The Face Of Angels: Before Play

Preparing the game record sheet

Take that piece of poster board or other big writing surface you have for the game. Draw a giant circle on it. This should come close to, but not quite touch, two opposite sides of the paper. Make sure everyone's picked an ink color to be theirs.

Deciding on the World player

One player is going to have to be the World player. This role is just as fun as everyone else's, but it is different. Your responsibilities will be:

  • Opening and closing scenes. Just like in a normal story, this story will be made up of discrete scenes with a definite beginning and end. (The alternative to this is a narrative that follows the main characters without breaking anywhere, which we will not be doing.) As the World player, you have final authority on when a scene begins and ends, although you should ask for and take suggestions from everyone else.
  • Playing the actions and reactions of all the supporting characters. A lot of the time, you'll just be reacting. It will not be very often that an unnamed character will act toward a main character. (By "unnamed character," I mean a background person, the sort that would be called "sports fan #2" in a movie.) Each character player have several named characters to be their friends and enemies, and you will play them a large part of the time.
  • Resolving disputes. If anyone has a question about the way the rules work, you need to be the arbiter and interpreter of the rules.
  • Helping everyone stay focused and have fun. The rules of this game depend on everyone having a similar goal. Everyone should be invested in having fun and telling a cool story together. When two people's idea of what will get them there diverges too much to co-exist, it'll be your job to help them out.
  • Directing traffic. In this game, everyone will get a chance to say what happens. One of your jobs is to designate who gets that chance if there's any confusion.

Before the game, go ahead and decide who will play this role. It's not any harder than any other role, and you don't need any special experience to do it, but you do need some leadership ability.

There's no set method to pick this person. In my experience, someone will step up and take on this role, and it should be obvious to the group whether they'll be able to handle it well.

When and where does the story start?

Before the story begins and we find out who the protagonists will be, we need to set the stage. In this game, the characters may well change the world, so we need to know what world they live in.

The first half of this is deciding in what year the game's fiction starts. The characters will be graduating high school as the story begins, and the recommended way to pick this year is to pick the median year that all the players graduated high school themselves. This helps get everyone invested in the game and familiar with the real-world history.

If you're having trouble figuring out a year, any time in the 1980's is great. Not only is it a time period almost everyone's familiar with, but it's chock full of good history.

The second half of this is deciding where the game's fiction is actually physically set. The recommended way to do this is to take the town you're playing in and figure out its characteristics. Is it a small town or a big city? Is it fairly conservative or a free-spirited college town? Is it near a coast or in the middle of the country you live in? Change one of these things in the town for the game. The town in your fiction doesn't have to be real - you can pick a real place that resembles this town you've imagined, or make up a place.

Making the story yours

Before the game starts, the group needs to sketch out a little about what the game will be about and where the game will go. Of course, you already know it will be about people who start as high school graduates and become, for all intents and purposes, gods. But that could go a lot of places. Where do you want it to go?

Every player, including the World, should write down on an index card one to three things they want to approach in the game. These can be issues, themes, or even a certain type of "color." (In this sentence, color means a style of visualization. Think of the way media presents itself. Take the superhero movies Unbreakable and Spiderman. Both have similar stories in some ways: a normal person who finds out they have an amazing power and they decide what that means their responsibilities are. But they look and feel very different. One might be called "high-swinging action" and another "gritty realism.")

Everyone should share these with the group. Out of these, you should find the ones the most people are interested in having in the game. Feel free to discuss and chat and debate - in a friendly way! - the merits of each issue, theme, or piece of color.

By consensus ruling, some of these will be picked to be in the game. (By "consensus ruling," I mean by agreement among all participants.) The World should write these down on the game record sheet. They go in the very center of the circle. Once they've been written down, draw a circle around them.

The group will probably also have some lines they don't want to cross. That is, with all this power-getting and issue-addressing, you're going to have the chance to step into some high-octane stuff. Some people can get uncomfortable, and that's ok. But, you should know up front. Going around the room, each player should state whatever they don't want to see in the story: sex, torture, welfare policy, puppies being hurt, or whatever. These don't go up for consensus ruling. If someone says they absolutely don't want to see something, it shouldn't be in your story. You can discuss them, though, especially if someone else wants to see a particular thing, but be very aware of each other's feelings here. The World should record these on the game record sheet. They should be written outside the circle on one short edge of the sheet. This designates where the World will sit, too, so go ahead and take your place there. You have a new job – make sure these lines are respected.

Finish up the game record sheet

Split the circle game record sheet up like a pie with a marker. Obviously, there's a hole in the middle of this pie. Draw lines so every player, including the world, gets a equal-sized slice. The world's slice should be in front of the "uncrossable lines" you wrote down before.

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