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Urban Shadows, a Pre-review

The Kickstarter for the Urban Shadows RPG concluded recently. Urban Shadows, by +Andrew Medeiros, is an urban fantasy game powered by the Apocalypse World engine. I jumped in at almost the last minute after the game was recommended by some highly trusted sources. I've finally had the chance to dig through the Kickstarter preview material, and I like what I see so far.

In Urban Shadows, you are an actor in the ongoing series of power plays and shifting alliances among the monsters and monster-adjacents of a modern city. You can play archetypes familiar to veterans of the World of Darkness such as the Vamp, the Wizard, or the Wolf. Or you can play the treasure-hoarding Dragon, the future-telling Oracle, and the half-demon Tainted. You can even play unpowered mortals in the know, like the science-leaning Expert or the fearless Hunter.

There are a number of balancing acts going on in play that I find interesting. You have politics in the form of reputation ratings with the four Factions: Mortality, Night (night creatures like vampires and werewolves), Power (anyone who channels an outside source, like wizards), and Wild (creatures from outside, like dragons and fae). As you act for or against the Factions, your ratings with them can rise and fall.

You also have interpersonal ties in the form of Debts you collect from other individuals. You can cash a Debt in on another PC to help or hinder them, persuade them to do something, or steady them against danger. You call in a Debt on an NPC to get information or resources, persuade or threaten them, or make them reconsider their actions.

Finally, you have an internal balance between purity and Corruption. Corruption is a secondary progress track alongside normal experience. As you gain Corruption, you can unlock Corruption moves that make your character more powerful but also darker and potentially more monstrous. Eventually, your character can become so corrupt that you must retire them to potentially return as a threat. It's an interesting "death" spiral that offers power in return for your descent.

So far, I've only read the available material (basic moves, MC moves/agendas/principles, and the play books). I haven't had a chance to play, but I would really like to. I'm an old-time fan of White Wolf's games, and this looks like a fun take on that kind of urban fantasy. I'm also interested to see how the push and pull of the various mechanics work together.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter, Urban Shadows is scheduled to be published this fall by Magpie Games. The game is in final playtesting now. You may be able to find folks online who are looking to run sessions. Check out the Google Plus community at https://plus.google.com/communities/101690788864141664454.

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