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Tabletop Game / Punk Rock Saves the World

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Matt Forbeck's Punk Rock Saves the World is one of the series books from Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3. It combines the Band Toon and Time Travel tropes, and has a lot of fun with both of them along the way.

The premise: a Punk Rock band called the Punks stumbles on a gigantic gramophone that turns out to be a disguised Time Machine created by Nikola Tesla. It causes them to become Unstuck in Time, where they must Set Right What Once Went Wrong before returning to the present. Invariably, the Punks' adventures involve the history of recorded music, as they encounter "Disco Dastards", "Endless Elvises", a rival band called the Glam Girls, and Emile Berliner, the inventor of the phonograph.

The main villains seem to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive called "The Man" (aka John Smith) and his Mooks, "the Suits", but The Man Behind the Man is actually Tesla's old Rival, Thomas Edison, who is out to become "the greatest inventor of his time"—even if he has to steal his inventions from Tesla to make it happen. Edison is using the Punks to locate Tesla, who is hiding somewhere in the timestream.

Punk Rock Tropes Save the World:

  • Alliterative Name: Kitty Karr and Just John, two members of the Punks, for individuals; the Glam Girls and the Disco Dastards for groups.
  • Anti-Villain: Edison, at least at first. He strictly adheres to Thou Shalt Not Kill, and tries to avoid even injuring people if possible; when he does, he always creates an Alternate Timeline where he never had to hurt anyone in the first place. However, he eventually decides "to break his no-killing rule for a chance to put an end to Tesla once and for all."
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Applies to all the historical figures the Punks meet.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Melody, Harmony and Rhythm from the Glam Girls.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Glam Girls are probably a Take That! toward other fictional Girl Groups like Josie and the Pussycats and Jem and the Holograms.
  • The Charmer: "...Elvis is still a charmer, and with that hip shake and point, and saying those words, can disarm even the most anti-Elvis persons".
  • Clone Angst: There are multiple clones of Elvis Presley wandering through the timestream. One of the clones had Magic Plastic Surgery so he could go back in time and become Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' manager, who "murdered the miserable, suicidal Elvis for taking too long to die".
  • Consummate Liar: Edison is "a facile liar" who claims that the rivalry between himself and Tesla was only a publicity stunt, and they're really friends. The Punks believe this for a while, but discover the truth soon enough.
  • Cool Shades: The three Punks on the cover are all wearing them.
  • Cultured Badass: Sir Ollie Cromwell, the Punks' guitarist. "Due to his upbringing, which he has obviously rebelled against, Ollie is able to quick-change into a cultured member of society; great for gaining access to places punks might not normally be allowed".
  • Dance Battler: Punks singer Kitty Karr. "In fights, she will use her various 'dance' moves—moshing, slam-dancing, etc."
  • Diabolical Mastermind: The Man is an "elaborate planner" who runs a "villainous international network".
  • Disco Sucks: The Disco Dastards want to avert this; their goal is to "destroy music as we know it, by remaking all songs into disco songs".
  • Ditzy Genius: Just John, the Punks' bassist, is "the flakey one of the group... He often comes across as dimwitted, but maybe he is just a deep thinker?"
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe, the Punks wonder if they should accept The Man's offer to abandon their own style and transform into "the Blam Boys", the Glam Girls' new opening act. They decide not to after they travel 30 years into the future and see that they've become a legendary band by "doing it all their own way".
  • Fake Band: The game centers on them.
  • Fiction 500: The Man is a "multi-trillionaire".
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Happens to all the main characters, but the best example is Joel "Smooth" Alberson, lead singer of The '70s band the Disco Dastards, who's actually Al Jolson.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Generic Ike, the Punks' drummer, befriends an animal Once an Episode.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Just John "is also the gadget guy, as well as the one who knows the most about the time travel stuff (as he calls it)."
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Thomas Edison being imagined as a power-crazed megalomaniac to make him the ultimate villain of the show. Also Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis, who it turns was a temporal duplicate masquerading as Parker.
  • Living MacGuffin: Tesla's role in the game.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Edison, and it takes the Punks a while to realize this. Even after they meet Edison, he conceals his true nature from them.
  • Mind-Control Music: A variation. As Joel "Smooth" Alberson, Al Jolson has a move called the Dazzer that "transforms those listening into disco-affected funk-zombies, ready to do Joel's bidding".
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Sir Ollie Cromwell, the Punks' British guitarist. It's probably a Stage Name, though.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Rhythm Johnson of the Glam Girls is "surprisingly strong".
  • The Quincy Punk: Inverted, since the members of a punk band are the heroes in this game.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: "In this series, time is a mutable series of events that can be changed by time travelers. However, those who travel through time are immune to these changes and maintain their original memories. They also gain the memories of any new version of themselves that meddling with time has caused. This allows them to fiddle with the past until they get it the way they like it."
  • The Smart Guy: Sir Ollie Cromwell is "the scholar, y'know, university and everything".
  • Technology Marches On: In-Universe, The Man wants to avert this. He's working with Edison to keep phonograph cylinders (the earliest form of recorded sound) alive well into The '70s, mostly because he owns a company that makes them.
  • Theme Naming: The Glam Girls are named Melody Jones, Harmony James and Rhythm Johnson.
  • Time Travel: The characters can only go as far back as 1889, when the gramophone was invented. Since The Man was born in 1888, the Punks can't stop him by simply preventing his birth.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: The stats for all three Glam Girls include the phrase "No one hits a girl".