Excellent concept – badly in need of editing, or perhaps just more focus.
I like parts of it - the magic system (similar to Amazing Engines’ - For Faerie, Queen & Country), the idea of Sword Noir, and adventures. They were done well. I’ve been thinking of how to run a game based on something I read on a forum – “live fast, die young, and leave a 3rd level corpse.” Now I think I can do that.
However, the author (Ronald) created his own system for the game, and I don’t think it supports the authors’ stated goal. The stated intent was to make a system where the Characters are specialists, and also that they are to be simply “mortal men” – not Mythic Level Characters.
However, the system (which they stated as being part PDQ and part FATE) uses Attributes plus Faculties plus Abilities plus a die total (but it doesn’t explain that until page 16). And, after reading further into the system you discover that the Player gets 6 points to bump Qualities up from Average to Legendary (the max). But, since attributes, faculty and abilities stack a character that is a specialist could have a better than Mythic Level Ability right from the beginning. If they spread out their points they would have 3 or more qualities at Great Ability. But, the author also states that a generalist is not recommended and would “most likely to fade into the background” of the story. It doesn’t match.
Using the FATE 1.0 System (and its’ ability pyramid) instead of designing a new system would have been better if enforcing a specialization was that important. Or, better yet, if the author had NOT USED A SYSTEM AT ALL, and simply made the book as a genre sourcebook, it would have been more satisfying.
As a genre book it covers the basics – but more pages covering what makes the genre different would have been better. The book is 70 pages long, but only 6 are actually devoted to covering the new genre. It mentions the Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past, and advised the GM to emulate them – without breaking down what they think are the essential parts of those stories.
If they had spent the page used for the system instead to better defining the genre – or how to use it in some other systems (in PDQ, FATE, BRS, D&D, etc), it would have been better.
Also, it is hard to read some times – it wanders a bit, repeats itself a lot, and needs more examples (ie: editing). And, using 7 pages for Characters that could have all been summarized on one page was a waste of space. Whole sections of the Character Sheets were empty; an each sheet took up a whole page by itself. And, the numbers on the table or contents were wrong.
Like I wrote earlier, I like the concepts, but it needed a lot more editing.
But, for a typical RPG book it is about Average (+0) Quality in editing.