StoryWeaver sets a high standard for small press RPG production. Their PDFs are easy to read, the art is great and they just look great. "Destiny's Children" comes in black and white with a colour cover. There's a few full page images in the book but if you cut them out, you could print "Destiny's Children" without chewing through too much ink.
"Destiny's Children" brings the players to the table as a group of marines responding to a distress signal from a research space station hiding in orbit around an uninhabited planet. But not all is as it seems as and as the frightening mystery unfolds, the danger increases and terror ensues.
In addition to the module book, "Near Death Experience 01: Destiny's Children" also comes with two editable PDFs with a table for tracking the PCs and NPCs – there's space for their location, dice, status and extra notes. The module has a pretty big cast so this is a great tool. There's also a high resolution map of the space station designed for use with a tablet computer (such as an iPad) for players to examine and zoom in on. A nice touch for the sci-fi setting but not much good without a tablet. This same map is in both the book and separate so the GM and players can have one on hand.
The last bonus goody to come with "Destiny's Children" is three different versions of the "distress signal" that begins the game – one in English, one in Chinese and one mixed language version. There's also a "distress beacon" sound effect you can use to prempt the audio log. Finally – and best of all – some more ambient music. The music tracks are made specifically for use in different parts of this module but I'm sure you can find some other uses for them. The track "Grim Space" in particular suits any Rapture game.
I have to give StoryWeaver a lot of credit for making a module that is more than just a script. It's a game in a can with everything you need to run a great game... Well, almost.
Okay, let's get to the meat of the matter. What about the actual game? What about the module itself? Well, sadly, that's probably the weakest part of the whole package. I'm reminded of the first pages of the "Rapture" core book where the writers state:
"If you've never played an RPG before, this isn't the place to start." and while I disagreed then, "Destiny's Children" isn't exactly user friendly.
Instead of going scene by scene, the "Destiny's Children" book gives you a "How to Use This Book" page, followed by an outline of the story taking place in the module and on the hidden space station. There's a cast of important NPCs and then the bulk of the book is locations and what can happen there as the players progress. The final pages are taken up by some optional hand-outs that include diary's, official memos and scientific reports. The intent is to create a sandbox setting for the players to discover by their own means and methods. Which sounds great in theory but the book also seems to assume a particular course for the players to take and details are written to unfold in that order. The design of the module is, as such, self-contradicting and I'm sorry to say that the group I ran "Destiny's Children" for almost broke the module.
My key point here is that the module isn't user friendly. It doesn't give you enough to open the book and run right off the page. I didn't print the material out, but I did want to use the optional material in the book. This meant deciding for myself where it was the most useful and made the most sense to put it, then jumping to the back pages to read it out, then jumping back to the location the players were in, then jumping to the cast list for details on antagonists they fought following their discovery, then jumping back to the location the players were in, then jumping to the next location they decided to go to. The process was, in the end, time consuming.
Now in defence of StoryWeaver and "Destiny's Children" I didn't do much preparation before running the module. The material in the book, the story, the horror are all wonderful but this is by no means a "pick-up-and-play" module or even a "skim half an hour before the game" module. This is really a tool box for preparing a game yourself and that's not how a module is supposed to work. I shouldn't have to write a pre-written game in order to run it.
I have no doubt that if I'd take then time to prepare more for running the "Destiny's Children" module, it would have been a lot easier. But in that time, I could have prepare my own game for the evening. My group agreed unanimously that once I stopped trying to play "by-the-book" and improvised with the material, the game got scarier, faster and better.
So to wrap it up, "Destiny's Children" is good. I would play it again, no questions. Everybody at the table enjoyed it and 3/4 of the players had never played "Rapture" before. If you need a game to run for a group new to "Rapture", then this is as good a place as any to begin. I think the plot and location really define how "Rapture" is meant to be. But just be aware that you're going to need to put in some time to get the game ready for play because this is a game-in-a-can with some assembly required.
[4 of 5 Stars!]