Thursday, April 13, 2017

Class Clown Archetype

Yesterday I started reading the first published Mystery included in the Tales from the Loop book. As I’m getting ready to start uploading materials into Fantasy Grounds I realized the book is missing an archetype I think should be included. I decided to try my hand a making an iconic archetype that I can provide to my players.

So far I haven’t added anything to Fantasy Grounds or even invited players yet. If I can get four or more players to try it, the game time will be on Wednesdays at 1500 GMT. This will be a one shot just to see if I/we like the game. If there’s any interest in continuing on then it will be a short campaign of the 4 Mysteries in the book. I estimate all 4 adventures taking anywhere from 5-10 game sessions of 3 hours in length.

Class Clown

Key Skills
Charm, Sneak, Tinker

Iconic Item
Choose one or make up your own.

Can of Fart Spray.
Rainbow Jacket Nylon Windbreaker.
Lots of Jelly Bracelets on each arm.

Choose one or make up your own.

I have an improperly diagnosed learning disability and have been prescribed Ritalin.
I have an older sibling that likes to beat me up.
Most of the stories I tell are lies to make people laugh but now no one believes my true stories.

Choose one or make up your own.

I’m always trying to vindicate my outrageous stories.
I’m in it for the excitement of new adventures.

Choose one or make up your own.

Everybody likes me.
My friends can count on me.

Relationships To Other Kids
Choose one for each other Kid or make up your own.

We are best pals.
He/She is socially awkward but is still my friend.
He/She tutors me in school.

Relationships To NPC’s
Choose two or make up your own.

Ing-Marie Blankang [Karen Richards] the new police detective, is the only one who believes my wild stories. She even asked me for help fixing some photographic devices placed around Lake Mead.

Dax, the roller rink DJ, said he overheard Lena Thelin [Diane Petersen] say she was going to get revenge on everyone at the Loop who got her fired.

I overheard my friend Bjorn [Brian] talking to himself about Peter Mansson [Peter Dale]. He said something about Peter controlling dreams, and how this must be stopped.

Choose one or make up your own.

English Teacher
Roller Rink DJ

Typical Names
Choose one or make up your own.

Girls names: Avery, Julie, Kimmi, Stephanie
Boys names: Clarke, Jeff, Ralph, George
Nicknames: Butter Buns, Chewbacca (Chewie), Mouth, Snickerdoodle

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 6 of 6

Chapter 6:  The Mystery

This marks the start of the GM section of the book and will be the last post in the series. If you’re a player and want to be surprised by how the game will flow through the session, then I recommend you don’t read this.

A Mystery is the term used for an adventure module that the Kids must solve. How the mystery plays out is up to the Kids, depending on the choices they make. The first part of the Mystery is called The Truth of the Mystery, this is a short overview for the GM which also gives insights in order to help tie the story to the Kids.

There are six phases to a Mystery, they are as follows.
  1. Introducing the Kids.
  2. Introducing the Mystery.
  3. Solving the Mystery.
  4. Showdown.
  5. Aftermath.
  6. Change. 

Phase one is introducing the Kids. At the beginning of a mystery each Kid gets to play a scene from everyday life. This scene may or may not include a trouble. This is an opportunity for the player to show what his Kid is like to the other players and the GM. These scenes should be kept short.

Introducing the Mystery is phase two. This is where the GM lets the Kids see something or hear something that should be looked into. You should try to make sure that all the Kids are present together during this scene or at the very least have another scene to allow all of the Kids talk together and discuss the problem. You may need to emphasize the players Drives in order to get them to bite on Mystery.

Here we get into the meat of the Mystery. Phase 3, solving the Mystery. The GM sets scenes about the Mystery and everyday life. The Kids should be together for the most part during this phase but as we all know sometimes the party gets split up. When this happens, the GM should provide a means to get all the Kids back together.

In most Mysteries, there will be more than one location to visit. Each location should have some clues and possibly a Trouble. You shouldn’t force the Kids to visit all the locations. If they figure out the clues sooner than expected, then let them move on. A clue can be anything really, a letter dropped by Mrs. Smith or shell casings from a gun. Somehow the clues should be connected together that allows the Kids to search out the next clue.

Once the Kids solve the Mystery, they can move on to the next phase, the showdown. This is the crux of the Mystery. This is where the Kids must stop someone or something from happening. Typically, this will be an Extended Trouble. All the Kids should definitely be present for this scene.

After the Kids have stopped little Johnny from crushing the life out of Mr. Johnson by using the robot he stole, we can move on to the Aftermath. Phase five is where we let each of the Kids play out a scene from everyday life. This is meant to show that even though the Kids managed to save the town, no one will believe their story and life moves on. Everything can be explained or rationalized and their story has no merit. These scenes should not have a Trouble associated with them.

Finally, the last phase of the Mystery is change. This is where we allow the players to change their characters. If there is something the player doesn’t like anymore or if the Mystery changed something that dictates a change to one of the Kids, it should be done now. Perhaps a relationship changed, they want a different iconic item, or maybe they solved their Problem and need a new one. If a player went past their birthday during the Mystery, then they get to increase one Ability but they also lose a luck point.

To round out this chapter we will discuss experience points (XP).
After every Mystery or session (up to the GM), the GM will ask each Kid 5 questions. If the Kid can truthfully answer yes to any question then they get one XP, with a potential of up to 5 XP total per Mystery. The five questions are always the same and are: “Did you participate in the session? (Each Kid present always gets at least one XP.) Have you been in Trouble because of your Problem or your Relationships? Did you use, or struggle with, your pride? Did you put yourself at risk for the other Kids? Have you learned something new? (What is it?)”

For every 5 XP, a skill can be raised by 1. Remember that a skill can never go higher than 5. Kids can save their XP but only up to 10 can be saved. XP can only be used to increase a skill before or after a session, never during the session. It would be a good practice for the GM to ask the players if any of them want to increase a skill before starting the session.

Chapter 7:  The Landscape
This chapter provides the GM with some locations and tips on how to use these locations, in both settings of Boulder City, Nevada or the Mälaren Islands in Sweden, to create a sandbox environment for the players to run around. This is different in that it allows the Kids to discover their own Mysteries to solve. I’m not going to delve further into this section because it could potentially reveal information not meant for the players.

Chapter 8:  The Four Seasons Of Mad Science
This chapter contains background information on the mini campaign included within the last four chapters.

“The first three Mysteries each take about 3-5 hours to play. The Gamemaster can extend them by adding more Locations or setting more scenes from Everyday Life within them. The fourth Mystery, I, Wagner, is longer, and will take 2-3 sessions to play. It is intended to be played as the finale of the campaign and not as a standalone Mystery.”

As I said in the last post, the last 4 chapters are mysteries for the Kids to solve and I won't be covering those. I don't want to give spoilers on the mysteries included in chapters 9-12, especially since I'm considering hosting a game.

I hope you all enjoyed the overview on Tales from the Loop as much as I had writing it. I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, or criticisms on the book or on the way I have presented and written the review. I mean overview.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 5 of 6

Chapter 5:  Trouble

“Trouble is something that prevents Kids from doing something; it can be a bad thing about to happen or a possibility fraught with danger.”

The GM will give the players challenges, these challenges are called Trouble. When this happens, the player can try to overcome the trouble or sit back and just take it. Not all trouble will give you a condition but when it does, the GM should inform you of such and as to what kind of condition it will be.

The player then rolls a number of six-sided dice equal to the Ability being used and a skill that may apply. Sometimes you will have items that can help and give you some bonus dice to apply to the roll (1-3). Every time you roll a 6, it is counted as a success. Most of the time only one success is required to overcome a trouble.

You also may have some Luck points depending on how old you are. You can use a luck point to reroll failed dice. This can only be done once per dice roll. This is not the same as pushing the roll. Pushing the roll is another way to reroll all failed dice, the difference here is that you must also check off a condition before re-rolling the dice. If you still fail the dice roll, congratulations, you now have two conditions. One thing that is not quite so clear is if you push the roll and gain a condition before the roll, do you apply the -1 condition modifier to the re-roll?

If you roll more successes than necessary, then you can use those to buy effects. Effects are essentially bonuses. The example given in the book was a kid wrestling with his brother. He rolled three successes, so he bought two effects. His brother is humiliated and he doesn’t have to roll again when wrestling with his brother. Effects should not be used to accomplish the task. They are a way to achieve more on top of the task you overcame.

The other players can help you out in a trouble. Only one kid can assist you and give you one extra die to roll. You are stuck with whatever you roll in this case. If you fail the roll, then the kid who helped you also suffers the same effects as well. If everybody is attempting to overcome the same trouble at the same time, then no one can assist each other. The example given was that all of “you are trying to walk home through a blizzard or sneak past the headmaster.”

Next up is Extended Trouble. This is where the kids have to work together to overcome a pivotal moment in the mystery. There are five steps to extended tasks.

1.   Set the stakes.
    The GM declares what is at stake and what will happen on a failure.
2. Threat level.
    The GM tells the kids how many successes are required to overcome the trouble. A normal threat level is 2 successes per kid.
3.   Make a plan.
    The kids come up with a plan and decide who does what and what skill they will use. As long as the GM concurs with the skills used.
4.   Play the scenes.
    Each player gets a scene to act and to roll as normal for the required successes to overcome the threat level.
5.   Outcome.
     If the total number of successes is less than half of the threat level, the kids have failed. If the total number of successes is at least half of the threat level then they may earn more successes by giving themselves conditions in order to reach the threat level. If done this way then they only achieve part of their goal. If they get enough total successes normally then they have overcome the trouble and completely succeed.

Here’s what every GM wants to hear. “The Gamemaster never rolls dice for the NPC’s.” The GM decides if an NPC is successful or fails. NPC’s not only cause trouble for the players but can also help them. An NPC can give the player some bonus dice, but this is rare. Special NPC’s are much harder to beat. They will have special attributes that make them harder and will require more successes to overcome.

Now onto Kid vs. Kid, or PvP as most of us know it. Not only is it not discouraged but they have included some rules for it. You both say what you want to do then you roll the appropriate amount of dice. The player with the most successes wins. You can also push your rolls and buy extra successes by checking off Conditions. You can even push yourself to the limit and become Broken in order to win. If it’s all tied up after all of this then you get interrupted. A teacher breaks up the fight or the recess bell rings and you have to go back to class.

The last four pages of this chapter list the Skills with a brief description and the bonus Effects available when you buy them. An example would be the skill of 
Sneak (Body) - The ability to hide, sneak or steal.
Bonus Effects - Give a success to another Kid or You find something unexpected, or more of what you were looking for.

The dice mechanics are similar to Fri Ligan/Free League Publishing's other games, but unlike Mutant: Year Zero, you don't need different colored dice. This game simply uses a d6 dice pool with results of 6 being a success and no mechanic for rolling a 1. They don't specifically say that each of the condition modifiers of -1 subtract one from the number of successes you rolled (I rolled 3 successes -1 for a condition gives me a total of 2 successes), I'm going to assume that is the case.

This is the last chapter for the players. The next 3 chapters are for the GM, on how to run the mysteries and advice on creating a campaign. The last 4 chapters are mysteries for the kids to solve and I won't be covering those. I don't want to give spoilers on the mysteries included in chapters 9-12, especially since I'm considering hosting a game.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 4 of 6

Chapter 4:  The Kids

Now we’re getting somewhere. Here is where we find out about character creation.

But wait! There’s already a problem. On page 49 it says “There are four pre-made Kids at the end of this book. These can be used to start playing immediately, without having to create characters for the game.” THEY’RE NOT IN THE FUCKING BOOK! I searched high and low to find them. I scoured the interwebs only to find out on Fria Ligan’s forum that pregenerated characters will NOT be included in the book. Character generation appears to fairly fast and easy but that’s not the point. If you say you’re going to include some pregens then put them in the book or at the very least send out an addendum and apologize for the inconvenience. Okay, I'll get off of my soap box now.

As I said earlier, character creation appears fast and simple. The steps to create a character are as follows.

  1. Choose a type.
  2. Pick an age between 10-15.
  3. Distribute Attribute points.
  4. Figure out how many luck points you start with.
  5. Distribute 10 skill points.
  6. Pick an iconic item.
  7. Pick a problem.
  8. Pick a drive.
  9. Pick a pride.
  10. Define relationships to other kids and NPC’s.
  11. Select an anchor.
  12. Name your kid.
  13. Write a short description.
  14. Choose your favorite song.
That may seem like a lot but they have made it easy because for every character type they have broken down most of these steps into multiple choice options for you. For example, the first character type is Bookworm. The Bookworm has a choice of three different iconic items. They are Dog named Plutten (named Tiny for Americans), an Encyclopedia, and a Magnifying glass. Each character type gives you options for Iconic Item, Problem, Drive, Pride, Relationships to other kids, Relationships to NPC’s, Anchor, and Typical Names. Of course, you don’t have to pick any of the choices given to you. You can make up your own. So that takes care of items 1, and 6-12.

There are eight character types in this book.
  1. Bookworm
  2. Computer Geek
  3. Hick
  4. Jock
  5. Popular Kid
  6. Rocker
  7. Troublemaker
  8. Weirdo
 Before I go too much further I will attach a character sheet here so you can see what all the attributes and skills are. Here is a form fillable character sheet.

Next. we need to pick an age which can be from 10-15. Your age determines how may attribute points and luck points you get. You start with attribute points equal to your age (e.g. 10 years old = 10 attribute points). You can never have more than 5 points in any attribute and you also must have a minimum of 1 in each as well. The four attributes are Body, Tech, Heart, and Mind. Body is the equivalent to strength and agility (dexterity for you D&Der’s). Tech is your ability to comprehend, fix, or manipulate all technology in general. Heart is basically charisma. It’s your ability to make friends, persuade someone, or know some contacts. Lastly, we have Mind. This is your smarts or intelligence. It allows you to solve puzzles, find weaknesses, and know shit.

Luck points are used to re-roll dice when you get into trouble. The younger you are, the luckier you are (beginners luck?). These luck points get refreshed at the start of every session (bennies for the Savage Worlds fans). Luck points are determined by subtracting your age from 15 (e.g. 10 years old = 5 luck points).

When you grow another year older, you gain an attribute point to spend. You also lose a luck point every year and it is permanent. Once your character reaches the age of 16, you’re too old for this game and need to make a new character.

Now we need to pick our skills. We start with 10 points to distribute for skills, but before we do that, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Each attribute is related to three skills.

Body – Force, Move, and Sneak.
Tech – Calculate, Program, and Tinker.
Heart – Charm, Contact, and Lead.
Mind – Comprehend, empathize, and investigate.

Every character type has a set of skills that are considered key skills. For example, the Bookworm’s key skills are Calculate, Comprehend, and Investigate. Each of these key skills can have a maximum of 3 to start with and all other skills can only have a maximum of 1.

I’ll skip the last two steps of character creation as those should be self-explanatory.

The next two items are things that are supposed to be done collaboratively amongst the players and GM. First, every group of friends needs a hideout. Not only a place where the kids can be alone and feel safe, but also a place where NPC’s can’t go. Where is it? What is it? These are just a few questions to ask while building your fort.

After all characters are created and the hideout is built, the GM will have a series of questions for everyone. These should be answered before the game starts. Some questions are for the individual kids and some are for the group as a whole. There are 26 questions total but only 6-9 will be asked. One example of a question is “In what way has your Problem gone from bad to worse lately?”

Like I said, it looks like a lot but it is easy and well laid out. Character creation can be really fast, say 20-30 minutes, or it can take as long as you want, and come up with your own ideas.

There are two more things included in this chapter that aren’t considered a part of character creation. The first being Conditions. The fourth principle of Tales from the Loop is that kids don’t die. They can however, suffer conditions. “When you try to overcome Trouble but fail, or if you push a dice roll (Chapter 5), you may be forced to take a Condition.” There are 5 conditions and each one causes a -1 to your dice roll. These conditions are also cumulative (e.g. 3 conditions = a -3 to the dice roll). The 5th condition is called broken. When this happens, you automatically fail all dice rolls. You are not dead but something really bad has happened and you are hurt.

The last item is experience. The GM will award experience (XP) at the end of every session. It is covered in more detail in chapter 6 but they do mention that it can be used to raise skills and it takes 5 XP to raise a skill one point.