The Game: Urban Shadows
The Publisher: Magpie Games
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I played it once, and I'm pretty familiar with the underlying mechanics.
Books Required: Just the one.
Urban Shadows is what the World of Darkness wishes it could have been. It's an urban fantasy game that actually thinks about what it means to be "urban", focuses on community and what different communities mean and how they interact, rather than being, basically, a trad game that uses some fancy terminology and talks about story structure.
(I'm not saying WoD, and Vampire: The Masquerade in particular, wasn't revolutionary for its time. I'm saying that it wasn't what it seemed to want to be, because what it wanted to be didn't exist in 1991 and no one working on it quite knew how to get there. Not to mention I have no idea if it would have sold if it'd been what we now think of as a "story game.")
Interesting little note: Urban Shadows encourages players to strive for diversity - that is, play someone with demographics (race, gender, orientation, etc.) different from their own. The book explicitly says "we trust you." What I find interesting about that is that in some circles, there is a distinct lack of trust in exploratory roleplaying - put on an accent or otherwise try and play a character that's notably different from you, and you might get some side-eye, at best. (I'm aware that being a white dude speaking in AAVE to play a black character is a different issue, thanks.) Anyway, just something that caught my eye.
Anyway, normally the first thing a group would do when playing Urban Shadows is pick a city, but since it's just me, I think I'll keep that generic unless it becomes relevant. Next step would be to pick an Archetype (playbook), so just a sec.
Hrm. I played the Wolf the one time I played this game, so I think I want to steer away from that. Likewise, not feeling Vamp today. I like the Tainted and it'd be fun to make a favor-trader, which seems like it'd be viable. Yeah, sure, let's do that.
So, we start with the usual - name, look, demeanor. I'll say my Tainted is named Kao. His family immigrated from Laos some years back, but what they don't know is that he sold his soul to...something to get them here. I'm torn between having him leave his family and go to [wherever this game is set] to protect them or staying in the same city as them (meaning it's probably California, Wisconsin, or Minnesota if they're Hmong). I think the dramatic potential is probably better with the latter.
Anydangway, I'll take Expensive Clothing for the look, and Paranoid for the demeanor. Kao knows he's still in it.
I get +1 to one of my stats. Blood and Heart start positive, Mind starts -1, Spirit at 0. Hmm. Well, I want to rack up Debt, and it seems like Heart or Mind is the best way to do that, so I'll hedge my bets and put it in Mind.
And then Faction stats. Well, I know I want to put my bonus point into Mortality, because I see Kao as pulling Debts out of mortal folks.
And now, Intro Questions!
- Who are you? I'm Kao, collector of favors and debts.
- How long have you been in the city? I've been here since my family emigrated from Laos, 8 years ago.
- Who would you die for? If I thought I could absolve my debts by dying, I would.
- What is your daily release? I go into the neighborhood where my family lives and talk with people from my country, speak our language.
- What do you desperately need? I need to understand exactly what I agreed to.
Gear! (I hate shopping for gear, but checking things off a list? Sounds great.) I get a house or apartment - apartment, I think - a car, and a smart phone. I also get a weapon of choice. I think I'll go for conceal-ability and take the collapsable baton.
And now, moves. I get The Devil Inside as a matter of course, which means I have to define my demon form. Smoke around the head, claws on the hands, leathery wings, misty skin, and smoky eyes. I have kind of a smoke theme, that's cool.
And then I get one more move. I'll take Don't Look At Me; I can mislead with Heart instead of Mind.
I also have Demonic Jobs; I pick two from a list and when I do those things, I get a Debt to my master. I'll take brokering demonic contracts and collecting souls.
And that's it, because everything else is either static (like intimacy move) or requires a group (Debts).