Basic character creation in Angel mirrors that in Buffy in all but one important respect: the character types in Angel Investigator, Champion, and Veteran all get more skill points than their Buffy counterparts, White Hat, Hero, and Experienced Hero. (For the record, it's ten more points for Investigators and Champions but only five more for Veterans.) This is meant to reflect the fact that in general, Angel characters are more experienced than those of the high school/college-focused Buffy. And given the relatively small scale in Unisystem, those extra points make a serious difference.
|Playtest: Appropriately enough, my Angel game is a spin-off of my Buffy game. As a kind of preview of the Angel game, I had one of the characters who was to appear in that game guest-star in the Buffy game. Upon seeing the havoc wrought by the Angel character in battle, one player felt moved to comment: "Angel characters kick butt!"
The basic Qualities and Drawbacks get a few name tweaks to reflect the differences between the shows: Jock becomes Athlete, Nerd becomes Brainiac, and Watcher becomes Ex-Watcher, for example. Also, the book brings in some training package Qualities from The Slayer's Handbook, such as Cop and Criminal. The Demon Hunter package is a nice addition for those wanting to play hardcore human monster-slayers.
But then we get to the Supernatural Abilities section. And now the fun really begins.
The Demon Quality is a variable-point Quality, because players can build their demonic (or otherwise super- or subhuman) characters from the ground up using 26 Supernatural Qualities and Drawbacks. The psychic powers from The Magic Box are all here, as are obvious choices like Natural Armor and Natural Weapon. (Although shouldn't those be Supernatural?) There's even a cool little Daredevil-like power, Nanjin Adept. Essentially what you have here is the beginnings of a superpower system one that, along with Armageddon, might tide over Unisystem fans until Beyond Human finally arrives.
|Playtest: And that's exactly how a friend of mine used it in her supers game, in fact. It worked pretty well, although I had to help her import and translate some powers from Armageddon to create my speedster hero.
And that's just one example of the mileage I've gotten from this chapter. The half-demon PC in my Buffy game can now get some actual demon powers, and my Totem Warrior in a friend's Buffy game can now get an actual superhuman sense of smell, rather than just a really good human-level one.
There is one flaw in the system, though. Well, perhaps "flaw" is too strong of a word "quirk" might be better. At any rate, here's the deal: there is absolutely no incentive to play a normal human in this game. Why? The answer lies within the Enhanced/Reduced Attributes Quality/Drawback.
Enhanced Attributes cost 1 point per +1 bonus up to +10 for Strength and Constitution and up to +5 for everything else; beyond these limits, the cost is 5 points per +1 bonus. Now, consider that for normal humans, Attributes cost 1 point per level up to 5 and 3 points for 6, the human maximum. But if you happen to be a supernatural of some type, suddenly you're still paying 1 point/level at level 6 and beyond thanks to Enhanced Attributes. And there's no requirement for a character with Supernatural Qualities to take Supernatural Drawbacks, so the argument can't be made that all superhumans will have special problems of their own. Aside from their powers, they could be perfectly normal remember Gwen the Electric Girl?
The bottom line is that playing a human in this game is a self-imposed limitation with no counterbalancing benefits. That's not a game-crippling flaw by any stretch of the imagination, but it's something to keep in mind.
On a related note, the Enhanced Attributes Quality lets players do an end-run around the restriction that points from Drawbacks can go to Qualities or skills but not Attributes.
|Playtest: For example, a player in my game wanted his character to have not superhuman Attributes, but simply more Attribute points than normal. And he wanted to pay for these extra points with Drawbacks. That's not possible for a human. But okay, fine, he's not a normal human great-grandma was a demon, or he's a freak like Gwen, or something. Taa-daa! Now he could spend those Drawback points on the Enhanced Attribute Quality, effectively buying up his Attributes with Drawbacks.
The Supernatural Abilities section concludes with four sample pre-calculated supernatural races, including one particularly interesting example: the Revenant. These are essentially Crow-like beings who return from the dead seeking vengeance or justice, but with a twist: they don't re-animate their own bodies, but rather the body of the nearest victim of a violent death. Unless burned alive, they continue to body-hop in this fashion.
After the skill listing identical to that in Buffy come the archetypes:
- Apt Pupil (Champion) (A nifty rich sorceress/fencer lady who'd make an ideal patron for a PC group.)
- Barbarian Queen (Champion) (An import from medieval Pylea.)
- Barrio Defender (Investigator)
- Crusading Biker (Champion)
- Daemonic Investigator (Investigator)
- Demon Gangsta (Champion) (Imagine Wesley Snipes' Blade on steroids.)
- Former Cultist (Investigator)
- Psychic Supermodel (Investigator)
- Pyro Girl (Champion)
- Reformed Assassin (Champion)
- Rogue Demon Hunter (Champion) (Turns out there really is such a thing as a "rogue demon.")
- Undead Champion (Champion)
Two thoughts come to mind.
First of all, Champions outnumber Investigators here two-to-one, leaving an impression that Angel's focus is on the fighters. That makes some sense, especially if you want a game more like the later seasons when pretty much the whole crew was throwing down with the bad guys.
And second, there are an awful lot of mental and emotional problems with this bunch, so if your group relies exclusively on archetypes, get ready for one screwed-up team. But that, too, makes some sense there are some people with some awfully serious issues on the show, after all.
Overall, the selection really does showcase the broad potential of the game.
Then we get the write-ups for the show's cast as of Season Three:
- Cordelia Chase
- Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
- Winifred "Fred" Burkle
- Allen Francis Doyle
- Kate Lockley
- The Groosalugg
Not bad at all, especially with the inclusion of adjustments for the first two seasons.
In case you're wondering: no, Connor's write-up doesn't reveal what he really is. And wow
I had no idea Cordelia was such a force to be reckoned with by Season Three. She could go toe-to-toe with Wesley in a swordfight, at any rate.