Love Letters in Urban Shadows

Urban Shadows weaves a complicated, nuanced tale of factions, circles, communities, and their conflicts. Each archetype is deeply connected to those around them. Naturally, Urban Shadows thrives in campaign play where these relationships and conflicts grow and change. In a one-shot, that becomes impossible.

Love Letters are an easy way to put the conflicts the MC wants to explore in a one-shot front and centre while getting players engaged right out of the gate. The MC should tell the players the lay of the land and what’s going on to set the stage for the Love Letters. Pre-making characters, or limiting playbook selection, will allow the MC to write a limited number of Love Letters.

A Love Letter is a letter written to the character from the MC. Within the letter, the MC lays out a conflict, tough choice, or opportunity for the character. Often, there will be a custom move the player rolls, or several custom moves based on what the character chooses to do, that deepens the complication, drives the fiction immediately forward, or entrenches the character in a conflict in a compelling way.

When creating Love Letters, consider what your session’s plot is. How can you personalize that plot for each archetype at the table? Make it personal and important, with high stakes. A high stakes conflict will drive the fiction in a one-shot. You can make it personal by putting something of the character’s at stake, like territory, loved ones, belongings, reputation, or safety. 

Lay out what’s at stake, how the character is involved, and then offer a move that helps set the conflict in motion. The move might be what actually puts something at risk, it might give them an edge, or it might force them into immediate action. 

The conflict should be part of the main story for your one-shot. Each character’s Love Letter should be a facet of the main story. They should tie into each other, but another character should not be hurt or injured because of someone else’s roll. Keep the consequences focused on the character rolling.

Generally, the move should use the character’s main stat. Choose one lists are popular for Love Letters as it gives the player agency in the type of terrible things happening, while not letting them out of the conflict. Use the move to draw in other Circles and Factions, call on or create debts, and entrench them in the community conflicts of the city.

It’s a one-shot. Don’t hold back. Put them at odds with each other without calling for outright murder. Make their needs conflicting with each other. Keep the stakes high and ensure the conflict isn’t a one-trick pony; it should have consequences and hard choices that will cause drama to keep happening as a result of their choices.

Dear Maeve,

Looks like your court has named you Cold Moon Queen. Celebrate! You were the prettiest fae at the ball. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re at war with the werewolves and they’re out for blood. Guess that’s on you, now. 

Roxanne has promised a world of pain for your court at the Full Moon Ritual. During this ritual, the Moon Court renews its sway over the earth. Namely, over those whose power comes from the moon. Witches and Wolves alike will once again be brought under heel.

The Fae Monarch has bound you to an oath: you will complete the Ritual and renew the Moon’s power. To break an oath is to become outcast. A fae without a court is another name for fresh meat.

Roll+Heart. On a 10+ choose one, on a 7 - 9 choose two, on a 6- choose three:

  • The Wolves have declared a hunt on you.
  • The Ritual requires one willing wolf to participate
  • The Witches have cursed you, -1 ongoing until you break the curse
  • The Fae Monarch has demanded you perform alone to prove yourself; no one from your Circle will help you and to ask or call in a debt with them is to break your oath.

  • Good luck and may the moon bless you!

    Hugs and kisses,

    Your MC


    Kate Bullock (she/her)