Mix tapes, horror movies on VHS, magnetrine ships, and robots; it must be time to talk more about Tales From the Loop. You are totally right. So, get some fresh batteries for your Walkman, grab your Members Only jacket and let’s talk about the Tales from the Loop adventure supplement: Our Friends The Machines & Other Mysteries.
Previously On Phil Reviews Things…
Back in May, I did a review for Tales from the Loop, where I spent some time gushing about how much I enjoyed the game, and how I liked using their published material. So when I had the chance to play some of the material from Our Friends The Machines & Other Mysteries, I could not resist.
I was provided a copy of Our Friends The Machines & Other Mysteries from the publisher.
Claimer (it totally is a word now)
I ran some of the content from this book in my Tales From the Loop campaign. My review will lean more heavily on the things I ran because I have more experience with those.
So let’s get on with the review…
The Big Mysteries
The book starts with three full-sized adventures that are on par in size with the adventures that were included in the Tales From The Loop book. This means that they have a fully developed mystery, a scene map that outlines the flow of the adventure, and a showdown which brings the adventure to a conclusion. These adventures will easily fill a session or more, depending on the pace at which you run your games.
I ran one of these, the adventure that shares the name from the book…
Our Friends the Machines
Spoiler: They are Transformers!
Thinly veiled Transformers. But trust me you won’t care.
This is the mystery you have wanted since you were a kid — an adventure about toy robots that are self-aware and being controlled by a pair of AI’s. There are two warring factions: the Convoy and the Deceivers. The kids get wrapped up in the middle of this war, as they try to solve the mystery and figure out how to save the day.
This mystery plays upon every kid’s fantasy of their Transformers coming to life, mixed with the weirdness you love about Tales From the Loop. The plot drives towards an abandoned factory full of danger that eventually leads to the final showdown. The adventure is open-ended, in that there is not a single way for the adventure to end. The GM will need to do a bit of work in-game to convey some options for the players of how the adventure can end, otherwise there can be some analysis paralysis. The nice part is that the ending is designed for a solution that can be violent or not. I appreciated this option in the game, since my own campaign was one with a low level of violence, and more about problem solving.
My players loved this adventure and the nostalgia it invoked. In terms of running this mystery, I found this one had a lot going on with the plot and subplots. I actually cut this adventure down a bit, and customized it to my gaming group. My story was more focused on the kids helping the Convoy work to defeat the Deceivers. That was easily done with the material provided.
Mixtape of Mysteries
The next section of the book is a series of small mystery plots (8 in total) that are all based on 80’s songs. Again, the authors totally get where this game fits, and there is a cool blend of nostalgia mixed with the weirdness of the Loop. These plots run the range from fitting closely to the other Tales mysteries to being much darker. In fact, I found a few of these to be too dark for use in my campaign, which tended to be a bit more innocent.
These plots are not fully formed adventures. They have a plot, some hooks to get the game going, and a countdown of bad stuff that is going to happen. You will have to do a little prep on these, especially if you are working them into an existing campaign. Based on the size of the plots, these are good for single-session adventures.
I prepped the Nightrain mystery; a mystery about a Pied Piper kind of character who has a weird amplifier for his guitar that lures children who come from troubled families. Prepping the plot was pretty easy. I used the mystery templates and techniques that were in the Tales From the Loop core book.
The next section contains some blueprints for some of the iconic machines in the Loop. These are also complemented with additional illustrations from Stalenhag’s work. Each one of these comes with a description about the machine and a few suggested mysteries. That last part is what makes this section great; more plot material.
What I really liked about the blueprints is the nostalgic call back to two things I loved from the 80’s: the Knight Rider blueprints, detailing KITT, and the blueprints included with all the GI Joe vehicles. I was a collector of all of those, and having just a few of these included in the book was a nice touch.
The last section is one that I think a lot of people were hoping to see. It is a set of guidelines for how to create the Loop in your hometown. Remember that in Tales From The Loop there is the default Swedish setting and an alternative Nevada setting. This chapter allows you to take all the tropes that are key to the Loop setting and overlay them onto the town of your choosing, like your hometown.
The chapter takes you through, step by step, how to make this happen, and uses an example to illustrate each section, including a map for a British setting. The sections do a good job of ensuring that all the tropes you will need for making a new Loop town that will work with the other published material will be included.
I did not make my own town. We are using the Swedish setting for our game. But I have thought of doing one for a 1980’s Buffalo, NY (where I live now).
Be Kind Rewind
Our Friends The Machines & Other Mysteries is a solid adventure book for Tales From The Loop. It provides you a large number of mysteries in various levels of detail from the fully written adventures in the front of the book, the summarized mysteries in the Mixtape section, to the mystery seeds in the Blueprints section. You won’t be lacking for something to do in your game.
In addition, the book continues to build upon the setting material of the game. The machine blueprints, more Stalenhag artwork, and deconstruction of how the setting works all build toward making the Loop a richer location.
If you are running Tales from the Loop either in one-shots or campaigns, this book is a good resource and worth having in your library.