Monday, April 27, 2020

Harnessing the Power of Grayskull

My recent posts about the world of Masters of the Universe, had me thinking about how I would run a MOTU type game. Given the multiple canons, it's a matter of choosing and refining. This is what I've got:

Mineternia Plus. As I've discussed previously, the earlier minicomics included with the toys, before Prince Adam and before the Filmation cartoon (what fans call Mineternia or the "Savage Canon") place the action in a post-apocalyptic, science fantasy world with something of the aesthetic of 80s barbarian films, mixed with that of 70s barbarian comics. There have been a number of cool or interesting additions to MOTU since, and the world detailed in only a few abbreviated storybooks in a toyline is pretty barebones, so this canon would only be the jumping off point.

Sword & Sandal. MOTU has the mostly austere terrain and musclebound heroes of 80s barbarian films, but the world seems to call for a bit more "PG" approach, so I think another sort of musclebound hero genre is a good reference, the peplum film. Protagonists would largely be wondering do-gooders, like the Herculeses, Goliaths, Macistes, and Ursuses of these films.

A Sufficiently Advanced Technology... MOTU is science fantasy, but its tech (particularly if you discount the cartoon and some toy boxart) seems to be one-off rather than mass produced stuff. Even if we allow it's all salvage from ancient caches, it shouldn't be down to each individual with unique tech like it seems to be. I think MOTU technology is more like magic items (maybe it even runs off magic after a fashion). Individuals can only "attune" to so many items at a time.

More Henchmen, More Underbosses. The MOTU of the comics and the cartoons that follow winds up working like a superhero comics, where Skeletor and his cronies are defeated, but allowed to escape to fight another day--or in the cartoons occasionally put in jail! In keeping with a more fantasy fiction vibe, more henchmen would die. To give name villains more of a chance, Skeletor should be at something of a remove, and even his traditional underlings should command gangs. Taking out a name villain should generally be something of an accomplishment.


Shane said...

Not sure if it would be up your alley but there is a fantastic story game designed for playing this genre of game:

Jonathan Linneman said...

I love that last thought...seems like it'd be fun to create a bunch of villains in the MOTU style, use them in adventures just enough that players get used to them, then let them die as so many villains must in fantasy RPGs. One day I'll get my own MOTU campaign going, and I really like this as an option now...

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

To capture the true spirit of the MOTU, I think you would have to follow the same spirit that created it; play it by ear and not plan out the background too much.

The first couple of waves of characters did have a unifying theme to them. A generic Flash Gordon sort of world... But then it was a sort of toss anything in. You really should have that element of free wheeling to things. A cyborg zombie? Sure, why not. A doppelganger of the hero who is all blue? Great!

For the MOTU world itself, I never thought of it as a post apocalyptic type of world. I always thought it was magic based, where the average person had to use rudimentary technology to be able to use the magical underpinnings of the world.

It could be taken to the point where magic changes the characters as well. Characters like Beastman and Merman seemed like they were part of a hidden race, but could actually be individuals that were magically infected.

Gus L said...

I once played in one of Ram's (of Save v. TPK) games called "Masters of Carcosa" which was billed as a sort of "What He-Man had been set on Carcosa". The similarities were shocking, the landscape as you rightly point out, the various Crayola people, mighty thews and evil space wizards.

Perhaps there were too many similarities because it turned into a fairly light-hearted but somewhat standard Carcosa game with out group of travelling actors "The Rainbow Connection" becoming the brute squad for a growing bone-man trade empire. Good times, but I always wish we'd gotten a bit more Skelator and Battlecat.

Trey said...

@jason - I don't think a world being "magic based" precludes it from being post-apocalyptic. Surely magical societies can face apocalypses too. But to the specific world of MOTU the first 4 Don Glut mini comics, mention a Great War, and things that were made by the scientists before this war, like Castle Greyskull and He-Man's equipment. Given the general level of society in those stories and the salvaged nature of all the equipment, I think it's pretty clearly post-apocalyptic in that version.

Cross Planes said...

Trey, if you were going to run a MotU game what game would you use?

Jason, I've written up a bunch of MotU stuff in various systems on my blog:

Sorry for the self-promotion.

Jason Galterio (Legionair) said...

I have to be honest... it's been so long that I don't remember the mini comics. So that reference makes sense now. And, at the age I was when the first wave of figures came out, getting my parents to buy them was a hard sell. So I had a limited collection of them. And I believe the comics were phased out later.

If I remember correctly, new MOTU figures were roundabout $6 each. Putting that in perspective, you could buy two or three Star Wars figures for that price. Or one of the smaller Star Wars vehicles.

I only remember them being $6 because they were $1 more than my allowance at the time. Not counting sales tax.

When I think of post-apoc / fantasy settings I can't help but think of things like Thundarr and Planet of the Apes where recognizable locations and equipment would appear. Things that the audience would recognize but the characters wouldn't understand...

Was the pre-apoc world magic focused? Or science focused? It would be an interesting change if it was magic based instead of the stereotypical high science society.

@Cross, I am definitely going to check that out. I don't have much time to run RPGs these days, but I still enjoy reading the books and character write ups. :)