‘Better Angels’ Tips: Playing Better Demons

Better-Angels-cover-v4-front-612pxEach player in Better Angels takes two roles: the primary role of a supervillain (or perhaps a beleaguered hero), and the secondary role of a demon giving powers and bad advice to another player’s supervillain or hero. That’s a very fun setup, but it’s challenging. It can be easy for new Better Angels players to lose track of their Screwtape roles while they focus on their supervillains.

Here are some key ways to keep the Screwtape role compelling and fun.

Clarify the Screwtape Role

First of all, make sure all the players are on board with the main purpose of playing a Screwtape: to have fun causing mischief and chaos for other players’ characters!

Make sure every player understands that an aspect can be activated only with the demon’s permission. The host must slide a dot of the relevant Strategy from the virtuous side to the sinister side, but that by itself is not enough. The Screwtape does the activating and must agree to do it.

Make sure the players know how the “sinful perfection” rule works. The supervillain can ask for a bonus Master Die but the Screwtape must agree to give it. It ought to come at a steep price! Giving this kind of perfection of action to a mortal means tapping into the demon’s abandoned heavenly nature, so it causes the host’s Strategy for that action to slide to the virtuous side. The demon ought to agree to it only if the host does something terrible to bring a Strategy over to the sinister side!

Finally, make it clear that Devilish Creativity is available only with the demon’s cooperation. It’s not something any supervillain can do at any time. The demon must be involved in creating those amazing gadgets and ought to exert a price in sinful actions beyond the cost in Generosity and Knowledge to create them.

Split Up the Party

The rulebook goes into this issue on page 97, but it’s worth reiterating here. It’s especially useful if you have more than three or four players at the table. Don’t be afraid to split up their characters and shift scenes between the separate groups.

Even better, do your best to make sure each scene that focuses on a particular player’s primary character does not also focus on his or her demon’s host. One or the other: villain or Screwtape.

That way every scene involves every player even if it does not involve every PC supervillain.

If the group does come together so every player has both a PC and a demon in the scene, then follow the advice on page 97—encourage the players to focus mainly on their primary characters and to only go into demon mode when another player character specifically asks to talk to his or her Screwtape.

Variant: The Sin Rating

For some players, the fun of mischief is enough motivation to play Screwtape with gusto. But many players respond better to more mechanical, rules-oriented incentives. Better Angels doesn’t have XP—but it does have a handy list of sinful actions and the ways they increase sinister traits. Here’s an optional way to give the Screwtape some more options if his or her host does wicked things.

In this variant, every Screwtape has a Sin rating. As Screwtape, the Sin rating is yours to track but it reflects the behavior of your host. It starts at zero at character creation.

Each time your host gains a dot in a sinister trait due to Sin (see pages 89-92), add +1 to your Sin rating if he or she gained in a sinister tactic or +2 for a sinister strategy. However, each time your host gains a dot in a virtuous trait due to repentence (page 93) or long-term personal growth (page 70), subtract 1 from your Sin rating for a virtuous tactic or 2 for a virtuous strategy. The Sin rating rises and falls only due to sin and repentance, never due to the many other things that can cause traits to change.

In any scene where you as the demon are “awake” and your host has invited you to talk and be active, and your Sin rating is above zero, you can interfere with or contribute to the action one or more times.

  • Sin 1-2: Once per scene.
  • Sin 3-4: Twice per scene.
  • Sin 5+: Three times per scene.

Picks one of the following forms of interference or contribution:

  • Encourage Sin: Add +1 Advantage to a roll by your host that uses a sinister strategy.
  • Hinder Virtue: Add +3 Difficulty to a roll by your host that uses a virtuous strategy.
  • Distort Power: Impose +3 Difficulty to a roll by any host of a demon or angel to activate or use a power or aspect in this scene.

The Sin rating is meant as a tool for player characters, but the GM can give it to an NPC demon if it needs an edge. Subtract the sum of all the NPC’s virtuous strategies from the sum of all his or her sinister strategies. If the difference is above zero, that’s the NPC’s demon’s Sin rating.

EXAMPLE: In the first scene of the game, the seductive villainess called The Perfect Flame makes a willing minion of the superhero Sky Arrow. That Sin is worth +1 dot in Corruption at the end of the scene. The Perfect Flame’s Screwtape, the demon Ashterathot, gains a Sin rating of 1. In the next scene, if Ashterathot is awake, he can interfere with the scene once—either encouraging sin or hindering virtue by The Perfect Flame or distorting the use of a power or aspect by another character.