Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 4: Unleashing the other strangeness (long-running campaigns)

Ninja Turtles (Mirage vol 4) by channandeller (Ryan Wilton)
This fanart by Ryan Wilton shows how the TMNT look in volume 4 of the comic (by original creater Peter Laird). Front row, left to right: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo. Back: Raphael.

This is my fourth and final blog post about adapting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) to the roleplaying game Fate. I’ve previously discussed systems (part 1), player characters (part 2), and written a one-shot adventure (part 3).

Now I want to talk about how I’d run longer TMNT campaigns.

As I mentioned last time, the shorter your campaign, the tighter and less fantastical your TMNT game should be. For a one-shot, I focused on a simple rescue tale with a single villain. But the TMNT franchise is a vast kitchen sink world (with, for example, ninjas, mutants, mad science, aliens, robots, magic, time travel, ancient civilisations, ghosts, Lovecraftian monsters, parallel dimensions, and superheroes), so in this post I’m going to explain just how bonkers I’d want to get if my players and I were committed to a significant number of sessions.

For one thing, they’re not teenagers any more…

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Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 2: Heroes in a half-shell (player stats)

Four Ninjas and a Reporter by samuraiblack from DeviantArt

In my last blog post, I said that I’ve been pondering how to run a roleplaying game based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). I want my game to have the four main turtles as player characters, and getting those characters right is vital for the game to work.

In this blog post, I adapt the four titular protagonists of the franchise to the rules of The Three Rocketeers, the World of Adventure for Fate Core that I am using for the TMNT game. Write-ups for these heroes, in the form of proto-PCs (incomplete characters that can be customised by players), are included at the end of the post, along with PDF character sheets. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged!

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To Me, My X-Men: Mutant Pathways for Smallville RPG

x_men_lineup_by_americanninjax_reordered
The Heart, the Leader, the Rebel, the Specialist, and the Hammer (for example).
Edit of an image by Matthew Humphreys

One of the best parts of the Smallville RPG is its character creation system, Pathways. Pathways is a lot of fun, and it lets players collaborate to produce an entangled web of characters for the game to come.

Players do Pathways by following the instructions on the Pathways Chart. The chart is an incredible piece of roleplaying design. You start at the top, and each row is a stage of the character’s life journey. At each stage, players choose options for their character, and those options list Traits that go on the character sheet.

The Pathways Chart in the Smallville Core Rulebook is specific enough to its source material that it can be used to produce the cast for a game modelled on the TV show Smallville (as shown in the rulebook’s example), and it is also generic enough that it can be used to create a cast for any similar Superpowered Teen Soap Opera.

Sometimes, however, the default Pathways Chart is not the right tool for the game you want to run. If the gaming group has an idea for a campaign that isn’t Smallville, but is more specific than a generic Superpowered Teen Soap Opera, going through the default Pathways Chart may be too long or too confusing, especially if the players haven’t played Smallville before. That was the case for my Worthington Academy game (in which the player characters are alternate versions of the X-Men in a British, Hogwarts-style boarding school).

Here, I present an X-Men-themed Pathways Chart that anyone can use for their own games. It should hopefully facilitate a game based on that setting, and provide a shallower learning curve for new players. Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

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I ❤ Heroes of the Hearth

Seven Wonders cover, from Pelgrane Press LtdHeroes of the Hearth is a GM-less, diceless story game by Stiainín Jackson. In Heroes of the Hearth, you tell the story of a group of villagers, the family and loved ones left behind by the fantasy adventurers who have left home to battle evil. It is included in Pelgrane Press’ Seven Wonders anthology.

I recently had a chance to play the game, and I  it. (I “heart” it, you see, because the heart symbol stands for love and “heart” sounds like “hearth”… Visual wordplay is difficult, ok?)

Before playing it, I’d been worried whether I’d enjoy the game. The characters were all pre-generated and I was concerned they would be flat or hard to customise. The scene structure seemed paradoxically to be very rigid and yet offer little support.

Which just goes to show that you should never review roleplaying games without playing them, because my fears were unfounded and I had a great time. Let me tell you about it!

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Hamilton and the Hubris Box, Part 1 of 3: The world is gonna know your name

Theater-Hamilton Cast Album

Hubris Box is a roleplaying game by Paul Richardson that is designed to emulate classic stories of tragic heroes, especially ones with great ambition who do incredible (if often villainous) feats and are later destroyed by the consequences of their past actions.

The game’s structure mirrors Aristotelian tragic plot structure. In Act One, as the protagonist takes actions to achieve their ambitions, players write on index cards (or scraps of paper) phrases that reflect the way that the protagonist has influenced the world. These cards are then posted into a box, the eponymous Hubris Box. Eventually, there is a Turn leading into Act Two, in which the players take cards out of the Hubris Box and use them to frame scenes that tear the protagonist down. For example, in Act One a card may say that the protagonist has defeated an enemy; when this card emerges in Act Two, perhaps the defeated enemy’s people return for revenge.

It’s a very cool game. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t exist yet.

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Pictures as character aspects in Fate

The Fate Core rulebook defines an aspect as “a phrase that describes something unique or noteworthy about whatever it’s attached to”.

But in many cases pictures could be used instead of phrases, and they would work as aspects just as well.

I am not the first person (by a long shot) to suggest using images as aspects in Fate. Ryan Macklin talked about using the cover image from Shadowrun as a game aspect back in 2011, and last year he revisited the idea when talking about using Dixit cards as session aspects. In both cases, he was primarily talking about inspiration and tone, something that pictures can often do much better than words.

Based on this, I was going to do a post on all sorts of different ways you might use pictures as aspects in Fate, only to find earlier this year that someone had already done it. Tangent Artists Tabletop has done an amazing blog post on image aspects, covering some ways they might be used even during play (that is, drawn right there at the table, e.g. in marker on a laminated sheet) and when it might be particularly appropriate. They even included some neat hacks, all of which seem to have been playtested.

So I’m not going to do the blog post I originally planned. Instead, I’m going to talk about something that wasn’t covered in these blog posts: pictures as character aspects.

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The “I Have Never” drinking game as character creation

i dont alwaysLast year I was at a houseparty with a lot of roleplaying type people, and among other things we played the drinking game “I Have Never” (also called “Never Have I Ever” and other names). For the small fraction of my readers who have not played this game, it is a turn-based party game. Each turn, someone announces something that they have never done (in the form “I have never X”), and anyone who has done that thing must take a drink. If nobody has done the thing, then the player who announced “I have never” takes a drink instead.

Since the houseparty was full of roleplaying types, some of us thought how to apply this idea to roleplaying games. “I Have Never” is a really good game for getting to know interesting, strange and often intimate things about other people. Could the mechanics be used to flesh out RPG characters?

The first idea was to just include a drinking game within a session of the game, to be played in character. That’s a fine idea in a campaign that is already in full swing, but it leaves open the possibility that characters playing the game will lie and cheat, and also that they won’t make the most interesting “I have never” statements.

To me, “I Have Never” seems much more powerful when used as character creation.

(I do not recommend using alcoholic drinks if you try this at home. In fact, the best kind of drinks to use might be metaphorical ones.)

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