The Artefact: A Review and Playthrough

I remember seeing the original version of The Artefact and being fascinated with it’s unique approach.

First, it completely embraces the narrative side of gaming. There are no dice rolls to speak of (although there’s room to squeeze them in if you want). It’s a game that is all about exercising your muscles of creativity and telling an interesting story along the way through the use of writing prompts provided by the game.

Second, you play not as an epic fantasy hero but as an epic fantasy magic item. That’s right. You are a sentient sword, shield, or even musical instrument that is passed down through the ages, and the point of the game is to tell the story from the point of view of this near eternal and definitively non-human personality. “Getting into character” takes on a whole new meaning here!

Third, there is a deliberate melancholy feel to the whole game that I just love. It’s like listening to a rain storm from the meager shelter of a tarp tied between two trees. You’re getting a little wet and a little cold, but there’s something that just hits the right spot. It’s like listening to those original Counting Crows albums and dwelling on a heartbreak while simultaneously cherishing the good times you had along the way. During the game, you’re asked to sit for periods of time in the dark reflecting on what has occurred. What game does that?

Therefore, when the author Jack Harrison of Mousehole Press went to Kickstarter for help publishing a 2nd edition Zine, I was sold. I have been solo playing RPGs more than with people since moving states, so this was right up my alley. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed!

During my playthrough, I chose to be the shield and tried to weave my magical traits throughout the narrative and have a sort of overarching plot to the whole thing. You don’t have to do it that way, but that’s how it played out for me. It was a wonderful game that once I started, I had a hard time putting down. I probably spent 8-9 hours on the game over the course of a quarantined weekend, and ended up with a story that pulled at my own heart-strings. (No guarantee that it will pull at yours, but for whatever reason, it got me near to tears when I realized where it was headed for the final act. Call emotional if you will, but good grief, for some reason I’ve been a crier ever since my kids were born.)

The only drawback that I can see with the game is its replayability. Due to the limited number of Keepers (people who use you as their magic item) and things that can happen to them, I could see being able to play through this game maybe a max of three times as is. However, the 2nd edition will help with that! The Kickstarted version (which is not out as the time of this writing) will have updated layout and even more choices. I think it’s an excellent piece of work that you should check out and support.

You can read all about it and pre-order the new version on the Kickstarter page here:

If you’d like to read my solo playthrough, check it out here: The Guardian Sleeps PDF.