I would love to write this review in the same tone in which Bedlam Hall is themed and go on at length about this 'abysmal' product, but I think most people would miss the irony and assume I was bashing the product, so in the interest of conveying my experience accurately I am going to dispense with the dour language and instead tell it to you straight, because this book deserves it.
I had the distinct honor & privilege of participating in a game run by David himself, courtesy of one of my friends supporting the KS very generously. I am so glad that my girlfriend and I made the time to play this game, and to stay up late doing so (we're on the east coast, David is on the west coast and the start time had to be late enough for him to get home from work...so the game ran well past my normal bedtime).
This was my first time playing in a PbtA game, and it was an absolutely delightful experience. In fact, it was the first time any of us had played in one, or any narrative style games at all for that matter, except for one player (the person who supported the KS) who has had experience with FATE in the past. For those that have never played in a PbtA game, you are able to fill-in details about the world in which the game is occurring, and make-up backstories for yourself -- and the other players -- on the fly. The entire session is created collaboratively based on the whims, wacky ideas, and moods of everybody at the table. The result was a coherent world that was entirely of our own making, that was utterly hilarious.
We fell right into the mood of this game, and immediately began backstabbing each other in order to undermine the other house staff, while boosting our own prestige. Okay, so I was the first person who actually made the first move to sabotage someone else, but then it was Game On and every employee for his or her self. We had people looking each other in the eye across the table declaring their attemps to undermine the other person, only for the dice to cross them...so there were...complications. None of us were rolling particularly well, so there were many of these complications. One thing I absolutely loved was that failing a dice roll did not in any way impede the forward progress of the story, it only added hilarity of the entire thing because we were so utterly incompetent at manipulating the scene around us to get ahead. A certain member of our group also quietly began slipping notes to David in the background, and managed to completely change the outcome of our story without any of us having any idea just how conniving she was! She was so quiet and innocent most of the night...
Long story short, some of us did not survive the night, and we only experienced a small portion of what this delightful product had to offer, since one of us (cough me cough) managed to blow himself up and nearly destroy the house at the same time. None of this was railroaded, and it occurred organically based on decisions we made, and I had absolutely no inkling of what was about to happen. I was laughing so hard I was crying while playing this game, and I had one of the best Friday evenings I have had in a long time.
Thank you David Kizzia & Monkeyfun Studios for creating this absolutely wonderful product, for introducing me to my first narrative gaming system in such a spectacular way, and for hosting an epic game that I will fondly remember for years to come.
Please support this designer and give this game a try. If you've got a gaming group that is comfortable looking each other in the eye and slipping a metaphorical dagger up under the other person's ribs in order to get ahead and share in an utterly delicious shared story, then you will have a great time playing Bedlam Hall.