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Urban Fantasy general discussion thread

MGibster

Legend
After seeing other games implement the same ideas better, I can't stand WoD and I can't stand its undeserved market dominance. The only WoD games I can still stomach are Changeling: The Lost and Hunter: The Vigil (first editions, obviously) because they're the single most toolkit games ever released by the company even if they are held back by some WoDisms.

Every time I hear someone complain that a game has undeserved success it just sounds like sour grapes to my ear. Don't get me wrong, we all have our preferences and it's perfectly okay to like or dislike a game regardless of it's popularity. I absolutely cannot abide by the Shadowrun rules and refuse to play it but I'm not baffled by, begrudging of, nor I believe its success over the last 30 years is undeserved. It may be important to you that a game is a toolkit, but it's obviously not very important to the many people who enjoyed Vampire, Werewolf, or Mage.

While I hesitate to say that any game "deserves" success, after all, no game line is entitled to my hard earned dollars, I'm hard pressed to think of why WoD's market dominance is undeserved. When it was released in 1991, Vampire the Masquerade was a very different from the games typically found on the shelves of our local gaming store and it attracted people to the table I rarely saw playing D&D, Palladium, or GURPS. (Has there ever been a sighting in the wild of a girl or woman playing GURPS?) I didn't really play a whole lot of WoD back in the day, but the setting was very interesting and the writing was good. I'd say the game earned its success.
 

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(Has there ever been a sighting in the wild of a girl or woman playing GURPS?) I didn't really play a whole lot of WoD back in the day, but the setting was very interesting and the writing was good. I'd say the game earned its success.
My wife, our friend Crystal, Crystal's stepdaughter, at least two more of Crystal's friends... Crystal as GM...

But, yeah, VTM had a much lower imbalance between the sexes than most other games of the era.
 

Rogerd1

Villager
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.

As has been said, the system is just terrible.
It would better in Savage Worlds, or Lords of Gossamer, or even M&M, my preferred games.

Although Fate, and PbtA would also work if they are your jam.
 

While I hesitate to say that any game "deserves" success, after all, no game line is entitled to my hard earned dollars, I'm hard pressed to think of why WoD's market dominance is undeserved. When it was released in 1991, Vampire the Masquerade was a very different from the games typically found on the shelves of our local gaming store and it attracted people to the table I rarely saw playing D&D, Palladium, or GURPS. (Has there ever been a sighting in the wild of a girl or woman playing GURPS?) I didn't really play a whole lot of WoD back in the day, but the setting was very interesting and the writing was good. I'd say the game earned its success.
Yeah in my post I think I made a pretty good case for why it was successful, and why other Urban Fantasy/Horror games were not. Essentially it went for the most zeitgeist-y approach (instead of anti-zeitgeist one which many of them took*), had incredible design/presentation for the era, understood the value and role of LARP (which was significant back then), and had a really accessible system that didn't reek of math the way a lot of RPGs do (but still played as well as the "math-ier" ones). All of which combined to allow it to hit a much wider audience, many of whom were new to RPGs.

Shadowrun is a think a much better example of "undeserved". It mostly just seemed to come down to first-mover advantage and the fact that it had elves etc. In a just world, the 4/5/6E would have killed it off, because they've been so spectacularly rubbish. Yet it soldiers on, with surprisingly okay sales despite incredibly bad products. I say this as someone who actually kinda liked SR, note.

* = Eventually WoD actually got too arrogant and went anti-zeitgeist, deciding, like all the Urban Fantasy games that tried to compete with them and failed, that they "knew better" than the fans/players. That resulted in Revised, which was a bit of a car crash, and then the nWoD, which wasn't so much anti-zeitgeist as just ignoring it, and neither was as successful as it could have been as a result.
 

MGibster

Legend
Yeah in my post I think I made a pretty good case for why it was successful, and why other Urban Fantasy/Horror games were not. Essentially it went for the most zeitgeist-y approach (instead of anti-zeitgeist one which many of them took*), had incredible design/presentation for the era, understood the value and role of LARP (which was significant back then), and had a really accessible system that didn't reek of math the way a lot of RPGs do (but still played as well as the "math-ier" ones). All of which combined to allow it to hit a much wider audience, many of whom were new to RPGs.
I don't know if tapping into the 1990s zeitgeist was an intentional act on their part or if they just lucked out. The truth is that we never really know what's going to be the "it" thing next week. Even big companies like Coca-Cola can pour millions into market research and blunder with a product like New Coke. Orion Pictures thought The Terminator (1984) would do poorly at the box office but it ended up grossing almost $80 million on a $6 million dollar budget and started a movie franchise that probably should have ended in 1991.

And when it comes to games, there are plenty of well written and interesting games that meet with limited success. Blue Planet (1997) has one of the most interesting science fiction settings for any game I've come across but I don't think I know anyone who has actually played it. It can be frustrating to stare at a great game only to find that most other people just aren't interested.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
And when it comes to games, there are plenty of well written and interesting games that meet with limited success. Blue Planet (1997) has one of the most interesting science fiction settings for any game I've come across but I don't think I know anyone who has actually played it. It can be frustrating to stare at a great game only to find that most other people just aren't interested.
Yes on Blue Planet, but no one else wanted to play :boo hoo:
 

And when it comes to games, there are plenty of well written and interesting games that meet with limited success. Blue Planet (1997) has one of the most interesting science fiction settings for any game I've come across but I don't think I know anyone who has actually played it. It can be frustrating to stare at a great game only to find that most other people just aren't interested.

I know a few people who played it, but their opinions weren't positive about the system. So I never bothered looking at it myself.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
World of Darkness has plenty of problems that make it unattractive to me. The mechanics are a mess, with a dozen different editions, different imprints, and whatever I can't hope to keep track of. The main reason people even seem interested in it is because of its three decades of oppressive lore, which I am not interested in at all. I don't like ecoterrorist werewolves or luddite wizards or vampire generations that get permanently weaker with distance from the progenitor. That is not reflective of the urban fantasy genre at large either and I hate being forced into a pipeline to that if I ever express interest in urban fantasy gaming.

Seems like you're done with WoD for lots of understandable reasons. But just wanted to point out that Vampire 5th edition largely does away with the metaplot, and resets the vampire-centric play in some really smart ways. It also handles hunger really well (no more blood points!) and makes you face your predatory nature and needs to an extent that's genuinely disturbing. As it should, since it's supposed to be a horror game.

Which, I know, potentially edges it out of urban fantasy, but it's still at least adjacent.

Anyway, as someone who also couldn't handle WoD's metaplot baggage, I've been really impressed by the way V5 pivoted, including some smart character creation stuff that makes it much harder to go full katanas-and-trenchcoats.

EDIT: Just saw the previous mentions of V5. Still think it's worth a look though.
 
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Seems like you're done with WoD for lots of understandable reasons. But just wanted to point out that Vampire 5th edition largely does away with the metaplot, and resets the vampire-centric play in some really smart ways. It also handles hunger really well (no more blood points!) and makes you face your predatory nature and needs to an extent that's genuinely disturbing. As it should, since it's supposed to be a horror game.

Which, I know, potentially edges it out of urban fantasy, but it's still at least adjacent.

Anyway, as someone who also couldn't handle WoD's metaplot baggage, I've been really impressed by the way V5 pivoted, including some smart character creation stuff that makes it much harder to go full katanas-and-trenchcoats.

EDIT: Just saw the previous mentions of V5. Still think it's worth a look though.
I did. V5 gives me the impression of trying to copy Feed and failing. I’ll pass.
 

By all rights and expectations, urban fantasy should be right up my alley. But for whatever reason, I've never connected with it as a genre.

I never got into World of Darkness even though I should have been a prime potential customer at its popularity height (late teen / early 20s gamer in the late 1990s). I always found the setting, premise, and writing to be overwrought. Like it somehow was saying, "This is a serious work, filled with sophisticated, complex narratives and themes between these pages. If it doesn't resonate with you, it's because you're not good enough to appreciate it." And what little of the player base I came in contact with largely exhibited similar attitudes.

To which my response was, "Thpppppffffft. Screw you and your over-pretentious musings."

Likewise, I read maybe the first 2 or 3 chapters of the first Dresden Files book, promptly set it down and never felt a single need or compulsion to pick it up again. The core ideas of the setting and character did absolutely nothing for me.

I think some of it may have to do with the fact that even though it's fiction, it's not fiction enough, or something. There's just something about the core conceit of, "It's our modern/post-modern world, but with magic, and hidden dream-like, fey-world stuff" that for some reason doesn't seem to create the kinds of story/narrative backgrounds that I want to inhabit.

For me, I can't think of a trope/narrative/premise/theme that's part and parcel with urban fantasy---particularly the World of Darkness variety---that I wouldn't rather just do in Star Wars.

If I want to play a tortured soul, trying to avoid their own darkness within, I'd much rather do it based on the Sith than as a werewolf or vampire. But to each his/her own.

Strangely, I adore cyberpunk as a genre, and it's not like cyberpunk and urban fantasy aren't within a stone's throw from each other in terms of genre conceits. But for some reason cyberpunk totally does it for me, and UF leaves me absolutely cold.

Even weirder---I absolutely loved Joss Whedon's Angel TV series, but couldn't stand Buffy.

Yeah. I don't get myself either sometimes.
 

I've found that its hard for me to find one I really seem to engage with; the Storyteller versions require engaging with one of the versions of the core system which I'm profoundly ambivalent about, and most others are PbtA, D&D5e or Fate based, none of which suit me notably. About the only one I liked is Wicked Pacts but its a bit narrower in scope than I prefer. Liminal seems possibly okay, but the mechanics lean a bit more to the minimalist than is my gig.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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 disagree. A publishing house can define something early on, and the genre can expand beyond that early definition. This is the case here.
Looks like wikipedia has a definition of Urban Fantasy


I think it matches what I thought of as being urban fantasy.
Wikipedia has a much better description of the genre.
 

By all rights and expectations, urban fantasy should be right up my alley. But for whatever reason, I've never connected with it as a genre.

I never got into World of Darkness even though I should have been a prime potential customer at its popularity height (late teen / early 20s gamer in the late 1990s). I always found the setting, premise, and writing to be overwrought. Like it somehow was saying, "This is a serious work, filled with sophisticated, complex narratives and themes between these pages. If it doesn't resonate with you, it's because you're not good enough to appreciate it." And what little of the player base I came in contact with largely exhibited similar attitudes.

To which my response was, "Thpppppffffft. Screw you and your over-pretentious musings."

Likewise, I read maybe the first 2 or 3 chapters of the first Dresden Files book, promptly set it down and never felt a single need or compulsion to pick it up again. The core ideas of the setting and character did absolutely nothing for me.

I think some of it may have to do with the fact that even though it's fiction, it's not fiction enough, or something. There's just something about the core conceit of, "It's our modern/post-modern world, but with magic, and hidden dream-like, fey-world stuff" that for some reason doesn't seem to create the kinds of story/narrative backgrounds that I want to inhabit.

For me, I can't think of a trope/narrative/premise/theme that's part and parcel with urban fantasy---particularly the World of Darkness variety---that I wouldn't rather just do in Star Wars.

If I want to play a tortured soul, trying to avoid their own darkness within, I'd much rather do it based on the Sith than as a werewolf or vampire. But to each his/her own.

Strangely, I adore cyberpunk as a genre, and it's not like cyberpunk and urban fantasy aren't within a stone's throw from each other in terms of genre conceits. But for some reason cyberpunk totally does it for me, and UF leaves me absolutely cold.

Even weirder---I absolutely loved Joss Whedon's Angel TV series, but couldn't stand Buffy.

Yeah. I don't get myself either sometimes.
I get you. I have a bunch of ideas for various genres I wanted to write prose for: urban fantasy, pulp fantasy, science fiction, grimdark, fairy tales, new weird, etc.

The one I want to do most right now is military science fiction featuring a bug war. Urban fantasy is just not high on the list of things I’m interested in.
 

Just learned of Legacy: War of Ages, another WoD heartbreaker with a side order of Highlander. Surprised I didn’t hear about this before. I’ll check it out
 

Rogerd1

Villager
Just learned of Legacy: War of Ages, another WoD heartbreaker with a side order of Highlander. Surprised I didn’t hear about this before. I’ll check it out
I recommend the original version in Portugese, Imortal. You get the history of Atlantis and stuff which is cool.

Google translate is a must
 

I recommend the original version in Portugese, Imortal. You get the history of Atlantis and stuff which is cool.

Google translate is a must
It seems that the only version available is a "basic version" on Drivethrurpg. The publisher planned to produce a new edition but this was delayed by the pandemic and a fire at the publisher's. Ouch! I did find a couple of less than glowing reviews, which paint it out as Highlander with the serial numbers filed off and some additional psychic powers added.

There's also a spin-off called Warlock: Black Spiral which is basically another Mage/Ars Magica heartbreaker. Notably, it uses a syntactic magic system where magic relies on skills rather than being limited in effect by level. Which is basically the same mechanic used in Opening the Dark's magic system.

Atlantis is a pretty common theme of several 90s urban fantasy games. I've seen it mentioned prominently in Nephilim, WitchCraft, and some versions of Mage. What's the appeal?
 

Rogerd1

Villager
It seems that the only version available is a "basic version" on Drivethrurpg. The publisher planned to produce a new edition but this was delayed by the pandemic and a fire at the publisher's. Ouch! I did find a couple of less than glowing reviews, which paint it out as Highlander with the serial numbers filed off and some additional psychic powers added.

There's also a spin-off called Warlock: Black Spiral which is basically another Mage/Ars Magica heartbreaker. Notably, it uses a syntactic magic system where magic relies on skills rather than being limited in effect by level. Which is basically the same mechanic used in Opening the Dark's magic system.

Atlantis is a pretty common theme of several 90s urban fantasy games. I've seen it mentioned prominently in Nephilim, WitchCraft, and some versions of Mage. What's the appeal?
Legacy is exactly Highlander with the numbers filed off. In a similar way that Atlantean Immortals are in Witchcraft - only instead of beheading, you have magical severing.

Edit: I have never found Black Spural, so thanks for that. Guess my googke fu really failed me.

I think it adds backstory, and world building but not everyone may feel the same. There is also a French version of Highlander that is fairly but it does not bother sticking to canon overly much.

See, I love Nephilim, but I could never get an OCR version in pdf - I did email the publishers a few times, to no avail. There is Nephilim Quintessence now out on Drivethtu, so I am hoping this may be OCR, but looking at the preview my hopes are not high.

From a personal standpoint, I think Highlander would fit in perfectly to the Nephilim universe based on my very limited knowledge of the French version. But YMMV really.
 

Legacy is exactly Highlander with the numbers filed off. In a similar way that Atlantean Immortals are in Witchcraft - only instead of beheading, you have magical severing.

Edit: I have never found Black Spural, so thanks for that. Guess my googke fu really failed me.

I think it adds backstory, and world building but not everyone may feel the same. There is also a French version of Highlander that is fairly but it does not bother sticking to canon overly much.

See, I love Nephilim, but I could never get an OCR version in pdf - I did email the publishers a few times, to no avail. There is Nephilim Quintessence now out on Drivethtu, so I am hoping this may be OCR, but looking at the preview my hopes are not high.

From a personal standpoint, I think Highlander would fit in perfectly to the Nephilim universe based on my very limited knowledge of the French version. But YMMV really.
There is the English Nephilim adaptation by Chaosium. It also has a mailing list group with archives going back to the 90s. Some of the material was adapted as generic magic rules in Enlightened Magic.

The English adaptation isn't a faithful translation of the French version. It takes a lot of liberties with the rules and setting, but is mostly recognizable. I did like the enlightened magic rules, as they feel less arbitrary than the original magic system. The enlightened alchemy rules in particular are fascinating. Unfortunately, the game was canceled due to poor sales and Chaosium hasn't done anything since besides the EM book. They were apparently planning to do something with it, but from what I hear they didn't do much and what they did do was going to be even more different than prior editions.

I wasn't in the group during its 90s heyday, but apparently a common point of contention was that fans were intimidated by the idea of playing body stealing parasites (in addition to the convoluted rules for things like character creation). This despite the fact that games like WoD had you playing as cannibal Manson cultists and weirder stuff.
 

If you want to look at another game that can be summarized as "The World of Darkness and Highlander had a love child" Immortal: The Invisible War comes to mind here. It has a bad reputation in some circles for opaqueness, but once you can get around the author's incessant need to rename ever damn thing in terminology, including making some of them kind of obscure, I didn't think it was hard to comprehend. There were some mechanical problems (the Seranades were really overly hard to use without spiritually blowing your face off) and conceptual (having a setting where the characters are supposed to be ancient immortal beings but you're still going zero to hero can be perverse, and the comparatively slow advancement didn't help), but I ran a reasonably successful campaign with a few houserules.
 

If you want to look at another game that can be summarized as "The World of Darkness and Highlander had a love child" Immortal: The Invisible War comes to mind here. It has a bad reputation in some circles for opaqueness, but once you can get around the author's incessant need to rename ever damn thing in terminology, including making some of them kind of obscure, I didn't think it was hard to comprehend. There were some mechanical problems (the Seranades were really overly hard to use without spiritually blowing your face off) and conceptual (having a setting where the characters are supposed to be ancient immortal beings but you're still going zero to hero can be perverse, and the comparatively slow advancement didn't help), but I ran a reasonably successful campaign with a few houserules.
The website is still up and you can download the third edition. Home

I wonder where the writer went. Nowadays you can sell this stuff on drivethrurpg.

The premise is a little bit similar to Nephilim, too. Much more so than the other immortal games. Immortal games were pretty trendy in the 90s, weren’t they? I wonder they’re not made anymore. Adventures spanning the ages where you can meet or play historical figures seem really cool.
 

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