I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
Things From the Flood is a Swedish roleplaying game, sequel to Tales From the Loop. Designed by Nils Hintze, both are based on the works of the graphic artist Simon Stålenhag which also feature prominently in the game books.
In Tales From the Loop, the characters were kids who explored the mysterious surroundings of their alternate Eighties home in Sweden (or in another version of the setting in the U.S.). The game contrasted the travails of everyday life with the magic of discovering hidden things with your friends.
Things From the Flood moves the action to the Nineties. The characters are teenagers and the world is a darker, more uncertain place. The government-operated Loop of the Eighties has been privatized and strange waters rise from the ground.
Both games play on a generational experience and I’m exactly the right age for them. I had my teenage years in the Nineties so a lot of what the book describes is familiar from personal experience. This is especially true because of the Nordic setting. The game may be located in Sweden but there are enough commonalities with Finland to make it resonate.
In it’s treatment of everyday life, Things From the Flood doesn’t pull its punches. The family life of a teenager can feature alcoholism, parental neglect and other ills. The community described in the game consists of adults who are too busy dealing with their own failures to really be there for the children they are supposed to be raising.
As a Nineties narrative, this felt very tangible to me. The recession in Finland in the early Nineties hit my family hard so I know what some of the dark stuff described in the book looks like.
Reading the book, it feels like the treatment of difficult subjects is more in line with Fastaval scenarios or similar Nordic game design rather than the tepid, reality-avoiding approach typical of a lot of American big roleplaying games.
In design terms, Things From the Flood repeats the successes of Tales From the Loop. For me, the best thing about it is the way it organizes its setting and concepts to make it easier to structure gameplay and come up with stuff that happens without codifying content generation into a strict system. There is still space for emergence, which is important given the personal subject matter.
I’m so used to reading American roleplaying games that its nice to have my own experience reflected in a game book for once!