Origins 2017: Urban Shadows

Origins 2017 has come and gone. My time at the convention is spent mainly in the Games on Demand space, a venue where around eight GMs offer a menu of tabletop RPGs. For the cost of two generic con tokens, you get a space at a table and a one-shot game of approximately four hours. This was my third year to attend Origins and it felt very different from the previous years. I’ll get into more of that in my wrap up post on Saturday.

One great addition to Games on Demand was a Boarding Pass system. In years past, the line for GoD at Origins has been an unwieldy beast, requiring players to stake out a spot an hour or more in advance or risk losing their chance at a game they wanted. There was some discontent between GoD and con-goers who thought their pre-purchased tickets applied in this venue the same as their spot at a Shadowrun or Pathfinder table. The compromise of the Boarding Pass was beautiful in my opinion. Onto my first game of the con:

Urban Shadows (Magpie Games)
Written by Andrew Medeiros & Mark Diaz Truman
Illustrated by Juan Ochoa


This game was very familiar, comfortable territory. It was run by Jahmal “Mad Jay” Brown who ran an Urban Shadows campaign I participated in last year. This one-shot, just like our campaign, was set in New Orleans and I mentioned in passing about playing my old character to which Jay responded in the affirmative. My character was Victor Lafitte, a business magnate and secret Immortal who was buying up land corresponding with ley lines that intersected the city. My particular immortality was a mystery to Victor who first came to NOLA as a German immigrant at the turn of the century only to be knifed and left for dead in the bayou by robbers. He came to days later reborn in a new body and from there learned that after each death he’d form a chrysalis and emerge a new person.

However, the Immortal playbook was not at Jay’s table so I went with The Specter and spun a tale of Victor’s final death. He apparently pissed off the head of a new business that had come into the city, one that held associations with demons. This rival businessman had Victor drugged and dumped on a plane going to the ass end of the world. What they didn’t know was that if Victor was away from the city for a prolonged amount of time the magic that kept him immortal would fade and he would crumble to dust. Whereas before Victor had been calculating with his hand in many different plots and conspiracies, he’s now an angry poltergeist robbed of an eternity of life. Knowing this I decided to play Victor more aggressive than I’d seen players work with the Specter playbook in the past.

It was a fun game and felt like the start of a campaign. Jay very wisely let the players take a standard advance and corruption advance during character creation. Urban Shadows can be a bit hard to run in a one-shot convention setting because the playbooks take time to develop. By letting the players boost themselves a little at the start of the game it really helps in opening up options during play. Victor was connected to our Werewolf by asking the local tough to keep tabs on Elouise, a nurse whose family helped Victor many incarnations before. He provided the Wolf with money from hidden emergency stashes he had kept around the city in a previous life. Then there was the Hunter, an occupation that Victor made no qualms about hating. He would invisibly impede the Hunter at critical moments by breaking equipment or becoming physically tangible and blocking the way. The most complicated relationship was between Victor and The Tainted, the heir to the man who caused Victor’s death. Now, the angry spirit wanted to protect this demon-stained figure, not benevolently rather so he could separate the demon from her and devour its power.

Urban Shadows is a great game that may seem like a Powered by the Apocalypse take on White Wolf’s World of Darkness but is a much more complex game about urban communities and the levels and factions of power tangled up in them. The designers cleverly made only two paths to advance your character: regularly interact with all four factions in the city or abuse your supernatural abilities which corrupt you. This blend of mechanics and fiction has ensured that every game of Urban Shadows I’ve participated in has been a hell of a lot of fun.

You can pick up Urban Shadows here and its supplement Dark Streets here.

Here’s the first part of our New Orleans campaign run by the inimitable Mad Jay. The rest of the series is not yet uploaded, but hopefully one day. It was a hell of a campaign.


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