Welcome to the thirty-eighth Designer’s Diary, a regular column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We kind of explain Angels like this: There is a God, there is a Devil, there is a Heaven, there is a Hell, there is a War for human souls, and you are on the good guys’ side. In the game, players play the role of Angels from Heaven who are trying to fight Fallen Angels (Demons) from Hell and save mankind.
We made the game of Angels as kind of a way to come full circle with our games, really. Before we officially began A’n'SR -entertainments, we were playing an RPG we designed called Faith, Hope, Love. It was about Angels. It had three core stats and a list of powers for each character. When we decided to make the game for other people and started A’n'SR, we fully intended to release it as our first game. Then, Aaron (the “A” in A’n'SR) decided to use that game system as a core, universal game. It eventually morphed into -U- the Game of Stories, our first release in 2009. We converted Angels to -U- and kept playing in our personal lives while we made more games. Finally, Stephanie (the “S” in A’n'SR) said we should do Angels as a game. So… we did. By the way, we’re still thinking about a Faith, Hope, Love game, so don’t anyone steal the name.
There are a few influences on Angels – the Game of Stories. First, is the Holy Bible. Take your pick of which version, we read a lot of King James and NIV to get some ideas and feel for some of the Angels in our world. Our world of Angels, however, is not a dissertation on celestial beings. We had a specific world in mind when we made this game and it is not close to what we believe real world Angels are like (and yes, be believe there really are unseen servants of God out there.)
The second influence was the DC/Vertigo Lucifer comic book series. Stephanie loved this series and we all thought it was a real good look at the character of Lucifer, God’s enemy. And while we don’t talk a whole lot about Lucifer in the core rule book, make no mistake our take on the devil is that he is a tuxedo-wearing British man with blond hair, beautiful blue eyes, a cool demeanor, and a selfish nature. We’re looking forward to fleshing him out in supplements.
The third influence was Steve Jackson Games’ In Nomine. We (Aaron and Stephanie) are a happily married couple. Part of Aaron’s pick-up line for his first real date with Stephanie was “Hey, you want to role-play with me and the guys? We’re playing In Nomine“. She said yes, and we played it all through our courtship and, really, until we made Faith, Hope Love. There are a few nods to In Nomine in Angels, and we hope that people can find time to enjoy both. Needless to say, they both hold a special place in our heart.
We did a bit of research in the Bible and some external Christian mythology book reading as well. Nothing really to mention outside of the Bible and probably the Lucifer comic book.
Aaron (for better or worse) does all the art of our games right now. With Angels, he wanted to get a certain feel of etherialness for the images. They are black and white (our usual motif these days), but instead of hard lines and shading, he skipped the hard lines and went right to the shading. It made for a little more impressionistic art style which let the readers fill in some of the gaps for the art, and thus the game. The toughest part was actually trying to make the art feel a little less solid and more rough. Kind of counter-intuitive, really.
Angels is meant to be an exploration of some of life’s biggest questions, in parable. when you have players playing servants of God against ex-servants that rebelled, you are tapping into the some of the most primal issues or mortality and morality. Why serve God? What is God like, if He really exists? How much does an omniscient power influence or muck around in people’s lives? How does someone get to Heaven or Hell? How does someone come back to Heaven after they have left? What does a war going on for a seeming eternity do to people? These are are weighty ideas, and most of our game sessions have ended up in defining or arguing, through the characters and the game, most of those points. It’s not hack-and-slash, it’s philosophy wrapped in a game of war and religion.
When compared to In Nomine, it is far more rules-lite and has a smaller cast of powerful Angels. The cosmology is different, the story of how everything went down at the big battle in Heaven is different, and the characters are Angels of Heaven only; no Demons. Other than that comparison, Angels is a lot like any other rules-lite game: easy to get into, easy to play and put down, great for 1 story or an entire campaign.
Our Design Process is the same for most of our books. We first write the rules, which is really just a tweaking of the -U- Core Rule game book. Then, we flesh out the world based on the stories we have played in it. Since Angels has been played for years in one form or another, we had a lot to go through and cut out. Next, we get the layout and put placeholders for pictures. Towards the end, Aaron draws all the pictures, inserts them in the book and captions them. Finally, we give the book tons of edits and cut it down some more. interestingly enough, we actually had done our final edits when our PC crashed. Our back-up was a month old or so and we had to try to re-create a lot of our edits again. It was painfully annoying, but we still got the book out… which is a blessed thing.