Is there a niche for Urban Fantasy that isn't WoD or FC-based?



  • Now that I've spent a month learning how to crash do basic MU* maintenance, I'm ready to start working on theme and a grid.

    I know that I definitely have no interest in doing yet another X of Darkness game. That market is well-served and I don't have anything sufficiently interesting to add to that dialog.

    My first thought is to run a game set in an 'original' theme. For certain values of original. I'd like to do something that is basically set in a kind of shared television urban fantasy universe. Combine elements from shows like The Secret Circle, the Gates, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Charmed, Buffy and such into a coherent framework inspired by those shows but not directly emulating them.

    There are some good games out there that let you create characters from various fictional universes, but I would like to run a world with no feature characters and a coherent cosmology to tie the elements together. A lot like how tabletop games like Monster of the Week, Monsterhearts and Urban Shadows work.

    The reason I specifically list TV drama Urban Fantasy shows is that they have an episodic framework and generally low to mid-level power cap that makes them much more suitable for a MU than say, the Dresdenverse or any other number of books where the protagonists can drop mountains on people routinely.

    I also have some ideas towards a 'plot in a box' kind of code, drawing on ideas from Primetime Adventures, that would work especially well in that kind of setting and be a little more engaging than the random plot generator stuff I've seen a few times.

    My only worries are attracting players and staff. Does this sound like a game anybody would want to play, assuming decent staffing and plotting? Or staff, assuming a Head Wiz that isn't insane? (Mostly.)


  • Pitcrew

    I would definitely play! My personal preference would be for a world like the Kitty books, or the Hollows, or Anita Blake, where the supernatural is either out, or coming out, of the closet. It allows the most interaction, while still allowing you to build in secret organizations/things the supernatural world doesn't want the mortals to see.

    However, if you do go with a masquerade setting, I suggest stating it so that mortal PCs are explicitly able to be brought into the supernatural world, either by each of them having some sort connection or potential, or just by an OOC statement that 'yes, random NPCs should be kept in the dark, so no casting fireballs on main street, but PCs Are Special, so please don't cut the mortal PCs out of the fun stuff.



  • I'd likely play. If it didn't use Fate.



  • @Pyrephox I wouldn't mind taking inspiration from any of those sources, but I definitely don't want to directly base a MU on any of them. I think the headaches are huge, either in blending specific themes or dealing with purists.

    Also, something original can be very, very streamlined, as opposed to the baggage of something like the Anita Blake universe, which has a fairly distressing MU side effect of making the TS the plot.



  • @TNP No Fate! And no capes!

    I am seriously thinking about trying to find a coder crazy enough to do FASERIP for me. If you lower the descriptions of the power levels to something less crazy, it would make a great system for cinematic (or TV-based) urban fantasy, I think.

    Edit: Or it's more modern cousin, ICONS. (Though that does have some Fate baked in.)

    Failing that, anything BUT Fate.


  • Pitcrew

    @Collective said in Is there a niche for Urban Fantasy that isn't WoD or FC-based?:

    @Pyrephox I wouldn't mind taking inspiration from any of those sources, but I definitely don't want to directly base a MU on any of them. I think the headaches are huge, either in blending specific themes or dealing with purists.

    Also, something original can be very, very streamlined, as opposed to the baggage of something like the Anita Blake universe, which has a fairly distressing MU side effect of making the TS the plot.

    No, I didn't mean I wanted a game set in those settings - honestly, they're so protagonist focused, I think that'd be a bad decision. What I was trying to illustrated was that all of those were settings where the supernatural was known, to some extent, to the humanity (and that this knowing had changed the world from bog-standards mundane earth but with Hidden Magic). Each one did it in different ways, but it would make a really nice change, for a game, from the 'the herd must not know' of WOD and similar settings. Also, gives humans more to do and be than victims or problems.



  • I would absolutely check this out too. Urban Fantasy with an original spin is my jam. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull is one of my favourite books (though it doesn't fall within the category of supernatural out of the closet).



  • I loved that book so much. It's a perfect snapshot of time and place. Bull deserves to be remembered as the mother of Urban Fantasy, even if Charles de Lint gets the credit, usually.


  • Coder

    Using a superhero system makes me think that what you want are high fantasy characters in a modern setting, yes?



  • @Thenomain Not quite. The genre I'm looking at emulating has some crossover in terms of power and theme to low-level supers. (Think Netflix's corner of the Marvel Universe in terms of power).

    And FASERIP is flexible. TSR used it for a Conan game, back in the day. The 'Superhero' bits come from the trappings, not the mechanics.


  • Coder

    @Collective

    Excellent. Conan is about as low fantasy as it gets (with some Romans v. Celts themes maybe getting a bit lower). Best of luck with the project.



  • Dark Spires (a Dresden files game) did pretty well for itself for a long time, though I don't know what the current state of it is.



  • @Three-Eyed-Crow Dark Spires, alas, is no more. But there is a sister game set in Hawaii. Both use the Dresden Files universe, which is a bit too specific for what I'm looking to do. :)


  • Pitcrew

    And used/uses Fate which is unliked around these parts for some reason.



  • @WildBaboons said in Is there a niche for Urban Fantasy that isn't WoD or FC-based?:

    And used/uses Fate which is unliked around these parts for some reason.

    Personally, I just prefer a little more 'uniformity' if I'm actually going to go to the trouble of using a game system.

    A Fate 'sheet' basically boils down to what stuff did staff let you get away with putting on your sheet and how creatively can you "work" the system.

    At that point, I'd rather just play Supernaturals who have character trait writeups like it was a comicbook game.



  • @WildBaboons I like Fate. I'm running a tabletop game using it. But I think it ends up being a bit of a pain in a MU* environment.



  • Wasn't there a game once based on the X-Files?

    Take the X-Files feel, and apply it to the game. I've toyed with the idea of having a single villainous faction (which sets the tone of the game, and you can cycle these at a long running enterprise of a MUSH), and having two heroic factions with cultural differences. This would not only unify villains, so you'd have a single backbone for conflict, and form them into a unified clique that would be forced to roleplay (tis the nature of the villainous beast), but also split your heroes to prevent the size of the traditionally popular opposition from overwhelming the villains.

    Add in something in the cultural difference between the heroes that creates an opposition that evokes interest in both social and intrigue roleplay, and you've got yourself a winner.

    Following the government conspiracy theme: A paranormal syndicate as the villain, a clandestine investigation agency with tight government control as one hero faction, and an underground resistance made up of individuals burned by said villains as the other faction. The paranormal syndicate would create the backdrop, the investigation agency would be attempting to check the resistance, and the resistance would want more alarmist measures that the government agents would have to control.

    You'd have the level of the syndicate trying to influence both the government, and hunt the resistance, while the agents would be fighting the syndicate and trying to protect/reign in the resistance (for their own good), with the resistance trying to evoke moral empathy for their cause from the government agents and be participating in dramatic actions against the syndicate.


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