Super Heroes Don’t Have To Be Humanoid

Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles & Other StrangenessMention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to most people and they think of the cutesy children’s TV / Movie / Merchandising phenomena of the late 80s and early 90s. What most don’t know of is the adult orientated gritty super hero origins of the characters and the role playing game it spawned.

The original comic by Eastman and Laird was a small, cheap independently produced affair of only 3000 copies. It was a deliberate parody of Marvel Comics’ Daredevil and New Mutants, Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Frank Miller’s Ronin. The original comics were full of violence and weirdness and are still a good read. So good that only two years after the first comic was published (1984) , Palladium Books produced a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (TMNT&OS).

Based on Palladium’s Heroes Unlimited system, TMNT&OS took the idea of turtle super heroes and ran with it. All the characters are mutant animals, everything from an aardvark to a wild turkey. This does away with all that pesky secret identity stuff human characters have to worry about. Instead the characters have to keep themselves hidden from sight or they will be rounded up and subjected to terrible experiments by the military.

Humans play a small part in the game. Helpless victims for the characters to save, thugs & brigands for the characters to beat up, and the ever present military who are the biggest threat to the characters except when the characters are saving the military’s, and the world’s, collective butt. There are no human super heroes in the game but a few evil human geniuses and their henchmen exist. Most of the enemies in the game are other mutant animals and it is possible to play entire campaigns with humans being nothing more than set dressing for the mutant animal’s battles.

The superpowers themselves are extremely limited. Unlike Marvel or DC heroes, you won’t find heroes shooting beams of energy from their fingers. Sticking to its roots, TMNT&OS heroes are mutant animals. Bigger, faster, more intelligent than their non-mutant cousins, but they are still animals. Fighting focuses on hand-to-paw fighting and martial arts though there is plenty of gunplay as well.

The original rule book was followed up with the Turtle’s Guide to the Universe that introduced aliens, spacecraft and energy weapons. Plus Mutants Down Under which tied into Palladium’s After the Bomb RPG and featured mutant animals in a post-apocalypse Australia.

Sadly now out of print Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness was a decidedly different take on the super hero genre.

This article was created in response to Chatty DM’s RPG Blog Carnival

4 comments

  1. Weren’t the mutant animals still humanoid? For non-humanoid characters I still like the old Gamma World: “Dude, I rolled up an intelligent plant that floats around with gas bags and it can manipulat time. DUDE!”

  2. tim – It is a thin line between humanoid and non-humanoid.

    Wild Turkeys have the same basic bone structure as humans but they are not humanoid. Also many of the creatures still run on all fours and have similar animal characteristics.

    I don’t remember the mutant plants in Gammaworld though! A real Day of the Triffids throwback.

    Chris

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