The world of 3994 is a pretty damned primitive place. Other than the wizards and their war machines, the population of the Earth is reduced to subsisting off whatever debris is still around 2000 years after cosmic destruction cast civilization into ruins. Which brings up a good point: just how did all this stuff survive 2000 years, anyway?
Relics and Ruins
Even if 2000 years' worth of scavengers had not stripped the ruined cities bare by now, wouldn't everything from 1994 long since have crumbled to dust? Apparently not. We can ascribe the availability of Old Earth clothing, objects, and buildings to two important facts. First of all, the "runaway planet" responsible for the cataclysm of 1994 stripped away a large portion of Earth's atmosphere, meaning that far more cosmic and solar radiation reaches the Earth's surface. In addition to the mutagenic effect this had on plant and animal life, this may have also had the effect of making Earth's atmosphere less corrosive. Certainly the iron girders holding Manhatt's ruined towers aloft would have long since rusted to dust were this not so. Secondly, the passing of the runaway planet cracked the Earth's moon into several pieces: the tidal effects from this and the runaway planet itself both had a devastating effect on Earth's geology. It is possible that the instability of the Earth's crust results in large deposits of Old Earth relics - even whole cities - periodically being brought to the surface, protected from decay and in serviceable condition.
The above-ground environment of the Earth offers its share of obstacles to our brave adventurers, too. There are Death Storms (with red acid rain that dissolves rock), Negastorms (which look much the same as a Death Storm, but with "negative lightning" instead of acid rain), toxic mists (found in a variety of colors, usually glowing), and of course the tried-and-true hazards of Old Earth: murky swamps, impenetrable forest, and trackless waste as far as the eye can see.
There are a lot of things kicking around in Thundarr's world that obviously weren't around in 1994. In Master of the Stolen Sunsword, for example, the wizard Yando calls Thundarr's Sunsword "the most powerful weapon in all the planet." We have good reason to doubt Yando's qualifications to make that assessment, but there's no doubt the Sunsword is pretty damned impressive. Also in that episode we see a Pool of Power that can be used to recharge the Sunsword; from Ariel's tone we can infer that Pools of Power can be found elsewhere, as well. There are also more enigmatic artifacts, like the Black Pearl which stymies the wizard Gemini's power in Secret of the Black Pearl; the humans who stole it from Gemini don't know who made it, and they don't know how to make another one. It seems like every other village has an item like this hanging around, and the wizard Kublai had a vault full of stuff like this.
Where did all this stuff come from? Who made it? There's no telling. Maybe a few high-tech conclaves survived the cosmic devastation long enough to manufacture these gizmos. Maybe they survive still. Perhaps the wizards are the literal or philosophical descendants of these survivors. However, even the wizards seem unable to duplicate the more potent of these artifacts. This suggests another possibility, that these artifacts come from another time or place. At least two wizards (Vashtar in Prophecy of Peril, and Crom in Portal Into Time) have access to time travel (or did, until Thundarr and company came along). Surely there are others who have this ability, as well.
Most of the people Ariel, Thundarr, and Ookla run into are Human villagers living barely above a stone-age level of development. Civilization fell to pieces 2000 years ago and people still haven't recovered. They dress in rags dating from the late 1900's, they live in ruined buildings from the late 1900's, and they generally look like refugees from a war zone. This may be because they are, in fact, refugees.
Thundarr and friends frequently run across ancient artifacts and relics that are nonetheless more advanced than what existed in 1994. Surely, not all of civilization was destroyed by the tidal waves and earthquakes of the cataclysm, at least not immediately. So some of these peasants may only have been reduced to savagery for a few generations. Also, the most primitive Human tribes are those constantly under attack by wizards or marauders (most of whom appear to be working for or in conjunction with wizards). It is conceivable that the level of progress among Human villages is kept intentionally stunted by the intervention of wizards.
While not encountered as often as villagers, barbarians are also common in the world of 3994. Barbarians are typically portrayed as primitive and uncouth individuals who do not have even the veneer of civilization clung to by their ragged village-dwelling counterparts. However, barbarians are repeatedly shown to be more self-sufficient than the villagers, and better able to survive in the harsh world under the broken moon. There are several indications that barbarians may actually be the vanguard of the rebuilding of Earth's civilization. Thundarr, obviously, is a barbarian who survives without preying upon others. When, in the episode Raiders of the Abyss, Thundarr is asked, "What manner of man are you?" he replies with fierce pride: "Free!" He then proceeds to kick the butt of the aforementioned Raiders: "Humans are not your prey!"
Thundarr never mentions his family life or upbringing, but we must assume that the tribe that produced him probably produced other honorable individuals, as well. The young barbarian woman Shara in Den of the Sleeping Demon demonstrates an ethical awareness that, despite her barbarian "virtues" of arrogance and well-nigh suicidal overconfidence, speaks well of her as a person.
In the opening scene of Master of the Stolen Sunsword, Thundarr and friends encounter a caravan of camel-riding traders. Yando, the local wizard, can't abide this, of course, and demands "tribute from all who enter my domain" - taking vengeance on anyone with the temerity to refuse. The traders are no match for the wizard, but our barbarian hero and his companions are not about to let innocent traders be assaulted and robbed, and quickly tackle the thieving wizard and his goons (not too successfully, but Yando gets his comeuppance eventually).
In fact, a piece of compelling evidence that the barbarians may hold the future of humanity is the fact that when the wizard Kublai seeks a barbarian to oppose Thundarr in the episode Battle of the Barbarians, he looks not in a primitive thatched-hut village or a crude settlement living among ruins, but in a roadside tavern - a commercial enterprise. In order for commerce to survive, a certain minimal level of civilization must exist (primarily, the recognition of private property). In order for civilization to survive and technology to advance, tyrants and wizards must not be allowed to interfere with the trade of free people. The people who seem to cling most fiercely to their freedom are the barbarians, and it is among the barbarians that we see the beginnings of the return of civilization, as crude and as violent as they may be. With some breathing space from wizard attacks, it seems hopeful that Humankind (and the other species
that have arisen in the last two millennia) will be able to regain the civilization their ancestors worked so hard to attain.
Sorcerers and Sorceresses
Sorcerers and sorceresses are individuals (usually Humans) who have studied magic and make its use their profession. Since the vast majority of Humans are not sorceresses, we must assume that most Humans are not capable of using magic. Magic was evidently nonexistent prior to the cataclysm in 1994, but sorcerers from the present can still use magic if they are transported to that ancient time: we must assume that magic was possible then, but that effectively no one was capable of using it. This implies that the ability to use magic is a rare mutation introduced into the Human species (among others) as a consequence of the runaway planet's passing, possibly a result of increased cosmic radiation due to the loss of much of the Earth's atmosphere.
Wizards and their pawns are the most common adversaries Thundarr and friends encounter in their travels. Wizards differ from sorceresses primarily in temperament: wizards are frequently irritable, hostile, and obsessed with the conquest of every primitive village within a day's travel of their stronghold. Wizards also seem to be mentally unstable, and have problems evaluating threats and formulating appropriate responses; on more than one occasion, Thundarr and company were no match for the local wizard in a straight fight, but the wizard chose to pursue a course of action that gave Thundarr and company the upper hand. Since the overwhelming majority of magic-using individuals encountered by Thundarr and company are wizards, we can assume that this mental instability is typical of those who can use magic, either stemming from the same mutation as the magic ability itself, or as a result of the wizard's magical manipulations. The relatively sane (or at least
benign) sorcerers and sorceresses are the rare exceptions: wizards are the rule.
There is also evidence that a society of wizards exists, and much of their apparently irrational behavior stems from their social interactions with each other. On more than one occasion, a wizard refers to other wizards which may be watching his activities, the implication being that a social hierarchy among wizards exists (the wizard Artemis in Trial by Terror refers to a "council of wizards" who are watching his actions). If so, the behavior of wizards toward the primitive settlements in their vicinity may be indicative of one way in which social advancement among wizards is accomplished. However, it is noteworthy that the more powerful wizards seem to be less concerned with attacking stone-age villages, and more concerned with protecting their power, strongholds, and domains from perceived threats and from each other.
The most obvious distinguishing characteristic of wizards is physical mutation or alteration. Why and how this mutation occurs is unknown, but it is a fact that the more powerful wizards have frequently mutated into a monstrous form that is scarcely recognizable as Human. At the mild end of the scale, this mutation commonly takes the form of unnatural skin color and/or exaggerated physical features, such as blue skin, shark-like teeth, or blazing eyes. At the extreme end of the scale, the wizard may be a bodyless head, have mechanical tentacles for arms, have dozens of eyes, or any of a host of other horrific physical deformities. You pretty much know a wizard when you see one.
Strongholds and Death Ships
A universal undertaking among wizards is the construction of enormous strongholds and vast death machines (also variously "land machines," "war machines," and "death ships"). How wizards manage to erect these enormous structures with only unskilled labor as assistants is a mystery. It is known that some of these strongholds and death ships are actually artifacts found by the wizards and repaired or reactivated, rather than constructed from raw materials. It is also known that several wizards create their strongholds and death ships with magic, sometimes using rare elements and ancient artifacts to power the vast structures. It is possible that the arcane energies empowering these structures are related to the mutations and mental instability endemic to wizards. This theory is supported by the fact that none of the sorcerers and sorceresses appearing in the series have strongholds or death ships.
Many wizards are partially or completely dependent upon artifacts for their powers. The wizard Kublai was rendered powerless when his ruby was drained of power, while the wizard Vashtar was similarly made impotent by the destruction of his crystal by the three women of the Prophecy of Peril. Some wizards are granted their powers by these artifacts; thus, anyone who gained possession of these artifacts could be similarly empowered. Other wizards have intentionally made themselves dependent upon these artifacts, increasing their magical power but making themselves vulnerable in the process: nearly every empowering artifact shown in the series has a legendary counter-artifact capable of destroying it or rendering it inert. Still, it would appear that dependence upon such artifacts is common among wizards.
Witches and Warlocks
Witches are rarely referred to in the series, leading us to believe that they are rarer even than sorceresses. From Ariel's reaction when one wizard called her a "witch," we can infer that both wizards and sorceresses consider witches to be beneath them in terms of power level or ethical basis (possibly both). Since wizards are unlikely to deride an opponent for moral impropriety, it is safe to deduce that witches are thought to be less powerful or less skilled than sorceresses and wizards. However, the one witch we see in the series is Circe, in Island of the Body Snatchers, and she's certainly no slouch. In Den of the Sleeping Demon, the aspiring wizard Judag attempts to revive the "sleeping demon" in hopes of allying with it and obtaining a portion of its power. This may give us a clue as to the nature of witches and warlocks: they derive a portion of their power from a third party, in return for certain considerations
(obedience, worship, the witch's "soul," etc.). However, from all appearances such efforts do not typically meet with success.
The Earth of 3994 is full of nonhuman creatures, a number of which are large, ugly, and not too friendly. Giant rat-things live under cities, giant bear-lizards live in swamps, absolutely huge fire-breathing lava worms burrow through the deep earth, and so on. It's a dangerous place. Fortunately, the dynamics of carnivore biology prevents these creatures from being abundant. Prey always has to outnumber the predators by a wide margin, even under the broken moon. Still, some of the prey are dangerous in their own right, particularly those that compete with Humans for resources.
Ape People (a.k.a. "Man-Apes") look like lean, furry humanoids with long arms and heads like monkeys (thus the name). They aren't terribly bright, but they have a knack with technology and are capable of repairing devices that they could never build on their own (as in Valley of the Man-Apes). Ape People tend to be jealous of and hostile toward Humans, and they are easily roused to violence, but they are just as easily scared off if their victims don't prove to be easy prey.
Carocs are long-tailed reptilian humanoids with scaly green skin, flattened oval heads on their neckless shoulders, and lots of sharp nasty teeth. They are slightly tougher than Humans on average, and they are just as mechanically inclined, making them competent competitors for scavenged resources. They generally consider Humans and other mammalian species inferior to them, and are prone to enslave any other creatures they consider worth enslaving, such as Moks (as in Harvest of Doom).
Desert People are squat little humanoids around 60 centimeters tall; they are secretive and dangerous despite their diminutive size. They speak a mumbling, murmuring tongue which is structurally similar to the language of Moks, and usually understandable by Moks. Desert People live in tunnel complexes deep underground, although they occasionally come up to the surface world to scavenge supplies or hunt for food.
Groundlings are rat-people, depraved and vicious. They typically live in crowded underground warrens. Like Ape People, Groundlings tend to be jealous of and hostile toward Humans, but Groundlings lack even the Ape People's proficiency with technology. Most Groundlings are morally bankrupt: they won't build or create anything if they can steal it, and they enjoy seeing what others have worked for destroyed. Groundlings prefer to attack from ambush, and only if the odds are significantly in their favor, but once they commit to an attack they are persistent and difficult to drive away. They groom themselves constantly, so at least they don't smell bad.
Hawk People (a.k.a. "Hawk Mutants") appear to be brown-feathered humanoids with hawk-like heads. They speak Human, but have annoying screeching voices. They are (surprisingly for a fantasy cartoon) wingless, but they have large clawed talons on their hands and feet which allow them to climb swiftly. They also are able to leap great distances, implying a higher muscle mass to weight ratio than is typically found in Humans. Understandably, Hawk People seem to prefer living in rocky areas, and they like heights.
Hawk People aren't fond of cumbersome clothing (and being feathered, they don't really need it), but they typically wear backpacks to carry their personal belongings. In fact, Hawk People seem to be more civilized and technically inclined than most mutants, although this doesn't imply a higher moral awareness than is found among (for example) Humans. A favorite weapon among Hawk People is a metal staff with a crescent-shaped pincer on the end. The points of the pincer can stab an opponent, or the Hawk Person can use the pincer to grab and immobilize an opponent (to capture them, or just to keep them out of arm's reach).
Little People are squat little humanoids around 60 centimeters tall, possibly related to Desert People. Unlike Desert People, Little People are relatively friendly and outgoing, and live in small villages aboveground. They are industrious people, every bit as mechanically inclined and morally developed as Humans. They can also be just as dangerous when threatened, and tend to be less likely than Humans to capitulate when faced with a superior force.
Moks are primitive-looking creatures that resemble furry, hulking Humans with thick manes similar to that of male lions. Their facial fur is black, in a pattern that gives Moks a ferocious skull-faced appearance, made all the more frightening by the Moks' large canines and cat-like eyes. Moks speak a guttural, growling language that is difficult for other species to speak. The massive musculature and growling speech of Moks sometimes gives the impression that Moks are uncivilized and brutal, but Moks greatly enjoy music and are generally no less artistic in temperament than Humans. They are, unfortunately, not very good dancers. A significant difference between Moks and Humans is that Moks hate water, and would rather face overwhelming odds in battle than wade across a stream to safety. Moks do catch fish for food, but all fishing is done with nets cast from shore. Moks tend to have a strong, musky smell.
Moks are a physical people, quick to display anger and joy in a rough-and-tumble fashion. Among themselves, injury from such horseplay is rare, but among other species Moks have a reputation for being casually violent and dangerous to be around. Despite their powerful builds, ferocious appearance, and fearsome reputation (or, more likely, because of these traits), Moks live in relative peace with their neighbors. There are malevolent, belligerent Moks just as there are malevolent Humans, but like Humans the majority of Moks prefer to live peacefully, raise a family, grow their crops, and trade honestly with their neighbors.
Named Mok characters have 1d6 armor from their tough Mok hide.
Thundarr and company run across mutants all the time. Most of the time they are in the employ of the local wizard, but sometimes they have a valued (if not exactly respected) position in the human community (like the Pig Mutant deputies in Trial by Terror). Most of the nonhuman communities in Thundarr's world probably started out as groups of similar mutants that joined together for company and mutual protection.
Making mutants is easy. Start with a human being, add some animal characteristics, and drop the IQ about 20%: instant mutant. Keep it away from sharp objects and power-hungry wizards, and it should do fine.
There are too many monsters tromping through Thundarr's world than I can inventory here. Pick a normal Old Earth animal, make it the size of a house, stick some scales and claws on it, maybe some spikes, and you've got a typical monster. Once in a while, toss in a monster with the trait "Resistant to Magic (U/T)" at one or two dice. This can make the monster harder for Thundarr and Ariel to hit by imposing penalty dice to their attack rolls, or might give the monster some additional armor against Thundarr's Sunsword and Ariel's magic (depending on the GM and the monster in question). Don't do it too often, and make sure there's some way for the players to take out the beast by using their wits. A good example of this is the Lava Worm in episode The Brotherhood of Night: it was the size of a passenger train, breathed fire, and seemed to be pretty much immune to every attack Thundarr and the gang could throw. However, there was a wooden bridge nearby. Thinking quickly, Thundarr lured the Lava Worm onto the bridge, where it burned through and fell into the river far below.
The Heroic Trio
These are not beginning characters.
"Thundarr, no! You can't just rush in! .... Outvoted again."
Ariel was raised by grandfather, who taught her sorcery and Old Earth History. She seems to be of Asian descent, and mentions once to Thundarr that her ancestors may have lived in a place much like the Chinatown area they visit in Battle of the Barbarians. She is called "Princess Ariel" throughout the series, but princess of what and where we don't know. We also don't know when she met up with Thundarr and Ookla, but it appears from the credits that she helped them escape from the wizard who enslaved them, and she's apparently been traveling with them ever since. She has a pretty obvious crush on Thundarr, but it's hard to tell if he's aware of it or if he returns her feelings.
Languages: Human, understands Mok
Attack: 4d6 (Sorceress), usually damage factor x2
Defense: 3d6 (Quick-witted), or 4d6 (Sorceress)
Hit Points: 21 (Quick-witted)
Magic Pool: 14 (Sorceress)
Sorceress (Central, T/U): 4d6 (crystal on forehead, tight blue bodysuit, clean hair)
Old Earth History (NS): 4d6 (always relates people/places/events to Old Earth)
Technology (T/U): 3d6 (quick to voice her assessment of every device she sees)
Quick-witted (S): 3d6 (bright, inquisitive gaze)
Doesn't take danger seriously (makes jokes when facing dire peril)
Must have hands free to cast spells (holds hands over head while casting spells)
"Humans are not for hunting!"
Thundarr is a barbarian who was enslaved by a wizard (we don't know which one). We don't know how long he was enslaved, but we see in the opening credits that he seized the opportunity to escape, and along with Princess Ariel and Ookla the Mok he kicked the wizard's goons asses all over the place, and might have kicked the wizard's ass as well. Since then he has a made a career of helping any Humans he finds and foiling the plans of any wizards he runs across. Thundarr seems to something of a bigot, actually: he most definitely shows a pro-Human bias, but hey, who can blame him? Once a non-Human demonstrates a basic sense of right and wrong, though, he does his best to defend them just as he does Humans. Thundarr is stubborn and tends to act without thinking (that's an understatement), but he's basically a good person who wants to make the world a better place.
Languages: Human, understands Mok
Attack: 4d6 (Barbarian), damage factor x6 with that awesome Sunsword
Defense: 5d6 (Indomitable Will), 1d6 armor from thick furs
Hit Points: 35 (Indomitable Will)
Barbarian (Central, S): 4d6 (wears thick, shaggy fur)
Indomitable Will (S): 5d6 (frowns and looks serious most of the time)
Amazingly Lucky (S): 4d6 (sword hilt on left bracer)
Acrobatic Feats (T/U): 2d6 (massive thigh and calf muscles, no pants)
Oblivious to Danger (charges right at danger, sword-a-swinging)
Obstinate (walks/runs/rides off while people are making suggestions)
Ookla was a slave of the same wizard who enslaved Thundarr, and escaped with him. Ookla is one scary guy: he can face down some pretty nasty beasts with just a growl and a flex of those gargantuan muscles. He can back up the threat, too: in more than one episode he picks up a car and swings it around. At heart, though, Ookla is a softie. He is Thundarr's stalwart companion, and never in the entire series does he let the Barbarian face a threat alone - unless he's guarding Ariel, that is. Nothing pisses Ookla off faster than threats to Ariel, and nothing makes him happier than getting her back safe (although food comes a close second). Ookla's bow is made for Moks, and anyone with less than 4d6 in a strength-related trait won't be able to draw it.
Languages: Mok, understands Human and Desert People
Attack: 5d6 (Brawny), damage factor x2 with a club or x3 with blunt arrows (some time in the show's second season Ookla acquired stun arrows, which do x5 but don't cause any lasting damage)
Defense: 5d6 (Brawny), 1d6 armor from tough Mok hide
Hit Points: 35 (Brawny)
Outdoorsman (Central, S): 3d6 (bow and arrows)
Brawny (S): 5d6 (huge bulging muscles)
Fearless (S): 4d6 (growls angrily at anything big and scary)
Impatient (he's a good sport for a while, then smashes things when he gets frustrated)
Portions of this document were reproduced with permission from the Over the Edge role-playing game, and are Copyright © 1992, 1997 John Nephew. Over the Edge is a trademark of John Nephew, used with permission. Thundarr the Barbarian is Copyright © 1981 Ruby-Spears Enterprises, Inc., and is used here without permission.