by Matthew Pook
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
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?