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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness

Revised Edition


The Oldest/Only Official Turtles RPG [ edit ]

Even before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a children's TV show, they were a comic book which was popular enough to have its own licensed RPG product, made by the new (at the time) Palladium Books.  The new game was a hit, and as Palladium's first big product it spawned several supplements which detailed mutant animals from other continents (one book even detailed mutant dinosaurs).

But when the Saturday morning cartoon came out, what suddenly had been a cool independent comic book RPG became something only for children and no self-respecting adult gamer would touch it.  Palladium tried to pivot the game, by introducing a new "After the Bomb" setting which used the same mutant animal rules, only without any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The new setting didn't catch on though, and Palladium wound up losing the license.

Character Creation [ edit ]

Character creation is by far the best part of this system ... if you enjoy lots of wackiness and lots of randomness.

To create a TMNT character you start by rolling 3d6 (plus an extra d6 if you roll 16+) to generate your "eight attributes, I.Q., M.E., P.S., P.P., P.E., P.B., and Spd."  No, you didn't count wrong: that was a direct quote from page 6 of the book's revised edition, which left out the stat "M.A." This gives you a fair sense of its editorial quality overall.

The real fun start with a roll to determine the character's mutant animal.  Using several tables and d100 (2xd19) rolls, characters can wind up as anything from a parakeet, to a polar bear, to a porcupine ... and that's just with the core rulebook (expansions offered many further tables).  If all this sounds very, the book notes that you can have the GM pick an animal instead, but it encourage randomness.

Next the player rolls to determine their background, specifically whether their mutation was random, accidental, or deliberate (but with further details, from further rolls on further sub-tables). Then comes their first actual choice: each animal starts with a size level and more or less "BIO-E points" based on their size.

Players can exchange points for size, more human-like qualities, special powers based on their animal type, or even psionic (mind over matter) powers.  For instance, the TMNT bought a greater size, more human-like speech, hands, and bipedal stance, plus an armored shell and the ability to hold their breath longer

After that the character picks their alignment, equipment, weapon proficiencies, and skills.  Each skill has a fixed percentage chance of success, which improves when you level, and which skills and how many you get is determined by your (random) background. 

Choosing physical skills can actually increase your attributes (eg. Running adds one to your P.E.), and you can also spend skills to gain a "hand to hand fighting style" ... which is pretty critical since it has a huge impact on your ability to fight (and that's pretty much all there is to the game).

The Rules [ edit ]

In fact, there are virtually no rules whatsoever for outside of combat except the skills rules, and those are almost described in character creation terms, not how to actually use them (eg. there are no rules for opposed skill checks).  And even combat doesn't exactly have a lot of rules ... less than ten pages in fact (and those pages have lots of comics on them)!

Suffice it to say that the system is very basic: combatants roll for initiative and take turns rolling to hit each other, by rolling a d20 and trying to beat their armor.  If hit the defender can try to dodge, parry or entangle, but if they don't the attacker rolls damage.  Then the defender can try to half the damage by rolling with the punch (by rolling a d20 higher than the attack number).

Throw in a few pages of specific attacks characters can make, such as jump kicks or leap attacks, and that's pretty much the entire system.

Should You Buy It? [ edit ]

Despite it's commercial success, TMNT and Other Strangeness was not exactly a great game.  It was based on a very early and unfinished version of the Palladium system (which itself was fairly derivative of early Dungeons and Dragons), and even in updated Palladium games that system hasn't exactly been very popular.  For instance, the 2nd Edition Palladium fantasy rules sit just under 900th place on the RPG Geek rankings.

TMNT & Other Strangeness itself sits in the high five hundreds, which certainly isn't bad ... but given the huge popularity of its licensed material, it's not great either.  For this reason it's hard to recommend this game to most.  However, if you can find a copy for cheap at your local used book store, and don't mind making up lots of rules (and, well, just about everything else) ... or if you just really want to play an official Turtles RPG, it's certainly possible to have some fun with this game.

One other possibility is that (especially because they can often be found for cheap) is that these books do make great source material for a TMNT campaign using other rules.  The core rulebook itself comes with several interesting NPCs and adventures, as well as some fun comics to get you in the spirit.

Finally, if the fun of TMNT's character creation appeals to you (and to be fair, making characters in it is pretty fun), one final option is to use that system to create the concept for a character, but then use a generic system like FATE or Savage Worlds to then translate that concept into a playable character ... in a more viable rules system.