I started in a campaign of Mortal Coil in Fall 2010, which was inspired by Twin Peaks (which I was unfamiliar with) as well as a scattering of other movies. We started from setting the game in a rural small town deep in the woods of Maine in the early nineties - but a key twist was our characters being a circle of college students who are all friends.
Suspenseful but with camaraderie. Subtle wrongness, dark age-old secrets under the surface.
Small town, early 90s. Isolated inland northeast US. Characters are all going to, or part of a community college. They are weirdos, on the social fringe. The woods are large, dark, and scary. People get lost in them. Things are getting weirder.
How common is magic? Rare in the world at large, but in this town it is more common; strange things happen and people know it.
What general feel should magic have: horrifying, weird and powerful, commonplace? Weird, powerful, and creepy
What sorts of creatures do or don’t exist in this world? No vampires or leprechauns. There is a spirit-world. Wiccans, voodoo, etc. No traditional angels. God is not present. Religious phenomena still exist (crosses may ward off evil etc) but are ambiguous can be interpreted in different ways. Scary creatures in the woods. Perhaps shape-shifters.
Can players create magical beings of their own design, or should they stick with those from folklore? See above, players can create new creatures as long as it is consistent with the above.
Who knows about magic: a select few, the general population, only folks with traditions that relate to it? In the world at large, people deny it. In the town people believe in small magic, but are ignorant of the big and scary magic.
How is magic learned and taught? No special magical talent. Magic is learned (from books and/or a teacher). Old dusty tomes. Easier in this area.
Are some people innately magical, or can anyone access it? No innate magic.
Are there places of magical power? Yes, the town and especially the woods. The toy factory shut down due to mysterious circumstances.
Knowledge is dangerous, ignorance is bliss, unfortunately the characters are curious and have to know. The authorities discourage investigation and stirring things up.
A disappearance -- the characters’ friend from the college. Alice. Stanley’s sister, Eli’s and Lydia’s (!) lover, and Terrence Jackson’s employee (drug runner). Eli and Lydia are twins. Lydia got taken in by Aunt Jones (see Mrs Jones below). Eli was adopted by the weird christian sect after he burned down the house (accidentally) and killed his and Lydia’s parents. Terrence has his own little run-down house with a basement. Stanley lives with his parents (Sally and Marshall).
Modernity vs the old ways. Characters try to find their way and grow in this confusing situation.
The grandparents’ generation know more of magic and believe in it. The woods represent the unknown and danger. The christian kids at school. A (to the outside) weird church that live according to the old (really old) ways. Appalachian mountain folk? No Native American tribe, maybe an old shaman woman.
Most major characters are ambiguous - they could be villains or allies. The players have to find out (or decide).
Concept: Nerdy, works at the library, has been reading forbidden books.
(2) Fear: The dark is where the bad things come from.
(2) Hate: I have to get back at who drove my sister Alice away.
(1) Love: I want Lydia to think I'm cool.
Force: 1, Grace: 2, Will: 3, Wits: 4
Aptitudes: Nerd 3, Knower of Dark Lore 2, Boy Scout 2
Mysterious tatooed fortune telling conspiracy theorist
(2) Fear: The woods keep calling me, I must resist.
(1) Love: My friend (?) Alice knew too much.
(1) Hate: Mrs. Jones killed my cat.
(1) Duty: I must protect Eli, he is my brother.
Force: 2, Grace: 4, Will: 2, Wits: 2
Aptitudes: Artist 2, Seer 3, Harlot 2
Mary Jane supplier & herbal magician
(2) Love: My plants are my future, I must tend them.
(1) Duty: I must find Alice's dark family secret.
(1) Hate: The sheriff is evil and must be destroyed (but not the deputy).
(1) Love: Eli needs to grow up and I will show him the way.
Force: 2, Grace: 3, Will: 2, Wits: 3
Aptitudes: Herbal magician 3, Entrepeneur 2, Criminal 2
Skate-punk kid with fire magic. Foster parents in the religious sect.
(1) Love: Music speaks to me.
(2) Fear: My power will hurt those I love.
(1) Hate: Drugs are destroying my friends.
(1) Love: Do anything to get Alice back.
Force: 2, Grace: 3, Will: 3, Wits: 2
Aptitudes: Skater ?, Firestarter ?