I haven’t done a “Role-Play This!” post in ages–about a year!–and I found this one nearly finished while going through my draft posts. I may have to do some more. Anyway, here goes:
What Is It?
My Life as a Teenage Robot is a cartoon that aired on Nickelodeon from 2003 to 2007.
Nora Wakeman, retired pulp heroine and scientific genius, built a robot to protect the town of Tremorton and the world from threats. That is XJ-9, also known as Jenny. She is at once a powerful superheroine and an ordinary, likable teenager, and while she’s equipped to save the world in more ways than you can count, fitting in at school isn’t exactly easy for her.
Why’s It Awesome?
My Life as a Teenage Robot is one of those kids’ cartoons that’s not only for kids. It has this wonderful art deco style, and while it’s light and silly overall, you might be surprised at how sophisticated it can be. The writers have a knack for establishing a villain and then finding an awesome way to completely turn your expectations on their head. It’s hard to give an example of this without spoilers, but even the machine world of Cluster Prime doesn’t turn out to be what you’d assume.
The humor of it really won me over too. There’s an episode where it turns out Tuck (one of Jenny’s close human friends) is afraid to go on a ferris wheel not because he’s afraid of heights, but because he has a fear of wheels. The same episode has a mob of townspeople coming after Jenny, and one of them takes a bite out of his “torch,” which turns out to be cotton candy.
Despite Nickelodeon’s abject failure to make the series available on DVD, it has a strong cult following, as evidenced by how The Teenage Roblog site still posts up new fanart pretty regularly.
If I ever get around to finishing Adventures of the Space Patrol, I’m totally going to make a “Teenaged Robot Superheroine” archetype. Statting up characters like Jenny and her mother in a traditional RPG would require a system with some wiggle room. Tri-Stat or even Risus would let you be vague enough to represent Jenny’s seemingly endless array of weapons and gadgets, and someone who knows the Hero System well enough could probably figure something out with multipowers. Other characters like Dr. Wakeman, Vexus, and Sheldon likewise call for a flexible and cinematic approach.
A game that really captures the feel and storytelling style of the cartoon would have to be a little weirder than that. I’m thinking more of a free-wheeling story game that encourages all the players to inject random gags and contribute to the flow of the story. There is a definite sense that in a given episode there’s a sort of agreed-upon moral or conclusion, and everything works towards that, albeit often in the silliest way the writers can devise.