Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Morning OSR Campaign Fodder - Ark II 1976 Television Series As Old School Campaign

Saturday morning on CBS in 1976 were post apocalyptic filled with the Ark II television series & probably one of the things that fueled my life long love of the genre. Somehow this morning I ended up watching a good chunk of this live action series. When your six years old this was hard science fiction, the vehicles, the factions, gadgets, etc. are sort of Gamma World lite. Gamma World would come out three years later but for my DM Brian back in the Seventies it was fodder for his Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. For those who don't know about the show;"Ark II is an American live-action science fiction series, aimed at children, that aired on CBS, beginning on September 11, 1976 and ending on December 18, 1976 (went into reruns through November 13, 1977, but was returned on September 16, 1978 and ran all the way through August 25, 1979), as part of its weekend line-up. Only 15 half-hour episodes were ever produced. The program's central characters were created by Martin Roth; Ted Post helped Roth develop its core format." Yeah it wasn't Saturday morning without Ark II, Thundarr The Barbarian wouldn't come until much later.

"For millions of years, Earth was fertile and rich. Then pollution and waste began to take their toll. Civilization fell into ruin. This is the world of the 25th century. Only a handful of scientists remain, men who have vowed to rebuild what has been destroyed. This is their achievement: Ark II, a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge, manned by a highly trained crew of young people. Their mission: to bring the hope of a new future to mankind."
"(Voice of Jonah): Ark II log, Entry Number 1. I, Jonah,...Ruth,...Samuel,...and Adam are fully aware of the dangers we face as we venture into unknown, maybe even hostile, areas. But we’re determined to bring the promise of a new civilization to our people and our planet" So basically Ark II is a hexcrawl Gamma World/Mutant Future style. Ark II has everything that a Gamma World DM could want to pull from for adventure construction from great communities, factions, hokey post apocalpytic artifacts & relics, to weird plots that can be dropped ad hoc right into the back end of a Gamma World or Mutant Future style hex crawl.  The background is perfect to jump start a campaign;"The show had a racially mixed cast, starring Terry Lester as Ark II's commander, Jonah, Jean Marie Hon as Ruth, José Flores as Samuel, and a chimpanzee (owned and trained by Darrell Keener) responding to the name of Adam. The show's premise was inspired by the story of Noah's Ark, and the characters were given names taken from the Hebrew Bible. The show's setting was in a post-apocalyptic 25th Century (specifically, 2476, the show having debuted in 1976), after Earth's civilizations had been decimated by the effects of waste, pollution, and warfare, falling back to a level comparable to the Dark Ages. The surviving scientists pooled their knowledge and resources, training three young people (and the chimp, who was capable of speech and abstract reasoning) to search for remnants of humanity, reintroducing lost ideas as they traveled the barren landscape in the high-tech Ark II."

Rewatching the show something struck me about the world of the 23rd & 24th centuries, the scientists, military, and day to day corporations of the world of Ark II were up to some very sketchy stuff. Uplifted animals, weird 70's style A.I experimental entities ("Omega" & "The Robot"), poison gas weapons, weird mutations and powers ( the "The Mind Group", the "Orkus" the "The Wild Boy") and more make this a great low level gate way adventure into the world old school post apocalyptic games. Another thing is the fact that Ark II adventures are on a much lower scale and far more personal then Gamma World or classic Metamorphosis Alpha encounters  making this a much better 'fixer upper' style introduction into an old school gaming environment. The lethal levels came as the PC's gained experience and found out just how dangerous the world really was.
I have to say that I mined the hell out of this show for everything from Metamorphosis Alpha to Stars Without Number especially my Beta Max Black run of SWN. I think if you don't mind throwing caution or your childhood to the wind this series would work for a Crawling Under A Broken Moon

But if your want to put together your own OSR Ark II  game campaign there are some descent resources on the web. First of all wiki has a decent break down of the show with a quick episode and tech guide.
Next there's a fan site with everything you need to set up a fast series of notes and what not.

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