Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tortles! The Mystara / BECMI Race Makes Massive D&D Comeback!

Wanderers by Maximillain Degen. You can buy this print here (no, I'm not sponsored).

In 2019 it looks like Tortles is becoming one of the more popular D&D races! Crazy as it sounds, this race of turtle-like humanoids was introduced to the D&D 5th Edition with Volo's Guide to Monsters in 2016. In 2017, rules for playing Tortle PCs was brought to D&D 5E fans with the Tortle Package, a PDF product sold as an expansion to Tomb of Annhilation detailing the Tortle lands called the Snout of Omgar. Earlier this year, TruBlood actor and D&D superfan Joe Managiello revealed that he had created a character called Krull the Tortle. Krull is somehow connected to Managiello's main PC, Arkhan the Cruel known from Matt Mercer's Critical Role, but the Tortle will appear in Descent of Avernus, an upcoming D&D5E adventure from Wizards of the Coast set in Baldur's Gate.

Tortles go way back in the history of D&D however. In 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Mirage Comics, but only a year later Tortles appeared in D&D in Merle and Jackie Rasmusens's The Savage Coast set in the world of Mystara and for the BECMI edition of D&D. The module was followed up with a companion adventure spanning two issues of Dungeon Magazine called Tortles of Purple Sage, also by the Rasmussens. 

Tortles got an even more prominent role in Mystara and the Savage Coast Subsetting when they appeared in the Voyage of the Princess Ark and later in the AD&D 2nd Edition Red Steel Boxed Set detailing this part of Mystara.

In 2017, Wizards of the Coast staffers Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford had what seemed like a heated twitter debate about whether Tortles were a stupid idea or not. It late seems like it was all a (clever?) marketing ploy for their Tortle Package.

Oly Skiffback by David Rene

Over the years, the world of D&D has seen several iconic Tortle NPCS in D&D books and in other mediums. In addition to Managiello's Krull character, Matthew Mercer played a Tortle bard named Orly Skiffback in the Critical Role streaming series. 

You can find a complete list of Tortle references in D&D books here.

Are you a fan of Tortles? Why do you love them so much? If you don't love them, then Mike Mearls is awaiting your calls. 



  1. They've never interested me as a playable race or even to add to my campaign realm. But to each his own.

    1. I am with you on that. Nothing against them but they never excited me. I ran Tortles of the Purple Sage back when it first came on in Dungeon Mag but never did anything with them since. To me, they are just another beast in the wilderness.

  2. Man, I love the Tortles! They're such a fun race to play.

  3. I am 99.9% sure that Mike Mearls is *not* awaiting my call.

    The concept of "turtle people" isn't all that crazy in a fantasy world that features lizard people, cat people, etc. They especially make "sense" in any kind of Gamma World / post-apocalyptic fantasy setting (I'd even be okay with them in Flash Gordon-esque space opera where similar Earth-type creatures "evolve along different lines" or whatever).

    That being said, I'm not a huge fan of "tortles" as used in D&D i.e. as an available PC race. My level of enthusiasm for the possibility of a monk classed tortle (!), a less squishy wizard, or as a warrior with specially crafted armor (to make the character even beefier) can be measured on a NEGATIVE scale. It smacks of cheese and munchkinism.

    Are bullywugs a playable race in 5E? If I were including tortles in a campaign, it would be as an NPC species and probably a primitive type engaged in inter-tribal warfare with other cold-blooded humanoids (lizard folk or something). A strange faction to be encountered by the PCs in the wilderness, not something one would find drinking at the local tavern.

    But that's me...I'm cranky.

    1. JB, I haven't seen Bullywugs, but there is something called Grung, which I think is another kind of frog folk.


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