Thursday, February 28, 2019

Solo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness


I’m starting up a new series of Solo play, for “Solo A Module Month.” In this event, Solo gamers take a crack at playing a traditional party-based module and playing it Solo. My attempt last year fizzled out for me, but I’m eager to give it another go.

After quite a bit of sifting, I’ve decided to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (TMNT) by Palladium Books. This game is currently Out of Print, unfortunately, but I still have my copy sitting on a shelf, and I haven’t had a chance to play it in years. The basic system is the Palladium (or ”Megaversal”) system. Combat is essentially d20 based, while its Skills are Percentile. Nothing too radical, and its clearly an “Old School” system.

Given that it is a somewhat quirky system, I’ll be including quite a bit of the mechanics of the game as they come up. I’ve done a previous series using the Palladium system, the Metal Angel series was based off of the Heroes Unlimited game, which is, in many ways, a companion to TMNT.


For the module, I’m going with the only one I own, TurtlesGo Hollywood! In which our heroes uncover a criminal conspiracy that drags them from the dark and gritty streets of New York to the sun-kissed highways of Los Angeles. Or at least I think it does. To be honest, I’ve only given the module a cursory glance, as I’m looking forward to discovering it as I play.  

See, “Soloing” a module can be pretty tricky since, by definition, both you-as-GM and you-as-player know what is happening and what you “should” be done. Hence why it’s a “challenge.”  And why I tend not to play modules for my Solo gaming. The best (such as Alien Hunger) are roughly “sandbox” games, in which the characters choices can truly define the game. The worst are “railroads,” in which one might as well just read the adventure, rather than bothering to play with it. There are a couple of techniques one can do to mitigate these.

The first is to simply play the module cold, which is roughly what I will be doing. I’m not sure what is really going on in Turtles Go Hollywood, only that it promises a crazy, high-action, comic book adventure! Other methods include breaking the module from the get go—keeping the opening and the primary characters and locations, but using randomizers to create something new and unexpected. Or, using similar tools to randomize character actions. And there are a few others that aren’t quite as extreme, which I might end up using.

But, enough setup. Let’s get to playing. Or, at least, preparing to play. Let’s make some characters! TMNT has two basic ways to make characters—Regular or Team based.

Regular is, pretty much, what you would think. For each character you roll your attributes, roll for what kind of mutant animal they are, roll for their education and relationship with the wider human world and the like. You can get a pretty mixed bag this way. One PC might be a mutant bat who was trained as a government assassin, one might be a mutant badger who was raised as a family member and went to college, and another might be a mutant bear who had to survive on their own, surviving in the wilderness and the fringe of the human world. You end up with a diverse set of characters, each with their own unique set of abilities, skills, and feelings regarding humanity.

Team based in intended to create a group like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everyone has their own attributes (Donatello is smarter than his brothers, while Raphael is stronger), but share the same animal, same mutation, and same education. What they sacrifice in diversity, they make up for in competence. For each skill they all share, they are treated as being of higher level. The logic being that they had their whole lives to spare and work together, though this is only for skills they all share. They will still want some unique skills, after all.

In most of my Solo games, I only have a single PC. This can be tricky with a module, as they are written with a group in mind. I generally solve this by boosting the PC in some respects. But, for this game, I’m going to make a group of 3 PC’s. I don’t know anything about them yet, only that I’m going to go with the classic Superego/Ego/Id dynamic, similar to Spock/Kirk/McCoy of the original Star Trek. I have no particular leanings of Regular or Team for the party creation. So, let’s leave it to chance. I’ll roll a d4, and on a 1-2 it’s a Regular and on a 3-4 it’s a Team.
3 Team based. Cool. While I won’t be able to show off the breadth of the crazy ideas that IS TMNT, I’ll be able to play around with one of its unique game systems. Let’s get started!

First, I need to determine Attributes. Per TMNT, these are based off of the results of 3d6. Any result of 16 or higher is exceptional and you get to add an additional d6. I kind of hate the spread of a 3d6, so I’ll use my normal house rules of 6+2d6 for these. Each character has 8 Attributes—IQ (Intelligence), ME (Mental Endurance/Willpower), MA (Mental Affinity/Charisma), PS (Physical Strength/Strength), PP (Physical Prowess/Dexterity), PE (Physical Endurance/Endurance), PB (Physical Beauty/Attractiveness) and Spd (Speed).


Character 1
Character 2
Character 3
IQ
11
13
11
ME
12
15
13
MA
16+3
11
9
PS
14
14
18+3
PP
14
17+6
13
PE
15
16+1
15
PB
17 +4
12
9
Spd
11
13
12

I included the bonus results as a separate number, because as Team characters, these PC’s benefit from each other’s strengths. For example, Character 1 has a +3 to his MA. ALL the characters will get to add this +3 to their MA, increasing 2’s to 14 and 3’s to 12. Likewise, Character 3 has a +3 Strength, allowing 1 and 2 to improve their PS’s to 17.

On to the fun stuff—animals and mutations! First, I need to roll for the general category of animal. This is a percentile, and I get a 78, which means I roll next on the Wild Birds table. Rolling again, I get a 92 which means the characters will be Mutant Owls. Now, I get to spend BIO-E. Each animal starts with a base number, but also at their base characteristics, so the Owls are, as of now, just normal Owls. By spending BIO-E, I can increase their size and change their attributes—making them more human like, like having human-type hands. Pretty handy when it comes to using a weapon!
Owls begin with 60 points of BIO-E, are Size Level 4, and having a +4 to their PP and a +1 to their Spd, bonuses which are applied to each of the Characters.

Not the heroes we need...
Now, I need to spend the BIO-E. As this is a Team game, each character must have the same mutations. Owls begin at size 4, which is pretty small, and imposes some penalties to PS and IQ. I don’t want any penalties, so I spend 10 points to increase them to Size 6. Still pretty small (average height of about 2 and a half feet), but at least they’re not penalized. I have 50 points left. Next, if I’m playing a bird character, I want them to be able to fly. So, I spend 10 points on Flight (note: this is an oddity in the rule book, as for seemingly every other bird, this cost 20. But every other bird gets about 10 more points of BIO-E, so I’m assuming its intentional) and an additional 20 to get an extra set of limbs. They now have full wings to fly with AND a set of fully functioning arms and hands. All this cost me 30 BIO-2, so I’m down to 20. I want them to be able to talk, so I spend 10 to give them full speech.

With 10 points left, I need to be very careful. I can get them some nasty claws, but those cost 10 points on their own, and there’s also Nightvision, Advanced Vision, and Advanced Hearing, each for 5. I decide to take Nightvision and Advanced Vision. So, they can fly, see in the dark, and see roughly twice as far and in twice as much detail as any human. Perfect abilities for a Ninja!

Or are they? Let’s find out. The next part is rolling to see the Cause of the Mutation, and what skills the characters have learned. I get an 84, so they are the result of Deliberate Experimentation. Rolling again, I get a 74, so they are Highly Trained and Educated as a specialist using their natural abilities. Dang. Not Ninja’s, but still highly trained operatives working for some kind of organization. What kind of organization? I roll a 54 and get a Secret Criminal Organization.  I’m not sure I want them to be crooks, so I’m tempted to make them rogues. Creations of a villain who have broken free and now oppose their cruel creators. But then I think of something like Alias, and maybe it could be fun if they don’t know who they’re really working for. Maybe they think they’re working for the good guys, cleaning up the streets, unaware all that they’re doing is taking on their bosses rivals.

Join me next time for the actual characters and the initial setup of the game!

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