I was supplied with a reviewer's copy of this material, and I work with the publisher Adventureaweek.com I have no professional attachment to Brian Engard, Steve Russell or Rite Publishing. I strive to keep my reviews unbiased, and presented from the voice of a fellow gamer.
The Demolished Ones, by Brian Engard, from Rite Publishing. The book weighs in at 94 pages, with an incredible cover from Hugo Solis. Interior art goes again to Mr. Solis's talented skills, gracing the feel of the art throughout this book. Following a dual column approach, with editing and formatting being of high caliber as come to be expected from Rite Publishing. Fully bookmarked (though not linked on the TOC page, although the TOC page is more intended for a printed concept than the bookmarks), with nested bookmarks throughout. So, that really covers the basics, doesn't it? The stuff that lets you what to expect in regards to the framework....so lets get to the fun stuff, shall we?
First off, and it has to be stated, right up front, I have never played a single game of Fate, ever. Before this book I had never even looked at the system. So how could my opinion of this product be worth anything right? Simple, the book taught me how to play. Yep, by the time I was done reading the intro to the storyline and drooling like a fanboy I was scouring through the pages teaching me in an extremely easy method to learn the basics of the system. Now, seriously, I learned a full system in a matter of a chapter within this book, OK, granted, there are always more things to learn about any system, but there is ENOUGH here to be able to play this storyline. And that is what matters. Turn sequence, character creation, character actions, and turn resolutions....all there. No, I am not going to get into how to play the system here in this review, that is not the intention of this review. Just well enough to say, this product handles, with ease, making sure than anyone could jump on board and enjoy this product.
And what exactly are we looking at here? What is the storyline the players are in store for? We can do this one of two ways, I can walk you through the story and ruins it for those sneaky players who troll for reviews. Or I can tell you what they can learn for themselves, without ruining the interwoven layered story. I'm going for option 2, trust me, it is worth to not give away anything to those looking to play this one.
The players awaken in a room, with no clue who they are, who the other people in the room with them are, and why there is a dead body. They have no memories of how they got there, if they are connected to each other, if they might be the responsible party for the body, or victims themselves. A phone call bringing a warning that the authorities are on the way puts everything into movement, and from there on the story is driven by the actions of the players as they piece together their fractured memories and lives. All is not as might appear for the players, as there are forces moving behind the scenes pulling strings to manipulate their lives and actions.
Hearkening to the feel and spirit of the distinct inspiration of the movie The Dark City this storyline brings forth the excellence of the neo-gothic feel of this movie. Working better described as a Victoriana Era piece perhaps, but feeling to my personal taste as very gothic. As well as the feel of the world being more below the surface than what can be “seen”. Whereas the game has an elite group of “adversaries” (known as The Masters) for the players character's to deal with within the setting for the storyline, the more direct Mr. Tock is everything you could ever hope for with a villain, and then some. Bringing to the table a bit of the classic concept of manipulating the world around him treating those involved at pieces on a chess board as he moves his “pawns” throughout the story, all the while attempting to better his own status amongst his peers.
Supported with a handful of excellent player handouts, from fliers with notes scrawled on them to torn articles from the local newspaper. I love the addition of these handouts, and really help to make sure that immersion into tho storyline is better for your players. And yes, it includes its own 1 page character sheet to make easier for players to manage their characters.
The world created here within this setting, within the city “under the dome” (spoilers, lol) does an excellent job of bringing to life several various locations throughout the city for the players to explore as they work their way through this storyline. And to that, it should be pointed out, that the storyline does a very good job of staying out of its own way, in that it is sandbox enough to allow for enough free roaming, while leading more then enough direct for purpose.
So, wrapping this up, using a scale of 1-5, with a 5 being the highest rating I can apply to this, I have no option but to give it a 6, flat out. I loved this product. There is so much Win here that it sold me, entirely. Not only does this product do an excellent job of teaching me a new game (handled with ease without making me feel like a noob), but delivering with a killer of a mystery for a twisted storyline. I can easily see this being used not just for a tabletop session with friends, but with the most minimal of effort to turn this into a live action evening with friends who have never roleplayed before, introducing this story much like a Murder Mystery Party night, over even a convention event.
This is an excellent storyline, and yes, I have gone out of the way to avoid referring to it as an adventure, as this feels more to me as a storyline. Shortly after reading through my review copy I jumped on the chance to get a print copy, adding to this to my shelf of personal favorites. And will more than likely be adding to this to my Top 10 list for the year of 2013 at the end of the year.
Well done Mr. Engard, well done indeed!
[5 of 5 Stars!]