In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology, "the Loop".
Acclaimed sci-fi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, have spread like wildfire on the Internet. Stålenhag’s portrayal of a childhood against a backdrop of old Volvo cars and coveralls, combined with strange and mystical machines, creates a unique atmosphere that is both instantly recognizable and utterly alien. Now, for the first time, you will get the chance to step into the amazing world of the Loop.
In this game, you play teenagers in the late Eighties, solving Mysteries connected to the Loop. Choose between character Types such as the Bookworm, the Troublemaker, the Popular Kid, and the Weirdo. Everyday Life is full of nagging parents, never-ending homework and classmates bullying and being bullied. The Mysteries let the characters encounter the strange machines and weird creatures that have come to haunt the countryside after the Loop was built. The kids get to escape their everyday problems and be part of something meaningful and magical – but also dangerous.
So reads the publisher description of Tales From The Loop, a Tabletop RPG based on the ominously-nostalgic illustrations of Simon Stålenhag, inspired by Eighties films such as The Goonies and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as well as Stranger Things and Eerie, Indiana. The game focuses on sci-fi mysteries being investigated by groups of children in an alternate 80s town overshadowed by a research facility with a gigantic particle accelerator (in Sweden by default, though the book does give a US alternative along with instructions for setting it anywhere).
The game was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, which got full funding and was able to simultaneously release both English and Swedish translations.
On April 3, 2020 Amazon released a "Tales from the Loop" TV series, though it is said to be based more on Stålenhag’s's book/artwork than anything having to do with RPG. A trailer was released in March 2020. The page for that can be found here.
This Tabletop RPG provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: A trope enforced by the rules. Connections are a subversion — they may be useless to fight the Monster of the Week, but they are an important part of the recovering of a player character's health and will to carry on the fight.
- Aliens in Cardiff: The sample City of Adventure locations on the core rulebook are suburban Sweden and Boulder City, Nevada.
- Arc Villain: Lena Thelin/Diane Peterson, a egomaniac scientist fired from the Loop serves as this for the "Seasons of Mad Science" campaign until the last part, "I, Wagner'' in which the titular robot kills her and seizes control of her plans for godhood.
- Children Are Innocent: The reason why the rules enforce being child characters and not adults: the innocence of a child is supposed to see all of the weirdness with a sense of wonder (rather than going murderhobo or dissect everything to see how it works, which is what adults would do). As well, children are also Vulnerable — having fewer methods to run away or fight.
- Company Town: In this case, the company is a super-high-tech research facility, but both Svartsjölandet and Boulder are dominated socially and economically by their respective Loops. The Darker and Edgier expansion/sequel also explores what happens in company towns when the company folds.
- Competence Zone: Characters are kids aged between ten to fifteen years old. If they age to 16, they are to be turned into Non-Player Characters. The expansion Things From The Flood provides rules for playing characters in their late teens.
- Covert Group with Mundane Front: Riksenergi is, in theory, a state-run power company that exists to maintain the power supply to the Svartsjölandet loop. In practice, Riksenergi is the controlling authority behind the Swedish loop, and the cutting edge STEM think-tank that operates it.
- Darker and Edgier: While things in Tales are weird, and sometimes scary, they're meant to be portrayed with a sense of wonder and adventure. However the expansion/second rulebook Things From The Flood makes things more scary and cynical as the characters age up, with the option of using now-older characters and the risk of them being Killed Off for Real and an overall "things within The Loop are going From Bad to Worse" feeling.
- Fearless Fool: The Equivalent Exchange for younger heroes is having less stats and skills but having more Luck Points to carry them through an adventure.
- Growing Up Sucks: One of the possible interpretations of the aging mechanics (trading off Luck Points for additional Skill Points, plus characters older than 15 cannot be played), plus the increased difficulty of the Things From The Flood RPG (which can be used as an expansion of Tales From The Loop), which allows players to take their characters past that cut-off point of 15 at the trade-off of maybe getting them killed.
- Improbable Infant Survival: Not infants, but the child protagonists are literally unkillable. They can be hurt, scared, and get too messed up to keep going until someone helps them, but permanent harm just isn't part of the equation. Averted by the time the protagonists come of age in Things from the Flood.
- Kid Hero: The PlayerCharacters.
- Killed Off for Real: Becomes a real possibility for player characters in Things from the Flood.
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Player Characters start their game (and each adventure) with a set amount of Luck Points that provides them with the ability to re-roll dice, among other effects. Interestingly, the older the characters become, the lower their Luck Point cap is — but they get higher stats in exchange.
- Magical Particle Accelerator: All this weirdness because of the Loop, the world’s largest particle accelerator.
- Minovsky Particle: The Magnetrine Effect, discovered by the Soviets in the 1950s which revolutionized the transportation industry. Essentially, it boils down to vehicles acting against the Earth's own magnetic field, allowing for a form of levitation.
- Mundane Fantastic: Overall, the roleplaying focus is in how wonderful being a kid is... set against the backdrop of a countryside that has become increasingly (and even life-threateningly) weird. The game even points this out, stating that seeing a huge anti-gravity freighter ferrying ore from northern Sweden to Germany flying overhead might be an awe-inspiring sight to a kid, it is ultimately as much a part of their reality as smartphones and jets are of ours.
- Mundanger: Enforced by the rules. A Player Character can just as easily reach the Despair Event Horizon from (a) being attacked by the robo-saurus from the ninth circle of Hell, or (b) being bullied one time too many at school.
- Never Say "Die": Enforced by the rules. Characters cannot be killed — they just hit the Despair Event Horizon once they reach the end of their "health" track and need time to put themselves back together. Averted in Things From The Flood, wherein Player Characters can be Killed Off for Real.
- Older and Wiser: Things from the Flood characters can be this trope applied to characters in Tales from the Loop sessions.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The player group, by design, will end up looking like a combat-ready pre-teen or early-teens version of The Breakfast Club—composed of possible character templates like the Jock with a (possibly hidden) heart of gold, the Alpha Bitch with a (possibly hidden) heart of gold, the geek, the class "weirdo", The Quincy Punk rocker, the Country Mouse, and others.
- Sanity Meter: Used in lieu of hit points and even then Lighter and Softer: anything that can be considered "damage" reduces it and once it's gone the character hits the Despair Event Horizon and won't be part of the adventure until they recover it through interaction with their Connection. Things From The Flood uses a more regular insanity and injury tracking method, supporting its Darker and Edgier promise.
- Scienceville: The Loops have been at the forefront of STEM research since The '60s, and are well known for it.
- Scenery Porn: All of the book art by Simon Stålenhag. All◊ of◊ it◊.
- The Place: The titular "loop" is a particle accelerator, and the cities surrounding it have become full-blown Weirdness Magnet material.
- 20 Minutes into the Past: Set in The '80s. A Kickstarter goal that was reached is a book based on Stålenhag's "Things From The Flood" (which can be used both as an expansion book or a stand-alone RPG), which will expand the timeline into The '90s.
- World of Weirdness: Robots roaming around, the government has access to technology such as anti-gravity vehicles, there are dinosaurs in them thar woods... and that's just the tip of the iceberg.