GM Lifting Urban Shadows


My buddy Paul has post on on his site about his problem spots during his run on the Urban Shadows RPG

I’ve run a lot of Urban Shadows at cons. That means one-shots and two cards I keep up my sleeve.

  • Everything is connected
  • I drive a Thanos.

In that format during character creation I keep the generated fiction tight. I will re-use NPCs and events. This keeps the fiction from sprawling out and we wouldn’t use it all in a 4-hour span. I’ve done this enough that it was second nature when I started running my home game. I probably kept it tighter than it needed to be for the sessions we ran. Every NPC interaction would pull in at least one other PC’s relation or concern. Tech Noir RPG does this nicely with it’s rules for PC contacts and it’s where my brain is when NPCs get created. New NPCs, new events I will try to re-incorporate first, before adding a new NPC or thing to the play space.

Is this person, thing already related to something we have already?

I’m with Paul on Fronts. In AW they sing, they’re fun. I bastardize them for US. I’ll create agendas, add NPCs/PCs and put a threat clock on it with a BOOM! statement for 00:00:00. After a few sessions I start putting together a Storm. I use a Storm to know when this game’s series/season ends. It’s my way of “ending” a game. I look for patterns, connections in what we’ve done and reverse build a Storm -hindsight is powerful here. If I’m REAL good, I can re-incorporate things from the first session and it looks like it was always there the whole time!

Debts –man, if you got ‘em ,smoke ‘em is my motto! NPCs go thru debts like candy. We’ve been good about debt context, I’ve got nothing I can point to that made that work. From the GM side, I get a kick out of bringing up why an NPC is making demands, often I’ll lead with the owe.

“Hey, I remember when I helped you with that vamp corpse? –You owe me this!” Then I see where it goes.

I will complicate toward goals with moves. Before Paul’s post I didn’t have a term for that. Failing forward maybe? that feels really broad. If it’s a fight, I make the situation more frenetic, more lethal. I’ll endanger other relations, contacts, important items. Having a good R-map is a great reference here. I’ll also move the miss from what’s happening now, to another PC or scene and cut-away to that. That may not be RAW.

Everything is connected, Scully.

One shots are easy, you can burn the whole city down -cause there’ll be a new city in the next session. My home crew haven’t hit that wall Paul talks about. I can see it, not sure what to do with it should we get there. But I’m also pulling from shows like Angel, The Magicians, Dresdan Files, The X-Men (comics) where it’s all a wheel. Sometimes a faction is up on the rise, others might be on the decline or outs. And that wheel is spinning. The Storm, if I’m putting one together, is where I make the antagonist and I outline the endgame, always playing to find out. My antagonist, my Thanos is my pacing device, the raison d’etre avatar. In the early sessions there likely aren’t any stats for them. Just ripples in the fictional space, GM moves fictionally attributed to my Thanos. I’m driven in the early sessions to get answers about this Thanos from the players during play. You know how players like to pontificate!

But what about the players goals? you say. Well, the players should be pursuing them! I just make sure my Thanos crosses all those goals in some way and when the player’s look to me for answers, my Thanos is ready to act.