Saturday, January 30, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 25: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 25 

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness 

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (TMNT), one is not required to play a teenager, a ninja, or even a turtle. You do, however, end up playing a mutant. An animal who, through some manner, has been altered and changed and turned into something resembling a human. Resembling, but not quite. 

Though there is a bias towards learning ninjitsu, because this was the published in the '80's and ninjas were just the shit back then.

The game is, obviously, a licensed property. But one based on the Eastman & Laird comic books, rather than the animated show that really made the Turtles a "thing." As such, the game is much more brutal and violent than one might expect from the title alone. In fact, the "kiddiefication" is allegedly why Palladium end up dropping the game back in 2000, and so this is not only an old game, but a long out of print one as well. Which is a shame, as there's some truly neat stuff going on with it. 

It's based on the Palladium system, which I've already touched on with Palladium Fantasy and Heroes Unlimited. As such, there's a lot of randomness to character creation, which I adore, but also a lot of neat and unique rules about building your mutant animal. For all I love about the game, I've only been able to ever play in a single one-shot game, much to my chagrin.


As TMNT uses the Palladium system, much of it has already been covered. There are 8 Attributes, rolled using 3d6. On a roll of 16 or higher, you can roll an additional d6 and add to the total. Skills are Percentile Based, while combat is done with a d20 + modifiers. Defense, though, is actively rolled, making combat a bit more dynamic that other games. 

What's unique about TMNT isn't the randomness, but the elements of design within it. During creation, you will have a "base animal" that will have a certain amount of "BIO-E" points. Generally, you use this to change it's size; a mouse begins with a large amount of BIO-E, while an Elephant will have none. Shrinking in size adds BIO-E, while gaining size costs BIO-E. Being big is great--more strength, more hit points, etc. But you also need to "buy" things like speech, hands, standing up, etc. And this doesn't cover the "special" attributes you might be able to get from your animal heritage. For example, the Turtles have natural armor from their shells and the ability to hold their breath for a very long time. Other characters might have claws or special vision. Or even wings and be able to fly. Heck, your hawk character might have legs, arms to carry guns, and full wings on their back. 

But this doesn't make sense, you might say. To which I say, it's awesome and you need to shut up. You already bought into the whole "mutant ninja" thing, is extra limbs really going to be the deal breaker here?

Step 1--Attributes

First, I need to roll this characters Attributes. Actually, first I flip a coin to determine gender, and figure out this character will be a male. Then I roll his Attributes. There's eight of them, and each is rolled on a 3d6. As mentioned, if I roll a 16 or higher, I roll an additional d6 and add to the total. 

I'm quite happy with his attributes, especially because I would love to play a ninja of some sort, and having a high Physical Prowess (similar to Dexterity in other systems) is key to be a highly skilled shadow warrior. Per the book, this is also where I would determine Hit Points. These begin as 1d6+P.E. Attribute. Through Skills or animal type, I might be able to increase his P.E. later, so I hold off on this for now.

Step 2--Animal

Now I get to determine what kind of animal my character started off with. I first roll a percentile and compare it to a table. I get a 59, so I roll on the Wild table. I roll another percentile and get a 32, which tells me my character started as a bobcat

Step 3--Cause of Mutation

This step will not only tell me what caused my bobcat to mutate, but also what sort of skills and training he might have. I roll a percentile and get an 08, for Random Mutation. Nothing "happened"--no experiments, no strange glowing goo. He was just born...different. Given this, I need to roll on the Wild Animal Education table. On this table, I roll an 89, and get: 

Adopted by a "mentor" who teaches and guides the character in some form of special training. This is often Ninjitsu, but all areas of special training can be selected. These  characters will learn to be philosophic about all creatures. Their attitude could be summed up as, some people are good, some bad, everyone deserves a chance to earn your trust. Ninja characters learn 3 military/espionage skills, 10 secondary skills (with a skill bonus of + 5%) and Hand to Hand Ninjitsu. In addition, the character has a choice of 3 ancient or ninja weapon proficiencies. Character has scavenged and build 3D6 times $100 worth of equipment.

Haha, NINJA! To be fair, the tables are weighted in this direction, but if I had rolled a bit differently, I could have like...gone to college or something.  I also want to think of a name for this guy. The Turtles are named after Italian Renaissance artists, so I want to do something like that, but not quite. I decide to go with a famous Spanish artist instead, but I can't think of one off the top of my head. I can think of a famous Spanish author, though, and dub him Cervantes. Cervantes the Ninja Cat! 

Step 4--BIO-E Points

Now is where I get to actually build up my character and figure out what Cervantes can do. I start by looking at what bobcats start with. 

Bobcats begin at Size 4, with a build of "short." The naturally have a bonus of +2 to M.E. and +3 to P.P.  They begin with 65 BIO-E Points. I update Cervantes' attributes with these bonuses.  Now to spend some points.

I know I want to increase his Size. At a 4, he'll only be about 20lbs, and will have significant penalties to all his Attributes, but I want to save that step for later. I have other things to worry about first. One of the things I could purchase are "Animal Psionics"--special psychic powers like Hypnotism or Sixth Sense. With his now 12 M.E. (thanks to  the +2 for being a Bobcat), Cervantes just manages to qualify. But other than Danger Sense, none are that appealing to me. Because, and I can not emphasize this!

Instead, lets focus on his physical form. He needs to be able to stand upright and have human like hands to handle a katana or throwing stars, so I'll need to improve his Human Features. There are four categories--Biped, Hands, Speech, and Looks. I spend 10 BIO-E for full Hands, 10 to be a full Biped, and 10 for full Speech. I leave looks at "None" keeping his feline appearance and stubby tail. I have 35 points left. 

I have the option to buy some unique abilities due to his feline heritage, and I decide to take advantage of them. I go ahead and get Nightvision and Retractable Claws--these will help with Climbing, as well as give me a weapon in a pinch that will do 1d8 damage. To get both of these cost me 10 BIO-E points total, so I have 25 points left.  Oh those remaining points, I think I'll just throw all of them into Size.

Each 5 point of BIO-E spend on Size increases it by 1, brining Cervantes up to Size 9. At Size 9, he gets a +3 to his P.S., a +1 to his P.E., and a base of 35 for his SDC (which is like Hit Points, but less serious injuries).  As a Size 9 character, his weight is 150+3d10 pounds (170). There are three different charts for height, and I roll on the "short" one based on his Animal origin. He will be 30+3d6 inches tall, for 46 inches, or 3'9" or so.  

There's a bit of math for spending BIO-E, but they include this worksheet in the book so you don't get too lost.

Step 5--Skills

Technically, I should have done this prior to spending BIO-E, but I wanted to get a sense of what Cervantes was physically capable of before making my decisions. No point buying Electrical Repair if he didn't have hands, after all.  I start with his Ninjitsu Hand to Hand Skill--this gives me 2 Attacks per melee, various options in combat (such as a Kick attack and Automatic Parry), and a +3 to Pull/Roll with Punches/Falls. I'm also required to take Acrobatics, Climbing, Prowl, and Fencing with at least one Ninja weapon. 

I get 3 Military or Espionage Skills, and I choose Detect Ambush, Pick Locks, and Pick Pockets, all from Espionage. I also get to pick 3 Ancient or Ninja Weapon Proficiencies, and I choose Sword, Thrown, and Paired Weapons. Finally, I need to pick my 10 Secondary Skills.

And I run into my first problem. Ninjitsu requires me to take Fencing and Acrobatics, but neither of these are available as Secondary Skills. Deciding that the Specific (Cervantes has Ninjitsu, and Ninjitsu requires these) outweighs the General (these Skills are not available as Seconday), I go ahead and pick them anyway, and spend my first 4 skills on Acrobatics, Climbing, Prowl, and Fencing. 

I want him to a bit more physically capable, so I grab two more physical skills...Athletics and Body Building. Almost all physical skills increase his Attributes in some way, while others mix together. For example, his Acrobatics added 1d4 to his PP and gave him +15% to his Climb Skill. I note all these modifiers for his Attributes, combat skill, and other elements. 

I want to spend the remainder of his skills on more useful/"modern" skills, and grab Basic Electronics, Basic Mechanics, Computer Operation, and Pilot (motorcycle). For the last I pick Photography, just to give him a hobby and some way to interact with the human world. 

Step 6--Finishing Touches

Having completed Skill Selection and BIO-E expenditure, Cervantes is mostly done. As his Attributes won't change anymore, I go ahead and calculate his final modifiers. His Hit Points start at 1d6 + P.E. I roll a 1 and add his new PE of 12 for 13 Hit Points. His P.S. of 21 gives him a +6 bonus to damage, and his P.P. of 27 gives him a +6 to Strike, Parry, and Dodge.  I decide to set his Alignment to Scrupulous (he's Good, but "80's antihero" Good), and his age to 17. It fits the game, and makes Cervantes the youngest character in the series so far. 

All I need to do now is buy equipment. Due to his background, he has 3d6 x $100 worth of gear, and so he only starts with $600. As the minimal cost for a halfway decent Katana (replica) is $300, and he wants to have both, this takes all of his money. 

Final Thoughts

Like other Palladium games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness has a messy Character Generation, consisting of random rolls for some things, picking others, inconsistency in the rules and terminology, and a lot of flipping around and trying to figure out where things are. It's a mess. 

And this might be my nostalgia filters kicking, but it's a delightful mess. Making Cervantes was just fun. Other than the one-shot decades ago, I haven't played TMNT, but it's still a fun and entertaining game. Yes, it's goofy and weird, but so were the comics it was based on. I just made a katana wielding mutant Bobcat, and the game takes this completely seriously, which is the only way you can approach this. Part of me wishes that the game had gotten a Second Edition, but a greater part just wants to enjoy this bizarre, rough, messy, but delightful gem we do have. 

Here's this sheet.


  1. I think your copy might actually be the 2nd edition (or rather, slightly modified 2nd printing). Mine was the original 1985 edition, and didn't have the BIO-E worksheet. It did have the infamous mental illness chart, a roll on which we, as 13-year olds, considered de rigeur for charactr creation.

    1. Oh, I have the Mental Illness chart, I just didn't think this dude was gonna start off as insane.

      I think it might the 2nd PRINTING, rather than 2nd Edition, because Kevin S. had a whole thing in the Rifter about how they couldn't get the 2nd Ed off the ground.


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