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Troy’s Crock Pot: Inspiration for Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy’s often a tough genre to nail down.

Fairy tale creatures and consumer electronics aren’t always fast friends — just ask Jim Butcher’s own Chicago-based sorcerer-detective Harry Dresden about the last time he tried to boot up a laptop.

But adventures set in the modern world with mythological creatures and magic can be very rewarding.

The question: Where do you go for inspiration for your adventures?

Recommendation: If you don’t mind digging through the 50-cent back-issue bin at your local comic shop, I’d start with reading “Wonder Woman.”

A lot of the Amazon Princess’ stories bridge the two worlds, especially in the areas of big-hardware high-tech national defense intersecting with Diana’s own myth-steeped background. Essentially, these are techno-thrillers meeting mythological menace, an an explosive combination that’s sure to liven up most game tables.

[1]If you want a specific recommendation, I’d go with the “Rise of the Olympian,” story arc by Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti and Bernard Chang, that was collected in a softcover trade in 2009. It’s got it all, including Wonder Woman taking on a tank (Really, it wouldn’t be a classic Wonder Woman story if she didn’t take out at least one tank.)

Consider: A team of urban/arcane-focused PCs tasked to defend a military outpost from an army devoted to Aries, god of War. Now that’s a starting point.

I’m sure stories from titles featuring Thor — Marvel’s counter to Wonder Woman — would also suffice. (Being a DC loyalist, though, I’m just surmising.)

Uncle Bear’s big myth game

Mythology is always a powerful source of storytelling potential. Berin Kinsman, aka Uncle Bear, is doing so with his latest homebrew campaign, The Intervention [2]. (You’ll notice he too, finds inspiration in “Wonder Woman,” albeit from the rebooted New 52 series.) His PCs are assuming the roles of titans, fates and other godlings. On his site, he includes actual-play campaign reports, as well. It’s worth a look.

Campaign spark: New Rome

Does this idea have traction?

In the near future, continuing economic troubles in Europe gives rise to a new Pan-Mediterranean power.  Through the help of certain gods the Roman pantheon, it’s waging war on its neighbors, carving out the same space as the Roman Empire under Diocletian and Constantine. There could even be western and eastern seats of power. It’s up to the PCs — as agents of remaining NATO powers (or perhaps the western church) —  to take the fight to the power behind the throne, so to speak, the gods themselves, and restore Europe to its former self. As the Roman Empire at this time included north Africa and the Levant, there’s potential to include the currents of political change in these regions in the campaign as well.





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7 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Inspiration for Urban Fantasy"

#1 Comment By BerinKinsman On December 21, 2011 @ 6:44 am

Thanks for the love, Troy!

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On December 21, 2011 @ 6:56 am

I can’t speak to current Thor storylines, but Walt Simonson’s run with Thor in the 1980s is the stuff of legend: [3]

In addition to epic high modern fantasy, the grim and gritty modern fantasy genre has a lot going for it, from endless zombpocalypse scenarios to desperate monster hunters.

#3 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On December 21, 2011 @ 9:13 am

[4] – Always glad to reciprocate. Your posts have been required reading so long as I can remember.
[4] – You can’t beat comics from the 1980s, whether it was DC or Marvel. There was a lot of landmark work done then. I recall The New Teen Titans as being particularly good during that time.

#4 Comment By Trace On December 21, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

I also drew a lot from “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman for my modern fantasy game. Sort of a “Scion” vibe.

#5 Comment By pseudodragon On December 21, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

For comics, you might take a look at Dr. Strange or the Defenders. I would also suggest Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series. It’s a little more of a hard-boiled fantasy, but it should provide a lot of inspiration.

#6 Comment By Scott Martin On December 22, 2011 @ 1:34 am

I’m much more a book person; as you point out, it’s a popular field. While my wife shuddered, we did note that “Teen Paranormal Romance” was bigger than all Teen new releases combined at the mega-bookstore in town. That’s a lot of people loving vampires (and other critters) these days.

Similarly, while you can wander into very samey territory, you can also encounter dramatically different stories lumped under Urban Fantasy. Harry Connolly’s [5] novels are a grim and different world, well worth checking out. If you want scantily clad modern women kicking butt, there are plenty of books that deliver.

#7 Comment By wallywampa On December 24, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

Love the article and the topic is dear to me 🙂 Urban fantasy is one of my favorites, right up there with the Wild West fantasy. Previous poster mentioned how popular the topic is in young adult novels, but a few have escaped begin trapped there, mainly because of the military aspect of them. James Lovegrove has the “Age of…” trilogy, the first being a world that was conquered and divided up by the egyptian gods. He has two other, one Nordic based and the other Greek/Roman based. I haven’t go to the latter two yet, but the first is heavily military in theme and reminds me of Stargate (not a detractor in my view).

Love the site and look forward to more great posts!

#8 Pingback By RPG News from Around the Net: 6-JAN-12 | Game Knight Reviews On January 6, 2012 @ 4:02 am

[…] vampires and werewolves, it can get a little hairy sometimes to come up with something original. Troy Taylor at Gnome Stew has a great suggestion – dig through old comic books and find some issues of Wonder Woman. That’s right […]

#9 Pingback By News from Around the Net: 6-JAN-12 | Gamerati On December 22, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

[…] vampires and werewolves, it can get a little hairy sometimes to come up with something original. Troy Taylor at Gnome Stew has a great suggestion – dig through old comic books and find some issues of Wonder Woman. That’s right […]