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 3: When the evil Shredder attacks (one-shot adventure)

The TMNT surrounded by Foot Clan by blackbat
In this third part in my series about adapting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) as a roleplaying game, I outline a one-shot adventure and a handful of featured NPCs. (In part 1, I explained why I was using the system from The Three Rocketeers, a World of Aventure for Fate Core. In part 2, I produced character sheets of the four main characters to use in a campaign.)

Although I made a big deal about making the character write-ups flexible enough to apply to multiple versions of the characters, in this post I largely throw that out of the window in pursuit of a different goal: streamlining and simplicity. This involves featuring one main threat (the Shredder), focusing on one main plot hook (Splinter is kidnapped), and cutting out everything that doesn’t support these (sorry, April).

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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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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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CAMELOT Trigger: The Green Knights of Io

Orc Brute Trooper by rickyryan on DeviantArt.

CAMELOT Trigger is a setting for Fate Core that takes the characters and themes of Arthurian legend and gives them all the trappings of an interplanetary sci-fi mecha anime. In other words, it’s a setting composed of pure awesome. It was written by Robert Wieland and released in Fate Worlds Volume Two: Worlds in Shadow.

I’m about to play in a CAMELOT Trigger campaign, and as a big geek for the tales of King Arthur, I came to the first session a little over-prepared. Here are some of the character ideas that I took with me to character creation (and fleshed out since). They are all based on characters from the original legends, mainly the Orkney Clan and their supporting cast. If you use any of them, or if you like them, or if you have any other feedback, please let me know!

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Character advancement vs Character development

Anakin Skywalker's journey to become Darth Vader: Fear, Anger, Hate, Suffering.
Character advancement and character development sometimes go hand in hand… but character development isn’t always a joyful experience for the character itself

One of the great joys of playing roleplaying games, especially playing a single character through a long campaign, is in seeing your character grow and change. In traditional high fantasy games, it’s fun to rise from humble beginnings to be an important and powerful figure in the campaign world.

However, it’s relatively rare in roleplaying games to see the sort of deep, personal character transformation that you might see in books, TV shows or films. That’s because the sort of growth and change encouraged by traditional roleplaying games is different from the growth and change that most popular media is built on.

Character advancement is not the same thing as character development.

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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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