Urban Shadows, Pt 1

First session went pretty well. It was my feared format: two players, and only two players, can make the game regularly so that’s what we’re running with for now. That said, the moves that trigger off and/or create connections with characters are so ridiculously juiced up in Urban Shadows that I’m quite satisfied.

We’re going with a Wizard and an Aware. The Wizard is ancient, a couple hundred years old, and freshly arrived in Phoenix (Dark Phoenix, GAF, unlike Actual Phoenix). She has no idea who runs the place and so that’s kind of her play angle. The Aware is a Navajo who has had a spirit encounter with a spirit calling itself Coyote, and is now paranoid that ancient gods are getting ready to wipe the world clean. The Aware ends up covering for the Wizard an awful lot; he has three debts on her.

The Debt economy feels good and very fluid. They used and earned probably three or four debts each tonight, through moves and actual doing-of-favors. 

Corruption is cool; the Wizard’s player is chasing that down while the Aware is kind of avoiding it. They were great about setting up their characters with nicely vulnerable setups, NPCs to threaten and have intimacy moves with.

The Moves seem to all work well. No objections, just a few little hiccups while folks try to mold the fiction to the things they’re best at and occasionally finding themselves backed into corners where they’re terrible — the Wizard trying to convince people to do things, for example. 

There are two wide-open moves, Unleash and Let It Out, that I think the players felt slightly awkward using. They’re basically “shit happens that isn’t covered by other moves” moves. Happily Let It Out, especially, has a nice, explicit list of what you can accomplish, so Letting It Out really does come down to skinning the move with your playbook’s milieu. 

Standard AW-style thing where you follow the PCs around and ask hard questions works just fine to get the game rolling. I think I’m pretty good at drawing connections and building little triangles as well, so I really don’t ever worry much about setting these things up. We also made the “Start of Session” rolls and god DAMN it was hard for me to parse how they worked — very awkwardly worded, where one player chooses a faction for another player to highlight, and (I think) that player then explains something going on relative to that faction. I’m 90% sure that’s how it works.

Anyway, we had plenty to run with. The details aren’t important. I don’t think we stumbled too badly over bad racial stereotypes. Setting the game in a city we know is good, too, and tbh it also let us know where we could confidently gloss over a boring part of the city and make it GAF.

What I’m going to be curious about is setting up the fronts, storms, whatever they are. The campaign materials. I’m just not super sure how they’re going to interact with the start-of-session moves. I guess they’re skippable, but they’re also free Faction marks and the fruit of advancement is so very sweet.

One thing that is nearly impossible to avoid is the do-gooder Hero on a Mission quality of the Aware. It’s baked right into how it works, which means it’ll be interesting to try and subvert that later on. 

Sorry I don’t have a better structured debrief here. First sessions of games like these feel wiiide open and pretty loose.

0 thoughts on “Urban Shadows, Pt 1”

  1. Cool! You have the start of session move correct. It is pretty sweet once you get the hang of it. What ought to happen is that players should use it to tell you what they’re interested in chasing. If you have a bunch of threats about Coyote and old gods, and every session, they’re like, “I heard a rumor about the narco vampire lord…” then you need to back burner those old gods threats and start investing where the players are going. It doesn’t hurt to be explicit about it now that you’ve had a sessions and have a bunch of stuff to work with. And if they have a good idea about a rumor that doesn’t fit with anything, let them go for it! Loose threads make great future nooses.

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