Friday, March 31, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 3 of 6

Chapter 3:  The U.S. Loop

Although the Swedish Loop is bigger and more popular throughout the world, the Loop in Boulder City started it all. This top-secret facility in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is just a little over an hour outside of Las Vegas. President Eisenhower ordered the creation of this research facility in hopes of teleporting U.S. soldiers anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice.

The 80’s were the heyday for the United States of America. Nixon submits his resignation and Ronald Regan steps in as the oldest president this country has seen. The commie Russians are on the way out the door fighting tooth and nail to stay on top of the heap. There’s nothing that can stand in the way of The Stars and Stripes.

Again, more political bull crap that kids don’t care about. Sure, we knew it was going on, but that’s for the adults to deal with. The kids in America were dealing with their own problems like underage drinking, the War on Drugs, and there are only four major television stations. Toy companies start making cartoons to sell their product to kids. He-Man, G.I.-Joe, and Thundercats are just a few of the popular shows.

This section of the book goes into much better detail of what life was like for kids in the 80’s in the U.S.A. than they did in the Swedish section. Roleplaying games are becoming more popular and those pesky adults start banning them because they are perceived as a form of devil worshipping.

Here they start to develop the 3 locales of this patch of desert. Boulder City, Lake Mead, and Las Vegas. It should be obvious that Boulder City, Nevada is the main setting in the United States. It is a town built for the workers of the damn dam. As a kid in Boulder City there’s not a lot to do except for hanging out at the city pool or playing games. Those lucky enough to have cable TV can watch music videos on MTV. There are six points of interest here that range from the local bowling alley to a junkyard. Lake Mead has three points of interest, most notably the dam. They also include a national recreational area and a state park. Las Vegas has two points of interests, the strip and Area 51.

Next up is DART, the Department of Advanced Research into Teleportation, but it is more commonly incorrectly referred to as the Department of Advanced Research and Technology. Eisenhower ordered the development of DART to oversee the Loop project, and the first rule of the Loop project is you don’t talk about the Loop project.

Just a few short miles to the West of the Hoover Dam is the particle accelerator known as the Loop. Most of the DART employees occupy the homes of the original builders of the Hoover Dam, which happen to be inside the Loop. Most of Boulder City’s residents don’t even know how big the DART Loop really is. As with the Swedish Loop, this one has multiple underground service tunnels with unmanned entrances also. Someone might be able to sneak past the not so obvious security measures to investigate strange happenings.

Every so often someone disappears from town. When this happens, most folks assume they got caught somewhere they shouldn’t have been and are off to federal prison.

If I get the chance to play this game I think I would prefer the Boulder City, Nevada setting over the Swedish Mälaren Islands. I think both are fantastically described but I’m more familiar with the U.S. version, and I can pronounce all the stuff on the map. It would be great fun to play in either version and I would not hesitate to play regardless of which locale is used. I think that the U.S. setting lends itself to more of an Area 51 alien vibe and the Swedish one a mysterious dinosaur roaming forested area. Now I’m changing my mind. The Swedish one sounds better now that I think of robots and dinosaurs.

What do you guys think? Sweden or America?

Which would you prefer?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 2 of 6

Chapter 2:  The Age Of The Loop

First off, an astute reader would recognize the fact that I forgot to include the sixth principle of Tales of the Loop in part 1 of my review. This last principle is the setting is a collaborative one between the GM and players. The GM sets the scenes and describes them but the players are just as responsible as the GM. The players are encouraged to help the GM by providing details. Why does the old cat lady down the street hate you?

On to chapter two. This chapter contains all of the fluff and background information on the Swedish Loop. This is where you find out that this game is about the 80’s that never was.

Those of us that are old enough to remember life in the 80’s will remember iconic popstars and movies of that generation. Not to mention the cold war and threat of Global Thermonuclear War (would you like to play a game?).

In this game technology is more advanced than what we remember. The particle accelerators in Sweden and the U.S.A. are still operating. Robots and flying magnetized ships called gauss freighters are commonplace. The Soviet Union discovered an effect of magnetization that allows robotic freighters to fly along the routes of the Earth’s magnetic fields. It is stronger in the northern hemisphere and larger ships are seen there while smaller ones are in the southern hemisphere.

It’s important to note here that “Tales from the Loop is science fiction, but it is not about technology. At its heart, this game is about growing up in the shadows of strange things and solving mysteries. It is about the Kids.”

By the end of 59’ the world’s first particle accelerator is built in Boulder City, Nevada. Then later in 69’ the Swede’s built their Loop which is the biggest in the world. It is operated by Riksenergi, a government agency of course. They are the largest employer on the islands and most of the populace consider their employer as “theirs” and are very protective when rumor mill is prolific.

They go on to describe life in the 80’s in Sweden as a tumultuous time with the government trying to navigate between capitalism and communism. Although Sweden is officially neutral, communism is a strong sentiment amongst the country and they refer to themselves as a Social Democratic government.

The Mälaren Islands is your typical middle-class suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. Almost in the countryside but close enough to the city to make a daily commute possible. Who cares about all this, right? We’re playing as kids in the 80’s. When I was a kid, all I cared about was what we would play after school. Not about politics and other adult shit.

The next section of this chapter is all about life as a kid in Sweden in the 80’s. During my childhood, the BMX was the king of the hill, it still is in this game. While the BMX is the preferred mode of transportation other means are of course available. Bus passes and walking being the most common. Homework, social life, tests, bullies, chores, and dealing with parents and siblings are just a few of the tools available to the GM.

The next three sections describe each of the three islands, Svartsjölandet, Munsö, and Adelsö. Svartsjölandet is the main island of the setting. Here they describe 6 points of interest which include settlements, an abandoned factory, a stone palace that was turned into a prison but has been dismantled, and the newer prison that replaced the palace conversion.

The three massive cooling towers as seen on the cover of the book are located on the island of Munsö. This is the heart of the Loop and is still open to the public. I know what you’re thinking. What the fuck? Open to the public? The island is open to the public, not the facility itself. There, you will need security clearance to access the Gravitron, the power generator for the particle accelerator.

The last island of Adelsö is covered by forests. Only a few farmers are the inhabitants. Three points of interest are detailed which include a small village, an old royal estate, and a youth correctional facility.

Hang on. We’re almost there. The Loop. There are three loops to be exact. Prim-1, Prim-2, and Aux-1. Visitors to the facility need to pass multiple security checkpoints and it should go without saying, NO KIDS ALLOWED. Although there are multiple underground service tunnels with unmanned entrances. There are of course security measures in place making it difficult but possible to gain access.

Inside the facility, secret projects and experiments are conducted. Speculations and rumors of large reptile animals caused by the high energy produced at the Loop fuel the wild stories told by the kids these days. One unexplained phenomena is the echo sphere. It is a large metal sphere that appears around the perimeter of the Loop. No one knows who made, what they are, or what their purpose is.

This is a very intriguing book to say the least. The artwork is amazing! I must confess, this is the main reason I made the Kickstarter pledge. The other being nostalgia, RPing kids in the 80’s, that was my childhood. My only complaint thus far is the font size used. In the PDF version they use a Sabon font sized at 9. This is slightly too small for my older eyes. I would prefer an 11 or 12 but this is being nitpicky and I can adjust the size of the pdf for my eyes anyway. I should also mention that this is the longest chapter in the book clocking in at 17 pages total.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 1 of 6

Chapter 1:  Welcome To The Loop

Chapter one does a good job of conveying the overall feel of the game. It starts out with a short narrative of how someone might play the game and explains that this is a collaboration between the players and the GM. The players should have just as much input to the story as the GM.

In this game the players are kids in the age ranges of 10-15 during the 1980’s and are trying to solve mysteries together. A particle accelerator named the Loop is causing strange machines and creatures to coexist with the local populace, which the kids will encounter.

As with any RPG book the ubiquitous how to play an RPG is included in the first chapter. Then they go on to explain that this book contains two settings. The first is the Swedish Mälaren Islands and the second is in the U.S.A. in Boulder City, Nevada. The focus of this book will emphasize the Swedish setting but will give “hints” on how to use the Boulder City setting.

Now we’re starting to get into the nitty gritty of the game. There are six principle of Tales from The Loop which are explained in further detail later. First is strange shit happens. Things are created because of failed experiments and only your imagination can limit what happens in the Loop. Second is life is dull. You’re kids and still have to do those boring old chores around the house and homework. Third, adults are out of touch. They don’t listen to you and are always telling you what to do. Some of them, like teachers, will listen and help by calling the authorities but most of them won’t believe any of your wild stories. Fourth is that kids won’t die. No matter what happens your character won’t die. You will however get injured, mocked, or bullied. The fifth and final principle is the game is played scene by scene. For the most part this is standard in any RPG. No one wants to play the boring details of how you got to school unless its somehow important to the story. This means you should ignore the mundane details and skip ahead to the important stuff.

So far, I like the setting because it portrays a unique environment and it has an intriguing flavor of mystery. Trying to sneak out of the house at night to meet up with your friends at the treehouse should prove to be an interesting roleplaying experience.