Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Monday 18 October 2021


For fans of Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the '80s That Never Was and Things from the Flood, the roleplaying games based on the paintings of Simon Stålenhag, as well as other titles from Free League Publishing, there is the Free League Workshop. Much like the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons, this is a platform for creators to publish and distribute their own original content, which means that they also have a space to showcase their creativity and their inventiveness, to do something different, but ultimately provide something which the Game Master can bring to the table and engage her players with. Such is the case with Puppy Love.

Puppy Love is written by one half of the hosts of the podcast, What Would Smart Party Do?—the other half designed King of Dungeons and presents an engaging and entertaining mystery with lots of Mats and puppies, plus a dilemma or two. It could easily be played in a single session, perhaps two at most, and would make a good option for a convention scenario just as it would for the Game Master’s own campaign.

The scenario begins at the start of the new school year, with the Player Characters all eager to return and catch up with friends at least, if not necessarily return to their lessons. However, on their way to school they spot two things. First, posters for a missing puppy belonging to a boy at school, Mats, and then further along and second, the missing puppy, Petra. Problem solved then. All the Player Characters have to do is take Petra back to Mats when they see him at school. Except, when they get there, Mats is nowhere to be found, and oddly, another pupil, the popular, but catty Doris, also has a puppy—a puppy which almost looks like Petra! What is going on? Is there more than one Petra or just more than one puppy? Where did Doris’ puppy come from? Where is Mats and is his puppy still missing?

The scenario takes an even odder turn—no surprise there, given that it is for Tales from the Loop—when the Player Characters attempt to find Mats. For when they get to his house, they find not Mats, but Mats and Mats. Two of them! Really what is going on?

Of course it has to do with the Facility for Research in High Energy Physics—or ‘The Loop’—the world’s largest particle accelerator, constructed and run by the government agency, Riksenergi, and since shut down. The question is how and then how do the Player Characters get in? Actually the latter is relatively easy, but the former will take a little more investigation. The actual difficulty comes in interacting and dealing with Mats—multiples of them, because all of them are slightly different and slightly wrong. The Game Master is accorded a pair of tables to randomly determine the appearance and personality of each Mats, though the scenario does come with a warning because the personality traits are potentially a little extreme for what is still a little boy.

Physically, Puppy Love is decently presented with the usual plot diagram for Tales from the Loop scenarios, nicely done artwork for each the scenario’s NPCs, and clear maps of the location for the scenario’s denouement. It is also well written and easy to read.

Although Puppy Love is set in Sweden on Mälaröarna, the islands of Lake Mälaren, which lies to the west of Stockholm, which is the site of the Facility for Research in High Energy Physics—or ‘The Loop’, it actually has an English sensibility to it. There is a mystery, and this being a scenario for Tales from the Loop, a countdown which escalates the situation, there is no real threat, and so it has the feel of Children’s Film Foundation television series or film. Certainly as weird as having multiple Mats and Petras is, having multiple Petras gives it a certain cosiness or cuteness.

Puppy Love presents a thoroughly charming, even cute mystery for Tales from the Loop. It is easy to add to a campaign and just as easy to use as a demonstration or convention scenario.

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