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Urban Fantasy general discussion thread


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So I've been reading my Night Shift and Esoteric Enterprises lately. (To be honest I don't see the appeal of using OSR's level-based mechanics, but whatever.) EE's page on vampires is pretty funny because it treats vampirism as a niche occupied by multiple beings with wildly different origins, which is a first in roleplaying games as far as I know aside from Dresden Files. What's even funnier is that, for comparison, the lycanthropy page just copies D&D-style lycanthropes. This has further solidified my interest in working on system-less "Night Worlds" rather than trying to design my own mechanics.




I've been writing some notes for how to categorize and design Night Worlds. These are by no means complete, but you might find them interesting. What I started out with was a set of parameters or axes:

History/Timeline. Urban fantasy is generally accepted to be able to take place from the 19th through 21st centuries. Less commonly settings take place in the future and may crossover with scifi genres like cyberpunk or space opera or post-apocalypse, while others take place in full-blown alternate history scenarios if the supernatural was already revealed or integrated (see Revelation and Integration below).

Revelation. The degree to which the public is aware of the paranormal is another key parameter. This ranges from the public being completely unawares to the public being fully aware. In the latter case, when the revelation occurred and how that affected history and geopolitics becomes important. If the revelation occurred in the past, then the present may be full-blown alternate history.

Integration. How integrated the supernatural is into history is another parameter, whether secret or not. Is there an invisible history where secret societies have been fighting each other since time immemorial? Or are magical beings recent interlopers from another world, perhaps part of the latest of several previous migrations?

Diversity. The diversity of paranormal phenomena is another key parameter. Some settings may be limited to one type of paranormal phenomenon such as ghosts, vampires, psychics, or whatever, while others may be “kitchen sink” fantasy where every myth is true and has representation somewhere. In more scifi-ish settings, the supernatural may be explained as aliens… or aliens may be just another weird phenomenon alongside magic and demons. Some settings may attempt to explain everything using a grand unified magical theory.

Protagonists. Who are the protagonists of a typical adventure? People who hunt monsters, whether as amateurs or part of a secret society? Paranormal investigators, whether amateur ghost busters or federal-funded agents? Some flavor of magical freak themselves, playing detective, superhero, villain, or soap opera melodrama?

There are any number of other potential parameters but that's as far as I got. The intent is to provide a series of spectrums rather than the more arbitrary categorization of "shadow hunters", "modern conspiracy", "soap opera", and "gonzo" I offered a couple pages back.
 

Just a peripherally-related note, in the campaign setting I used for two of my longest running superhero campaigns, vampirism and therioanthropy were related magic diseases, and how they expressed both varied based on the particular strain of the disease, and the specific traits of the victim, so pretty much every vampire or shapeshifter was a special case, though those of similar ethnicity and point of origin tended to overlap more than those from widely different regions and genetics.
 

Just a peripherally-related note, in the campaign setting I used for two of my longest running superhero campaigns, vampirism and therioanthropy were related magic diseases, and how they expressed both varied based on the particular strain of the disease, and the specific traits of the victim, so pretty much every vampire or shapeshifter was a special case, though those of similar ethnicity and point of origin tended to overlap more than those from widely different regions and genetics.
Characters being unique is something that I’ve rarely seen in urban fantasy, but I think it’s really neat idea. The unpredictability keeps things fresh. For comparison: In the shows From Dusk Till Dawn and What We Do In The Shadows, every vampire apparently has a unique talent.

The splatterpunk game Actual F**king Monsters is built on this premise. You use a toolkit to build characters and there aren’t any prepared templates to copy. (Tho the author’s blog has some notes for converting Nightlife‘s kin races.)
 

Well, the issue is that in a lot of urban fantasy there's assumed to be a stronger commonality within types than is accepted in most superhero games or, really, if you look at the folklorical basis, in reality. The only general exception is in faery folk because, well, its virtually impossible.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I would love for there to be a TTRPG for Percy Jackson, or at least a good equivalent for it. Demigods are an awesome part of the fantasy genre (the oldest literary work that we have happens to be a story about a demigod; The Epic of Gilgamesh) that seems to be lacking in TTRPG representation.

I also wish that there was an urban fantasy D&D 5e setting (Ravnica doesn't have most of the classic D&D races, and although I love Eberron, it's not as modern as I would like for an urban fantasy D&D setting). It would be awesome for there to be an official world with new takes on urban Orcs/Half-Orcs, Goblinoids, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, and other iconic D&D races.
 

There are a couple of games focused on demigods or semi-gods: Part Time Gods 2e, Scion 2e, and the Savage Worlds setting Olympus, Inc. Whether one finds any of those satisfactory is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.
 

Well, the issue is that in a lot of urban fantasy there's assumed to be a stronger commonality within types than is accepted in most superhero games or, really, if you look at the folklorical basis, in reality. The only general exception is in faery folk because, well, its virtually impossible.
In my experience of many bad paranormal romance novels, fairies are just human but with big slang words. The fair folk that haunt the nightmares of humanity are overshadowed by that, sadly.

I did have this idea for a vaguely Nightbane inspired night world where all the monsters draw their power from the same vague meta-origin (nightmares come to life), but otherwise every manifestation could be unique or run in family/infection lines.

I also wish that there was an urban fantasy D&D 5e setting (Ravnica doesn't have most of the classic D&D races, and although I love Eberron, it's not as modern as I would like for an urban fantasy D&D setting). It would be awesome for there to be an official world with new takes on urban Orcs/Half-Orcs, Goblinoids, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, and other iconic D&D races.
There was Urban Arcana in the d20 Modern line. Altho the magic was hidden from muggles by “Shadow.”

Language, please.
 
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I wouldn't judge urban fantasy handling of fey by the lowest common denominator; the ones in the Mercy Thompson books range from impressive to terrifying, and the ones in the Dresden books are at least interesting (Butcher also has four different kinds of vampires, and at least six kinds of werewolves, all of which show up in one book...)
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I would kill for a modern setting inspired by Dresden files. Okay that’s just a figure of speech.
Don't mind the FATE haters. I'm not actually a huge FATE guy myself, but the Dresden game is pretty much spot on. It's probably the only FATE game I'd willingly play. Also, if you're a Dresden fan, the rule book is worth reading just in spec. It's ostensibly written by one of the Alphas, with copious notes from Harry and Bob. It doesn't even matter if you play it, just read it.
 

Don't mind the FATE haters. I'm not actually a huge FATE guy myself, but the Dresden game is pretty much spot on. It's probably the only FATE game I'd willingly play. Also, if you're a Dresden fan, the rule book is worth reading just in spec. It's ostensibly written by one of the Alphas, with copious notes from Harry and Bob. It doesn't even matter if you play it, just read it.

Its an absolutely well put together game with a system that just doesn't work for me.
 



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