TMNT: Retro review
The other night, a few of the Skyland Games crew had a chance to dust off an old classic from the gaming shelf. There were a lot of options: Car Wars, Mutants and Masterminds, Mekton Z, and TMNT amongst others. Eventually we’ll get to them all, but we decided to give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ago. As kids who grew up steeped in 80s culture, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold a special place in our hearts, as they were pretty much unavoidable from about 1987 to 1990.
Like a lot of older RPGs, character generation is a bit of a mini-game in and of itself. Also like older RPGs, game-balance is for the weak. Not all characters are created equal. This became readily apparent as we rolled up our dudes. You start out by rolling percentile dice to see what kind of animal origin you have. From there you roll up a mutation reason, and starting money for gear. Scott rolled up a raccoon scavenger with about $3000 worth of scavenged stuff. Pretty cool, certainly playable, and a fairly “realistic” background. My turn: Alligator assassin created by private industry! I escaped with $80,000 worth of stuff. After arming my guy with all the guns I could feasibly carry, I asked our GM what cars were available so we would have some mode of transport. Maybe like an A-team van, or something? “For $60,000 you can get a DeLorean…” SOLD. So while Scott’s guy was a scrappy ruffian, mine was a trained assassin, tons of guns, and his getaway car from his captors was a DeLorean. Wow. Somebody rolled high on the percentile tables.
The adventure was something that Steve, our intrepid GM, took from the headlines of our local newspaper. Recently the UNCA mascot dog, Rocky I, went missing. In our game he was a half-mutated bulldog man who ran a counterfeiting ring. In real life, he came back to his owner unscathed. In our game, after taking a few pot-shots at us with his revolver, he got mowed down by my assassin’s MAC-10.
The majority of our little session was sneaking around a warehouse trying to track down Rocky’s counterfeiting operation, and then mowing him down. We used skills based on percentile dice rolls, which I thought were pretty cool. The actual layout of the book is pretty atrocious, even for 1985 standards. Not only are tables and charts hard to read in the book, some of the layout is counter-intuitive. For instance, the skills section looks like a glossary layout, but you have to go through the entire entry to figure out what your base score is in any skill. When you level, you would have to go to each skill entry and see by how much each skill has arbitrarily increased. I did like the alignment system, in that there is no true-neutral. The true-neutral alignment never sat quite right with me. Neutral-Good, sure, Neutral-Evil, yeah, but to always be middle of the road? It doesn’t seem practical. Alignments in Palladium’s games are Principled, Scrupulous, Unprincipled, Anarchist, Miscreant, Aberrant, and Diabolic. That’s a pretty cool spectrum.
Overall, we had a really fun time with it. The system is a bit clunky, and Palladium is not known for their attention to detail at the editing desk, but if you’ve got a love for some mutants and don’t mind slogging through some weird mechanics, it can be a really fun time. If all else fails, just roll up characters all night, and let the dice fall where they may!