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Thread: Masters of the Universe — An Adaptation for GURPS Fourth Edition

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2022

    Masters of the Universe — An Adaptation for GURPS Fourth Edition

    Here’s the current preface to my project, Masters of the Universe — An Adaptation for GURPS Fourth Edition:

    I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire — mostly role-playing game adaptations, some large, some small. The topic of Masters of the Universe, however, holds a special place in my heart, and it is for that reason which I hesitate in releasing anything but a final, perfected version, let alone this partial draft.

    Countervailing factors include my desire to make the project as open-source as possible, so that it may benefit, I hope, from the opinions of other enthusiasts who are equally interested in seeing the early source material presented in an accurate and thorough manner. Another reason, and perhaps the most rudimentary of them, is that if I don’t release something now, this project might never leave the drawing board!

    In any such venture there is the risk that releasing an early draft will generate burdensome expectations, gradually turning a labor of love into unwelcome drudgery. It is my goal, however, to see that the development process becomes something of a social interaction, pleasant and intriguing, prompting things to go full-steam ahead.

    With that said, I invite you, the reader, to join in the fun!
    If anyone would like to see the fragmentary progress I've made, just enquire via private message and I can send you a link to the latest PDF. If there's enough interest, and it's permitted on the forum, I'll post it publicly.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    To give a sense of what the character entries will be like, here's a forum-coded version of the current He-Man write-up....


    Defender of Right. Hero of Good. The most powerful man in the Universe. Equipped by the sorceress of Eternia with weapons of unearthly power.
    — “The Masters of the Universe Revealed”
    Descriptive text goes here.

     ST 15
      Turning to the castle, He-Man pulled with all his mighty strength, taxing his natural power to the limit. Finally, he pulled down the creaking Jaw-Bridge. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
      This was accomplished without his strength-enhancing garment.
     DX 13
     IQ 10
     HT 15

    Secondary Characteristics
     Dmg 2d−1 / 2d+1
     BL 63 lbs.
     Speed 7.00
     Move 7
     Dodge 10
      “He is 28, 6′3″ tall and 230 lbs.” — Mark Taylor
     320 lbs.
      With the stocky build of He-Man (à la Errol McCarthy’s cardback drawings), the quoted height and weight would yield only ST 12 — hardly the wall of muscle depicted in the art and stories.
      Oddly enough, using an anagram of the quoted weight gives results commensurate with a stocky, ST 15 build. Seeing how near-peak ST is likely the highest possible in a setting without modern conveniences, this works out well.
      Optionally, the fabled power of jungle-bred muscle might warrant a further bonus to ST, independent of weight.
     SM 0

    Social Background
     TL: 0
      A mighty figure stood at the edge of the jungle that had, until this day, always been his home. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
      He-Man’s first appearance was as he ventured forth wearing a fur loincloth and carrying a stone-tipped spear.
     CF: Eternian
     Languages: Eternian (Native)
      “Hello friends. I am He-Man, and I want you to read along as we listen to the adventures of the Masters of the Universe.” — He-Man, introducing “The Power of Point Dread!” / “Danger at Castle Grayskull!”

     Combat Reflexes
      “Down!” He-Man shouted to Teela, as deadly energy bolts blasted at them. He felt the heat of the beam and smelled the singeing of his hair. “If that ray hits us, we’ll be burned to ashes!” — “King of Castle Grayskull”
     Damage Resistance 1 (Tough Skin)
     Destiny (foretold hero)
      “Your strength… your courage,” she [The Sorceress] said, “mark you as the legendary hero who is to inherit the treasures I have guarded all these years.” — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
      “You are truly the ‘Masters of the Universe’ who are destined to protect my secrets from evil forces,” said the Spirit of the Castle. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
     High Pain Threshold
     Higher Purpose (prevent Castle Grayskull from falling into evil hands)
      …he had a noble mission to accomplish. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
     Reputation (great warrior, +2 to his tribe, all the time)
      He-Man, the tribe’s greatest warrior, waved his farewell. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
     Signature Gear (force field and strength garments)
      In “He-Man and the Power Sword”, He-Man wore a forcefield garment to Castle Grayskull. When it got damaged, he pried open the Jaw-Bridge unaided (“taxing his natural power to the limit”). In “King of Castle Grayskull”, he instead wore a strength garment to the castle, but got knocked unconscious by a blast of electricity. The latter story specified that he possessed multiple garments, and he referred to them as if they were indeed separate items with distinct purposes. The separation between types of garments was made explicit in “Battle in the Clouds”.

     Barbarian’s Code
      As much as He-Man hated Skeletor, he hated mode to see a master do harm to a slave. — “The Vengeance of Skeletor”
     Cannot Harm Innocents
      In “The Power of Point Dread!”, he lamented his mistake that had resulted in harm to the king.
     Sense of Duty (close friends)
      “No, friend, I now have a new duty, and it binds me here in this palace. Until the king is well again, I must stay and protect the kingdom in his place.” / “But what if there’s danger at Castle Grayskull?” / “If Skeletor causes trouble, the Sorceress will send word and I will hurry there.” / “But the castle is so far from here. You may not get there in time!” / “Yes, I know! But that is my burden to bear!” — He-Man and Man-At-Arms, in “The Power of Point Dread!”

     Animal Handling (Big Cats)*
      “Come,” He-Man commanded, and Battle Cat sprang to his master. — “Battle in the Clouds”
      He-Man was the first of his people to trudge these craggy cliffs and quake-torn valleys. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
     Driving (Heavy Wheeled) - 12 (DX−1) [1]
      He-Man wasn’t shown driving the Battle Ram in the first mini-comics, though the box art did portray him doing so. Early on, this was probably a case of default use with technology that is particularly user-friendly.
     Driving (Tracked) - 12 (DX−1) [1]
      In “The Magic-Stealer!”, he drives the Attak-Trak.
     Electronics Operation (MT) - 9 (IQ−1) [1]
      And, before Man At Arms could say another word, He-Man activated the Battle Ram’s space-warp device. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”
      This was probably a case of default use with technology that is particularly user-friendly.
      In “He-Man and the Power Sword”, illustrations showed a knife in his boot, though it was neither mentioned nor shown being used.
     Mimicry (Animal Sounds)*
      Then he cupped his hands to his mouth and gave an animal call toward the forest. — “Battle in the Clouds”
     Mimicry (Bird Calls)*
      In “The Power of Point Dread!”, He-Man made a whistling noise (“Tweeeee”) to signal Zoar to attack.
     Navigation (Land)*
     Piloting (High-Performance Airplane) - 12 (DX−1) [1]
      “This battle plane was designed for two pilots, but I don’t have time to find someone else. I must fly this alone. Skeletor must be stopped!” — He-Man, in “The Power of Point Dread!”
      This was probably a case of default use with technology that is particularly user-friendly.
     Piloting (Light Airplane) - 12 (DX−1) [1]
      This was probably a case of default use with technology that is particularly user-friendly.
     Piloting (Vertol) - 12 (DX−1) [1]
      Soon afterwards, a fantastic vehicle sped across the craggy terrain on a cushion of air. Riding the Battle Ram was He-Man… — “The Vengeance of Skeletor”
      His early use of the Battle Ram was probably a case of default use with technology that is particularly user-friendly. By this, the fourth story, he may have developed the skill.
     Riding (Tiger) - 13 (DX+0) [2]
      He-Man leaped to the back of Battle Cat. Soon the beast was bounding obediently across the rugged terrain… — “Battle in the Clouds”
      In “He-Man and the Power Sword”, his first scene showed him holding a stone-tipped wooden spear, though the weapon did not get used in the story.
     Survival (Jungle)*
      Holding his breath, He-Man fought his way to the surface for air… — “The Vengeance of Skeletor”
     Thrown Weapon (Axe/Mace)*
      “The Power of Point Dread!”
     Two-Handed Axe/Mace*
      In a blur of bronze movement, He-Man leaped from the cliffside and onto his shaggy foe. His powerful fingers dug deep into the monster’s hide. — “He-Man and the Power Sword”

    Wildcard Skills
     Savage Warrior! - 15 (DX+2) [48]

     Boots: light and medium leather; feet, shins; DR 1 vs. cutting, DR 2 (1 vs. impaling) on bottom; 2 lbs.
     Great axe.
     Loincloth: light leather; groin; DR 1 vs. cutting; 1 lb.

    * Subsumed by the Savage Warrior! wildcard skill.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    So, I woke up today with an idea in my head: Divide my project into two distinct parts, each published as its own booklet the size of a mini-comic. The first would have the characters and themes pared down to the pure, post-apocalyptic setting of the first wave -- the barren, lonely world of the earliest mini-comics, cardbacks, and advertizing. The second would be a re-write that encorporates second-wave elements such as the early version of the kingdom of Eternia, the medieval fantasy theme, and the characters' unexplained familiarity with sci-fi technology.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    I think I've found a way to programatically include/exclude details, based on which wave of mini-comics is chosen. This should allow me to make a first-wave-only version, and a separate first-and-second-wave version. For example, the first-wave one would mention a generic mountain range that contains Eternia's highest peak, where Stratos has his home. The one that includes the second wave as well, will omit some or all of those descriptions in favor of calling it the Mystic Mountains, along with the city of Avion, the addition of Delora, etc.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    I've been piecing together the rather vague layout of Eternia, as it was presented in the first wave of mini-comics, and to an extent how that was expanded/modified in the second. There's not much to go on, other than occasional mentions of the time of day, visible shadows in the line art, and colors that sometimes match with those. Another potential tell would be the two planets/moons shown in a number of panels.

    The details from "He-Man and the Power Sword" are straight-forward enough, in that He-Man obviously heads south from his jungle in the morning, traversing the wastelands where Castle Grayskull lies. On his way, he builds his house some miles from the castle. The walkable distance is confirmed in "King of Castle Grayskull".

    Problems start to arise when trying to parse "Battle in the Clouds"....

    It begins with Stratos at his home, from where he hears the sounds of battle, and takes flight to find the source. It leads him to Castle Grayskull -- which I'm assuming would be a significant distance from his mountain range -- so what he'd heard must have been the weapons fire, not the shouting. Somehow, the action then jumps to the sea, which implies the battle was a roving one; but also that the castle isn't particularly far from the water.

    As He-Man departs, the shadows are generally in a consistent direction, and, before he takes a tumble, he seems to be headed toward Stratos' mountain. (Deus ex machina: insert Teela and her horse for Mer-Man to quickly overtake the fallen He-Man.) The story then jumps from He-Man being attacked near the mountain to him calling forth Battle Cat from a forest. I have no clue where this comes from, or why the beast was left in a forest that's apparently within walking distance of Stratos' mountain.

    Anyway, they set off for He-Man's home, then that of Man-At-Arms, and finally toward Stratos' mountain. They end up by the sea, complete with a mini-archipelago that resembles the one at the beginning, and they begin their ascent. This seems to confirm that Stratos' home is, or is near to, these mountains that border the western sea.

    In the final scene, Castle Grayskull is seen in the distance, which confirms that it's not too far from the sea. If the jagged peak that's also shown in that panel is meant to be Stratos' home, then the sunset color of the sky would indicate that the mountain is in a somewhat northerly direction from the castle, though perhaps still further west.

    Based on all of that, my best guess is that the wastelands abuts a sea to the west-southwest, with an intervening chain of mountains springing up along the western coast.

    Note: If using the diorama seen in "The Power of Point Dread!" (book/record), then the City of Eternia would be on the western coast (toward the north), with Castle Grayskull significantly to its south. Between them, to the west, the diorama shows the largest mountains -- possibly those seen in "Battle in the Clouds".

    Now proceed to "The Vengeance of Skeletor", where we see a potential conflict....

    Mer-Man is ordered to go to to Castle Grayskull, so wherever he's coming from, it's not that far from the coast.

    He-Man is ambushed and knocked unconscious. Mer-Man carries him "for many miles" and, at daybreak, reaches the sea and tosses the hero in. Mer-Man admits that it's a sea he's not especially familiar with. The text describes merely how "dawn's light crept over the land", but the illustration goes further by showing a rising sun over the sea where He-Man is dumped -- i.e., it's an *eastern* sea (whether or not that was the intent of the writer).

    Seeing the antagonism between Mer-Man and Stratos later in the story, it's conceivable that their domains clash at the western coast, and so Mer-Man would want to dispose of He-Man in a sea far from there. And yet, Stratos still manages to show up and rescue He-Man, all that distance away!

    One possibility is that Teela, upon seeing He-Man carried off, went for help. Another is that the spot where He-Man got tossed was simply a peninsula pointing southward, maybe at the southern extent of Mer-Man's western territory, and so the sunrise illustration doesn't prove there's a major land mass involved.

    If the peninsula hypothesis is right, then Mer-Man likely rules the seas on its westward side, where he comes into conflict with Stratos the further north he goes on the western coast. It would also explain why he knows little of the peninsula's eastern side, and yet the trek was far enough south that it took him until morning to get there.

    Though I've wracked my brain over this, and I think I've come to some reasonable conclusions, there may be details that I've missed.
    Last edited by 1F409; July 3, 2022 at 12:56pm.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    Here's what I've come up with so far....

    Version A -- based primarily on the first wave of mini-comics:

    Version B -- based primarily on the first two waves, etc.:

    A few of the hyperlinked citations within the PDFs aren't working correctly, so there may be crashes.

    Obviously these are just partial drafts. I have fragments of the second-wave characters, too, but have set them aside in favor of trying to complete the first wave and its setting.

    The images came from the old licensing kit, as did the character introductions. I'm not sure whether I should leave off the attributions and just put a note in the front matter, or keep them in the form they are.

    I'm open to arguments against the mini-comic size. In fact, I'm open to discussion on all aspects of the project. I've included what I consider to be the best citations to support the choices I've made, both in the character traits and in formulating a cohesive setting. It's all rather open-source in design, with the aim of making things easy to understand, discuss, and change.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2022
    Well, even the people who claimed to be interested haven't bothered to comment, so I guess the results aren't what folks expected. Oh well, no big deal, maybe it will catch on in another few decades. Just remember, I gave everybody a chance to weigh in, to argue for or against any aspect of the project -- so I don't want to hear any complaints later on about the path taken! I'll be heading out, now. Anyone who's interested can reach me on Gab. Thanks.

  8. #8
    Heroic Warrior Laura Gill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2020
    Los Angeles, California
    Take into consideration that most of the individuals on this forum are not avid readers.
    Formerly known as Granamyr on the Forum.

    Author of Helen's Daughter, Knossos, Danae, and The Orestes Trilogy.

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