Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop – Part Two

October 3, 2018 by lancorz

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Welcome back to Tales from the Loop, Roleplaying in the 80s. In this article we're going to discuss a variety of resources that can be used to create your adventures and make them more interesting. Got your walkman ready? Let's do this...

Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop - Part Two

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Set in the 80s, the game is rich with media to digest and implement into your games. VHS tapes were produced and home movies were becoming a weekly tradition. John Hughes was realising teenage dreams, while Speilberg was transforming reality.

Pop music had their Royal trio singing about love and good times, plus Super Mario Bros. had just been released on the SNES. What a time to be alive, says the guy born in '89.

Let's start off with the obvious...


Music is a very easy choice for the time period as there is so much to choose from. However, let's remember that we're playing an RPG and we need to have background ambience rather than screaming ballads.

Here are some of my favourite soundtracks to use when playing Tales from the Loop:

Most of the above are very suited towards generic adventures and playing the game as a whole. If you need something specific, there's a plethora of synth music that has been dominating YouTube and music websites since 2015.

Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop - Part Two

Perhaps you have a favourite album to play?

Creating Non-Player Characters

Making NPCs can be as easy as rolling charts, but it's also good to implement your own experience of people you've loved, hated & known in your own life. Also, think about how they relate to your players. Here are a few characters I've made for my sessions:

  • Professor Falador - A white, frizzy-haired scientist with an unusual fondness for sherbet lemons and a lingering fear of heights.
  • Connor Douglas - Bully type character with a lean, stalky frame who shows up at unexpected times, smells of cheap cigarettes and an overdose of aftershave. Comes from a wealthy family, so money is no issue, which also leads to lacking a loving relationship with his family.
  • Dolores - A widowed 68-year-old canteen lady who is keen-eyed for troubled youngsters. Usually has a favourite in the group and will offer them food for a discount. A great resource for local gossip.
  • Harry Johnston - A frail, 78-year-old veteran who visits the graveyard each day to tend to his deceased wife's grave. Very routine focused. The kids may find him scary.
  • Big Joe - Owner of the Luck's Arcade, a local gaming club and known hustler of wisecracking anecdotes and supplies for your inventions. He's a big guy and can hold himself in a conflict.

What kind of characters would you come up with?

Creating Character Relationships

Having NPCs is great, but you need to find a way to bring them into your adventures often enough so your players can either rely on them or actually have a common enemy to hate.

Relationship Maps will help in this. As you play your adventures this will come naturally and collaboratively with your players. You may wish to pre-compose your Relationship Map, but letting it grow naturally is the best way to carve a community into your games.

Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop - Part Two

Here's my Character Map, it's the cleanest one I've made to date.

Try to include one extra NPC for your players to engage with on each adventure. If you throw too many at them at once it can be overbearing and confusing, not just for your players, but also for the GM too. When you have introduced your newest NPC, be sure to bring them back during the adventures so you begin to create a community.

Visual Aids

As a GM of Tales from the Loop, I prefer to use some visual aids as a form of introducing certain aspects of my games, such as characters, posters, shop inventories, or maps to the next puzzle.

Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop - Part Two

As the saying goes, "a picture can say a thousand words". I like to use my visual aids to help myself and let the players interpret what they want from what they see.

In my personal games, I find Pinterest can be a valuable resource for artwork. However, I try to keep my visuals designed with my own style and there is plenty of browser software that anyone can use to make their own visual handouts.

Roleplaying The 80s With Tales From The Loop - Part Two

Here are a few image programs that I've used in the past that work for making visual aids:

  • - A fantastic and cheap option for cropping and adding text to images. You can even use it on your browser, here.
  • BeFunky - This is a perfect beginner online tool for photo editing. You have exposure settings, sharpening tools, the works. It even has filters that, if you’re smart enough, you could get away with screenshotting it without the need to purchase the premium. But I didn’t say that!
  • Onlinephotoeditor - Pretty much exactly as it says on the URL. It’s a little old school, but there are some nice features, like adding photo frames to your pieces if you want to give yourself a quirk.
  • Pixlr - This one is almost a duplicate of Photoshop and likely on par with some of the most professional editors out there. It’s not so user-friendly as it’s a little daunting, but with some play it could be perfect for those who can’t access photoshop anymore.

Visuals are easy to make, why not include them?

How To Play In The 80s

I realise this segment may be a little ironic from a guy who grew up in the 90s, but let's move past that and do some research into what the 80s was like.

  • Technology ate batteries. Walkmen, cassette tapes & boomboxes were mad for it and there was more time spent begging or stealing batteries than enjoying the devices.
  • If something weird happens in the US, parents would blame it on the Russians.
  • Commercial toys are becoming mass-produced.
  • It's not unlikely for your dream to be a rock star.
  • Adults smoke, a lot. Even in front of kids. Pubs and clubs will be filled with a fog of smoke.
  • Heavy metal and group games such as Dungeons & Dragons were considered Satanic and frowned upon by Christian families.
  • Maps are a thing. You can't ask Siri for help.
  • Notes passed around in classes were instant text messaging, with the threat of being spotted.
  • Cyndi Lauper & David Bowie were the teenage heartthrobs.
  • Colours. The brighter the better!

I'm sure there will be more suggestions in the comments, but I think that's a good starting point.

Stay tuned for Part three where I'll start to list out some custom made adventures for you to try out in your next Tales from the Loop session.

"You may wish to pre-compose your Relationship Map, but letting it grow naturally is the best way to carve a community into your games..."

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"Maps are a thing. You can't ask Siri for help..."

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