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Reviews: Ninja Burger
 
by Matthew Pook


Cover of Ninja Burger RPG

A game about delivering fast food is what you might call a non-starter, so you need another ingredient or two. Enter Aethereal FORGE, their daft website and "some stupid gaijin game designers at 9th Level Games", and you have Ninja Burger: The Role-Playing Game, in what must be the first RPG based upon a website (www.ninjaburger.com). Now you're talking.

Imagine a fast food delivery franchise that can take your order, knows where you live, doesn't ask you to come to your front door to accept delivery (because they can get through any locked door or security system) and does it all with a personal sense of honour. This is the secret world of Ninja Burger, in which you play an honourable ninja employed to deliver hamburgers, fries, soft drinks, all with optional wasabi sauce (okay, maybe not with the drinks), direct to the hands of their customers, wherever they are, inside of thirty minutes. Or commit Seppuku. And do it with honour.

Right now, Ninja Burger is hiring in your area. Of course, since most applicants will not have spent the time since they were five training to be a Ninja or even have been born into an honourable Ninja clan, they will not be taken on. So instead the enlightened Ninja masters have allowed the creation of this simulation, because as they explain, they're tired of having to dispose of the bodies of wannabe Ninja. So 9th Level Games have created this game using their Beer Engine: Beer and Pretzels Role-Playing Game System, as seen in the Kobolds Ate My Baby! RPG.

Perusing the Menu
Fans of Kobolds Ate My Baby! will be able to pick up this game very quickly, but even those new to the rules should be able to grasp the basics within minutes. The basic system uses ordinary six-sided dice and requires rolling dice under a stat, with the difficulty determining the number of dice (greater difficulties = more dice). Players create their Ninja by rolling 3d6 each for Strength (physical macho acts and hit points), Agility, Ki (intelligence, knowledge, self-control plus skill with Ninja magic) and Extraneous (speed and anything else not covered by the other stats). Another d6 roll determines the Ancestral Clan of each Ninja. Each Clan provides a special ability - Clan of the Thousand Islands grants +3 Agility at a cost of -3 Ki, Clan Gaijin (occidental giant barbarian Ninja!) +3 Strength at a cost of -3 Agility and Clan Lo Cal (despised vegetarian non-meat delivering Ninja franchise!) a bonus to Extraneous at the cost of not being able to stomach meat.

Every young Ninja is trained in the twenty Arts of the Ninja, but is particularly capable at four skills, each of which is governed by the four stats. All of the skills are fully explained and given both their Japanese and their gaijin names on the character sheet, or rather, N.E.R.F. (Ninja Employment Reference Form). Armed with their Ninja Burger uniform, nametag, weapon of their choice, delivery bag of Ninja Burger products, plus their pockets full of trinkets, a Ninja is ready to make a delivery. Equipment is of course invaluable and each time the Ninja wants to find something useful from their pockets, it needs a good rummage and a roll on the Ninja Pockets Chart. The determined item may be used or returned to their pockets, but not dropped - no honourable Ninja would drop any item except a delivery to a waiting customer.

Important to every Ninja is their honour. The game provides numerous guidelines on what actions can lead to Ninja losing their honour. These range from revealing secret information (such as your stats) about yourself to another Ninja, delaying the game, disrespectful behaviour or using the incorrect suffix when talking to or about someone else. This requires a loss of one point of honour and a Dishonour Check. If the Ninja rolls less than their current Honour Points (each Ninja begins the game with ten), he's fine. If they fail, they roll on the Ninja Unspeakable Disgrace Chart. This can result in an instant Meteor Strike or being 'Mistakenly Cast into the Chinese Hell of 10,000 Somethings', and is invariably fatal. (This continues the similarities between this game and the Kobold Horrible Death rules in Kobolds Ate My Baby!).

The last third of the book is taken up with the Ninja Manager Section. This details how to run the game, with simple, quick advice, plus the many enemies of the Ninja Burger franchise. These include the aforementioned, highly secretive Lo Cal Clan, which has infiltrated Ninja Burger; other franchises such as Samurai Burger and Otaku Bell; office and other gaijin (including customers) and OOPS. The latter is actually the Oni Oni Parcel Service, the world's largest parcel delivery service, the drivers for which are all trans-dimensional demons who hate Ninja! Finally a sample delivery is described in detail with a map, customers and random events. Like Kobolds Ate My Baby!, Ninja Burger can be played as a board game or as a standard tabletop RPG.

Physically, Ninja Burger: The Role-Playing Game is a sturdy little book done in black and white. To aid both the prospective Ninja and Ninja Manager, the Ninja Burger menu and an appendix explaining how to speak Ninja can be found on the inside front and back covers. It is very easy, not to say amusing, to read. If there's one aspect that lets the game down, it's the art. The majority of it is perfectly acceptable, but unfortunately the comic strips that occasionally pepper the pages have been reproduced in the book very badly. They are too small and indistinct to read without eyestrain. However, this is my only complaint.

Ninja Burger: The Role-Playing Game is incredibly easy to grasp, both in what the authors describe as its "high concept" of Ninja and fast food, and in 9th Level Games' Beer Engine rules. It can be played as an occasional one-off game between sessions of other campaigns, but it does have potential as a slightly longer series of sessions played out like a Saturday morning cartoon. Plus it has the satirical elements of more adult cartoons, poking fun at corporate life and certain global fast food joints, which should appeal to, and amuse most gamers.

Now you want French Fries of our Ancestors with that, Mr. Customer-San?
 

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