The Face Of Angels: Prologue: The Birth


Take the deck of playing cards and make sure the jokers are removed from the deck. Shuffle this well. When shuffled, deal every player 5 cards.

Place the remaining cards face-down on the table near the game record sheet. This is called the draw pile. When cards are used, they’ll be put into the discard pile next to the draw pile.


The prologue always starts this way: it is graduation night. It can be sunset or midnight or sun-up or whenever, but it's that night. The World and the other players need to establish where the characters are. They are all in the same location, but why? Is this location secluded? Is this location full of other people? Why would they all be there? These questions should be answered as a group.

You'll be answering a lot of questions as a group in this game, and you should all always work together to find the best answer. Certain people do have final authority for certain parts of the game, though. When you’re not in a contest - that is, you’re just talking and not using the cards to get your way - each player has authority for his or her protagonist character and all the non-protagonist characters in his or her pie slice. However, in each scene that is being played out, you can only play one character, so if any of your non-protagonist characters are in play, the World will narrate what they are doing.

Once the location is selected, feel free to have a few moments of free play to establish initial relationships and how the characters relate to each other. Each character should, after some free narration, have an initial contest. This contest should always involve at least one of their relationships, and if possible, two.

How to play out contests

Contests are always between two players, and characters they control. A contest happens when one player says that a character they control is going to do something and another player thinks that shouldn’t happen, at least not without some opposition. Others can jump in and help one side or the other, but the contest is specifically between those two players. The person that wants to make the contested action is the initiator and the person who is providing the opposition is the respondent. In play, often someone will anticipate opposition and state they want a contest, but someone still has to step up and give that opposition.

The initiator is required to set stakes - that is, they say what they want to happen if they win the contest (in this case, played with cards) and what they’re willing to have happen if they lose. It’s a lot like betting with the fates of fictional characters.

In the prologue, one cannot set stakes that involve any other protagonist character's death or loss of their identity, or the loss of any character in anyone else's part of the pie. You can do whatever you want with the characters in your part of the pie. At maximum, stakes can be about one person's fate.

The respondent has to decide whether those stakes are OK. If so, the respondent accepts and then states the pace: that is, are they playing cards for one, two, or three tricks? If not, though, the respondent can change either the condition if the initiator wins or the condition if the initiator loses, but not both. The respondent states the new condition, and this is bounced back over to the initiator. The initiator gets the same choice: change the winning condition, change the losing condition, or accept the conditions and set the pace.

Let’s see an example.

The initiator states what he wants and what he's willing to risk, like so:

I want a challenge about this. If I win, I want to drive the hooligan out of town, but if I lose I'll lose face.

The respondent can accept these terms and set the pace of the contest, like so:

Ok. I'll take those terms for two tricks.

Or, the respondent can not accept those terms and say what he wants to get for that risk:

No way. If you lose, you're driven out of town.

Or, finally, the respondent can not accept those terms, and say what he would be comfortable risking:

No way. If you win, the hooligan loses face and his friends desert him, but he stays in town.

If the respondent didn't accept the terms, then it goes back to the initiator. He gets the same options: accept and set the pace of the contest, not accept and say what he wants to get, or not accept and say what he will give.

This goes back and forth until someone accepts and sets the pace of the contest.

Once the pace is set, the initiator must act first.


The initiator of the contest begins with initiative, which means he or she will be deciding what suit the trick is in. He should lay down a card and state his action to achieve his goal. This action must be tied into the card he is playing. The card suits, and realms of action are:

* Strength/Violence (Clubs)
* Empathy/Instinct (Hearts)
* Dominance/Power (Spades)
* Intelligence/Resources (Diamonds)

Playing the denial of one of these to the other player, especially if you are the World and playing an inanimate force, is totally legitimate.

So, if you were attempting to convince someone to help you, and you played an eight of hearts, you might describe your character appealing to them for friendship or romance. If you played an eight of diamonds, you might describe your character demanding their help. If you played an eight of clubs, you might describe your character pushing them on the shoulder and threatening them. If you played an eight of diamonds, you might describe your character telling them why it is logical to help or you might have your character bribe them.

The degree of "oomph" in your character's action need not be tied to the power of the card. If you do intend to win, however, you will want to play a powerful card. Cards follow the order in a standard card game, with aces high.


After the initiator has laid down a card, the respondent must respond. At this point, there is only one way to beat the initiator's card: play an equal or higher card of the same suit. (It is entirely possible to play a functionally identical card to the initiator's because of the helping rules below.) You do not have to only play these options, though - you may play any card in your hand. You may want to play an out-of-suit card. Doing so assures you of initiative for the next trick.

You must be able to narrate a response in the realm of action your card represents.


Other players can get into a contest and help out either side. After the initiator has laid down a card and the respondent has laid down a card, anyone who wants to help the initiator gets a chance. They may lay down a card and describe the action of a character they control.

After everyone who wants to help the initiator has placed a card, anyone who wants to help the respondent can place a card, using the same rules.

Both the initiator and the respondent should take all cards on their side. They will decide which card is their point card, which is compared to see who won. All other cards used to help them are helper cards and add 1 to their point card's value. It is possible to have a card higher than an Ace in this fashion, called Ace + 1, Ace + 2, and so on.

Winning a trick

The respondent has won the trick if his card is equal to or higher than the initiator's and is in the same suit. Otherwise, the initiator has won.

If there are tricks left to play for, the player who played the card with the highest numerical value seizes initiative, whether or not they won. As normal, the respondent wins ties. This means that for the next hand, they are the initiator.

Winning the contest

You play for tricks, describing what’s happening in the scene, until one person has won the specified number of tricks. That person is the winner. There should be some wrap-up narration, and the person who played the highest card numerically in the last trick - not necessarily the winner - is responsible for that narration.

Using relationships

Character players can bring their friends into any contest any time they like. When they choose to do this, they receive an extra card immediately. The relationship can be present in a contest scene without actually making it part of the contest.

The World can bring a character's foes into any contest any time he likes. When he chooses to do this, he receives an extra card immediately. A character player can bring his own foes into a contest as well, but the World still gets the extra card.

There are risks to bringing in relationships, detailed in each act. If you lose the overall contest, detrimental things can happen to your relationship.

In the prologue, there is no risk to bringing relationships into a contest.

Personality types and contests

Each personality type can affect the resolution system in their own special way.

Kings benefit from leading others. When helped, all cards given to them used as point cards give +2 to the point card, if the point card is the one they originally played.

Queens benefit from helping others. When they help someone else, their card adds +3 to the point card if used as a helping card.

Jacks are specialists in a specific area. When the setup or the stakes of a contest are in their area, they can draw an extra card before the contest. If the area later becomes part of the contest, they can draw an extra card at that time.

Aces get a special type of contest called going for broke. When they call for a going-for-broke contest (they must be the initiator to do so), three hands of cards will be played and the winner of the contest will be determined from who won the majority of tricks. If the Ace player loses all three tricks, both sides win their stakes. If this is not possible, then negotiate before the contest for the closest way for this to happen.

Setting up a contest

It makes the most sense to develop a contest early. Whenever one person involved with a scene thinks at all that something is contest-worthy, they should bring it up.

A technique I like to use is to go ahead and state that a contest is going to occur and set stakes and pace, and then return to free play. When free play progresses to a point where it's obvious the characters in the scene are going to have the contest right now, you can jump into the contest resolution system all ready to go and set up.

Gaining powers

After the initial contests, something happens that changes the characters. The player characters are suddenly granted superhuman powers. The World should come up with the actual event, although each character player should come up with his perception of the event. This event should involve some or all of the following: the night sky, light, a permeating feeling of warmth, "ghost-appendage" tingling of wings on the character's shoulder blades, a horrible or glorious face, hands on faces, or the taste of iron and blood.

The player characters are absolutely the only people who notice this event as anything more than a natural occurrence. No other present character does.

As the characters gain supernatural powers, each player has to decide what realm their character's power lies in. They can choose from the following:

  • Strength/Violence (Clubs)
  • Empathy/Instinct (Hearts)
  • Dominance/Power (Spades)
  • Intelligence/Resources (Diamonds)

Whatever suit you pick will be your character's trump suit, which means all cards you play of that suit are very powerful. The combination of your face card and suit is your super-trump, which means it's the best card you can draw in the game. You should write down an area your character's power is focused in. This isn't a specific power, like "shoots firebolts," but an area that your character deals with, like "fire." Any short phrase or one word will do: a character that manifests fly-like abilities, including 360-degree vision, a loud buzzing sound, and walking on walls, would choose "man-fly." When playing the game, you can use your power in narration at any time. It does not, however, beat normal human action unless the card you play is your trump suit.

From now on, if you play your super-trump in a contest, you must use it to invoke your powers and you must pick a transformation from the list provided with the act. This is a way in which your character changes because of the extreme exertion of his powers.

Because powers are gained after the initial conflicts in the prologue, there is no chance for transformations.

Ending the prologue

After every player character has had a contest, and they have received their powers, the prologue is over.

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