Posted by: markfender | October 22, 2014

Urban Fantasy

I am a big fan of urban fantasy. Except when I’m not.

urbfantIf we’re talking RPGs, I think urban fantasy might be my favorite genre. You don’t have the trouble of explaining the world to people – they live in it. All you need to explain is the secret world that exists beneath the skin of the city (<– that sentence is really urban fantasy). I like the modern day, as I have the most experience with it. And I like the secret history aspect of most urban fantasy, that there are things in the world that are mysterious and unknown still. It takes our everyday existence and makes it magical.

Plus, I’m a closet goth.

So, whatever flavor it comes in RPGs, I’m pretty much down. I like all the White Wolf World of Darkness games, even I do spend a lot of time doing eye rolls while reading them. I think Unknown Armies is one of the best RPGs ever written (both for concept and for actual writing). I’m not really into monster hunting games, but I’ll totally check them out. And I’m pretty tired of Cthulhu so any game exploring that particular aspect of urban fantasy is probably being skipped, but, for the most part, I like urban fantasy.

But when it comes to other expressions of urban fantasy, I’m no longer on board. In the book space, they don’t work as well for me. Now, there are some decent authors in that field: Neil Gaiman knows what the hell he’s doing (even if he spends most of his time writing kid’s books) and Tim Powers is amazing. But those authors make up about 1% of urban fantasy you’ll find at the bookstore.

It probably comes down to the subgenres that are most often explored. Paranormal romance is not that interesting to me. I don’t mind romance in media – it’s an important part of the human condition. But it can’t be the only thing being explored. Sexy vampires, sexy werewolves, and sexy angels aren’t enough to make me interested in your particular take on urban fantasy. Likewise, I’m not really into mysteries so the other heavyweights of the genre, Harry Dresden and Anita Blake, just bounce right off me.

Where’s the urban fantasy about the halls of power? The urban fantasy war stories? There’s a lot of urban fantasy space that feels like it’s explored more in RPGs than in other media forms. Maybe that’s because RPGs lend themselves to action adventure more than other things. Maybe it’s because Twilight is too much of a juggernaut to ignore. All I know is that I will often look at an urban fantasy RPG, say to myself, “This is neat. I would like to further explore the themes of this game within other media” (Yes, I talk to myself like this) and then inevitably become disappointed.

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