Urban Horror Encounters

Running an urban horror game, or a contemporary game where creepy gets to be a factor? Look no further, we have plenty of ideas for eerie and chill-inducing randomness. Some of it isn’t even supernatural because life itself can be plenty scary at times.

This generator currently has 61 entries.

Give me five!

Some trickster deity must be listening. The next wishful or sarcastic remark made by someone within earshot comes true, in the worst possible way. Don’t say you wish you had an ice cream if you don’t want the ice cream truck to crash. At least now there’s ice cream everywhere, all you got to do is bend down and lick it up. (And maybe give first aid to the ice cream truck driver, whatcha know).
The sweat shop does in fact import illegal workers because they don’t need to pay them much nor worry about unionisation or labour laws. Hell, you don’t need to pay them anything at all if you’re buying slave workers from another dimension. Orcs are great assembly line workers, they’re strong and good at repetitive tasks.
The barbecue (BYOB) at the local apartment complex is open to present and past tenants alike. Some of those tenants are very past—as in, they’ve been dead for decades, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take a corn dog off your hands.
The new neighbour may look like a perfectly normal middle-aged lady who brings home somewhat surprising amounts of kitty food without ever getting seen with a cat. In reality, she's four raccoons in a human suit.
A setup for a longer story, perhaps: Walk into a shop, watch a man fall over and die from what turns out to be arsenic poisoning. A serial killer is on the loose -- and gradually, a pattern emerges: The victims are all abusive husbands, and the killer is covering up for the murder of their own abusive husband by 'helping' others in similar situations.

To generate more suggestions, simply refresh the page.

Diversity & Dragons?

Not going to rehash the debate that’s currently going on in the game industry after the announcement that some companies will be revisiting the concept of ‘evil races’ and obvious, blatant parallels to real world minorities. Just going to toss in,

Roleplaying games need to develop with the society that plays them. No, it’s never been an issue for me that some races were considered ‘evil’ (though I think it’s maybe taking the very easy road through world building). But I’ve never had any other colour but pale pink, either.

I do recall the early 80s and how it sucked to sit at a gaming table with players who insisted that female players had to play female characters in order to not ‘make things weird’. Having to put points in Charisma because women look good in fantasy or it isn’t fantasy. How illustrations of women in game books were chain mail bikini or less. How it almost revolutionised the industry that Dragonlance had female heroes — and the main issue of debate seemed to be whether Laurana’s armour design (skirt and all) was feminine enough.

Get over it. Society evolves. If you need a simple, down to earth race of assholes in your game world, make one. It’s your table and your game group, do what you want.

Silvanian name generator

Silv-whatnow?

This generator produces a random character name, male or female, customised for a specific, as of yet unpublished game setting. Names that can be used anywhere you need a quick NPC. Silvanian names are drawn from a Frankish or Old English background. Thuali names are predominantly Italian and Spanish inspired. In my game setting, Thuali do not use last names so those are not offered.

The generator picks gender randomly, so if you need a name belonging to a specific gender you may have to refresh a few times.

Give me some names, then!

A common Thuali woman's name: Lautara.
A common Silvanian woman's name: Willende Finch.

To generate another suggestion, simply refresh the page.

Edit history:

April 14, ’24: Updated to include Thuali name suggestions.

Why is evil?

Our game is fighting evil, righting wrongs and making a world full of kittens, happy ever-afters, and dead, treasure-bereft orcs. We’re the heroes. You turned up with a demon possessed, drow elf vampire character.

Most who fancy ourselves game masters have been here at one point or other. You set up a game in which the player characters can be the heroes. Or they occupy the middle ground, doing their thing and getting by in a world of magic and intrigue. Maybe it’s black against white, or black and white ganging up on green. Maybe the characters are outlaw heroes, trying to make a better tomorrow. While the player characters need not be heroes, they are protagonists.

And then Bob turns up with a pre-rolled character who just happened to be a member of a species that’s established as being evil in game canon. Oh, and he’s a vampire. He’ll stab you in the back because the demonic voices in his head tells him to. It’s called role-playing, dude, you should try it.

Why the dark elf?

Some characters have gone down in fantasy role-playing as archetypes. There are more Drizzt Do’Urden rip-offs out there than there are drow in the Forgotten Realms game setting from which the character originates. Some characters are just so inherently cool or awesome that players wish to emulate them. Unfortunately, a lot of them gain their cool cred from being lone wolves, or worse, villains. Loners and villains may not quite work in a group.

Drizzt Do’Urden is not an evil character, but he put the spotlight on his people—who certainly are. Before the novels of R. A. Salvatore, drow elves were just an entry in an obscure 1st ed. AD&D sourcebook (Fiend Folio, to be precise). Suddenly, popularity. Dark elves are powerful, sneaky, and the embodiment of self interest. A canonical drow is ambitious, driven, and utterly indifferent to to the suffering of others. They are beautiful, lithe, magically apt, and ooze style.

Selfish, arrogant characters make poor team mates. The setting that drow originate from canonically establishes the vast majority as vicious, chaotic back stabbers whom no one in their right mind would trust. Non-evil drow are rare and few in between but they exist. The question to ask Bob here is, “Do you want to play a dark elf because you want to be an outcast looking for acceptance in a world that hates you? Or do you want to be a selfish, manipulative, stylish jerk who gives not a single toss for the rest of the group?”

If the answer to the second question is affirmative, consider handing Bob’s character over to the next group of guards the party meets. Given the reputation of dark elves in most settings, all the party needs to do is not intervene when the guards arrest him on a charge of breathing while drow.

Why the vampire?

A similar quandary applies to a vampire character. Dark, sexy, brooding and motivated by pure self interest, the living dead are not the obvious choice for a new team mate. Most heroes aren’t all that eager to team up with someone who needs reminded every so often that you’re his brother in arms, not his lunch pack.

Depending on game and setting, vampires may not be evil. In modern storytelling they are often a subspecies of humanity, or retain the personalities they had in life, opening the door to the concept of a friendly neighbourhood vampire who can actively contribute to a group. This door is closed again instantly when the player reveals a desire to basically play Dracula, Castlevania style. Cue evil laugh and much face desking on behalf of the rest of the group.

The other players are not going to put up for long with constant reminders that their characters ought to be scared or intimidated, particularly not if the vampire player isn’t managing to convey these things in character. Players don’t like to be told how their characters should respond. Try to intimidate the party fighter with an evil muahaha and a flash of fangs, and you’re prone to find your coffin full of garlic and holy water.

Time to ask Bob. “Do you want to play a vampire because you think one will contribute to the story, or is this a power grab?”

Convincing a player that a vampire character is not a good addition to a group is easy. In most settings, vampires and other undead come with heavy restrictions—many of them which make the character impractical in every day game play. Can the vampire tolerate sunlight? Do they eat human food? Can they cross running water? Do animals flip their lids when catching their scent, causing dogs to howl and horses to bolt wherever they go? Must they compulsively count any number of spilled seeds or grains? Play the vampire archetypes to the letter and the rest of the party will stake the bloodsucker before the week is up.

Why the demon?

Mental illness and demonic possession are often depicted alike (and wrongly) in pop culture; the victim hears voices, directing them to commit acts that are at best bizarre, at worst murderous. This is a poor understanding of how mental illness works (and, if you believe in it, demonic possession). More likely, it’s a cop-out, the player trying to establish that their character can do whatever they want because the voices made them do it, and thus they are not responsible.

Get right to the point. If Bob wants to role-play mental illness, make him do his research. How does it affect them? What are the consequences? How did they function in society until now? Turns out most players don’t really enjoy their characters being locked away in whatever passes for a mental ward in the game setting; as they’re out and about at the beginning of play, they either have a coping strategy or the voices aren’t ordering them to randomly murder people and burn houses after all.

This one’s easy to shove up against a wall and bully into submission in most fantasy settings. If there are literal demons, there are literal rituals and methods that work against demons. If not, there’s law enforcement and the terror that is medieval healthcare.

Dark elf, vampire, or directed by demonic voices, it all comes down to the same thing. Evil can work in a game group where the characters all have the same agenda, because evil furthers its own interests and is capable of faking lawfulness and teamwork in order to get there. Jerk characters are just jerks. They’ll not learn to fit in, and they won’t stop making trouble.

Why the setting?

The game setting is key to solving most issues that arise from players trying to put their characters in a position to act as they please without consideration for the consequences of their actions. Any society has mechanisms to deal with disruptive elements. City guards, the Spanish Inquisition, powerful guilds, orcompeting adventuring parties and bounty hunters—they will come. The more heat your players generate, the more the world will respond to their actions. There’s always a bigger fish (except, possibly, on Tattooine).

Use these mechanisms against the player characters when warranted. If the law pays the heroes a bounty when they bring in a wanted thief or murderer, the law also pays their competitors for doing the same when the heroes are the thieves or murderers. If mercenary bounty hunting is a thing, bounty hunters will come for player characters who cause someone to put a price on their heads.

Whatever the heroes do, non-player characters can do. And in case of government or law enforcement (and definitely in case of the ministry of taxes), they’re often better at it.

Why Bob?

Players sometimes opt for powerful, evil characters who don’t need to worry about consequences because they want a power trip. They want to boss others around, take control of where the story is going, and get away with acting out power fantasies and being a dick to everyone else. That kind of behaviour should be reigned in before it ruins the game for everyone else, and sometimes, reigning it in may even mean booting that person from the game group.

If Bob has been in your game group for a while, however, and this is the first time he has turned up with a power grabbing jerk character, he may be trying to tell you something.

His new character may a response to the game master’s choices. Is the player feeling that his characters are at risk of being powerless and helpless in a game setting where manure just keeps hitting fans without the heroes being able to affect things much either way? Do the heroes have reason to feel hounded and helpless? Have you been completely fair lately, letting player characters have their hard-earned wins? Is it possible that Bob is making a last ditch attempt to create a character with free agency in a restrictive game world?

If the answer is yes, the problem isn’t Bob, it’s you.

Players enjoy roleplaying games because it gives them free agency in a made-up world. They enjoy the power to act and make their own choices, instead of reading a novel which probably has better immersive text but no influence on the choices of the characters. They enjoy making decisions and dealing with the outcome. If  player agency isn’t quite as free as it ought to be in your campaign, then jerk characters may be your players trying to tell you that they feel railroaded and unfairly treated.

Fixing Bob (or you)

Jerk characters created out of inexperience or out of infatuation with a dark and cool archetype can be made to work. Sit the player down and work through why this character isn’t actually a jerk. Get a feel for what the player wants. There are good vampires or dark elves. Characters struggling with demonic possession or mental illness may be contributing members of a game group even if they appear a tad eccentric. If the player is willing to put in the effort out of love for their chosen trope, they will design the character so that it fits into the party without being a major disruption. The vampire cannot walk in sunlight but they contribute enough to the group in other ways that the other characters prove ready to accept this rather major restriction.

If the problem is on the other side of the game master screen, take a good, hard look at how your bias works. Consider using more die rolls to determine the outcome of seemingly random situations. Allow the heroes their victories, even when it means defeat of a non-player character that you love and put a lot of work into. Make certain that you are fair. Actions have consequences for characters and non-player characters alike. Staying fair is a lot harder than it sounds like, and even highly experienced game masters get it wrong on occasion.

In case of a player selfishly screwing with the rest of the game group and the game world for their own amusement, the solution is simple: Kick them out. There’s plenty people looking for a good game, and no need to cater to jerks.

Characters who breathe: Making them come alive

It’s the story that raise characters above a list of numbers and turns them magical. The art lies in using your die rolls to create that story. Regardless of the game, whether you’re at a tabletop or in an online world, your attempt to create a living character comes down to a few key questions and their answers.

Experienced roleplayers are often comfortable with the notion that not every character holds equal power and influence. They have just as much fun playing the prince’s humble manservant as they would have playing the prince. Balanced power levels are a control on player behaviour. Playing the manservant and putting together his background, personality and story is not fun if within ten minutes of play, the prince’s player calls for the guards to lop the manservant’s head off for bringing him the wrong cravat. This is why even completely improv games still need some kind of rules, some kind of coming to terms on what is acceptable and what is not. This is why we have stats and die rolls.

The die rolls

The function of die rolls in character generation is to limit your character design. Stats and numbers force everyone to play by the same rules. Every character has the same pool of options, the same choices to make. As characters advance in the game they grow better at doing things, grow more powerful, and become able to face greater challenges and emerge victorious. It’s a reminder that roleplaying games evolved from war and strategy games where the simulation fails if the strict rules are not upheld.

Having your choices restricted is not a bad thing. While a limited number of points can force you to deny a character skills or opportunities you would like for them to have, these choices also provide depth to a character. Nobody’s good at everything. What you chose for your character makes story. You get to answer not only ‘where did Joe learn to shoot bows?’ but also, ‘how come Joe is an archer who knows squat about following a trail?’ (Joe obviously learned his archery on a range and has never spent a night outdoors in his life). The character begins to take shape.

In most games, characters don’t start out powerful. Power is something they achieve over the course of their adventures. People change and learn all their lives, harvesting experience and skills from what life throws at them. In this regard, character generation never stops; when your character finally is done evolving and growing, it’s likely because he or she is pushing up daisies. Character generation is just fast-forwarding through the character’s very early years and taking note of what they picked up before the point you start to play them.

Game mechanics don’t exist to make your life harder. They exist to make certain that everyone’s in the same end of the pool at the beginning of play. Where they go from there—that’s what the game is all about. Most will learn to swim. A few will sink like a stone while their players go to make other characters that’s a better fit.

A character’s story can be as complex as its player fancies, but it only needs to answer a few key questions in order to work.

Where do you come from?

Where are you going?

And how do you plan to get there?

Where do you come from?

The first question can be answered with an eight-page essay about Jack’s harsh childhood on the streets of Dickensian London, complete with the names of every boy in Fagin’s band of thieves. Or it may be just be ‘Joe Rock, Gunnery Sergeant, he’s from Tennessee’. It’s not the number of words that matters—it’s whether you, the player, can play off it. When the story is unfolding, Joe the laconic soldier who rolls his sleeves up and fight monsters may feel far more real than Jack whose player is constantly checking his notes and complaining that the game master has forgotten about his notes on page three. Immersion is key. If your background lets you get immersed, you’ve done it right.

Pay attention to the setting and to the other characters. If everyone else is playing beautiful elvish heroes, you can still be an orcish warlord—but if you want the orcish warlord to become a valued member of the team, you’re going to have to find a way to make this work. Is it that you really want to play a strong, very physical, blunt character? Then it may be worth your while looking into whether these prettyboy elves have a caste or subrace that meets these criteria instead, or if there is another physically imposing species that they are not openly at war with.

If the game setting is zombie apocalypse, you can play a Machiavellian mastermind but you’ll be manipulating the distribution of resources and ammunition, not taking over the government of 15th century Florence (not that Machiavelli did that either). Remember that storytelling in roleplaying games is a group effort; the other players are not there to act as your character’s supporting cast. Nor are you theirs. Everyone matters.

As a game master, I encourage players to write complex and detailed background for characters, because this forces players to think about the people they are creating. But if they want to toss it all away once play starts, that’s fine with me. There are no right or wrong answers. There’s only what works and creates good story, and what doesn’t.

Where are you going?

This is the question that determines not who the character is, but why. Of all the people in Gotham City who’s at some point lost a relative to gun-related violence, why is it Bruce who puts on a costume? Because it’s Bruce who envisions a safer world where a boy doesn’t need to worry about his parents being gunned down in the street. Bruce is going towards that safer, better future. This is the question of a turning point in life. The making of a decision. Coming to terms with what drives a character to act.

Not all decisions are dramatic or traumatic. ‘I want to be a world famous archeologist’ is a legit answer, as is ‘I want to feed my family’. The only answer that is not legit in character creation is ‘I dunno’. The people who dunno, the people who have no drive, no ambition, nothing they want in life, do not make good player characters because they have no incentive to act. They’re also very few and rare in between, because in the game as in real life, everybody wants something. Even if that something is for everything to stay the same so they never have to move outside of their comfortable little niche.

This question is one I expect my players to consider. They don’t need to tell me their answer but I want them to tell each other. A game group works when the characters have at least some motivations or desires in common. It may fall apart if these motivations or desires are opposed. It’s important to go into the game wanting to go in a direction that’s at least remotely similar, even if it does not need to be complex. ‘We want to get rich’ or ‘we want to make the world a better place’ is fine.

How do you plan to get there?

And thus, before you know it, the game is afoot. Once the third question is reached, the player is already contemplating character actions; plans are being made, ideas are ripening. Once the player is thinking about where to go and whom to talk to, they are ready to take the reins and engage the world.

I ask my players to consider this final question but not to put too much effort into it. Don’t plan too far ahead into the game, because you don’t know what curveballs life (that is, me, the game master) is going to throw at the character. Have an idea of what you intend for him or her to do. Whether this idea works out is to be seen; that’s literally the beginning of the first game session.

Crunching the numbers

It’s not your choice of game system that matters. In my not at all unbiased view, IMAGINES is obviously the only game system out there worth using, but in the end, they’re all the same. Game systems are a framework that you use to hang a story on. If the characters tell a good story the players will be entertained. If the characters seem stiff, poorly constructed, or simply do not come alive, no framework can save the day. The final rule of character design must always be, if it ain’t working, toss it.

Don’t be afraid to start over. Some combinations of stats and abilities just won’t provide the story you had in mind. Some personality traits and backgrounds turn out to just not work with the game setting, or with the other characters.

Sometimes you can fix it by asking your game master to allow you to tweak a few things, shuffle a few points, retcon a bit of your background story. If what you ask for is not disruptive to the game balance or the main story line, the game master probably won’t object. Game masters tend to be quite approachable as long as they feel that you have the good of the group in mind, rather than your or your character’s personal agenda.

If it creates good story, you’re doing it right.

PHP Code Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com