About this project
Cassie’s Journal, October
“The nights have changed. Ever since Victoria’s coven of petty vampires moved in on Murdoch’s territory last month, things have been bloody. Even the Fae have been tightening the strings on the cops and the mayor. It’s an unstable situation.
But that just means I’ve got them where I want them. I’ve been fighting against the bloodsuckers for more than 10 years now, an antivirus cleaning out the city’s veins, running down the dead who crawl back up from their graves like vermin that don’t know their place.
And for the first time, I’m not alone. I’ve got friends. Marcus and his pack of werewolves that control the streets around my safe house. Bethany has access to something she calls “Sapphire” magic, whatever that is, and Felicia... well... I’ve seen her die and get back up more times than I can count.
We all owe people, owe favors, owe debts. But people owe us too. And we’re ready to call in those markers to put Victoria in my crosshairs. She’ll pay for what she did to my father, to my sister. She’ll pay.
No matter what it costs me.”
Urban Shadows is an urban fantasy roleplaying game where you’ll play characters struggling to survive in a dark urban environment drowning in supernatural politics. The game focuses heavily on the gritty drama and tense violence that we see so often in works like The Dresden Files, Angel and Supernatural.
The rules for Urban Shadows are based on Apocalypse World, an award winning RPG by Vincent Baker that also fuels games like Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, and Sagas of the Icelanders. The mechanics push the story forward toward exciting and unexpected ends; your actions are resolved with minimal rules and maximum drama.
We have loads of amazing stretch goals lined up for Urban Shadows with some top RPG talent to help us write and publish more exciting material for use at your gaming table:
$4,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Sunday, Bloody Sunday: We're adding an archetype to the main book: The Hallowed (Power), a religious figure or community leader who has a healing touch and a flock of devoted followers.
$6000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Lightning Crashes: We'll release an additional archetype: The Dragon (Wild), the reincarnation of an ancient dragon trapped in a human body, searching for their lost soul mates.
$8,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - New York, New York: We will write and release a digital city guide for playing Urban Shadows in The Big Apple, including faction outlines, prominent NPC's, Threats, and custom moves to make your game sizzle and jump right away.
$10,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Dead Souls: We'll release an additional Archetype: The Revenant, an undead angel of death drawn back across the veil to seek revenge against those who hurt them when they graced the land of the living. But is revenge justice? Do they care about the difference?
$12,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The talented Whitney “Strix” Beltrán will write and release a digital city guide for her home: Los Angeles. The guide will contain all you need to play Urban Shadows in the city and get right into the mix, including factional maps, custom moves and Threats, and bios on the major power players.
$14,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Bullet With Butterfly Wings: None other than Kenneth Hite will write our third city guide--Chicago--featuring iconic Chicago characters, unique Threats and moves for The Windy City, and all of Ken’s typical horror mojo.
$16,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Wolf Like Me: We'll release a short game called Los Cazados (The Hunted) by Mark Diaz Truman (with layout from John Harper!) about a group of werewolves that must live among mortals to protect them from the minions of the Old One, the ancient enemy that cursed them with lycanthropy.
$18,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - On My Mind: Andy Kitkowski joins the team to write our 4th City Guide: Tokyo!! the Tokyo guide will include everything you need to launch right into the game, including faction maps, custom moves and the power players of the area.
$20,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Miami: Eloy LaSanta will join us to write a Miami City Guide packed full of sun and blood! The City Guide will include everything you need to play in no time, including faction members and custom moves.
$22,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - The Vessel: The Vessel, our fourth member of Wild will be unshackled to release chaos into the streets. The Vessel is a soul bound to a body not it's own, by choice or by force. They struggle with identity and their Duty.
$24,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Dark Streets: A compendium of all our City Guides. We'll release a PDF of Dark Streets to all $10+ backers and make the book available in print as an add on for $25+ backers for $20. Dark Streets will be roughly 6’’x9’’ and about 140+ pages with a black and white interior and color cover. International backers add $10 for shipping of Dark Streets.
$26,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - London Calling: Paula and Steve Dempsey join the team to write a London England City Guide. One of the most famous cities of the world will have its dark secrets revealed! The City Guide will include everything you need to play in no time, including faction members and custom moves.
$28,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - Bangalore: The talented Ajit George will join our ranks and write a Bangalore India City Guide. The "Silicon Valley of India" is more than just the nation's leader of information technology, these streets hold centuries of history, chock full of fantasy and culture! The City Guide will include everything you need to play, including faction member info and custom moves.
$30,000 (UNLOCKED!!!) - The Scholar: When we reach this tier, Marissa Kelly will release the fourth member of Mortality: The Scholar. A mortal with enough tricks, traps and knowledge to get them into, and hopefully out of, trouble. They deal in rare items and artifacts and have a unique approach to Debts.
$32,500 (UNLOCKED!!!) - NYC Maps: We'll add maps of New York city to include in your games set there by Mark Richardson. The maps will have a personal touch to ground them in the supernatural world they are based in and be available online as oversized PDF's as well as being included in Dark Streets.
$35,000 - Maps For All City Guides: At this tier, Mark Richardson will create maps for not only New York but each City Guide we release, which we will include in the Dark Streets companion book and online for download.
$40,000 - Blood and Secrets: We will design and write a LARP (Live Action Roleplaying Game) about the bloody politics of vampires inspired by our experiences with Urban Shadows. The game will be released as a free pdf to all $10+ backers.
If you’d like to add some extra stuff to your order, add the following to your pledge:
Softcover Book ($25) - Backers at $25+ can add an additional softcover to their order by adding $25.
Hardcover Book ($40) - Backers at $50+ can add an additional hardcover to their order by adding $40.
Additional Dice ($5/$20) - Backers at $10+ can add an additional pair of dice for $5. An additional set of 10 dice costs $20.
Retailer Copies ($12.50/$20) - Retailers can add additional softcovers for $12.50 and additional hardcovers for $20.
Dark Streets Print Edition($20) - A print version of our City Guide Compendium, Dark Streets. International backers please add $10 for shipping for this add-on specifically.
All prices include domestic shipping within the United States. International backers should add $5 per book for shipping and $5 for extra dice (no matter how many you order). International retailers should message us for shipping rates.
Character creation in Urban Shadows is simple, interactive, and short. Setting up the game takes about an hour, including developing a series of in-depth ties between player’s characters that drives the narrative.
The game gives you the chance to play several unique and powerful Archetypes, each one a force within the physical and political struggles that define your city. In addition to their own abilities, each Archetype is also associated with a Faction of other characters within the city (listed in parentheses next to the Archetype's name):
The Aware (Mortality): Inquisitive, resourceful and extremely insightful, the Aware is a mortal investigator who has come to see the world for what it really is. They understand humanity is not alone in the city and are entranced by that knowledge.
The Fae (Wild): Fickle, enigmatic and illogically devoted to oaths, the Fae is a being from beyond this world or the offspring of such a creature. They are able to draw upon the power of their native world. Promises and truths are everything to the Fae.
The Hunter (Mortality): Dangerous, focused and deadly, the Hunter is a mortal who has mastered the art of the kill through intense training. They are direct and violent, never to be taken lightly.
The Immortal (Power): Antiquated, unflappable and insufferably arrogant, the Immortal is a person who cannot die. Or more precisely, will not stay dead. Immortality gives them time to make friends and enemies alike.
The Oracle (Power): Prophetic, cursed and intense, the Oracle is a seer, mystic, or psychic. They can see beyond the present, beyond this reality, but they also find that they cannot turn away.
The Spectre (Night): Vengeful, alienated and alone, the Spectre is the ghost of someone who died. They are an echo of what they once were and know only restlessness and loneliness.
The Tainted (Wild): Brutal, intense and manipulative, the Tainted is the offspring of a demon and a human. They draw strength from their hellish heritage, the eternal damnation that flows within their veins. They are of two worlds, torn between their human compassion and demonic drives.
The Vamp (Night): Seductive, merciless and eternally hungry, the Vamp is a creature that must feed on humanity to survive. Their web draws in prey and links them to their assets, minions, and debtors.
The Veteran (Mortality): Experienced and clever, the Veteran is a has-been who uses their ingenuity to remain relevant in city politics. They have a workspace to create all manner of things that other characters might need.
The Wizard (Power): Powerful, dedicated and often strange, the Wizard is capable of channeling intense magics. They have a variety of spells at their disposal and the capability to compliment that power with preparation and focus.
The Wolf (Night): Primal, unstoppable and always down on their luck, the Wolf is capable of transforming into a deadly creature when the moon rises. Little stands in their way, but they often find more trouble than they bargained for when they go hunting.
The Archetypes are not limited to specific myths or legends and allow you to make them entirely your own. Each gives you everything you need to play one of the denizens of the city, powerful and troubled alike, but isn't a straitjacket or limitation. Characters often acquire abilities and powers from other Archetypes and may even change Archetypes over the course of play.
Politics can get messy in the big city, especially when the streets and boardrooms are run by faeries, awakened mortals, vampires, immortals, and ghosts. To keep track of the madness that is urban politics in a fantasy setting, we've divided up the city into four Factions, arenas of conflict that represent rough communities of mortal and supernatural creatures: Mortality, Power, Night and Wild.
Mortality puts all the “regular people” in one corner, struggling to fight against monsters they can’t understand; Power names those humans with supernatural powers and abilities, able to work their will on reality; Night collects the monsters in the dark, brooding and supernatural creatures that draw mortals into their webs; and Wild draws in the outcasts and rejects, the Others from Beyond or Outside who swear oaths to distant gods and old ways.
Each Archetype begins play in one of the four factions, a member of the community from which they have arisen in the politics of the city, but characters can change their allegiance through play, rejecting their loved ones and rivals in favor of a different community. Each Faction is a loose collection of souls--no one rules each Faction nor do the characters within a Faction move in lockstep.
... corrupts absolutely. Urban Shadows features a unique Corruption mechanic, which helps track your character's descent into darkness. When you take a life, give in to your monstrous nature, or cross a line you shouldn't, you mark corruption. As you gain corruption, you will unlock new and very potent powers that allow your character to get what they want. The dark side of your nature bears productive fruit.
Power is never free though. Cross the line too often and you'll lose your protagonist to the dark. Corruption is a downward spiral that will suck your character into the darkness; not everyone is cut out to make it back from the brink. As your character gains new corruption abilities, you will face a difficult choice: will you give up what you've gained to save yourself?
Corruption also encourages you to play to your Archetype. Each Archetype contains unique boundaries and taboos that define when you will mark corruption. Life is always sacred, but werewolves, mages, and fae all face unique temptations while working the city's streets.
No matter how powerful your character may be, everyone owes someone for what they have. Urban Shadows also features Debts, a currency that protagonists and NPC's alike can cash in to influence those who owe them. Debts gives character real tangible power over others that they spend to manipulate them, force their hand, get mixed up in their business. Debts are the only currency that matter--it's all about who you owe and who owes you!
Your character will begin play with Debts owed by them and to them by other player's characters, setting the stage for the alliances and conflicts that drive the narrative of Urban Shadows.
The stories we tell in Urban Shadows are set in cities, often large ones, and every metropolis has a unique set of cultures, ethnicities, and communities that create a rich tapestry of interactions between people. We’ve chosen to embrace this theme, so part of creating your character includes choosing their Look: how the world sees them. How do they dress? What race are they? Are they perceived as female, ambiguous, transgressing, etc.? These elements don't have mechanical implications for your character, but they define how the city sees them and the kinds of stories you're choosing to tell.
Regardless of your reward level, you'll receive all our digital stretch goals as they release and get access to the Sneak Peek documents we've posted in Update #1: Sneak Peek Update.
AVERAGE JO ($10): You'll receive a digital copy of the book as a PDF! Includes all digital stretch goals.
MIXED UP ($25): You'll receive a softcover copy of the book, a PDF copy, and all digital stretch goals. Add $10 USD to ship outside the US.
POWER PLAYER ($50): You'll receive a hardcover copy of the book and the PDF copy. You'll also receive 2 Urban Shadows dice and all digital stretch goals. Add $12 USD to ship outside the US.
DEALER ($50): You'll receive everything from the MIXED UP tier plus 3 additional softcover books. For retailers only. Add $15 USD to ship outside the US.
PACK ALPHA ($75): You'll receive everything from the POWER PLAYER tier plus the opportunity to add an example name to an Archetype of your choosing. You'll also get to work with us to add a song to that Archetype's soundtrack. Add $12 USD to ship outside the US. Limit of 20 available.
MAYOR ($100): You'll receive 5 copies of the softcover book, all the digital content, and 10 Urban Shadows dice, everything your local group needs to play the game. Add $20 USD to ship outside the US.
CITY SHAMAN ($150): You'll receive everything in the PACK ALPHA tier plus a custom Threat for your home campaign. We'll meet with you online via Hangouts or Skype to outline the movers and shakers that will make your game awesome and write up our work together with professional editing and layout. Add $12 USD to ship outside the US. Limit of 6 available.
HUNTER ($250): You'll receive everything from the PACK ALPHA tier plus we'll work with you to design a character of your choice in one of the upcoming city guides. Add $12 USD to ship outside the US. Limit of 4 available.
MARQUIS/MARQUESS ($500): You'll receive everything from the PACK ALPHA tier plus we will work with you to design and release a digital setting book based on the city of your choice, with your input on factions and major players. Add $12 USD to ship outside the US. Limit of 2 available.
"The corruption mechanic often allows someone to get out of a bind by taking corruption and giving in to the power that they wield...eventually opened up new corruption moves (acting like gaining experience) which of course generated more corruption themselves. All to the end of turning your character into a monster. This is what WoD was trying to do…like forever!"
-Sean Nittner, Project Manager for Evil Hat Productions. See the entire post here.
"Urban Shadows is the 'let's play now' urban fantasy, action-horror-romance setting I've always dreamed of."
-Bryan Hitchcock, Author of "Cold Snap" in Lords of Justice anthology and co-author of Kaiser's Gate for the Savage Worlds RPG
"it’s already my favorite Apocalypse World based game, and much of that is down to its fabulous ‘corruption’ mechanic."
-Tom Hatfield, author of the Fail Forward blog. See the entire blog post here.
"I love how corruption is a ticking time bomb of power. Makes for a good reason to be dark, but not go too far too often."
-Aaron Friesen, author of "First To Wake", adventure module for Mystic Empyrean.
I've always been passionate about urban fantasy, the melding of myth and modern day is so appealing to me. I'm delighted to channel my excitement into this game because I have already experienced many memorable scenes at the table with my friends, moments of unexpected, high-stakes drama that keep me coming back for more.
When I set out to design Urban Shadows, I drew inspiration from dozens of sources. My main influences came from the television series' Angel, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and Moonlight. Novels that directly inspired me were The Dresden Files and The Iron Druid Chronicles. I haven't played a lot of World of Darkness, but its aesthetic and mood definitely informs how the game has come together.
I've also been hugely influenced by Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts, not just because Urban Shadows is Powered By the Apocalypse, but also because these games opened my eyes to new ways of roleplaying. Apocalypse World taught me how to "play to find out what happens" without pre-planning events, and that passing on decisions to the players at my table could yield results far superior to what I would come up with on my own. Monsterhearts showed me how to push boundaries within myself and how important character relationships are to intense drama. "Keep the story feral" is now a principle I will bring to all my games.
Andrew Medeiros is the designer of Urban Shadows. He has a great deal of enthusiasm for roleplaying games and Nordic style Larps. Urban Shadows will be his first RPG release but he's created several free RPG's powered by the apocalypse including: Star Wars World, A World of Ice and Fire, and On The Fraying Edge. He hopes this release will lead to several other projects that he has been working on in his spare time.
Mark Diaz Truman is the co-owner of Magpie Games, founded in 2011 with his partner, Marissa Kelly. Mark is a passionate roleplayer and designer, and the author of two Kickstarter-funded RPGs: The Play's The Thing and Our Last Best Hope. In addition to his work on indie RPGs, Mark is also the Systems Lead for the new Firefly RPG from Margaret Weis Productions and the President of the Indie Game Developer Network.
Rob Wakefield hails from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, is married, has two energetic kids who drive him bonkers, and has been in the design biz for longer than he cares to mention. He's had the pleasure of working on a few tabletop RPG projects such as Fraser Ronald's Centurion, Kiss My Axe, and Sword Noir. Rob has also worked on Sword's Edge Publishing's SPEC OPS line and is a co-host on the Accidental Survivors Podcast, which has been talking about games, movies, books, and other geeky topics since 2007. Rob is very excited to be included as part of the team on Urban Shadows.
Whitney “Strix” Beltrán is a script doctor and consultant in TV, film, and game development, and currently works with several small studios in North Hollywood doing transmedia and content development and with the independent game publishing house Galileo Games. She is a long time gamer as well as a PhD student that focuses on gaming in her research. She often gives lectures and sits on panels that discuss gaming at both academic and industry conferences and conventions such as Gen Con and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, among many others. World building is her favorite aspect of design, and she is very excited at the chance to develop a city guide for her home turf. Los Angeles is a weird, strange, wonderful place, and she would love to bring it to life for you.
Multiple Origins, Golden Geek, and ENnie Award winner Kenneth Hite has designed, written, or co-authored over 80 roleplaying games and supplements, including GURPS Horror, The Day After Ragnarok, Trail Of Cthulhu, and Night’s Black Agents. He has written Chicago horror into The Dresden Files RPG, World of Darkness: Chicago, and Deadlands Noir. His “Suppressed Transmission” column explored the Higher Weirdness for ten years; he currently writes “Lost in Lovecraft” for Weird Tales and a column for Swedish gaming magazine Fenix. Outside gaming, his works include Tour de Lovecraft: the Tales, Cthulhu 101, The Nazi Occult, and a series of Lovecraftian children’s books. An Artistic Associate at Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre, he served as dramaturg for their recent stage production of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Half of the podcasting team behind Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, he lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with two Lovecraftian cats and his non-Lovecraftian wife, Sheila.
Paula Dempsey is an English writer who takes much of her inspiration from Britain's rich folklore tradition. She’s also keen on all things weird including UFOs, ghosts, cryptozoology, astrology and tarot and has a particular interest in the history of British occult movements. She first encountered role-playing games over 25 years ago and enjoys games with historical settings and the occasional LARP. All of the above was brought together in a supplement for Pelgrane Press' Bookhounds of London campaign,The Book of the Smoke, which won a gold ENnie for Best Writing in 2012. Paula lives in London with her husband Steve, also a writer and gamer, and fits writing around the day job, visiting unusual museums and going to the pub.
Steve Dempsey has been a gamer for over 30 years. He has contributed to several ENnie Award winning publications in the GUMSHOE range for Pelgrane Press and is also their demo guy, having run the same scenario over 50 times at conventions. He has recently started to publish short fiction in anthologies such as Shotguns v Cthulhuand The New Gothic. His study is adorned with the statuary of geekdom and other Yog-Sothery. He lives with his wife Paula, an occult scholar no less, in London where they spend weekends in ancient cemeteries and at esoteric events.
Ajit George is Director of Operations for an international non-profit. He has spoken at numerous events on the topic of non-profit education, including TEDx. He attended the Clarion West Writer's Workshop in 2004 and studied under several leading science fiction and fantasy authors, including Kelly Link and urban-fantasy guru Charles de Lint. He's been a play-tester for several games, regional storyteller for White Wolf's Mind Eye Theater, and run and organized games across the country.
Mark Richardson is from Ottawa, Ontario Canada. He's worked in the field of Cartography for over 15 years in the Canadian government. Last year, he created Green Hat Designs to bring his passion for mapping into the field of gaming. Mark is currently making a map for Will Hindmarch's Project Dark and recently completed work on a map for King Wens Tower by Emily Care Boss. He's also working on his first RPG design Headspace.
MK grew up in New Mexico with roleplaying as a favorite hobby. From a young age, she was inspired to draw the characters and scenes from these stories, and as an adult MK finds herself illustrating modern RPGs as well as designing them. With her partner, Mark Diaz Truman, she founded Magpie Games in early 2011 and currently serves as Magpie’s Sr Art Director and one of its designers. She’s currently working on a game of dragons and friendship, Epyllion.
Risks and challenges
I've been working on Urban Shadows for well over a year and I haven't lost steam yet. The main body of the book is already written and is currently undergoing editing and layout. We've over a hundred playtests and the mechanics reflect our experiences playing the game for extended campaigns as well as one-shots.
Magpie Games will be publishing Urban Shadows, and they are helping me run this Kickstarter. Mark Diaz Truman from Magpie has run two successful Kickstarters of his own (The Play's The Thing and Our Last Best Hope) as well as helping John Wick and other RPG designers publish their games. Magpie will be handling printing, distribution, and fulfillment for Urban Shadows.
Since the text is already written, we feel confident that we'll deliver the book on time. That said, we've built room into the schedule for the inevitable problems that arise during production, and we're ready to handle anything that comes up. Magpie has published a number of books in this format and size, and we're excited to put copies of Urban Shadows in your claws, hooves, and tendrils.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Not at all. Urban Shadows is inspired by Apocalypse World’s mechanics and themes, but all the rules for playing and running Urban Shadows will be contained in the Urban Shadows book. You won’t need any other materials to play the game beyond the Urban Shadows Archetypes, Master of Ceremonies material, and a few dice.
Urban Shadows is rooted in communities and obligations in a way that's much more like Apocalypse World than Monsterhearts. You know those moments where no one is sure which side the Brainer is really on and the Hardholder and the Hocus are both going to make a play for the hold, but no one wants to get dead? Urban Shadows is pretty much that all the time.
A big reason for this is the Debt and Faction ecosystem. Characters want to hold Debts over each other and over NPCs, but they are also subject to the Debts others hold over them. They have reputations with Factions that they need to hold on to in order to stay on top, but those Factions will challenge those relationships. If I trust you, then you should be willing to help me... after all, I'd help you.
Finally, Urban Shadows confronts race and ethnic communities in the same way that AW confronts gender. Players have to pick their race at the start of play (Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, Mixed, Other) in a way that brings more characters of color to play. And each playbook is rooted in a community (vampires! werewolves!) that make demands on the PCs in addition to the Faction mechanics, challenging them to balance "family," Debts, and Factions without falling to Corruption...
We're looking at a 6'' x 9'' black and white print of the book with a color cover that runs about 150 pages, depending on how much stuff you all add to the game through stretch goals. We're planning on making most of the additional content, like City Guides, available for download from our website for free, but a few may get added to the book if we think they are a good fit.
We're working on adding this feature. We'll let you know via an update when this happens.
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