Teenagers investigate weird mysteries in the Tales from the Loop RPG. Created by Fria Ligan (Free League),Tales is a full-color 194 page hardcover available in print and PDF. I received a complimentary copy of the game. My plan is to not allow that to bias my review.
Tales uses modified Mutant: Year Zero rules. Attributes, skills, and items form a d6 dice pool and one 6 indicates success. Interaction and investigation are well supported while combat is less emphasized. The PCs cannot die. Instead they take cumulative penalties to skill checks. Players play Kids with roles like Bookworm, Rocker, and Weirdo. Kids are ten to fifteen years old. Older Kids have better attributes but less Luck Points (which allow a reroll).
A session is built as a collection of scenes and Trouble for the Kids to overcome. GMs share creating scenes with the players. The GM also asks the players questions to help fill in details about NPCs and the setting.
The players liked setting scenes before and after investigating the mystery. The detailed drives and relationships helped them roleplay teenagers. They fell into character easily, giving the other PCs a hard time and trying to avoid bigger kids and aggressive adults.
Extended Trouble required all the Kids to work together to achieve several successes to win in the final showdown. They had to take down a mad scientist. Some of the Kids went after the killer birds he was controlling, some tried to hijack his tech, and others tried to stop more birds from joining the battle. It was tense and exciting and everyone took part.
The setting of the Malaren Islands, Sweden and Boulder City, Nevada resemble our ‘80s world but with a twist. Magnetrine technology allows for hovering vehicles. Functioning robots are commonplace. Technology goes awry and time travel, dinosaurs, and weird science introduce dangerous mysteries.
Well detailed examples of what kids did in the ‘80s ground players in the setting. Art, locations, maps, NPCs, diagrams, and even in game advertisements detail the setting. The alternate history receives a thorough description.
A four-part adventure campaign is filled with mysteries, NPCs, creatures, maps, and locations. Tales supports sandbox campaigns with six detailed locations that the PCs can investigate on their own as they see fit. I really like the inclusion of both sandbox and adventures alongside an option to use both together. Role-playing a talking pigeon was enjoyable. Tales notes that pre-gens are included but are not. Tomas from Fria Ligan stated the space was used for other things, but the pre-gens may return as a free PDF.
Our session did not feature robots or magnetrine tech, both heavily featured in the art, which one player wanted to experience. If I ran a one-shot again, I would use the adventure focusing on robots. I didn’t think I would like GMing an RPG about young teens, but the one-shot I ran changed my mind. I recommend Tales from the Loop if you like the idea of investigating weird mysteries using a tightly designed and evocative RPG.
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