City of Mists
City of Mist is a role-playing game of film-noir investigation and super-powered action. It is set in a modern metropolis rife with crime, conspiracies, and mysteries. The protagonists are Gateways, ordinary people who became the living embodiment of a legend, their Mythos. While your Gateways may seek to strike a balance between the mysterious nature of their Mythos and their mortal aspirations, the powers within them always threaten to tear their lives apart. They have unwittingly become a part of a secret world of clashing stories, and soon other legends will come looking for them with demands.
City of Mist is based on the story-driven Apocalypse Engine, but it takes a step further into narrative gaming by introducing several new features:
A Superhero RPG With a Detective/Noir Emphasis [ edit ]
While many other superhero games seek to emulate classic "super-powered" comic book characters, like Superman or the X-Men, City of Mist instead focuses on blending lower-powered superhero stories with the detective/noir genre, to tell stories that involve "peeling back the veil" of a supernatural conspiracy which is hidden from the mundane world. As such, it takes its inspiration more from comic authors like Frank Miller (Sin City) or Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods, Neverwhere, etc.), or comic TV shows like the Batman animated series, or the various Netflix superhero series.
The core premise of City of Mist is that the party lives in a city which is shrouded in a magical mist which hides anything supernatural from the mundane "Sleepers". This conceit allows the party to battle with supernatural powers against extraordinary foes, but all that the ordinary people around them see is "thugs with masks", or something similarly mundane.
However, the characters themselves are aware of the "masquerade" (to borrow a term from White Wolf's Vampire RPG), because they are "Rifts": humans with a connection to a mythical/literary spirit, such as Thor, Paul Bunyan, or Alice in Wonderland. This connection provides them with supernatural powers, but the focus of the RPG isn't on using those powers just to publically brawl: instead the emphasis is on exploring the mysteries of The City, other Rifts, and other powers (eg. the "men in gray" Gatekeepers) who keep the campaign's secrets.
Character Creation [ edit ]
Although City of Mist is a "PbtA" system, it has several important differences from other PbtA games. Most immediately, instead of relying on "playbooks", City of Mist utilizes a "character sheet" ... only instead of a literal sheet, CoM spreads out the character's information across several separate cards.
To create a character you begin by deciding on a concept and picking a "mythoi" (mythical character) that matches that concept. Next you select four themes that describe the character, which can either be "Logos" or "Mythos".
Logos themes describe mundane aspects of a character, such as a defining moment in their history, or a pivotal relationship they have. Mythos themes instead describe the characters connection to their Mythos, such as a magical item or anthropomorphic animal. Both themes provide the character bonuses when taking actions related to the theme, but only Mythos themes provide superhuman abilities.
Players not only have to pick themes, but also how they manifest and what weaknesses they have. Weaknesses are important, because while they decrease a character's chance of success, they also help you to advance your themes (ultimately resulting in more tags and greater power).
Tags are similar to skills in other RPG systems, defining specific powers or skills that a character has (or, in the case of weakness tags, something they're bad at). Each theme provides four tags (three power tags, and one weakness tag), so a new character has sixteen tags in total.
After selecting Mythoi and themes, and defining other basic details like a name, the character is almost ready to go. The last step is that they must form a "crew" with their fellow players. However, it's important to note that characters can change over time in CoM, so the version of the character at the end of creation isn't the same version the player is "stuck with" (forever, as is the case in many other systems).
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
As a PbtA system, to do anything significant in City of Mist, a player must perform a "move" which corresponds to the action. Characters can gain specific moves fom themes, but all characters have the same eight core moves: Investigate, Convince, Face Danger, Hit With All You’ve Got, Go Toe to Toe, Change the Game, Sneak Around, and Take the Risk.
To determine whether a move succeeds the player rolls 2d6, adds the number of relevant power tags (if any), and subtracts any weakness tag. In general, a result of 10-12 means that the move was a complete success, while a 7-9 instead indicates a success with a possible complication, and a 6 or less results in failure.
However, each move has its own specific details (so many that one reviewer strongly recommended relying on a "cheat sheet" during play). For instance, the primary combat move, "Go Toe to Toe", has three possible outcomes, and a roll of 10+ allows the player to pick two, while a roll of 7-9 only lets them pick one.
CoM has no special combat rules (eg. there is no concept of "initiative", as in many games), Instead, in combat players simply make moves, as normal. Similarly there are no "hit points" to track damage to a character: CoM relies on statuses, which have levels ranging from 1-6 (where 1 is lightly injured, 5 is the worst possible, and 6 means dead).
City of Mist: An Excellent Non-Traditional Superhero RPG [ edit ]
Again, if you're looking for a traditional comic book RPG, you're going to be much better served by an RPG like Mutants and Masterminds or GURPS. But if you're looking to play in a world that's a bit of a cross between Batman and Chinatown, a world full of mystery just waiting for your (supernaturally-powered) characters to explore, City of Mist is absolutely worth considering.
While its RPG Geek ranking (currently in the 450's) might not seem impressive, being able to rank that high for such a recent (2018) RPG actually is. Also, if you look online you'll find a great number of positive reviews. For instance, on DriveThruRPG the core player's guide is rated 4.5/5 stars.
Finally, if you're still on the fence about checking out City of Mist, it's incredible artwork might just be the final factor to push you into purchasing it. That artwork was so good that in 2018 it won Ennie gold, in the category of "Best Art, Interior".