Last weekend, my tabletop gaming group got started with creating characters to run a Tales From the Loop campaign. Tales From the Loop comes from Modiphiüs Entertainment and won 5 ENnie awards in 2017 including Best Game, Best Setting, Best Writing, Best Internal Art, and Product of the Year. In Tales From the Loop, players take on the roles of kids in the “1980s that never was.” If you think this is heading for a Stranger Things feel, you’d be absolutely right.
Our first session came after a longer than usual hiatus, and we decided to focus on character creation. I will say that not only is the logistics of character creation fairly easy, but it doesn’t depend on dice rolls. I have a long and rich history of being betrayed by dice rolls (if directions say 4d6 and drop the lowest, I will frequently roll a 6, 5, 1, and another 1), so I really appreciate systems where my starting stats are not at the whims of my very fickle dice.
The most important thing you need to do is decide your character’s Type (Bookworm, Computer Geek, Hick, Jock, Popular Kid, Rocker, Troublemaker, and Weirdo) and Age (age can be from 11 to 15) because that determines your Attribute Points and Key Skills. Ideally, there should not be doubles of any Character Type in the group. Once you have your Age and Type, assigning the assorted Attribute Points and Skill Points is pretty straightforward. Being older gives you more Attribute Points, but younger kids have more Luck Points (15 minus age) so there’s a trade-off. You get as many Attribute Points as your Age and must assign 1-5 points in the four Attributes (Body, Tech, Heart, and Mind). Each player gets 10 Skill Points and can assign 1 point to any skill but up to three in the Key Skills of your character’s Type.
The best part of character creation is not the number crunching part, but fleshing out who your character is and how they are connected to the others. With the basics out of the way, our group had the following characters:
- S playing Joe Elliot, the Rocker, age 13
- R playing Dove Glitters, the Popular Kid, age 14
- K playing Laura Sumner, the Hick, age 13
- Me playing Jessie Jones, the Weirdo, age 13
Our characters now had Types, Ages, Attributes, Luck Points, and Skills, but they needed to be fleshed out more. The page for each Type has suggestions for the next parts, but players are free to come up with their own ideas, too. Everyone gets an Iconic Item that grants them bonus dice when trying to overcome Trouble and should say something about them. For Joe, his item is his guitar. For Jessie, it’s her weird German Sheppard/Pug mix named “Meow Meow.” Character’s also have Problems (Jessie’s raised by a single mom who is often gone for days at a time, Dove is a child actress), a Drive that explains why your character is up for getting into dangerous situations (I took the book suggestion, so Jessie is naturally drawn to the weird and strange, Laura likes to help others), something that can cause trouble by triggering your Pride (Jessie thinks popular kids are stupid sheep, Joe is a self-declared music virtuoso), and an Anchor that is an NPC that acts as a safe place for the character (Jessie has a surrogate grandmother figure who lives in the same trailer park she does, Laura’s is her mom). Players also pick an ’80s song for fun that reflects their character (Jessie’s is “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, Dove’s is “I Want to Break Free” by Queen).
But the last section, Relationships, is the most fun and is really done best when everyone is face-to-face at the table bouncing ideas off of each other. Each character needs 2 NPCs, but they also need to define their relationship or connection to the Kids played by the other players. This can take a bit more wrangling, but watching how things build up is a lot of fun. I decided that Jessie has sympathy from the owner of the local diner who often passes food off to her. She is also bullied by a basketball player who has been chased by a protective Meow Meow at least once.
R decided that Dove, her Popular Girl, has a jerk jock boyfriend and it quickly made sense that Dove’s boyfriend and Jessie’s bully should be the same, especially since it made sense for Jessie to start off distrustful of Dove. Dove’s best friend is also Joe’s older sister. Jessie has gotten her butt saved more than once by the Hick, Laura, who is probably the closest thing to a friend she has.
Sorting out Joe and Jessie was a little trickier, but we figured they could have been science lab partners the previous school year. More connections got created and a joke got started when R announced that Dove’s Drive is “knowing ALL the secrets.” Somehow we decided it would be great if her family had a secret that would destroy her, and it was not long at all before we decided that the secret in question is between Jessie and Dove’s families.
Finally, we needed a Hideout that was a place that would be reasonable for our characters to all be connected to considering their separate ages and positions in the social hierarchy. We ended up deciding the town could have a ’50s-style diner that the kids would all gravitate towards. Now we’re all set to really get going next session.
If you have players that really like storytelling and not just hack and slash, they’ll really enjoy building up characters for Tales From the Loop. I know I can’t wait to see how our four characters start reacting to each other when the Trouble starts to hit, and the rest of the group really seems excited about their characters, too. If you think you might want to check out Tales From the Loop for yourself, a physical copy has an MSRP of $44.99, but you can get it via Amazon for $36.71. A digital copy can be purchased for $25.99.
Have you played Tales From the Loop? If so, what was your character like?