Shadow Cities is the first full system published by No Dice and is "a game of Police Procedure & Lovecraftian Horror" by Leo Stableford.
The system supports the creation of games that emulate the fast action and interleaving plots of a popular police procedural show such as CSI, The Shield or NYPD Blue. The participants are cops cracking down on crime in several cities around the USA in a contemporary setting. The "twist" in the scenario is that much of the crime in the city is rooted in sinister cults attempting to traffick with ancient, warped elder gods. The conceit of the system is that as a campaign or "season" progresses the characters come to learn of the ancient evil at the heart of each city and must make a choice between upholding the law and doing what is right.
The seven cities used as Shadow Cities settings are:
* Las Vegas
* Los Angeles
* San Francisco
* New York
Each city has it's own "Biosphere" or set of supernatural creatures and "Forces In Play" or major street gangs. The political interactions between the gangs provide one set of storylines, the involvement of cults and supernatural beings provides a second focus. In addition there are a number of federal, governmental and national organisations who may become involved in the unfolding plots.
As with many Lovecraftian games the role of sanity is key to the games mechanics. Shadow Cities refers to this as "Trauma". Psychic Trauma represents serious psychic shocks in much the same way as the concept of "Hits" represents serious physical shocks. When a character runs out of Trauma they come under the control of the Host and will quickly find themselves in physical endangerment and probably die.
The seven scenario cities in the Shadow Cities universe do all form one long deep campaign that tells a single story but three of the cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York are termed "fringe" cities whose monsters are somewhat separated from the four elements present in the other "core" cities.
The system makes use of a playing card based "plot generator" which allows Hosts to generate random crimes into a standard three strand episode structure. Each episode has a storyline for a partnership of different "ranks" of officers being Uniforms, Detectives and Special Detectives (Undercover Officers). The ranks deliver different play experiences, Uniforms are often pitched into chaotic crime situations and are expected to make arrests. Detectives take part in a far more investigative game where they interview suspects and witnesses and analyse evidence found in archives and at crime scenes. Specials mix the approach of the other two and add an element of tactical planning where they can organise sting operations or major busts.
Shadow Cities was published on December 6th 2010 in paper back and free e-book.