More mysteries of the Loop in darker times - a Mephisto review
Things from the Flood
The dreams and hopes of the 80s are over. The technical advances and miracles promised by the particle accelerator, known as the Loop, have not come true. A mysterious flood has turned part of Färingsö into a wasteland overnight. Because of the black water, possibly contaminated with strange substances, the area has been evacuated. Not only have the Loop's robots developed an anomaly called machine cancer sometime later, but this mysterious malfunction, resulting in tumor-like growth, has soon affected other machines as well. The Russian artificial intelligence program has proved a failure, and the last of these robots have fled and gone into hiding before being destroyed. Even the attempt to save the Loop by a take-over by the Krafta corporation was unsuccessful. And the company has not remedied the damages either. Also, the magnetrine ships, which promised so much potential as a flying, energy-saving means of transport, have eventually turned out to be a failure.
Things from the Flood continues Tales from the Loop, leading the roleplaying setting from the 1980s to the 1990s. While the 80s were still full of promise and optimism, these alternative 90s turn out to be a time in which these hopes were shattered. The characters who were still children in Tales from the Loop have now become teenagers - with all their advantages, but above all, with all their problems. The complicated relationships between the characters play a significant role, as well as their problems and the things they are ashamed of. As before, the characters are created from ten archetypes, defined by four attributes and several skills. The game mechanisms are simple: For the tests, attributes and skills are added for the dice pool. Every 6 rolled on the six-sided dice is a success. Fights do not really matter to the teenagers either - in a real fight; the characters have no chance. Accordingly, there are no health points or health levels but failed tests can cause the player characters to suffer so-called states leaving them scared or exhausted, which makes their tests more difficult. If things go very badly, permanent scars may remain, or player characters may even be eliminated from the game entirely.
While the basic system of rules is simple and pragmatic and fits well with the background, Things from the Flood takes an in-depth look at how individual stories need to be constructed to maintain the mysterious atmosphere of the game. The idea here is that the area around the Loop still holds countless secrets for the player characters to stumble into. The game tries to combine these mysterious elements, which revolve around strange machines, robots, time travel, or maybe even aliens, with the everyday problems of the characters. In keeping with the setting, in which many things seem to have gone wrong, the characters also have their teenage problems - be it families that break up, alcoholism of the parents, or even severe lovesickness.
While the book presents the 90s with some specified events, the focus to convey a certain atmosphere of the 90s. The primary setting is the Loop in Sweden or for the alternative scenario of the Loop in America (here it's a rupture of the Hoover Dam that leads to a flood). Some of the fictitious developments are presented as facts, but several elements remain open in such a way that the game master can find his own truth here - or simply leave these questions open.
The book then presents tips for playing the game. On the one hand, there is the so-called Mystery Landscape, which is intended as an open-world approach and puts many secrets on the map. It is up to the player characters which of these stories they want to explore. Besides, there are four complete adventures, which can be played individually or linked together and which pick up the primary themes of the game.
Of course, this book is also influenced by the illustrations by Simon Stålenhag, whose mixture of everyday motifs with strange technology perfectly conveys the atmosphere of the game. Actually, it is the other way round: the roleplaying game is inspired by the stunning visual worlds of Stålenhag.
For me, Things from the Flood is an excellent roleplaying game that creates a perfect combination of its elements. The mixture of the complicated teenager life with the 90s offers an intriguing setting. The idea of letting the player characters dive into mysterious conspiracies on the one hand, and on the other hand, still addressing their everyday problems creates a thrilling contrast. The rule mechanisms are accordingly simple but easy to understand and coherent so that, above all, the story stays on the centerstage. The design and development of the setting seem logical and offer an exciting world in which there is a lot to explore - also for the game master, who is given enough degrees of freedom to develop his own stories. This excellent approach combined with the outstanding illustrations, which offer a glimpse into a world that is so familiar on the one hand and yet so alien on the other hand, results in a roleplaying game that is really appealing to relive one youth in the 90s - enriched by robots, conspiracies, monsters and other things that for us back then only existed in the corresponding TV series. I think that Things from the Flood is an absolute recommendation and a real roleplaying highlight for those who are attracted to the genre.