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Best urban fantasy I’ve read is Neverwhere, but it’s a one-off. Were I to run an urban fantasy campaign I’d probably add two cups of Constantine, half a pound of John Wick, three heaping tablespoons of Feng Shui, and a dash of X-Files. Put it all in a blender and set to “purée”. 

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Well, I ran a very successful (my players tell me) campaign of Scion, White Wolf's "modern day children of the gods" RPG. The Percy Jackson concpt, but of course it's White Wolf-ized; grown-ups, not teens. I unwittingly returned it to the source (I had barely heard of Percy Jackson at the time, let alone read them) by running "Scion High," with the young demigods attending a semi-ordinary American high school and structuring the whole thing very much like a CW TV show. The concept came when a friend had just wrapped up our Buffy the Vampire Slayer campaing and we were discussing what to do next. I said I'd either do a "second season" of VtVS or Scion. "Or I guess put them together. Scion High?" slipped out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. But like I say, it worked out well.

 

I'd like a Dresden Files-ish urban Fantasy campaign, but our attempt to play the RPG was, hm, "unmitigated disaster" is not too strong a description. The game assumes a certain style of play, and players, that does not fit our group. I've noodled around with alternate methods. HERO of course, because always, but also Scion. And let me tell you, it's dire when you turn to a White Wolf game for greater rigor and clarity of rules than what you were given.

 

Dean Shomshak

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28 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I like Constantine and I liked the early Dresden novels. Its not my favorite genre though.


   I am VERY big on the Dresden Files. Especially now that the series has been shaken up in so many ways.  His last two novels came out back to back and had a cliffhanger the likes of which I haven’t seen since Avengers: Infinity War.

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I've never played urban fantasy. A world where military-grade hardware exists but the PC's don't use military-grade hardware or attempt to get military-grade hardware is just weird to me.

 

OK, Buffy was a bunch of high school then college kids. But when they knew they were going after a vampire, none of them carried even a handgun when they knew handguns could knock down the vampire if not really mess him up with a head shot?

 

I'd be doing kevlar vest, holy water, Uzi, wooden stakes, road flares, garlic mace, noisemakers...basically festooned like a budget Batman.

 

And when possible, I'd rescue the money out of the vampire's wallet before I dusted him: waste not, want not.

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Out of the modern fantasies

 

I like the Buffy-verse. Would definitely play just on the off chance that it'd be awesome.

 

The original Charmed series had the possibility to be a good RPG setting with the PC's being agents of the Elders.

 

The Magicians was an interesting setting but not much of the action happened on Earth and not much of what did occur happened in public places.

 

The Grimm was a great setting. All sorts of intelligent supernatural species trying to live in human society.

 

I didn't see Vampire Diaries or The Originals. But their latest sequel, Legacies, would be great for as a school-for-the-gifted setting.

 

Shadowhunters would be a good RPG setting.

 

Van Helsing: my wife loves it. I keep forgetting what happened and who each of the characters are, even major characters. I watched two seasons and couldn't identify cast members if you showed me pictures much less remember who they were or what they did.

 

The Strain was an interesting twist on the vampire mythos. But their variety of vampirism is much too easily spread to be useable in a RPG. If you touch a drop of vampire blood, you get infected. And the vampires for the most part have not sense of self-preservation and want to infect people at all costs. So one of the not-so brainless ones could touch you with the trace of a drop of blood on her hand and you are infected: how the hell do you stop something like that? You're basically going from urban fantasy to post-apocalyptic fantasy in an afternoon unless all the bad guys are idiots.

 

Sleepy Hollow was a fun TV show but probably not a good RPG.

 

I thought Once Upon a Time was terrible and would be grating as a RPG setting.

 

Wynonna Earp was fun to watch. It'd be more difficult to make it into a playable setting than most TV shows.

 

His Dark Materials is a fun series and I don't know anything about the world beyond what's been revealed in the TV series so far. But the power level of the characters is all over the place from super-witches, to intelligent armored bears, to a fairly normal guy with a six-shooter who is far, far out of his depths in confrontations with any vaguely competent opponent.

 

Nancy Drew has turned out to be a surprisingly good series with the title character being reimagined as the leader of the Scooby gang chasing real supernatural beings. But playing as an unskilled normal isn't really what I'm looking for when I'm gaming. 

 

I saw the first 7-8 episodes of True Blood but it never captured my interest.

 

 

Not seen but on my binge watch someday list: Stranger Things, Supernatural

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I really enjoyed the Buffy series. I'm getting a kick out of the re-imagined Boom! series. Putting a few of the tropes on its ear.

 

Magicians - I enjoyed the books. The series I need to get into more..

 

Tanya the Evil - magic in an alternate World War 1. I have really enjoyed of what I've read in this series so far.

 

 

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I played in an In Nomine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Nomine_(role-playing_game) game long ago that was a fun and interesting take on supernatural creatures (angels and demons) interacting with the modern world. (Looks like there is already a GURPS version which might be useful when creating a HERO version. http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/in-nomine/

 

The angels and demons were obviously powerful and fun to play, but I think a campaign where the players were normal humans caught up in the battle between the two sides could be a lot of fun. You could have sacred objects, artifacts, etc. to help even the playing field.

 

The TV series Supernatural would be a great resource for ideas since the Winchester boys are always interacting with the angels and devils as part of the main storyline.

 

 

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On 4/5/2021 at 9:59 AM, Old Man said:

Best urban fantasy I’ve read is Neverwhere, but it’s a one-off. Were I to run an urban fantasy campaign I’d probably add two cups of Constantine, half a pound of John Wick, three heaping tablespoons of Feng Shui, and a dash of X-Files. Put it all in a blender and set to “purée”. 

 

Though your idea sounds a bit darker in execution, I ran a game that was sort of similar to this in spirit.  It was kind of a blend of The X-Files (find the truth) and Men in Black (conceal the truth), but for monsters and magic instead of aliens, and run by occult secret societies instead of government-sponsored agencies.

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I guess the oWoD was urban fantasy before it was cool, or at least before it was mainstreamed, and Mage: the Ascension was my favorite of that.  It could handle any sort of supernatural as a 'bygone,' too, so both as a game and setting, that'd be my pick.

 

I've watched Magicians and generally like it (it might've been better if he could've just straight up fan-ficced Narnia), but there's something about the stortyelling style that doesn't quite work for me.  It feels like they build something up, a mystery or challenge, for a while, maybe quite a while, then resolve it in an off-handed blink-and-you'll-miss-it way and it's all but forgotten as we're on to the next thing.  Also suffers   from going straight to earth-shattering problems, which seems a common hazard in the genre.

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2 hours ago, Opal said:

I've watched Magicians and generally like it (it might've been better if he could've just straight up fan-ficced Narnia),

I heard an interview with the book's author, and he straight-up said The Magicians was a hate letter to Narnia. Well, to all Fantasy, but he seemed to think the Narnia series was paradigmatic of the entire genre. So... Fantasy by someone who claims to hate Fantasy and not to know much about it. Hmm.

 

I did try to read the book, but gave up after the first 5 pages. I can't judge the TV series because it started at a time in my life I couldn't make time to watch it, and I've never had a chance to catch up.

 

Dean Shomshak

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This is probably an appropriate place to mention The Phenomena Department, a Hero System urban fantasy campaign setting developed by our long-missing colleague, Michael "Susano" Surbrook. By his own assertion it's inspired by the X-Files, Delta Green for the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and the anime Silent Möbius.

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I like the Monster Hunter RPG that Hero publishes, and I've played in KillerShrike's Here There Be Monsters game, which shares some of the same aspects as Monster Hunter. I also really liked Grimm and its masquerade concept.

 

My setting preference is something more along the lines of Feng Shui, especially if I've rewatched Big Trouble In Little China again. I like guns, martial arts, monsters and mysticism in the right mix.

 

 

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For me, Charles de Lint defines the heart of the genre as I appreciate it. Beyond that, I look at off-the-wall comic books (Constantine, Doom Patrol, The Books of Magic, Hellboy), Diane Duane's High Wizardry, Vampire: The Masquerade and its spinoffs, the literary Interview with the Vampire.

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Indeed, the World of Darkness (in all its incarnations) could be considered Urban Fantasy as easily as Horror, at least for some games. (Vampire intrinsically leaving more to horror; Mage, I think, lending itself better to fantasy.) I've noodled around with various schemes to rework the setting to replace what I consider the stupider elements. Like, I really don't appreciate the "Science is Eeeevil (unless it's kewl hackers or wacky Mad Science)" riff in Mage: the Ascension. Anyone can fall prey to the temptation to ram their vision of the truth down other people's throats, so I don't see why the Technocracy should be the designated villains.

 

I also noodled around with an Urban Fantasy concept based on creatures of myth living in the modern world, inspired somewhat by the Dresden Files, Grimm and such ilk, with a nod to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, called Unreal City. It never got much past the precis, though, which is short enough I might as well post it here:

 

Unreal City

 

Swarming city, city filled with dreams,

Where the specter in broad daylight accosts the passer-by.

— Charles Baudelaire, “The Seven Old Men”

 

Long ago, the Gods left the World. The heavens became throneless. Gone, Odin, Zeus and Ellil; gone, Indra and Amun-Re.

 

Death held no punishment or reward. Gone, the Buddha-Lands and the prisons of the Yama Kings. Gone, the Fields of Elysium and the caverns of Duat. Gone, Yahweh and Heaven. Gone, Satan and Hell.

 

Gone, the palaces of Olympus, the halls of Asgard and the celestial city of the Shen. Gone, the dreamlands of Faerie and the mountains of Kaf. Gone, gone, all gone.

 

In their place was the Wasteland: the Desolation of Abomination. The place that is no place. The desert of chaos from whence come horrors.

 

But not all the creatures of myth left with the Gods.

 

Some could not bear to leave the World. They could not abandon their sacred groves and grottoes. Perhaps some could not forsake mortal lovers or cherished victims. Some were exiled by Gods who cursed and condemned them. And some maybe just didn’t get the word in time.

 

Whatever the reason, the World still held faeries and demons. Mortals still believed in Gods. They believed in the lesser creatures, too. This was not always to the benefit of supernatural folk. Jinn and giants, satyrs and sidhe were mighty compared to mortals… but not so mighty that determined mortals could not kill them. The exiles of myth learned to hide their nature and pose as mortals themselves.

 

Yes, they feared mortals; but they feared the Wasteland more. Dreadful things came from the Wasteland, monsters that bore implacable malice to the creatures of myth. The folk of legend gave names to some: Apep, Leviathan, Typhon the Terrible. Most remain nameless, each one as freakish and deadly as the last.

 

The best defense against the horrors of the Wasteland was to avoid their notice; to veil one’s power and live among mortals, lost among their greater numbers. And so, caught between two fears, the remaining creatures of myth became the Hidden Folk.

 

Over the centuries, some Hidden Folk surrendered. They hid among mortals so well they forgot what they were, bred with mortals and, in time, died like them; though their blood continued in their changeling offspring.

 

Others surrendered to the Wasteland and became monsters as mad and cruel as the horrors it spawned.

 

But some Hidden Folk learned to build homes between the Wasteland and the World: tiny realms set apart, connected to the World but not part of it. Pockets of myth survived in faerie mounds and hidden caves, groves reached by secret paths and palaces beneath the sea. Here the Hidden Folk could show their true forms, keep their old customs, use their powers. Still, their little worlds were fragile. Too much magic could fray them and expose them to the Wasteland.

 

Over the centuries, the Hidden Folk left isolated rural retreats and gathered in mortal cities. Greater numbers of mortals meant greater risk of discovery; but also greater concealment from the Wasteland. Moreover, when their sanctums and adyta were close enough they could link to form realms larger than any one of the Hidden Folk could construct alone. The Hidden Folk built towns of their own woven invisibly among the mortal homes and shops, streets and sewers: the Unreal City.

 

A few mortals, or once-mortals, also live in the Unreal City. Ghosts, denied a Heaven or Hell, may find refuge among the Hidden Folk. Some mortals become infected with supernatural power or actively seek to lose their mortality; the various sorts of vampires and shapeshifters offer notable examples. Other mortals learn to cast spells and so may treat with Hidden Folk as equals. Indeed, these once-human creatures or spellcasting mortals are often considered Hidden Folk as well. Still other mortals simply learn that creatures of myth and magic still exist, and how to find them. Clued-in mortals may become friends or minions of the Hidden Folk… or deadly and determined enemies: witch-hunters, ghost-breakers, vampire killers and exorcists.

 

The many and diverse sorts of Hidden Folk do not love each other. Whatever their conflicts, however, they agree on one absolute law: Mortals must not know. The Unreal City must remain unseen; the Hidden Folk must stay hidden. Any mortal who learns the great secret must be coopted, discredited or slain. Anyone who threatens to expose the Unreal City must be destroyed.

 

In the 21st century, the secret becomes harder to keep. Millions of unsleeping camera eyes watch the mortal streets. The Internet sends video around the World at the speed of light. Fortunately, most mortals have eyes but do not see the wonders and horrors living among them. But for how long? How long until undeniable evidence emerges that humans are not the sole intelligence on Earth? When they know their dreams and specters walk among them?

 

And that to some of those creatures of myth, humans are prey?

 

What, then, of the Hidden Folk and the Unreal City?

--------------

Dean Shomshak

 

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4 hours ago, DShomshak said:

Mage, I think, lending itself better to fantasy.) I've noodled around with various schemes to rework the setting to replace what I consider the stupider elements. Like, I really don't appreciate the "Science is Eeeevil (unless it's kewl hackers or wacky Mad Science)" riff in Mage: the Ascension. Anyone can fall prey to the temptation to ram their vision of the truth down other people's throats, so I don't see why the Technocracy should be the designated villains.

In the cosmology of M:tA, any faction could have been the ones to dominate the 'consensus' and establish what the sleepers perceive as reality.  It happened to be the Technocracy, minus the l33t hackers & Mad Scientist, so absolute power, etc, etc... they're 'evil' (though the Nephandi were even more evil).

 

But any of the Traditions, or some alliance among them, could have become dominant, instead, and would have thus become the bad guys, just in a very different world.   Like a Hermetic/Verbena/Chorus world could look a lot like D&D, with the occasional weird artifact or magic item looking like otherwise-vanished technology.

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Yeah, I know, and because it's White Wolf whoever has Established Power(TM) must be evil. Since the World of Darkness is "Our world, but darker (and with secret supernatural stuff), and the dominant paradigm is sci/tech, whoever does that paradigm has to be bad guys.

 

One of the ideas I noodled around with was five overarching Traditions -- the Technocratic Union (magic as technology), the Auto da Fe (monotheist magic), the Scholomance (Hermetic/"occult" magic), the Mystery Cult (animist/polytheist magic) and the Luminous Lodge (magic through interior mysticism/altered states of consciousness). The old, powerful leaders of all five groups are consumed with hubris and the desire to win at all costs. PCs, as novice mages, face the choice of toeing the factional line to gain the advantages of membership, or doing what they think is right without institutional support.

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 4/6/2021 at 12:45 PM, Opal said:

I guess the oWoD was urban fantasy before it was cool, or at least before it was mainstreamed, and Mage: the Ascension was my favorite of that.  It could handle any sort of supernatural as a 'bygone,' too, so both as a game and setting, that'd be my pick.

As RPG or in fiction? Lots before that fiction wise.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_fantasy

 

Surprised the above does not mention Mercedes Lackey with her Diane Tregarde (sp?),  Serrated Edge, or Bardic Bedlam series. Those were all solidly Urban Fantasy.

 

- E

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5 minutes ago, eepjr24 said:

As RPG or in fiction?

RPG, obviously.  But the point wasn't that there was no urban fantasy in 1993, just that it hadn't caught on yet the way it's popular, and recognizeable, today.  At the time, for instance, Interview with the Vampire was big, and there were imitators, including V:tM and later Buffy, but they were cool/trendy as Vampire fiction.  Of course, things that could be classed as urban fantasy go way back, heck, Dickens' A Christmas Carol could be called urban fantasy.

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1 hour ago, eepjr24 said:

As RPG or in fiction? Lots before that fiction wise.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_fantasy

 

Surprised the above does not mention Mercedes Lackey with her Diane Tregarde (sp?),  Serrated Edge, or Bardic Bedlam series. Those were all solidly Urban Fantasy.

 

- E

The SERRAted Edge setting by Mercedes Lackey or the Mercyverse setting by Patricia Briggs could make a good setting for a game wold

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2 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

Anyone have an assessment of the usefulness of Urban Fantasy Hero in running this genre?

 

I actually did run an Urban Fantasy game using that book.  It imploded fairly quickly because there was a lot of disconnect between players about what we were actually trying to do with that game.  Some wanted more fights, some more investigation, and no one was clear on what the genre expectations were.  If you pick a fight with a troll under a bridge, do you have a chance or not?  Conan wins, Fellowship Samwise loses, RotK Samwise has a chance, how does your street magician do?

It wasn't the fault of Hero's book, as the GM I was the one that needed to establish the tone.  That said, I found Urban Fantasy Hero to be generic to the point of not being very helpful.  It laid out broad ideas of what Urban Fantasy could look like, gave you three settings to play in and set you loose.  If you picked one of those three you mostly got a magic system instead of a setting and you exhausted most of what was setup in about 3 game sessions & were then on your own.  You actually needed to roll quite a bit of your own to even get it to the table, unless the PCs did nothing but buy all the package deals. (None of my PCs made magic users, so the detailed Magic Systems didn't really help me)


I've been playing a lot of Hero for a long time so the mechanical comments didn't tell me what I didn't already knew about making my own magic systems.  Maybe if I hadn't been playing Hero in Non-Supers before it would have helped, but there was so much "mile wide/Inch deep" info on a broad genre that I very much felt I was home-brewing everything if I wanted a real game.

Champions Complete actually gives a *lot* more info on what your characters should do and what they should look like than Urban Fantasy Hero does, and imagine if all there was about the Champions Universe was what was written in Champions Complete?  Better than a completely blank slate, but a long way from a game in a book.  I get that you can't lose money on books and can't print books that don't sell, but if you know there is never going to be a Terran Empire setting Star Hero becomes a lot less useful.

It's why I'm hopeful about the discussion going on in another forum about a "Campaign in a Book" instead of another "Genre Hero" overview book.  Something for a GM to pick up & run rather than a "here is a guide to roll your own" is a pretty big gap in the Hero line IMHO.

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I've alway been a big fan of the Mage: the Ascension setting. The push and pull on the fight for consensus. The gray of the right and wrong of belief. It's ripe with built in conflict. But the Storyteller system itself, not the biggest fan. I've played around with a Fate based conversion, but it ends up looking very similar to Dresden Files magic. I guess this was kind of my impetus towards running my all-mage Hero game (in which I used the Fate/Dresden world building methods with the group in session 0).

 

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