But does it provide that perfect blend of discovery, combat, philosophy and cheap humour that characterised Star Trek at its strongest? Can it submerge us the suffocating moral ambiguity of Deep Space Nine, inspire us like The Next Generation, or make us squee with dread like the tribbles of The Original Series? Does it boldly go where no science fiction RPG has gone before?
Alright, I thought, I'm hungry for games set in the actual
dumpster fire world we live in, and I enjoy creepy, occult things, and I always want to investigate characters with secrets, traumas, and unsolvable problems. So I gathered a small cabal and led them into a morally ambiguous underworld of deadly rituals, paramilitary organizations, ancient crypts that appear only at midnight, young women without tongues, and murder. I plunged them into an international struggle for the future of the TransCanada oil pipeline, of Vancouver real estate, of the White House, and the world.
If you're ready for a game of of vast conspiracies and sleepless nights, a game in which your obsessions give you strength and great power comes with great corruption, in which you'll be haunted by invisible demons with ten-inch claws and compelled to do bloody deeds, where heroes are less Captain America and much more Jessica Jones… then read on. Just be warned: in case you haven't figured it out yet, this game is not family-friendly. Nor is it for the faint of heart.
Everyone's talking about Tales from the Loop, the game of roleplaying young kids in a 1980s that never was. It’s got everything you need to play out your own version of Gremlins, E.T., Stranger Things, or any movie where kids hurriedly pedal their bicycles to save the day (but should probably be home before dinner).
And who wouldn’t want to play a kid? Adolescence is amazing, and I'm not just saying that because I spent months teaching middle school Algebra. All the hormones, and discovery, and bravery, and adventures, and confusion… it's perfect RPG fodder. The question is whether Tales from the Loop successfully unites ‘80s nostalgia and middle school feels with good science fiction mysteries.
Ok, I confess. I teared up more than once while playing it. What did you think?
Quinns: I’m going to be very British and delay talking about my emotions so I can squeeze this in above the cut: I think Tales from the Loop is a cool, clever, beautiful book, but the real reason I want everyone to know about it is that it might also be the easiest experience I’ve ever had being a Games Master.
DON'T TELL ANYONE, but some of the best roleplaying games out there are not available at your local retailer. Thanks to the magic of the internet, they're completely free.
These irresistible blossoms of RPGs can suddenly appear on Twitter or Reddit only to vanish within a few days. Sometimes they'll quietly bloom on a designer's Tumblr or publisher's homepage. A few older ones thrive quietly in the dark places of the internet to be occasionally plucked by some intrepid RPG gatherer who brings them back into the light. There's even a contest-fed bouquet of 200-word RPGs out there, as Quinns and Paul mentioned in a recent edition of Games News. The brightest flower of all these lovely free RPGs, however, is Lady Blackbird.
None of that prepared me for the bizarre investigations that I commenced upon my return to Minneapolis –– investigations that continue as I write. Therefore, while I still retain enough of my mind to write, I find it imperative to tell you all this:
There is no Lovecraftian mystery game as engrosssing, as well-crafted, or as much sheer fun as Pelgrane's roleplaying game, Trail of Cthulhu.
In other words, if you haven't yet watched Firefly, you need to get on it.
But enough of that! The real question here is whether the Firefly roleplaying game is any good.
Readers, friends: yes. Yes it is.
For this uncanny place is our Earth, far, far, far into the future, after our civilization and seven others have climbed, peaked, fallen, and been rusted over. More than one alien invasion has occurred, and more than one alien species has mingled genes with humanity. A new civilization has arisen, but hasn't really gotten past the middle ages. The perplexing debris of past civilizations, from humming obelisks and transdimensional portals to enchanted amulets and portable CD players, is everywhere. The people of earth call these weird objects "filled-with-power-things": numenera.
Welcome to the Ninth World, the setting of Monte Cook's Numenera. I would say, "come on in, the water's fine," but it's probably filled with flesh-eating microdroids or laced with bubble-gum flavored psychotropic drugs or something. But forget the water, there's so much here. This place is so ancient, and vast, and tremendous. Let's explore!
But there is one RPG that this winter has been mollifying my seasonal adventure disorder and warming my heart just like a good cup of hot chocolate with whiskey in it warms your body. That game, my dear readers, is Mouse Guard. So grab your weapons, fluff up your fur, tweak your whiskers, and tap into your anxieties about owls, weasels, and raccoons. You're about to undertake great and perilous deeds for the sake of all mousekind.
Cynthia: Hello, dear readers! I'd like to invite you all to accompany me to the end of the world, and to your death. Don't worry! I assure you that you're perfectly capable and prepared for the end – as it manifests in the phenomenal indie storytelling game Ten Candles, that is.
Ten Candles is a flexible, firelit game of "tragic horror" designed by Stephen Dewey and published by Cavalry Games. And I'm so totally in love with it. It's many scenarios take place in a variety of apocalypses where thick darkness blankets the earth and an evil force known as "Them" threatens humanity. Oh I know, there are plenty of post-apocalyptic games out there, and I imagine you're all raising your hands to ask what's so special about this one. Well, let me show you. Because what's special about Ten Candles is pretty much everything.