Monday, July 27, 2009

Cartoon Goonsquads

Last week I played in a game of the Cartoon Action Hour RPG. Our setting was vaguely reminiscent of (a sort of bastardized blend of) Thundarr, Voltron, and the Superfriends, which is just about perfect given the name of the game. We had a team of teenaged superheroes battling against an army of stormtroopers and mecha from the collapsed ruins of Minneapolis. What more can you want?

I really loved the Goon-Squad mechanics. They were like Brute Squads in 7th Sea (in that they acted as a unit, and rolled just once per squad) or Extras in Savage Worlds (in that they took just one hit to eliminate) but went one step further player-facing. The Goon Squads in Cartoon Action Hour don't ever roll. Each turn they threaten a single PC, who rolls against their static value. A good roll defeats the entire squad. A bad roll means you have to face them again next turn (at -2), and a really bad roll means they've captured you. They do no damage, they just immobilize PCs. If another player defeats the squad later, you're set free / you recover instantly. Now, in general, I'm not thrilled with mechanics that knock players out of the action for one bad roll. However, when you consider how fast the combat went and how easily rescue could be achieved, it all worked really well.

I definitely got a favorable impression of the game and the system. Character creation looked a bit more involved than it really needed to be (we, thankfully, had pregens), but the game itself played very quick and easy. The vehicular combat rules puzzled me, but were more confusing than flawed. I imagine once you've handled a couple of vehicular fight or chase scenes, they'd be less troublesome. And the fact that no one in the system ever dies, and that exploding vehicles just expel the crew in humorous ways made weirdness in the vehicle system a non-issue. It's not like one critical hit was going to kill the whole party.

The GM did say that the original movement rules were a lot more complicated and involved than they needed to be, so he abstracted them down. Between that, the pregens, and the confusion over vehicle hits, it's hard for me to really rate the complexity of the system, but what I saw was plenty fun (and light) for a one-shot.

No comments: