Monday, September 6, 2010

Out of the 80s, Out of the Toy Chest

The eighties is a time famous (or infamous) for toy properties with synergistic multi-media marketing. It seems like every one of them came complete with cartoon series and comic book in addition to the usual merchandise. Very few (okay, none) had role-playing game tie-ins. That’s a pity, because several of them had some potential...well, at least some potential elements suitable for swiping for rpg inspiration.

Everyone will immediately think of the big guys like Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe (which my friends and I did make an rpg for back in the day, based on TSR’s action table games), and Transformers. Those are all good, but I’m going to dig a little deeper...


Inhumanoids tells the story of an armored-suit-wearing group of scientists fighting a trio of newly re-awakened part kaiju, part Lovecraftian, subterranean monsters--the Inhumanoids. The scientists are aided by the surviving members of ancient, prehuman races, who had imprisoned the monsters in the first place. Armored heroes battling subterranean monsters? The rpg applications ought to be obvious.


The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior played with the timeless brother against brother theme, as a personalization of the very rpg-like battle of Order against Chaos. The heroic brother, siding with Order, and his retinue get turned into living crystal. The other brother sides with chaos, and he and his cronies get turned into rock/magma. Both of them got a wizardly advisor, too. Crystar probably doesn’t warrant its on game, but crystal-men and magma men would be pretty cool editions to an already existing one.

In a similar “novel character conception” vein, is Sectaurs. It’s another fantasy, though this is one is perhaps a post-apocalyptic science fantasy taking place on a distant planet. The current natives have insectoid characteristics--the good guys are humans with antenna and compound eyes, while the nasties are more insectoid humanoids. Both sides use giant insects are mounts, and use carapace-derived armor and weapons. There are also the “Keepers of the Way,” a secret society trying to resurrect the lost knowledge of the ancients and pull the world out of medievalism. Sectaurs might make a good campaign, but again might mainly inspire an insectoid race (or races) to drop into a game.

There are so many other possibilities. Particularly, if wander a bit and outside of the cartoon-promoted big guys.  Remco’s Pirates of the Galaxseas had little going for it beyond the name, but that name is really cool. For the sweep-spot of utter imaginative craziness and utterly poor toy design, we need look no farther than The Other World, where all the action figures were bendies, but the creatures were all of the “this has to be a D&D monster already” variety. Exhibit A being our friend Froggacuda, here:

10 comments:

Scott said...

More of a 70s phenomenon, but when I was a little kid, I liked Micronauts more than just about anything. I should really plunder some of the flavor text.

Lagomorph Rex said...

How about Visionaries, Knights of the Magical Light

It was another one of the 13 episode micro series like Inhumanoids and Robotix.

Micronauts was good, but I got into them via their connection to Transformers and GIJOE.. rather than on their own merits..

Takara Liscened and imported the 12" Joes to Japan, and used the toolings to create a toyline in clear plastic called Henshin Cyborg.. which eventually got smaller and smaller.. became Microman(Imported to the US as Micronauts, and the 4" Joes were modeled on these toys) and then became smaller and smaller still as the Diaclone Driver and those toys were imported to the US as Transformers..

So its all one big happy family.

Trey said...

@Scott - The Micronauts are indeed awesome. My love of them, though, comes from the comics and not the toys as much, but I think the comic version with Spartak, and the body banks and all that would make a kick-ass Star Wars-ian space opera game. Maybe, I'll right a post about it, at some point...

@Lagomorph - The Visionaries is another good one, I had a mention of them in the rough of this post, but toook it out in favor of some others. They'd be another you could do a whole campaign around.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I rather enjoyed the Micronauts comic. I didn't really care for the IUniverse Novels however. The Devils Due comic series was ok, but ended after only 8 or 9 issues like so many of those later comer 80's revivals..

maybe they will get another shot.. but I understand there are some rights issues involved with the Micronauts..

Brutorz Bill said...

Good stuff!
The Micronauts rocked!
I ran a brief Micronauts RPG at one point, inspired from the comics. My players thought they were playing Traveller at first! LOL

Scott said...

I was mainly into the toys and only read a few issues of the comic ... I already had my own idea of the Microverse in my head - complete with notes! - and didn't want to mess that up.

The wikipedia article on the Micronauts claims that J.J. Abrams is in negotiations for a Micronauts film, but those kind of things often turn out to be vaporware.

Trey said...

@Scott and Bill - You should both do posts about your versions of the Microverse. Let's see those notes, Scott! ;)

@Lagomoporph - I pretty much agree with your thoughts on the Devil's Due stuff--ok, but not inspiring.

kelvingreen said...

It's a bit later, perhaps 90's even, but Pirates of Darkwater has a great setting, probably better than any of the stories told in the show. That's one worth resurrecting for a game.

Lagomorph Rex said...

That is coming out on DVD soon via Warner Archive.. its just " Legal " DVD-Rs from the broadcast masters.. but its better than nothing.


It brought us Flight of Dragons not too long ago too.. which had only previously been available on VHS.. maybe one of these days we will get a single of the title song from that too... but i some how doubt it.

Trey said...

@kelvingreen - Yeah, Pirates of Darkwater is indeead a cool setting.