Tabletop RPG Review: Our Friends the Machines & Other Mysteries

Our Friends the Machines cover

Tales from the Loop is one of the most exciting and fun RPGs I’ve read in a long time, and one I’m very excited to play or run.  Our Friends the Machines & Other Mysteries features several adventures, including a fun bunch of mini-mysteries inspired by hit 80s songs.  There’s also some advice on tailoring your game to your home town, instead of the two default towns the game provides.

Something I found a bit odd about these particular scenarios is that several of them seem related to the Loop in only the most tertiary way.  In general, I think the book would work best if you use it to bulk up a ‘Mystery Landscape’ style campaign. I’d put all the NPCs on 3X5 cards and mark their locations on a map.  Whatever scenario you might be running, if it involves the video rental store, have Ellen Skoogh suggest a cool movie for the kids to rent. If there’s a reason for them to go to a toy store, make it Anette & Henrik’s Toy Corner.  Maybe have them run across Benny Jonsson and his moped gang causing some trouble that has nothing to do with the ‘mummy.’ I think it would be cool to have the kids end up at the docks, getting a good view of an Mg/S cargo vessel in operation, before ever giving them a reason to try to hop one.  These characters and the various locations they might be found in could definitely help flesh out a more ‘sandbox’ style game.

Frankly, several of the scenarios feel too incomplete to run as they’re presented in the book, and might require a good deal of additional work on the part of a GM to really make them work.  However, by weaving their various elements into a broader tapestry of interconnected mysteries might really help.
One surprising complaint I have for this volume is a technical one.  The book is beautiful, as was the original, and the layout is gorgeous.  This makes the frequent, sometimes egregious editing lapses especially jarring.  It’s not just the occasional typo. There are whole paragraphs repeated, many instances of the wrong word, etc.  For a book that clearly had so much work put into it, it’s a strange failure, and I don’t remember the basic book having this issue.

Complaints aside, if you liked Tales from the Loop, you should enjoy this.  There’s plenty for a fan to enjoy.  Is it essential? No. I’m glad to have a different sampling of mysteries to give some more ideas of what sorts of stories you might tell with the game, and I’d love to see more.

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