I played my first game of The Face of Angels in Oakland in January 2007, as part of KueiCon organized by Chris Chinn and Ben Lehman.

After going out to lunch, we split into two groups to play octaNe (by Jared Sorensen) and The Face of Angels (an RPG in development by Clinton Nixon). I went with the FoA group, which was being GMed by Ben -- with players Alexis, Michael, and myself. This is a playing-card-based game where each player has a hand of cards and resolves conflicts with the GM. There is a formal process of stakes setting where each side proposes stakes.

The setting was that we were all graduating from high school. The year was determined by the average of the year that each of us graduated, which we determined was 1992. The average was dragged down mostly by me as the oldest by a good chunk. I'm 37, while Michael and Alexis were just out of college, and Ben is late twenties. We decided to play in South Bend, Indiana -- two hours North of Chicago, and a formerly rich spot that has been in decline for a while.

I played Terrence Brown, a flamboyant theater geek. His family was poor, but he covered that well -- picking out the fanciest clothes from second-hand stores and so forth. Mechanically, he was a Jack (specialist) with his specialty being Acting. Michael played Parker B. Lewis, the rich kid whose card was Queen (supporter). Alexis played Sarah Williams, a raver girl who dealt drugs to make ends meet whose card was King (leader). She had a single mother and several siblings, but she did well for herself.

We each defined one ally and one enemy for ourselves, then the GM defined one additional relationship for each of us. My first ally was Laura Krauss, a friend since kindergarden and a theater techie. My second was Brandon McTavish, a rich kid who hated him and was currently going out with Parker's sister Stacey. I added that I had stolen his girlfriend Amanda Lewis, who was an actress he lead with. Ben added Amanda as an ally for me. Michael had his father Philip as an ally, his sister Stacey as an enemy, and Ben added Brandon (my rival) as an ally. Alexis has her dealer Bob as an ally, Laura as an enemy (whom she had been best friends in grade school with), and Ben added Samantha as an enemy (whom I forgot). We all noted that we were the pretty kids at school -- and we agreed that we all knew each other and went to the same parties, but didn't really hang out with each other.

So we started with a party at Parker's house. We started with Sarah and Laura talking, trying to make up their differences. Sarah apologized, but also convinced Laura to take some E, to show that she didn't think she was too goody-goody for Sarah. After playing a conflict, Laura agreed and took the hit. Brandon wanted to spike the punch with LSD, but Parker convinced him not to -- and instead just spikes Stacey's drink. Laura then came asking me to drive her home. While I was away, Sarah went and hit on Amanda who protested but submitted to some groping.

At this point, the event happened which gave us superpowers. Everyone at the party had a mass hallucination (or was it?) of a giant eye descending from the sky, and all fell asleep. Michael picked as Parker's superpower the ability to understand and speak every language ever. Alexis picked as Sarah's superpower the ability to give people delusions similar to schizophrenia. This started out questionable -- but came out as extremely dark particularly as they were assumed to be permanent. I originally picked the ability to run and jump at super-speed. I had some doubts about this and pondered instead doing a self-transformative power -- but Alexis and Michael supported the original idea as a "classic rather than cliche".

Around this point, we realized that we had forgotten a step, which was writing out secrets on the other PCs. The other player could later determine if the secret was true or false, but got a bonus if they accepted it as true. My secrets were: (1) that Parker's dad was a money launderer and that Parker knew, and (2) that Sarah's mother had had an affair with Bob and was pregnant. For comparison, Michael's secrets were: (1) that Sarah helped a guy hide a body, and (2) that Terrence has a severe drinking problem. However, as it turned out, none of the secrets were played in-game.

From there, we started to split up and have separate adventures. A few random comments here:

And that's about where we left it.

A few comments on the mechanics... We had one significant change, which was that the person who accepted the stakes was the one who played first, rather than the person who initiated the conflict. Playing first is a major advantage, so giving it to the initiator strongly discouraged free play because the first person to declare a mechanic conflict had a major advantage.

So we all agreed that this was a bit skimpy because we were trying to get through all the acts in around 6 hours, and we had little contact with each other or with most of the connections after the first act. Still, there were two things pulling us away from each other and our high school connections: (1) the game starts at graduation, so we're splitting up; and (2) the system encourages a more global scale. So we made these allies and enemies based on our high school lives, but they got left behind. Ben thought that with some more time, we could have found a way to reconnect to these -- but I think it would be nicer if we didn't have to invent ways to reconnect them from scratch.

So the sequence took us from around 1PM to 7PM, and Alexis had to go. So we saw her off and went out to dinner, then returned later for the evening game.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Tue Jan 23 16:45:20 2007