Even before I learned about Palladium Books' TMNTOS reissue (on Kickstarter now), 2023 was shaping up to be another one of those years where my interest swings back around to TMNTOS from a simple discussion a few months back about RPG artists, and one whose work I've always enjoyed is Jim Lawson, who I know entirely for his work on TMNTOS. After some research, I discovered that Lawson was one of the key artists who took over penciling and inking duties from Eastman & Laird over time. That rabbit hole lead to me reading all of the TMNT Classics comics, finishing that up right about the time the KS launched. As I started toying with the idea of running TMNTOS again -- which I totally want to do, this game is one of my all-time favs -- I realized how dissatisfied I am with the whole "ooze" mutagen concept that's very present in the TMNT-osphere. I wanted something different for a game I was going to run, and I liked the idea of some 70's high concept sci-fi intruding on my 80's gritty action film RPG, and came up with the Tiamat Initiative.
"Imagine, Alfie, being able to reach back in time to that moment -- that precise moment -- when the first protein chains began to assemble themselves. Imagine witnessing the vast potentiality of all creation stretching out in front of you from that point in time into the future. Until today. Hell, until tomorrow. The day after. Now have the hubris to change that moment to fit your design." - Dr. Paul Saxon, Project Manager of the Tiamat Initiative
The Tiamat Initiative disappears from the financial statements of the Samsara Project in 1975. Its assets are not sold off, its staff never reassigned. The project simply disappears. There is no further record of it in any Samsara Project documents, not even the infamous "Bern Papers" or "Rimbaud Dossier." The closest any Samsara Project staff will get to acknowledging the Tiamat Initiative at all is to call it "irrelevant."
On August 25th, 1975, Dr. Paul Saxon and a crew of 13 scientists and 27 technicians crossed the irrelevancy threshold. In a vast effort that married the futurist ideologies of the Samsara Project to the most cutting-edge of theoretical physics and genetics, the Tiamat Initiative harnessed the multifurcation of a moment in time -- the exact moment of the beginning of that chain reaction known on Earth as "life" -- as that moment splintered off into an uncountable infinity of multiverses. "The true chaos of creation," Dr. Saxon opined, "is not in the complexity of the conditions that lead to Life [sic], but in the deluge that follows that moment."
The last records of communication with the Tiamat Initiative come at 11:42 AM. Local utility companies report a massive power surge at 11:42, followed by erratic transformer outages within one mile of the Initiative's lab. By the time the Samsara Initiative investigate the site, several hours after the cessation of contact, the premises are devoid of the researchers, their lab equipment or their research itself; just the building is left.
In her paper, "The Threshold of Irrelevance," Dr. K. Ideyemi posits that the moment time travel becomes a possibility, the notion of time as we understand it today is irrelevant. In her "radical investigation of the qualitative and quantitative properties of 'now,'" Dr. Ideyemi presents a theory of time that describes "now' as the bleeding edge of a chain reaction; it is the point at which the chain reaction is happening. As the chain reaction occurs, it excretes vast columns of spent potentiality we call "past;" the chain reaction was burning through potential possibilities at the rate of experience, effectively writing the past in the process. If one could "touch" an earlier instance of that chain reaction, once, twice, multiple times, Dr. Ideyemi theorized, if they could bring it into the current now, one might be able to rewrite any stage of that history, but here and now.
Dr. Saxon's intellectual contribution to Dr. Ideyemi's work was the application of wormhole technology. Dr. Saxon's pet project for decades at this point, Dr. Saxon's work had been stymied by the inability for his worm hole technology to affect actual time travel on its own. Saxon offered Ideyemi a partnership with funding from the Samsara Project and in early 1971, they christened their Tiamat Initiative after the Sumerian primordial chaos at the beginning of time, from which all life and form are constructed. On the cusp of success, Dr. Idemeyi was ejected from the project in November of 1974; nondisclosure agreements prevent her from speaking on the record about her time with the Initiative.
The influx of mutant animals in 1986 has been widely attributed by conspiracy theorists and independent investigators alike to a shadowy organization that they have named the Tiamat Initiative, though concrete proof of the continued existence of the Tiamat Initiative at all eludes even the most astute of investigators. These reports either conflict or report on a wide variety of activity. Some cases mention deliberate experimentation in a lab setting; others, accidental exposure to a substance (a colorless "sludge") is the direct antecedent to mutation while still others cite circumstantial encounters with "faults" in time. Your local junkyard manager, fringe survivalist or radical anticapitalist likely has heard at least some of these Un-American theories and will happily expound upon their personal take in order to reveal whatever details the GM needs the player characters to know.