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Urban Fantasy general discussion thread


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Sithlord

Adventurer
I love Dresden. I think that is a great model for such adventures along with Buffy and angel. Several good shows and books on this now. Artemis fowl (books) is another good example.

my interest lately (very similar) has been rural fantasy set in the modern.
 

I like urban fantasy. What do you want to discuss about it?
This thread is for discussing anything in the genre. Anything.

A Scooby gang fighting the creatures of the night while muggles remain ignorant of the danger. A vampire detective solving cases while trying to forget their abusive vampire dad/lover. A lost fairy princess trying to make a name for herself and uncover her true identity. A pack of werewolves driven to hunt down and punish evil-doers. A band of resurrected mummy warriors trying to find and protect the reincarnation of their pharaoh.

The only limit is your imagination.




You can also complain about the tabletop market and community. I'm pretty frustrated that the urban fantasy genre, at least when it comes to RPGs (there are tens of thousands of paranormal/urban fantasy books on Amazon), is so niche that the only communities around are Shadowrun, Dresden Files, World of Darkness, or GTFO. These games have single settings with decades of awkward lore baked into their rules, as opposed to giving you the option to select any of many different "Night Worlds" using the same basic system like what Night Shift does. This feels very restrictive to me. What if I don't like their arbitrarily limited selection? I don't have any other recourse besides finding an OOP game like Nightlife or Everlasting or Urban Arcana or making up my own homebrew, and good luck trying to find people who want to discuss that.

I can cite specific examples if you're interested. I don't really like complaining though because I don't find it helpful. I prefer to be constructive.

For example, I really liked the concept behind Feed. It's a game about playing vampires, but rather than burdening you with three decades of somebody else's lore addiction, it lets you make up your own settings and vampire strains.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay. I’d be more here for a sub forum with specific threads, but if we can get enough discussion going here maybe that could eventually happen.

I’m actually building an urban fantasy game, but from your statements I’m not sure if you’d like it. It does have assumed lore in terms of cosmology (9 Worlds, one of which seems to exist in each of the other 8 and is a sort of hidden passage between them all), and stuff like “it’s extremely rare for a sentient people to be inherently evil or good. Even angels can fall, and devils can be redeemed.”

But I’d be down to dig into particulars if you’re interested.
 

I definitely like my Urban Fantasy in the shadows....ie the wider world doesn't know about the monsters. And while I know that is the majority (maybe vast majority?) I know there is more than a few out in the open (True Blood, Anita Blake, etc.) and while those can be good, it seems that it is so easy for them to slip into silliness.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Nothing to say, just placing some fun concept art from a blog I really like.

1622741676240.png


 

Okay. I’d be more here for a sub forum with specific threads, but if we can get enough discussion going here maybe that could eventually happen.
I'd love to have a subforum for the urban fantasy genre. I think there used to be more hosted forums for publishers here but for some reason the software update hid them all (but they're still there if you're able to find them).

I definitely like my Urban Fantasy in the shadows....ie the wider world doesn't know about the monsters. And while I know that is the majority (maybe vast majority?) I know there is more than a few out in the open (True Blood, Anita Blake, etc.) and while those can be good, it seems that it is so easy for them to slip into silliness.
There are so many ways to flavor both, too.

With urban fantasy where the magical is known to everyone, you can create radically different settings just by picking a point of divergence. You can have alternate history settings like Amazing Engine: Magitech. If the magical was revealed in the present or the future, then you can get stuff like Shadowrun, Rifts, Amethyst, etc. I think the "silliness" comes from these settings bordering on dungeonpunk like Eberron or sci-fantasy like Dragonstar while still ostensibly (but unconvincingly) taking place in some version of the "real" world.

The hidden magical conceit has its appeals, definitely. It gives you grounding in the real world that makes it easier for players to immerse themselves because they don't need to integrate a bunch of fantasy world lore.

but from your statements I’m not sure if you’d like it.
I always like having options. I'm not opposed to having lore in itself.

That said, I prefer lore to be relevant to the players. If you have a secret history, then what purpose does it serve in the gameplay? Are the PCs time travelers? Do they reincarnate across past lives?

Probably the only urban fantasy lore that I really found myself idealizing was the past lives conceit in the game Nephilim (I think Immortal: Invisible War had something similar but I'm not familiar with it). While the mechanical implementation was terrible, the idea of playing campaigns that stretch across different lives in different time periods, or having flashbacks to past lives or w/e, still fascinates me. It's the same appeal as watching Highlander: The Series or Forever Knight.

Nothing to say, just placing some fun concept art from a blog I really like.

View attachment 137728

I love androidarts. The cylon redesign from a decade ago before the site revamp looked really neat.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
I love fantasy urban adventures.

My current campaign is set in a very large medieval city. They explore ruined buildings, infested sewers, underground complex of weird cults. The wizard has allies at the Temple of Boccob. The thief as a group of street urchins feeding him info for recompense. They own an abandoned buildings after paying the taxes due for the last 7 years, when the prior owner disappeared.

Great fun with the right group of players.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd love to have a subforum for the urban fantasy genre. I think there used to be more hosted forums for publishers here but for some reason the software update hid them all (but they're still there if you're able to find them).
I'll think about the topic at work today, and throw some ideas out soon with specific threads and tag you. This thread makes a good general discussion thread for the topic.
I always like having options. I'm not opposed to having lore in itself.

That said, I prefer lore to be relevant to the players. If you have a secret history, then what purpose does it serve in the gameplay? Are the PCs time travelers? Do they reincarnate across past lives?
Fair enough. I think my setting fits that. It's Hidden World style, except for the future era, and assumes that any sentient, from humans to trolls (more norse/germanic myth, not dnd style) to Fir Bolg, to Gnomes, to Humans, can be Good, Evil, or indifferent. Shifters (werewolves and such) are generally good, as their origin is that they were created by trickster gods and psychopomps to stand guard between the mortal races and the monsters of the darkness between worlds, but when they go truly bad, they are some of the most terrifying monsters alive.

There are three Eras that are fairly fleshed out.
  • Turn of The 20th Century (1890's to 1930's) - Magic is waning as the first true signs of a globally connect world arrive in the form of increased intercontinental travel, radio, telegraph and telephone, and even flight! The world is changing, dramatically and rapidly, and most folks don't even know the half of it. The secretive Thule Society is collecting relics of power, the Night Battles have grown fiercer with each passing year, and old evils are finding the seals that bind them weakening. The shadows grow longer as a great winter approaches, and the drums of war begin to beat.
    • There are reports amongst the Wise that gods are going silent, the Hidden Folk are retreating to their strongholds and hollows, and that magic itself is getting harder to access.
    • Toward the end of the Era, in 1936, a red comet streaks across the sky, visible from Iceland to Gibraltar. The world will never be the same.
    • A council of The Wise is called by Americans concerned about an element of dark powers hiding amongst the governements of Europe and America, and the Order of Rangers is founded. Volunteers who work in secret to protect the various folk of the world from threats supernatural and mundane. Each Ranger protects an area that they're familiar with, and answers to a Ranger Captain, and in some regions further hierarchy beyond that.
    • Ancient orders like the Knights of The Red Dragon in Wales, whose dedication to the Red Dragon of Wales and their specialised training allows them to absorb and negate magic, the all-female alchemist-warrior Order of Saint Mary based in Italy, and the renowned hunters of predatory monsters like vampires, the Order of the Silver Sword in Spain, and others across 6 continents, join into alliances with regional orders of Rangers, sharing a common goal.
    • The Thule Society, and then their Nazi successors, become obsessed with finding the hidden "Ninth World" of Chevar, a land rumoured to overflow with magical resources, rare materials, and crossroads to other worlds than this one. They cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in the Ninth World, because every wild claim about what it holds are understatements.
    • Gameplay can vary from Indiana Jones racing Nazis to secure artifacts of power, to stories in the fading twilight of the Old West, keeping folk safe from monsters both supernatural and entirely human, or even explorers searching for lost worlds.
  • The Turn of The 21st Century (1990s - 2030's) - Magic is waxing again, but the Rangers have waned in it's absence. As monsters and magic return to the world, small orders of "Slayers" crop up, usually in rural areas. While some seem well intentioned, others view all non-humans as dangerous freaks to be driven out or put down. The Rangers begin recruiting in earnest again, determined to stop Slayers from becoming a greater threat. Most of the Hidden Folk join the Rangers and their allies than ever before, and the work takes on a much greater challenge in terms of keeping the hidden world hidden in an age of increasing surveilance and public media. Meanwhile, whispers of war across the Nine Worlds are spreading. Seals weakened a century ago have broken, and creatures not seen on Earth in thousands of years are being sighted across the globe. A war is coming, and it's front line is the world of Chevar, where all worlds meet.
    • Different factions want to either send the Hidden Folk back into hiding or to have them come out of hiding sooner rather than later. Which side will you support?
    • Play a supernatural ancestry in a modern world.
    • The Rangers are spread thin, and are recruiting anyone whose response to learning of the Hidden World is to try to protect people at the border of our world and theirs. Seek out unknown worlds, warn them of the coming war, and gather allies.
  • The Sky Full of Stars (2190s - 2230's) - The mortal races have expanded beyond Earth into the stars of Midgard, developing engines that manipulate Crossroads between worlds to bend space and shorten the distance between stars. Brave pioneers chart new routes through space, facing terrible danger with each venture in order to send back charts that can then be used to create stable Crossroads between two points in space, dropping millennia of travel into months of time. Space station cities orbit once-dead planets as starships bring mortals of every lineage and immortals like the Vaettr to help teraform planets to support mortal life.
    • Encounter strange new life on strange new worlds, or play one of several alien people, some of whom are just as strongly tied to Otherworld and others of the Nine as humans are.
    • Dig into the mystery of why these aliens are so similar to the people of Earth, and why every language we encounter amongst the stars seem to have some sort of common root.
    • Seek out the lost world of Chevar, which has not been visited or heard from since the mid 2100's, or begin your adventure there and find a way to visit other worlds from a world with advanced magic but no advanced technology, littered with ruins from an epic conflict that few remember the details of, as it was fought between peoples of many different worlds, even the legendary world of Earth from whence your people come, nearly a thousand years ago! (time is weird babeeee)
    • Investigate why the Night Battles went quiet for so long, and why they have now become nearly insurmountable, and what is consuming our furthest flung colonies!
I'll write more about it later! For now, I gotta go to work!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You can also complain about the tabletop market and community. I'm pretty frustrated that the urban fantasy genre, at least when it comes to RPGs (there are tens of thousands of paranormal/urban fantasy books on Amazon), is so niche that the only communities around are Shadowrun, Dresden Files, World of Darkness, or GTFO. These games have single settings with decades of awkward lore baked into their rules, as opposed to giving you the option to select any of many different "Night Worlds" using the same basic system like what Night Shift does. This feels very restrictive to me. What if I don't like their arbitrarily limited selection? I don't have any other recourse besides finding an OOP game like Nightlife or Everlasting or Urban Arcana or making up my own homebrew, and good luck trying to find people who want to discuss that.

I think there's a basic point we are beginning to discover in game design - it is very easy to cripple a toolbox.

There are toolboxes like Fate, Cortex, and Cypher - they give you mechanics for resolving High Weirdness (anything above and beyond the abilities of normal, contemporary humans), but cannot give you differentiation - you can use the system for sci-fi, supers, or urban fantasy with equal facility, because the mechanic is non-specific.

As soon as you make the mechanic itself specific and flavorful, its utility as a toolbox is significantly reduced. At that point, you might as well sell it along with lore that fits the flavor you have baked into the system.

That said, I have used White Wolf without its associated lore, to run a fairly X-files like, "you are discovering you have supernatural powers along the way" kind of game, and found it pretty easy to do.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Urban fantasy, especially the modern kind, has one big problem. Most players expect to be or often behave like vigilantes which gets harder and harder the more modern the setting becomes.
While in fantasy it is more or less believable that the PCs are on their own once they leave a city and that even within you can avoid the law, if there even is any, pretty easily this gets harder to do convincingly in a modern setting.
Both because you have much more organized police forces and generally an organized society and because of the means technology give you like cameras, fingerprints, DNA, etc.
And with standing armies and organized police forces the question "why are we doing that" becomes relevant. Why wouldn't the police stop the BBEG? Wouldn't it be much more sensible to tip them off instead if trying to stop him solo?

Thats why most urban fantasy RPGs use a hidden world setting to basically remove most of the urban from urban fantasy.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Urban fantasy, especially the modern kind, has one big problem. Most players expect to be or often behave like vigilantes which gets harder and harder the more modern the setting becomes.
While in fantasy it is more or less believable that the PCs are on their own once they leave a city and that even within you can avoid the law, if there even is any, pretty easily this gets harder to do convincingly in a modern setting.
Both because you have much more organized police forces and generally an organized society and because of the means technology give you like cameras, fingerprints, DNA, etc.
And with standing armies and organized police forces the question "why are we doing that" becomes relevant. Why wouldn't the police stop the BBEG? Wouldn't it be much more sensible to tip them off instead if trying to stop him solo?

Thats why most urban fantasy RPGs use a hidden world setting to basically remove most of the urban from urban fantasy.

Well, this has easy answers, that a lot of modern fantasy uses.

I'm going to use the most prominent example, being.... Batman! He lives in a modern city with modern police, how come they haven't caught him? Or caught his many enemies?

There are several answers (all of which are true in Batman's case):

1. The hero is always one step ahead.
Batman has a lot of resources of course, being a billionaire, and quite a lot of technology as well. But even if you read "Batman: Year One," Bruce here is just a rich guy dressing up to fight crime, with a fast car and a few gadgets. Not even close to the real-life Jeff Bezos, more "local rich guy" level, which is pretty ok to allow your PCs to have. That combined with Bruce convincingly leaving false leads and good acting to deceive the police who theorize "Maybe that playboy millionaire fights crime?" is more than enough to keep the cops off his trail.

2. The heroes work with the authorities.
Seems pretty obvious, but it works. The hero is after all a HERO, which means he'll work with the cops a little bit. And Batman does, setting up the bat-signal and appearing on the roof to coordinate with Detective (and later Commissioner) Gordon.

3. The authorities are corrupt.
Why don't the police go after the bad guys? Well, they ARE the bad guys. Or at least, they're getting bribed by bad guys. The mayor of Gotham is corrupt, the GCPD is corrupt, the rich are also the Mafia Falcon family... why catch the bad guys when they're signing your checks?

4. The villains are beyond the authorities capabilities.
I don't just mean beyond the authorities resources, but also what they're capable within the laws and rules they're meant to follow. Think the classic line, "I can't do it... but I'm betting you can." The police aren't allowed to just break into folks houses and hunt for clues whenever they want. But Batman? He's got only one rule, "Never kill." Beyond that, he does what he needs to do, when he needs to do it.

All of these examples by the way or for Batman in a non-magical, non-superpowered world. When throwing in magic, aliens, and superpowers, all of the above can be exacerbated in various ways. The heroes can use magic, the police can't. The commissioner is actually an Archfey who means to eat civilians dreams. The main villain is a Demon Lord who lurks in the city sewers. Lots of reasons can be made to get around why the authorities can't do what needs to be done.

Check out City of Mist which has a great Urban Setting for ideas to mine!

 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Urban fantasy, especially the modern kind, has one big problem. Most players expect to be or often behave like vigilantes which gets harder and harder the more modern the setting becomes.
While in fantasy it is more or less believable that the PCs are on their own once they leave a city and that even within you can avoid the law, if there even is any, pretty easily this gets harder to do convincingly in a modern setting.
Both because you have much more organized police forces and generally an organized society and because of the means technology give you like cameras, fingerprints, DNA, etc.
And with standing armies and organized police forces the question "why are we doing that" becomes relevant. Why wouldn't the police stop the BBEG? Wouldn't it be much more sensible to tip them off instead if trying to stop him solo?

Thats why most urban fantasy RPGs use a hidden world setting to basically remove most of the urban from urban fantasy.
This overstates the case, IMO.

Not only can the heroes work with authorities, the cops suspecting them can be part of the story. But when the truth is unbelievable, it takes a lot more evidence for the cops to move on something. This you get the kind of cop related drama shown in the Dresden Files.

if the cops are corrupt, it’s even easier.

The hidden world doesn’t take the urban out, it quite often makes it part of the fantasy, just in a different way from a magitech urban fantasy world.
 

I think there's a basic point we are beginning to discover in game design - it is very easy to cripple a toolbox.

There are toolboxes like Fate, Cortex, and Cypher - they give you mechanics for resolving High Weirdness (anything above and beyond the abilities of normal, contemporary humans), but cannot give you differentiation - you can use the system for sci-fi, supers, or urban fantasy with equal facility, because the mechanic is non-specific.

As soon as you make the mechanic itself specific and flavorful, its utility as a toolbox is significantly reduced. At that point, you might as well sell it along with lore that fits the flavor you have baked into the system.

That said, I have used White Wolf without its associated lore, to run a fairly X-files like, "you are discovering you have supernatural powers along the way" kind of game, and found it pretty easy to do.
Fair enough, but I'm not about games that generalized. I'm taking about a specific genre. I assume that a genre-specific toolbox would not suffer from the same issues. For comparison, Mutants & Masterminds is designed to simulate superheroes but the rules aren't tied to any particular campaign setting.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten is another example. Although the game is designed to simulate zombie encounters and zombie apocalypses, it gives extremely flexible rules for designing zombie strains. It lets you replicate virtually any form of zombie-ism published in fiction, and this was before the zombie craze some years ago.

Whereas something like World of Darkness is nowhere near as flexible. Yes, you have stuff like vampire bloodlines, but all the vampires use the same Ricean-derived chassis. All the werewolves are born, not cursed or learned. If you want anything else, then you have to resort to homebrew. I did like the idea of magical traditions, but the best implementation of that I found in a retroclone.

Urban fantasy, especially the modern kind, has one big problem. Most players expect to be or often behave like vigilantes which gets harder and harder the more modern the setting becomes.
While in fantasy it is more or less believable that the PCs are on their own once they leave a city and that even within you can avoid the law, if there even is any, pretty easily this gets harder to do convincingly in a modern setting.
Both because you have much more organized police forces and generally an organized society and because of the means technology give you like cameras, fingerprints, DNA, etc.
And with standing armies and organized police forces the question "why are we doing that" becomes relevant. Why wouldn't the police stop the BBEG? Wouldn't it be much more sensible to tip them off instead if trying to stop him solo?

Thats why most urban fantasy RPGs use a hidden world setting to basically remove most of the urban from urban fantasy.
That didn't stop Eberron and Magitech from trying. Those are basically urban fantasy settings except set elsewhere than modern Earth.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
  • Turn of The 20th Century(1890's to 1930's) - Magic is waning as the first true signs of a globally connect world arrive in the form of increased intercontinental travel, radio, telegraph and telephone, and even flight! The world is changing, dramatically and rapidly, and most folks don't even know the half of it. The secretive Thule Society is collecting relics of power, the Night Battles have grown fiercer with each passing year, and old evils are finding the seals that bind them weakening. The shadows grow longer as a great winter approaches, and the drums of war begin to beat.
    • There are reports amongst the Wise that gods are going silent, the Hidden Folk are retreating to their strongholds and hollows, and that magic itself is getting harder to access.
    • Toward the end of the Era, in 1936, a red comet streaks across the sky, visible from Iceland to Gibraltar. The world will never be the same.
    • A council of The Wise is called by Americans concerned about an element of dark powers hiding amongst the governements of Europe and America, and the Order of Rangers is founded. Volunteers who work in secret to protect the various folk of the world from threats supernatural and mundane. Each Ranger protects an area that they're familiar with, and answers to a Ranger Captain, and in some regions further hierarchy beyond that.
    • Ancient orders like the Knights of The Red Dragon in Wales, whose dedication to the Red Dragon of Wales and their specialised training allows them to absorb and negate magic, the all-female alchemist-warrior Order of Saint Mary based in Italy, and the renowned hunters of predatory monsters like vampires, the Order of the Silver Sword in Spain, and others across 6 continents, join into alliances with regional orders of Rangers, sharing a common goal.
    • The Thule Society, and then their Nazi successors, become obsessed with finding the hidden "Ninth World" of Chevar, a land rumoured to overflow with magical resources, rare materials, and crossroads to other worlds than this one. They cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in the Ninth World, because every wild claim about what it holds are understatements.
    • Gameplay can vary from Indiana Jones racing Nazis to secure artifacts of power, to stories in the fading twilight of the Old West, keeping folk safe from monsters both supernatural and entirely human, or even explorers searching for lost worlds.

This reminds me of Achtung! Cthulhu. Which I like!

1622759222948.png


 

Sithlord

Adventurer
This thread is for discussing anything in the genre. Anything.

A Scooby gang fighting the creatures of the night while muggles remain ignorant of the danger. A vampire detective solving cases while trying to forget their abusive vampire dad/lover. A lost fairy princess trying to make a name for herself and uncover her true identity. A pack of werewolves driven to hunt down and punish evil-doers. A band of resurrected mummy warriors trying to find and protect the reincarnation of their pharaoh.

The only limit is your imagination.




You can also complain about the tabletop market and community. I'm pretty frustrated that the urban fantasy genre, at least when it comes to RPGs (there are tens of thousands of paranormal/urban fantasy books on Amazon), is so niche that the only communities around are Shadowrun, Dresden Files, World of Darkness, or GTFO. These games have single settings with decades of awkward lore baked into their rules, as opposed to giving you the option to select any of many different "Night Worlds" using the same basic system like what Night Shift does. This feels very restrictive to me. What if I don't like their arbitrarily limited selection? I don't have any other recourse besides finding an OOP game like Nightlife or Everlasting or Urban Arcana or making up my own homebrew, and good luck trying to find people who want to discuss that.

I can cite specific examples if you're interested. I don't really like complaining though because I don't find it helpful. I prefer to be constructive.

For example, I really liked the concept behind Feed. It's a game about playing vampires, but rather than burdening you with three decades of somebody else's lore addiction, it lets you make up your own settings and vampire strains.
Hellboy for d&d 5E has a system that I think kicks serious ass.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This reminds me of Achtung! Cthulhu. Which I like!

View attachment 137740

Oddly enough, in spite of not being into the Mythos, there are similarities. The First Gods or The Gods of The Void are beings who “existed” before the universe began, or that came into existence in order to represent the concept of “before the universe”, depending on who you ask.

They represent the void of absolute entropy to which all things must eventually return, and they are hungry. Beyond that, it’s impossible to guess what they think, or want. They’re older than Will or Light or Time, and most of them hate that things exist.

Others are like Loki. Born from that fundamental rejection of creation, but also part of creation, beings like Loki, Balor, and the Greek Titans, are neither God nor First God, but are born from the First Gods exerting their alien Will upon creation to try and stop it from creating.

Also Elohim is physics, basically, and Tiamat is Their direct counterpart, being a creative and destructive force.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Oddly enough, in spite of not being into the Mythos, there are similarities. The First Gods or The Gods of The Void are beings who “existed” before the universe began, or that came into existence in order to represent the concept of “before the universe”, depending on who you ask.

They represent the void of absolute entropy to which all things must eventually return, and they are hungry. Beyond that, it’s impossible to guess what they think, or want. They’re older than Will or Light or Time, and most of them hate that things exist.

Others are like Loki. Born from that fundamental rejection of creation, but also part of creation, beings like Loki, Balor, and the Greek Titans, are neither God nor First God, but are born from the First Gods exerting their alien Will upon creation to try and stop it from creating.

Also Elohim is physics, basically, and Tiamat is Their direct counterpart, being a creative and destructive force.

Very cool! I was referring more to the different factions (like your Thule Society) reminding me of the Nazi Order of the Black Sun and others in Achtung. But cool that the mythologies are kind of similar too!
 

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