Monday, July 25, 2016

Gaming Materials: Urban Shadows

To call Gaming Materials a review is probably a disservice.  When I write these, I channel my thoughts and inspirations of something I've read.  I don't go over the gritty details on rules or whatever.  There are better people for that.  

Gaming Materials ends up being a ramble, a review and me going over what I think is worth stealing- er, borrowing from games I've encountered.  I use things I've taken for new campaigns and other things.  Sometimes those things have knives.

Just kidding.  Not knives.  Cleavers.

Powered By The Cleaver Apocalypse.

Having acquired Urban Shadows, I consumed it readily.  John Wick had referred to it as "As Dungeon World is to D&D, so is Urban Shadows is to the WoD."  WoD being the World of Darkness.  The new World of Darkness (nWoD or Chronicles of Darkness or whatever fancy name they've obtained) is one of the settings I've loved over the years.

I've read Dungeon World a bit.  Which I haven't bothered to do a Gaming Materials on.  Apocalypse World itself appeals to my style of GMing.

GMing in any game Powered by the Apocalypse is defined by the amount of improvisation it impresses upon the GM.  Most of the rules lean into that particular style, of the improvisational, narrative-heavy GM.  As such, it tends to have much fewer rules.

My style of Game Mastery shares traits with what pbta games do.  I dislike complex rules during a roleplaying game, often handwave things and more often than not try to defer to the players rather than the other way around.  Fate Core appeals to me because of that.  The old narrative first ideas of the World of Darkness appealed to me first, with other things getting added to the pile that helped make that idea work.

I like being able to ignore rules when they get in the way of fun or story.


Urban Shadows is an urban fantasy game.  Style-wise, it does the same sort of politicking one expects from a Chronicle of Darkness game.  Factions play a big part of it.  The setup of Urban Shadows uses debts to help establish the political network for the story.

Of all its subsystems, the first great one is the corruption mechanic.  It's something so much clearer and simpler than similar mechanics WoD has had.  The idea of trying to fight off the monster underneath is captured by it.  You can't avoid becoming corrupted.  It always makes you more powerful.  But go too far, and you lose your humanity altogether.

I don't know if I can truly replicate that, but the Corruption mechanic inspired the Feral Stress track I put into Dog Days.  It reflects something of a personal rule of mine.  I detest rules that are unnecessarily incumbent against players.  GMs (or MCs, as is the case for pbta) should have to handle excessive rules at times, I get that.  But I don't like forcing players to go through loops to do a thing.

Corruption puts control of it in the player's hands.  It operates simply.  It doesn't function based on GM fiat.  All the moves that could trigger Corruption are choices the players make.

Fast Play

The other mechanic, which is more of something endemic to all Apocalypse World games, is the fast play.  It's a checklist that ends with a player having a character to play, fast.  So fast I plot to rob it for other things.  It solves the blank page problem, wherein players look at a blank page with no ideas of what to do.  Giving them options helps.  Apocalypse World games do that.  Brilliantly.

I have a new campaign coming up.  Hopefully, it goes ahead.  Urban Shadows almost became the choice.  But I haven't run it before.  I'd like to play with it in general before trying to turn it into a long-running thing.

The ideas inspired by it go into a little file I've been working on.  It'll be nice to try them out.