For those not in the know (my way of saying “constantly trying to keep up with tabletop gaming news”), you may not be aware of this recently released title from the folks at Modiphius. I’m here to help with that. Tales from the Loop is a tabletop RPG in which players take on the roles of the Kids and solve cool mysteries in the “80’s that never was.” Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Here are five facets of Tales that intrigued me.
1) Simple System
The game system keeps things easy to learn and play. In fact, if you’ve played Mutant: Year Zero, then you’re already halfway done. If not, you’ll still have a fairly easy time learning the basics. Dice pools consist of naught but d6s and are compiled by adding attribute + skill and grabbing that many six-siders. Each six you roll is a success, and you typically only need one to pass a check. Clearly designed to be played and enjoyed by kids and adults alike, Kids (the player characters) are incapable of dying, but instead suffer Conditions when coming up against Trouble. This aspect specifically assists with keeping the mystery-solving moving along and makes it extremely playable at conventions or as short campaigns.
2) Wondrous Setting
Perhaps the most enticing thing about this game is its setting and the origin thereof. While many games are based on existing films, book series, or even video games, Tales is the first I’ve encountered that was based on an artist’s series of work. Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of a strange Swedish suburb in the 80s created, in large part, the world of the Loop. Here, bipedal robots dwell alongside Cretaceous creatures beneath three massive towers that glow in the darkness. Sounds like a place worth exploring to me!
3) Strange Themes
While the game is centered around solving mysteries in the above-described landscape, a la Stranger Things or the Goonies, the game also delves into the mundane Trouble that your Kids could be facing. Multiple gameplay examples explore themes of parental strife and even divorce, illicit affairs between teachers and parents, and other such drama. This serves to provide a contrast against the mystery at hand and its threat or strangeness. Sure, your parents won’t stop shouting at each other about who’s cheating on who, but the town is being threatened by a strange man in grey who’s face is a mess of static. This makes the bizarre occurrences and mysteries even more special and interesting.
4) For Kids Of All Ages
While it helps to have a GM who knows a thing or two about adult life, the game can be played by anyone 10+. The Kids themselves are allowed to be 10-15 years of age, not a day younger or older. When you hit 16, your character must retire from mystery solving, since you need to start preparing to be an adult and the strange no longer seems as important. The concepts of gameplay are fun and functional, all while still being digestible by a younger crowd. This is not to say that you couldn’t gather your adult buddies together and relive the days of your youth. In fact, the game provides specific advice on how to get back into that mindset. Whatever the age range of your game group, this title game delivers investigation and roleplay experiences that will delight and surprise.
5) Odd Deficiencies
No game is perfect, and so it is with Tales. The system provides enough for a short campaign, but probably wouldn’t hold up terribly well in longer form play. There’s not enough character growth on offer. Characters increase skills with experience and increase stats when they increase in age. Younger characters are luckier (and so receive more luck points needed for dice rerolls), but this stat diminishes as they age. There aren’t any talents, abilities, or unique systems on offer. Since robots and dinosaurs are part of the setting, I’d like to see them provide a supplement for pets and constructs. Building bots or taming dinos in this setting could be an absolute blast, and having a set of rules for doing so would help GMs and players get the most out of such an experience.
All in all, Tales from the Loop proves itself a great addition to any GMs arsenal, while leaving some room for improvement in a largely untapped genre. I recommend checking it out at your local game shop or exploring a preview at Drivethrurpg. If you like the setting and the concept, give it a whirl and let me know what you think!
David Horwitz is a gamer and freelance writer (and definitely a Kid at heart) with an obsession for exploring new forms of leisure. If you’re looking for an inquisitive mind and a deft hand, or just want to chat about gaming, contact him at www.davidhorwitzwrites.com/contact
Image reference: https://www.modiphius.net/products/tales-from-the-loop-rpg-rulebook
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.