Let's Play Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2

Mad Writter

Finishing Up The Rule Book

Next up is the Series Sheet and the Character Sheet for printing out.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor has CCM explaining what going on with the development of CAH:S2.:

" "Twenty-Two Minute Toy Commercials.Ē

Thatís what many detractors have called the cartoons of the 1980s over the years. I would be lying if I tried to tell you that thereís no truth to that derisive label. Letís face it, there is a strong link between the action figures and the retro-toons that spawned them. The production companies and toy companies worked hand in hand to develop properties that would make the kids salivate and beg their parents to spend their hard earned money on the toys. Iíll even go one step further and say that this goal dictated what the characters, vehicles and locales looked like. After all, they wanted to ensure that it all translated to visually stimulating action figures. Otherwise, kids would pass them by in favor of more interesting toys.

Despite all this, however, there was something much deeper going on with the retro-toons; something more meaningful than even the production companies knew. They werenít just creating twenty-two minute toy commercialsÖ they were creating mythology for my generation, served up every Saturday morning or every weekday afternoon. He-Man was our Heracles, Teela was our Athena and Skeletor was, of course, our Hades. The parallels are all there and the symbolism is strong. This can be said of most, if not all, the cartoons of the era.

This wasnít apparent to me as a young girl, of course. All I knew was that I enjoyed watching the episodic thrill rides presented by the retro-toons. I loved the edge-of-your-seat action sequences, the heroic derring-do of the protagonists and, yes, the vile schemes of the antagonists. I was enthralled with it all and lapped it up like a hound dog lapping up cold water on a hot summer day. I had no idea that these shows were affecting me on a deeper level. I adored the whole package.

I still adore the whole package.

Nostalgia... or Something More?

One might think that this is just nostalgia talking, and Iím sure that accounts for a portion of my continual enjoyment of the retro-toons. I have fond and vivid memories of watching those old cartoons with my grandfather while playing with my toys. But this is more than nostalgia; much more, in fact. Itís an appreciation of good story-telling and colorful characters, coupled with an affinity for innocent morality plays. Itís the love of larger-than-life heroes and irredeemably evil villains. Itís the good-natured, optimistic tone and the cheesiness that pervaded so many aspects of these shows. Itís all this and much more besides. Thereís no denying it: I am just as fascinated by the cartoons of the 1980s as I was when I was young, and Iím not ashamed to admit it.

This fascination is what drove me to co-design the original Cartoon Action Hour and itís what drives me to create the second edition of that game now, some six and a half years later. My goal for Cartoon Action Hour has always been to design a role-playing game that brings to life all the things that captivate me about the retro-toons. It is my opinion that the original Cartoon Action Hour did a decent job meeting this goal. As time went on, however, I began to feel that I didnít go far enough in terms of genre emulation. I didnít push that extra mile to reach an even greater immersion level, nor did I think enough outside the box. Needless to say, I aimed to correct this with Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2Ö and Iím confident that I did just that.

The Development of CAH:S2

Developing the new edition was painstaking and arduous at times, though I enjoyed it at every turn. Every bump, roadblock or obstacle that I had to get around made me more determined to get it right. This is why the system was redesigned from the ground up several times during the process. The early drafts were mostly stripped down, simplified versions of the original CAH. While these takes werenít bad by any means, I knew that it wasnít enough to satisfy my desire to make the perfect game for emulating the retro-toons.

The final draft was a very drastic departure from what had come before. For this, I have to credit one of our playtesters, Tim Kirk. At first, his radical ideas about a highly stylized version of CAH scared the hell out of me and I stupidly refused to truly listen to what he was saying. Deep down inside of me, though, I was indeed listening. Then, one day, it became frightening clear to me that Tim was right. A game about cartoons didnít need detailed rules for combat maneuvers or size differences between characters. It didnít need a lot of things that still lingered in the game. So, using his seemingly blasphemous words as a guideline, I forged ahead to rethink every nuance, every facet of the Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 system. I thusly decided that nothing was sacred and that I would ditch anything that stood in the way of my design goal.

What followed was major ďhouse cleaningĒ. I tossed out mainstay CAH concepts such as Trait lists, Special Abilities and Super-Ratings like last weekís garbage. I stripped the system down to its core essentials and then built it all back up again, but this time with a finer eye for staying true to the source material and for making the game more intuitive to play.

One of the biggest changes was the character creation system. In the first edition of the game, creating characters was a laborious process that involved intensive points juggling and a lot of tables and charts. The act of creating a single character could take hours, which didnít seem right for a genre that tends to be fast and breezy in nature. Obviously, this had to go! I wanted to make it possible for a player to create a character in fifteen minutes or so. Furthermore, I wanted to minimize the amount of record keeping required. This mission was not easy to accomplish, but the end result was worth the effort. Once youíve made a few characters, you will be able to whip up new ones without having to reference the book muchÖ or at all.

The other massive alteration was the combat system. The old combat system bothered me perhaps more than any other portion of the game. This was because cartoon combat works so much differently than standard RPG combat, yet the old version played very much like standard RPG combat. For this, I watched more hours of retro-toons than is probably healthy, studying the combat scenes like a boxing manager studies old matches. I kept a log for recording such things as how many attacks were made by each side, how often an attack actually hit, how many attacks were non-violent in nature, how long each sequence lasted and so on. When it was all said and done, I had learned a great deal about how cartoon combat functioned and I set out to create a combat system that mirrored all the things I learned. While correlating all my data, I had a strange revelation: cartoon combat featured very few attacks in the traditional sense. Most ďattacksĒ were intended to distract, confuse, delay or otherwise hinder the enemy rather than actually cause true damage. This was something that I had not taken into consideration with the first version of CAH. I would not make that mistake again. This gave rise to the concept of Setback Tokens and after that, the combat system was never the same again.

There are numerous other changes to the game, but the ones listed above are the most encompassing. CAH veterans will no doubt notice these alterations as they read through this rulebook. I wonít bore you with them here.

Parting Comments

Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 has been an exciting, yet profoundly work-intensive, game to design. I put more of myself into this product than any other product before it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the creation process, which makes it all the more pleasing to finally get it out the door and into your capable hands. CAH:S2 is now your sandbox in which to play. So, go forth and create a new mythology for you and your friends to enjoy!

Cynthia Celeste Miller October 27th, 2008"

That was written four days before Halloween 2008, when Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 was released to the public.