Ninja Burger is a fast food restaurant that caters to ?a very special clientele?powerful people in impossible situations who need?food delivered. Presidents in the midst of high-pressure negotiation in secret chambers. Wealthy elite in remote chateaus atop distant mountains. Soldiers pinned down behind enemy lines.? As their name implies, Ninja Burger accomplishes these incredibly difficult deliveries by utilizing highly-trained ninja, elite assassins who guarantee delivery to anyone, anywhere in less than 30 minutes.
The above statement is, of course, a paraphrased description of the organization behind Ninja Burger: The Roleplaying Game. The thing that strikes me most about Ninja Burger is the duality of the idea behind it. On one hand, it?s silly in that carefree, childish way that appeals to the 10 year old boy inside me. The same boy that once remarked to his friend ?you know, a real ninja wouldn?t have to wait for the light to change to WALK. A real ninja would just jump over the cars.?
On the other hand, the idea of a crack team of highly-trained stealth deliverymen isn?t that implausible. I mean, it IS implausible, but in a world just a little more like the movies?well, in a world like that, it doesn?t seem like that much of a stretch. If a fast food company wanted to absolutely ensure that they could deliver burgers as quickly and discreetly as possible, who better to hire for the task than a bunch of ninja? This grain of surreal logic is what gives Ninja Burger its humor. If you take what we typically imagine about ninja and ninja culture (however inaccurate that may be), and apply it to the stressful world of food preparation and delivery, you find that the two fit surprisingly well. The result is an utterly hilarious premise for a roleplaying game. Plus, you get to play the role of a ninja. What could be better than that?
Ninja Burger: The Roleplaying Game uses the PDQ (prose descriptive quality) system. The rules are pretty straightforward, and should be easy to pick up for anyone familiar with roleplaying games. Basically, tasks are automatically successful if the character?s relative skill is high enough. If success isn?t guaranteed, the character must roll equal to or greater than a target number on 2d6. Conflicts are resolved by having both parties make a roll, adding relative stats, and comparing the results.
Characters are defined by their skills, which can be as broad as ?Driving? and ?Swordsmanship? or as specific as ?Zeppelin Pilot? or ?Kendo?, depending on the style of play. PDQ encourages descriptive skills, so skills usually have names like ?Can?t Control Temper? or ?Dashing Good Looks.? The one stat all Ninja Burger employees have in common is the ?Ninja? skill, which handles everything?ninja-like.
PDQ seems like a good fit for a semi-serious and fast-paced game like Ninja Burger. The open nature of the skill system lends itself well to a kind of free-form playing style where the players? imaginations define their characters abilities. The rules should appeal equally to casual gamers as well as more serious ?roleplayers.? The designers give you a few ideas to help you tweak the rules a little, and the sample settings serve as useful examples.
One of the things I liked most about Ninja Burger was the idea of the Game Master?sorry, the Dispatcher, as a character. Not only does the game expect you to stat up a GM character, but you?re encouraged to narrate the game ?in character.? The Dispatcher is the guy in the satellite van, tapping into surveillance cameras and warning the characters that ?three goons armed with M16s just entered the building?s back door. We?ve got 5 minutes to deliver the food and get out of there, or we?re in for a firefight!? Like the rest of the rules, the exact capabilities of dispatch depend on your style of play, although the book gives helpful advice (with fun and dramatic tension are encouraged above all else). While the end effect is largely the same as other RPGs, in Ninja Burger the players feel like the guy behind the screen is right there with them, knee-deep in pirates, zombies, and extra mustard.
In addition to the PDQ core system, Ninja Burger has a number of rules that add to the flavor of the setting and encourage ninja-like behavior. These rules include honor, seppuku (ritual suicide for failure on the job), passage of time, salary, and a few other things related to ninja, burgers, or both. Like the core rules, these supplementary rules are pretty easy to learn, and they all add to the game. Some will be more or less important, depending on the kind of game you want to play, and plenty of advice and options are presented to help you decide what to use and when.
The final part of the main book is devoted to a sample setting (San Francisco) and a sample adventure. I was pleasantly surprised at the detail of the setting. While I wouldn?t recommend purchasing Ninja Burger as a guidebook for planning your next trip to San Francisco, the maps, charts, and general information should be more than adequate for running adventures there. The adventure, set in San Francisco, is a humorous take on Kill Bill featuring enemy ninja, monkeys, and Alcatraz. I?ve not run it, but it seems to capture the feel of the game perfectly, and should serve as a good intro for new players.
LIKED: Ninja Burger: The Roleplaying Game is great. I picked it up mainly out of curiousity. Once I started reading it, I couldn?t put it down (figuratively speaking, of course). It?s well written, it?s funny, it?s clever, the rules are well designed?I really can?t say enough nice things about it. Ninja Burger does what it sets out to do, and it does so brilliantly.
DISLIKED: Obviously, a game like Ninja Burger doesn?t appeal to everyone. It?s a humorous RPG, and its mechanics are pretty fast and loose. People that like a more detailed ruleset may, for example, be bothered by a game that has a skill called ?ninja? that lets you do ?ninja kinds of stuff.?
Also, while the authors have made an effort to give Ninja Burger players the tools to play long term campaigns, I really think the game would work best as an on-off filler game. A really fun on-off filler game, to be sure, but not something long term.
VALUE: Very Satisfied