Once spross and Tammy showed up at my place just before 1:00 pm, we chatted for around 5 minutes or so and caught up on the week. Once I was ready to get going with the two of them, I started off by giving the players a very brief overview of the game world of Tales From the Loop. The game is based on artist Simon Stalenhag's paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts. Players play teenagers solving mysteries connected to the Loop (ask me about what it is in the Comments, please!), and the game uses a simpler set of rules based on those found in the Mutant: Year Zero game. We went over the basic Principles of the game, and then both SteveR and Tammy created player characters while I scribbled a few notes about the two NPCs I'd given them to round out their group.
Once the two players had their characters in place, we got down to the game session.
Nils Backstrom (SteveR) - Bookworm
Ida Hangluven (Tammy) - Weirdo
Tomas Dahlstrom (NPC) - Jock
Linnea Marquist (NPC) - Popular Kid
The place: Stenhamra, Sweden. A small town. The time: Late Spring, 1983. The world of the Loop is the world that we know in the 1980s, but for children in their late single digits, tweens, and early teen years, it's a place full of rules, everyday life, and wonders. And there are Mysteries to be solved about the strange things that occur within the sphere of influence of the Loop. Hopefully, you can solve a few of them, and get to some of the deeper, perhaps darker, secrets...
It's a late spring day, and unseasonably warm, the rain having stopped about three hours ago. At their local kiosk, Nils Backstrom, Ida Hangluven, Tomas Dahlstrom and Linnea Marquist are hanging out, bored out of their minds. Ida kneels down, to see if she can find any lost change that folks might have dropped in the area. She finds three Kroner, and pockets them, thinking she can use them to buy something at the kiosk. A crumpled newspaper draws her attention, and she picks it up, feeling something heavy in it. The pages of the newspaper have a slimy feel where they are stuck together, and peeling apart the section with the clear slimy substance, she finds a small case, made of silver. She wants to opens it, and see what's inside, but wisely pockets that as well. The grumpy kiosk owner, Mr. Halmquist, catches her and tells her to hand over the coins that she found. She stubbornly resists, saying that she didn't find any but his authoritative adult nature gets the better of her, and she hands over two of the Kroner, and much to her surprise, he rewards her with a small bag of jujubes [some 20 in the bag]. He tells the Kids to get out of the area, and the four player Kids scamper off down the street.
Laughing at her own slyness, Ida and the other three Kids find themselves near a narrows, somewhat dark, side street. As they prepare to go down it to check out their loot, Nils checks out the side street, and sees there are older kids there, kids he recognises. Their leader, Jonas, say, "Well, well, if it isn't the brats", and makes an obvious threatening move. Tomas, who knows Jonas (and thinks of him as a friend), tries to calm the situation down, but Jonas's friend, Frans, who is wielding a "Louisville" baseball bat, tries to aggravate the situation. Tomas, with the help of Linnea and Ida, is able to defuse the situation, and Frans says that he'll see them all "later". The big kids move off down the side street, and Ida says they should move on, too.
They stop near the alleyway opposite the pizzeria, and examine their goodies. Ida shows them the jujubes, and they split them, Ida taking the red ones, Tomas taking the orange ones and Linnea taking the green ones, leaving the yellows for Nils. He's not happy about this. They examine the silver case that Ida found in the newspaper, and find that it contains a peach smelling tobacco. They think of lighting up, but Tomas says that it would be bad for his sports life, and Ida points out they don't have any paper to roll cigarettes. One of the Kids suggests the newspaper, but Linnea vetoes that (with Ida agreeing with her), as the paper is dirty and there's that slimy stuff on it. Ida casually looks at the paper, and is shocked at the date: Tuesday, March 29th, 1983!! Just under two weeks later. The Kids are puzzled, and can't figure out what's going on, but Ida notes that the back page has a story on how there's been no progress investigating the disappearances of several Kids that occurred over two weeks ago. Tomas is surprised she hasn't heard about the disappearances, as his friend Greta disappeared two days ago, and Nils' friend Hans disappeared the day before that.
Tomas tells them that Greta disappeared while out in Olmholst Field, the meadow to the northeast of the town, that hosts all manner of strange equipment and devices (no doubt due to the strange happenings caused by the Loop). He says that Nils' friend also disappeared in the meadow, but doesn't know if the two other children that disappeared vanished in that area. Ida, Linnea and Nils all say that perhaps they should spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the field and seeing if they can find any clues. Linnea says it sounds like a good idea, as she's pretty bored. The group heads off towards Olmholst Field.
As they arrive at the edge of the meadow, the player Kids can make out the shadows and looming figures of some of the strange equipment, devices, and ruins that lie in the meadowy area. Linnea says that any direction is as good as any other, but Tomas says he knows the rough area where Greta disappeared. Ida ponders the names Hans and Greta, and makes several allusions to the Hansel and Gretel faerie tales that her mother read her as a child. They discuss gingerbread houses and evil witches, but the player Kids all laugh about it. As they trudge through the slightly wooded area, passing several ruined machines and the like as they go, Nils hears the sound of snarling, and Ida hears the sound of barking. Since Olmholst is known for several packs of wild dogs, the kids panic, especially when Ida and Tomas see yellowish eyes peering at them through the meadow grass. Tomas shouts that they need to run for the nearest patch of trees, where they can climb to safety, and the Kids take off in a mad dash, as they hear the sounds of the pursuing dogs. The Kids arrive at the copse of trees, breathing hard, and frantically climb up into the trees, Tomas helping both Ida and Linnea into the trees, the dogs snapping at their heels. The Kids discuss what they should do, but Tomas and Ida say that all that's left to them is to wait until the dogs get bored and go away. Ida watches the dogs, and spots the fact that they have a white racing stripe-like strip down their left flanks. She wonders what that means.
The player Kids are suprised when a woman shows up and asks them if they're all right. The dogs immediately calm down, and Nils realises that this is his friendly acquaintance, Dr. Lena Thelin, who was recently fired from the Loop. As she leashes the dogs, she tells the Kids that they are hers, that the dogs won't hurt them, and they were out for their usual afternoon walk. She likes Olmholst, as it tends to be quiet. Ida notices that one of the dogs has artificial eyes, and she asks Lena about this and the stripe on the dogs. Lena says that the dog had an "accident" and lost the two eyes, so she used her scientific knowedge to give it artificial eyes, and explains that it can see into the infrared spectrum ("heat signatures"). Lena asks them what they are doing out here, and Ida hesitantly tells her about what they're doing out there, despite Tomas's non-verbal warning not to do so. Lena says she might be able to help them, and says that the dogs could smell any traces left by Greta and Hans. For some reason, Ida is once more reminded of the Hansel and Gretel tale..., but the Kids agree to head deeper into the meadow with Lena and the dogs.
The trail appears to be leading the Kids and Lena towards one of the Echo Spheres, mysterious objects that are like large balls with missing spaces in their walls, that can be found dotted all over the Loop area; some of them could accommodate several Kids inside them. As they get closer to the Echo Sphere, which is rusted and appears to be in shabby condition, Nils spots what seems to be a piece of torn clothing, perhaps from some jeans, hanging at the edge of the Echo Sphere. The Kids discuss matters, while Nils goes to inspect the material, and they realise that this is where Hans (and possibly Greta as well) disappeared. Lena says she's sorry the Kids figured things out, so she's got no choice now. She draws a weapon that looks like an old style Star Trek phaser, and tells the Kids to get into the Echo Sphere. By this time, the Sphere is humming and there's a bit of an electrical discharge. Lena tells them that she'll kill them if they don't get in the Echo Sphere, and despite efforts from Ida and Linnea in their own way, can't dissuade her, although Lena says that she could erase their memories instead, using her Forget-Me-Not device. Realising that Lena is serious about killing them, the Kids agree to go into the device. Nils is the first one who climbs in, and after seeing what might be a ghost or afterimage of a young girl [Greta], he vanishes in the device. Tomas helps Ida and Linnea into the Sphere, where they see Nils's afterimage or ghost. After Linnea tells Lena that she vows that they will get back at her if it's the last thing that they do, the three player Kids disappear...
...to find themselves re-appearing in another Echo Sphere that seems relatively new and intact. The air is hot, there's a dusty, desert feel to it, and the weather is hot. Nils is there, outside the device, and helps the girls out of the Echo Sphere. He says they're in some sort of desert, and points out some nearby, almost faded tracks that appear to be children's shoe tracks. As the characters look around, they see a few other pieces of wreckage associated with the Loop they are familiar with, and a large sign standing on a pole. The letters are stark white, covered with a bit of sand, on a background of green. They read, "BOULDER CITY 5".
Sunday's game session of Tales From the Loop was a lot of fun, and was a good learning experience for me on how to run the game and engage in that childish sensa wonda that we all had when we were that age (though some of us can't really remember our early teen years). I got a better handle on some of the game mechanics, and came up with an interesting plot that the players rather enjoyed. I couldn't remember what the teleporting devices were in the game, so faked it and used the Echo Spheres, and it worked out well in that regard. SteveR and Tammy created their characters relatively quickly, and so we got to play a good 2-1/2 hours worth of a short adventure that I ran on a wing and a prayer. Worked well, I thought, and both players actually enjoyed themselves. Tammy said that she enjoyed herself a lot more than she expected to, and I was glad of that.
Might get in one more session of Tales From the Loop at some point before <a href="http://www.cangames.ca</a>, but we'll see how that goes.