Our Friends the Machines and other Mysteries is the first supplement for the Swedish RPG Tales from the Loop by the Free League. Our Friends the Machines and other Mysteries contains mysteries and rules on building your own Tales from the Loop setting.
Ever since I got my hands on the rulebook for the Swedish RPG Tales from the Loop I’ve been in love with the game. I really like the simple mechanics, the emphasis on the narrative and the co-operative nature of storytelling in the game, not to mention the superb setting which is based in Simon Stalenhag’s artwork (which is awesome).
Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries is the first supplement for Tales from the Loop. It contains a few mysteries and information on the many different machines and technology of the Loop, along with rules on how to create your own setting for Tales from the Loop.
I’ve been reading through this book in the last two weeks. Just as the Tales from the Loop core rulebook, Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries is a beautiful book, full of great artwork and well laid out. The text is accessible and easy to understand. Since this is a book for game masters, players are advised to read no further, for the rest of the review contains spoilers.
Our Friends the Machines
One of the most distinctive feature of the 80’s for us who were kids in that era was the plethora of all manners of toys, related to either films or TV shows. There were He-Man, GI Joe, Transformers and Star Wars. Every boy I knew had a collection of at least some of these toys. The Mystery Our Friends the Machines is a gentle nod to that time.
Two AI’s (A and B) have taken over a toy factory and produce Transformer-like toys, that have been implanted with a microchip, making them able to communicate with each other. The AI’s have even managed to implant these chips in some humans. After discovering what is going on, the kids need to find a way to stop AI A and his Deceivers (who play the same role as the Decepticons in Transformers) from implanting the chip in every human.
For us who grew up in that era, this is a great flashback and reminder of all the cool toys we played with. The mystery is also fun and can end with a great showdown were the Convoys (or Autobots) fight the Deceivers. Just imaging all these cool toys in a bloody fight is thrilling and for the kids to be part of it, is simply put awesome. The story is well laid out and the kids have many ways to complete the mystery.
The mystery contains many maps and NPCs. AI A makes a great adversary and the kids should have a hard time dealing with it. The only part I found a bit far-fetched was the notion that the kids could implant a virus in the AI, but that one is easy to skip.
Horror Movie Mayhem
I and my friends used every opportunity to watch horror films and R-rated movies when our parents were away. Not for the film’s artistry or great scripts, but because we weren’t allowed to watch these kind of films. Freddy Kruger, Jason, Micheal Myers, all these guys became names we knew and talked about when grown-ups weren’t listening.
In Horror Movie Mayhem the kids need to discover why many grown-ups have taken their dislike of R-rated movies, hard rock etc. to the extreme, handing out flyers and going from door to door speaking about the harmful effects of media. The grown-ups have been affected by a hypnotising software, created by a researcher (who has herself become affected by it) in hope of creating a some sort of utopia or society free of what she felt was undesired influence. She plans to have all the town hypnotised in a festival that’s coming up and it’s up to the kids to stop her.
Horror Movie Mayhem is a great mystery to play, since it pits the Kids against the grown-ups for the most parts and includes much of the pop-culture of the 80’s (how easy it is to add a few known band names to the festival) which in turn makes it even easier to create the right atmosphere for the game. The mystery plays out well enough, though I must admit I felt the showdown a bit anti-climatic.
The Mummy in the Mist
This module introduces a new setting to Tales from the Loop, the Stockholm suburb Bredang. When rumors of a mummy walking around Bredang reaches the kids, who in turn start to investigate, they discover that the mummy is not what they had expected. But what they learn is so much more interesting than the mummy and even more horrifying.
The Mummy in the Mist is a superb module and the first one that has a really weird notion to it. The DIM-9s are strange and mysterious, just as the fate of Walter Bohm.
I think that this is perhaps the best module I’ve played through for Tales from the Loop. It’s many-layered and for fans of Stranger Things and H. P. Lovecraft there’s so much here that you can expand upon. For me, this module offered everything that I see as the perfect Tales from the Loop module. The Kids need to take on other kids, grown-ups, agents of DARPA, strange technology and alien creatures. What more could one ask for?
Mixtape of Mysteries
Mixtape of Mysteries isn’t just a single module, rather it is a series of short mysteries or landscapes that can be added to any ongoing mystery or campaign. Each of these eight short mysteries draw from popular songs of the 80’s.
It’s handy to have these short stories. I used the Nighttrain when I ran the Mummy in the Mist as a sidetrek and my players loved it, especially the boys who are fans of Guns ‘n Roses.
The mysteries are diverse and some of them might need some work to fit in your campaign but that’s something an experienced game master shouldn’t find too difficult.
One of the great part of Tales from the Loop is the game’s easy-going approach to science-fiction. In the core rule book you won’t find a long and detailed chapter on how the Loop actually works or the mechanical theories behind it. It’s just there, an enigma that can produce incredible miracles and strange things.
In Machine Blueprints you’ll find detailed explanations on four iconic machines and robots. After reading through the chapter twice I’m still not sure in if it really adds anything to the game. I love the fact that the technology is a bit mysterious, that it is a bit out of reach since the players are role playing kids. I think that it truly conveys the perfect atmosphere for the game.
If you like the game to be like that, you can probably skip this chapter. If you would like to have a more sci-fi related approach to the game, then this is the perfect addition to your game.
Now, this chapter is a great addition to Tales from the Loop. Hometown Hack includes guidelines on how to make your own Tales from the Loop setting. I tried it out and used a small town in the northern part of Iceland, Skagaströnd, as a setting and my players loved it (perhaps because few of them know the town well).
The guidelines are easy to follow and you’ll end up with pretty detailed setting, one with it’s own Loop. For the creative game master, who loves to create her own setting, or even if you rather would like to play in your hometown, this chapter is a must-read.
Our Friends the Machines and other Mysteries is a great supplement and a must-have for every Tales from the Loop game master. The three long mysteries are good, especially The Mummy in the Mist, and the Hometown Hack guidelines are essential. The artwork and layout is great and the book in whole a great resource for every Tales from the Loop game master.