Somewhere between the silliness of Toon and the seriousness of Prime Time Adventures, there sits a book. This book is Cartoon Action Hour, a tabletop RPG that invokes the spirit of the Merchandise-Driven adventure cartoons of The '80s.
Cartoon Action Hour has a lot of a shout-outs to 1980s cartoons, including The Transformers (Transbots), ThunderCats (Action Cats), and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (the Inhumanoids-like Dark Brigade and the regular version as Strikeforce Freedom, replacing snake-themed villains with spider-themed villains), for example. The series that gets the most attention is Warriors of the Cosmos, which is basically a loving tribute to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
"Cartoon Action Hour: Season Two" was released on Oct 30, 2008. Season 3 was released Nov. 8, 2013; it marked the start of a major expansion, as several series books have been published under the Season 3 banner. These games have their own pages:
Cartoon Action Tropes:
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: You earn extra experience by playing your characters in the After-the-Show Message.
- Captain Ersatz: All over the dang place.
- Experience Point: Guilty as charged.
- Expy: Most of the premade material is pretty blatant in being a lawyer-friendly version of a beloved 80's series.
- Critical Failure: Called a "Flub".
- Greek Chorus: Kargorr, a fictional villain from Galactic Heroes, shows you how not to play the game. For CAH: Season 2, John Bravesteel, a fictional hero from the same series, keeps Kargorr in check. In "CAH:S3", a character from another fictional series, Sarah Strongheart of Power Princesses, joins the two.
- Hit Points: Called Hurt Points in CAH:S1. Avoided in CAH: Season 2, replaced with "Set Back Tokens". Even more cartoon logical!
- Mana: Avoided with Spell Clusters.
- Merchandise-Driven: At least in the first version, players were encouraged to think of creating their character and coming up with that character's abilities as designing that character's action figure.
- Mooks: Called Goons. Rules are provided to handle those who get their hides kicked time and time again.
- Never Say "Die": Completely embraced. Characters don't die, they're only knocked out or captured. Unless you're gaming out The Movie.
- Noodle Incident: Kargorr, the failed villain complains about a comic relief character, Ziggle. John Bravesteel, Kargorr's heroic counterpart, says that Kargorr is just upset that Ziggle defeated him once—and tries to tell it to the audience, Kargorr shuts Bravesteel up by saying no one wants to hear from him.
- Point Build System: Uses Character Points (First season) and Proof of Purchase Points (Second season).
- Popularity Power: There's an optional set of rules where events on the production side of the show can affect the player characters. This is reflected by them earning "Cool" points which can be traded in for upgrades, such as a new writer coming on board who likes the player's character, and writes them as more of a badass. Alternatively, characters who do badly can be forced to retire from the show.
- Retraux: The rule book even includes a glossary of 80's slang, but only in the first edition.
- Shout-Out: The whole RPG and 'Cartoon Logic' is a Shout-Out to cartoons of the 1980s.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Kargorr, so very much. His whole shtick is that he's an incompetent Harmless Villain (bordering on a Dastardly Whiplash) who thinks of himself as a fearsome Big Bad.
- Villain Exclusivity Clause: Addressed in the game that while there were exceptions (cf. shows like ThunderCats, Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers), most 80's cartoons had just one group of bad guys who fought the heroes in every episode. The premade settings for the game almost always adhere to this.
- Zeerust: Invoked. There are sidebars here and there in the various books deliberately urging the GM not to base technology in their setting on real things, but on the silly technology in 80s sci-fi cartoons. Like supercomputers that use 5.25 floppy disks.
Warriors of the CosmosThe fictional series, Warriors of the Cosmos, deals with Iconia, a once peaceful planet, now under the attack of Nekrottus's Blackskull Empire. The Big Good, King Rastor of Haven, brings together a group of heroes called Guardians of Iconia to defeat Nekrottus' forces once and for all.
- Now has a full-page sourcebook. The Complete Guide to Warriors of the Cosmos.
The fictional series, "Warriors of the Cosmos", has the following tropes:
- All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Oshida comes from an order of monks who study martial arts, but otherwise live an austere lifestyle.
- Bare Your Midriff: Noblara.
- Big Bad: Nekrottus.
- Cool Old Guy: Merlis, who doesn't go on missions because of his advanced age (he's Really 700 Years Old).
- Cowgirl: Sure-Shot is the Iconian equivalent, since she dresses like one, comes from "the Frontier", is gifted with Improbable Aiming Skills, and even has the accent. She's also an explorer who has traveled all over the planet.
- Deal with the Devil: Nekrottus sold his soul to a demon named S'Groth to become all powerful. Atypically for the trope, Nekrottus got the best of the deal; he managed to banish S'Groth back to the Nether Regions.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Oshida, Blobbor and Serpentina all go barefoot.
- Eek, a Mouse!!, or Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Serpentina has a fear of rodents.
- The Empire: The Blackskull Empire.
- FaceHeel Turn: Shadow Queen comes from Another Dimension where she was Darella Jogar, a heroic leader in La Résistance. When she went through a portal to Iconia, the trip somehow turned her evil, and Shadow Queen was the result.
- Lizard Folk: Serpentina is a reptilian humanoid.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: The man who became Nekrottus was once Merlis' student, although he may have been Evil All Along.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Guardians of Iconia themselves—Justified as they are a mixture of different humanoids and races of Iconia.
- La Résistance: The Guardians of Iconia.
- Robot Buddy: Combato, who is a Lighter and Softer version of Robocop.
- Shout-Out: To He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983).
- Spin-Off: Ladies of Might, which happen to be in a special St. Valentine's Day PDF file.
- The Starscream: Shadow Queen fits this role.
- Take Over the World: Nekrottus's goal.
- Wizard Classic: Everything about Merlis evokes this trope.
The fictional series Strikeforce Freedom deals with the titular military force fighting SPIDER, a terrorist organization that wants take over the world.
Strikeforce Freedom has the following tropes:
- The Baroness: Her blonde haired expy, The Black Widow.
- Big Bad: General Arachnid.
- Shout-Out: To G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
- The Squad
- Take Over the World: The goal of SPIDER chaos warfare.
The fictional series, Transbots deals with Trevor Hastings' Transbots as they battle against Maximillian Mercy's Warbots.
Transbots has the following tropes:
- Big Bad: Maximillian Mercy.
- Shout-Out: To The Transformers.
- Take Over the World: Maximillian's goal.
- Transforming Mecha: Both the Transbots and the Warbots fit this trope.