Match Made in Heaven: A Review of Angel Project

Tabletop RPGs, by design, tend to be somewhat lopsided affairs. With only one of the typical four to five players taking on the role of Game Master. As a result, many of the games published focus on the larger group of players, offering lots of options to create characters and rules by which characters can interact with the game in unique and exciting ways. Angel Project offers the Game Masters in the group the attention, options, and guidance necessary to run the game and ensure they are empowered to do so as intended from the start.

Angel Project, by designer Ewen Cluney, seeks to make a game that is easy for GMs to run and satisfying for players to play, whether for one-shot games or for longer, episodic-style campaigns. Based largely on the Powered by the Apocalypse paradigm, but made even simpler by the removal of both Playbooks and even stats, Angel Project seeks to emulate the magical girl genre of anime. Specifically, rather than the ever-popular Sailor Moon, Cluney cites Galaxy Fraulein Yuna as his primary motivation - a rather obscure entry in the genre, with little in the way of localized material.

There are quite a few other notable inspirations, including modern takes on the genre such as Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which features a magical-girl organization and the classic “Fight the enemy until you can become friends with them” approach that the title character embodies and which Angel Project embraces wholeheartedly.

Utilizing the previously mentioned, simplified Powered by the Apocalypse framework, the game offers a very strict but malleable framework for all of its sessions. The first session of play always includes a fight, but as with almost all fights, it is limited to a set amount of turns and rather than tracking damage dealt, it tracks successful hits over the course of battle with a list of outcomes based on a simple formula. Between fights, each player gets to frame a scene - likely chosen from the list of sample scene types, but not necessarily - and the GM gets to frame their own scenes for the villains in response.

Advancement is simple, but offers diverse and story-focused options, rather than increases in power. Players track increases in Friendship, Silly, and Despair, and as they reach point thresholds they experience “Shifts” appropriate to the tone of the advancement track. Eventually they reach a point of Extreme Friendship, Silliness, or Despair, and experience an extreme Shift as a result. These Shifts don’t change anything mechanically - rather, they bring about changes or events in the story that reflect the girl’s magic bringing about a change in the world around her.

On the other hand, the amount of help a GM receives in running a game is quite substantial. The aforementioned sample scenes give the GM a strong handle on the proper tone of the game, as well as the types of stories it’s designed to tell. A list of sample locations and “story fragments” to offer ideas only further aids in this process. If that weren’t enough, a full thirteen pages is dedicated to random tables of all sorts - generating characters, adding tonally appropriate details, introducing threats, and even sample secrets and plot twists.

All in all, Angel Project is a tightly focused, genre-emulating game, and it does everything it can to empower both players and GMs to create a story appropriate for that specific genre. It’s short, and simple, and doesn’t offer much in the way of mechanical depth, but it does what it does quite well and makes itself very approachable to those who want to run it.

This article was contributed by Nicholas Potter as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!


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