Tales From the Loop RPG Starter Set
Author: Simon Stålenhag, Nils Hintze, Tomas Härenstam
Publisher: Free League
Page Count: 48
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $4.99
Print – $30.00
Starter Sets harken back to the 1980s. They served as an inexpensive entry point and provided a simple, streamlined way for new players to learn the rules. Free League releasing a Starter Set for a game set in the ’80s is both relevant and retro.
Tales from the Loop is a game based on narrative art books by Simon Stålenhag. These critically acclaimed and internationally lauded art books visualize a landscape invaded by technology to create an eerie and nostalgic alternate Scandanavia of the 1980s and ’90s. Players explore Stålenhag’s world as preteens and young teens solving spectacular mysteries connected to the nearby Loop. The Loop is the nickname given to the underground Facility for High Energy Physics. The Swedish Loop is the largest particle accelerator of its kind in the world.
Note: Patreon supporter RM Jordan gifted a review copy to Rolling Boxcars for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.
In unpacking the starter set, we find a Rules Booklet, Scenario Booklet, a double-sided map, five pre-generated characters, ten six-sided dice, and a small product catalog. All of which is housed in a sturdy two-inch deep box. One can’t help but notice the contents do not take up much space, leading one to wonder if they have gotten their money’s worth?
The Starter set contains two booklets, and the mustard yellow Rules booklet clearly states “Read This First,” and for a good reason—it provides players and Gamemasters with everything they need to play. The rules are a streamlined, condensed version of those contained in the Core Rulebook. Despite being an abridged version, all the essentials are covered. The game’s main mechanic is a d6 dice pool consisting of a number of dice equal to the attribute, skill, and any items used. Under most circumstances, a single 6 is all that’s required to be successful. The rules are clearly written and logically laid out; alongside the rules are well put together examples.
Accompanying the rules is a much-condensed overview of what life was like in Sweden and the United States in the 1980s in relation to the Loops. Astute readers will recall that Simon Stålenhag’s art is Scandanavian-centric, but this game also includes a second Loop in Boulder City, Nevada. The American setting is a result of the core game’s very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Although the locations are presented in a very limited fashion in the Starter Set, the basics are well described. Readers wanting more details will want to consult the Core Rulebook.
The second booklet contains the scenario “The Recycled Boy.” It is about a robotic boy named Pelle whose brain circuitry gets skewed. As a result, he freaks out, runs away from home, and causes lots of chaos in town. The players take on the role of other kids in town, who had recently met Pelle when he started the school term after the summer break. They will attempt to locate him; what might they learn about Pelle and about his circumstances? What might they learn about themselves and their own families as a result of their investigations?
“The Recycled Boy” is a decent scenario, at best, that is designed to teach new players the core concepts of the game. It does what it’s designed to do, but it could be improved upon. The hook for the players feels a little contrived and presumes they will jump right in. Nonetheless, it’s still a decent scenario.
The remaining contents of the Start Set include five pre-generated Kids with backstories created specifically for the enclosed adventure. The Kids could easily be repurposed for other Tales from the Loop RPG adventures as is or with a bit of re-thinking and tweaking. The Set also includes ten orange six-sided Tales from the Loop dice—they are not required for play but are nice to have. Lastly, there is a beautiful double-sided map printed on heavy-weight paper. One side features the Swedish Loop location, and the other the American Loop location.
All in all, I’m not totally sold on the Starter Set as a complete package. For its retail price, it’s very light on substance. I would l have liked to have seen a second or even third short introductory scenarios included, and possibly additional sets of pre-generated Kids for each. However, what you do get lessens the learning curve, making the transition from Starter Set to the full rules easier.
The readability of the Rules Booklet is lovely and easy to comprehend. Gamemasters reading through the adventure will notice the writing’s grammatical structure and word choices feel off because the translation from the game’s original language (Swedish) to English isn’t perfect. While at times humorous (“lady lizard” instead of “female lizard”), it does make reading slightly more challenging.
The Tales From the Loop RPG Starter Set perhaps shines best when you think about the utility and cost of what comes in the Set. The dice purchased separately from Free League costs $16 (six-pack) or from Modiphieus for $25 (ten-pack). If you buy the Starter Set for a few dollars more ($30), you get ten dice plus the beautiful double-sided map that’s not available anywhere else, a nice concise rules reference booklet for your players to use during the game, and a scenario with pre-generated Kids that is not included elsewhere. Our supporting Patron felt it was a better deal to get the starter set with the dice and all the extras for later use with Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood. You may feel differently, but I am inclined to agree.
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