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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2

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Average Rating:4.4 / 5
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6 2
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Sean D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/19/2012 03:14:08
A fun game that succeeds admirably at its goal; to provide rules for gaming settings that are based on the tropes of 80's action cartoons. Anyone who's a fan of He-Man, GI Joe, or Thundercats, to list just a few examples. Creating characters is relatively simple, but it does call for more player creativity than most systems. I also wish the game had more ambition, and covered the whole of Saturday morning cartoons. If a season 3 ever comes about, it would be awesome to have it cover how to do Jonny Quest, AND how to do the Venture Brothers.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Hi, Sean. Thanks for the review. I just wanted to let you know that we are indeed releasing Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 next summer, though the focus remains the same. That having been said, it's entirely possible that we'll release "other era" sourcebooks for it.
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by andrew b. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 18:37:47
This was my first downloaded rpg. I was so proud of myself, looking it up online as well as on Wikipedia to see what I was getting myself into. I didnt end up liking it after I got into it, though. It is a wonderful idea, creating an entire world free and clear with the barest of guidelines, but in practicality, some of us like our charts and lists and such. The original CAH actually had all of that before they dumped it all for a more 'freestyling' approach.

If one can aquire the orignal CAH rules, even if they are just a guideline onto which to fall back onto when involving some aspect of the game you hadnt touched on before, I think is a good idea. I finally aquired a copy and concider such a necessary part of the flexible use of this sytem. Some of its more interesting books, such as the Fantasy Genre Companion, a wonderful book, is based on the original CAH rules. In fact, if I could speak with Cynthia and suggest one thing, it would be that they should included a file with the original game, even if it were just a printer friendly manual with no illustrations, would be wonderfully useful for many who might want to try this game.

There is much to like about this system. It is a very simplistic Heros type point based system which is genre specific to eighties style action cartoons. It has a lot of wonderful ideas and if one can work around the problems I mentioned above... such as someone who loves the idea of making up rules on the spot or doesnt mind that anything resembling a scaling system has been deleted... this is a wonderful little gem. Who wouldnt want to be a kid again and play out thier favorite Go-bots or Thundercats adventures? So pour yourself some sugary cereal and wear your favorite hero's underoos while playing this game and remember what it was like to be a kid... for an hour or so at least.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Matthew W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 17:08:19
Great rule set, well written, and really captures the vibe of the 80's retro-toon. The game system itself is easy to learn, but comprehensive enough to allow players and game masters to run in any game setting they can devise. Well worth the price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Dr T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/06/2011 18:06:25
It's one of the best niche RPG game. If you want to play "Transformers", "G.I. Joe", "Jem", "M.A.S.K.", "Thundarr" and other cartoons from 1980s. Download this RPG as soon as possible.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2010 15:46:34
o a while back I picked up a game I had been wanting for a while; Cartoon Action Hour. I had heard a lot about it, how it was perfect for umlauting cartoons like G.I. Joe and Transformers and even He-Man and Thundaar. Well I'll be honest, I didn't watch many of those cartoons as a kid. I know of them, yes, and I watched episodes here and there, but my preferences were running much more to fantasy and slowly into horror and cartoons were not a good source for that then. But I wanted to get this game to see what the big deal was and to see if it could in fact do all these different kinds of stories. So I bought it.

Well. It lived up to the hype.

Cartoon Action Hour: Season Two (CAH:S2) is an updated version of the earlier Cartoon Action Hour. You don't need the first game obviously to play this one, but it does come with conversion notes. Both were written by Cynthia Celeste Miller of Spectrum Games, a name that often comes up when people talk about Genre Emulation and Indie Games. Her other efforts were "Slasher Flick" and "Wild West Cinema", both games I also know of, but don't (yet) own, and like CAH, both come highly recommended. In addition to doing the writing for this game she also did all the layout, and she is also a drummer in a metal band, Slaygound. That is pretty cool if you ask me.

CAH is divided into "Channels" and not Chapters or Sections. Clever huh. Channel 1 (which we didn't have in the 80's but that is ok) is the obligatory "What is role-playing" and a definition of the cartons we will emulating; the Retro-Toon. The book goes one to explain why the Retro-Toon, and not say toons of the 90's and more. For example this game really focuses on the black and white morality of the toons of the age. G.I. Joe was good and Cobra was bad. End of discussion. While you certainly could play a bit more loose with the morality of the game (the He-Man episode "The Witch and the Warrior" comes to mind as one where evil may not be so evil. BTW also written by Paul Dinni. Mr. Dini and I will be in "witch-aholics anonymous" together one day. ) I would say don't. That is missing the allure and appeal of this game. Miller takes a bit of time and page space to break down why and how these toons worked the way they did and I think that it would be an injustice to run the game differently. Not to say your game can't be "dark", but this is not World of Darkness nor is it even Buffy.

Channel 1 ends with the best overview of 80's cartoons I have ever read. Frankly I'd love to see more of this, but this is fine as it is. Nearly worth the price of the PDF alone. Well….sorta, it is good, but we still have the whole book to read.

Channel 2 is about creating the series. This is an important step away from the normal Player make Character, GM makes World process of many games. In CAH:S2 everyone has to work together (see that!), so the GM makes the world first, with of course input from the players. Then when the world is defined the players can start on their characters. What does making a world, or a Series, in CAH:S2 mean? Well typically it means what sort of show are you going to do? Will this be soldiers fighting a multi-national terrorist organization? Robots from another planet? A hulking barbarian in world where magic and technology collide? All these are possible and there is even a "Character Sheet" for the series. I liked this sheet and I can see using it to plan out say a Buffy RPG or Supernatural season; it is flexible enough to use in any game. I love it when I get something like that. Once that is done and the tag line is created ("A Real American Hero!" or "More than Meets the Eye!") then it is time to create our stars.

Channel 3 is Character Creation. Character creation is a point buy system based on a number of "Proof of Purchase Points", with the amount allocated set by the GM when she makes the series. Guidelines are given. There are no set traits a character has. Players need to come up with a concept and then they build that into a list of traits ranked 1 to 5 (or so). So a "gigantic transforming robot" might have the following traits: "Robot 1, Transform 3, Plasma Gun 3" and then something that makes him unique "Leader of the Transbots, AF 4". This unique feature or features is called an "Action Feature" and it comes into play later. Think of G. I. Joe, Snake Eyes was the Ninja with a Sword so his Action Feature might be "Sword master, AF 5" since he never talked that is a negative trait "Never Speaks, X2". Miller does provide a list, but is very much against providing one. The purpose of the character creation is to find out what the character can do.

Channel 4 is Rules of Play and it is pretty simple, but good stuff. I want get into all of it since that has been covered elsewhere, but I like the "Setbacks" and the return from "Commercial Breaks"; again something I could see using in Buffy or one of the Anime RPGs I have reviewed. The dice mechanic is based on a d12, so nice to see it get some love. Roll a d12 add the appropriate trait and that is it. Sometimes there is a target number, sometimes there is a contested roll. The mechanic is not difficult. In fact I think the best way now to do "Animated Unisystem" is swap out the d10 for a d12. You can add "Oomph" to a roll like Drama Points, or you can have an issue with one of your "Sub plots". For the Snake Eyes example there is the issue with his former master and his arch rival.

The interesting thing about this is, it is on the same level as BESM 3.0 or even OVA. Use one to get ideas for the other, or combine them all for an Anime fueled 80's style retro-toon of mammoth quality.

Channel 5 is for Game Masters. It has all cool new rules and ideas for this game. How to run commercial breaks, sub plots, allies, hazards and threats.

Appendix 1 (dropping the style for a bit. Was UHF 1 too obscure?) We are given three complete series to run as our own with stars, enemies and even faux 80's television histories. "Warriors of the Cosmos" fills the Thundaar/He-Man void, "Strike Force Freedom" is the obvious nod to G.I. Joe and "Transbots" is about, well, Transforming Robots. With all the bases covered here (more or less) GMs should have not problem creating their own series.

What Else? Well there are conversions for Cartoon Action Hour 1. The bickering between the evil Kargorr and heroic Bravesteel is entertaining; very much in the vein of Space Ghost Coast to Coast I felt.

All in all this is a crazy fun game. Easy to learn and play. Some thought has to be put into the series and then the characters to get the full feel, but there are plenty of characters and series in the book. Plus this is a game that screams for splats. Do a series bible up, list some potential traits, add some ready to run characters with histories, put it all in a PDF and there you go. I am surprised with the flexibility of a game like this the Miller has not included some sort of Open License for it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by James C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2010 09:18:19
"Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2" is a well written role playing game. 58 pages of rules followed by 34 pages of three different settings and the remaining six pages are miscellaneous materials including a character sheet and conversion notes. I think the author did a remarkable job keeping the rules concise while still conveying the focus of the game.

Players use "Proof of Purchase Points" (effectively character points) to generate traits that best represent their character. To avoid paralysis, there is a variant rule that includes a focused method of character creation. The game mechanic is very simple and intuitive; there are two methods for resolving combat with an additional faster paced variant also included.

"Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2" is a complete, concise game. For those that prefer free-form traits over pre-defined character generation in a game system that can be condensed to 29 double-sided pages, this game is great!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Thomas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/03/2010 22:20:14
Pros: A very evocative attempt at emulating the conventions of 80s action cartoons in role-playing games. A huge improvement over the first version of the game, as well. At $16 its a great deal, catching it on sale is a steal. The rules give you options but stop just shy of being too crunchy.

Cons: Some of the art pieces, many of which were recycled from the first game, look way more like 90s comic books than 80s cartoons.

Overall: Aside from the art issue I mentioned, I had no other complaints with this product. It is genre emulation at its finest. The combat is abstract without being too "out there", the commercial break rules are a genius bit of metagaming. Very well done.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2009 13:09:36
Who watched cartoons when they were growing up? Or still watches them, perhaps covertly, today? (You don't need to answer that!) In the Foreword the point is made that not only are cartoons very entertaining for youngsters, they also provided a fertile inspiration for games on the playground... so why not for role-playing as well?

Channel 1: Introduction (to promote the TV show feeling, 'chapters' are called 'channels'!) begins by attempting to define what sort of cartoons this game is intended to emulate - the 1980s action-adventure ones, which have been grouped together as 'retro-toons.' Now I'm a bit old to have been entranced by them (I graduated in 1980!), but certainly caught the odd episode and can see the appeal. Typified by boundless enthusiasm, violence that was brief and never seemed to draw blood (although robots came apart a lot) and no difficulty whatsoever in distinguishing between the Good Guys and the Bad 'Uns, the sheer innocence and capacity for boundless fun is at the centre of their appeal. Next comes the usual 'this is what role-playing is' piece, with one of the best explanations of the role of the rules in an RPG I've heard in a long time, and an example of play. Then there's an overview of the rules and the concepts behind them. It's pretty simple. Using a D12, you add any appropriate Traits you have and attempt to beat a Difficulty Number determined by the GM to succeed at what you are trying to do. If you're in combat, you and your opponent roll and whoever gets the higher result is victorious. Finally, a run-down of some of the seminal cartoons upon which this game draws, along with the author's personal reflections. The only one of them that I recall is He-Man, but I can think of plenty other similar cartoons that fit the bill - reflection, perhaps, that I watch British TV rather than American!

Channel 2: The Series is aimed mainly at the GM and looks at how to decide on the underlying concepts for your game. After all, unlike many games, there are so many different things that you could do under the broad setting of a 'retro-cartoon' that players are not going to be able to start thinking about suitable characters until you tell them what your particular cartoon series is about! (If you are bereft of ideas, the Appendix has some to start you off; or of course you can choose to base your game on a cartoon you've watched.) To facilitate this, you create a Series Guide (for which a form is provided in another Appendix) and circulate it to prospective players. It has four sections in which you set out what you intend - series information, PC creation quirks, rules information and cast information. And, of course, you'll want to start with a catchy name for your show. A tagline and a few paragraphs to cover the premise round out your series information. Think about the sort of introduction the show might have (maybe a voice-over to the opening sequence), or what would appear in the TV guide. Things like who the heroes and their main opponents will be, and the main setting(s) in which the action will take place belong here. Then you also need to decide on how many points have to build characters and any particular requirements that you have - a game set in the upper layers of a massive jungle will need characters who can fly or climb, for example. This process outlined, the discussion moves on to look at common themes which you can draw upon. Plenty to get you thinking, but it's clear that a fair bit of work will be needed before you start playing.

Next, Channel 3 looks at Character Creation, running through an overview of the process by means of an annotated version of the character sheet. One neat idea is to envision your character as an action figure toy, as many of the 1980s cartoons had associated toy lines. Another is to try describing the character in phrases or 'Factoids' rather than a full-blown background essay. Rather than the conventional attributes and skills used in many RPGs, characters in this game use Traits - which are one-word or a phrase descriptor of either something the character can do or something that he possesses. While you have a free rein in choosing Traits, try to be fairly specific... and plenty of ideas are provided to get you going. It's a point-buy system, the cost of each Trait depends on what it is and how good you are at it, and will need to be negotiated with the GM. Characters who transform or shape-shift need to work out Traits for all forms they can adopt, and a similar system is used for Companions and for vehicles.

Characters designed, Channel 4: Rules of Play discusses how game action is resolved. The key concept is that it's a game of telling stories, and any rules are subordinate to that intention, and only need be used when the GM feels it is appropriate to add an element of chance to an outcome of a task and similar occasions. The mechanical use of Traits to resolve tasks is discussed at length, with plenty of examples in case you find the very clear explanation hard to follow. More complex rules such as those for chases and combat (which is turn-based) are also covered. The interesting thing about combat is that as there are no 'combat' Traits per se, it is up to each participant in a fight to decide which Traits to use to attack others or defend themselves. Moreover, characters accumulate Setbacks rather than being injured, and when they have four Setbacks they are defeated and the victor gets to describe what happens. It's quite abstract, but once you get the hang of it swift and often hilarious brawls ensue.

The Rules chapter also covers character advancement and a section on how to play according to the spirit, the concept, of this particular game. This leads naturally on to Channel 5: Game Mastering. This covers further rules more appropriate to GM use, material on NPCs... and even rules for simulating commercial breaks! (Perhaps that's taking the TV cartoon metaphor a bit far...) More conventional rules for things like fires and falling - always mportant in cartoons! - also feature. There's plenty about building a 'supporting cast' of allies and bystanders as well as villains and their crew, with suggestions on how to bring them into the story to good effect. Actual writing and running of scenarios is given plenty of attention too: not just good advice about structure but showing how it fits into the cartoon mode. The chapter rounds off with general Game Mastering advice, mostly concerned with actually running the game. All sound stuff, and again, neatly woven into the cartoon nature of this game rather than general points (although they are worth remembering whatever you are running.) The bit on 'cartoon logic' is particularly illuminating about what makes this genre so different from any other games you might play.

Now on to the promised Appendices. Appendix 1: Featured Series provides a wealth of ideas for the GM scratching his head over ideas for their cartoon show. Three ideas are presented, complete enough that you can use them without much need for further work. There are even ideas for individual adventures within each overarching concept, although those are going to need further development before they are ready for play; and for those in a rush, some pre-generated characters suitable for the particular concept and some ready-made villains for them to defeat. They are all good fun, and depending on your own and your players' tastes, all three have the potential to make an entertaining game. Although the three shows are given a backstory not just for the cartoon itself but about how it came to be in the 'real world' these are just marvellous invention, real as they sound they are not genuine 1980s TV cartoons!

Appendix 2: Miscellaneous Stuff includes conversion notes if you want to draw on the first edition of Cartoon Action Hour, a character sheets and the Designer's Notes. Fascinating reading if you like to know what's behind a game, as well as all about that game.

This is a beautifully put together game, really capturing the spirit of 1980s cartoons in both flavour and actual game mechanics, working together in a harmonious whole to empower the playing of an exciting game in this genre. All you need to do is ask yourself if you want to play 1980s TV cartoons... if you do, here is all you need!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/09/2009 20:05:49
This is, quite possibly, the best of the flexible, heroic, cartoony systems I have ever played. I was kind of put off by the older edition, which didn't have the flexibility needed to represent the retro-toon genre, but 2nd Season makes up for it in spades. It avoids getting too complicated, while offering enough options for your abilities, and keeps it so even a rank amateur can understand how things work.
I think my only peev against it is how very cartoony the sidebars and sample campaigns are. Despite that, though, it is still a good system.
I await with much anticipation any and all supplements they may offer, particular the hints at anime-inspired adventures, etc. Already have the GTR supplement, and will be starting my own Transformers campaign soon.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Erin M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/22/2009 12:18:28
Excellent stuff. Much more easy to run and work with.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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