If you haven’t been living under a rock, you probably have heard about Stranger Things, a Netflix series, which came basically out of nowhere, but thrilled its audiences. It’s also the only TV series I know which starts with a group of kids playing D&D. It’s a story about friendship, but also about government conspiracies, ESP, parallel universes, and its fueled by great acting, a thrilling script and a lot of 1980s nostalgia. In my opinion everyone should have at least watched it once.
There is no official Stranger Things RPG, but with Tales from the Loop (which I recently reviewed) we have something pretty close. Overall I think Stranger Things can serve as inspiration for many GMs. The plot of Stranger Things would fit right into your Call of Cthulhu campaign for example.
The highly anticipated second season of Stranger Things is just around the corner, and I’ve embedded the official trailer below. If you haven’t watched season one, there might be a few spoilers, so be warned!
I think Stranger Things is an awesome TV series everyone who feels at least a bit “geek” should watch, even if you don’t use it as inspiration for your tabletop roleplaying games.
P.S.: The soundtrack works great as background music for your roleplaying games especially if they are set into the 1980s.
In May 2012 I wrote a short blog post about the then recent release of the Wanton Roleplaying System (aka WaRP) under the OGL. Most gamers probably never heard of said system before. WaRP is the system which was used in Atlas Games’ Over The Edge roleplaying game which is supposed by many to be the grand daddy of many of today’s indie roleplaying games.
When Over The Edge came out in the early ’90s, free-form systems with player-defined traits, lacking most of the common RPG tropes felt like something from another planet. Nowadays it would fit right in with games like Fate Core, Apocalypse World, just to name a few.
In the WaRP system each player character is defined by four traits: their core trait, two secondary traits, and a flaw. Each trait is ranked in d6 (usually 3 or 4). Each trait is also accompanied by a sign which is a visual representation of its trait. Someone with the trait Soldier may have “Army fatigues” as sign. The traits are player-defined but the OTE rules also included a list of examples to choose from. The whole rules section of the book was about 20 pages long and the basics could be compressed onto just one letter-sized page.
Over The Edge’s setting was also delightfully different. The game is all about the fictional island of Al Amarja, a place where everything imaginable may be true. The player characters in OTE might stumble upon ancient gods, alien conspiracies, weird cults, or anything else the GM might come up with. It is also a place which feels like a cyberpunk city, but from the 1980s. It has all the drugs, and rock’n’roll but none of the cyberware… It was a far cry from what gamers were used to back in the day. So it’s probably no surprise that some gamers still speak fondly of OTE, while others have never even heard from it.
When WaRP was released under the OGL a couple of years back I was hoping to see at least a few games powered by it. Unfortunately people were too busy hacking Apocalypse World, Fate, or many other modern indie games while giving WaRP a cold shoulder. Over the last few days I have been reading the Over The Edge core rulebook again, and I really would love to either try this game out or at least give the WaRP system a try. Hmm, perhaps I’ll add this to the list of games I want to run after my GM break…
I don’t remember when I first learned about Simon Stålenhag‘s work. It might have been the article from The Verge in 2013, or a random blog post I stumbled upon while aimlessly surfing the web. What I remember is that I thought someone should create a roleplaying game based on these images. Simon Stålenhag’s art shows the ‘80s that never was. A world where the mundane reality of that decade meets the extraordinary. The protagonists in these pictures were often kids, perhaps 10 to 12 years old. Exactly the same age I was back in the mid ‘80s. Perhaps it’s what makes his art so compelling, he shows the years of my youth exactly as I wished they had been.
In 2016 Fria Ligan, the Swedish publisher behind games like Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis, joined forces with Simon to create a roleplaying game based on his works. The Kickstarter campaign for the Tales From The Loop RPG was unsurprisingly highly successful. A lot of gamers had just watched the Netflix series Stranger Things which was about a group of kids confronted with technology gone awry, and a world stranger than we deemed possible. The time was definitely right for the Tales From The Loop RPG!
Disclaimer: This review is based on the digital edition which I got from Modiphius as a complementary copy. Thanks again, Chris!