13 August 2013

The Demolished Ones

The Demolished Ones, by Brian Engard and Rite Publishing, is a game of memories and mystery set in a fictional Victorian setting known as the City.

This game's basic premise is that the characters wake up with no memories to something terrible, something vaguely familiar, but also something out of place. That sense of unease follows through the story as they unravel the mystery. They will experience the power of knowledge, as well as the price and horror that comes with it.

In this game is a setting, a story and all of the system that you will need to play. It is a Fate-based game, but even people familiar with Fate should go over this variation of the system to cover some of the subtle differences. In addition to the minor changes, there are some significant additions to the basic Fate foundation that give this game a great deal of it's flavor.

This is your official spoiler warning. If you are going to be a player in this game, you would do yourself a service by not reading any further. If this sounds pretty good so far (hopefully it does, because this is a good game) and you want to play, find a kindly GM and direct them here in hopes that they will be inspired to acquire and run this game for you.

To really discuss this game, secrets are going to have to be divulged. As mentioned previously, this is a game of memories and mysteries. Even more than that, this is a game of truth and lies. I've already lied to you: the setting is only known as the City to those within that don't know the truth; to everyone else, which is a small group, it is known as the Dome.

Have you seen Dark City? If the answer is "no", do yourself a favor and watch that movie. Now that everyone has seen it, if you liked that it and thought that there was some amazing ideas that would be great in a game, then this game has been written for you. While it isn't just Dark City, the game, it has certainly been heavily influenced by that work with some changes, such as the inclusion of horror elements and the price of power and knowledge. I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

There are changes to the basic Fate formula in The Demolished Ones. To begin with, your character is a blank slate, no Aspects, no skills, no stunts. Nothing. These, along with your memories are developed during play. Characters will have flashbacks that initially give some insight into who they think they are, along with an associated Persona Aspect and related skill.

Eventually, they will get more sinister memories about who they really are, which is a terrible individual. Unlike the previous suggestions, these come from the GM, not the player, and reveal truths about the setting and the character. Nearly everyone in the Dome is living as a part of some inhuman experiment towards unknown ends. Those that start to learn the truth, of which the players will be some, gain power because of that.

They will gain Aspects and skills like the previous memories, but these Aspects can be used to fundamentally change the world within the Dome. Through these True Aspects, these characters can perform superhuman feats, influence and bend the will of those around them who do not have True Aspects, or even shape their surroundings. All of these come at a cost - mental consequences are just the beginning. These powers rely on embracing their darker nature and utilizing the power that it gives them. Eventually there will only be the darkness and they will simply be a monster.

True Aspects are also more difficult to resist when compelled. Doing so is resisting a fundamental part of your nature; it is one of the only truths to your existence to rely on. However, by doing so for long enough, you can change your stars. You can become a different person. In this noir setting, it may not rain every day after all.

The story itself is presented as three acts, with the first two acts being a relatively well scripted mystery with enough hook to get the players moving in the right direction. In the first act the groundwork of the mystery is laid as the players regain their "memories", though there is the unshakable feeling that nothing quite adds up. Act 2 introduces their actual memories and begins to fill in the blanks. The players will ultimately be caught in the middle of a struggle for the fate of the Dome. Finally, Act 3 will has the players doing whatever it is they want. They will have the information and the tools to profoundly affect the setting. For better, or worse.

There is a lot to like about this game and it definitely uses the basic framework of Fate to its advantage as the story unfolds. The way that memories, Aspects and skills work together is elegant. It is worth mentioning that mental stress and consequences are going to be a headache as the game proceeds and the more monstrous elements appear.

The layout of the book is clean and easy to follow, though with one small, but at times glaring, issue: the font used for titles has virtually indistinguishable capital "C" and "G". While a minor distraction and easy to sort out, it's distracting from an otherwise very pleasant flow of the text. All of the art maintains the moodiness of the setting. It tends towards high contrast use of dark and light, and has a Victorian noir sense about it. There are a few pieces that are distinctly not Victorian, which gives a feeling that they do not fit. Naturally, this supports the concept of the story and the setting of it being amiss and out of place.

One thing to be wary of is that this may not be a great fit for all players. Not everyone is willing to cede so much control of their character, nor will everyone be pleased about what could be termed a bait-and-switch. On the other hand, this can be a great introduction to Fate. It introduces the core concepts slowly and shows how the various pieces (character background, Aspects and skills) can all be linked together.

The Demolished Ones offers a unique game and premise that is certainly worth looking into for those interested in Fate, and those looking to do some new things with Fate.