Review of Tales from the Loop, a beautiful and haunting TTRPG for tweens, teens, and grown ups alike

Tales from the Loop is a TTRPG system and setting that focuses on tween to teen characters and how they balance life and the strange mysteries that take place in their hometown.  It’s a coming of age story set in the 80’s and is great for older kids and adults to both connect to the story and adventure that awaits.

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Tales from the Loop is great for tweens, teens, and grown ups

Tales from the Loop is focused on playable characters ages 10-15 and is set in the 80s.  Challenges for these characters include facing strange occurrences in their hometown due to the massive particle accelerator and reactor loops that mess with reality… and also due to everyday life situations like school, homework, and relationships.  

Because of this blend of coming-of-age themes, 80s slice-of-life, and flexibility with the Mysteries presented, I think Tales from the Loop definitely has appeal for tweens and teens based on what the characters deal with and the tone of the situations they’re facing. It can also be great for grown-ups who lived in the 80s to both play this game for nostalgia and to share parts of pop culture and life experience with their kids through the game.  

Tales from the Loop is set in an alternate 80s and is beautifully done

Tales from the Loop has two main settings, one in Sweden and one in the US.  Both settings take place in the 80s in a town built up around a massive, reality altering particle accelerator reactor loop.

The setting is beautifully established.  

The depth of explanation of what life was like in the 80s in both Sweden and the US is conveyed through lists of popular songs, games, movies, TV shows, and more that accompany descriptions of topics like how there was less supervision of kids then now, what was different about the tone of school, and how single parent homes became more common and what that impact was.

There’s timelines that clearly show where this setting’s version of the 80s originated from – it tells us how the Tales from the Loop reality diverged from our reality and became what it is in the story. 

It covers the type of tech you can expect to see, like magnetrine flight and cyborgs, along with full settings including NPCs, locations, and plothooks to give a solid backdrop for your games. 

The core rulebook also has four full adventures, complete with maps, read-aloud text, and clues for players to uncover, and details for all kinds of encounter subjects ranging from strange machines to dinosaurs that have appeared due to The Loop. 

This all doesn’t even cover the art.

I first encountered elements of this setting from art that I had seen from the Tales from the Loop artbook published by Simon Stålenhag in 2015, which inspired or resulted in both this game and the TV show of the same name.  Art similar to the book is included throughout the game and has a chilling, nostalgic, melancholy, and oddly hopeful feel to it that significantly sets the mood. 

While Tales from the Loop also has great character setup and mechanics, the setting itself is just executed so well that I have to say that this is where the game truly shines.

Your character in Tales from the Loop

Your characters in Tales from the Loop are 10-15 year old kids who live in a town or city surrounding an accelerator that is both the catalyst for many interesting technological advances and the source of many strange Mysteries.  

Your kid character deals with everyday life challenges, like going to school, getting homework done on time, dealing with disillusioned parents, building friendships, avoiding bullies, and so on while also pursuing adventure with their group of buddies as a way to escape and still find wonder in the world. 

Character sheets are pretty easy to track – it’s all on one page, and you don’t have a ton of extra spells and special moves to list off, which is VERY nice for players to pick up quickly.

You choose the type of character from a list of options including archetypes like Bookworm or Jock or Troublemaker, then assign points for age/luck, attributes, and skills.  After that, you get into really fleshing out their story.  You choose iconic elements to them and figure out their drive, passion, and more.  Doing this whole process for a sample character took me about 15 minutes after reading through the rules once, and it was really clear where to find everything on the sheet when I did a sample encounter playthrough.

Once the individual characters are created, there’s also directions for the game master to ask both individual and group questions to fill in the story even more.  These are questions about problems, likes, dislikes, etc and help the group to come together as they do need to agree on some of the answers.

Character creation, like the rest of the book, is pretty focused on the story, which is great.  There is point assignment for the mechanics, but most of the time on character creation is on who they are and the world’s impact on them, so players come in with their character tied to the setting.

Mechanics in Tales from the Loop

Mechanics in Tales from the Loop are wonderfully streamlined but with enough complexity to allow strategizing on an individual and group level. 

The only dice you use are d6’s, and your goal is to roll as many dice as you can to get 6’s, which are successes.  The base number of dice that you roll is determined by your starting attributes and skills, which can add up to give you a pretty decent handful of dice to start with.  

From there, you have a lot of options to get bonus dice by using your items, tapping into parts of your story, and getting help from your friends.  You can also reroll dice by using luck points… or by accepting a consequence to try to push a roll and get a bonus beyond an existing success.. 

After trying to figure out how best and when to use your, sometimes very limited, dice additions, you roll and see how many 6’s you get and calculate your success and any bonuses (if you roll more than the minimum number of 6’s). 

Hitting the minimum number of successes results in doing what you set out to do, and failure results in taking on a condition that affects your character until they can set aside time to resolve that impact.  It is really clear in the game that, while player characters may get hurt or could be in danger, they never die.  

These mechanics were easy to understand, and I was able to do a sample playthrough without having to create any notes or cheat sheet to remember what to do.  The mechanics do what they need for creating the story and allowing strategizing, but they are also not meant to be crunchy or require a ton of math – they are there to facilitate the story.

Overall thoughts on Tales from the Loop

Tales from the Loop is a quick game to pick up from a character creation and mechanics standpoint (which I love) and a wonderfully in-depth setting that takes time to explore, discover, and interact with.  It is beautifully illustrated and has such a well defined mood to it that captures the feel of what it’s like growing up and finding balance between teen to adult life and childhood wonderment.  It is a great game for tweens, teens, and adults to all enjoy and experience on their own or together, and I hope you enjoy this game as much as I have!

Find a copy of Tales from the Loop

You can find a copy of Tales from the Loop on DriveThru RPG!

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