Tales From the Loop

[Let’s Study: Tales From The Loop, Part 5] Mysteries, Landscapes and Review

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Today we’re taking a look at the Storytelling chapters of Tales From The Loop, called Mystery and Mystery Landscapes.

In keeping with the tone of most of the book, Tales From the Loop tackles Mysteries in an interesting manner, presenting a framework that will work in the context of a TV series episodic format. To help a GM formulate a session, they provide six phases of a mystery:

  1. Introducing the Kids – Each Kid gets a scene from Everyday Life to establish who they are and what the status quo is.
  2. Introducing the Mystery – The Kids stumble onto the Mystery and begin to investigate.
  3. Solving the Mystery – By pursuing the Mystery, the kids get into and hopefully overcome Trouble to get to the truth.
  4. Showdown – Upon discovering the truth, the Kids are then compelled to do something about it to put and end to the threat.
  5. Aftermath – The Mystery is solved, and the Kids return to Everyday Life, as mundanity sets in again and the status quo is preserved
  6. Change – The Kids apply changes to their character based on the adventure, and grow and evolve accordingly

Each phase is clearly explained in the Mystery chapter, and I have to admit that it does lend quite a bit of solid structure to one-shots or episodic games. However, Tales From the Loop manages to also provide options for those who want to bring the game to a broader feeling campaign with the introduction of the Mystery Landscape format.

The “Landscape” term isn’t new to me as Symbaroum also used it for “Adventure Landscapes” to denote sandbox type settings that are peppered with hooks, but rely on the actions of players to move the plot forward.

Tales From the Loop uses the same principle, and provides a sample Mystery Landscape with NPCs, plot hooks and mysteries that Kids could stumble into and explore at their own initiative.

The Landscape in particular is very thorough, and I can see entire campaigns revolving around the sample in the book. That said it’s also a great starting point for your own kind of Mystery Landscape featuring your favorite city.


The book then proceeds to go into several sample Mysteries, each of which is good for several hours of play. I’d rather not go into too much detail here as to avoid spoilers, but there’s plenty here to get a campaign up and running, and to school new GMs and players in how the feel of a Tales From the Loop campaign works.


Tales From The Loop was an RPG that came out of nowhere with a unique selling point: “Play as kids in the 80’s that never was.” Combining Everyday Life with Weirdness and Nostalgia to create a strange, heady brew, Tales From the Loop is able to convey their setting extremely well. The artwork and layout are stunning and easy to read.

The Kids as a focus of the adventures are highlighted by the elegant system. Mechanics are just enough to provide structure, but are invisible in play. Instead, character-based traits like Pride and Iconic Items help build up on the “Who” of the characters and use that as a basis for play rather than a character build.

All of this comes as a particular cost, however: Tales From the Loop is an extremely specialized game. Focused on the mood of a specific time, and for a particular genre of mystery/adventure, don’t expect to be given a lot of flexibility in terms of other kinds of games.

But that said, if you are looking for the perfect fit of 80’s mystery as kids then you won’t find anything better than Tales From the Loop.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon

[Let’s Study: Tales From The Loop, Part 4] Trouble


Welcome back!

Today we’re talking about Trouble. Trouble is the term Tales From The Loop uses to explain situations that are fraught with risk. Kids, being kids, tend to get into Trouble all the time, and most scenes tend to revolve around getting into (and out of) Trouble.


Trouble comes in all sorts of forms, but some kinds of Trouble will grand lasting Conditions if you don’t overcome them successfully.

Overcoming Trouble

To Overcome a Trouble, the game relies on dice rolls. In Tales From The Loop, players put together a pool of dice equal to their attribute and skill. For every 6 you roll, you score a success. Most of the time this is all you need to overcome Trouble.

Items, Pride and Luck

Iconic Items can be used for a dice roll when appropriate to grant 2 extra dice to roll. It’s a nice boost, and one that can be used repeatedly as long as you can justify the function of the item.

Pride on the other hand is used once per Mystery to score an automatic success.

Luck is spent after a failed roll to force a reroll of failed dice.

Buying Effects

If you roll more successes than needed, you can sometimes spend leftover successes to get benefits that improve on your success.

Pushing the roll

Normally a failed roll basically means you don’t succeed and take a Condition for it. However, you may also choose to immediately retry the task by mentally or physically pushing yourself.

Pushing has a cost however, and inflicts a Condition in order to reroll. Needless to say, Pushing happens in the most desperate of rolls.


To wrap up this short chapter, the game also provide the list of skills with a short writeup of where they can be used, what questions can be answered by their use, and what bonus effects could be gained by rolling extra successes.

Admittedly there’s not a lot more to say about the Trouble Chapter. The mechanics are striaghtforward, and refreshingly so. It’s good to see that Trouble is the mindset you’re looking for instead of “Conflict” Trouble can take many forms, most of which might not necessarily involve combat, violence or a direct confrontation.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon

[Let’s Study: Tales From The Loop, Part 3] The Kids, Character Creation


To play Tales From of The Loop, the player characters must take on the role of the kids. Character creation in Tales From The Loop is pretty straightforward, as it was in Mutant Year Zero, and Coriolis, and follows several very quick steps. These are:

Choose your Type

This isn’t a romantic decision, but rather a choice of what Archetype your Kid falls under. For the sake of this article, I’ll try to reconstruct myself from the 80’s.

For my Type, I choose Computer Geek. In doing so, I get the following:

Key Skills: Calculate, Program, Comprehend

In addition, I also make picks for a whole bunch of character-shaping decisions. I’ll just streamline it to the selected items below:

Iconic Item: Computer (Commodore 64)
Problem: The Tough Guys hit me.
Drive: Peer pressure makes me do it.
Pride: When the shit hits the fan, I don’t back down.
Anchor: Science Teacher

In addition to these, there are also choices made to define relationships to the other Kids and to NPCs. Since I’m making this character in a vacuum, I’ll skip those for now.

Choose Age

Choose an age between 10 to 15. Age affects attribute scores and the amount of Luck Points you have. Higher age means you get more attribute scores, but lower Luck, and lower age means you’re more Lucky.

I’ll go with a 12 year old me.

Define Attributes

Kids are defined with four attributes: Body, Tech, Heart and Mind. You get to distribute a number of attribute points equal to your Age to these stats. Starting scores cannot be higher than 5 in any attribute, and each attribute has to have at least a score of 1.

I’ll go for Body 2, Tech 3, Heart 3, Mind 4

Luck Points

Kids start with 15 Luck Points minus their age. This brings my Luck down to just 3 points. Luck Points are spent to re-roll dice.


Each Attribute has three skills associated with it. The level of a skill ranges from 0 to 5, and corresponds to how many dice you roll when you try to overcome Trouble in addition to the dice from your attribute. We get to spend 10 points among skills. For character creation, you may take up to 3 levels in the three key skills of your Type. For everything else, the maximum is 1.

Given my Type as Computer Geek, that means that my skills look something like:

Sneak 1 (BODY)
Move 1 (BODY)
Program 2 (TECH)
Calculate 2 (TECH)
Charm 1 (HEART)
Investigate 1 (MIND)
Comprehend 2 (MIND)


Problems are essentially built-in plot hooks to signal the GM that there are stories around that particular concern that the player would like to play through.


Drives are the reasons why these Kids go out to solve Mysteries.


Prides are means to further help the player get into the shoes of the Kid they’re playing. In-game they can be used as a carrot or a stick to get the player into a mystery or into doing something that feels reckless!


These define how the Kid gets along with other people in his life.


Anchors are special people that help the Kid get over any Conditions that they may have suffered from their misadventures.

Conditions range from Upset to Scared, Exhausted, Injured to Broken. Failure, frustration, fear and other emotional or physical trauma can result in Conditions, resulting in penalties to your rolls or your Kids inability to participate further in the Mysteries.

By spending time with their Anchors, the Kid can bounce back from their conditions.

Favorite Song

This is more for flavor than anything else, but we also get to pick a favorite song from the 80’s. For this Kid, let’s go with “The Reflex” by Duran Duran.


In a neat bit, the group is encouraged to put together their Hideout. This is a sacred space where only the Kids are aware of it. This is where they can decompress, recover from their Conditions and build bonds. Trouble doesn’t normally find them there.

I really should have been more prepared to be this impressed with character creation, given that Mutant Year: Zero blew me away when I first reviewed it too, but here we are!

Tales From The Loop’s character creation is incredibly easy from a mechanics standpoint, but serves as an excellent gateway to learning to get into character. By focusing your efforts on choosing aspects of a character’s personality, motivation and weaknesses, you take the decision making away from questions of “What will make an optimal point spreads?” to “Who do I want to play?” And that deserves a round of applause.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon

[Let’s Study: Tales from the Loop, Part 2] The 80’s That Never Was


If there’s one thing that Tales From The Loop had to get just right, it would have to be the “Sense of Place” of the era that was the 80’s. While the art from Simon Stålenhag was definitely a very powerful device to communicate it, I have to give kudos to the team that worked on the setting chapter to make both of the game’s two main settings the kind of life that reflected the feel and sensibilities of the era.

A little of the real, and a little of the fantastic

Part of what makes the game work so well as a setting is that it plays with the nostalgia of the 80’s and clashes it hard with technologies that simply don’t belong there. And yet, to those that inhabit the setting, it’s perfectly normal.

It’s this take on the past, but different that makes Tales From the Loop such an interesting read. The book goes into broad strokes for both Sweden and the US, talking about cultural touchstones like the music of the era, as well as technologies that were prevalent (I admit, I smiled at the mention of the Commodore 64 home computer!)

The chapter goes into great detail as to how life was like for kids in Sweden and the US in the 80’s with a focus on just what kind of activities they’d get away with, and each section also goes into the geography and prime locations of interest there are in the city where the Loop was.

Overall, the setting chapter is a great look at two possible cities for stories of Tales From the Loop, but they also serve for a great inspiration for adding a Loop (and all the weirdness that goes with it) to your city of choice! It gets even easier if you grew up in the 80’s!

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon

[Let’s Study: Tales from the Loop, Part 1] Introduction & Principles

Hot on the heels of the recently concluded Let’s Study: Symbaroum series, I’m striking while the iron is hot by kicking off a series on one of 2017’s most talked about releases, “Tales from the Loop” by Modiphius and Fria Ligan.


Inspired by the Scifi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, Tales From the Loop channels ET and Stranger Things, where kids of an era without the internet have to deal with high strangeness in their neighborhood.

The game is powered by the same system as Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis, so I don’t expect a lot of new ground mechanically, but I’m looking forward to how the game is able to convey this particularly specific sort of mood. As a child of the 80’s this is a bit near and dear to my heart but I’ve got a lot of faith in the Fria Ligan guys.

To that effect, let’s take a look at the principles of the loop:

  1. Your home town is full of strange and fantastic things

    As a kid, your home town is huge, and at times unknowable. Being a game driven by mystery, Tales From the Loop assumes that any home town is a fertile bed for all sorts of strangeness just waiting for some nosy kids to discover them.

  2. Everyday life is dull and unforgiving

    There’s a certain ennui in the everyday life of a kid in Tales From the Loop, and it’s this very reason why Mysteries are so compelling. While homework and chores occupy your waking moments, there’s always the promise of escape to something exciting when a Mystery comes calling.

  3. Adults are out of reach and out of touch

    Adults in Tales From the Loop are powerful, but distant. They don’t really understand kids, nor do they take the kids seriously when the kids talk about Mysteries. They can be of help, but few adults will ever really be allies.

  4. The land of the Loop is dangerous, but kids do not die

    This was something I was wondering about in the game, but I’m glad they called it out. Kids get hurt, locked up, heartbroken and otherwise punished, but they’re never going to die in this game.

  5. The game is played scene by scene

    Tales From the Loop is more cinematic in the sense that it’s played scene by scene. The Game Master is in charge of setting up a scene, and the players play through the important parts of the story. They also get to skip ahead the boring parts to keep the focus on the tale being told.

  6. The world is described collaboratively

    Everyone gets a say in describing the world. The Game Master in Tales From the Loop is encouraged to get the players to add to it by describing details about NPCs, locations and other things that could be spun off into Mysteries of their own.

Given what I know about Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis, Tales From the Loop will work hard to make each of these principles ring true. Already it’s got a lot of potential, and while the next chapter discusses the 80’s that never was for Sweden and the USA, there’s plenty to pick up from and use for a game set in a different country.  We’ll tackle those when we get to the next post.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

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