MoonHunter Sayeth 20180720


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Setting: Not Mice and Men, but Skins and Sea
Urban Fantasy in a non traditional setting
plus some general UF Chronicle advice.

Monterey California is a lovely city along the Northern California Coast. There is a great deal of history here: once a capital of CA, Steinbeck, etc. It is a fairly laid back community. There is still a fishing fleet out of the harbor here, and farming just outside of town. There are small businesses and big military bases. Yet, it is kept "pretty" as there is a lot of touristing here. In Monterey, you are just down the road from Carmel by the Sea and Pebble Beach, for upscale life. You are not that far from the big cities you might associate with urban fantasy, San Jose or San Francisco. It is head of Monterey Canyon.. a submarine canyon and the Soquel Canyon State Marine Conservation Area. This ocean side is studied by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Monterey is an interesting convergence of geography and humanity.

There is a lot of paranormal activity in these parts, just not the kind of paranormal activity you are used to in games or most urban fantasy. There are a few witches throughout the region. The rich and famous in Carmel by the Sea attracts the Fey and the occasional Vampire. Around here, it is all about The Selkie.

The Four Selkie clans all have main holdings in and around the area. Most live on the dry side, spending most of their time as Humans. Still a few live wetside most of the time. There is, of course, some low degree of intrigue between the clans, each jockeying for position so when the Grand Poohbah (Selkie King) dies, their clan head will take over. Where ever there is magical being and magic, there will be more magic. Selkie charms are hard to resist. We all know magic will make "complications" eventually, so everyone just deals with them along the way.

In addition to Selkies, there are some changing being. Were otters are the most common next to the Selkies. These water folk have transformations based on tides, rather than the moon. The Selkies just count them as country cousins and move on.

A few were dolphins and sharks (The Kinds of Polynesian origin) are here as well.

The Selkies like their niche in this world. They live close to two paranormal hotspots San Francisco (and its cosmopolitan approach) and San Jose - Home of New Magic and Rosicrucians. Their problems often find their way to Monterey. If anyone threatened their niche or the status quo, they pull out all the stops to get re-establish themselves as kings of their tiny hill.

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I like this one. It is not epic. There is no saving the world. (Unless Cthulu comes up the trench or the Deep Ones invade en mass.) That is not the scale of this chronicle. It does not have the expected kinds, which is the twist for the setting.

So what are some points that make an urban fantasy setting good?
  • A quirky setting with color and some history. This a genre meme. It is the reason Toronto is popular in the genre.
  • Define Kinds and Magics. Kitchen sinks get very complicated in the urban fantasy sphere. If handled carefully you can do it, but most people just mash them. Thus a "sculpted setting" that focuses on one kind or set of kinds, with "guest appearances" of other kinds seems to work best for gaming.
  • Urban Fantasy keeps the power levels on the lower end. If you want big powers, go with super heroes or epic fantasy.
  • One Genre convention is either Hidden Society or Public Exposure. I am a big fan of the supernatural living among Humanity without Humanity knowing it. Yet, you could follow the "new trend" in the bibliospace and have a world where the supernatural are outed and part of society. Pick your flavor or drama.
  • The Supernatural society should be a source of general drama.... there should be things happening and going on. It should not be a static thing that only becomes active when the PCs poke and prod it. UF societies seem static because normally there is a human just peeking into the society. If you are part of it, you know what is going on (even if you don't understand it all).
  • Good Urban Fantasies should have plots from three sources: Personal, Setting, Crisis. You mostly have supernaturals "doing their own things" (following their own drives, goals, and plot lines). You can dip into things happening in the setting (Silkie clan infighting or working with or against witches this week) from the UF memes. You can use "crisis of the week" as something new comes to town and disrupts the status quo.
  • Work for a variety in events to keep interest up in the chronicle. Even monsters of the week" should be varied rather than 100% the same monster all the time (even if you are a vampire slayer.)
  • The GM should use the metaphor that works for their experience with urban fantasy... so most often Books or TV Series. Being a popular media genre of adventure, gamers are most used to this in an entertainment format. Exploit that familiarity.
  • A point for character design, make sure the characters have links to the setting and organizations (that the players will be invested in). This keeps the characters from just throwing up their hands and running away.
  • Another point for character design, characters should be linked in some way to at least two other character (if you have more than three players). This is not just advice for UF, but a good piece of advice in general. This gives the troupe a reason to be together. Note, this does not mean the relationship has to be "good" or even "healthy". A character could despise another character and want them to fail, so they stay with them as a "friend" for the time they can arrange disasters for them. Frenemies are another option. Allied opposition like Spock and Bones, Cyclopes and Wolverine, and so on, make for great relationships. Or even that one person you feel sorry for that you drag into your social circle because they don't have anyone else. The Smallville relationship map from any of the seasons has enemies, friends, and neutrals in it. A character's relationships with others characters can be complicated. Oh and it is two or more strong connections with the group is important, if there is only one tie to the group... what happens when that one tie goes away? Redundancy is important.
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