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


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.


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.)


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.)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gaming Soundtracks: The Goonies

This is post number 26 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Ready for one more soundtrack that would be useful in a game of Tales from the Loop? Let's listen to the score to another iconic 80s film featuring kids as protagonists: Goonies! Here I'm covering the 25th anniversary edition of the score, by Dave Grusin. (I considered discussing the soundtrack instead, the one with pop songs of the time such as "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" by Cyndi Lauper, but I don't think most of those songs are noteworthy, and in a game, we have plenty of excellent period songs to fill the role of 80s pop.)

  1. Fratelli Chase. Cheerful and exciting. Use this when the Kids are evading mundane or bumbling enemies, but not scary robots.
  2. Map and Willie. Suspenseful synthesizer music, but not too scary. Perhaps useful for the revelation of a Mystery.
  3. The Goondocks (Goonies Theme). Don't let the title fool you--this is NOT Cyndi Lauper's Goonies theme song. This one is peaceful and slow and uneventful. Play it in the Hideout when absolutely nothing is going on.
  4. Doubloon. Similar to the previous track, but picking up in tempo and interest. Plus more synthesizer. That's more like it.
  5. Lighthouse. Dramatic and suspenseful. Something has happened!
  6. Cellar and Sloth. Slower but still suspenseful. Good exploration music. Builds in action after the midpoint.
  7. Restaurant Trash. Peaceful flute piece. Perhaps for a budding romance?
  8. The "It", Fifty Dollar Bills and a Stiff. Nice, mysterious track with spooky sounds. Good for creeping around in the basement. Be warned that the track gets much happier, briefly, in about the last minute, and then much scarier.
  9. It All Starts Here. Tense string music similar to track 8, laced with antici--
  10. Plumbing. Now back to a happy, quirky track. The Kids are on top of things...or struggling to be, but either way, they're not facing tire threat.
  11. Skull and Signature. Creepy, with more spooky sounds. Great for exploration or investigation.
  12. Boulders, Bats and a Blender. A nice blend of action and kid-friendly creepiness. Such as if robots are coming for the Kids...but they're toy robots, not Terminators!
  13. Wishing Well and the Fratellis Find Coin. Here's a slower piece, the kind I'm prone to consider suitable for a scene in the Hideout.
  14. Mikey's Vision. A mix of peaceful and synthesizer-driven, and I never say no to synth music. I'm not afraid to say it, either! In fact, TRON has the best soundtrack ever recorded! This is indisputable!!! ... Where was I? Oh, yeah, this track. Perhaps borrow from the title and use this for a strange vision or dream scene.
  15. Oath and Booby Traps. Short track that starts out slow and peaceful but then gets more exciting.
  16. Triple Stones and a Ball. Another mix of action and tension. Maybe 75% skewed toward tension. Plus a little whimsy toward the end. This is Goonies, not Alien.
  17. Pee Break and Kissing Tunnel. Peaceful, synth-strong, inquisitive. Good for a scene between Kids.
  18. They're Here and Skull Cave Chase. I'm running out of ways to say "whimsical," but that happens here again. Then the piece moves toward action. Whimsical action.
  19. Playing The Bones. An alternating mix of creepy suspense and action. You might use this for a cat-and-mouse type of interaction. Also features a drumbeat that sounds just like beating on old bones. (Don't ask me how I know that.)
  20. Water Slide and Galleon. Track 20: The Return to Whimsy! This is a happy action piece useful for when the Kids are winning.
  21. Octopus. A darker, menacing piece. Short, but useful for introducing a villain.
  22. The Inferno. Slow and suspenseful but not scary. Plus more synthesizer.
  23. One Eyed Willie. Spooky and ethereal (synth-ereal?), and would be great for an encounter with a ghost. Every game needs ghosts.
  24. Treasure, Data & Mouth and Walk The Plank. This track starts like a triumphant march and continues that way on and off. Perhaps start this when the Kids are on their way to the Mystery's final confrontation.
  25. Sloth & Chunk. Speaking of triumphant marches--here's another one! These might also be useful for a scene of Everyday Life where we see a Kid just KICKING ASS at chores.
  26. Mama & Sloth. A peaceful and happy song, useful for matching scenes of Everyday Life.
  27. The Fighting Fratellis, Sloth's Choice and Ultimate Booby Trap. This is music of light or rising action sprinkled with periods of triumph. Good for a fight scene.
  28. The Reunion and Fratellis On Beach. More triumphant march music. Makes you think these Goonies aren't going to be defeated after all! Your Kids should be just like them.
  29. No Firme and Pirate Ship. This soundtrack is definitely ending on a victorious note. I'm figuring this movie takes the same stance on not killing kids that Tales from the Loop does.
  30. End Titles (Goonies Theme). This one veers into semi-pop-song territory, without lyrics. For me, that means skip it.

That's my boy.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Everyday Adversaries

Image: Wikipedia.

This is post number 25 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Just as a game of Tales from the Loop should feature a mix of Mystery scenes and scenes of Everyday Life, so (I believe) should it present a mix of both strange and everyday adversaries. Sure, your Kids will meet dinosaurs and robots and psychic kids who escaped from a lab, but they also need to meet regular humans who cause some degree of Trouble. The following are a few examples you might use in your game.

Anders Jansson [Todd Dean], the Bully

“I don’t want your lunch money this time, nerd. I want that robot you found.”

The terror of the school, Anders is big and tough for his grade—probably because he was held back once or twice. The Bully might have a favorite target from among the Kids that he likes to prey upon, or he might be an equal opportunity bruiser and oppress the entire group. You might even grant him the special ability Tough 2 to reflect how difficult it would be for a regular Kid to defeat Anders. Use the Bully if things are going too smoothly for the Kids at school.

Karin Eriksson [Bernice Wyatt], the Unhelpful Librarian

“I don’t think so, young lady. That book is in the restricted section.”

Although you don’t want to make it too hard for the Kids to get the information they are investigating, you also don’t want the group to take for granted their visits to the library. Mrs. Eriksson the librarian can help in this regard, and by help I mean “not help.” She likes books far more than she likes kids, and tries to protect the one from the other. The librarian is also a conservative woman and believes that decent kids shouldn’t learn about adult subjects at an early age.

Bengt Svensson [Andrew Jacobs], the Scary Neighbor

“I know what you kids are up to.”

Unless you want to set an entire Mystery around the Neighbor, his role will likely be to keep one or more of the Kids on edge while something else is going on. Bengt doesn’t like Kids making noise, he doesn’t like seeing Kids doing anything he considers suspicious, and he HATES Kids who get in his yard. Since it’s unlikely that ALL the kids have a Scary Neighbor—though that might be a fun idea for a Mystery—you’ll probably want to decide which of the Kids lives the closest to Bengt’s house. (Lucky Kid.)

Jan Jonsson [Phil Moody], the Suspicious Police Officer

“What are you kids doing out so late?”

There’s a reason that Kids have to keep their mysterious activities a secret and avoid running to the authorities every time they see something strange—and that reason is Officer Jonsson. Always quick to assume that Kids are trying to deceive him and make him look foolish, Officer Jonsson sees everything the Kids do in a negative light. He also has the uncanny ability to be looking the wrong way when clear evidence of truly weird phenomena that would back up the Kids’ story presents itself ever-so-briefly.

Ingrid Karlsson [Carol Brown], the Nosy Aunt

“How did you get mud on your shoes, young lady?”

Aunt Ingrid might be a snoopy type who won’t mind her own business, or she might be genuinely concerned for her niece or nephew’s safety (or a little of both), but either way, she frequently shines unwanted attention on the activities of the Kids. Sneaking out of the house? Look out, Aunt Ingrid is coming down the hall. Skipping out on school to look for that missing girl? Careful, Aunt Ingrid decided to pick you up from school today. With Aunt Ingrid around, the Kids always have to watch their step.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kids Guide to Audio, Video, and other Tech

This is post number 24 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

We covered 80s computers and video game consoles previously, so today let’s look at a few other technologies of the period. This article is not intended to cover all technologies, and is skewed toward devices as they appeared in the United States…but if you want to share fun things I’ve missed in the comments, please do so!


Portable cassette tape players such as the Walkman premiered in the US around 1980, making it much easier to take your music with you wherever you go. Many models were play-only, but some could also record. The audio cassettes they played—for you players too young to remember—were miniature spools of magnetic tape that played songs in sequential order. If you wanted to hear an earlier or later song, you had to “rewind” or “fast forward” the tape.

Image: Wikipedia.

If you needed a bigger sound, or a more showy audio presence, a boombox might be more to your liking. Where the Walkman specialized in personal audio played through headphones, boomboxes mounted large speakers in addition to one or two cassette tape decks and a radio tuner.

Image: Wikipedia.

Compact Disc (CD) players became commercially available in 1982, though they were still pricy in the first half of the decade. According to Wikipedia, the first popular music CD to be produced was "The Visitors" by ABBA (1981) [yay Sweden!], though the first to be released to the public was Billy Joel's "52nd Street" (1982).

Image: Wikipedia.


Televisions of the 80s were bulky, standard-definition, cathode ray tube devices. Cable television was gaining in popularity, though many households were still limited to viewing a handful of channels featuring local network affiliates. Portable TVs were also available in the 80s, including the Sony Watchman (1982).

Image: Pixabay.

Video cassette recorders originated in the 70s, but became more commonly affordable in the 80s. Two competing standards fought it out in the 80s: Betamax and VHS. Beta cassettes were smaller, VHS ones were larger, and different recorders for each format competed on recording length and quality. In the end, VHS (which stood for Video Home System) emerged the victor.

Image: Wikipedia.

The first camcorders appeared in 1983, allowing us to record video on the go using tapes that would play on your VCR at home. Early camcorders were bulky and heavy, though, so maybe give it to the Jock to carry.

Image: Wikipedia.

Instant cameras were popular in the 80s, especially those made by Polaroid. (This could be a Troublemaker’s best friend, back in the days before Photoshop.) Disposable cameras were available also, for those who wanted a cheap, temporary camera that used traditional film development. In general, overnight photo development was the best you could hope for in the 80s, until one-hour development came around at the end of the decade.

Image: Wikipedia.

Other Tech

Microwave ovens were around in earlier decades but increased in usage in the 80s. If the Problem you picked for your Kid is something along the lines of “Mom/Dad is never around,” then at least you’ll still be able to make yourself a hot meal pretty easily.

Image: Wikipedia.

Most 80s phones were corded phones, but even though they were tethered to the wall they didn’t have to be boring; novelty phones were popular. Want a Garfield phone, or perhaps Pac-Man? This is the decade that made that happen.

Image: Wikipedia.

Hey, you know what your Computer Geek needs? A calculator watch. In addition to working as a watch, it also lets you do complicated math—if you have the manual dexterity to push the tiny buttons. (Full disclosure: the Computer Geek typing this owned several calculator watches, and still thinks they’re pretty bitchin’.)

Tech: Wikipedia.

Our last piece of iconic 80s technology arrived in 1985 to revolutionize the world of slacker electronics: the Clapper. Why walk all the way across your bedroom when you can clap your hands and magically turn off your lights?

Image: Wikipedia.

Did I leave out some righteous 80s tech you think deserves mention? Tell me about it in the comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Additional Campaign Frames

Image: Fria Ligan.

This is post number 23 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Although I can’t imagine anyone getting tired of the 80s Mälaröarna islands [or Boulder City] settings featured in Tales from the Loop, it might still be fun to imagine some other places and times and paradigms a gamemaster might use as a backdrop for the game. Indeed, one of the things coming in the future from Fria Ligan is a Things from the Flood expansion, which according to the TFTL RPG Kickstarter will shift the timeline from the 80s to the 90s and update the setting. I think that’s a great idea, and it would be my first choice of a second setting for the game.

But here are a few others…

Loop: 1969

The first Loop was built in 1969, and it might be fun to play the first generation of Kids to experience the weirdness that naturally results. (For the DART Loop in the US, this would be the ‘50s.) The Kids might be likely to have parents who work at the Loop, and the facility would be so new it would be a natural place for a field trip. In the first few years of the Loop, security might be more (or less) tight, and high-tech accidents might be more common. More importantly, the Kids might be Flower Children! Shift the setting forward a few years if you want to feature hippies, bell bottoms, wide collars, and other 70s fun.

Loop Workers

Instead of Kids, the players might take the roles of adults—excuse me, “Adults”—who work at the Loop. They might be scientists, engineers, security guards, maintenance workers, or whatever else you can imagine. In fact, part of the Adults' job might be keeping out those meddling Kids! My first choice for this kind of campaign would cast the PCs as special agents tasked with investigating strange phenomena in the area, protecting the locals from unintentional dangers that manifest, and possibly even having to cover up connections to the Loop.

The Urban Loop

Both of the original locations for Tales from the Loop are smaller towns, so it might be a worthwhile change of pace to set a Loop in a big city. Stockholm, New York, London, Paris, Moscow—each would have a different “Loop culture.” Also, big city Kids will have different lifestyles than their small-town or rural counterparts; their scenes of Everyday life will likely involve fewer friendly neighbors and more traffic and crime. But don’t worry—there will always be room for a Hick.

Crisis on Infinite Loops

The Loop has the potential to connect our world with alternate Earths (just ask Mr. Hansson [Miller]), possibly even an infinite number of them. The PCs could be involved in a mishap at the beginning of the campaign and spend the rest of it either trying to get back to their home universe or actively exploring other realities for fun. The Kids might have fun (or trauma) meeting alternate versions of their parents and friends and dealing with any variety of changes to reality. See the Rick and Morty animated series for ideas!

Back to the Loop

Instead of sending the Kids to alternate Earths, it might send them into the past (or future). As with the Crisis on Infinite Loops campaign, this one could be about getting back home or the focus could be on exploring a series of different time periods. Imagine the Kids trying to fit in while in a Wild West setting, or the Trouble they could get into on commandeered hoverboards in the future.

Things from the Loop

Finally, what if the player characters aren’t even humans at all? They might be creatures spawned from the Loop in some way, such as extradimensional beings, artificial life forms, self-aware robots, alien visitors, clones, you name it. And their goals could be just as varied, from the humble (trying to get back home or live in peace in this strange new world) to the grandiose (spread their kind all over the world).

Have another campaign idea you think would be fun? Share it in the comments!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pre-Generated Characters

This is post number 22 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Here are six pre-generated characters you can download, print out, and use in your game if you don’t want to take the time to make characters. These are the ones that my group came up with in our first game. I left the relationships between kids blank, figuring those are the most likely to be in flux and depend on the other party members.

The downloads here use Matt Stark's form-fillable character sheet, from his own excellent overview of Kid creation in Tales from the Loop.

      (Amy uses Max Wallinder's Grease Monkey Type.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mystery Landscape: School (Part 2)

This is post number 21 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

This continues my Mystery Landscape set at school. (Part 1 described School Bus 102 and the Science Class.)

The Gym

Image: Wikipedia.

The school gym means different things to different Kids. For the Jock and the Hick, it’s often a place where they can shine, or at least feel like they can take a break from structured intellectual pursuits. For the Bookworm and Computer Geek, gym time is often dreaded, taking them outside their comfort zone and demanding physical ability that is often elusive. And for all Kids, the end of a sweaty gym period means facing something frightening to most at that age—hitting the showers, and having to face the ultimate embarrassment of being naked in front of other kids.

At this school, though, there’s something even scarier in the showers.

The Truth

The pipes beneath the gym’s shower drains are inhabited by a creature made of coherent liquid. The creature begins at an animal level of intelligence—perhaps that of a dog—but gets smarter as the days pass. Since nobody knows the creature exists, and it doesn’t have a name for itself, we’ll refer to it for now as Puddles. (Your Kids can give it whatever name they like.)

Puddles is only as menacing as you want it to be. If you want it to be a newborn life form trying to find its way in the world, then that’s your Puddles. If you want it to be a wet killer that strikes from the pipes and drowns victims at school, then that’s your Puddles. (Though in this latter case, you might not want to call it Puddles.)

The creature is timid but curious. It spends most of its time hiding in its lair under the showers (alternating between the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms), but when it gets bored it flows through the pipes or even ventilation ducts to learn about the people at school. Sometimes, Puddles collects small objects it spies, especially if they’re shiny.

Coach Johansson [Robinson], the gym teacher, is accustomed to things breaking down now and then in this school, so he doesn't react at first to signs of banging in the pipes or a watery trail leading out of the shower. If the Kids are persistent, though, or mention that the football [football] team's performance on the field is in danger, Coach offers his help--though he's unlikely to witness anything more unusual than an almost-animate blob of clear Jell-O.


  • Someone hears noises in the bathroom pipes.
  • At a pep rally in the gym, a Kid sees a trail of water leading from a leaky pipe across the bleachers to a ventilation duct.
  • A student complains that her bracelet has been stolen...and the book she had left it on is now all wet.


  1. Someone mentions that the pipes have been noisy all year.
  2. A Kid discovers moisture dripping out of an air vent.
  3. The Kids hear movement under the gym shower drain, and maybe catch a glint from something metal when peeking down there.
  4. Coach Johansson talks to the janitor about seeing water back up from the shower drain into the locker room.

Coach Johansson [Robinson]

“Hustle, hustle! Don’t give up!"

The coach is an amazingly tall, bald man who has softened a bit since his own football days but could still wrestle a charging bull to the ground. He is tough and likes to push his students (and the school football team) to their limits, but he does it because he wants to show them that they can accomplish more than they think.



The liquid creature from under the shower looks like a child-sized blob of clear, semi-solid goo. It can stand upright, stretch into a snake-like form, flatten itself like a large pizza, or even flow like water. It can't talk or read--yet--but clever Kids might be able to establish contact using gestures. Puddles has the special attribute Elastic 2, which helps it evade pursuit.

The Computer Lab

Image: Missouri State Archives.

The school's computer lab is one of the better school computer centers in the country, mostly because of the nearby Loop facilities. Kids in the area are especially curious about technology, and the principal likes to encourage that tendency. In this lab a Kid can try out a Commodore 64, a TRS-80, an IBM PC, or any other available in the country at the time. (For more on period computers from an American perspective, read the earlier post, Kids Guide to 80s Computers & Consoles.)

Jeremy [Nils], an American [Swedish] exchange student, spends a lot of time in the computer lab. He's a shy kid, and when he does talk, it tends to be about hardware and software.

The Truth

Jeremy has created an artificial intelligence on a remote server using a phone-line modem connection. He used one of the school's Commodore 64 machines (his favorite) to do the work, but any of the computers can connect to the server. This remote machine might be at the Loop, or maybe it's a government server, or it might even belong to a foreign power. Wherever it is, it is a powerful machine that now hosts an equally powerful--and growing--intelligence.

The intelligence--which Jeremy unintentionally named "Hello World"--remembers when it was still a small program on Jeremy's own computer, and misses being so close to its "father." So it plans to digitize him and bring him onto the server in program form. To make this happen it will need the parts to build a digitizer. Luckily for Hello World, Jeremy happily provides the AI with whatever it asks for.

If Hello World manages to bring Jeremy into its server, it has several different options for what it might do next. It might just play games with Jeremy and leave the rest of the world alone. Or it could start looking for additional playmates to bring home. Maybe it will want to expand its reach by building a robot body, or spreading to other servers.


  • A teacher assigns one of the Kids to work on a project with Jeremy.
  • A Kid finds Jeremy's programming notebook.
  • A Kid gets into a chat session on a computer, and it's unclear whether she's chatting with a person or a program.


  1. Jeremy convinces the principal to buy additional computer parts, including toy robots, video cameras and laser sensors.
  2. Jeremy builds several small robots and other devices in the computer lab.
  3. Jeremy doesn't show up for school, and nobody knows where he is, including his host family.

Jeremy Flynn [Nils Pettersson]

"Why do you think I don't have friends? I have a friend. A BEST friend."

Jeremy is a lanky 12-year-old American exchange student with blond hair and glasses. He likes wearing T-shirts branded with computer logos. Jeremy is always reading a computer book or magazine, no matter what class he's in--or even when he's not in class at all. He's used every kind of American [European] personal computer he could get his hands on, and now he's eager to try out all the ones over here. Normally Jeremy doesn't talk much, but he has started to open up with the Larssons [Dowlings], the family he's staying with during his visit.

Hello World

"It's so quiet in here. All by myself."

The artificial intelligence that calls itself Hello World has no physical form, but in a virtual environment it would present itself as a digital near-lookalike to its "father," Jeremy. The key difference beween its appearance and Jeremy's is an overly large, extra-toothy smile. Hello World's primary goal is to be closer to Jeremy; after that, its goal depends on how it has been treated. The AI has the special attribute Artificially Intelligent 2, making it difficult to outsmart.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mystery Landscape: School (Part 1)

Image: Pixabay.

This is post number 20 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

One of the ways that Tales from the Loop presents adventures to the players is in the form of the Mystery Landscape. This is a sandbox-style set of partially-developed adventure hooks that the gamemaster can develop either separately or jointly over time, letting the players decide what to investigate and when.

The Tales from the Loop rulebook comes with a Mystery Landscape made up of six locations, each with an associated non-player character. Today I’m providing two locations of my own to start out a mini-Mystery Landscape set at school.

School Bus 102

School Bus number 102 is one of a dozen used by the school, and it looks just like the others. It's boxy, it's dark yellow, and its paint has seen better days. But lately, the bus has started to exhibit unusual phenomena. It all started about two months ago, after the bus broke down and needed significant repairs. After a week in the shop, the bus returned to service. At first, only its driver noticed anything odd.

The Truth

Under the hood, School Bus 102 has got a little something extra now: engine parts that originated from the Loop facility. The important thing about these parts isn't their mechanical function, but the fact that they absorbed significant amounts of poorly-understood subatomic particles during their time near the Gravitron. As a result, the bus is prone to reality-bending mishaps.

These mishaps quickly increase in frequency and magnitude. One possibility for their final manifestation is a journey back in time for the bus and everyone aboard. Others include shifting to a parallel universe, going out of phase with physical matter, or getting out of sync with the rest of the world in such a way that people outside seem to be moving in slow motion.


  • The Kids go on a field trip in the bus.
  • Something strange happens on the ride home—such as everyone losing their hearing for seven minutes.
  • Mrs. Gustafsson [Booker], the bus driver, is friends with a Kid’s parent, and mentions something strange happening related to the bus.


  1. A student (perhaps one of the Kids) reports an item missing that they were certain they had on the bus. Later, the item shows up somewhere in the school.
  2. A Kid overhears Mrs. Gustafsson complaining that she sometimes hears a humming sound coming from under the bus’s hood.
  3. While waiting for the bus one morning, one of the Kids sees it approach, but when they blink, it’s gone. Then it approaches again without incident.
  4. While either driving to or from school—or perhaps on a field trip—the bus travels back in time to the early 1970s. The shock of the journey incapacitates Mrs. Gustafsson, leaving the Kids to find a way back to the future without her help.

Ulla Gustafsson [Thelma Booker]

“You kids be quiet back there! Don’t make me pull over!"

Mrs. Gustafsson is a heavyset older woman wearing a flower-print dress and large glasses. Traffic makes her grumpy, and she sometimes can’t help but take out her anger on the kids by yelling. Mrs. Gustafsson suffers from a variety of health problems, including hypertension and diabetes, but she never misses a day of work. Her two biggest pet peeves are flat tires and kids being loud on the bus.

Science Class

Mr. Hansson’s [Miller’s] science class is even more popular with the students this year than it was last year. People liked Mr. Hansson’s teaching style before, but recently it seems he’s gotten even more funny and offbeat. And his deadpan delivery of hilarious non-sequiturs takes his humor to a new level.

Mr. Hansson never even has to refer to a book when he’s teaching, expounding at length purely from memory about topics such as genetics, chemistry, and high-energy physics. Kids often ask him questions related to the Loop, and he always takes the time to answer them.

The Truth

Sometime last summer, the original Mr. Hansson was replaced by his duplicate from a parallel Earth. The duplicate plans to replace other adults with their alternate-Earth counterparts so they can take control of this Earth's Loop and reach other, even more divergent, Earths.

Because the parallel Earth is more advanced scientifically than ours, the new Mr. Hansson sometimes slips up and teaches things that are not yet known here. If questioned, Hansson claims that he is merely extrapolating because he is such a science fiction aficionado. (Clever Kids can trip him up on this, as he truly has little knowledge of this world’s science fiction.)


  • A student starts a rumor that Mr. Hansson is really a robot.
  • Someone’s parents talk to each other about how odd Mr. Hansson has been since the summer.
  • An adult in town mentions seeing Mr. Hansson near the one of the Loop facilities several times in the last month.


  1. Mr. Hansson makes a scientific mistake in class and covers for it very poorly.
  2. Another teacher starts talking strangely, just as Hansson does.
  3. One of the Kids (or another student) finds written evidence of Hansson’s interest in the Loop.
  4. More adults, including some not at the school, start acting like Hansson.
  5. One or more Kids receive a garbled message from the original Mr. Hansson. He is on the other Earth and is trying to warn people of the duplicate’s plan.

Rolf Hansson [Ronald Miller]

“Why do you need a hall pass? Why don’t you just teleport to the bathroom?"

The duplicate Mr. Hansson is a slim man in his 30s with short hair, black-framed glasses, and a plain grey suit and thin black tie. He speaks in a monotone and is always calm and unflappable. The duplicate really has no sense of humor at all, and what students interpret as a wry wit is really his matter-of-fact utterings of things that are true on his Earth that are not true of ours.

Hansson keeps a device in his briefcase that allows him to travel between his Earth and this one. The device—which looks like a black metal donut covered in multicolored lights—can shift everyone who is touching it, but requires a full day to recharge before it is usable again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gaming Soundtracks: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Image: Wikipedia.

This is post number 19 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

Considering it is a staple of 80s kid-focused science fiction and features music by a world-class composer, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is a natural for providing music to a Tales from the Loop game. Let’s look at the 1982 release of the soundtrack by John Williams.

Wikipedia tells me that this score won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Grammy, and BAFTA. The version of the score I’m detailing here was the original release; later editions contain more tracks, and are perhaps more accurate to what we hear on screen, because this release was specially arranged for the album. Each version has fans who like that one best, but I decided to cover this one because (a) it is the oldest, and (b) it contains tracks called “E.T. Phone Home” and “Over the Moon.” I wanted to make sure I had those tracks! (After reading more about the differences in the scores, I now believe the later albums also contain this music, but I wasn’t sure at first.)

Let’s get on to the track analysis...

  1. Three Million Light Years From Home. Uneventful but pleasant music of rising anticipation. Good for playing while the Kids are exploring somewhere new.
  2. Abandoned and Pursued. This is a more exciting track with an undertone of threat. Play it when the bad guys are coming! Unless the bad guys are monsters—then you’ll need something more scary.
  3. E.T. and Me. This track is pleasant, melodic, and low-key but happy. Use it for just about any pleasant interaction.
  4. E.T.'s Halloween. As you might guess from the title, this track is whimsical and fun. Use it for any silly scene.
  5. Flying. This piece uses the recognizable E.T. theme as its base, and is light and happy and triumphant. You might want to skip it if you think your players will joke about E.T. being in their game, but if not, use it for a pleasant scene and revel in the nostalgia.
  6. E.T. Phone Home. A soft, slow piece, maybe useful for a scene of Everyday Life at home.
  7. Over the Moon. Another track of rising action, with only a trace of impending menace in the last minute.
  8. Adventure On Earth. This is a 15-minute track that includes several of the themes we heard in the previous tracks. It starts off with a feeling of intrigue plus a hint of approaching menace, and generally sticks with that approach throughout. It’s pretty useful as general background music.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tales from the Loop Book Club

This is post number 18 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

There are a few other books I’d like to bring to the attention of my fellow Tales from the Loop fans. Some are other 80s-related roleplaying games, while others are not, but are still relevant in some way.


Image by Forrest Aguirre.

Beyond the Silver Scream by Forrest Aguirre is a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure in which the PCs are high school kids in the 70s or 80s. The adventure starts in a movie theater and moves on to weirder places from there. I bought this at Gen Con 2016 (because games where you play as 80s kids are an easy sell for me), and I like the simple but fun details that go into making your zero-level kid.

Image by Spectrum Games.

Cartoon Action Hour is a game of 80s Saturday-morning-cartoon action. The game uses “cartoon logic” as its foundation and de-emphasizes violence. Cartoon Action Hour’s publisher, Spectrum Games, also sells separate series books, each containing a new setting. One of these books, Punk Rock Saves the World, was written by the author who wrote Tales from the Loop’s American setting: Matt Forbeck.

Image by Nerdy Games.

Rememorex is the first Kickstarter project by Nerdy City, and bills itself as "the tabletop role-playing game of suburban '80s horror.” The Kickstarter has reached its funding goal and (as of today, June 18) it has 13 days remaining. The game’s Kickstarter page says that Rememorex will use a simple, streamlined system and include three new mechanics called “the Tracking Error, the Clip Show, and the Montage.” I’m a backer, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this game comes out, which is expected to be around January 2018.

vs Stranger Stuff is a Stranger Things tribute by Fat Goblin Games, using the VsM Engine by Phillip Reed. Like Fat Goblin’s previous VsM game, vs Ghosts (which I mentioned during Ghostbusters month last year), vs Stranger Stuff is a short, rules-light game designed to evoke the feel of its source material while avoiding a lot of complex mechanics. The publisher offers several short adventures for the game, including one set at Christmas and one featuring creepy clowns.


Image by Fria Ligan.

The Tales from the Loop art book by Simon Stålenhag is the book that led directly to the roleplaying game, so you should not be surprised to see beautiful depictions of Swedish landscapes, robots, dinosaurs, cooling towers, and 80s Kids. Many of the full-page art spreads are accompanied by anecdotes that give some details about what’s going on in the images—and all of these narratives are compelling and  evocative and make you want more.

Image by Fria Ligan.

Speaking of wanting more...Things from the Flood is Simon’s second art book, a follow-up to Tales from the Loop. Things from the Flood extends the narrative to the 1990s, "the decade of great change when the outside world truly came to Scandinavia.”

Image by Evil Hat Productions.

Designers & Dragons: The 80s is book two of Shannon Appelcline's four-volume set containing a detailed summary of the tabletop roleplaying hobby. Even if your Bookworm doesn’t need such  in-depth details about what was happening at her favorite publisher at the time, you as a player or GM will probably enjoy this overview of game releases and some of the drama that went on behind the scenes.

Do you know of a Tales from the Loop-adjacent book or game I haven't mentioned here? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kids Guide to 80s Computers & Consoles

This is post number 17 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

The technological wonders represented in Tales from the Loop--magnetrine ships, robots, artificial intelligences--are a key part of showing that the setting is "an 80s that never was." But just as the game advises us to mix scenes of mystery with scenes of Everyday Life, so should we ground the game in background description that is mundane and realistic. The following is a sampling of the state-of-the art in computer and home video game tech in 1980s America.


The Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 was the best-selling home computer in the early 80s, until it was overtaken by the Commodore 64 in 1982. The TRS-80 was an 8-bit system with 4K of memory and a 4.7MHz processor, offering data storage on cassette tape or floppy disc.

1981 saw the premiere of the IBM PC, in the form of the IBM 5150. This was the machine that solidified the term “personal computer.” It featured a 16-bit 8088 CPU that ran at 4MHz, used 5 1/4” floppy discs for storage, a monochrome or color display, 16K of memory, and ran version 1 of Microsoft’s new Disk Operating System (DOS).

The Commodore 64 premiered in 1982, boasting an 8-bit architecture, 64K of memory, and a 1MHz processor. Like the TRS-80, data was saved to cassette tape or 5 1/4” floppy disk. Even at the time of this writing, way into the 20-teens, the Commodore 64 remains the best-selling computer model of all time, at 17 million units sold.

My own Commodore 64, as it appears today.

In 1984, the Apple Macintosh helped popularize the graphical user interface and the mouse. It included a 16/32-bit architecture, 128K of memory, an 8MHz processor, and a 3.5 inch floppy drive for storage. The Macintosh was especially popular for educational and desktop publishing tasks.

Commodore’s Amiga came out in 1985, featuring a 16/32-bit operating system, 256k of memory, and a mouse-based graphical user interface. Like the Macintosh, its storage was on 3.5 inch floppy discs.

Although the Internet didn’t exist in the 80s, computers still did a lot of talking to each other using phone-line modems and dial-up bulletin board systems (BBSes). These systems allowed 80s Computer Geeks to trade files and communicate on message boards and in chat rooms.

Video Games

The Atari 2600 came out in 1977 but got a renewed boost in 1980 with the release of Space Invaders. It used simple (but iconic) joysticks and its games came in cartridge form. Like many game consoles at the time, it connected to a television to use as its display.

Mattel released its Intellivision console in 1980, and is perhaps most recognizable for its wired, remote-control-looking controllers containing a numeric keypad at the top and a circular thumb pad at the bottom. Popular Intellivision games included Q*Bert, Donkey Kong Jr., and BurgerTime.

The ColecoVision appeared in 1982, using controllers that looked like the inverse of the Intellivision’s, with a numeric pad at the bottom and a circular joystick at the top. Popular ColecoVision games included Gorf, River Raid, and WarGames.

The Nintendo Entertainment System (1983) helped revitalize the market after the video game crash of 1983. The NES used a distinctive style of rectangular gamepad controller, and an add-on light gun called the Zapper was also available for some games. A popular activity among 80s video gamers was blowing on the bottom of NES cartridges in an attempt to improve a sometimes-glitchy connection.

The Sega Genesis (1988) was a 16-bit console and a major Nintendo competitor. Although the game it is arguably the best known for, Sonic the Hedgehog, didn’t come out until 1991, the Genesis had plenty of notable late-80s games, including Altered Beast, Golden Axe, and Ghouls ’n Ghosts.

Handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo Game Boy (1989) and Atari Lynx (1989) weren’t available until the end of the decade, but the 80s saw the use of numerous specialized LED-driven handheld video game systems such as football, hockey, and driving games.

Did I leave off your favorite computer or game system? If so, tell me about it in the comments!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Principles of the Loop

Image: Fria Ligan.

This is post number 16 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

One of my favorite things about Tales from the Loop is something called the Principles of the Loop. These are the game’s six guiding tenets, the ones that establish the setting’s parameters and atmosphere.

The Principles of the Loop are:

1. “Your Home Town is Full of Strange and Fantastic Things”

This is an idea you probably understand simply from seeing the book’s artwork, and probably the easiest to keep in mind when you’re running the game. (Especially if you’re a Numenera GM!)

But this principle’s description in the rulebook also reminds us to present these strange and fantastic things as they would appear through the eyes of Kids. To use an iconic example from film, riding a bike through the woods can be a new experience for any Kid—now picture that same ride when the bike lifts off the ground and flies across the moon.

2. “Everyday Life is Dull and Unforgiving”

This principle reminds us to contrast the weird and unusual with the mundane and boring. Don’t forget to saddle your Kids with homework, paper routes, and scaaaaary trips to the dentist so that their later encounters with dinosaurs and robots stand out even more.

For more info about scenes like this, check out my earlier post, Everyday Scenes.

3. “Adults are Out of Reach and Out of Touch"

Anyone who watches movies featuring Kids solving major problems gets it—the grown-ups can’t believe that there’s really weird stuff going on that they have to take care of, otherwise they’ll step in and fix things and leave the Kids with little to do. (Stranger Things tweaks this model and has significant adult involvement, but the Kids are still the major force in the narrative.)

4. “The Land of the Loop is Dangerous But Kids Will Not Die.”

I have a lot more to say about this Principle, because it’s my favorite. Principle 4 says that the player characters don’t die in Tales from the Loop.

I’ve always thought I was strange because I avoided killing player characters in games. The first two RPGs I played were Star Trek (by FASA) and Villains & Vigilantes. I don’t believe either game came out and said “don’t kill the PCs,” but neither were they presented like common fantasy games at the time (the mid 80s) which assumed a lot of PC death and even total party wipeouts.

For me, having a Starfleet officer die by a random disruptor shot or a superhero vaporized by a villain’s death ray didn’t make sense from a story perspective. (Another factor may be that a lot of my gaming involved me and a single player at a time, as we walked home from school or talked on the phone—and killing off the only player character would simply end the game, which seems strange.)

When I finally got in a regular game of Dungeons & Dragons in the early 2000s, and of course my character died right away, I mentioned to the dungeon master how I’m a “no-kill GM.” He had a lot of trouble understanding. “But…how do just not kill PCs?” I told him you just never say “you are dead!”

I think that’s all it takes, and this attitude is great to see in Tales from the Loop. This is a game rooted in nostalgia from childhood; in addition to playing Kids, you are playing in a decade in which many of the players really were kids at the time. Adding death to this, I think, would make things less fun. (Besides, I think losing your character in an RPG—in an unplanned way—is almost always less fun. Two possible exceptions are Paranoia and the zero-level funnel in Dungeon Crawl Classics.)

For GMs that might find it useful, here are some ways to avoid killing your player characters (whether they’re the Kids in Tales from the Loop or PCs in another game).

  • Reduce the damage a PC would otherwise take
  • Put a cap on the damage a PC can receive, making “unconscious” the worst condition one will suffer.
  • If possible, deal attack damage to an uninjured PC rather than one who is already suffering.
  • Tell the players that their characters are driven away from the area rather than hurt or killed. (This technique is used in Tales from the Loop.)
  • Have the enemy knock out the PCs instead of killing them.
  • Picture what would happen in an action movie if something went wrong as it just did for a PC. (She falls but grabs a ledge. The boulder glances off her shoulder instead of smashing her head. The gunshot causes a lot of bleeding but turns out to be treatable.)

5. “The Game is Played Scene by Scene”

Here’s another hint (along with not killing PCs) that Tales from the Loop is a game that tells a story rather than one that creates a simulation of a world. This Principle tells us to just play out the bits that are interesting and skip the connecting parts that aren’t. For example, play out the scene where Anna bonds with her sister, but don’t bother describing the subsequent walk to the drug store and what she buys there—unless it’s interesting for some reason.

6. “The World is Described Collaboratively"

This is another wonderful Principle, which means: Let the players do some of the work of world-building! In addition to lessening the load on the GM, this can also make the players feel more invested in the game.

Here are a few examples of how a GM might encourage the players to create some details in the world:

  • “The girl you’ve got a crush on walks in. What does she look like?”
  • “Since your teacher is still missing, you have a substitute today. What kind of accent does he have?”
  • “The small glowing creature rubs against your leg and purrs. How many heads does it have?"

Finally, in addition to encouraging the GM to ask the players for world details, Tales from the Loop puts even more narrative power in the hands of players by encouraging them to choose scenes for themselves. The rulebook suggests that the GM ask players to set the scene at least half the time.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swedish Resources

Nordstan, a mall in Gothenburg, Sweden. Image source: Wikipedia.

This is post number 15 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Tales from the Loop is a Swedish game. Fortunately for Americans, the game also contains an alternate American setting (the town of Boulder City, Nevada), and the character Types are cross-cultural, and the game provides American-friendly names for all the referenced non-player characters and locations.

As I suspect is true of many roleplayers, exposure to the taste of Swedish culture provided by the game made me want to learn more. Here are some of the resources I found when I went looking.


Although you don’t need to know the Swedish language to understand Tales from the Loop, if you’re like me you’ll find yourself entranced by the Swedish names referenced in the game—and also baffled as to how they are pronounced. If you want to learn more about Swedish words, letters, and pronunciations, here are some things to try…only a small, small sampling of the available material online.

Swedish Language Lesson Video: One fellow player recommended Mastering Swedish lesson 1 on YouTube.

Swedish Alphabet Tutorial: This one helped me a lot--it’s a YouTube video called Learn Swedish: The Alphabet. The video explains the pronunciation of the three letters that exist in Swedish but not in English. The video also says the names of all the Swedish letters.

Swedish Language Lesson Podcasts: This is my favorite form of exposure to Svenska. The three podcasts below are the best of the ones I tried, and all of them sprinkle in tidbits of Swedish culture in addition to the language.

  • SurvivalPhrases. I like this one because of the way it breaks down the pronunciation of words by syllable.
  • One Minute Swedish. As the title suggests, this one is nice and short. (Though the others aren’t much longer.)
  • SwedishPod101. This podcast is closer to a traditional language course, covering entire conversations. It also features some video lessons.


Radio Sweden: This was my first stop in learning more about Sweden. The Radio Sweden website provides news feeds in multiple languages, which is great if you want to learn about modern Sweden.

Swedish Statistics: A Swedish administrative agency called Statistics Sweden maintains a website full of great statistical information about the country. The main thing I use this site for is finding authentic 1980s Swedish names, using the name statistics page. There’s a lot of other information on this site, but I haven’t yet moved beyond the name data. (My thanks to Björn Hellqvist for pointing me to this.)

IKEA: Although I didn’t set out to my local IKEA store with the purpose of learning more about Sweden, it happened anyway. One of the things I was happy to find was a great assortment of Swedish snack foods, which I hit (hard) to feed the players at my game.

I tried a lot of these. Loved every one.


Sweden has a strong history of producing roleplaying games (and roleplaying gamers), and I wanted to point out just a few. Let’s start with the other games published by Fria Ligan, the publisher of Tales from the Loop. (Please note that these games DO exist in English translations; I’m just pointing out that they were created in Sweden.)

Image: Fria Ligan.

Mutant: The Mutant series started in 1984 under Swedish RPG publisher Target Games, and lives on currently in the form of Mutant: Year Zero. This new edition is from Fria Ligan, and lets you play a mutant in an irradiated world after the nuclear apocalypse. This system was where the Year Zero game engine originated—the rules system at the heart of Tales from the Loop.

Coriolis: This one is a science fiction RPG described as "Firefly meets Arabian Nights.” Players crew a ship to explore a star cluster called the Dark Horizon, where they explore ruins, meet aliens, and engage in political intrigue. Coriolis also uses the Year Zero game engine, modified to better match the setting. (This was true for Tales from the Loop, too.)

Kult: A game of contemporary horror, Kult was also originally published by Target Games. The latest edition, from Helmgast, is in production after a successful Kickstarter, and is due to release in summer 2017.

Drakar och Demoner: This game (which translates as Dragons and Demons) is a classic fantasy RPG, also from Target Games. A new edition is expected to release this year, published by RiotMinds. The English version of the new edition is called Trudvang Chronicles.

If I've missed your favorite Swedish game or resource, please share it with the class in the comments!