Category Archives: Everyday Heroes
Ideas For “Hidden World” Modern Fantasy Settings
I have a long track record of loving what I think of “Hidden World” modern fantasy settings. A lot of it comes from my reading of pulp novels as a child, but certainly a number of more recent authors and stories have fed into it as well. Whether it’s magic nannies coming to save children from the troubles of everyday life, caretakers with magic devices in their homes who take in children during the Blitz (and possibly animate armor soldier to fight Nazis), wizard acting like detectives in the modern world, fantasy detectives doing the hard boiled act in feudal settings, magic worlds beneath the streets of London (or New York, or heck Dallas), immortal swordsmen, secret clans of assassins, bounty hunters (literally) from hell, busters-of-ghosts, psychic subcultures, revenant goths, or WWII witches and werewolves, I’m there for it.
Or, you know, ShadowFinder.
Sometimes I have ideas I think would work well within Hidden World settings, often while taking in Hidden World stories and thinking of directions the worldbuilding could go, but doesn’t.
Here are some.
Numerous magical defenses have been invented over the millennia, but the most common were developed in the 1200s, 1300s, and 1400s. These wards are far more effective against types of weapons that were invented after they wards were developed. Thus a fist or claw is almost always effective against creatures and mages with ancient wards, and clubs, swords, and bows are more likely to be effective than firearms, flamethrowers, and grenades… though if someone is carrying around an ancient design of Chinese fire lance, there’s a good chance they are doing so for a good reason.
When you need a body removed quickly and without evidence, but also need it to be treated with respect and buried with honors and traditions proper to its life, you call the Gravedigger Clan. A cult devoted to a wide range of gods of the dead and burial from different pantheons, and devoted to preventing the rise of undead and corpse-curses, the Gravedigger Clan is neutral in all other affiars, and offer their services fast and free to anyone who knows how to get hold of them.
The Mask Arcade
The Mask Arcade is a massive dance club and cocktail lounge that has multiple tiers, indoor and outdoor areas, several different themes, and a number of private, semi-private, and VIP areas scattered about its premises. Numerous street performers wander about at all times, sometimes stunt exhibitions are held, and there are numerous small stages where weird acts can perform. It also requires all attendees to dress in costume, and taking pictures is forbidden and strictly enforced. There’s always a line to get in, and bouncers walk the line and let people with costumes with “the right look for tonight’s theme” go in ahead of the line through various side entrances.
Officially, this is because it’s schtick is to be a nonstop costume ball cranked to 11 that attracts celebrities and . Actually, it’s because the Mask Arcade is designed to be a neutral ground for Hidden World ladies, lords, adventurers, monsters, and agents to meet, move about freely (even if they have horns, or fangs, or wear armored trench coats and carry katanas), and do business.
Almost no one is attacked by hordes of ninja. However, all true ninjas are trained in the art of summoning, and everything they summon looks like a ninja, and appears when conjured by stepping out of shadows and from behind cover. These conjureninjas can be used to try to assassinate, or cover a true ninja’s escape, but they are also often used as distractions while the true ninja carries out their actual mission, or as cover to all the true ninja to get closer to a target while looking just like the summoned ninjamancy. As a result hordes of ninja appear to jump out of nowhere, and experienced Hidden World agents know you need to kill them all, because one might be the true ninja you can’t afford to ignore.
I have a Patreon. It helps me carve out the time needed to create these blog posts, and is a great way to let me know what kind of content you enjoy. If you’d like to see more fiction, or ShadowFinder content, or more rules for other game systems, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!, try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!
Just a quick idea for a ttRPG campaign hook. Something I could see using with Everyday Heroes (once it’s out), Modern AGE, or Starfinder, just to name a few. This is just the start of setting up such a campaign, you’d need themes, plots, a kickoff… but the setting can help clarify those kinds of things.
It’s a few years into the future. Things are bad worldwide, but society hasn’t collapsed… except around the many megastructures built… or partially built… by governments trying to quell social disquiet and stimulate economies with massive, ill-conceived, projects that they mostly didn’t finish, and definitely didn’t properly maintain. The world is littered with mile-high towers, salt mine cities, floating artificial islands, eternally flying airship megamalls, and AI-controlled arcologies… but none of them are the glittering beacons of success and progress that were promised.
Many sit more than 90% empty, the cost of moving to them and living within them too great for populations to risk moving into unproven and experimental communities that often depend on advanced, untested systems to even provide basic necessities such as clear water and lighting. The empty spaces attract gangs, private military companies, scam artists, and billionaire 0.01%-ers who find whole metropolises worth of abandoned officers, warehouses, and apartments more convenient than secret bases in deserts and failed nations. Even those that are populated have significant problems, with autonomous AIs making decisions that seem increasingly divorced from reality, critical systems built using proprietary technologies failing as the companies that built them go bankrupt, and the politics of their creation shifting as they go from trophies of the administrations that began them to scapegoats for successors which find them an easy target to blame all current problems.
Each MegaRuin, and often every 30-50 floors within the same MegaRuin, has its own culture, power bases, secrets, faults, trade routes, and local traditions. It’s not that the whole world is an apocalypse, it’s that there are specific modern megastructure ruined areas that each have their own problems, hazards, and risks, and people who have a proven track record of operating successfully within them are always in demand.
Here are three example MegaRuins, just to start creative juices flowing.
The Circuit: A massive, mirrored, 450-kilometer circumference, 500-meter wide, 900-meter tall donut-shaped building that was designed to be the perfect “smart city,” controlled by a network of predictive AIs and built around multiple high-speed transit capsule tubes to allow for a 100% car-free, street free community where everything you need is within a 10-minute walk.
Of course it was built in a desert, with 1/3 of it sticking into a salt-water ocean, the systems were never completed, and the capsule system is a single fail point that, more and more, is failing. And since it never reached full capacity, the 10-minute walking communities are each missing at least one crucial facility, leaving populations having to cross gang territories and AI-enforced blockades to do things like get medical care, get mail, or for that matter get out of the Circuit.
Cloud 8: The largest airship ever built, Cloud 8 is actually 12 airships locked together with a framework that houses dozens of boutique businesses, cruise cabins, cargo bays, ultimate bungee event centers, glass-bottomed restaurants, and antimissile defense systems. The floating entertainment complex was supposed to fly around the world on a 2-year course, dropping in on major tourist destinations and becoming a mobile festival and shopping event that both drew passengers paying a premium to live in the air, and massive crowds at each destination willing to shell out big bucks for overpriced Cloud 8-branded goods.
And it worked… briefly. Then local businesses at all the major destinations around the world decided it was sucking much more money out of their economies than it was bringing in, and got local authorities to ban it. No major tourist destination allows it within 200 miles of them, and many countries refuse it access to their airspace entirely. That made selling rides at the top prices in the world impossible, and forced Cloud 8 to charge less for everything, as it could only get permission to go to 3rd- and 4th-tier locations.
But it is still a giant travelling business center, and it does still go around the world… so it has rapidly become a major source of drug smuggling, bootleg electronic broadcasts and pirated entertainment, and ethically questionable activities it offers patrons while over international waters. Cloud 8 is now a seedy, mob-run, 24-7 mobile red light district, and a favorite way for career criminals and shady business execs to flee any jurisdiction it can get into.
Starscraper: A 4-kilometer-high tower (with a 6-kilometer wide base) that was envisions as “stage one” of a project to build a space-elevator and was designed to house 10 million people. Named as a play on being taller than a mere “skyscraper,” the Starscraper was supposed to be the anchor of an entirely new space industry. But the advanced in materials science that was expected to be able to built the space elevator tether by the time the Starscraper was done turned out to be too slow and too expensive to scale up to the 100,000-kilometer size needed to access space from Earth.
Without the influx of businesses and industry tied to the cheap space travel that never happened, the Starscraper was too expensive to maintain. It’s also, by far, the tallest building in the world, and thus too prestigious to ignore. The result it that the top 50 floors are among the most expensive real-estate in existence… and much of the remaining 700 floors are vertical slums, empty, dilapidated, or all of the above. The building also has 30 subterranean levels, many of which must be maintained to keep power, water, air, and sheer-balancing systems working, but no one ever wants to live or work in them. In many cases, the billionaires who own the top of the tower fly in workers from other countries to labor n the lower levels, and use armed security to keep them from fleeing.
You Can Support This Blog
Your support of just a few dollars a month, or even a one-time tip, makes this blog possible!