Kids on Bikes

Check Out These Great Roleplaying Games with a Stranger Things "Vibe"

Stranger Things Season 3

Stranger Things Season 3

Now that you’ve binged the entire third season of Stranger Things, what are you going to do when those pangs of nostalgia make you want to return to the 1980s for some good and creepy fun?

Well, there’s always roleplaying games.

Sure, you could play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the game I run and play the most right now even though I love a ton of other games too. Hasbro even has a Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set that features an adventure called Hunt for the Thessalhydra “written by” Mike Wheeler, the character from the show. Luring people in with the siren song of Stranger Things can be a good way to get people into D&D. However, what if you don’t want to play in the typical fantasy setting?

What if you want to portray your own group of kids in the 1980s that are uncovering dark secrets, enjoying the freedom of childhood, and fighting and fleeing from terrible monsters? Well, you are in luck because there are plenty of roleplaying games that do specifically that.

Let’s take a look at a short list of options that you might want to check out further.

Tales from the Loop

Tales from the Loop

Tales from the Loop

Tales from the Loop, from Free League and Modiphius, is a fantastic game based on the world created by artist Simon Stålenhag. It takes place in a very different, yet familiar, version of the 1980s. The setting is full of advanced technology along with Research in High Energy Physics facilities, also called Loops.

Two locations (one in the U.S. and one in Sweden) with Loops are detailed in the book., along with advice on creating a town of your own with a Loop facility. A range of secret experiments occurs in these particle accelerators, as well as accidents including rips in the space-time continuum, illnesses, strange machinery, cyborgs, robots, strange beasts and much more.

Really, you can tailor the setting to how you what and the types of creatures and obstacles you want to face.

It is a simple d6 system. Ratings determine the number of dice you roll, and you will need to get a 6 on at least one of the dice for success. Most of the time, you will only be required to get one success.

More to Love

There is also a new Loop game called Things from the Flood, which is something of a sequel. You can play older kids, it takes place in the 90s, and this game can be lethal, whereas the kids in Tales from the Loop don’t die.

Guess what? Tales from the Loop is also being turned into a TV series by Amazon. Let’s hope they took a cue from the artwork because I really want to see Stålenhag’s work come to visual life.

Another beautiful image from Tales from the Loop

Another beautiful image from Tales from the Loop

Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes

I recently talked about Kids on Bikes in a recent post you can find here, so I won’t bore you with all of that same information again. The thing that really helps to make this feel like Stranger Things is the fact that there can be a powered character in the game, like Eleven. Instead of having one player as the powered characters, they are controlled by the entire group of PCs. It is another very simple rules system, too, so it shouldn’t take long to get a game going.

If you are interested, there is a cool live play that’s on YouTube called Kollok 1991 that uses this system.

Dark Places & Demogorgons

Dark Places & Demogorgons

Dark Places & Demogorgons

Dark Places & Demogorgons from Bloat Games is an Old School Revival (OSR) game that uses a somewhat modified version of the classic rules from Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s. The rules are simple, and there is a target number guideline table for difficulty checks and relatively simple combat.

Keep in mind that like the other games on this list, it tends to be less about combat than it is about investigation and finding ways to take care of the problems without fighting. After all, a group of kids might be able to stand up to bullies but confronting a raging werewolf head on and without anything to aid them is likely to lead to characters getting ripped apart.

That’s not to say that you can’t have combat. The kids should be smart about how they take down the monsters, and they should be rewarded for it. The GM should also try to come up with multiple methods of dealing with a problem and reward the players for thinking outside of the box.

With this system, there are some optional rules for character classes. In addition to the “typical” types of kid and teen classes, you could play as someone with psionics, an experiment, a Firestarter, or a telekinetic. Unlike Kids on Bikes, players can create powered characters, as long as the GM allows it in their game.

If you are familiar with D&D and like how the system works, it shouldn’t take long for you to understand how to play and run the game. In addition to the Dark Places & Demogorgons core book, there are quite a few supplements available for it already. These include a werewolf sourcebook, a vampire sourcebook, a UFO investigator’s handbook, a ghost hunter’s handbook, and a cryptic manual.

I’ve run a couple of sessions of this game, and it’s a lot of fun. It was easy to get people already accustomed to D&D on board.

Stranger Stuff

Stranger Stuff

Stranger Stuff

With this option from Fat Goblin Games, the similarity is right in the title. At the time of this writing, there is only a PDF available, but it’s likely that there will be a print on demand option coming from DriveThruRPG.com before too long. It is based on a game called vs. Stranger Stuff – Season 2, also from Fat Goblin Games, but has been adapted to use with the TinyD6 system.

When the player attempts something that could fail, they will roll 2d6. If they roll a 5 of 6, it is a success. In some circumstances, the player might get advantage, which allows them to roll 3d6. Disadvantage would allow the players to roll only 1d6. Combat is slightly more complicated, but it is still easy to learn.

I really like the style, layout, and the art of Stranger Stuff. It’s another rules-lite system, and it is easy to pick up and get a game going without too much work on the part of the GM.

What Else?

These are some of the games that I know about and own that work well for emulating stories like those you might find in Stranger Things. I’m sure there are plenty of other games out there that can do the same. Feel free to talk about them in the comments.

Just the Gist: Two Interesting Roleplaying Games to Check Out

Are you looking for a game to try that’s a bit different from the typical Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder? Maybe you want to run a one-shot or a short campaign, or you are looking for something brand new to play for a longer spell.

While I haven’t played the games below yet, I’ve read through the books and am excited about the possibilities they can offer. Instead of providing a deep and in-depth review, I figured that I would give you just the gist of what the basics of the setting and core mechanic are like to see if you might be interested. I will do these types of posts with games that I find and like every once in a while.

Of course, if enough people would like to know more about the games, let me know, and I could do a full review. Until then, here are two cool games that you might want to consider. You can find these on places like Amazon and DriveThruRPG.com. The links I’ve included are affiliate links, and they help out the site.

Colonial Gothic

colonial gothic (1).jpg

I find something really fricking cool about the Colonial-era aesthetic, especially when paired with the supernatural. Imagine a dark and fog-shrouded forest. It is the middle of the night, damp and desolate. A woman wearing a tricorn hat and long coat, sword in one hand, a pistol in the other. Fog swirls around her as howls grow closer and closer. Now, this might seem like it’s part and parcel of fantasy fare. However, now imagine that she’s a spy for George Washington and she’s carrying a message to the general, while a pack of ravenous werewolves attacks her on the road. Are they merely hungry or are they working for the British?

The system is simple enough with the core mechanic revolving around 2d12 for all actions. You roll the 2d12 and add modifiers to hit the target number. If it hits the target or is higher, it succeeds. It is a nice and simple system. Lots of story possibilities with this setting, and it could be fun to draw on real history, meet historical characters, and take on all manner of supernatural foes.

It has magic, monsters, and more, including a lot of historical info to help GMs and players nail the setting. I’d say it’s worth checking out. There are options for Kindle, as well as PDF and print options. Those who have Kindle Unlimited will be able to read this book and a range of the supplementary books with their subscription, which is nice. I’d love the print, but I will probably wait a bit to order it through DriveThruRPG.com until I can find more people who want to play.

Kids on Bikes

Kids-on-Bikes.jpg

Over the past few years, there have been a number of games that have been influenced by Stranger Things and many novels, films, and television shows from the 1980s (Dark Places & Demogorgons, Tales from the Loop). Kids on Bikes has a very similar feel in terms of the tone and the setting. The stories take place in any small town prior to things like cellphones and other bits of modern technology.

Players can create trope characters like the Popular Kid, the Scout, or the Young Provider. It’s a fast and easy way to get up and running. Of course, players who don’t want to use one of the tropes can work with the GM to come up with something unique. If you have the time, I suggest doing this to have just the character you want. Maybe you want a smart jock, for example. Also, while the focus of the game does tend to be on kids and teens, there are options to play as adults, with the trope of the Overprotective Parent, as an example.

A jock, for example, might have a d20 in Brawn and a d12 in Fight, but only a d6 in brains. The GM comes up with the difficulty number, which is from 1 to 20, with 20 being the highest. If the player rolls the highest number on their die, such as a 4 on a 1d4, the dice “explodes” and they roll again. The die can keep exploding up until they hit the target number. Of course, there are other game elements that can come into play, but that’s the basics of the core mechanic.

The rules are simple, which is good, at least to a certain point. It has the potential to become problematic. They are bare bones, which means it will require good judgment for making decisions on the fly on the part of the GM. They need to make sure that their rulings are consistent, as well. While I haven’t played yet, I imagine that it wouldn’t really be much of an issue with a good group with a fair GM.

There aren’t hit points in the game, but there is a table that can help the GM come up with narrative results for combat. This is a rules-light game that works best when there is a good back and forth between the players and the GM to come up with the world and to narrate what happens.

One element that makes Kids on Bikes a bit different is the addition of a powered character. Think Eleven from Stranger Things. However, this character is not played by just one player. The responsibility of the powered character is shared among the players at the table. Each player controls different aspects of that character.

I believe that there is some great potential with this game, but I haven’t played it yet. I’d like to run something similar to Stephen King’s It, where we start out with the kids are young and dealing with some type of horror, and then run again when they are adults. Stats and even character types could change as the kids grow up and become adults. For a game like this, I might even scrap the idea of a powered character.

There is the regular print and PDF versions of the game, as well as a version that’s free and contains the ashcan rules for the game, so you can give it a shot without spending money. You can also head to Renegade Games and pick up the deluxe hardcover, which is what I did.

Anyway, that’s just the gist of two roleplaying games that I think look like a lot of fun and that I’d love to play or run at some point. What other great games are out there?