Before Cowabunga: Palladium’s First TMNT Adventures

Hot on the heels of TMNT and Other Strangeness and it’s supplement, After the Bomb, Palladium released the first true adventure source book for the nascent RPG, TMNT Adventures. Arriving in 1986, the rather thin book contains new (at the time) adventures, optional player character rules and some exceptional artwork by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. While specifically intended for the TMNT game, the adventures are also compatible with Heroes Unlimited.

In 1986, TMNT was still adult-oriented and Palladium's RPG exploded in popularity. The original Mirage comic was just wrapping up the Utrom and Triceraton story line, focusing more on characters and less on science fiction for a few issues. Interstitial miniseries comics provided character development. This RPG adventure book, combined with its predecessor, offer a glimpse of a unique time in the history of the turtles: the sweet spot between the wonderfully bizarre Mirage turtles and the introduction of the family-friendly, pizza-eating, cowabunga-shouting, predominately non-violent turtles most of us are familiar with today.

The book includes four standalone adventures, designed to be played in one or two sessions. There’s also a section containing optional rules for super-powered mutants and an exclusive TMNT comic, entitled New York Ninja. Rounding out the collection is a multi-adventure scenario, which is as close as TMNT gets to a campaign in its early publication history.

Kicking off with an atomic bang, the The Doomsday Bears offers a gritty, high stakes scenario involving TMNT exclusive villains, the Terror Bears. The Bears are up to their usual antics, this time in a nuclear facility. Players must either stop the Bears from starting a nuclear war or let it happen, leading players into the After the Bomb campaign setting.

Next up, is the hilarious Mr. Bionic, wherein a bumbling fool with an impenetrable suit of bionic armor is wreaking havoc around various government agencies. Short and to-the-point, the scenario offers combat and interesting role-playing opportunities for all characters.

Reverend Judge follows with a bit of a chase sequence. It’s a short, self-contained adventure focusing on a proto-punk/jive band whose lead singer is a mutant. The PCs attend one of his shows and when he senses them, he bolts. It’s up to the players to find and reunite him with his band. Next up, is the much longer Mutant Mouse Menace, featuring series mainstay villain, Dr. Feral. Ugh. Dr. Feral.

After this adventure, the book shows off some new player abilities with a juxtaposition of TMNT and Heroes Unlimited skills/stats. Then there’s another comic, New York Ninja.

Finally, there’s campaign-style adventure, The White Ronin. The story is prefaced with a warning to the players: this campaign is deadly. The book suggests introducing elements of the story throughout prior adventures. A group of ninja drug smugglers—the titular White Ronin—are wreaking havoc in New York. Your team is part of an elite squad of mutants sworn to protect NYC from such things.

A maximum of seven characters are allowed in this adventure and the book provides several pre-made characters to use in, should players decide not to take the risk with their more experienced mutant characters. Sprinkled throughout the mission are seven death traps and several Big Bad Evil Guy. Fun.

TMNT Adventures is strictly average. Layout and graphics are impressive, giving off a 1980s underground comic vibe the series maintained at the time. The writing style is consistent, but the stories are a bit on the mediocre side.

Despite this, the book is a worthy addition to any TMNT collection for the comic alone!

This article was contributed by David J. Buck (Nostalgia Ward) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!

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David J. Buck

David J. Buck


A true classic, TMNT and Other Strangeness was the first non-D&D game I ever owned. I've always found Kevin Siembieda's writing, and the writing of Erick Wujcik, to be inspirational and evocative from a gaming standpoint. There is a sense of wonder and adventure that comes through in their writing that is truly special.

Cracking open any Palladium book is a mental nostalgia trip to the late 80's and early 90's when I was a middle and high school student, gaming non-stop every weekend in my best friend's basement. We alternated between AD&D and exploring the Palladium Megaverse. I can sit down and read those books for hours even today. :)

Alas, I sold my extensive Palladium collection a few years ago. Something I partially regret now that I have sons almost old enough to start gaming, but I take heart knowing I sold them to none other than Maryann Siembieda herself, who was trying to rebuild her personal collection of first editions. Like returning a bit of the Parthenon to Athena herself. So they are in a good place. :)


I played some TMNT from Palladium, but I don't know if it was that printing. I can remember my character was a motorcycle riding flying squirrel mutant. His leather jacket had snaps on it so he could easily use his gliding membranes, and when wearing his riding gear and helmet people didn't know he was a mutant. He also had a thing for drive thru fast food. That and sticking everything in his cheeks like a hamster. That did cause occasional conflicts with his helmet, and more than a few laughs as he pulls something unexpected from his mouth. (This included a bag of food from the local burger joint for another character.)

Back then I hadn't seen the cartoon (don't know if this was before that was made or not), but I had seen a few issues of the comic.

Yeah, silly anecdotes of past games :cool:


Oh wow, I remember playing Doomsday Bears way back when with my friend as GM. The Terror Bears were so ridiculous. This brings back great memories that I had totally forgotten about. Thanks!

Mr. Wilson

Those traps in the last adventure were brutal. I played them out with a couple of groups and at least half them died, IIRC. The Patience one in particular killed so many.

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