Swedish Roleplaying Games are getting much attention these days and no wonder, many of these games are great. Tales from the Loop, published by Fria Ligan, is one of these games. It has received a lot of credit and many awards, among them 5 ENnie awards.
Tales from the Loop is a great roleplaying game, based on the setting in Simon Stalenhag’s art and vision. The game takes place in an alternate version of our world, in the 80’s that never was, where technology is more advanced. Still, the PCs, which are all children, face the same problems as we, who grew up in the 80’s, had to face. They listen to Europe’s Final Countdown, play video games on Sinclair Spectrum, collect Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and read about their favourite popstars in magazines and newspapers. If you liked Goonies, E.T. or Stranger Things, the setting of Tales from the Loop should interest you. You can read more about the setting here, in our Part I of our review of Tales from the Loop.
The PCs in Tales from the Loop are Kids, aged 10-15. There are eight different types, which players can choose from; Bookworm, Computer geek, Hick, Jock, Popular kid, Rocker, Troublemaker and Weirdo. The types themselves are pretty straight forward, the Bookworm likes the library, learning and investigating, the Troublemaker is a misfit, an outcast disliked by teachers and the Weirdo is the strange kid, who the other kids bully and pick on. You probably remember persons who fit these types from school. Creating more types is relatively easy.
Every Kid has four attributes and each attribute has three skills. Your age defines how many points you can distribute in attributes, but every Kid gets 10 points to use on skills. The Kids also start with Luck Points, which are also determined by their age. Each point in attributes or skills represent one die, and when rolling to see if an action succeeds, you build a dice pool. Every Type has access to items, your Kid’s possessions, and these can give bonus dice to dice pools.
After you have defined the numeric values of your Kid, you need to write up a number of things that both you and the Gamemaster can use in-game. Every Kid therefore has a Problem, Drive, Pride, Relationships and an Anchor. The Problem is something that worries you and is a part of Everyday Life (see below). The Drive is the reason why you decide to expose yourself to dangerous and difficult situations to solve Mysteries (see below) with your friends. You also have Pride, which is something that makes you feel important. You also define your relationships to the other Kids and NPCs. Finally, you have an Anchor, which can help you feel better after you have dealt with something terrible, frightening or dangerous. Each of these can have an in-game, and even systematic, effect.
Last but not least, the Kids agree on a hideout, which they have somewhere and share. The Hideout has similar game effect as the Anchor, i.e. it can help the Kids feel better and calm down after an harrowing encounter.
Everyday life and Mysteries
In Tales from the Loop the Kids can have all kinds of Troubles (see below). Some of these troubles reflect their relationships with adults, e.g. the parents of one of the Kids are going through a divorce, one of the Kids was caught stealing in the Super Market or one of the Kids is grounded. These kind of Troubles reflect the Everyday life of the Kids, even though they are in the middle of some strange events, they still need to do their homework, walk the dog and look after their younger siblings.
The Mysteries are not a part of the Everyday life and represent the adventures and investigations of the Kids, where they discover something strange and need to solve it. Mysteries can be something like tracking down a robot from Riksenergi gone rogue or even helping a strange, mysterious girl who seems to have psionic abilities and is able to sense another, darker and more evil realm.
Troubles and Complications
Every now and then the Kids experience Troubles, something that stands in their way of succeeding and can be solved with dice rolling, though that is not always necessary. It can be as simple as trying not to get caught stealing to running away from a T-Rex!
When rolling to see if the Kid overcomes the Trouble you build a dice pool with the attribute and skill in question. Tales from the Loop uses D6 and every 6 rolled is a success. There are three levels of difficulty, each requires a specific number of successes rolled. If you roll more successes than needed you can buy effects, which are listed under each skill. Pride, Luck points, Items and Drive can have an effect on your dice pool.
And here is something I love about this system: Even though the Kids fail their roll, that isn’t a huge block in the road! It only means that while they were attempting to do solve the Trouble, something went wrong. Therefore they might have succeeded, but something happens, e.g. a Kid climbs over a fence and into a scrapyard, but the guard dog heard her. So, the Kids should succeed, but a failed roll should complicate matters.
Even when the Kids fail a roll, they can decide to take on a condition to Push the Roll, which allows a reroll of all the dice. Condition are similar to damage, a Kid can be upset or scared. Each Condition suffered subtracts one die from the dice pool, when a Kid has suffered 5 Conditions she is considered broken (which means she automatically fails all rolls) and needs to find her Anchor or return to the Hideout with the other Kids.
The Gamemaster’s role
Since Tales from the Loop is highly co-operative in nature, the role of the Gamemaster is a bit different than in many commercial roleplaying games. The Gamemaster is more in a narrative role, helping the Kids solving the Mystery. Of course, she describes scenes and roleplays all NPCs, but unlike most other roleplaying games she doesn’t roll any dice. The Kids are the only ones to roll dice. When the Kids deal with NPCs the Gamemaster simply decides on a difficulty, should the need for a die roll arise.
I really like what I have seen so far. The setting is awesome and the game simple and fun, focusing on roleplaying and narrative. I think that this game should fit perfectly to introduce roleplaying to teenagers or beginners, it’s simple and yet complicated enough to be interesting. My kids and their friends have browsed through the rulebook, which sparked a great discussion, and they are eager to try the game out.
Stay tuned for our Part III: Tales from the Loop – The Four Seasons of Mad Science