Time-Shifting Urban Shadows

Sitting at the car dealership this morning, I thought to myself Self, what could be really fun and interesting is time-shifting Urban Shadows. So I’ve been thinking about that all day long.

There are a few things that are baked into Urban Shadows that are distinctly modern, but mostly I think it’d be a fairly easy hack/shift of the game into the past: 1840s Five Points-era NYC or 1890s San Francisco or gaslight era London or Boxer Rebellion Beijing…I mean good lord, we’ve had urban density for as long as we’ve had cities.

I guess I’d probably start in the US of A given how new urbanization is here and how inescapable the story of immigration is. A few shifts occur immediately:

* Keep the basic factions but perhaps contemplate moving around some of the playbooks. Example: vampires were very much scary outsiders/Jews before they got Anne Rice’d into moody rock stars. So maybe they should belong to Wild? Especially when they first arrive on American shores.

* On that note, I just cannot rationalize indigenous people as “outsiders” to their own land (a problem/thing I think about a lot in our own game tbh). So maybe a fifth faction? Something that’s not just “mortal” but tied into (perhaps) being indigenous to the land? Tricky. Dunno. 

* Hell, maybe all new factions after all. Or repositioning the factions. Power (politics + money = robber barons and the Gilded Age), Night (crime, gangs, family (!), tradition), Wild (immigrants and outsiders)…and not Mortal, I think, because so very many of the characters would probably fit better into Wild or Night. Something else. Something tied into having already been here and now finding yourself under siege, on your back foot, fighting to keep what was yours.

* Focus on the insular, deeply ethnic neighborhoods of early urbanized areas. Sharp divisions and clear boundaries, or at least boundaries that seem clearer than maybe they really were. Further research necessary; I already know from my American frontier research for that game I’m working on that intersectionalism was very much alive and well ever since there were people, but the tone and type were different.

* Moves that are less about establishing constant reinforcement of the local power structures and more about referencing back across to the old countries. Debts to families “back home.”

* Maybe, possibly, ethnically oriented moves. Some ethnic groups have deeper history here than other, some are more insular than others, etc. Mine field, lord what a mine field. Just thinking out loud here, don’t start with the pitchforks.

* Whole new realms of Threat types. Obvious, unrepentant racism. Ethnic clashes with very old roots. Audacious class warfare. The march of technological progress. Colonialism. Religious persecution.

Just thinking out loud here, and there’s so much room for misunderstanding history. Where would you set a historical Urban Shadows game?

0 thoughts on “Time-Shifting Urban Shadows”

  1. Playing the game in a different era.

    The time travel thing is cute, and I like that they reference it in the sample Threat (I think), but that doesn’t really seem to address what US is “about,” you know what I mean? If you’ve traveled back in time, you lose all your debts, your faction moves don’t work right, etc etc.

  2. Me too, Adam D, me too. 

    And I think that that changes with time, too. It is ultra problematic and interesting so I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

    In our current US game, the “stranger in our own lands” thing is my rationale for heavy fae involvement in the local native communities. I’ll write more about the various difficult things in our game but that one is top-of-mind for me.

  3. I am currently recovering from having my wisdom teeth out, and I think rambling away while drugged on codeine is not going to be an effective way to communicate my thoughts on it. Plus I don’t have it in me to handle the abuse Brand will certainly bring down on me, if he’s reading 🙂

  4. I did a short Paris 1789 game. It worked well. 

    I’ve got a thought about a Delhi 1857 game. Maybe I will talk about it with Bret Gillan.

    Also, Adam D, I will not vent hate on you. I save that for the Beakley and the Corley and Bluegrass. 

    … that and every US game I’ve played set in either Canada or the American Mid West has had a huge dose of First Nations people, mythology, and isolation in it. So, you know, I’d be a hypocrite.

  5. I’ll bet European cities map over really easy. Age and established relationships. Moving the game to North American cities, if you go back far enough, seems like a whole other deal.

  6. True enough. Though I’d love to do Quebec City in 1815 with the first wave of Irish settlers and the shit storm that caused. All these damn drunken Irish Wild coming into the French Night/Mortality block with the newly ascendant English Power.

  7. I briefly considered a European-based game when I started, to be honest the assumed level of gun ownership by protagonists/playbooks in the base set just meant I felt it was better to go with the US for the 1st run so I could use it vanilla.

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