Urban Fantasy RPGs Not Based On European Folklore

Tabletop RPGs with urban fantasy settings based on the monster myths and folklore of non-European countries like China, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Urban fantasy RPGs like Monster of the Week or Vampire the Masquerade are popular among tabletop gamers for their settings, which take realistic, modern neighborhoods and spice them up with hidden communities of monsters and magic. Most urban fantasy RPGs feature supernatural creatures and mysticism from European folklore: vampires, werewolves, witches, faeries, demons, and angels. Some RPGs, however, have expanded the urban fantasy genre with legends from non-European cultures, coupling Chinese, Mexican, and Filipino folklore with narratives reflecting the trials and tribulations of the people who live in those cultures.

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In classic RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, players and their characters are frequently thrown headfirst into pre-modern or futuristic settings with nations, cultures, social norms, biomes, and laws of physics wildly different from real life. This can make it hard for players to properly immerse themselves in these fantasy worlds at the start of a campaign. RPGs with urban fantasy settings sidestep this problem by taking the familiar, real world and spicing it up with contemporary versions of fairy tale creatures, gothic monsters, and magical conspiracies.

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Urban fantasy RPGs like Jiangshi: Blood In The Banquet Hall and Yokai Hunters Society shake up the vampire-werewolf-witch paradigm of most urban fantasy stories by introducing creatures and myths from non-European cultures: Jiangshi from China, Yokai from Japan, Aswangs from the Philippines, and others. More importantly, they contain special rules, narrative details, and gameplay principles designed to tell stories someone raised in these cultures might resonate with.

Jiangshi: Blood In The Banquet Hall

Jiangshi (僵尸, meaning “stiff corpse“) are undead monsters from Chinese folklore comparable to zombies or vampires – moldy, life-drinking corpses that hop around due to rigor mortis and can be bound by paper talismans applied to the forehead. Jiangshi: Blood In The Banquet Hall is a narrative RPG about a Chinese family in 1920s America sworn to hunt these foul creatures by night … while also running a bustling family restaurant and dealing with racism by day. The gameplay of Jiangshi: Blood In The Banquet Hall is a mix of tabletop RPG and board game rules, utilizing character sheets and dice; decks of cards filled with scenarios for business challenges, strange dreams, and monster hunts; and slips of laminated paper modeled after traditional Daoist paper charms.

Nahual: A Mexican Roleplaying Game

Few RPGs have an anti-colonialist narrative as defiant as Nahual: A Mexican Roleplaying Game, an RPG about Mexican shapeshifters who hunt down parasitic angels and sell their dismembered body parts on the black market. This Powered By The Apocalypse RPG takes place in a version of modern-day Mexico where angels, brought to the New World by Spanish conquistadors, are the spiritual equivalent of an invasive species, while brujos nahuales, the shape-changing shamans who hunt these angels, have lost access to the cultural traditions that would let them use their gift to its fullest potential. The gameplay of Nahual: A Mexican Roleplaying Game is centered around player characters tracking and hunting angels, harvesting their flesh, blood and bone, and then selling them to various clients, all while navigating the challenges of lower-class life and dealing with trauma from the ugliness of their chosen trade.

Yokai Hunters Society

Urban Fantasy RPGs Non-Western Yokai Hunters Society

Yokai Hunters Society is based on the Tunnel Goons RPG system that, true to title, tells stories of masked monster hunters who pursue Japanese yokai, the varied and phantasmagorical beings who haunt humans in Japanese folklore. The default setting of Yokai Hunters Society is 19th century Japan during the Meiji Restoration, an era of rapid modernization and cultural upheaval troubled further by a resurgence of yokai attacks and other supernatural incidents. The rules and setting materials of Yokai Hunters Society are compact and concise, with story prompts and plot hooks subtly revealed through equipment lists, randomly generated character backgrounds, and sinister descriptions of yokai creatures such as Oni, Nekomata, and Kappa.

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My Big Fat Aswang Wedding

Urban fantasy RPGs like Vampire the Masquerade or Werewolf the Apocalypse put players in the shoes of folkloric monsters rather than humans, “humanizing” these monsters further by giving them societies, clans, and social groupings to align with or oppose. The party game RPG My Big Fat Aswang Wedding takes a similar approach towards the Aswang, a mythological witch-monster from the Philippines that drains blood and viscera from victims with a long proboscis tongue. As the title suggests, though, this RPG is designed to tell stories about Aswangs and other creatures attending the raucous wedding of a pair of supernatural lovebirds. The narrative rules for My Big Fat Aswang Wedding are centered around creating scenes of twisted yet heartwarming and wacky hijinks, proving even blood-sucking creatures of the night can still have happy endings.

Next: Four Creative RPGs From The Filipino Tabletop Gaming Renaissance

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