log in or register to remove this ad

 

Mutants In The Now Brings A Fresh Look At Other Strangeness

1640307316029.png

Licensed RPGs are the shooting stars of tabletop roleplaying games. They burn brightly, hopefully beautifully and then are lost to history once the license ends. Many live on in the library shelves of those who love them. Some are sold for ridiculous amounts on the internet. A few are reborn as retroclones with the mechanics intact and the potentially litigious IP stripped away. Such is the case with Mutants In The Now, a game from Julian Kay that is very clearly inspired by Erick Wujcik’s classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness RPG. What does the adaptation keep? What does it throw away? Let’s take a look at my GOOP-filled review.

Mutants In The Now centers on a group of mutants in a modern day setting. Each character is some sort of mutated anthropomorphic animal with some mixture of light powers based on their animal origin and possibly psychic powers because why not. The characters struggle to discover the secret of their origins as well as negotiate a tricky path between the factions that wish to control them such as a shadowy corporation, an ancient ninja clan or an alien conspiracy. The setting here is heavily implied, but fans can probably pull something together with a skim of the original game or checking out some episodes of the various series on streaming.

(My child is a fan of the 2012 TMNT series currently on Hulu in America. It even has a couple of episodes that reference the After The Bomb/TMNT crossover from late in the gaming line. It's a great nickel tour of franchise history.)

The meat of the game remains the mutation and customization options for the animals. Here’s where Kay begins some slight modifications from the original. First, players decide their origin story, which determines the animal charts where players roll their animals. This choice also determines how many rerolls the players get throughout the process. Leftover rerolls convert into extra health points if they go unused. Players then roll their attributes and get their first opportunity to spend rerolls. Even so, there’s an incentive to keep poor attribute rolls: they are worth more GOO-P points to spend on mutations. You maybe be an unintelligent rat, but you might be a giant unintelligent rat that can take a hit from a bus.

This section is organized well, especially compared to the original game. Each page offers nine animals with various traits that can be purchased as well as a starting set of common traits that can be upgraded. The pages following the animals offer an explanation of the common traits, a look at the more rare ones and ends with a look at psychic powers and more exotic options. The animals range from elephants to chickens but it doesn’t take too long to get whatever you might want to the right mixture of human and animal.

Fighting styles are next and these too, are expanded. There is the requisite collection of martial arts updated to reflect more of an MMA world. But there are also fighting types that reflect the animal instincts of the characters. Does the combat style Improvisational Panic mean a Jackie Chan style of running around throwing everything they can at a bad guy or a chicken running around frantically trying to flee the battle? It all depends on the combat narration. One interesting element that’s a pretty clear lift from another game is the Escalation Die from 13th Age. Not only does it speed up the d20 based combat, it also encourages games to model the fiction and hold more powerful moves till the end.

There are other elements from other games added into Mutants In The Now. Advantage and disadvantage appears here as well as stepping up and stepping down damage die types in the style of Cortex Prime. There’s still a lot of skill management going on here but it's been streamlined into skill packages that are based on the background elements selected early on. I really like that the game has plenty of packages to choose from but there’s a wild card element in all of them. Animal background affects three attributes, for example, but players pick two and then a third one that doesn’t have to be part of the package. Skills are the same way, so if you want to be a wild animal that knows a lot about particle physics, it’s as simple as using that open skill and creating a backstory where your possum grew up reading a retired professor's old textbooks. Mutants In The Now walks a great line between the wild stories of random skill rolls with character concepts borne out of making SCUBA training and falconry expertise make sense and building a character that feels at home in a gonzo modern mutant setting.

Much of this review has been a compare and contrast between this game and the game that it is inspired by. Does Mutants In The Now stand on its own? For the most part, yes. It feels similar to the type of game I would make if I were going to play a TMNT-inspired game where I wanted to use the older materials but not the older system. But if I didn’t have those materials, I would definitely want a Session Zero where we all discussed the setting we wanted to do. Would it be bright and cheery like the cartoons? Gritty and brooding like the original comics? Given the transdimensional elements of the stories, maybe even something like Into The Turtle Verse? The setting outside of the basics of mutated animal PCs are a blank slate, so GMs should be ready to put in some work there.

Mutants In The Now is an excellent update of a classic RPG but also is a great choice for fans of teenagers, mutants, ninjas or turtles.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

I have fond memories of TMNT. It was either the second or third RPG I tried after D&D. The other was Gamma World where we all focused on mutant animals, so you can see where I may be confused.

After that, my players wanted a Parry roll in every rpg we played.

Since I had made the jump to running other games beyond D&D while everyone else was happy to just be players, I think that's what cemented my status as a Forever GM.

And the mutant animal setting for d20 Modern had me so hyped that I had a rough outline of a near future campaign that took into account the power curve of d20.

Low level: Fugitive mutants on the streets
Mid Level: Equalizer (the TV show) mutant style
Hero Level: Mecha pilot mutants
End Levels: Vanguard against alien invasion

I think the capstone was that PC or their allies master the alien jump gate to find a new planet to call their own and escape Earth (and thus retire their 20th Level characters)
 
Last edited:

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I can't remember ever playing a game of TMNT properly just me and my brother rolling up endless mutant animals. We had the mutants down under book for After the Bomb as well - mutant Cuscus airship captain for the win!

I seem to remember the original system as being really technical and complicated. If this plays a lot faster and smoother I'd seriously be tempted just to roll up a few new mutants even if they don't come with airships.
 

I can't remember ever playing a game of TMNT properly just me and my brother rolling up endless mutant animals. We had the mutants down under book for After the Bomb as well - mutant Cuscus airship captain for the win!

I seem to remember the original system as being really technical and complicated. If this plays a lot faster and smoother I'd seriously be tempted just to roll up a few new mutants even if they don't come with airships.
I'm a big math guy, but when playing Rifts, I opted to make a mutant animal that trust the randomness of Palladium. Not dissing it, just not my thing.
 

Retreater

Legend
So ... are we saying it's a Palladium retroclone? Is it a new game with the trappings of TMNT? Is it a way that puts TMNT back into print, but basically unchanged (because that would be "After the Bomb," by Palladium)?
 

It seems like an updated-style retroclone with some modern tweaks that is also embracing the 1980s Palladium layout and art style? There's no preview to look at on DriveThru and beyond this article the only other deep talk of mechanics is on their website.

They blew up the project from 48 pages to 120 but then they were supposed to deliver in May. But they have also done 67 updates, so they try to communicate to backers.

I heard Siembieda can get cranky about things like this, which is ironic since almost his entire career has been retooling and then retooling again a fantasy heartbreaker. I have to admire his imagination, though.
 

robowieland

Adventurer
It seems like an updated-style retroclone with some modern tweaks that is also embracing the 1980s Palladium layout and art style? There's no preview to look at on DriveThru and beyond this article the only other deep talk of mechanics is on their website.

They blew up the project from 48 pages to 120 but then they were supposed to deliver in May. But they have also done 67 updates, so they try to communicate to backers.

I heard Siembieda can get cranky about things like this, which is ironic since almost his entire career has been retooling and then retooling again a fantasy heartbreaker. I have to admire his imagination, though.
It's aimed at being a TMNT retroclone. Some system similarities but mostly the stripped down version in that book rather than RIFTS or Heroes Unimited.
 

Julian Kay

RPG Freelancer
Mutants In The Now is an excellent update of a classic RPG but also is a great choice for fans of teenagers, mutants, ninjas or turtles.

Thanks so much for the review, Rob! It's appreciated to see this pop up.

In regards to the setting, it's meant to be rather loose, and offer inspiration rather than dictation. I didn't have a really detailed setting because much of is just the modern world, so I focused on a few things that make it different. I'm working on expanding it soon, though.

So ... are we saying it's a Palladium retroclone? Is it a new game with the trappings of TMNT? Is it a way that puts TMNT back into print, but basically unchanged (because that would be "After the Bomb," by Palladium)?

As a designer, my goal is to recreate a lot of the feel of the older games while having more functional mechanics. Which isn't necessarily a knock against Wujcik; the original game was designed in five weeks, so any game would have issues being written in that timeframe! It's really remarkable that it turned out so well, considering that. But a lot of elements will be familiar; percentage skills, d20+modifier rolls in combat, character generation as a complex "mini-game" combining random generation and constructed mutation, etc.

I call it "retro-modern", where a lot of it stylistically is a nod to the older games, but has more modern mechanics running under the hood. It can be thought of this way: if Palladium's base assumptions on how to design a system were rooted in AD&D, this is more rooted in the assumptions born of d20 and its more progressive descendants. (Fragged Empire and 13th Age were two of my main inspirations for that, but there's a lot of my own notions in there.)

It seems like an updated-style retroclone with some modern tweaks that is also embracing the 1980s Palladium layout and art style? There's no preview to look at on DriveThru and beyond this article the only other deep talk of mechanics is on their website.

They blew up the project from 48 pages to 120 but then they were supposed to deliver in May. But they have also done 67 updates, so they try to communicate to backers.

I heard Siembieda can get cranky about things like this, which is ironic since almost his entire career has been retooling and then retooling again a fantasy heartbreaker. I have to admire his imagination, though.

The layout style is inspired by very early TTRPGs, which includes the earliest Palladium books, back when a lot of their books looked like they were pasted up from an IBM Selectric. Obviously it's intended as more evocative of that era than replicating it; detailed layouts were very rare in that era. But I wanted that mimeographed, dirty feel to it. Apologies about the lack of a preview, but it should be up. I was having issues getting DTRPG to generate a preview previously, but it seems to be generating it properly now. You can also find different previews over at itch.io.

Beyond the obvious scope expansion, I ended up dealing with some tragedies in my family over the summer and fall with unavoidably delayed things, leaving me effectively working two jobs between helping my family get through and Kickstarter fulfillment (right down to running playtests, handling layout, etc.).

But I think the expanded format has helped me build a better core I can build on in the future, so ultimately it's turning out for the best. All the feedback I've gotten has been remarkably positive, and I haven't had a single refund request. I overestimated how quickly I could handle it all, and wasn't ready for the series of curve balls life had for me over 2021, but I'm busy bagging books for shipment this very evening. So all's well that ends well.
 

robowieland

Adventurer
Thanks so much for the review, Rob! It's appreciated to see this pop up.

In regards to the setting, it's meant to be rather loose, and offer inspiration rather than dictation. I didn't have a really detailed setting because much of is just the modern world, so I focused on a few things that make it different. I'm working on expanding it soon, though.
I like the loose implications of the setting. If you want TMNT or the store brand versions of the factions in the book, great. Or whip something up during session zero. I have a lot of the After The Bomb books, so I was considering throwing some Terminator into the mix and have them trannsdimentionally time travel to try and stop the apocalypse. (Mutants can time travel because...reasons...)

As long as you're taking stuff from 13th Age (I love the escalation die lift), I might use the Icon Relationships dice for the different factions.
 


DarkCrisis

Adventurer
I still have my original copy of TMNT and other strangeness.
Bought cause I was big TMNT fan as a kid. Don’t think I’ve ever played it though
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I'm a big math guy, but when playing Rifts, I opted to make a mutant animal that trust the randomness of Palladium. Not dissing it, just not my thing.
No I entirely understand if I was going to actually play that character in a campign I'd make sure I had some more control over the proceedings.
 

Julian Kay

RPG Freelancer
With the ability to reroll or flip the background and species rolls to an extent, I see it as a way to not prevent choice but just to limit it, to make character generation a process of discovery.

Some people might just pick from the tables, and that's fine. But it's intentional design, and I'd encourage folks to try it out even if they're a bit skeptical; you might be surprised at just how attached you can be to the weird animal you didn't expect at your doorstep.
 

Jer

Hero
I call it "retro-modern", where a lot of it stylistically is a nod to the older games, but has more modern mechanics running under the hood. It can be thought of this way: if Palladium's base assumptions on how to design a system were rooted in AD&D, this is more rooted in the assumptions born of d20 and its more progressive descendants. (Fragged Empire and 13th Age were two of my main inspirations for that, but there's a lot of my own notions in there.)
Well if I wasn't interested before I'm intrigued now. Retro-modern is far more interesting to me than retro-clone, and throwing out 13th Age and Fragged as inspirations just adds to it. And the posted preview at DTRPG also has my interest piqued - the picture on page 8 of the different stages of mutation for the cat -> person hooked me - I don't know how many times I saw that picture of the stages of wolf to human mutation in Palladium books and that artwork just grabbed me.

It's on my DTRPG wishlist now - now I just need some money ...
 

I have fond memories of TMNT. It was either the second or third RPG I tried after D&D. The other was Gamma World where we all focused on mutant animals, so you can see where I may be confused.
Same here in that TMNT was the first RPG I tried that wasn't Dungeons & Dragons. My third one after that was the original Aliens RPG IIRC.

I can't remember ever playing a game of TMNT properly just me and my brother rolling up endless mutant animals. We had the mutants down under book for After the Bomb as well - mutant Cuscus airship captain for the win!
So much this. I also don't remember ever really playing the game so much as rolling up a gajillion different animals. Loved all the supplements as well: Yucatan, Down Under, the vehicle one, the other vehicle one, the space one, the dimensional one. So many fond memories of never playing and just seeing what weird cartoon characters I could build. :)
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
Same here in that TMNT was the first RPG I tried that wasn't Dungeons & Dragons. My third one after that was the original Aliens RPG IIRC.


So much this. I also don't remember ever really playing the game so much as rolling up a gajillion different animals. Loved all the supplements as well: Yucatan, Down Under, the vehicle one, the other vehicle one, the space one, the dimensional one. So many fond memories of never playing and just seeing what weird cartoon characters I could build. :)
Are you sure, you're not my brother in dusguise? We had the Aliens RPG too same order as well D&D, TMNT & Aliens.
The Aliens RPG was when I realised complicated character design does not always a good game make and you can go overboard in the lets model the real world crunchyness.
I still rember you could roll againt your learning score probably in the low 20%s to improve your skills once a year (game time) and had to wait a full year to try again.
But it did have a load of movie quotes on the side bars and I know what an Acturian was because of it so there is that!
 

Julian Kay

RPG Freelancer
Part of the inspiration for this project was knowing how important TMNT&OS had been to a lot of players, but that the loss of both the license and the creator had left both the original game and its successor largely fallow for the last two decades. For a lot of folks in the '80s and '90s, it was a gateway game. I know it was the first role-playing game I owned (unless you count Car Wars, which had role-playing scenarios but wasn't a dedicated TTRPG). Though red-box D&D was my first, I wasn't allowed to own D&D books. But I was allowed to own TMNT&OS.

And it's great to see newer generations getting to experience the fun of making a mutant animal for the first time! It's been interesting seeing people who didn't get to experience the older game, but are getting to discover Mutants in the Now completely fresh.
 

Are you sure, you're not my brother in dusguise? We had the Aliens RPG too same order as well D&D, TMNT & Aliens.
The Aliens RPG was when I realised complicated character design does not always a good game make and you can go overboard in the lets model the real world crunchyness.
I still rember you could roll againt your learning score probably in the low 20%s to improve your skills once a year (game time) and had to wait a full year to try again.
But it did have a load of movie quotes on the side bars and I know what an Acturian was because of it so there is that!
Hahaha - yep, same here. I loved just creating different marine squads in Aliens, but we couldn't get past one session. LOL
 


Julian Kay

RPG Freelancer
Well, if you can actually create the NPCs by following the rules in the book, it'll be one step ahead of the original game!

My attitude is "just make NPCs however you like, but if NPC mutant animals are significantly stronger than player characters, make sure there's a reason why." So to be honest, it's not that different, but it is explicit about it. I worked to ensure NPC generation is simpler, and counting each point of GOO-P would undo that.

But when I was setting the power level and available options for player characters, my starting point was to recognize that you couldn't actually create the TMNT in TMNT&OS, either in terms of points or likely rolls, and to work from them as an example of the characters you create. That's why attribute rolls are 4d6, that's why you get more overall points, and that's why a lot of superficial or niche options are a lot cheaper.
 

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top