Urban Shadows: Shanghai Shadows Episode 1

Category : Actual Play
Date : December 12, 2016
What: Shanghai Shadows Episode 1
When: 4 December 2016
Where: The Heart of KL
Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

A political roleplaying game of urban magick and monsters, using the Apocalypse Engine.


Urban Shadows in action at last!

Ever since my friend Ben scored me a hardcover of the Urban Shadows RPG, I’ve been eager to try it out. On Sunday, we finally got a chance to play with my friends Azlan, Ilona, Darren and Elisha.

Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

I printed out the playbooks in advance to give the players all the options at character creation.


We created a diverse group of supernaturals and wanderers of the shadows in the fast-moving yet ghost-haunted streets of modern Shanghai. I managed to get everyone to play one type from each of the four factions (Mortality, Night, Power, Wild), so that worked out really well – the game is all about politicking and intrigue between factions, and it does encourage our protagonists to come from different groups.

  • Darren played Shoulie Lang, an urban werewolf seeking to consolidate her power over the Jin He District, a haunted commercial neighbourhood along the Huangpu River.
  • Azlan played Brandon Blackwatch, a long-lived wizard of the Cree people. He had settled into a Sanctum in Shanghai to cultivate local contacts in his search for the stolen bones of an ancestor that he believed to be in the city.
  • Ilona played Rachel, a lawkeeper of the fae folk of Shanghai, loyal to the Queen Mother of the River. She was just looking for love.
  • Elisha played “M” aka Emme, a street-smart urban monster hunter from a long line of slayers. One of her brothers had been slain by a wolf; another, by a fae. She was out to avenge them.
Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

Yes, that’s a werewolf and a monster hunter who slays werewolves. Yes, the game has a way to keep them from slaughtering each other at first bat.


Bring the Drama!

Unlike many RPGs focused on mission specialists working in a team, this one is about disparate factions trading favours (through the game’s Debt Moves) so the resulting characters from seemingly opposed factions ended up looking like a White Wolf crossover game. If you know what that means, you know that White Wolf World of Darkness factions are a squabbling, bitchy lot!

We had drama and potential betrayal almost right away, without any preparation on my part. The game provides character creation questions and player-by-player creation of Debts to help create interesting relationships between the characters.

For instance, Rachel owed Emme for protecting her from a rogue faction of fae from the #7 Agricultural Commune Runoff, while her NPC ally Lucas owed Rachel for ruining her love life in her past. But Emme also owed Brandon who was the supplier of her anti-fae weaponry. And Brandon held several important debts: Lucas was counting on him to hide the fact that he was sleeping with a fae from the #7 Agricultural Commune Runoff (Rachel’s enemy). Brandon also knew that Emme’s martial arts sifu was secretly training fae in anti-human techniques.


Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

Someone just got Corrupted!


Enter the Shanghai Shadows

And then the game actually began! I got all the player characters involved in a plot by the mayor to redevelop the waterfront, affecting the Wolf’s territory as well as the feng shui of the river fae queen. Soon, everyone was investigating the property development scheme and trying to score tickets to a grand dinner involving the mayor and Shanghai’s property barons (including a closeted werewolf).

Emme managed to smuggle some deadly weapons inside the hotel ballroom. Meanwhile, Brandon and Shoulie took on a side mission to deal with some restless ghosts in Shoulie’s territory. When Brandon exercised his powers to communicate with the spirits, he ended up taking Corruption. The Corruption Moves in the game give very useful and tempting powers, but take too much Corruption and you fall into darkness and become a villainous NPC!

Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

A short but intense starting session.


We ended the session with Shoulie making her way into the 8 Diamonds Hotel before the dinner. Nightfall – and wolf form – was just ahead.

To be continued…

Urban Shadows, RPG, Role Over Play Dead

A surprisingly suitable game for beginner roleplayers.