The Game: Angel
The Publisher: Eden Studios
Degree of Familiarity: One of the many games that I bought for research material, distinguished by being one that I actively want to run.
Books Required: The Angel corebook.
Remember the McWoD character? I laid the foundations for this one, when I said:
It's trying so hard to be the action game that the old WoD once could have been. But unfortunately it doesn't quite succeed.
See, in the intervening time between the early height of the old WoD's popularity and the release of Monte Cook's World of Darkness, the world rained great games down upon us. Eden Studios got the license for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Already having experience of a modern dark adventure game in Witchcraft (no game with talking cats is "horror", especially not Witchcraft), Eden concentrated on reworking and simplifying the at times overcomplex Unisystem for cinematic action and matching it to the Buffyverse. The Buffy and Angel books are the result, and they're both things of beauty.
If nothing else, the game's use of Drama Points to balance parties of disparate power levels was groundbreaking at the time. The pair of games catapulted Drama Points into the gamer's collective consciousness. They also set the bar for graphic design, having colour-coded chapters and relevant images from the series as 95% of the book's art (only the sample characters don't get photographic images). Relevant quotes from the shows serve to hook the mechanics in close to the setting. Further, a great deal of the book is built around gaming the setting at different points, breaking down the fiction of the TV show into a living, breathing world fit for gaming.
I picked up Angel for a couple of reasons. One was the Cinematic Unisystem. After reading the free Witchcraft download, I knew that the Unisystem wasn't for me, but CineUni seemed to fix a lot of my gripes. I wanted to see how Drama Points worked, and if they really balanced characters of varying power level. I could have got either game for that, but Angel had two other bonuses: Organisation rules, allowing the PCs to be small cogs in a big machine or the owners of their own small business, or anything in between, and the Demon Creation rules. These latter, with just a few additions, would be perfect for a CineUni superhero game. Though the templates only provide "demon" and "vampire", it's incredibly easy to make a "demon" that's a werewolf. Or a Crow-like revenant. Or, well, anything you like.
I bought Angel for research, and found a great game underneath that really evokes the feel of the show. I love it when a plan comes together like that.
Let's assume that I'm not going to cheat and pull one of the original cast member's sheet. In that case, I've got to pick Character Type first. There's technically three options, but the Veteran is objectively better than the others, and is intended to reflect characters more powerful than the standard. The game notes that Veterans aren't good in a mixed game, so I'm going to avoid that. Champions are larger-than-life action heroes, while Investigators are above-average normal people who go along for the ride. Investigators start with fewer points, but get twice as many Drama Points to keep things in balance.
I want to play a character who's plenty capable. Maybe a demon of some sort, maybe just an action hero, but someone along those lines. I pick Champion. That gives me 20 points for Attributes, 20 points for Qualities, and 30 Skill Points, with only 10 Drama Points.
Attributes are pretty much 1-10, with 1-5 being normal human range and 6 being peak human capability. The first five points are one-for-one, while the remainder cost three for each rank.
Letting my mind drift in the "dark action" and "modern occult" genres, I randomly bounce off a few ideas: the White Running (from Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy), the kind of action-parkour seen in District 13 and Casino Royale. That fulfills the "action" part—fast and bouncy and perfectly placed. But that's not the interesting bit. Then my brain hits Fantomas and Diabolique and the "gentleman thief" archetype.
I'm thinking someone who's a half-demon of some sort. Dual-formed, like Doyle. In his demon form, he's a hyper-agile bastard able to run along a telephone wire. Thing is, he also loses part of himself, part that he considers to be vital to do that, so he spends most of his time desperately pretending that he isn't who he really is. He's recently joined a group of demon-hunters, hoping to turn what he is to some advantage.
That means high Dex. Four points. Four into Strength and four into Constitution, too. Perception of three, two points into Intelligence and three into Willpower. That's twenty.
3. Qualities and Drawbacks
First thing's first: time to create the Demon quality that I'll use to reflect this guy's supernatural heritage.
The joy of this system is that I get to build a "template" for the kind of things that I want. The Director can then use the same template to build other demons of the same flavour, many of whom may end up as antagonists. And of course, there's the whole "backstory" thing that demon templates need to come with.
Mechanically, I want lots of Dex: +5 at least. +3 Strength, +3 Con. That's 11 points. I want an Antisocial Impulse, but none of the listed ones work. "Superiority" works; these demons simply do not recognise other species as being anything other than lesser, and make sure that others know it. By default, it's a Severe drawback: 2 points back. Regeneration (Per Minute) is useful, and costs 2 point. The Dual Shape version of Supernatural Form offsets that—the traits added by the Demon quality only apply when one of these demons isn't hidden as a human (full demons don't have this drawback). Finally, two levels of Hard to Kill and one of Increased Life Points rounds things out.
Terimoth demons come from a home dimension where terrible magic has cracked the world asunder. They've become apex predators, long-limbed lords of creation who subjugate their lessers simply because it is their right to do so. A few come to Earth, either because they're hiding from something or because they're hunting the fugitives. Terimoth themselves are ill-equipped to spend long in this world, being suited to a plane with lower gravity and more sport for their hunts—they're also damn well not going to let a bunch of uppity apes think they "rule". A few mate with humans for fun, treating sex like they treat every act, as a contest of dominance. Their offspring are Terimoth half-demons, bastard offspring able to assert their demonic heritage over the human flesh that binds them. A few retain the majority of their human thought-processes when they manifest the demon within, and strive to do something—anything—to forget their parentage.
Terimoth half-demons can manifest a demon form that's blue in skin-tone, with rows of small spiked horns swept back along the line of the head in place of hair. Their limbs are longer than average, and can move with eye-blurring speed. A Terimoth half-demon gains +5 Dex, +3 Strength, and +3 Con. They also have Regeneration (Per Minute), two levels of Hard to Kill and one of Increased Life Points. In return, they suffer a two-point Antisocial Impulses (Superiority) Drawback, and their powers are restricted to their demon form—the one-point Supernatural Form. All told, being a Terimoth half-demon costs 13 Quality Points.
Taking that Quality leaves me with seven points to spend.I get the feeling that our protagonist here has been left insecure over his parentage, and tries to cover with bad jokes. Hence the Clown Disadvantage fits. Situational Awareness is a must for any parkour runner, and costs two points. Two more points of Hard to Kill and two of Contacts (Criminal). Finally, Fast Reaction Time costs two points.
I take another glance at the Disadvantages and see Emotional Problems. Fear of Commitment is pretty close to how I picture our protagonist, worried as he is that anyone who gets too close will see just how much of a superior cunt he becomes when he shifts. That bonus point is going into Skills.
Again, Skills are 1-10. 1-5 is the usual spread of human ability. 6+ starts to differentiate the real experts—the level where skills really matter for cinematic action. I have 31 points to spend. It's 1-for-1 up to 5, then 3-for-1 above that.
I want Kung Fu and I want it high, I know that. I also want a spacky-high Acrobatics. At least Acrobatics 6, possibly 7. A 7 would set me back 11 Skill Points, so I go with that. 20 for the others. Kung Fu at 5 for beating people up. When he grabs something useful for walloping people, he'll need Getting Medieval, so three points there. His mother sent him to private school for a time, and he picked some stuff up, for Knowledge 3. He's sharp, so four points into Notice. He's done strange runs for dodgy demon gangsters in his time (from the Contacts), so Crime 2. Finally, he knows a fair bit about his "home" dimension—and the other realms, so Occultism 3
5. Finishing Touches
Life Points. With 7's for Strength and Constitution, I get a base of 66 Life Points. Hard to Kill at 4 gives a +12 bonus, with another 10 from the Increased Life Points. 88 Life Points.
That's the numbers done, so let's do something with the character. Jannik Graves gives us a name. I'm thinking he didn't know his mother; she stayed distant all his life, then died of cancer six months ago. Jannik knows he's a half-Terimoth, even if he didn't rightly know what one of those was until he fell in with Edinburgh's demon underground. That underground was more concerned with someone who could get anywhere without a real care for security, delivering packages that he never questioned. He hates how he thinks in his halfbreed form—but when he's in that form, he secretly loves watching people, knowing that at any point he could ruin them simply because he was born better than anyone on this pathetic plane. Because of this, he doesn't let anyone get close, and in either form he cracks wise to avoid sharing his real thoughts. In addition to being one of the fastest creatures on the planet, Jannik's a highly skilled martial artist. He's not dumb, but relies on more of an instinctive understanding of his surroundings than any investigative ability or training.
Normally, he wears biker leathers in black with blue details. Under the jacket, he sports a plain white shirt. When the weapons come out, he's got a pair of escrima sticks that he's particularly fond of, but relying on something other than his hands is a sign that he's really serious.
Name: Jannik Graves
Life Points: 88
Drama Points: 10
Regeneration (Per Minute) (from Temenoth Half-Demon)
Hard to Kill 4 (2 from Terimoth Half-Demon)
Increased Life Points 1 (from Terimoth Half-Demon)
Terimoth Half-demon 13
Contacts (Criminal) 2
Fast Reaction Time 2
Situational Awareness 2
Antisocial Impulses (Superiority) 2
Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment)
Supernatural Form 1
Getting Medieval 3
Kung Fu 5
Mr. Fix It