Friday, July 14, 2017

Interviews from the Loop

I've got another Tales from the Loop article up on Gnome Stew, this one an interview with some of the creators: Tomas Härenstam, Nils Hintze, and Matt Forbeck!

(In case you're counting, this is post #32 out of 30.)

Interviews from the Loop [Gnome Stew]

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How To Host A Rad Tales From The Loop Game


Why have 30 Days of Tales from the Loop when you can have 31? Here's an additional post about the game I wrote for gaming blog Gnome Stew. (And I have another one coming next week!)

How To Host A Rad Tales From The Loop Game [Gnome Stew]

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Future of the Loop

Image: Fria Ligan

This is post number 30 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Tales from the Loop shows us what things are like for the two Loop facilities in the 80s. There’s one in the US, one in Sweden, and strange things tend to happen around them.

And as I’m sure is true of most science fiction fans, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for them.

We’ll find out some of that future when Fria Ligan publishes its Things from the Flood expansion, which the Tales from the Loop RPG Kickstarter tells us will contain info about the setting in the 90s. What I want to consider today is some possible futures of the Loop and its surroundings in the days to come, whether those days are in the 80s, 90s, or beyond.

More Loops


It’s easy to imagine more cities (and countries) becoming hosts to their own Gravitron facilities. This could affect the Kids in your game in a few ways. First, they might begin play at one of these alternate sites instead of the two in Tales from the Loop (as we covered in an earlier post, Additional Campaign Frames). Second, they could all visit (or relocate to) the area of a new facility. Or third, someone might discover a means of traveling between Loops—a teleport, perhaps—and thus open up numerous Loops as possibilities for exploration.

More Secrecy


The game setting might instead take a slightly darker turn, in which the Loop’s authorities become more secretive about activities at the facilities after having to deal with the repercussions from a critical mishap or two. Field trips cease, security tightens up, and things in the area become more tense. This doesn’t stop strange things from happening, of course…it just makes for a more paranoid and dangerous atmosphere, as the Kids have to deal with increasingly strict adults at the same time they’re coping with all the results of weird science.

Higher Technology


Tales from the Loop is already a game of an “80s that never was,” so why limit ourselves to particle accelerators and magnetrine ships and robots? Perhaps the Loop experiments quickly yield rapid advancement in technology, so that the Kids begin seeing ray guns, holograms, and transforming robots. Maybe the Kids can trade in their bikes for hoverboards!

Ecological Toll


The longer these enormous particle accelerators operate, the more chance there is for them to cause lasting damage to the environment. It might become more common to encounter anomalies in the area, such as time loops, time- or space-portals, areas where physical laws operate differently, and other phenomena.

Loop Protests


This could be a possible follow-up to the previous item, as environmental groups and other safety watchdogs begin to demand the Loop shut down or curtail its activities to avoid further damage to the world—or even to reality itself. Are the environmental complaints valid, or are they engineered by some other group to eliminate the Loop? Which side of this issue will the Kids end up on?



Day 30


This is it! We've reached the end of 30 Days of Tales from the Loop. I feel like I know the game a lot better now, and I hope you do too. I loved interacting with fellow fans in the comments and on social media, and especially loved learning more about Swedish culture, history, and language thanks to my new Swedish friends.

I have two more Tales from the Loop posts to put up next month, when the stars are in the correct alignment, so please stay tuned!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Few Robots

Image: Fria Ligan.

This is post number 29 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Robots are a significant part of the Tales from the Loop setting. Even a casual glance through the art book would tell you that, and the rulebook includes more robot background info and features robots prominently in at least one of the adventures.

If that's STILL not enough robot content, then I'm here to help. Below you'll find four robots to use in your game. These robots are intended for you to drop into your game in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples of how your Kids might encounter them:

  • The Kids find the robot already in their Hideout. (Remember: don't throw Trouble at the Kids in their Hideout. This encounter would be for a friendly robot.)
  • Someone finds the robot in a junkyard or other abandoned location.
  • The robot follows a Kid home, or to school, or to wherever else they're headed.
  • One or more of the Kids follows a suspicious trail that leads to the robot. (For example, a beeping sound, or a column of smoke over the trees, or a radio signal that turns their Walkman into a tracking device.)


The Wrecker

"<CRUMPLE!> <CRUNCH!> <THUD!>"

A local junkyard is now employing a two-story-tall bulky industrial robot to compact cars, appliances, and other large metal refuse into tidy cubes. This robot wrecker is slow-moving but incredibly strong and tough (metal might 3). The machine is normally obedient, but lately has come to believe that its mental abilities are going to waste in its current job, and is looking for a way to prove it is more than a simple laborer. The wrecker cannot speak, but perhaps it can communicate its wishes through its chosen art form: metal sculpting.

The Foreigner

"Mayotte imasu. Tetsudatte kuremasu ka?"

This poor robot has become separated (or escaped) from its owners far away and is trying to either get back home or make a new life for itself here. It is roughly human-shaped, though a bit small, and seems timid and frightened. It also doesn’t have a language in common with the Kids. If they learn to communicate with the foreign robot, will it ask for help, or will it tell them something frightening it learned from its original owners?

The Janitor

"Ah! A broken radio!"

The school’s newest addition to its employee roster is a robot designated J0, called “Joe” by the teachers and students. Although some parents object to having a robot working so near their children, Joe gets along well with the kids, and the school has never been cleaner. Joe also really likes his job, and especially likes the opportunity it gives him to add to his collection of discarded electronics and bits of local culture (such as toys and photos torn from magazines).

The Pet

“Weeeeeoooooooooo. WooooooOOOO?"

This cute little bugger is smaller than a football and had big, friendly, innocent-looking eyes (or cameras, or infrared sensors, or whatever he uses for vision). And that low-frequency vibration he's putting out is very similar to a cat's purr. Where did he come from? What was he made for? Perhaps he's a messenger sent by someone else, or he (knowingly or not) contains data that is valuable to a less-friendly third party. And what if this cute form he's in is not his only one...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mysterious Magnetrines

Image: Fria Ligan.

This is post number 28 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

One feature of the Tales from the Loop setting I haven't covered much yet is magnetrine technology—the means of harnessing the Earth’s magnetic field that permits the use of big, hovering Gauss freighters like the ones seen in Simon Stålenhag’s art. Let’s look at how we might expand on this technology to inspire some story ideas in a game.

Manufacturers


Some science fiction writers like to use real-world branding in an attempt to make their visions of the future seem more grounded in reality. You can try this out by mentioning some name-brand magnetrine ships in your game. General Motors, Peterbilt, and Caterpillar would be natural competitors in this space in the US, and it's fun to imagine a magnetrine Humvee. Having a Kid with an Anchor or other contact at one of these manufactures could provide some useful story hooks--such as when Dad mentions that a new model magnetrine has been sending out strange signals on a specific radio frequency.

Expanding to the Consumer Market


What if magnetrine technology advances in such a way that smaller-scale hovering vehicles become feasible? Even if they still move slowly, we might see see them profitably used as city buses, school buses, or tour buses. (The rulebook mentions that luxury liners exist in the world of the Loop.) With increases in speed, they could even be used for cars. Picture the gull-wing DeLorean magnetrine! Story inspiration for such machines probably wouldn't focus as much on the mysteries of the technology--since that would likely have been worked out before such machines came into common use--but on its unusual implications. Such as what the Kids do when pterosaurs attack their bus while it's a hundred meters above the ground.

Buildings in the Sky


Magnetrine technology is good for supporting massive objects in the air and letting them move across it slowly. Why limit such objects to vehicles--let's get some buildings up in the air! (Sure, technically, when they can move then they BECOME vehicles, but humor me!) A secretive organization would certainly see the security value in a hovering facility—especially if that’s where they perform their suspicious experiments. Wealthy individuals might enjoy living in a floating mansion in the sky. And think how secure a flying prison might be! (The Kids might hope to attend a floating school, but that’s been done.)

Beyond


The Tales from the Loop RPG mentions a few non-cargo uses for magnetrine discs, including unmanned drones and hovering billboards. Let’s push that frontier! Perhaps the kids get to try out prototypes of a new Gauss bike—still powered by pedaling, of course. Floating television screens might follow the Kids around to convince them to buy the latest action figure or breakfast cereal. Some models of robots could be equipped with magnetrine tech, the better to slip away from their owners and cause trouble. Finally, I’ll leave you with one word: hoverboards.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Mystery Story Blender

Image: Warner Bros.

This is post number 27 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

If you ever find yourself needing an idea for a Mystery to run at a moment’s notice, I recommend stealing ideas from the movies! Even if you only consider 80s movies, there are a ton to grab inspiration from. You might do this if you don’t have an adventure ready at all, or if you’re running a Mystery Landscape and want to throw in a few new elements.

Here’s a fun way you might do it: mix up two movies, taking the “mystery” element from one (the weird part) and the “everyday” element from another (the mundane part to ground the narrative in reality).

You can try this for yourself by using the tables below. Just pick one item from each list, or if you’re feeling lucky, roll 2d6 on each table and see what you come up with.

(Also, can you guess which 80s movies these entries came from?)

Mysterious... (choose or roll 2d6)

 2. A new cybernetic peace officer goes online in the area
 3. The Kids stay at a haunted hotel
 4. Aliens are living among us and can only be seen with special sunglasses
 5. The Kids go to a summer camp that turns out to have a history of murder
 6. A member of otherworldly royalty steals someone’s younger sibling
 7. Creatures of urban legend invade the town (perhaps some friendly and some not)
 8. A classmate (or one of the Kids) reveals that they can turn into a friendly werewolf
 9. One or more of the Kids is turned into an adult
10. A lab accident creates an insect/human hybrid
11. Demons appear, searching for whoever took a strange artifact
12. A cult of children take power and decree that everyone over 18 must die

...and Everyday... (choose or roll 2d6)

 2. …while an eccentric Australian relative is trying to acclimate to Sweden [America].
 3. …while a rough-around-the-edges uncle is taking care of a Kid’s family for the week.
 4. …while the Kids are all on a vacation across the country.
 5. …before or after the Kids are stuck in detention.
 6. …and local adults pass a prohibition on dancing.
 7. …after one of the Kids has their bike stolen.
 8. …while a rich, obnoxious relative has returned to enroll in school again.
 9. …while a Kid’s divorcing parents engage in increasingly nasty tactics trying to get the other to abandon the house.
10. …while some of the Kids are due to compete at a national video game championship.
11. …while a group of young dancers find their community center in danger of being torn down.
12. …and a Kid’s relative inherits a TV station and needs help coming up with show ideas.

(I’ll list the movies that inspired these lists later, after readers have had time to guess.)