City of Angels

Originally written December 2003

City of Angels is a setting sourcebook for White Wolf’s Demon: The Fallen. It describes the city of Los Angeles, its fallen residents, and kick starts the game’s overall storyline. This is an excellent supplement, full of useful information and story hooks. Unfortunately, some poor organizational choices make this sourcebook less useful and accessible than it could be. If a gamemaster is willing to do some work, however, he will find this a valuable resource for stories and campaigns set in the focal city of Demon: The Fallen.

The product meets White Wolf’s typical high production standards. A nice, full color painting depicting what looks like fallen at a film premiere is on the cover. The interior artwork is typical for White Wolf products, doing a good job of helping set the tone of the piece. There are two nice features of the art; first of all, there isn’t a lot of it, giving more space to text. Second, in chapter three (which describes a large number of NPCs), the pictures are “character portraits,” useful for showing to player characters who encounter them.

The editing, likewise, is solid, with no easily noticeable typos or “Page XX” references. All in all, this is a good looking book that shows why White Wolf helps set the industry standard.

Introduction

The brief introduction to the book covers the general goals of the product, as well as giving an overview of the various themes and mood intended. In addition, there is a brief bibliography intended to supplement the information provided on Los Angeles and its environs.

Chapter 1

The first chapter provides a basic primer on the history of Los Angeles, up through the “Devil’s Night” riots (described in the fiction anthology Lucifer’s Shadow). It also provides a general geographic overview of the city, providing one or two useful (or significant) locations in each part. Finally, the chapter provides a general outline of the “mundane” societal and political situations in the city, and how they have been affected by the events of Devil’s Night.

This is a good overview chapter, and provides some potential story hooks for a gamemaster. It’s a good start to the book.

Chapter 2

This chapter introduces the major demonic power groups of Los Angeles. It describes the two rival demonic courts in the city, the three Earthbound that have taken up residence, a bit of information on Lucifer, and covers each of the demonic houses and factions.

This is a good chapter, providing a solid working overview of the interactions and plans of the various groups. It provides the gamemaster with a number of story hooks and plot ideas. It also reveals some of the ‘secret history’ left unanswered in the Demon core rules; specifically what happened to Lucifer after the war was lost. While answering this question, however, it poses another one; after his manifestation in Los Angeles at the height of Devil’s Night, what has happened to him? A few possibilities are presented, and while it seems obvious that White Wolf has their own idea in mind, the choice at the moment is left up to the individual GM.

I personally find this is annoying, because Lucifer’s ultimate fate after Devil’s Night has strong ramifications for Demon, and the entire World of Darkness.

One other criticism of this chapter is that it makes reference to the various power players in the two demonic courts, while at the same time leaving the explanations of their specific court duties for a later chapter. It isn’t a big deal at this point, but there is no indication that this information is available later.

Chapter 3

This is the best, and most maddening chapter in the book. It is also the largest, describing almost 100 NPCs. While most of them get just a few paragraphs of description, full statistics are given for the major power players in the city, and stripped-down statistics (their relevant celestial traits) are provided for a number of supporting cast members.

A game like Demon (in fact, many role-playing games) are built with strong, well-defined NPCs. This chapter provides that in spades, giving each character a potentially useful plot hook, and (depending on how involved they are in fallen politics) connections with other fallen in the city.

There are two big problems with this chapter. First of all, there are so many characters, many of which go by two names (their celestial name and their mortal guise), that keeping the rivalries and alliances straight is a major undertaking. In addition, as in chapter two, many references are made to the various court ministries without any real explanation of what their duties are. This makes the already daunting task of understanding the complex dynamics even more difficult.

Still, if you’re willing to work with the information provided, there is enough information here for a GM to create a rich, complex campaign.

Chapter 4

This chapter (finally) provides information on the infernal court, the ministries, and their various roles in fallen society. It provides an overview of fallen society that should have been presented sooner in the book; an understanding of the rules and dynamics of the infernal court would have made much of the second and third chapters easier to understand. In fact, my recommendation would be to read this chapter second, and then move on to chapters two and three.

This chapter provides the most generically useful information in the book; the structure and guidelines for the infernal court presented here can be readily adapted to any setting; they don’t only apply to the court in Los Angeles. It’s a good chapter, even if it is (in my opinion) in the wrong place in the book.

Also included in this chapter are guidelines on how the infernal court typically interacts with mortal society, as allies and as adversaries. Once again, this information is useful for campaigns set in other cities.

Chapter 5

The final chapter deals with fallen outside the influence of the Infernal Court, covering each house and faction, and the possible reasons why they might choose to stand outside the court’s boundaries. This chapter is also generically useful, applying to any Demon campaign, regardless of where it may be located.

Analysis and Conclusions

City of Angels is an excellent sourcebook for Demon: The Fallen, providing gamemasters with a campaign setting rich with story opportunity. It is especially strong in presenting a significant number of interesting NPCs and a number of rival factions for player characters to get involved with.

Unfortunately, some of the organizational choices made reduce the accessibility of the product, presenting information later than it really should. In addition, there is no index at all; with the number of cross references and interactions between the various NPCs and factions, an index would make the information more accessible.

(Granted, even when White Wolf includes an index, they’re not particularly helpful. But not having one at all — especially in as complex a product as this — gives it major negative points in my opinion.)

In the end, though, the flaws in this product aren’t fatal, and the wealth of information presented makes the product a valuable addition to your Demon collection. Even if you don’t intend to use Los Angeles as the setting for your game, this product provides enough general information on the Infernal Court and fallen society to help frame your own setting for the game. Also, the story hooks and NPCs can be adapted to other settings without too much trouble.

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