant Entertainment

Using the popular Savage Worlds game engine this reasonably priced pulp game has a lot going for it, especially the plot point campaign in the book and the background information on nefarious villains for the PCs to battle.  I’ve never run it just mined it for the background information.


Category: pulp, RPG | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 9

#RPGaDAY Conclusion

I had a blast writing each individual post for a specific day as I have never attempted anything like this before.

I found it a useful exercise in writing to a deadline which is one of my weaknesses, hopefully David will do another topic next year and with enough warning I can devote more time to writing the entries.

I did find the ability to schedule posts an absolute time-saver as I could write each days topic in advance and have them automatically posted on each day.