The Mysteries of the 1980s: Oz Mills on Free League’s New Tales from the Loop Campaign

Free League Publishing’s latest expansion to Tales from the Loop, a adventurous roleplaying game based on the paintings of Simon Stålenhag, recently released a new campaign. Tales from the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast takes players into a world where particle accelerators introduced weird events into the world. But adults never seem to notice, so it’s up to the kids to do something about it.

Patterned after the seasons of a year in the life of the player characters, this campaign sees them responsible for the care of a mysterious creature, taking after some of your favorite movies and stories from the decade.

It is written by Oz Mills, who has previously written for Star Trek Adventures, Fallout, Homeworld, Warhammer, the Dragon Age roleplaying game, and more.

It was our pleasure to interview the author…

For anyone new to it, could you tell our readers about Tales from the Loop?

First of all, thanks for getting in contact, James. It’s lovely to be able to talk about all of this.

Tales From the Loop is quite unique in the world of tabletop roleplaying in that most of its world and lore is heavily inspired by the gorgeous and original contemporary sci-fi art of Simon Stalenhag. It is an homage to stories set in the nostalgia-heavy era of the ’80s. The premise of the game is that you play as a group of kids as they try to live their daily lives while strange stuff happens in their hometown. Ever since the Loop, a particle accelerator, opened in the ’60s, things have just never been the same. Maybe birds have started talking, maybe that weird kid in school says they saw a dinosaur in some local fields, or maybe a large abandoned metal sphere in an industrial estate has started causing the behavior of local adults to shift subtly… Whatever it is, you might be the only ones who seem to care. After all, your parents are distant and never understand when you tell them about the weird stuff going on.

You can play the game in areas based around Loops in Simon Stalenhag’s home country of Sweden, in a Loop in the USA, I believe a German version of the game exists with a German Loop, and now in a Loop built in the United Kingdom. While it was introduced in a previous product, They Grow Up So Fast focuses on the UK and expands on the lore of the area a great deal. Although, technically, you can set the game anywhere you want. Your own real-world hometown growing up could be the basis for your own mystery compilation.

The game taps into that perfect period just before the world became as interconnected as it is today, and draws heavily from movies and TV from that era. It allows you to portray those archetypes you see all the time in media. The bookworm, the jock, the outsider. A real Breakfast Club ensemble who come together to solve whatever that story’s problem is. At the same time, though, you need to handle the entirely normal things happening around you. One scene might have you racing back home to escape a strange creature summoned from another reality, the next might be the scene at the dinner table where you have to explain why you weren’t in school today since you skipped classes to investigate that weird house on the edge of town. Each has its challenges, as well as its rewards.

I feel like I’ve already said way too much. The game has so many layers and evokes its tone the best when the story of the normal stuff happening in the town and the strange stuff the kids try to solve interweave back and forth one after the other.

What is your background with Tales from the Loop?

I’ve been a huge fan ever since it came up. Over time, I’ve played my fair share of short games, each displaying a new mystery. While I haven’t had the chance to do a long-running game set over a few years yet, there’s always hope.

Though, you know how it is. Once a Game Master, always a Game Master. I wish I could get a few more chances on the other side of the table.

What should everyone expect from Tales from the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast?

When I was looking through the available stories for Tales from the Loop, there were plenty of homages to popular media, and I could see these tales reflected in some of the themes in the official adventures. Though, I was surprised one was not there: The story of the kids finding a strange creature and needing to protect it from the adults in their life.

It’s one of those tropes I was surprised did not exist on TV Tropes, which made the research stage of writing this all that much harder. Though, you can find examples of it happening in things like:

  • ET: The Extra Terrestrial
  • Stranger Things season 2
  • Pete’s Dragon
  • Water Horse

While the original Tales from the Loop, as well as later mystery compilations, dealt with distinctly separate mysteries, though sometimes with an overlapping story, this one is four connected mysteries that all deal with the same singular problem.

What are you most excited for players to encounter? Especially players who might be newer to Tales from the Loop.

Without going into details about its nature, I am very interested in finding out how players react to the presence of a living being they might need to keep a secret. I have tried to include several hooks to help GMs create empathy and invest emotionally in such a being.

  • So, do the kids name it?
  • Does one specific kid carry it around while it’s small?
  • Does anyone get more attached than others?
  • Do the kids ever fight about how to look after the creature?
  • Does one of the kids betray the others and tell the adults about it?

It will be very interesting to find out more about how each group dealt with the unique problems they find during the mystery.

Could you walk us through the process of writing for tabletop? What do you focus on when you work?

I think it’d be disingenuous to describe THE process of writing tabletop, but I could certainly describe my experience.

In late 2017, I contacted Free League to ask about the possibility of pitching to them. I think I got in contact via the customer service department, but honestly it’s been so long I’ve deleted those early emails. Eventually, someone got in contact and said they’d be open to hear what I wanted to suggest.

I put together a document with the ideas. About 400 words each for the four mysteries that make up the book, as well as a similarly-sized overarching synopsis and discussion of game themes detailing why I thought it would make a good product.

Looking back at my Dropbox, I completed the first draft of the pitch on Christmas Eve, and completed it on Boxing Day two days later. I was surrounded by Christmas chocolate and could not be more relaxed as I finished a few items and sent it off to Free League.

When they got back to the offices after Christmas, they let me know what they did and didn’t like, and I started from there.

I remember the pitch, which included a diagram of most-likely scenes, gave me a solid template for how the mysteries should progress. It was easy to break this down into scenes in an RPG and then start expanding them by adding details of trouble the kids would encounter in each scene, suggestions for how the mystery and the kids’ lives might intertwine, and growing the lore about the UK Loop.

It took me about a solid month of sitting in Brewdog after work each day, hammering away at a laptop, until it was in a form I liked. I then sent it off, and waited.

Amusingly, shortly thereafter, Free League exploded with the announcement and subsequent release of the Alien RPG. My understanding is that they were very busy because, even though they stayed in contact and I got paid in a timely manner, They Grow Up So Fast did not see store shelves until seven years later. At no point did Free League give me the impression they were not interested in publishing it, though. They were excited at every stage, and I remember receiving emails about the design of the Creature and whether I had any feedback while I was transporting my life from one country to another a few years back. I was immensely hyped when I finally saw it up for pre-order, and it’s been a dream working with Free League every step of the way.

Strangely, part of me wishes I could rewrite it. After seven years, you can imagine how any creative person’s process changes. There are little tweaks I’d want to make, but I’m happy with what I made and I’m very happy to hear all the stories of different people who have played it since its release.

Lastly, where can everyone find you online?

While I’m sure I’ll be transitioning over to Blue Sky at some point in the near future, my Twitter currently exists at I have a Youtube that includes a few examples of me playing Tales from the Loop at, and people can email me about any questions they might have at

Of course, if people have questions about the product itself, they should get in contact with Free League. But if you want to tell me all about how your group handled the mysteries, or want to know more about why I made this decision or that, they are more than welcome to get in contact.

Thank you for this chance to write about all that. It’s been a great opportunity to talk to you.

And thank you for speaking to us!

You can find Tales from the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast in print here.

Featured Image: Free League Publishing

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