Tales from the Loop, Free League’s tabletop RPG about an alternate history Sweden gripped by the effects of a massive tech facility that might have warped time and reality, has always succeeded on a careful mix of nostalgia and sci-fi speculation - the tone straddled between halcyon fondness and wonder.
The company is now adapting artist and author Simon Stålenhag’s The Electric State into a standalone tabletop RPG book that isn’t explicitly tied to Tales from the Loop but won’t be able to shake the shadow of its influence. Crowdfunding via Kickstarter, The Electric State is a decidedly darker and more sinister sandbox for players to explore, trading youthful hijinks for a desperate flight across a desolate post-war America.
According to a press release, the world of The Electric State RPG takes place in a version of the US that split from our timeline during the late 1960s thanks to the discovery of neuronics, a new technology that would eventually allow people to vacate the material world for alternate reality, en masse. A second civil war fractured the current political barriers, and somewhere within the nation of Pacifica (formerly California) the Sentre corporation has introduced the Mode Six upgrade to its cheap neuronic headsets. The fallout: people stop showing up for work, infrastructure crumbles and those in power scramble to understand and control a world that has vacated reality for a mass online environment.
Players will journey together across a version of the US emptied of its people and littered with the smouldering, forgotten detritus of war on both military and capitalistic fronts. Their goal, for whatever reason, is to reach Pacifica. Free League is clear in their description that this game cares more about the journey than the destination - it’s a road story where the characters’ shared experiences will alter them and bare their souls even as the environment threatens their safety.
Sessions might involve traversing perilous geography that is actively decaying under their feet while the wreckage of a weaponised corporate mascot mecha trundles mindlessly across the horizon. It could also involve schisms in the group as individual goals grind against the security of the collective - navigating these points of friction can prove as dangerous as an irradiated desert or crumbling overpass.
The Electric State RPG is a standalone book that will contain everything players need to create short-to-medium length campaigns. It will use a version of Free League’s Year Zero Engine - the same powering Tales from the Loop and follow-up Things from the Flood - that involves a pool of six-sided dice augmented by attributes, items and circumstances. Every rolled six counts as a success, with multiples increasing the severity of the outcome.
It’s a simple system that prioritises narrative circumstances and interaction between players. Behind the post-apocalyptic road trip fiction at the heart of The Electric State, it might prove a stellar engine for tragic and harrowing tales that are a far cry from that 1980s Sweden that never was.
The Kickstarter campaign for The Electric State RPG runs through December 20th and is aiming to produce a physical and digital edition of the core rules. Free League is hoping to release a condensed alpha PDF version of the game before the end of 2023, and backers will be granted access to a full digital copy of the rules early. Shipping on physical books is expected to begin in November 2024.