Few games are capable of deeply exploring what drives a character while at the same time completely discouraging any kind of back story from the players. The Demolished Ones is a game where players must put a lot of trust into their GM and the writers of the module to create a compelling experience of self-revelation. Players won’t like what they discover about their characters, but then again, that’s kind of the point of the game – discovery. This is a game that revolves around a big secret, and it’s pretty tough to talk about it without at least touching on that secret. You have been warned.
The Demolished Ones is a fantastic little book that offers the best way I’ve ever read to introduce your players to the world of the Fate RPG system. If you’re not familiar with Fate, it’s an abstract, rule-medium system that has become quite popular recently, in no small part thanks to the massively-successful Kickstarter campaign from Evil Hat Productions, the creators of Fate. Since the demise of the glut of d20 products of the late 90’s and early 00’s, Fate is one of the systems among a handful of options available to third-party publishers. It’s a difficult game system to describe in just a few words, but the important thing to note is that it’s highly-adaptable and perfect for pulpy action. You can mold Fate to do many, many different things, and the folks at Rite Publishing appeared to have designed the perfect introduction to the basic game mechanics.
So what is this big secret of the game? Let me start with the premise. The characters wake in a room with a dead man and no sense of who they are or why they’re there. Through the course of the game, they discover the secrets of the Domed City (the setting of The Demolished Ones), the ones who put them in this situation, and of themselves. Here’s the thing though, can they trust what they find out, or is just another layer of illusion – another lie? If you’re familiar with the movie Dark City, you’ll see that The Demolished Ones owes a lot of its inspiration to it. Of course, while Dark City may appear quite original, it shares a lot in common with some universal themes of deception, deceit, and out-right subjugation of one’s will to a more powerful, malevolent being. These themes pop up in other movies where reality is hidden under an illusion for the purposes of control.
Reality is what you make of it. This is a central theme of the game and the story. It’s a particularly strong theme to match up with the rules of Fate. Fate offers players the freedom to create or discover new aspects of their environment, sharing some of the responsibility of setting the scene and telling the story. This translates well to the story because players will discover that their characters eventually have the power to actually change reality around them; at a price. As they discover more about their past, what they were supposed to be, they’ll gain power and abilities in the game as well. It’s a very tidy way to tie story and mechanics together for a powerful effect on the players.
The book itself, which I have read in PDF format, is well-designed. There’s plenty of art throughout the text, and it’s extremely evocative of the creepy Victorian steampunk setting of the Dome. We’re also presented with a great map of the Dome which should allow the GM to give players the freedom for a more open-world game.
The Demolished Ones tells a specific adventure. The way it’s presented, and the advice provided in the GM’s section, makes it possible to customize the game a great deal. The book offers several different pieces to guide the GM to run these different kinds of games using The Demolished Ones. From noir to Lovecraft, the game is very open-ended in tone, and much like the setting, the GM can change the reality in the Domed City at will.
Rolling together a welcoming introduction to the rules of Fate and a paranoia-inducing adventure in the Domed City, The Demolished Ones is a great, low-risk buy in to give Fate a chance. If you’re looking to try something new or just need a solid adventure to cleanse the pallet between longer campaigns, The Demolished Ones packs a lot of value in just about 90 pages of actual text.