Urban Shadows - An Urban Fantasy RPG powered by the Apocalypse

edited June 2013 in Story Games
So yeah, as the title says, Urban Shadows is an urban fantasy RPG using the apocalypse world rules set to propel protagonists into a dark reflection of our own mundane world where Vampires, Werewolves, Wizards, Fae, so on and so forth exist. This game tells stories where the characters face a difficult path each day to fight back against the darkness around them while resisting the darkness within themselves. Protagonists in Urban Shadows all have a dark side, whether it is the Wizard's temptation for power, the Vamp's eternal hunger for blood or the Changeling's struggle between this world and the fairy realm, they all share on thing in common, taking the easy path will grant them immense power but is sure to doom them. My main inspirations are The Dresden Files and Angel.

I hope by using the narrative and story driving mechanics of the Apocalypse World engine, that this game can create dynamic and surprising tales in the setting. The principal of "play to find out what happens" will be a cornerstone of the game. Never knowing when or where the protagonists will fail or succeed and not knowing who will come out of this whole.

The game has a corruption mechanic where whenever a protagonist kills a person, crosses a line linked to their playbook (ie. the Vamp drinks the blood of an unwilling victim), or a move instructs them to do so, they mark a special experience track called 'Corruption'. This track functions much like the standard xp track in AW does. When you mark it off 5 times, you clear the track and take an advance from the Corruption Advances, which simply includes 4 playbook specific moves and a fifth advancement where your character is lost to you and will return in the story as a Danger/Threat/Menace. All of the Corruption moves are meant to grant the player significant advantages at the cost of part of their humanity. The intended purpose of this mechanic is to both tempt players with power the way their characters will be tempted and to illustrate how the easy path can provide you with a great deal of power but will eventually lead you into a darkness from which you can never escape.

Right now in place of Hx I have a Rapport mechanic wherein you will be assigned a number value for 4 different factions: Mortality (The Aware), Power (The Wizard and The Hallowed), Night (The Vamp and The Wolf, and Wild (The Changeling). Each time you want to help or interfere with someone belonging to that faction, you roll the appropriate value (or reduce the value in the case of Interfere) under that faction's Rapport on your character sheet. I like this set-up but I feel there is room for some addition. I have had some great input suggesting adding in a Debt mechanic akin to Monsterheart's Strings. Where you can spend the Debts to either bolster the roll to help or interfere or have some other mechanical advantage. Also came up with the idea members of the same faction can trade/give away Debts they posses to one another, maybe making this a basic move somehow.

Here is our google+ community page for the game

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101690788864141664454

And here are the basic moves, playbooks, and MC playbook.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v1dzfzn0bvdxgr4/IlfhqzalfY

This is still very much in it's early stages and so any and all input, criticism, and insights would be greatly appreciated.

So far my favourite moves are The Wolf's Bloodhound move and The Aware's Special.
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Comments

  • So it's like World of Darkness World?
    Seems pretty neat after a very brief skim, except
    THOU SHALT NOT USE PAPYRUS.
  • edited January 2013
    So it's like World of Darkness World?
    Seems pretty neat after a very brief skim, except
    THOU SHALT NOT USE PAPYRUS.
    I suppose there will be some overlap. I've never read of played a WoD game so if there is any it's strictly coincidental. As I indicated, my main sources for this game are The Dresden Files and Angel/Buffy.

    Is Papyrus a bad font to use? Has it been done already somewhere?

  • edited January 2013
    It's like the Comic Sans of the dramatic writing world ;)

    ETA: New idea: Write the whole thing in Comic Sans.
  • Cool, I like how each character sheet has a different design, that's a nice touch.
  • Cool, I like how each character sheet has a different design, that's a nice touch.
    Thanks, I like that a lot too. I know it doesn't add anything to the mechanics but it's fun to do. :)

    So I revamped (get it? vamp-ed?) the basic moves and added a bunch of polish to the currently completed playbooks. Would love to hear your thoughts, totally excited about this game! Playtesting to come in the coming months!!!
  • Oh! Yeah, I dunno how I failed to mention that. I got to the Vamp and I was all "Wait, where'd the pentagram go?" for about half a second, followed swiftly by, "Ah! Nice touch, that."
  • Good luck with the playtesting! I'm curious to see how this develops after you get some games in.

    (Re: Papyrus, yes, it's used basically everywhere. There are several websites devoted to tracking its massive overuse, including http://www.papyruswatch.com/, http://papyruseverywhere.tumblr.com/, and the original: http://www.iheartpapyrus.com/)
  • hahaha I will take it out, I promise. I never would have guessed. Thanks for the well-wishes John. Maybe if you're at GenCon this year you can try it out for yourself. :)
  • @John_Harper, do you have an alert set up that automatically notifies you of any attempted use of papyrus allowing you to swiftly interdict?
  • Clearly not, or this poor fellow would not have accidentally papyrused an otherwise neat thing. John Harper's papyrus alert system only tells him about the word itself being used on forum posts.
  • Ok so I have removed the Papyrus font. I have learned my lesson the hard way. :)

    Finished the Changeling today as well as hashing out a few Aware moves into place. Gotta tackle the remainder of the Hallowed's Corruption moves and the Aware in general.
  • As always, this is seriously dope, Pheylorn. I love all of the radically different archetypes. I've thought about doing games with lots of very different character types, but I always fumbled on the part where I start asking myself stuff like, "Why would a Vamp, a Werewolf, a Wizard, and an Awakened all work together?"

    Or...do they work together?
  • I think the fun here might be that they don't. Or maybe they do for short periods of time. And then they go back to their AW-driven drama. :D
  • Yeah I suspect that play will go a lot like AW would, at least in my experience. The protagonists start off intersecting a lot and then their own lives and motivations take them down different, often intersecting paths.

    Can't wait to get into some local playtesting in the next couple months and see how it goes down. I think my players will take my down some surprising paths. :)
  • I can't wait to help our SWW game wrap up do wee can give this the old college try. Although, maybe by that point I'll be looking for a group to try out my Mystic Empyrean/Apocalypse World Double Hack...
  • We can DUAL playtest!!! :)
  • I'm working on The Aware and The Expert this week, the two mortal playbooks, and I am struggling with ideas for corruption moves for these playbooks. Do you feel the corruption mechanic applies to them or should I find a variant for them? If you like corruption tagged to these playbooks, do you have any recommendations? Thanks!
  • I like corruption for mortals a lot, actually. In a lot of the source material, mortals become corrupted when they let the give in to their passions and stop thinking critically about their own actions (i.e. Faith in Buffy).
  • A good point. What about a series of powers that give them more and more leverage over the supernatural in the world? Using their morality as a sort of weapon or means of control?
  • I'm working on The Aware and The Expert this week, the two mortal playbooks, and I am struggling with ideas for corruption moves for these playbooks. Do you feel the corruption mechanic applies to them or should I find a variant for them? If you like corruption tagged to these playbooks, do you have any recommendations? Thanks!
    Corruption could work. It says something about interacting with the Supernatural in your game. On the other hand, if youre struggling, maybe thats not what you want it to say.
    Hmm. Maybe the the Aware has Doom, rather than Corruption? And the Expert has Insanity?
  • You may want to check out Graham's Dark World, where he gave players a set of insanity moves. Several of them might be a good fit for this.
  • edited January 2013
    A good point. What about a series of powers that give them more and more leverage over the supernatural in the world? Using their morality as a sort of weapon or means of control?
    Was this written before or after you created the corruption moves for the Awake that are in the current revision of the document (In Too Deep, Dark Company, etc.)? It's hard to keep track without a changelog, but I like those. I think they work. They really suggest a person losing her sense of right and wrong as she's are drawn deeper and deeper into the supernatural world.

    (Same goes for the Expert's corruption moves.)

    One other thought: what about giving each of the Archetypes the option of taking a group of followers as one of their moves (starting or otherwise)? A coven for the Wizard, pack for the werewolf, scooby gang for the Awake, cultish followers for the Hallowed, fairy troop for the Changeling, etc. It would be another tool for the MC to use to connect the PCs together, because obviously the Vamp is going to have a thing for one of the Hallowed's more devout followers, while the Awake clearly has history with one of the Wolf's packmates...
  • edited January 2013
    Yes I'm sorry, I constantly update the file and have not been keeping that logged, my apologies, I will try and do so. The post from earlier was before I had the ideas you found in the playbooks now. I was struck by ideas and went with it. I am glad you like them, they make my giddy. :)

    I think the idea of giving the archetypes access to gangs/squads/groups is cool. I think I'd rather put that under the 5+ advancement section, but I'm not set on that completely. What does everyone else think? Would that add a good dynamic to the game? I can see a lot of good with only a few possible bad sides. I especially like how it would add more PC-NPC-PC triangles, those make me very happy to see.
  • edited January 2013
    Perhaps the Wolf could have the option of starting with a pack (which makes sense), while the other Archetypes could, as you say, acquire followers as one of their 5+ Advancements -- with one big exception: the Vamp.

    The Vamp can never acquire followers. They are the solitary predators of Dark Streets. I mean, sure, they can have plenty of renfields -- weak-minded fools at their beck and call; drones, really -- but they can't rely on them, or confide in them, or turn to them when they feel the need for some (admittedly twisted) emotional support.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud.
  • I think the idea of giving the archetypes access to gangs/squads/groups is cool. I think I'd rather put that under the 5+ advancement section, but I'm not set on that completely. What does everyone else think? Would that add a good dynamic to the game? I can see a lot of good with only a few possible bad sides. I especially like how it would add more PC-NPC-PC triangles, those make me very happy to see.
    Introducing and thus naming too many NPCs too soon could defocus the game world and confuse the players, at least this has been my experience with MH games. So that would be a reason to keep gangs at 5+
  • Ok folks, for those following along. I added in two playbooks which brings me up to 8 1/2. I still have yet to flush out the Hallowed so that's the 1/2. :)

    I added in an additional +1 stat advance and the "join a group" advancement to the 5+ list. I agree that it would be better to have that come about with a few advances first. I've seen a character take it with his first advance in Monsterhearts and I found it rather jarring.

    So yea, introducing The Hunter playbook. Based on mortal combatants of the supernaturals. Inspired by Sam and Dean Winchester and Buffy Summers. Me likey!

    and The Tainted, a half-human/half-demon with all sorts of demonic and contractual based moves. Inspired by Dante from the Devil May Cry video games.

    Feedback will be greatly appreciated.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/3qkh7qjlfnivyxz/Archetypes.pdf
  • I would love to see the Wolf have access to a gang early (or even be required to have one!), but I think the rest of them can wait quite a while.
  • edited January 2013
    I'd be willing to make that change, especially since you're the second person to say as such.

    Change made.
  • Perhaps after 5 you can become the pack leader somehow... Not sure how that would work rule wise.

    As for mudanes,
    A good point. What about a series of powers that give them more and more leverage over the supernatural in the world? Using their morality as a sort of weapon or means of control?
    Perhaps they have a means of defence, rather than harming them. They simply dont believe in a way?

  • Hmmm, that could work too.
  • I have completed the Hallowed which puts me up to 9 playable archetypes ready to test out. Next step will be working on a more detailed description of the basic moves and breaking down the harm/healing/stun system. Also, a small chapter on MC principles and moves. :)
  • I dig the faction system. I almost feel like gangs should mirror that somehow, but I'm not sure how. Maybe building a gang is like building your own faction? That echoes some of the source material, certainly. "I'm independent -- I choose neither light or dark!"

    Also, FWIW, there's a recent worldbook from Clockwork & Chivalry called Dark Streets. Doesn't mean you can't use the name, just wanted to call it to your attention.
  • The corruption idea is pretty wicked! LITERALLY. So, the idea is, you want a little bit of corruption to get a few kewl powerz, but by the time you do that, you're generating enough momentum that you can't stop and eventually it will be your undoing? Is there any penalty to having corruption right up until you lose your PC?

    The Wizard's "Old School" move says you get "a mystical foci". "Foci" is plural! The singular is "focus". Also, the move runs off the page.
  • I dig the faction system. I almost feel like gangs should mirror that somehow, but I'm not sure how....
    Also, FWIW, there's a recent worldbook from Clockwork & Chivalry called Dark Streets. Doesn't mean you can't use the name, just wanted to call it to your attention.
    That's an interesting idea, I think it would be cool to incorporate the two. Maybe convincing your gang to do things for you requires a trust/faction roll to show how well you get on with those people. If a Vampire took a gang of humans (kinda like Angel) he would use his Mortality trust to influence them. Just a thought, does that fall in with what you were thinking or something more drastic? As for the name, you're right, I discovered this myself yesterday and am working on a new name. The current tentative title will be Urban Shadows. I welcome any suggestions though, I like Urban Shadows but I admit not as much as I liked Dark Streets.
    The corruption idea is pretty wicked! LITERALLY. So, the idea is, you want a little bit of corruption to get a few kewl powerz, but by the time you do that, you're generating enough momentum that you can't stop and eventually it will be your undoing? Is there any penalty to having corruption right up until you lose your PC?

    The Wizard's "Old School" move says you get "a mystical foci". "Foci" is plural! The singular is "focus". Also, the move runs off the page.
    The corruption as it stands has no penalty until you run out and have to lose your character. I like how it's a slippery slope though, it's what I am going for. One subtle thing that might be missed is also how whenever you take a corruption advance you can select the "retire your character to NPC status", so you don't have to go all the way down the dark path before it overcomes you. If you find your character in the perfect moment to retire from play, corruption lets you do that, albeit it's a compromised retirement since they will be a Danger to the story at some point in the future. But who doesn't love seeing their protagonist turn into a villian? :)

    I'll change the wording and placement of the foci. Thanks for the heads up. As you can tell, not an English major. :)

  • So I cleaned up the playbooks/archetypes a little bit, corrected grammatical errors and the like and introduced a new character sheet. Would love some feedback. I will be running three slots of Urban Shadows at a local con in early March, can't wait to see how it plays!! :)
  • Looks way cool, at a glance! Playing V:tM now so this would have been so much better! :)
  • edited February 2013
    When you go among a faction's members to rustle up some folk to do your dirty work, roll +faction. On a hit, gain hold. While you have hold, you have minions. Spend hold to have minions do dangerous or problematic things for you. When you're out of hold, the gang does it's own thing, according to it's nature.
  • @TildeSee - I love that faction move. Really neat way to involve the players more fully in the faction ecosystem.
  • Thanks ;)

    For reference, "minions" wasn't meant to refer to faceless, meaningless-death underlings. Just me being glib. Anyway, I think it's something I'm going to use in a hack of mine, or at least some variation of it.
  • What about this variant?

    When you go to a faction's members to gather bodies to help you with something, roll+trust. On a hit, gain 2 hold. While you have hold, you have a group to help you. On a 7-9, there will be some strings attached. Spend your hold to have them do something dangerous or problematic for you. When you run out of hold, the group does it's own thing, according to it's nature.
  • I've decided to due to a shortage of games this weekend and next week, I'm gonna run an online google hangout game of Urban Shadows. If you'd like to come out and join us, I would be delighted. You can find the event page here.

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cmtc1nd7uoddfoe1o1kds1une3g

    Have a great weekend!
  • Had an awesome playtest session last night. Great players and loads of memorable moments. Check it out if you'd like.

  • You said you are running one next week as well? Sunday night? If you have a spot open, I would love to try this out.

    I mentioned this on google+, but wanted to hear. My only complaint over a quick read is how the Vamp is portrayed, as just a feral hunter, when I think another playbook as a Hedonistic Snob would be quite nice. Curious why you went with this style of a Vampire?
  • Curious why you went with this style of a Vampire?
    Honestly? Personal preference. I like my Vampires as creatures of horror not intrigue. That being said, there's nothing stopping you from playing your Vamp that way, that's just a personal flavour add-on.

    I will def keep you informed of future playtests online.

  • So, after the playtest last night, a couple of thoughts.

    -At the time, I thought it was odd that there weren't significant options for taking debt on others. After a bit of thought, the idea that "You can't take debt, only give it" seems a really cool thematic concept, whether it came accidentally or not. It helps differentiate Debt from Strings, for one.

    -Persuade, I think, differs from Seduce/Manipulate in a significant way that could benefit from a slight shift in how it works. S/M in AW gives someone a carrot to go along with what you say, and a stick if they don't. On the surface, Persuade does the same, but it's a bit more complex than that. The carrot isn't *just* a carrot, it's power over you, and the stick is a pretty soft stick, but it's also making them give power over them. Thus, the move might benefit from reversing the 7-9 and 10+ results. The partial success then leaves the power dynamic in the hands of the target, and the full success leaves the power dynamic in your own hands, offering either power over you if they do what they want or threatening power over them if they don't.

    -Additionally, I see no reason for Pursuade to be different between PCs and NPCs.

    -Threaten... I think would need to be reworked a little to make it work for PCs, unless taking volition away with a Threaten roll is a thing you want.

    -Corruption is awesome. Full stop.
  • I implemented some changes into the game based on play-test experience, some of which TildeSee has already described. Most notably is the wound/injury system I designed. I'd love to hear some feedback regarding the changes if you have any.

    Thanks a million for following everyone!
  • edited February 2013
    Got a new link for the files. The folder contains the playbooks as usual and now the new MC playbook (which is still being updated as I go).

    Enjoy!

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v1dzfzn0bvdxgr4/IlfhqzalfY
  • @Pheylorn - Can you summarize the changes to the wound/injury system?
  • From what I recall in our conversation, the harm clock and derivatives are gone. In come discrete wounds. They come in three flavors: not particularly hobbling and will go away soon, slightly hobbling and require medical attention, and you-will-likely-die-relatively-soon-if-you-don't-receive-aid. Wounds also act as Conditions from Monsterhearts. If you have any wounds greater than the lowest type, you take -1 ongoing until you no longer have severe wounds.
  • At-a-glance thought, reading through. Perhaps taking a scar should reduce all wounds thus taken to Faint, incentivizing at least a little the permanent stat drop. Basically a way of saying "these injuries have had their cumulative effect, let's move on and not belabour this."

    Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the penalties, in addition to the tagging like conditions. Unless, of course, the death spiral is operating as intended and the world is just supposed to be brutal, in which case it reads well as that
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