Our parents will kill us if we are killed by killer birds
Summer holidays on the Malaren Islands. The kids meet as usual in the boarded-up, closed-down community library in Kungsberga.
There’s Kristine, the most popular girl in school, according to reputable sources such as herself. She looks at herself in the mirror placed against one wall and tries not to think about her crazy aunt in the basement.
Then there’s Ylva, a shifty 12 year old whose eyes sparkled with trouble. She lives with her step-dad, stepbrother, and her mum. She spends most of her days staying invisible to her parents, and often sneaks out of her room.
Heinrich is step-brother to Ylva. He is as tall as most grown men, and stronger too. He comes to the library after swinging a bat around the field and avoiding the advances of his coach who is trying to push performance-enhancing drugs on him. “You will never be anything in this world unless you stick to sports” he says. Conversations such as these bewilder Heinrich, he prefers the tactics of the field, and the company of his friends where he can indulge in his secret passion of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (First Edition).
And finally, there is Tilly, a bookworm who is the happiest of them all to be able to call this abandoned library their hideout. She walks through the books, still wearing the wrap around scarf and huge sunglasses that will disguise her from the ‘strange man’ she has seen following her. She will take no chances.
There is a boom and a crash. Upon investigating the kids discover dead birds on top of their roof. Strange. Then, there is the sound of mechanical voices which can only be coming from a couple of pigeons who survey the carnage. Even stranger. What is going on?
The kids decide to follow up by meeting with Sweden’s most respected ornithologists, who just happens to live not far from here, but only after they have had their dinner and a good nights rest, of course.
The next day, there are more dead birds and even some dogs and cats around their hideout. It’s a grim scene. A flock of seagulls flies overhead, seemingly led by a goshawk.
The kids decide to take the bus to go and see Mats Tingblad, the oceanographer, I mean archaeologist, I mean ornithologist. His house is overgrown and surrounded by bird-perches, but strangely there are not many birds. Perhaps because he seems intent on killing them all with his axe. Ylva picks the lock to his gate and does a good enough job to avoid the alarm. Mats confirms what Tilly had already gleaned from her encyclopaedia; pigeons talking in mechanical voices and working in teams to carry large bars of iron is most unusual behaviour. Flocks of killer seagulls is also an abnormal occurrence in the opinion of the esteemed ornithologist. Mats tells the kids he thinks that Gunnar Granat is the the only person he can think of with the skill to understand what is happening with the birds. He suspects they have been tampered with somehow, and Gunnar either did it, or would know how to do it.
In a brilliant display of charm and moxie, the kids convince Mats to lend them his car. Kristine finds the keys and gets into the drivers seat. As oldest AND most popular, she is surely the best suited to drive. Ylva tinkers with the engine, Tilly interpret the driving manual and Heinrich gives the old rust-bucket a great big shove to help get it started. Amazingly, this works and the kids drive into town to get helmets then head north, following the flight of the pigeons.
They find a large ‘nest’ constructed by the pigeons who perch silently as the kids try to get closer. A flock of seagulls attacks. Heinrich bravely keeps them at bay while Kristine manages to get to the nest where she discovers a piece of iron with IEX-4Z32 painted on it. Ylva trips and the captured pigeons held in an ingeniously home-made cage are sadly pecked to death by the killer seagulls. Till notices a blonde haired girl in cool clothes watching them who takes off on her bike and heads south until the kids catch up to her and learn her name is Masan. Although she seems very old and cool, she invites the kids back to her house.
Majsan’s house is actually belongs to her uncle Gunnar Granat. She says the kids can stay with her as long as they promise not to tell any adults about her staying there. She also says her uncle has been missing for a few weeks, although she seems to be not too concerned by this. It seems he is interested in a scientist he used to work with at The Loop, Lena Thelin. “They are probably off just having sex, like adults do” says Masan.
The kids comb through Gunnar’s house and find evidence of a machine that can attract and then transform birds. Apparently the birds should be able to be controlled by whoever has the machine. They also discover Gunnar’s diary and learn that he is angry that Lena lost her job at Riksenergi (the company that operates The Loop) and that she offered him a chance to work on a project called IEX-4Z32.
The kids decide to stay the night with Majsan and make some phone calls to their family and fiends so they can feel a bit better about the world, and construct the cover story of a summer vacation sleepover.
This was my first time running Tales From The Loop with a group. I found the character creation aspect very fun and easy, it took us just over an hour to make four characters. It would have been better with handouts for each character type instead of having to hand around the book, something with making handouts for in future.
Actually running the game was fun, although a bit challenging. Getting the mystery started was the hardest bit but once the kids started making choices and doing things it got easier. I can definitely see that a good group is essential for the game, and luckily mine is very good! Everyone leaned into the theme and it was a fun session.
No maps or minis were used. I really like tactical combat but I don’t think it was missing from this game, it was good to try some Theatre Of The Mind.