Why You Should Give The Tales From The Loop RPG A Go!

February 23, 2021 by brennon

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It’s hard to work out why it’s taken me so long to get around to talking more about Tales From The Loop. Free League Publishing’s game has won multiple awards and it’s generally considered to be an excellent way to introduce people to roleplaying games. So, why so long?

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Check Out More From Tales From The Loop

A lot of it is because I absolutely adore Fantasy. I really enjoy roleplaying in Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play especially and it’s also what goes down the best with my regular group. However, after playing a video game called Control and watching a bunch of TV during lockdown which slides towards the “weird” I found myself tempted by the teenage adventures of Tales From The Loop.

Starting In The World Of The Loop

To that end, I thought I would go through my thoughts on the system from Free League and the setting which has already had me coming up with all manner of interesting ideas for my group. It all begins, at least for me, with the Starter Set.

Welcome To The Loop

The Tales From The Loop Starter Set is one that I would heartily recommend straight out of the gate. Coming in at just over £20, if comes with a set of themed dice, an in-depth rules primer and an adventure which you’ll be able to play through in one session (two if you take your time). It also comes with a fantastic map of both the Swedish location for your adventures and its American counterpart.

The setting for Tales From The Loop is either a European or American one where a large machine has been built beneath the ground called “The Loop”. As well as leading to scientific advancements it has also opened up the normal and mundane lives of people around the world and specifically near The Loop to phenomena. Perhaps you see strange visions of an alternative dimension or a simple object like a TV has taken on eerie qualities? Perhaps dinosaurs now roam the woodlands outside your home or your friend has been behaving strangely and only comes out at night?

Loop Art #1

This is the Stranger Things, Goonies-style world that your kids inhabit and it’s down to you to solve these mysteries. Adults don’t believe you and the authorities are no help so you need to get on your bikes and deal with it yourselves! All of this is detailed nicely in the Starter Set for Tales From The Loop with plenty of space given over into the rules to help get you familiar with the setting.

I should also add that the world of Tales From The Loop is illuminated by the fantastic work of Simon Stålenhag which gives you a glimpse into the 80s that never was. Classic representations of the period sit side-by-side with robots, floating vehicles and strange Sci-Fi structures that wouldn’t be out of place on alien worlds.

I think you can see why people have become so enamoured with the world that Stålenhag and by extension, Free Leagues Nils Hintze. It’s rife for roleplay. What makes it even more interesting to dive into are the core mechanics that hold up the game.

The Rules Of The Loop

Based on the Year Zero rules, Tales From The Loop adopts a set of mechanics which aren’t going to cause any headaches. It’s pretty simple. You take your Attribute, add any relevant Skill and roll your pool of dice. If you get a six then you succeeded in your task. That’s it.

Trouble

Rolling a six as part of a small dice pool might seem a little tough but there are some additional mechanics which help you get through what the game calls “Trouble”. Luck Points allow you to re-roll your dice and the younger your Kid in-game, the more luck you have.

You might also be able to use your Pride for a one-off success on a test during a session and the other Kids can also get involved and do things like assist you if it looks rough. Whilst this still might seem like you’re going to fail a lot, it should be noted that one of the core principles of Tales From The Loop is one I know as “failing forward”.

Loop Art #2

Failing a roll doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You might have been trying to pick the lock on the door to your neighbour's basement and not come out with any successes. Well, instead of just not unlocking the door perhaps you opened it but you broke your pick in the process? Maybe you unlocked the door but it was alarmed! The failure of a roll in Tales From The Loop should never stand in the way of the story progressing.

The same comes to the fore when you’re dealing with more dangerous forms of Trouble. Trouble concerns all rolls but sometimes your Kid is going to find themselves in a situation where things could very easily turn against them. When this happens and you fail a roll you take Conditions like Upset and Scared. Having a Condition means that your dice pools are reduced by minus one. This stacks up the more Conditions you have but it will always let you roll at least one dice (have no fear). It should also be noted that your Kid can NEVER die. They can become Broken, a special fourth Condition and in those circumstances, you need to escape with the help of your friends and find your Anchor, a role which is discussed in the full rules.

There is a little more to the rules in terms of extended tests and such but in essence, all of this comes together to produce a set of rules which are very easy to grasp, are focused on cinematic gameplay around the tabletop and set up interesting stakes for each Mystery.

The Mysteries Of The Loop

This leads nicely to the general narrative structure of Tales From The Loop. Gameplay in The Loop is focused around Scenes rather than one continuous running narrative where everyone gets a chance to find themselves in the spotlight and a lot of the boring stuff in roleplaying games is moved to the side to make way for the action and the dialogue between the Kids and the Game Master.

Maria Kid

This means that sessions of Tales From The Loop move at a clop and you can very easily set up “episodes” with your group, introducing them to new Mysteries which can be “monster of the week” or part of an interwoven narrative if you desire. It also makes it a very good way of playing with a group featuring members who can’t often make it. You can easily switch up the numbers from session to session because TV shows often play around with who pops up in episodes as part of an ensemble cast.

The Mystery from the Tales From The Loop Starter Set is a really good example of the kind of story you can tell and where the focus of your attention should be when running Mysteries of your own. It provides a good baseline for the tone that is set by the world of The Loop and once you switch over to the main Rulebook you’ll also find another set of Mysteries you can delve into without having to do much work in the background as a Game Master.

Tim

It might seem like I’ve rambled for a bit here but the Tales From The Loop Starter set really got me excited about a different style of roleplay where you step away from the dungeon delving and get stuck into puzzle solving and mysteries. There’s nothing to say you can’t have that in your games of D&D (I do it all the time!) but the Tales From The Loop mechanics really help build a foundation for you to go in that direction.

Is It Worth Giving Tales From The Loop A Go?

I would, as I said earlier, heartily recommend Tales From The Loop. The Starter Set is a great place to start and you could very easily just continue playing with that and nothing else for a while if you wanted to. All you’d have to do is play as the same pre-generated Kids and come up with interesting Mysteries!

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Read More On Tales From The Loop

The Core Rulebook does take things to the next level though. It does feature a lot more background for the Swedish and American setting of The Loop and obviously comes with rules for making your own Kids. You’ll also find Mysteries for you to play and a few more nuanced rules for Anchors (a person you turn to to help you feel better) and also levelling up and gaining experience (plus a few more). These rules are pretty simple at around one or two paragraphs each so they’re not going to test you more than the basic mechanics.

The Core Rulebook is also a joy to read. It’s packed with interesting ideas for you to take on board as a Game Master and it might inspire you to make different styles of Kids from group-to-group. If your experience with the Starter Set got you excited for more then it’s a pretty simple proposition to snap it up.

At its core, Tales From The Loop offers a potentially easier sell to people who haven’t done roleplaying before than something traditionally Fantasy or Sci-Fi based. The scene-by-scene structure makes it feel like a TV show, the rules and core mechanics are easy to grasp and because it’s set in our own world with that retro 80s feel it’s much easier to slip into character. Everyone remembers being a thirteen-year-old kid dealing with school, friendship groups, romance and more right?

Tales From The Loop Core Rulebook

Check Out Our Harry Potter/Tales From The Loop RPG Mod

With the events of the last year moving a lot of us online in order to enjoy traditional tabletop gaming, roleplaying games have been a bit of a lifesaver. Because Tales From The Loop requires very little in the way of props and has that short-form structure, it seems like a solid choice for people coming together in video chat to play together.

Are you a big fan of Tales From The Loop?

"The failure of a roll in Tales From The Loop should never stand in the way of the story progressing..."

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"Everyone remembers being a thirteen-year-old kid dealing with school, friendship groups, romance and more right?"

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