Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday Morning OSR Campaign Fodder - Blackstar (1981) Cartoon Television Series As Old School Campaign

Good morning kids another Saturday is upon us and let's see what's on television in 1981 on CBS. Blackstar made his debut on September 12th along with his friends!

Last night I took a good portion of the evening off to get together with a friend for a beer and speak about his upcoming D&D retro clone hybrid game campaign. He was looking for in his words a hybrid campaign between 'Stars Without Number'  & 'The Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea ' but something that was kid friendly for a Saturday morning but something that kicks serious rear. He's going to be running this campaign for both his players and his kids on a Saturday morning at his local hobby shop/comic store out in the Midwest. Now lately I've been on a bit of a retro cartoon kick  Then it hit me why not run a Black Star cartoon campaign; "Blackstar is an American animated television series, a science fantasy story sometimes reported as being inspired by Thundarr the Barbarian. It was produced in 1981 by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott for Filmation."

"John Blackstar, astronaut, is swept through a black hole, into an ancient alien universe. Trapped on the planet Sagar, Blackstar is rescued by the tiny Trobbit people. In turn, he joins their fight for freedom against the cruel Overlord, who rules by the might of the Powerstar. The Powerstar is split into the Powersword and the Starsword. And so with Starsword in hand, Blackstar, together with his allies, sets out to save the planet Sagar. This is his destiny. "I am John Blackstar." "

Blackstar doesn't get as much press as its Saturday morning competition Thundarr The Barbarian which is superior in many ways but Blackstar does have it where it counts. Now the reason why I named off Black star is because of the Stars Without Number connection; Black Star's space craft is a craft capable of multi planar travel; a ""fusion-drive" timeship capable of multidimensional travel" to be exact. Then there's the main villain of Overlord who is constantly using 'Empire of the Petal Throne' style retro future technology of planet Sagar. Almost everything really fits into a D&D style paradigm. Blackstar borrows heavily from The Hobbit, John Carter of Mars, with a healthy dose of Stars Wars thrown in for good measure.

You've got the planet Sagar which is a back water world which has gone from the highest apex of its pseudo techno magical past to almost full Dark Ages with bits of psionics thrown into the mix. We get a really good sense of the past of Sagar with episodes like  : "The Zombie Masters" (December 5, 1981)  and "Spacewrecked" (October 17, 1981 ).
Overlord was a really minor space tyrant trying to mine his world's past, & it always seemed to me that the planet Sagar was at one time an interstellar holiday paradise with a sword & sorcery theme to it . The ancients of  Sagar created gene spliced creatures and mutants such as the incredibly obnoxious Trobbits & the dragon horses. Over the centuries the ancient's grasp on their super science began to slip, wars broke out & a minor tyrant rose to power to fill the vacuum. Overlord was the most cagey of these warlords to emerge over the centuries so far. Blackstar's world is a mix of magic, psionics, and mutant powers. The various races, magicians, sorcerers, etc. all fit a Dungeon Crawl Classics mold as well. Crawling Under A Broken Moon would suit this style of campaign perfectly especially if worked with Crawljammer. But back to Blackstar.  Everything on Sagar is centered around the power sword. This was an artifact level weapon broken in two.

The power sword has the abilities to unite Sagar and perhaps put  it on the galatic map once again;"Blackstar's weapon, the Starsword, is able to absorb, store, and reflect any external form of energy, and is virtually indestructible. It can also produce blasts of pure energy capable of destroying a target. The weapon generates an invisible "aura" which imbues Blackstar with superhuman senses, strength, endurance, reflexes, speed, agility, and a limited invulnerability to harm and extreme temperatures. Presumably the Overlord's Powersword confers similar abilities. For a brief time in the episode "Spacewrecked", the Starsword and the Powersword are re-united into the Powerstar."
Ever since I was a kid Blackstar was one of my Gamma World/D&D/Empire of the Petal  crossover points and ever since I learned about the He-Man crossover/nod in Temple of The Sun episode of He-Man it been in the back of my mind. "In the original He-Man cartoon episode "Temple of the Sun", a Blackstar statue (holding the Starsword) is seen next to Nepthu."  When the various planets and universes were swept up & put into pocket universes in the original  'Empire of The Petal Sun' perhaps Sagar and Eternia went right along with them. These various power swords might be artifact keys allowing passage between universes by accessing the same planar viberations as the star drives in Blackstar's ship.

This begs the question that has been on my friend's mind what other possible worlds might this also affect? Well according to a theory proposed last night there could be some very unexpected crossovers. I kept thinking about some of the dimensional/ time travel technology from Thundarr The Barbarian's Earth.

He-Man and Blackstar by MikeBock

Could Thundarr The Barbarian's ancients have been messing with some cross dimensional world technology that caused them to draw down that runaway comet that hurled between the Earth and the Moon in their universe? Well for the sake of fandom and my buddy's campaign I think so. This idea of the various power swords being keys across the dimensions and planes opens up the possibilities for just this sort of a dimensional hopping mega crossover campaign.  For a kid's campaign this would rock hard because you could easily slip in some Mutant Future especially Tim Snider's Thundarr material & merge some SWN Other Dust into the back drop.

Thundarr vs Blackstar by tomjf
To take this rpg fan & cartoon campaign fan speculation further imagine that Hanna Barbara's Goltar & The Golden Lance are simply another pocket universe that's fallen on hard times & is now reduced down to the sword & sorcery paradigm.  Perhaps that fleet that  Lieutenant Katana was asking for was facing down hordes of vary dangerous other dimensional raiders across the planes and Sagar was only the latest in a string of such campaigns. 

Anyhow this is all mere Saturday morning  fan speculation mixed in with a healthy dose of D&D peusdo sword & sorcery goodness. This post is for educational and enertainment purposes only and does not reflect upon the authors/designers opinions of any of any of this post. This post is not an attempt to violate the trade mark of any of the copyrights or trade marks of Blackstar or any of the other cartoons mentioned.

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