Amazon Prime is streaming the Tales from the Loop series based on Simon Stålenhag artwork, the same inspiration for the award-winning tabletop roleplaying game.
“Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.”
The pitch is vague on details begging the question, is this sci-fi ensemble series worth checking out? To answer, the creators behind the Doctor Who RPG, Gimmerspace, CAPERS RPG, and more, as well as bloggers, a Youtuber, and fans share their [mostly] spoiler-free thoughts on this series.
"Tales From The Loop is living up to my expectations, a genteel series of mysteries blending old school Twilight Zone stories and more modern Black Mirror themes with the community spirit of Eerie, Indiana, and, yes, a modicum of Stranger Things."
~ Tim Knight, Blogger, HeroPress
[NOTE: Read Tim’s full review on HeroPress (here) or check out his “Musical Monday: Soundtrack Visualizer - Music to Relax To (Tales from the Loop)” article.]
“The series is beautiful, moving and emotionally powerful. The pacing is slow and glorious, letting you take in every second of how gorgeous it is, while presenting you with a series of interlocking stories that explore life, death, time and being. The score perfectly echoes the timeless scenes, and the flash-glimpses of what has happened, beautifully tells each story with very few words.
But at the heart of each episode is a character caught up in the very real world of The Loop, where you should be careful what device you switch on, where you go, and whether you have made the right choice.”
~ David F. Chapman, Tabletop RPG Designer
[NOTE: David is the designer behind the Doctor Who RPG for Cubicle 7, and worked on Star Trek Adventures for Modiphius. You can follow David on his website, Autocratik.]
“I’m thoroughly enjoying the Tales from the Loop TV show. Thoughtful, deliberate stories on very human themes in a quietly bleak setting. The weird sci-fi tech is icing, not the cake.”
~ Craig Campbell, Game Designer, NerdBurger Games
[NOTE: Craig is running the CAPERS Offworld RPG Kickstarter based on his award-winning game, CAPERS, through April 23rd.]
“Tales from the Loop reminds me a LOT of those low-budget, high-concept indie sci-fi films where ‘the science’ is irrelevant compared to the deeper character study elements of deeply flawed individuals that the creator of the movie wants to get into.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would be one of ‘the most popular’ examples in my mind -- that movie was technically about memory erasing technology but it was very much less about ‘the technological spectacle’ of a blockbuster sci-fi movie (say Avatar) and more about using the premise for an interesting story that would be hard to tell without the crazy premise/tech being possible. Vanilla Sky might be another example (in terms of big films a lot of folks would know). There are hundreds of solid indie films that folks wouldn't as readily see in this category.
Anyways if those interest you, check out Tales from the Loop on Amazon Prime. If those annoy you, you might not enjoy TftL. It might still interest you, but yeah...”
~ Lucus Palosaari, Project Manager, Fat Goblin Games
“The music is so moody, and it’s so not techno-babble sci-fi; how something affects people on an emotional level is so much more important than some pseudo scientific explanation.
Seeing the events of the Loop through the children makes it more effective since nothing is explained, as Loretta's mom says, ‘You wouldn't understand it anyway.’”
~ Bill Paulson, Sci-fi Media Enthusiast
“It's marvelous, gentle and chilling by turns. Atmospheric. Very Scandinavian. It's also technically sci-fi, but when I watch I'm reminded of Clarke's famous dictum, ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ And that's certainly the approach. It felt very urban fantasy to me.”
~ Lou Agresta, Co-founder of Iron GM games and Co-creator of Grimmerspace
[NOTE: These quotes are from the “Write Club: Urban Fantasy Fans” group on Facebook. Lou invites you to check it out and, if it’s your bag, join.]
“Just watched the first episode. Highly intriguing. And I really felt for all the characters. The measured pacing (I wouldn't actually call it ‘slow’) is what made the characters real for me.
Episode two was… brutal and tragic. And frighteningly real in how it got there. This is quality work.
Episode three maintains the quality level, and breaks your heart in a different way. But not in the brutal, this-is-broken-and-lost-FOREVER way that episode two did. I continue to be enormously impressed. There are no wasted words or actions in these stories, and they are finding fresh angles on old tropes. Impressive.
I have mixed feelings about episode four, but there are reasons to believe that we haven't seen the whole story yet.
And episode five asked me to believe a few things I just wasn't willing to. For me it was the weakest one so far. Still very well done, and if you grant its precepts it was consistent. But I have trouble granting the precepts.
Completed my binge. Mixed feelings and, in the end, mixed score. But I'm glad it exists.”
~ Connor Cochran, Writer, artist, editor, and producer who has been working in various media businesses (publishing, music, film, TV) for the last 47 years
“Having been a fan of Simon Stålenhag art, and of the Tales of the Loop Roleplaying Game by Fria Ligan, after watching the first episode of the new Amazon show has me eagerly awaiting my chance to watch the next episode. It was atmospheric, beautifully rendered, and had me at the edge of my seat and emotions.”
~ Jodie Brandt, Host of the QuestWise YouTube channel
“The show is gorgeous and full of poetry. I almost cried before the end of the [first] episode.
Actually, I cried at the end.”
~ Jean-Christophe Cubertafon, Freelance Writer and Translator
[NOTE: You can follow Jean-Christophe on Facebook and Twitter.]
“I enjoy the slow burn, it takes it's time. Just finished the series and it’s hands down one of the best I've ever seen. Simply amazing.”
~ Jeremiah McMillan
“To give an idea of the level of quality I wanted from this series, let me say that I’m a fan of the Tales from the Loop RPG and I’ve interviewed Tomas Härenstam, Free League’s CEO, about the game. The RPG won numerous honors (Golden Geek Award for Best RPG, voted Best RPG on the UK Games Expo, and five-time Gold ENnie award-winner) as it brings ‘roleplaying in the ‘80s that never was’ to your gaming table. I attended the ENnie Awards at Gen Con in which TftL took home five metals (though, while attending that, I missed playing a legendary session of Tales at the con). All of that is to say I wanted to see this series, but I knew my demands of the show were high.
After seeing Amazon Prime’s Tales from the Loop, I can say it touched on everything I wanted the series to bring to the small screen. A realized world of robots and almost magical technical possibilities, its stories are told through the eyes of children that just accept this is the world, their world. Despite telling the story of children, it’s not a kid’s show. The imagery is crafted to reflect Simon Stålenhag's artwork and heighten its dramatic flair. Each episode is a short story, deliberately paced and enriched by poignant music, acting, and directing. The production comes together to evoke emotions I rarely feel when watching a sci-fi property.
As backstory for your RPG, it’s crucial world building. As a dramatic sci-fi TV series, it deserves recognition for the beauty and art it achieves. While I know it’s not for everyone, I’d still recommend trying it out because, if you connect with it, you’ll never forget these tales.”
~ Egg Embry, Freelance RPG Journalist
Tales from the Loop is streaming on Amazon Prime. You can pick up the tabletop RPG through Free League Publishing’s store. In addition, Free League is kickstarting the Tales from the Loop – The Board Game until May 7th.
Egg Embry is a freelance tabletop roleplaying game journalist writing for EN World, Knights of the Dinner Table, RPG News, d20 Radio, the Tessera Guild, the Open Gaming Network, the AetherCon Convention Magazine, GAMA’s Around the Table, and more. His areas of focus are RPG crowdfunding projects and RPG reviews as well as interviews with a range of gaming professionals from freelancers to CEOs. Beyond journalism, he dabbles in freelance writing and producing gaming zines for the roleplaying zine-aissance.
Egg Embry participates in an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to Amazon.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192053011/tales-from-the-loop-the-board-game
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
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games