Review: The Unexplained
I really enjoy a well crafted tale of the paranormal. From a good ghost story to an episode of The X-Files I am impressed when a work of fiction can send shivers down my spine or provoke a sense of paranoia from me.
That is no easy task: I’m an atheist and a skeptic. There are no ghosts, UFOs, bigfoots, psychic powers, or any other forms of supernatural events that you can think of. The supernatural just does not exist.
One day out of the blue I was sent a free PDF copy of The Unexplained by Bradford Younie which is published by Carnivore Games for $29.99. This role playing game uses the Fudge system, and it centers upon playing the part of a paranormal investigator in a world where the supernatural is for real. Furthermore, the book is half RPG and half non-fiction guide to real life paranormal investigation methods. That’s right – the atheist skeptic was given a free copy of a book that is partially dedicated to the real life investigation of the paranormal. Anyone care to define irony?
Before I share my feelings about the content of the book, let me start by saying that this is a beautiful example of layout work. The book itself captures the feel of a good paranormal investigation tale through its artwork, font selections, borders, and every last detail. This book is done in such a way that it inspires the mood needed by the reader to play the game. The text may tell you how to play the game, but the work as whole inspires you to play the game.
Onto the text itself though – The Unexplained is well written and easy to read. The style is simple without being mediocre, and the text flows well from one section to the next. You can read The Unexplained and enjoy it, because it is more than just rules on how to play the game or even details for a setting. The Unexplained is also glimpse into the lives of paranormal investigators and that makes it entertaining and informative as well.
There is really nothing new in the form of Fudge game mechanics in how The Unexplained describes game play, but that is because The Unexplained does not need to innovate Fudge. Instead The Unexplained puts all of its energy into the creation of mood and the build up of the setting. The Unexplained draws you into the world of ghost hunters and to do so it maximizes the Fudge mechanics that you already know and love.
But what about that second half? I am the atheist skeptic, remember? And The Unexplained devotes over half of its page count to the methods and techniques used by paranormal investigators. What did I think about the weak pseudo-science and loosely knit conspiracy theories that are the bulk of the second half of the book?
I loved it!
I absolutely loved all of the material that The Unexplained provides and I can not help but begin to design adventures upon reading it. I do not believe a single word of it (to turn skeptics into believers does not seem to be the intent of the author), but the entire second half of The Unexplained gives any good game master tons of materials to work with. Add to all of this the adventure Expedition: Bigfoot that is included at the end of the book and The Unexplained delivers the goods for many nights of paranormal investigating adventures!
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not The Unexplained is a great addition to any Fudge RPG enthusiast’s collection. Check it out, and allow your suspension of disbelief to be taken to a new level with this exceptionally well crafted RPG.