niwandajones: (Doc Gnosis)
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OK, so I've techincally been involved in the playtesting of Evil Hat Productions' Dresden Files RPG, based on the books of the same name. Sadly, events have conspired to prevent me from really digging into the project, but in an effort to change that -- and with some great input from [ profile] contentedmoo , [ profile] thebiggest , and [ profile] judd_sonofbert -- I've used the really keen City Creation rules to put together a supernatural version of Ithaca as a potential setting for some playtest sessions.

So if you're interested in such things, check it out.

Ithaca, NY

Towns vs. Gowns
One of the major conflicts in Ithaca is between the townies and the massive student communities: the city's population in the summer is less than half what it is when class is in session, and the tensions between the permanent locals and the transitory students can sometimes get ugly.

"City of Evil"
A moniker recently ascribed to the town by a well-known conservative demagogue, this title is now embraced by citizens as an ironic celebration of the town's generally progressive mores. The name, however, has a history that goes back to the town's bloody early history; some of that history sleeps less than peacefully beneath old gravestones, cobbled roads, or deep waters.

10 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality
Another popular bumper sticker, this one references Ithaca's position as a prosperous and progressive college town amidst the more conservative and economically troubled Central New York region. However, it also holds true supernaturally: Ithaca's major mystical factions are two Faerie Courts that exist almost nowhere else, in this world or beyond.

An Ivy League institution and probably Ithaca's most famous (mundane) attribute, Cornell is home to scholars from all over the world, many of whom will go to any lengths to prove themselves (and some who literally would rather die than fail). Cornell also houses the East Underhill Court, last bastion of wizened scholars who comprise the Autumn Court of Faerie.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Far above Cayuga's waters... and everything else
  • Local Theme/ Aspect: Home to Autumn's scholars... and their secrets*
  • Face: Professor Eowyn Giron, anthropology (and the paranormal)
  • Face: Andrew Cannes, rare manuscript librarian, Knight of Autumn*
While less famous then its East Hill counterpart, Ithaca College has world-renowned programs in music, theatre, and physical therapy. It's called home by a student body notably more willing to come down the hill and enjoy themselves during their college years. It's also the home of the last Spring Court of Fairy, the South Underhill Court, who thrive on the excitement and freedom the students experience.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Enjoying the freedom college brings to some
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Though the celebrants change, Spring here is eternal*
  • Face: Byron McAllister, professor of English literature, Wizard*
  • Face: Alisha Jackson, professor of physical therapy, escrima instructor, DJ, Knight of Spring*
The Commons is the center of Ithaca's downtown, and contains a number of retail shops, restaurants, and clubs (some of which have ties to the supernatural). It's also the site of many of the festivals which mark Ithaca's calendar on a monthly basis, an indication of the influence held by Faerie.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: This town has everything, if you know where to look
  • Face: Jenna and Jon Joseph, owners of the local used and rare bookstore
  • Face: Tasha Raith, White Court matriarch and club owner*

The Old Masonic Temple*
The site of the rituals that destroyed the local Freemasons as a supernaturally savvy force in the 1930s, the Temple is now a commercial property. It's gotten a reputation as being cursed, however, since no restaurant, bar, or club that's used the space has stayed open for more than a year or two, and the owners have a habit of coming to bad ends. The one exception is the upstairs bar, run by a man named Doc; no matter who's renting the downstairs, Doc always seems to be holding court above them.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Echoes of an ancient evil
  • Face: Jason Fane, developer*
  • Face: Doc, bartender extraordinaire
One of the Finger Lakes that give the region its name, Cayuga is long, narrow, and very, very deep. Some claim that its the city's heart, while others claim the deepest reaches have served as a mystical prison since the glaciers receded.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Deep cold waters with a long memory
  • Face: Henrietta, a slow-moving gray-haired lady who spends her days feeding the geese and ducks at Stewart Park
One of the city's most defining traits (the t-shirts are ubiquitous), the gorges provide gorgeous scenery and great hiking during the non-snowbound months. Sadly, they also provide a method of suicide for which Cornell, at least, has become infamous. After each death, clued-in residents wonder if it was the stress, or a monster trying to cover its tracks.
  • Local Theme/Aspect: Beautiful vistas stained with lonely deaths
  • Face: Robert Boswell, park ranger, shaman, ghost whisperer*
* Innately supernatural.

Touch of Magic:

Who cares about this city?
Vampires: Probably not many, with such a small population. A small White Court family runs a local club, but tries to keep killings to a minimum. However, vamps being vamps, sometimes they get carried away, and the missing persons posters start going up... or bodies start showing up in the gorges. There're also rumors of a small Red Court coterie trying to establish itself, and who knows how good a job the Unity did killing that Black Court monster in the East Hill Cemetery back in the 1970s...
Faeries: Ithaca is home to the final bastions of both the Spring and Autumn Courts, centered in the Ithaca College and Cornell University campuses, respectively. Both Courts have been all but obliterated everywhere else, and even in Ithaca tend to have more changeling adherents in the real world than actual fae members in the Nevernever. Both Courts still have Knights, however, and their mildly uneasy peace represents the strongest supernatural faction in town.
Wizards: The town's not big enough to warrant a Warden, but there's a Wizard teaching English literature at IC.
Freemasons: Bucking the organizational trend, Ithaca Freemasons were actually both clued-in to the supernatural, and rather effective at dealing with it... until 1933. Whatever they took down that year left many of their members dead or insane, and their old temple cursed. Those that remained moved to new digs, and didn't have the heart to clue in new members. The current incarnation is just as clueless as any other chapter... but there's a few old men in their 90s (or older) who look warily at the signs around them and are realizing the time has come to tell their tale.

Who keeps the peace? How do mortals cope?
Underhill Courts: The faeries and changelings of Ithaca like their town peaceful and festive. Supernatural beings who mess that up tend to find themselves over the hill in Varna or at the bottom of Lake Cayuga, either dead or wishing they were.
Special Cases Task Force: Ithaca's not a major city, so there's no special police unit dedicated to the weird. But the weird happens anyway, and that's where the SCTF comes in. There's rarely more than half a dozen cops in the Task Force -- most from IPD, plus one or two apiece from CUPD and ICPD -- and they're almost never all called in at once. Usually, a weird case hits the docket of one of the police forces, it gets routed to a member of the SCTF, and that member sets up a detail including one to three other members depending on the case. It's worked well... so far.
Unity: Monster fighting makes strange bedfellows, and the Ithaca religious community is no exception. Most of the churches in the area are clueless about the supernatural, but there are two exceptions: the Catholics at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (because they've been doing this sort of thing for a couple of millennia) and the Unitarian Universalists at the First Unitarian Society (because any group that contains that many Wiccans, New Ages, and ex-Catholics is gonna figure out something's weird in this town once they get to talking). In the late '70s, members of both groups came together after a nasty vampire scare (Black Court, very bad) to form Unity. Most members of the churches don't know what Unity's really about, but the group itself tends have about a dozen folks ready to bring the noise as needed.
Jason Fane: No one knows who or what he is, but he seems to know the score and definitely brooks no interference in his plans for the city. Sometimes, this is even a good thing.

What kind of supernatural community is there in town?
Cornell: Professor Giron and a few like-minded faculty know the score, and are willing to talk to students who run into the weird. The Alpha Delt fraternity is known for being richer than God and conducting their initiation rituals in a mausoleum on their property that's connected to the house by a secret passage; it's less well known that said initiation involves doing a ton of drugs and hunting down a supernatural creature. What happens to the creature at the end of the hunt is enough to make you wonder who the real monsters are. And, of course, the Autumn Court is a major presence on campus, and under it.
Ithaca College: The Spring Court is the biggest supernatural player at IC, but the student body's willingness to head down the hill to drink and party makes the local White Court a stakeholder, too (no pun intended). Byron McAllister seems content to leave wand and staff at home while he teaches English lit, and doesn't dignify rumors that he's an ex-Warden with a response.
The Commons/Downtown: The Joseph's bookstore, Autumn Leaves, has a special collection that reflects the owners' knowledge of the supernatural, and the name reflects their connection to the Faerie courts. Businesses that open in the Old Masonic Temple don't tend to stay open for long, but Doc's Bar and the club below have been going strong for a few months, and a number of the regulars are clued-in.
Varna: Over the hill from Ithaca proper, this little collection of farms and trailer parks holds a number of critters exiled for not being able to play well with others. Going there after dark is dangerous, but can provide answers to questions the city's not willing to ask.

What interests a supernatural tourist?
  • The Old Masonic Temple
  • The Rare and Manuscript Collection at Cornell
  • Underhill Courts
Finding Resonance : Ghost Stories, Urban Legends, and More

I think this game is gonna be awesome.

Date: 2008-09-19 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This would make me a gaming addict in a heartbeat.

Perhaps you can do a version for Columbia, MD? ;-)

Date: 2008-09-19 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A supernatural version of Columbia would involve a level of cosmic horror more appropriate to Call of Cthulhu. ;-)

Date: 2008-09-19 02:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm going to break in to your house and play your game.

Date: 2008-09-19 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's actually one of the first adventures. Don't spoil it!

Date: 2008-09-19 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Every time I take the bus through Varna, I'm going to with I had a protective amulet or something thanks to you.

Very cool write-up.

Date: 2008-09-19 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You forgot to put "The Evil" before Jason Fane's name. He is a developer of chaos also, probably committed to reworking the geomantic ley networks to steal the power of the Courts for himself.

I like this; there's some stuff here that I thought of when I started working on my d20 Urban Arcana hack. I didn't have Faerie Courts; I had Haudenosaunee spirits and Christo-pagan ghosts in an uneasy alliance made fragile by the intervention of students constantly invoking powers beyond their control. Ithaca became a significant locus of magic because of the Native peoples' holding of rituals and festivals in the Cayuga villages saturating the location with power and because of the way the lake itself channels ley-magic down to the point where the town lies.

Sounds great!

Date: 2008-09-19 05:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, Fane's totally evil. I keep thinking of him as Ithaca's version of the Mayor from S3 of Buffy.

Your UA setting sounds very cool. I didn't delve into the Native peoples' lore for mine because, well, I just don't know enough about it. It's a solid angle, though, and I can see it fitting in to the mysticism of the gorges and the lake.

Date: 2008-09-19 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh, well, I gotta get some use out of my degrees in anthropology and Native studies!!

I took a pretty historical approach to my background, and based Ithaca's magical nexus on a combination of deep place and conflict. I also borrowed a few books from the Local Books case (and even picked up a copy of The Origins of Place Names in Tompkins County) partly for background and partly for emplotment. I wanted stories and challenges out of local lore as much as possible.

I look forward to hearing more about The Evil Jason Fane!

Date: 2008-09-19 06:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very very nice. I think there's more to Henrietta than meets the eye.

Date: 2008-09-20 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is awesome, Jim.

Makes me miss Ithaca and you guys even more. This would be an awesome game to play in.

Благодарю за блог

Date: 2011-07-09 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Привет! Все кто читает этот блог – С Днем Примерения и согласия!Image (

Date: 2012-02-04 03:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Редко оставляю комментарии, но действительно интересный сайт, удачи Вам!Image ( (


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