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Urban Fantasy general discussion thread

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
I mean, that kind of fits the theme, in a Call of Cthulhu "play to find out how you're going to lose" way.

There was an optional rule as far as I gathered that you could for some rolls at least, look at the size of your dice-pool, and then instead of rolling get a certain number of automatic successes. So that avoids some of those messes that the crits (both the good and the bad) cause. And if your humanity was too low (I think 7 or below), then you had problems appearing alive, even with the use "blush of life" (the use of which of course cost blood and risk raising your hunger even more)
 

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There was an optional rule as far as I gathered that you could for some rolls at least, look at the size of your dice-pool, and then instead of rolling get a certain number of automatic successes. So that avoids some of those messes that the crits (both the good and the bad) cause. And if your humanity was too low (I think 7 or below), then you had problems appearing alive, even with the use "blush of life" (the use of which of course cost blood and risk raising your hunger even more)
1st version of VTM... the one with variable difficulty numbers... if you had a skill higher than the difficulty number, you could opt to not roll and take 1 success.
You could also spend willpower for an automatic success.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Jumping in at the end (so far) of this thread.

Has Urban Shadows been mentioned yet?

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'm not sure what the issue is?

If it touts itself as "Urban Fantasy", then it's going to have some setting stuff baked in, like Vamps, Lycans, Fae, and a bunch of other stuff. Right?

Otherwise, you'll have to spend a lot of time building stuff up in a generic system.

I'm not familiar with Night Shift.

btw, how do folks actually define "Urban Fantasy"?
 

btw, how do folks actually define "Urban Fantasy"?
My working definition, may not match others...
Any 19th to 21st century setting where groups of supernatual beings are hiding amongst us in society engaged in their own supernatural agendas.

This includes Percy Jackson, Dresden Files, BTVS/Angel, Blade, Twilight, Forever Knight, maybe even X-Files... and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Dream of Genie, and Bewitched. My favorite is about an Elf princess in a trailer park in the American South. I'd put Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer as just outside the urban fantasy genre, but very closely related, in the same way as Vampire: Dark Age.
I don't count any zombies game/motion-picture/literature as urban fantasy.

I'll note that Unisystem Lite is actually not a bad fit for Buffy and Angel; I'm not so sure it is for Army of Darkness, but AoD isn't what I'd call urban fantasy. Unlike the full Unisystem, the streamlining includes all rolls being made by players, no damage rolls, and multiple power levels of PCs in the same party to match the fiction. It's prep-heavy, but it plays very well, with the supernatural abilities tailored to the various settings.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
My working definition, may not match others...
Any 19th to 21st century setting where groups of supernatual beings are hiding amongst us in society engaged in their own supernatural agendas.

This includes Percy Jackson, Dresden Files, BTVS/Angel, Blade, Twilight, Forever Knight, maybe even X-Files... and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Dream of Genie, and Bewitched. My favorite is about an Elf princess in a trailer park in the American South. I'd put Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer as just outside the urban fantasy genre, but very closely related, in the same way as Vampire: Dark Age.
I don't count any zombies game/motion-picture/literature as urban fantasy.

I'll note that Unisystem Lite is actually not a bad fit for Buffy and Angel; I'm not so sure it is for Army of Darkness, but AoD isn't what I'd call urban fantasy. Unlike the full Unisystem, the streamlining includes all rolls being made by players, no damage rolls, and multiple power levels of PCs in the same party to match the fiction. It's prep-heavy, but it plays very well, with the supernatural abilities tailored to the various settings.
I like your definition but... Harry Potter?

And X-Files is a bender, because it also includes aliens. But I guess you can have Aliens in your Urban Fantasy...?

And I wonder, how Urban does the Urban Fantasy have to be. I'm thinking of Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series that takes place in a small town in eastern Washington...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My working definition, may not match others...
Any 19th to 21st century setting where groups of supernatual beings are hiding amongst us in society engaged in their own supernatural agendas.

Is "hiding among us" necessary, in your view, or merely common? So, something like True Blood (Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries") in which the vampires come out of the closet - urban fantasy, or not?
 

Is "hiding among us" necessary, in your view, or merely common? So, something like True Blood (Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries") in which the vampires come out of the closet - urban fantasy, or not?
Hiding? yes, definitional. it was part of the definition of the genre by one of the publishing houses.
And I don't consider Fantasy moderns nor Fantasy Cyberpunk (Shadowrun, Torg's Tharkold and Cyberpapacy) in the UF, either, because the public knowledge makes for different Dynamics with other mundane elements.

Not familiar with True Blood.
 

I like your definition but... Harry Potter?

And X-Files is a bender, because it also includes aliens. But I guess you can have Aliens in your Urban Fantasy...?

And I wonder, how Urban does the Urban Fantasy have to be. I'm thinking of Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series that takes place in a small town in eastern Washington...
Modern, hidden second society, a conspiracy to keep the muggles in the dark. It's just that it's the subgenre where the hidden supernaturals are the protagonists. Just like in Angel.

X-Files bends & blends; I wasn't a fan, but watched a few.

The urban part? Yeah, I consider it weakly definitional. It needs to have enough population to hide in. Weaker than the hidden part. If the whole town is aware, and the game is set in the town, no, that's a related genre. If instead it's set in a neighboring town, and the critters are trying to move in.

For comparison, I do consider Stranger Things to be UF. No one believes the kids... unless the individuals are part of the conspiracy.
Tales from the Loop doesn't quite hit it, being (at least in the half-season I watched) closer to whatever the heck the genre of Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Dimension 404 share... The game, however, can be, depending upon how it's run. (It's a case of the game being inspirational and the streaming show a different beast than the game on many levels.)

The one I want to run, however, is Feng Shui 2... Cyberapes, ancient socerers, transformed animals living as humans... and time travel. The moderns portions are UF; the past aren't exactly, and the future juncture is post-holocaust.
 


Jumping in at the end (so far) of this thread.

Has Urban Shadows been mentioned yet?



I'm not sure what the issue is?

If it touts itself as "Urban Fantasy", then it's going to have some setting stuff baked in, like Vamps, Lycans, Fae, and a bunch of other stuff. Right?

Otherwise, you'll have to spend a lot of time building stuff up in a generic system.

I'm not familiar with Night Shift.

btw, how do folks actually define "Urban Fantasy"?
I prefer having more settings overall and having more modular settings.

The community/market basically funnels you into World of Darkness, and I just don’t like those games. They have much more baked into them than just vampires, werewolves, and w/e. For example: all the vampires follow the same basic rules (undead, drink blood, burn in sunlight, highly flammable), vampires are descended from the biblical Cain (making the Abrahamic faiths demonstrably true), every vampire has “thinner blood” compared to their vampire parent (which only changes by fatally exsanguinating a vampire with “thicker blood”), the superpowers are arranged in an arbitrary hierarchical structure, etc. There’s a bazillion editions with different rules, assumptions, and lore retcons.

I didn’t want to deal with that nonsense, so I left that community a decade ago. I’ve never looked back and I’m glad for that.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many other options.
 

Hope you're not apologising for your post btw, I enjoyed reading it a lot! I wish I had more to say re: shapeshifters, but that's never been my area of expertise.
I was just describing shapeshifters in a general sense.

I’m not against ecoterrorism as a concept for play, I’m just dissatisfied that it’s the only option. (I know Forsaken provides another option, but it’s almost equally dogmatic and basically the same game with some tweaks.)

If I was writing a shapeshifter setting, then I’d provide multiple options for beliefs and origins.

For example:
  • a knightly order of werewolves draws their power from magic pelts symbiotically fused with chosen bearers, and use their power to crack down on the abuse of magic because they fear it will ultimately cause the apocalypse. (A la Netflix’s The Order)
  • A werewolf pack creates new werewolves thru a biting. Their form of lycanthropy causes them to instinctively seek out and punish evil-doers. (A la Anne Rice’s Wolf Gift)
  • A secret society of shapeshifters draws their power from pacts/bonds with nature totems, including plants, animals, and minerals. They use their powers to fight both human abuses of nature and incursions by alien entities seeking to xenoform Earth. (A la Everlasting’s manitou)
That sort of thing.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Hiding? yes, definitional. it was part of the definition of the genre by one of the publishing houses.
And I don't consider Fantasy moderns nor Fantasy Cyberpunk (Shadowrun, Torg's Tharkold and Cyberpapacy) in the UF, either, because the public knowledge makes for different Dynamics with other mundane elements.

Not familiar with True Blood.
As I said, Urban Fantasy is mostly cutting out the urban part by design as instead of engaging with all the aspects or urban life they get sidelined by having a parallel society with much fewer rules and capabilities and thus allowing for more combat without worry.

Imo, Shadowrun is much more urban than for example World of Darkness, even when it does not follow the "official" definition.
 

As I said, Urban Fantasy is mostly cutting out the urban part by design as instead of engaging with all the aspects or urban life they get sidelined by having a parallel society with much fewer rules and capabilities and thus allowing for more combat without worry.

Imo, Shadowrun is much more urban than for example World of Darkness, even when it does not follow the "official" definition.
Vampires in rural areas don't have enough people to feed on in sufficient quantity to maintain a secret society.
Vampire points this out.
Depending upon setting, animal blood may or may not be a viable substitute. BTVS implies it's less effective. Forever knight is explicit it's less so.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Vampires in rural areas don't have enough people to feed on in sufficient quantity to maintain a secret society.
Vampire points this out.
Depending upon setting, animal blood may or may not be a viable substitute. BTVS implies it's less effective. Forever knight is explicit it's less so.
Sure they do. Serial killers manage it just fine. You just need to me mobile and have some idea how to spoof law enforcement putting the pieces together. Now, a whole coterie of vampires? Yeah, probably not, unless they're really mobile, but they aren't really rural anymore.
 

As I said, Urban Fantasy is mostly cutting out the urban part by design as instead of engaging with all the aspects or urban life they get sidelined by having a parallel society with much fewer rules and capabilities and thus allowing for more combat without worry.
I suspect this has more to do with RPGs being based on violent conflict resolution rather than a weakness of the genre itself.

Vampires in rural areas don't have enough people to feed on in sufficient quantity to maintain a secret society.
Vampire points this out.
Food supply isn't the only limit. There's also things like the logistics of keeping a criminal conspiracy secret. The more members, the more difficult it is to keep secret. Urban fantasy often depicts magical conspiracies with far larger populations than they should rightly be able to conceal. If you give them perfect magic that lets them maintain secrecy forever by arbitrarily altering reality as desired, then you run into the issue of "why does anybody still have free will?"

Even assuming that the paranormal is kept hidden by a constant background effect, that doesn't mean the muggles are going to ignore the crimes committed. Even if most muggles refuse to believe that vampires (or w/e) exist, that doesn't mean they won't think that any real vampires are actually cult fanatics who believe themselves to be vampires.

Depending upon setting, animal blood may or may not be a viable substitute. BTVS implies it's less effective. Forever knight is explicit it's less so.
The efficacy of animal blood is most likely going to depend on how difficult you want to make life for reluctant vampires.

In some settings, animal blood is just as physically nourishing but vampires who feed on it will become animalistic because they feed not simply on blood but the "lives" or "soul" in the blood (or a scifi technobabble equivalent).

In some settings, you may have vampires who kill their prey as a matter of principle and view taking non-lethal amounts as foul parasitism. Such as the Vampaneze in the Darren Shawn books.

Sure they do. Serial killers manage it just fine. You just need to me mobile and have some idea how to spoof law enforcement putting the pieces together. Now, a whole coterie of vampires? Yeah, probably not, unless they're really mobile, but they aren't really rural anymore.
You may want to take cues from the True Knot in Doctor Sleep. They're psychic vampires, but similar principles apply. In fact, it's much harder for them because they need to prey specifically on those rare individuals with psychic abilities. It's stated that all human beings have this "shining" to some degree, but presumably they'd need to kill far too many average people to stay unnoticed.
 

Rogerd1

Villager
I have always loved the Nightbane setting.

The nightbane are amazing, but I wanted a more mythological flavour so I kept them to mythological monsters.

Had a few bits I did not like, the Athanatos which I replaced with the daevas from Everlasting (which are very similar to Pagan gods from Supernatural).

Added in vampires, immortals, and of course old ones to get a better setting.
 

I have always loved the Nightbane setting.

The nightbane are amazing, but I wanted a more mythological flavour so I kept them to mythological monsters.

Had a few bits I did not like, the Athanatos which I replaced with the daevas from Everlasting (which are very similar to Pagan gods from Supernatural).

Added in vampires, immortals, and of course old ones to get a better setting.
If I understand correctly, Nightbane is a dark superheroes setting where you play as one of the good monsters trying to stop the bad ones from enslaving humanity. It sounds alright. I'm surprised it isn't more popular given how readily gameable the premise is.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
If I understand correctly, Nightbane is a dark superheroes setting where you play as one of the good monsters trying to stop the bad ones from enslaving humanity. It sounds alright. I'm surprised it isn't more popular given how readily gameable the premise is.
Then you perhaps underestimate how much a lot of people really don't like the Palladium system. Personally, I'd rather eat glass brownies or slide unprotected down a greased razor blade. YMMV.
 

Then you perhaps underestimate how much a lot of people really don't like the Palladium system. Personally, I'd rather eat glass brownies or slide unprotected down a greased razor blade. YMMV.
Yeah I dunno if my reaction would be that extreme but yeah, having played Nightbane, I can definitely agree, the reasons Nightbane isn't very popular basically boil down to it using a the Palladium system and not even a particularly fun variant of it. Add in wildly unbalanced characters, and things being maybe a bit too "heavy metal" and not quite enough "goth", and you've got a recipe for dying in obscurity.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
All this talk of vampires and no-one's mentioned What We Do In the Shadows?

It's got several of the classic tropes of urban fantasy - the Masquerade, Vampires v. Werewolves, All Myths Are True, Monster Hunters.

Also worth mentioning The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Magicians. These both do The Masquerade and All Myths Are True with a host of other tropes like Magical Society, Wizard School, etc.
 

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