Author: Steve Dee (@TinStarGames1)
Design: Matt Roberts
Where to Buy: https://tinstargames.itch.io/two-faces
Do you know how hard it is to write 500 words about an RPG that’s only 400ish words long on its own? I mean…only a little, honestly. The trick is to stall. To tarry. To dawdle and to use a lot of extra, unnecessary words and phrases to stretch each sentence and paragraph to the breaking point and beyond, because by doing that you can really eat up a lot of your word count. Case in point, the previous sentence.
But enough about how I wrote every single college essay…
Two Faces: A Solo RPG of Horrific Duality by Steve Dee of Tin Star Games is brief, clever, and fun. It is designed to let one player live out their own Jekyll and Hyde-esque story in which they play a monstrous being that can only be redeemed by the innocents they push away. I love one-page games, especially ones thoughtfully designed to tell one very specific type of story. Two Faces does exactly that.
Though it is brief, its story generating system uses the randomization of a coinflip to generate a fairly wide variety of setting information, all of which fit nicely within the niche of this game. Also, yes, you read that right. A game called Two Faces uses a coin for its randomization rather than dice. Because coins have two faces. It’s perfect.
By flipping a coin, players generate all manner of interesting features of their game, such as the subgenre, in what way their character is dangerous, and the type of innocent that they will destroy or that will save them. Don’t worry, the game is quick to point out that if you destroy an innocent, there’ll be another one along shortly. Once they have the details set, they play a number of scenes with the ultimate goal of raising one of their three stats (Joy, Despair, and Darkness) to three to learn the ultimate fate of their character. For example, if, after a handful of scenes, the player’s coin flips resulted in their Despair hitting three before any other stat, the results table would tell them their character goes mad and destroys themselves, for they cannot be saved.
This game was an absolute joy and emulated its intended genre perfectly. In my game, my character’s lust for power drove her to seek out the most faultless people and corrupt them, thus proving they weren’t as good as they purported to be. Finally, she met her match in a pure soul who did not succumb to her wicked ways and who she ultimately died to protect. It was a poignant, powerful story that would feel wonderfully familiar to any fan of Edith Wharton, D.H. Lawrence, or Robert Louis Stevenson.
Every bit of this one-page RPG feels carefully designed to reinforce the pseudo-Victorian themes of duality and damnation. The art, the coinflips, the random options which seem focused without being narrow, it all just works. Look at it how you want, it doesn’t have a bad side.
EDIT (10/29/21): This does not count against my word count so don’t even come at me with that. The (Ennie nominated!!!) good folks at Tin Star Games just put out an expansion to this excellent game! Called Two Faces Two: The Lengthening Shadows, this expansion adds a lot of interesting new options to help flesh out your story. Although I didn’t feel the base game was missing anything, the details in The Lengthening Shadows feel like such a natural extension that I can’t imagine playing without them available. Grab the base game at the link above and the expansion here: https://tinstargames.itch.io/two-faces-two-the-lengthening-shadows
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. I mean, I could’ve gotten it for free. It’s a “Name your own price”-type thing but my whole steez is supporting indie designers so I paid for it. If you grab it, do the right thing and throw the folks at Tin Star Games a couple bucks if you can. It’s worth it.