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Recently I have noticed I am a fan of RPGs set in dark occult versions of our own world, like World of Darkness or Dresden Files. While I have played other games, these simply suit me best. So maybe you could suggest me some other games along those lines that I could play?

I know of World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu, Unknown Armies, and Dresden Files. What else can I find there? Maybe some games about modern (or even historical, like Ars Magica) mages? I have heard about some stuff like Seven Seal or In Nomine. I would love to hear about other games, that I could try, together with a few words about the setting and game systems.

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

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I've reopened this question. I'm not sure what the confusion is - he's asking for games set in the real world but with a mystical/occult theme. The answers already below are spot on. –  mxyzplk Oct 27 '10 at 0:37
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We don't like list questions much any more. As this is a system-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. In the perfect world, the OP would put some real requirements in and we'd focus on those - probably late for that though. –  mxyzplk Jan 10 '13 at 4:19

15 Answers 15

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Let's see, games I have that fit the bill:

Unknown Armies is probably the best example. It's a game of "transcendental horror and furious action" where players "take the roles of movers and shakers in the occult underground." It is excellent, by Greg Stolze and John Tynes, and had a number of supplements published.

Fear Itself, Esoterrorists, and Trail of Cthulhu are all GUMSHOE-based games from Pelgrane Press and are modern day occult horror set in our own world. The game system is by Robin Laws and Ken Hite wrote ToC. The games are actively supported.

Perhaps the most "occult" is Kult, a contemporary horror game using a lot from gnosticism and the Kabbalah. It's way out of print though.

Rafael Chandler's Pandemonium series (Spite, Dread) is angels and demons with a lot of gore and attitude, think John Constantine.

I don't own Tribe 8, a Silhouette-based game set in a postapocalyptic Canada, but it has a lot of spiritualism and Wicca-y stuff. It's way out of print.

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I think I agree with Kult being the most "occult" of this list. With a good GM, it can be an amazing source of either lynchian (as in "bearing a certain resemblance to the works of David Lynch" :)) or way more gory stories. (Our group has a strong preference for the former.) –  OpaCitiZen Oct 27 '10 at 8:28
    
+1 for Kult. It is one of the best settings I have ever played, and is very flexible in play style. Main problem there is that even if you could get a rulebook, the rules are pretty archaic. The best shot for a Kult campaign now would be to make an adaptation for a modern system such as Gumshoe. –  evilcandybag Sep 19 '11 at 16:04

Monsterhearts

Monsterhearts takes the Apocalypse World engine to the modern era - specifically, supernatural teen romance. This game does a great job of providing the dramatic twists and turns of Buffy with low-prep and the story-generating virtues of Apocalypse World. It focuses on the lives and relationships of the characters, so you'll have to provide your own latex-clad bad guy every week.

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Dear downvoter - if you would explain your vote, I would endeavor to improve my answer. Without a comment, I can't really address your issue. Please note that on this site, downvotes do not mean "I disagree", they mean "this answer is not useful" which is different from most social voting sites. –  gomad Aug 14 at 20:11
    
Can you discuss how you've used this game for this purpose? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 15 at 1:48

There is also the game Nephilim from Chaosium. The PCs are Nephilim - spirits made of pure elemental energy that can possess a mortal as a vehicle that allow them to seek enlightenment. The game is full of hermetic tones: orders of Nephilim are modeled after Tarot Arcana, the magic covers alchemy, sorcery and summoning- it's not just 'throwing fireballs'.

As the PCs are ancient beings that have possessed similacra through the ages, there are a wide variety of settings to play- both historical (Ancient Egypt, etc) and modern. The enemies are other Nephilim, evil Selenim and various human mystical cults, cabals and secret societies.

There are a couple of detailed reviews at RPG.net, along with an extensive Wikipedia entry for more information.

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Welcome to RPG.SE! I gave a +1 for a very good addition from Chaosium, but one of the things that you might want to add is your experiences with the system if you've played it. But good answer over all. –  wraith808 Jan 9 '13 at 20:06
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Well, it is quite old system and I played it so long ago that I can't say much about experiences with it. I remember that initially my game team found it attractive because it differed so much from the games we played before - the whole system was consistent with its theme and mystical overtones. But in time we felt it's too heavy on them and some spells are outright disgusting - there was one I remember that required slaying 17 children to animate and bound them with fire energy. But it is matter of taste, if author of question likes such dark occult themes then my objections are irrelevant. –  Forseti Jan 12 '13 at 13:06

GURPS Technomancer

I have a great fondness for this somewhat obscure sourcebook for GURPS 3rd Edition, which is set in a 20th Century Earth where the atomic tests at Trinity unleashed the power of magic in a world much like our own. The result is a 20th Century with fantastic elements woven in.

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A nice complement to In Nomine and WitchCraft is Armageddon, which posits a version of the modern world where the forces of the divine and the infernal (and assorted other pagan entities) do battle.

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Dreaming Cities by the now-defunct Guardians of Order was essentially a construction kit for Urban Fantasy. Don't know if it's available anywhere anymore.

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For out of print stuff, check out the answers to Where can I buy original edition and out-of-print roleplaying books and accessories? –  SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '10 at 23:10

There is also Chill, Call of Cthulthu (at a stretch), perhaps Whispering Vault ...

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+1 for Whispering Vault; a fine game that scared our pants off. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Whispering_Vault –  Rob Jan 10 '13 at 15:32

As far as I can see Beyond the Supernatural, a relatively little known, old rpg from Palladium hasn't been mentioned yet. Back in the old days we played several shorter stories with it, but in the long run WoD, Kult (already linked in the comments) and Call of Cthulhu won (the latter being our absolute winner, we still play a CoC adventure now and then.) :) It may still be worth a try, though.

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Castle Falkenstein

While not "modern" in the sense of set in our modern world with differences, it's set in our current time on a parallel earth with some limited contact between the two, and that alternate earth is still in the Victorian era, but with Steampunk and magic. That there is a linkage between them is occult knowledge...

PDF Purchase at DTRPG

Warning: system is cards, not dice. Uses standard poker/bridge decks, including jokers.

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The connection between 1990's Earth and the setting proper isn't explored anywhere in the game; it's strictly a framing device used as justification for the fiction. –  Jadasc Nov 4 '10 at 1:58
    
It actually is mentioned in a couple of the supplements, as well. It's not a major element, but it is important in that it allows modern characters to be imported, as was the protagonist in the story which dominates the first half of the rulebook. –  aramis Nov 4 '10 at 7:00

Cinematic Unisystem Games from Eden Studios

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: both available only in PDF anymore.
PDF purchase: BTVS core, BTVS Revised Core, Angel Core
Can't get much more "modern occult" than these two. And, since they are compatible mechanically, you can add in Army of Darkness and Ghosts of Albion almost seamlessly. Besides, where else can you have Gun-Fu?

Ghosts of Albion is essentially "Buffy reimagined with less sexism and in the Victorian era".
PDF Purchase: Ghosts of Albion Core
As mentioned before, same system as Buffy and Angel, slightly different setting, victorian era.

Army of Darkness
PDF Purchase: Angel Core
Again, not modern, per se, but can be used as a modern. Listed mostly because it's the same system with some new options as the above 3.

And, just for fun, there's a BTVS "unofficial" conversion for Six-guns and Starships in one of the Eden Studios Presents volumes, so you can adapt it to Firefly/Serenity, too...

All of these games use only d10's, and only 1 per player is needed most of the time. The GM doesn't even use dice when played by the rules as written. This is very different in feel and tone from Full Unisystem.

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Believe it or not, BtVS is one of my group's favorite games. It's a simple enough system, but the mechanics are well-suited to creating situations that feel like Buffy. In our book, that's a good thing. –  gomad Oct 26 '10 at 17:51
    
I ran a "6 episode" game, running some 12 sessions, of BTVS. It not only felt like Buffy, it felt like playing a TV series. It's one of my favorite game engines... And Buffy one of my favorite TV series. –  aramis Oct 26 '10 at 17:56
    
I've run 2 "series", one of which ran 2 "seasons". I have no idea how many sessions those went in total. We've always had a ball. –  gomad Oct 26 '10 at 18:35

Full Unisystem

CJC's Witchcraft

Welcome to the world of CJ Carella's WitchCraft Roleplaying Game. It is a world very like our own but with a much darker side. The monsters and horrors that fill our legends and "fairy tales" walk the earth, hunting and using us for their own purposes. The spirits and vampyres, demons and angels, shapeshifters and things unimagined, all move through our world just as they have since time immemorial. And we have helped them remain hidden for we no longer believe in the unseen.

Conspiracy X

Conspiracy X takes place in a world of dark secrets and hidden agendas where the only certainty is nothing is what it seems. The president might not be human... and the sign carrying paranoid on the street corner ranting about CIA mind control satellites may very well be right.

In other words, a world just like yours, if you could see beyond the lies...

They are compatible with All Flesh Must Be Eaten and Terra Primate... Zombies and Planet of the Apes, respectively... allowing a very wide range of nastiness.

Note that Full Unisystem is fairly compatible with Cinematic, but uses full polyhedral sets, has the GM rolling dice for NPC's, slower combat, and a much different tone... Hence why I put the two in separate entries.

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Supernatural

Not being familiar with the show, nor the game except by system mechanics, I can't say much to it, but it's billed by some as in the desired genre.

from DTRPG:

Sorry to be the one to break this to you, but the truth hurts and there’s no use sugarcoating it. Ghosts are real. Demons too, along with those bumps in the night and maybe even the monster under your bed. The world’s a scary place. If you’re lucky the nasties that creep around in the dark won’t get hold of you.

‘Cept maybe you aren’t lucky. Maybe you’ve already lost something – or somebody – to the darkness. All the booze and therapy in the world can’t put your life back the way it was. And evil has a way of finding you again once it’s had a taste of blood.

So you decide to fight back. It’s not gonna be easy — as this kind of on-the-job training can get you dead. But you can stop being the hunted and become the hunter. There’s no fame or glory in it, and there sure as hell isn’t any money. But if you get the job done, you’ll save lives and send the bad guys screaming back to hell where they belong. If that sounds good, then you’ve got some work to do.

Purchase: | MWP | DTRPG-PDF |

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In Nomine

In Nomine is not exactly an occult setting, it's Angels vs Demons hiding their war from the (mostly) helpless mortals. It's close enough in tone, however, to be satisfying... if you are not offended by playing angels and or demons.

Playing demons does tend to be controversial; angels less so, except that the IN angels don't differ much, if at all, from their demonic counterparts except in motivations.

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Don't forget the GURPS version, which lets you use all your existing GURPS books... –  gomad Oct 26 '10 at 17:52

Sorcerer is one that I've always wanted to play. Its in the game queue as the next one on our group's list to try out. Our current campaign will keep us busy for many months to come, though.

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Dark Conspiracy is an older one that dealt in the same vein. Shadowrun is more cyber than occult, but it has some elements that could make occult a stronger presence.

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Wow. I haven't played or even thought of Dark Conspiracy in forever. Don't remember loving it as a system. I do remember liking the writing and background. I'll have to go see if it's still sitting on my shelf somewhere now... –  gomad Oct 26 '10 at 17:54

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