Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Part 1: Introduction to Rocketeering

TMNT (2003 versions) and supporting cast (1987 versions). Print by Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez

I have a big soft spot for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). I grew up watching the old 1987 Fred Wolf cartoon (“Heroes in a half shell! Turtle power!”), and fell back in love watching the 2003 4Kids! cartoon. I’ll defend the 1990 Golden Harvest film as a cinematic gem until the day I die.

For years, I have been thinking about how I’d go about running a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles roleplaying game. I’m probably never going to run a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles campaign, since I only run games in person and I don’t know many roleplayers who are fans of TMNT. But that’s never stopped me from thinking about it and now, finally, I know how I’d go about setting up such a game.

In this series of blog posts I’m going to set out the process by which I would adapt TMNT to a roleplaying game. In this introductory post, I discuss game mechanics and explain why, for a shorter campaign featuring the four turtles as PCs, my prefered system is The Three Rocketeers, an aspects-only variant of Fate Core. In later posts, I’ll present character sheets for the turtles (part 2), lay out at one-shot adventure and stat up some major antagonists as NPCs (part 3), and talk about how I’d set up a longer campaign as a GM (part 4).

I hope that any GMs and players who are interested in a TMNT game will be able to follow what I’ve done and use it to play something that kicks ass. (And if any of my roleplaying friends want to play such a game, please let me know so we can make it happen!)

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My (red) kryptonite: Mind control in Smallville RPG

Clark Kent (Tom Welling) with red kryptonite eyes, from Smallville via Wikia

Mind control is a staple of genre fiction. It appears in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. It’s used an awful lot in superhero stories. As such, it’s hard to avoid in any roleplaying game that tries to emulate any of these genres.

But mind control is rooted in the idea of removing someone’s agency, and playing a character without any agency is just not very fun. Ask anyone who has had their D&D character under the influence of Dominate Person for round after round after round…

Smallville RPG includes mind control, at least in part because it was based on a TV show that was chock full of mind control and other forms of mental alteration. Given Smallville RPG’s commitment to the concept that no player can ever dictate another character’s choices, mind control could have been a fascinating addition to the game. Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s either so weak that it can be ignored, rendering it meaningless, or it’s so overpowered that it violates the game’s core principle of protecting player agency.

In short, mind control in Smallville blows harder than Clark Kent’s super breath.

In this blog, I will describe various ways that we could hack Smallville to make mind control work better, taking inspiration from some other roleplaying games. The different strategies are not mutually exclusive, and two or more could be combined in the same game. Maybe even all of them together.

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Cake and free invokes at the Mario Party

Mario Party 4 wallpaper featuring Peach, Daisy, Waluigi, and Yoshi (sadly not Red Yoshi)

Back in September, a friend of mine ran a one-off session of TinyFate based on Super Mario. It was, incredibly, his very first time GMing an RPG and he did a great job. He’d played in one of the TinyFate Monster Mash games that I ran, and liked the system well enough to use it himself. (TinyFate was designed for new players. Turns out it works for new GMs too!)

He also made some interesting tweaks of his own to it. And despite my claim previously that I would probably remove free invokes from TinyFate if and when I updated it, two of the main tweaks for the Mario Party game were both around free invokes.

These tweaks are very cool and they’re flexible enough to apply to pretty much any flavour of Fate Core. First was the two-sided game aspect to emphasise game focus; next was a change to the rate of return on free invokes for Create an advantage actions.

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Gamechanging: An overdue follow-up to my Worthington Academy hack for Smallville RPG

Illyana Rasputina's demon form from New Mutants #71Back in July, I posted about a hack of the Smallville RPG that I was going to use for my British high school X-Men campaign. There’s more details in this original post, but here’s a quick recap of the major changes:

  • Values are gone entirely;
  • Extras and Locations as Resources are gone, and specific existing Resources have been converted to Relationships;
  • Abilities are now dice pools separate from the main traits, and more similar in mechanics to Resources;
  • Growth is now used like an Ability, and entirely separate from character advancement;
  • Useful Details are cheaper;
  • Stress is inflicted via an MHR-style Effect die rather than a separate roll;
  • Giving In is free.

I’ve now played two sessions with the new rules, and while there were some expected teething issues, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

As hoped, building dice pools is now a lot faster, which makes the whole game faster. It’s also a lot easier for people to engage with it after being away from the rules for a while (and that’s important because sessions are very infrequent).

Nobody has complained about missing Values, which was my biggest concern. However, there have been some side effects, and in this blog I explain how I have tweaked the rules further as a result of playing.

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TinyFate rules: Rob Donoghue stole my thunder, and it’s wonderful

After my last blog post, when I talked about using Rob Donoghue’s TinyFate and expanding it into a fully functioning game, I had a whole series of blog posts planned. My next post was going to be a write-up of the rules of TinyFate as a full game.

Before I could do that, though, I was ninja’d by Rob Donoghue himself. Rob saw my last post (awesome) and shared it on Google Plus (awesome!) and now he’s decided to write up TinyFate himself (super awesome!). He’s done two drafts so far (here’s the first and here’s the second), and it looks like a cool game even if it isn’t exactly the way that I ran it. (Rob even credits me at the end! Sooo awesome.)

As a result, I’ve decided not to write up a document for the rules that I used in my version. However, I am still going to post my rules reference that I used for the Monster Mash Meets the Martians one-shot. This is the document that I gave to my players, so it’s not a complete game. It leaves out a lot of the set up and GM’s responsibilities, which the players didn’t need to know, and some conventions were established during play that haven’t been added (e.g. the default difficulty is +2).

I think it could be interesting as a compare-and-contrast with Rob Donoghue’s version, so I’ve added some of the major differences and my review of them at the end of this post.

Without further ado, here is the rules reference for Monster Mash Meets the Martians!

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Monster Mash Meets the Martians: It’s TinyFate Adventures, come and join the fun

Yesterday, I finally introduced some of my non-gamer friends to roleplaying. It was a long time coming. They’d known I played for a while and they were excited to try it out, but I felt a fair amount of pressure to make their first roleplaying experience fun enough so that they’d want to play again.

I think I can say that my mission was a success, and that we’ll definitely be playing again. In fact, I’d recommend the game we played as a great introduction to new roleplayers.

This is Monster Mash Meets the Martians, a TinyFate adventure.

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Racers Without Master: A Fast & Furious hack

Cast of Fast & Furious 7, from furious7.com

One week ago, Ryan Macklin launched the Furious Game Jam on his blog. The idea is to hack an existing tabletop roleplaying game to be like the Fast & Furious franchise.

I wasn’t planning to participate. I’d never seen any of the Fast & Furious movies. Michael Duxbury got excited about it since a mutual friend of ours had suggested (ages ago) a cool, feminist Fast & Furious hack of Psi*Run. (Said hack can be found here (link updated 19/02/2016)) Michael pitched two games… then he went and wrote a third completely different game. (Check it out here.)

Basically, I’m stealing the only one of Michael’s unused ideas that is based on a game that I have actually played: Swords Without Master.

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