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The urban fantasy market seems awfully stagnant

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
World of Darkness has a stranglehold on the market. The creativity of other potential settings has no room to shine. Without competition, the genre stagnates.
While WoD is definitely the big dog in this subsection of the hobby, it doesn’t really have enough power to truly stifle creative competition. To the contrary, I’d assert that it’s enormous popularity has generated a significant amount of “Not-WoD” yearning for other designers to tap into.

The only thing is, “Not-WoDism” is not unified in its desires, so it will be very difficult for something different to grow beyond niche status. Hell, there are people playing urban fantasy/horror in the various iterations of CoC, itself a venerable and popular system.

As I write this, I am reminded of how impressed I was playing Monster of the Week. It was only a brief intro style adventure run over a couple of sessions, but I remember it being fun. And my character was a diminutive but sassy young first responder- she had no special powers but for her extensive understanding of what was in her ambulance.

(Used the paddles to give a hungry critter a NASTY shock when it got too close.)

My (limited) understanding of that game leads me to believe it could handle a pretty broad swath of urban fantasy/horror. We were slated to run a different campaign with different PCs, but it fizzled for a variety of real-world reasons. I was to be playing a fallen angel living as a human...
 

innerdude

Adventurer
The biggest problem with the popularity of urban fantasy is that vampires aren't cool anymore. There's a dearth of original media material.

Twilight, the execrable films moreso than the books, destroyed "urban fantasy." In terms of books, there's very little original material being produced, because it's passe. Stuff written by once-popular urban fantasy writers like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, etc., are 15+ years old now. None of the Underworld films after the second one were any good.

As a cultural "zeitgeist," urban fantasy just isn't nearly as much of a thing anymore.

And the OP already touched on the other problem, which is that the most well-known urban fantasy RPG universe has fallen on hard times.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
When a fiction genre is too popular then it become "old fashioned", for example the far west movies with indians and cowboys. And people would rather fiction set in "exotic" places. For example a teenage who lives in a little town like sci-fi set in megacities with high skyscrapers but a geek living in a great city would rather fantasy set in country and wild zones. An European feel curiosity about manga set in feudal Japan, but a Japanese boy would rather fantasy in a civilization like European.

When Twilight and the rest of supernatural romance works were too popular, they become old fashioned, like the monsters of the hammer films, or the psycho-killers from 70-80's horror movies. Today to feel true fear they would rather some survival horror videogames like "Dead by daylight".

And there is other reason. Blockbuster superheroes movies, and zombie-apocalypse works, killed the urban fantasy. Now the readers and TV watchers don't want stories about the heroes killing the monster of the week.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Now the readers and TV watchers don't want stories about the heroes killing the monster of the week.
Depends on how you define “monster”. Criminal Minds will be airing it’s 15th season this fall. Sure, it’s not supernatural urban fantasy/horror, but MotW is the formula for it and other successful action shows.

I’d argue that Kolchack: the Night Stalker (ABC) and Constantine (NBC) were well received, but their Nielsen numbers were low. But those gross numbers are calculated across demographics, not within a genre’s fan base. They weren’t killed due to unpopularity within the genre, but rather, their lack of appeal to America in general. Both probably would have done better on smaller cable channels like SyFy. Hell, Constantine’s been reprised in the Arrowverse- the character is a regular on Legends of Tomorrow.
 

Arilyn

Explorer
What sort of rule system do you like? You are going to probably have to go with a toolbox, or a game that has its own world/ lore that can be easily tweaked. Do you like Fate? GURPS? Savage Worlds? Hero? Gumshoe? Are you willing to scrounge around for out of print games? Angel, (sister rpg to Buffy) is really easy to mold into something totally divorced from the tv show.

It's hard to give advice when we don't really know what kind of system appeals to you.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
Does Blades in the Dark not qualify as Urban Fantasy?

Grimdark, cutthroat urban setting (Duskvol) - check

Paranormal (overruneth and all kinds) - check

Magic - check

Factions/tribes embroiled in endless war to ascend hierarchy - check
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
But I digress. You’re right about me arbitrarily discounting a setting. I failed to articulate myself and for that I apologize. I don’t like Mage because I only have a choice between “consensus reality” and “supernal realms.” If the M20 book was anything to go by, the “traditions” are lunatic radicals that hate modern civilization and the “technocracy” are lunatics that want to literally destroy the human spirit like a Saturday morning cartoon villain. The Awakening has a more obvious “not so different” theme for its heroes/villains, but is essentially the same conflict with different window dressing. It’s not as flexible as it claims to be. There is so much baggage in terms of setting and authorial intent. A toolkit it is not.
Have you looked at all at Mage for Chronicles of Darkness 2nd edition? Beyond sharing the name and the broad contours of the magic system, they're extremely different games. No consensual reality, and definitely no bases on Saturn.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Does Blades in the Dark not qualify as Urban Fantasy?

Grimdark, cutthroat urban setting (Duskvol) - check

Paranormal (overruneth and all kinds) - check

Magic - check

Factions/tribes embroiled in endless war to ascend hierarchy - check
QFT - great system.

There are still recent exemplars of urban fantasy that have been excellent. The show based on Lev Grossman's Magicians was good, Supernatural is going into it's 14th season and has been hugely popular, The Strain was good. Heck, even Riverdale is essentially urban fantasy. Ghosts, spooks, magic and the rest in a modern setting are still very popular and still seem to be everywhere - you just need to avoid that particular "sexy vampires in black leather" WoD bit and most people are still very much on board. Even that can be done well - the Dresden Files has some very WoD bits around the edges and is still wildly popular.
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
WoD has immersion breaking rules. In order to shoot the guy in the car, my bullet has to succeed in getting through the window first? While I understand what they're aiming for it just seems like too many rolls.

d20 Modern was fun, but the base classes were the best case for a traditionally class-based system to say "why have classes at all?".

I could probably do a decent Lucifer (DC/Netflix) using Steve Jackson's In Nomine with some adjustment, i.e., Lucifer being an Angel, angels cannot become demons, demons can't become angels.
 
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dbm

Explorer
Going to the heart of the OP, this is the downside of a game that heavily integrated system and world. Pick the generic system you like the best and go from there.

If you like more crunchy systems then HERO or GURPS would be good to consider. Both have urban fantasy genre sets available (Monster Hunters for GURPS, IIRC Dark Hero for HERO).

If you like more narrative systems then Fate or Cortex Prime (when it comes out) would be good options.
 
Have you looked at all at Mage for Chronicles of Darkness 2nd edition? Beyond sharing the name and the broad contours of the magic system, they're extremely different games. No consensual reality, and definitely no bases on Saturn.


Saturn bases aren’t bad. Where I get confused is why there’s a need to go so far beyond urban fantasy. Scifi and cyberpunk are present from the start.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
What work does "urban" actually do in "urban fantasy" ? A city is mostly a place where rural fantasy traditions congregate and mix. The system should only ever be described as modern or contemporary fantasy. The "urban" is merely a setting.
 
In Mage: The Ascension they are, but not in Mage: The Awakening.
Yes, but my overall argument was aimed at every iteration of World of Darkness. Mage: The Awakening has an entirely different set of baggage. I believe the Mage Chroniclers' Guide attempted to provide alternative options, but providing options isn't really the intent of the games as a whole. They're married to very specific settings with specific themes and don't invest much in alternative settings. A number of their creative choices I don't agree with.

For example, I've never liked how either has dealt with ghosts and similar. The penumbra/twilight is a headache (I much prefer The Everlasting's simplified "reverie" concept) and the CoD/GMC 2e flowcharts are another headache. There are tons of things I could criticize, but one point I think of pertinence would be that spirits are treated as subject to our conceptions of space-time despite being defined by a lack of corporeality. There are rare situations where this isn't the case (the Ghost Stories book had the ghost of a town), but for the most part they work according to the same logic as D&D's incorporeal undead. Which is great if your focus is combat, but not if it's on mystery, horror or emulating genre fiction.

What work does "urban" actually do in "urban fantasy" ? A city is mostly a place where rural fantasy traditions congregate and mix. The system should only ever be described as modern or contemporary fantasy. The "urban" is merely a setting.
Point taken. I suppose it would be more appropriate to call it modern fantasy or contemporary fantasy.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Yes, but my overall argument was aimed at every iteration of World of Darkness. Mage: The Awakening has an entirely different set of baggage. I believe the Mage Chroniclers' Guide attempted to provide alternative options, but providing options isn't really the intent of the games as a whole. They're married to very specific settings with specific themes and don't invest much in alternative settings. A number of their creative choices I don't agree with.
No problem. A lot of people just see the name "Mage" and the Sphere system and don't realize how different the two games really are. I agree with your point that is not a toolbox game, nor is it intended to be.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Does Blades in the Dark not qualify as Urban Fantasy?

Grimdark, cutthroat urban setting (Duskvol) - check

Paranormal (overruneth and all kinds) - check

Magic - check

Factions/tribes embroiled in endless war to ascend hierarchy - check
It is definitely Urban Fantasy, but the BitD setting is incredibly restrictive both in geographic scope (Duskvol) and its breadth of urban fantasy tropes. I don't think that one could readily use BitD for a generic urban fantasy game. It curtails itself to a fairly particular play experience. This is one of its strengths, but it can also work against its favor.

d20 Modern was fun, but the base classes were the best case for a traditionally class-based system to say "why have classes at all?".
This is how Modern AGE, possibly the closest successor to d20 Modern (albeit 3d6 instead of d20), approached it. Instead of adopting the three class system of the AGE system (warrior, mage, rogue), it instead opted to go classless.
 

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