hotfoot_jackson (hotfoot_jackson) wrote,

Post-Apocalypse Android Action! Take 5!

Less androids. MORE TURTLES!

I remember when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in the shops, the original Eastman and Laird comics, back in the mid-80's. No-one would have believed back then that it would explode into the cultural phenomonon that it became and indeed continues to be. I didn't give it much more than a glance back then certainly, although I did appreciate the crossovers it had with Stan Sakai's "Usagi Yojimbo" and Dave Sim's ever cheerful "Cerebus the Aardvark" (not to mention "The Flaming Carrot", Ut!).

One of the first companies to pick up on it wasn't any multi-media broadcating giant however, it was a role playing game company, Palladium, who in 1985 produced the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness" RPG, both as a stand-alone game and as a supplement to their wider Rifts gameline. I didn't pay much attention to this at the time either actually, I wasn't into any of Palladium's games. The company was always there in the background though, trundling on while other companies seemed to come and go, churning out a slow but steady stream of Rifts books and other titles.

Palladium eventually stopped renewing their lisence to produce TMNT games, presumably due to increasing costs as the big boys started to realise the potential of turtle power and the whole franchise started to shift into high gear, but not before they'd expanded the background with a few books set in the turtles' continuity and a few they developed as a post-apocalypse setting, starting with "After the Bomb" in 1986. I do recall it was quite a fan favourite among the furry community because of the focus on anthropomorphic animals.

All that was a long time ago, however...

I occasionally watch the 2012-2017 Nickelodeon animated series when it's on. It's quite well made, amusing and packed with little references to the original comics and other bits of pop culture. I recently saw the three-part alternative continuity finale to the final series with an elderly bearded Raphael (yes, bearded) chanelling both Mad Max and Logan as he and a robot-bodied Donatello drive a heavily armed and armored truck across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. At the start the others are believed to be dead (events prove otherwise), along with almost every human on Earth, mutant animals now making up the majority of sentient life.

"Now hang on" I thought, "didn't Palladium do this?"

Yes, this little mini-series seems to be a direct shout-out to the "After the Bomb" line of the original RPG. Which both reminded me of its existence and sort of made me want to find out more. A bit of trading later and I am now the owner of the TMNT game core rules and the "After the Bomb" and "Road Hogs" post-apocalypse supplements. The latter of these does actually contain a comic with a community of warrior monk turtles led by an elderly and slightly senile turtle who is, while never named, quite clearly Raphael. Might pick up the other books, just for the background. If I was actually going to play a game in this setting I probably wouldn't use the Palladium house system, it was good for its day but nowadays seems a little clunky and complicated. I'd probably use the books for source material but employ something a bit simpler and cinematic to actually play, "Atomic Highway", with it's beautifully simple "D6 Engine" would be ideal (nice to see that Gallant Knight Games have picked this up from original creators Radioactive Ape Designs and intend to eventually do more with it).

The original corebook did have a tiny bit of contoversy attached to it. If your character suffered some kind of trauma there was the possibility they could develop a mental illness. One form of this was a variety of sexual deviation which unfortunately listed homosexuality alongside such others as pedophilia in the table for it. Obviously being gay is not a sexual deviation, so people objected to that, while others complained about sexual devations being mentioned at all, so in some places (mainly the USA) they had to cover the table with a white sticky label and later printings removed it completely (my copy has it intact). It's a little unfair as the games authors were not saying that homosexuality itself was a deviation (at least I hope they weren't) but that trauma could cause you to switch sexual orientation. Perhaps the wording and placement could have been a little better thought out though.

In late 2001 Palladium brought out a second edition of the "After the Bomb" game which dispensed with any mention of the TMNT franchise and included a set of core rules that would allow you to play the game without the need for the original core rulebook. It also tweaked and updated the setting having the bomb being a secondary cause of the apocalypse, the primary one being a bio-engineered plague released as a prank by students who didn't think it would do much harm. Oops. I did pick this up too (thank you Wayne's Books, once again) but I still think that Atomic Highway would be a better system to play it (amusingly the main book for that has an illustration of an erzatz Shredder and ninja turtle facing off, so I'm clearly not the only one to think it).

Cowabunga, dudes!
Tags: anthropomorphics, atomic highway, rpgs

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