A few weeks ago I was tooling around on Hulu trying to figure out what exactly I was in the mood to watch. I decided on just clicking on the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode they had available and letting what selection they had up play its course.
One episode caught my interest a lot, the “Mazes and Mutants” episode. I love TMNT, I love pen and paper RPGs and I love the fact that these four characters are escaping they’re everyday heroics in a game the requires them to imagine them acting out heroics. As a result, this episode was a lot of fun to watch and it got me thinking that there really should be a TMNT Dungeons and Dragons styled game. Then I remembered… there already is! Let me introduce you to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.
The game was based and built on the original comic series that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created, and the duo also provided the illustrations for the books involved in the series along with original comic strips within the pages of each book to help build on player and game master creativity. Granted, this was all done in 1985 before the Green Machine grew to stadium-sized levels stardom and became the mega power it is today.
The game, like many of this type, ran off of a specific system and dice count set for actions to take place. The one used for TMNT&OS is called the Megaversal system. You use dice for skill checks, combat, determining damage and save throws. It relied a lot on the traditional Dungeons and Dragons system for the basics of game play then explodes into a field of acronyms that covers your characters attributes, class and skills. Also like D&D they have a list of alignments, but instead of Lawful Good they had Principled and it scaled down to the most evil of them Diabolic. Interestingly, there was no neutral area in the system they used with the few in between ones being labeled with “selfish” qualities, leaning more towards good or evil but no true grey ground.
You used these mechanics to build your very own mutant and you were encouraged to span out a little with some creativity to ensure your mutant was original. There was nothing wrong with wanting to play as Raph, Mike, Don or Leo but with the list of animals they gave you why would you not want to play mad scientist and see what you could come up with?! Every expansion book offered up more animals and also, as in real life, some species have different breeds. Not only that, but you could build around exactly how mutated they looked ranging from still very human looking to almost no animal shift at all and very primal in look.
The settings and environments of the game are “supposed” to be of that of Eastman and Laird’s original comic series. The books provided stats on all four of our favorite lean green ninja team as well as Shredder in case your game master decided you were to actually encounter them. You gained experience points and built on your character as he or she would progress and depending on how awesome your GM is you can even carry your already built character over to a new campaign. In addition, the book provided some pre-built adventures for the less creative who still wanted to play “god” (so to speak).
The game features hours of fun, but takes a long time setting up with everyone needing the books to scroll over and build his or her character, but that’s almost always the case with these type games. I suggest just sitting down and playing with the mechanics and building a few mutants ahead of time if you’re about to get on Ebay and seek out this slept on Turtles tie-in.
When I say slept on, I mean REALLY slept on. I have always been a tad surprised by how little this game is known of, even amongst Turtles fans. Not until recently have I been able to predict why. The original TMNT formula is very dark, violent gritty and has almost a noir style and feel to it so when other incarnations of the series became more jovial, fun, and family friendly I think those qualities really hurt the sales this game series.
I mean, when you’re given selections at the store of these awesome sounding and looking games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire The Masquerade, Werewolf The Apocalypse, and Warhammer you’re likely to pass up a game you think features those cute Turtles your little brother loves so much. It’s reported that before the popularity explosion of the family-friendly Turtles, Palladium Books were selling 50,000 books a year. After the turtleverse we all know and love came to be, sales dropped to 12,000 then to a mere 6,000.
They didn’t throw the series to the Shredder, however. The books ran from 1985 all the way up until 2000. That is almost 20 years devoted to a wonderful game series not many are aware of. If you enjoy these style games GET IT. If you want to try out this style of game start HERE. And, if you’re just crazy over the Turtles and are very imaginative, GET THIS for a weekend hangout with your closest friends. You will have a lot of fun both building exploring and playing. Also, if reading into it you get a little lost , or overwhelmed with the game play system you can always develop your own method to play. There have been a few times where someone forgot dice or we were just tired of rolling and left everything to Rock Paper Scissors. You create the world, so by all means do choose how you play.
For those who find themselves with a renewed interest in wanting to go out and play this, here’s a checklist of the books I know of:
- Adventures in the Yucatan
- After the Bomb
- Guide to the Universe
- Mutants Down Under
- Mutants in Avalon
- Mutants in Orbit
- Mutants of the Yucatan
- Ninjas and Superspies
- Road Hogs
- Smoke and Rails
I may be missing one or two, but if you just want to wing it and do your own, made up thing the character sheet is at least available on Palladium’s site for free.