For April I’m focusing on Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood for my Gauntlet Hangouts sessions. I’m doing four-shots of each game, but also starting a longer Sunday campaign. That will begin as Tales in the 1980s and then flash-forward to Things in the 1990s after six sessions. In my RPG Wishlist post, I mentioned my desire to do a “Steven King” like kids/adults horror game. This will be a dry run for.
While I’ve run Tales before, Things offers a new challenge. The final core book hasn’t yet shipped. TFF promises a little apocalypse with the shame-filled, troubled teens PCs. Interestingly, like Tales it doesn’t completely embrace the darkness of the source material, Simon Stålenhags art books. Things haven’t collapsed, just gotten more complicated. The particle accelerator known as The Loop has suffered a catastrophic failure, weird black flooding has broken out, certain machines have bloomed with a biological infection, and robots have become unreliable. It sounds dark, but take a look at Stålenhags original illustrations…
I dug Tales’ minimal structure used to create everyday life atmosphere. It evokes the ‘80s, but even better draws out the idea of family issues and the pressure of the mundane for kids. Things moves the timeline forward with the PCs now 14-18 year old teens rather than 10-14 year old children. While the game implied an easy move of characters from one to the other, that isn’t exactly true. For one thing dates suggested in both texts don’t exactly line up. GMs will have to go late 1980s for Tales and early 1990s for Things. That’s an issue for the TFF which uses specific dates and real world events. The game also has you ditch any experience or growth for your Tales characters when they transition to Things. I can see why, but it would have been nice to have some payoff instead of the GM having to houserule it.
Both games include a Swedish setting and an American one (set in Boulder, CO). Though this isn’t the place for a review, it’s worth noting that the tone and evocative detail, as well as the scenario materials, feels enmeshed in the European experience of the era. Adapting the material fully for an American setting requires more work than with Tales. On the other hand, I have the additional hoop to jump through of retooling the material for my Midwestern locale: Wayward, OH.
YOUR OWN PRIVATE OHIO
I’ve redone my maps for both Tales and Things. In particular I added a few more named places to help build the landscape. I created new “playbooks” for the archetypes of both games. That involved retooling some of the NPC connections, player secrets, and hooks. I changed names and added locales to make it feel more Midwestern.
25 HOOKS FOR THINGS FROM THE FLOOD
1. An arcade cabinet of Golden Axe got infected with the machine cancer at Aladdin's Castle. Supposedly they dumped it, but someone picked it up. Now there’s rumors in school about a weird, new game that you can play on it. Who do you think has played it and how has their behavior changed?
2. A couple of kids got arrested playing Killer in the local Hallmark store. It’s become a huge thing among certain geek & nerd segments of the school. But recently something seems to be happening to some of the kids “killed” in the competition. Who do you know who has or is playing?
3. A few nights ago a rave out close to the ‘Vac Zone got broken up when a bunch of armed thugs in black rushed the party. No one’s sure who they were—cops, gang members, Crowne Industrial operatives, or some kind of private security company. A few people got injured, but who has gone missing since the incident and how do you know them?
4. A friend was hanging out at Istanbul Video when a guy came in trying to sell a bunch of videos he’d supposedly found in a dumpster. The clerk didn’t want them, but your friend had a chance to rummage through. They seemed to be a bunch of movies and TV shows he’d never heard of. What’s the video your friend managed to snag from the dumpster-diver before he took off?
5. A group from Critendom Technical College has been at your high school in recent weeks, helping out with science classes. They hush up when kids come around, but you overheard one of them mention the now restricted Knoxville Army Base. They’ve also been installing equipment surreptitiously after the school day. What did you see them put in?
7. A person driving a beater camper van is going around the neighborhood offering to buy any machine cancer-infected devices or appliances they might have. While the machine cancer mostly affects older items, it has struck some newer models as well. What happened when your friend told the person they had something, but refused to sell?
8. After the Flood, Crowne locked down and secured the four major access gates to the Loop. Zulu Gate, closest to town, has been heavily fortified. But recently a video tape surfaced showing some teens breaking in. And now at least one of those trespassers has vanished. How do you know them and what have you heard is on the tape?
9. The rising water table has hit grassy local sports football, golf and soccer. Baseball and basketball should be the pastime of choice, but schools from surrounding areas refused to come here to play. To make up for that, local coaches aggressively recruited for local leagues. But in recent weeks fistfights have broken out between these coaches. That’s spread to the teams themselves. Your friend (Person) got jumped by teens from another team, but they refuse to say who. What makes you worry this is something deeper?
10. One of your parents told you about a mid-budget film has come to town to shoot scenes around the ‘Vac Zone. They have permits, but Crowne has not been pleased by the attention. The crew have had several incidents suggesting sabotage. Who do you know who works on the set?
12. Recently a spate of night terrors seems to have gripped teens. From an escalator ride with a hazy figure approaching opposite, to a cartoon headed at the end of their bed, to something warm being inserted into their ear, the dreams have been vague but terrifying. Who do you know how has been hit by this plague and what have terrors have visited them?
13. Refugees from Vietnam, part of the so-called “Boat People” crisis, have arrived over the last two years in Wayward. Many have been hired for cleanup operations. Yesterday, you saw two of them in a boat and both of them had rifles. Who is claiming to have seen someone dump a body in the lake?
14. Several of the farm teens at school have been whispering about weird happenings at their fields and orchards. They talk about seeing figures moving through rows at night and strange dark green vans parked on side roads. That struck a chord because you’ve seen vans like that parked at an odd place. Where was that? And what were you doing there?
15. Some whisper about robots out in the evacuation zone. But rumors have bubbled up about others close to home—not humanoid or even big machines, but robot animals stalking Wayward at night. When and where did you see an animal you’re pretty sure wasn’t natural?
17. The newer Science City Mall has been crushing the old school Town & Country mall. That’s pushed out the oft-forgotten and oldest mall in Wayward, North Village. It’s currently occupied by a mix of empty shops and downscale businesses. Some teens say the abandoned section of North Village—closed due to water damage—has been taken over by something strange. What’s the most popular rumor swirling around about that?
18. The State Theater downtown has struggled against the rise of the multiplexes and VCR technology. They bought space next door to install three micro-theaters, expanded the arcade, and created a retro film series, but still seem to be in the red. Recently they’ve canceled the usual last Monday night showings. A teen who works concessions mentioned there’s a private group renting it out. They come in after hours with their own projectionist. The teen found some end reel footage, but it isn’t the porn they assumed. What did they say was on the film?
19. There was a big blow up at the local game store which split the massive D&D table into two groups. One campaign kept playing at the store Tuesdays after hours, but the other group dropped off the radar. Those players won’t talk about when and where they’re meeting up. Where have your friends seen them congregating one night?
20. They say that if you call the number of a particular phone booth out in the ‘Vac Zone, someone will answer it. Tell them who you hate and within seven days something will happen to them. Now a former friend is freaked out; they did this on a lark and their rival is in the hospital. Why did you stop being friends with that person years ago?
22. You read on a local teen BBS that a group of older kids had been secretly trading weird red mixtapes at the record store. The user posted they’d managed to snag one, but now they’ve been offline for several days. What’s the user’s handle and who do you suspect they are?
23. You’ve been told about a group of teens who have been secretly hiking out in the woods on the southern side of the lake. Supposedly they’ve found some unusual bugs and other creatures they brought back for a private menagerie. But the ringleader’s barn caught fire last weekend and now they look scared at school. Who overreacted when you asked about that?
24. You’ve heard a rumor going around school that if you watch the public access channel after 2AM on certain nights, you can see a weird show that speaks to people. What does it supposedly tell them?
25. Your friend asks if they can spend a couple of nights at your place. Their dad said he was working, but may have gone into the ‘Vac Zone to loot from an old medical center. Your friend says their father has been acting odd since then. Who is your friend?
In May I’ll come back here or on the podcast to talk about my impression of these session. I’m excited and hopeful for that.
For the full backlog of Age of Ravens posts on Blogger see here.