Monday, August 16, 2010

Hacking The Turtle System.

Ok, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Future game (and thanks, once again, to Troll and Toad for sending it). It's the Palladium system. So, quickly, here is the dealy on combat for the uninitiated:

-weapons do D&D-comparable damage (d6, d8 etc.--the average pistol does 2d6--weapons beyond that are rare in this campaign)

-d20 to strike. Roll a above a 4 to hit, unless the other guy/other pornstar rolls above you to dodge or parry. (And sometimes there's an armor rating to roll over, but armor's uncommon).

-so: you get hit a lot more than in D&D

-stats are 3d6--that is, D&Dish

-starting characters have Endurance stat (3d6) plus d6 hit points. about 3-4 times what you'd have in D&D.

-so far, so good--you get hit more than D&D, but you got more hit points. No worries.

-HOWEVER, then on top of that you get, on average, 35 SDC (Structural Damage Capacity) (just like hit points) to start with and that's BEFORE you buy armor which adds more SDC.

Net effect: it's like an hour of karate and small-arms fire before anybody starts going "Hey, I'm kinda hurt, maybe I should start thinking before I roll these dice just so's I don't die." In my opinion, in any game, PCs should start thinking that as soon as they see anything made of metal.

Solution would appear to be:

A) Get rid of the SDC stat all together, except if you acquire armor and

B) Convince your players to be ok with that.

I'll let you know how that works out.


Other hacks already initiated to speed character generation that seem to've worked out fine:

-Instead of money (shopping takes more time than adults feel comfortable devoting to deciding what a talking iguana is carrying), PCs start with any 1 contemporary object smaller than a breadbox and 2 weapons--any ancient weapon or a pistol, plus they roll on all these charts which nobody minds 'cause it's fun. Hey, it's the post-apocalypse, nobody uses money anyway. So far the breadbox rule hasn't been munchkinized--it's hard to think of a handheld gamebreaker when electricity is rare and you never know what substance the next settlement will consider valuable.

-for skills, you get proficiencies in whatever weapons you're carrying, plus d12 more skills, whatever you want. As-published-TMNT has charts determining your background and thus what skills you have plus a whole category of "secondary skills". But, really, the apocalypse happened, all social order has broken down, cats and dogs live together (and own katanas), why shouldn't someone have sew, dance, pilot:hovercraft and implant cybernetics?

-i like that the system's skill-based--its one reason i don't just roll Mutant Future or something instead. All the skills like "read sensory equipment" make technology in TMNT the equivalent of magic in D&D--an arcane world of nooks and crannies. Only problem is figuring all your percentages when you're making your character and adding the modifiers (each skill has it's own percent chance to succeed, plus modifiers per level, plus ones based on your IQ etc.). So I just said: you have a skill, that means you can roll on the appropriate attribute once per level to do that thing. Pick locks at 2nd level? That means you can pick locks with a successful dex--sorry "physical prowess"--roll and you get two chances. That's how I do it in D&D. At high levels the GM just needs to remember that difficult tasks get monstrous negative modifiers.

Right about now you're probably wondering if that's the only thing I like about it and why I don't just use a million other systems. Fine question...

I also like the Bio-E system--where you have to buy your way up from being a regular animal--you gotta buy speech and hands and the ability to walk upright--or go halfway. It makes a player think about their little bastard in detail.

Plus I think--theoretically--I like having compatibility with all the other Palladium stuff. I am eying the martial-arts systems from Ninjas & Superspies for possible importation.

Plus, there's the player buy-in factor: the girls like the Turtles. We got the movie on VHS, and the Jim Lawson mutant animal pictures (of which I can find zero decent examples on-line) beat the hell out of the Gamma World ones for inspiration.


  1. "In my opinion, in any game, PCs should start thinking that as soon as they see anything made of metal."

    Yes. Also: Everything should be metal.

  2. Yeah, Bio-E is nice when it comes to imagining what your character should look, think and act like.
    I just loved the picture of a mutant wolverine in the TMNT rulebook. It was wearing an eye-patch.
    *snikt snikt*

  3. The Bio-E system "gets" it. I really admire it as well-- & nothing else. I kept SDC for fist fights but just ruled that weapons-- just guns, in some campaigns, or guns & swords, etc-- went right to HP. Which worked until I realized there was no "reward" for Kung Fu Fightin'.

    I recently watched the CGI movie that came out a few years ago-- TMNT. I enjoyed it; it wasn't amazing but it was pretty decent. Plus April's yellow jumpsuit turned into the Kill Bill/Bruce Lee yellow jumpsuit, which I thought was a nice touch.

  4. Sorry for the long comment..

    It's been a while since I've played with the Palladium system. What I do remember of it was a more cinematic feel to match the action films of the 1980's where Arnold and Sylvester would take massive damage, and just keep coming.

    There were some house rules we devised for the SDC/MDC system. The way I remember it, SDC was a measure of how much damage something could take before there was basically no more structure. If something had HP, that was the measure of how much damage its life system could take before it would fail.

    For a person, that would mean that if the SDC pool is fully depleted, the body would just be a bloody pulp, every bone broken, limb twisted etc. If the person survives, they'll probably just be in a vegetative state, or at best, quadriplegic with brain damage. If the HP pool is fully depleted the person dies, but the body is intact.

    Therefore, the SDC pool would not need to be depleted before the HP pool started dropping. Weapons would do both SDC and HP damage. It was something along the lines of blunt weapons did 1/3 HP and 2/3 SDC damage, cutting/impaling melee weapons dealt 50%/50% HP/SDC damage, and missile weapons, including firearms, dealt 1/3 SDC and 2/3 HP damage.

    If a roll of 2d6 yields 7 then a baseball bat would deal 2 HP 5 SDC damage, a sword would deal 3 HP 4 SDC damage, and a pistol would deal 5 HP 2 SDC damage.

    If a character was bleeding, poisoned, or diseased then that damage went straight to HP.

    Burning went through SDC and HP with 100% to both simultaneously. Using the 7 damage from the earlier example would give 7 SDC and 7 HP damage.

    It still meant that there was a lot of points to burn through but: losing more than 1/2 your SDC meant grievous wounds and would often result in the loss of a limb. Anytime someone was cut/stabbed/shot they could count on blood loss, which would take out HP pretty quickly until it was staunched. Add in rules for getting knocked out by blunt attacks and yes, combat is dangerous again.

    Also, Ninja's and Super Spies was an interesting supplement.

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  6. The thing is, handguns aren't a good barometer for the TMNT damage system. A normal starting character can easily do 4d8 with a jump kick, and a lot more with the right tweaks. The damage from the karate is way out of scale with the shooting.

    Also, Ninjas and Superspies is awesome and I highly recommend using it.

  7. With the Palladium system, everything was using the same mechanic (eventually). Ninjas & Superspies can really provide a broad degree of diversity for martial arts styles (moreso than the Basic, Expert, & Martial Arts styles for HTH that Palladium generally used, IIRC). Can't say much for the After the Bomb TMNT supplement—never used it.

    There's also Heroes Unlimited for the supers/superpowers aspect in its various forms (bionics, martial arts/special training, experiments, robotics, mutations, aliens, magic, psionics, etc.). And there's the kitchen-sink approach of Rifts, which had a supplement for including just about any other Palladium game stuff into Rifts, if you wanted. (Only thing I think it didn't cover was RECON, IIRC.)

    I can't say for sure (it's been a while), but I think crits in Palladium bypass SDC and go straight to HP.

  8. Nicked from an old CCG would be a chance of "shock" or "overwhelm" when taking a lot of damage, in one fell swoop. Take CON or whatever as your Small Number, and HP + SDC as your Big Number. If a PC ever takes at least Small Number damage from a single attack, against their Big Number, then there is a small chance (1 on 1d20) that the PC croaks straight-out. Good for keeping PCs scared in a gunfight, but letting everyone be Arnie.

  9. Someday, Siembieda will allow someone like Monte Cook to revise the Palladium system, and we'll get a new version of TMNT with all the clunky bits worn away and all the awesome bits retained.

    The amount of people I see who want to play or are playing one of the Palladium games, but find it an uphill struggle due to the ruleset, is such that I know this to be so.

  10. I like that Zack.

    I believe when I played that with my friends years ago we did similar tweaks to make it more dangerous.

  11. kelvingreen, let's hope Monte stays the fuck away from the Palladium system, shall we. We don't want another D&D 3.X style FUBAR on our hands.

  12. @Alfric

    i know. i've played all those games before

  13. navdi, well, that was just an example. ;)

  14. I've actually done the "drop" the SDC thing. It basically turns the TMNT rules into the Palladium Fantasy 1.0 Rules. IIRC (it was a long time ago) I allowed SDC for unarmed attacks but not weapons.

    It worked OK but my players kind of preferred the regular rules since they saw, rightly I think, that TMNT game as a supers game.

    As for the gear roll it makes sense in context though maybe I am perv or something but I love the "outfitting phase" big bloated equipment list? Bring it on.

  15. At you can look at all the pages of the comics, at least from the first volume (haven't checked the others yet). But each page loads really slow...

  16. I remember having a huge rules argument in a TMNT campaign once. The bad guy was trying to shoot us through the windshield of a car, and we noticed that the windshield had 100 SDC, significantly more than, say, any of the fancy armor we were wearing.

    After some speculation about wearing glass armor from then on, we eventually located a rule saying that you only needed to do some-small-percentage of damage to something if you were just shooting through it. It still seemed weird,though.

  17. Characters can get tons of SDC and my games often devolved to point of blasting away with rocket launchers and heavy machines guns to take things down fast. Those games were ridiculous but very fun.

    If you can find the old supplement Road Hogs, it was great for vehicle to vehicle combat. Mine vanished many years ago

  18. @obiri
    i loved Road Hogs. may pick it up again