Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is a role-playing game based on the comic book created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The core rulebook was first published by Palladium Books in September 1985 and featured original comic strips and illustrations by Eastman and Laird. The rules and gameplay are based on Palladium’s Megaversal system.
The role-playing game stayed true to the original concept of the Ninja Turtles when they were first created by Eastman and Laird. They were trained to be hit men to kill Shredder. They weren’t heroes but instead hardcore killers. Splinter was a crazy-out-of-his-mind monster, and Shredder was a dude with cheese graters on his arms. Yeah, for real. Oh, and April wasn’t a news reporter … she was a cracked out whore.
The core rulebook was first published in 1985, written by the late Erick Wujcik. Supposedly written in just five and a half manic weeks, the game sold 10,000 copies very quickly and was Palladium’s first big hit. One notorious aspect of the first edition was a detailed list of sexual deviations, drug addictions, and mental illnesses available to characters. The core book was revised and published again in 1990, with the sexual deviations removed.
After several Church and Parental Advisory groups objected to the list of sexual deviations – which had previously appeared in the Palladium Role-Playing Game and Heroes Unlimited rulebooks – Palladium Books covered it with a plain white sticker that could not be removed.
In the time between the first printing of the core book and the second printing, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had exploded in popularity and become the subject of children’s entertainment, to the detriment of TMNT & Other Strangeness’s popularity. In 2000, Palladium chose not to renew the licensing to publish TMNT material.
One of the most interesting aspects of the rules involves the use solely of animal species and their mutation in character creation. There are no rules for creating a human character in the core book. Wujcik’s effort in writing the animal mutation rules proved to be a major feature of the game.
Also, the role-playing game stayed true to the original joke that had to do with the Marvel comic hero named Daredevil.
There are many aspects of the Turtles that are a nod to Marvel Comics’ superhero Daredevil. For example, Splinter, the Turtles’ father figure and sensei, is an homage to Daredevil’s sensei, Stick. The Foot Clan is a take-off of the ninja clan in Daredevil known as The Hand. However, the coolest connection is that the Turtles and Daredevil seem to share the same origin story.
In Daredevil #1, Matt Murdoch sees a truck barreling down on an old man, so Murdoch knocks the man out of the way. As the truck swerves, a canister flies out the back and strikes Murdoch in the face. The canister is filled with a radioactive substance, which blinds Murdoch, but enhances his other senses to super-human levels. Later, he uses his heightened senses to fight crime as Daredevil.
For the Turtles’ origin, the same scenario plays out, except the canister bounces off the boy’s head and smashes into a bowl of baby turtles, who fall, along with the canister, into an open manhole. Splinter finds the turtles crawling around in a viscous fluid seeping out of the broken canister, which is the mutagen that turns the Turtles and Splinter into human-sized heroes.
One supplement for the game, titled “After The Bomb”, involves life for mutants in a post-apocalyptic world where they are much more ubiquitous than in TMNT & Other Strangeness where mutants exist on the fringe of modern 1990’s human society. Later, After The Bomb emerged as “After The Bomb RPG”, a full-fledged game of its own, though obviously grown from the animal mutation concepts originally born in TMNT & Other Strangeness and the post-apocalyptic setting introduced in the After The Bomb supplement.
TMNT & Other Strangeness was conceived shortly after the first few comic books had been published. The original TMNT comics contained more violence and gritty material than the incarnations of the TMNT after their rise in popularity and acclimation to younger demographics. This is why TMNT & Other Strangeness is actually an adolescent- to adult-oriented RPG, not one for children, although the level of violence obviously depends on the context of the adventures being run and the people involved. Comic book portions of the rulebook show violence in various forms, from guns to martial arts, but never very graphically. One example of play describes a scene where a player character is being shot at close range with a pistol, while an illustration for one of the adventures at the back of the book shows people who are obviously dead; these seem to mark the most violent points in the core book.
This game was a little too hardcore for its time. If you can find it, check it out.