Raising the Difficulty in City of Mist TTRPG
So your City of Mist group has completed a few cases, gained a few level-ups, and maybe even replaced a few themes. And now that your players and their characters are more experienced, you’re noticing them start to steamroll through Dangers. If you, the MC, want your dramatic encounters to last for more than one roll, you now need to raise the difficulty.
Luckily, there exist a variety of tools in the City of Mist cinematic tabletop roleplaying game that you can use to create bigger challenges! Today, we’re doing a deep dive into the game’s mechanics and revealing some helpful strategies that can take your encounters to the next level.
Players Rolling with High Power? Use More and Higher Statuses
Your main tool for adjusting difficulty should be using statuses. Your player characters are basically superheroes and, at their full power, they should have the abilities to overcome almost any obstacle. But as soon as your Danger has shielded-2 or a player character has broken-arm-3, suddenly things get complicated.
On a purely mechanical level, statuses add those extra numbers that can slide a full success to a mixed success and a mixed success to a failure. A small injury taken at the beginning of a case like flesh-wound-2 is still going to subtract 2 Power from most of that player’s rolls. On a narrative level, players now have to make choices about what to do with that status. Do they grin and bear it? Do they use a valuable Downtime to heal the status? Or, if the crew has a healer, does that player roll Change the Game and risk making it worse on a failure?
If your PC’s also have high Power on their Face Danger rolls, don’t be afraid to throw higher tiers of statuses at them. Even if you only get through their Face Danger a handful of times, your tier-4 and tier-5 statuses will still make the stakes feel high, as any miss or mixed success will still mess them up. You can also target their defenses with debuff statuses, like slowed-3 on a speedster, or even burn their defensive power tags to weaken them for the next attack.
Dangers can also begin encounters with statuses already in play. Let’s say you’re trying to convince a cult member to turn away from their secret society. If they start with the status zealous-3, that’s going to subtract 3 Power from any attempts to Convince them. This same logic extends to hiding from Dangers with alert-3, or attempting to hurt Dangers who have armored-3.
Adding a status to a Danger raises the difficulty significantly more than giving a status to a PC. This is because PC's can Face Danger against statuses given to them, but they can’t prevent a Danger from starting with a status. To get rid of a Danger’s status, the PC’s will have to spend their time in the spotlight to Change the Game. Even then, the roll could fail and backfire or the status could require a specific ability to get rid of it, like the ability to put someone with alert-3 to sleep. This means PC’s can’t just throw the same attacks at your Dangers – they’ll need to diversify their abilities, which will also lower their Power for any specific ability.
Can't Get a Hard Move In? Soak the Scene with Soft Move Threats
Some MCs know how to use statuses to curb Power levels, but find it hard to land their first status because their players start off with Power so high that rolling a miss rarely happens.
While it's true that you get to make a hard move on a miss or when a PC attacks and chooses not to defend themselves, these aren’t your only options to land a hard move.
The solution in these cases is to present more threats than the PC's can handle with soft moves. Soft moves are threats of incoming trouble that the MC can make in between PC spotlights. When the PC's inevitably drop the ball on one of the threats, you use your next soft move to Hit Them After A Fair Warning and activate a hard move, such as hitting them with a high-tier status or burning their defensive tags as we previously mentioned. You can make unlimited soft moves between player spotlights, so you could easily introduce two threats while upgrading a previous one into a hard move. Of course, if the players find a creative way to handle more than one threat during their spotlight, then more power to them!
Narratively, all these soft move threats can come from different Dangers, or just one very dangerous Danger, like a monster with multiple limbs, a time-bending Rift, or just a really badass combatant.
Outnumber Your Damage Dealers with Collectives
Speaking of overwhelming your players, let’s talk outnumbering them. In City of Mist, a collective is a group of NPC’s that act as a single Danger. The collective has the same spectrums and moves as an individual member, but it takes less damage and deals more damage due to its size.
When using a collective, first you have to figure out its size factor. Size factor ranges from 1-4, with 1 being a handful of NPC’s, 2 being several, 3 being many, and 4 being a horde or massive swarm. This number is used to reduce statuses taken and upgrade statuses dealt.
For example, let’s say Robin Hood’s merry band of muggers has a size factor of 2. If they take shot-3, that status is reduced by 2 and becomes nicked-1. Likewise, if each mugger can deal bad-bruise-2 and all of them attack a single person, the whole collective can bump up that status by 2 and deal broken-ribs-4. Just keep in mind that size factor doesn’t impact the Power of the dice roll. Size factor only comes into play afterward when calculating statuses.
For added complexity, you can split up collectives into different groups and have them do different actions. For example, a collective with a size factor of 2 can split up into two groups with a size factor of 1. On the other side of the table, players can target individual members of the collective as well as select options in Hit With All You’ve Got and Change the Game to scale up their effects and hit the collective as a whole.
Super-Specialized PC's? Switch Up Types of Dangers
But you don’t need to always add more statuses or more Dangers to raise the difficulty in City of Mist. Sometimes, you just need a different type of Danger. This is especially true when your PCS are super specialized in one form of conflict and can easily brush off a specific type of damage.
A City of Mist case should have a variety of encounters. Scenes of investigation and social interaction are just as important to have as scenes of combat. No one character can be specialized in everything. With a variety of encounters, your crew will have to work together to rely on each other’s different strengths.
The type of “damage” Dangers deal with a status also doesn’t have to be physical. Statuses can be used for a variety of different spectrums, such as social humiliation, mind control, magical sleep, a curse, or even legal trouble. Your mutant boxer PC might be able to take a punch, but how will they Face Danger against a status like mesmerized-2 or warrant-for-arrest-3? If your players are getting too comfy in how they deal with problems, then you need to hit them with some different types of problems.
But let’s say you want to make the game harder across the board. If you want a darker City, one that makes your characters’ lives harder, then consider using Grit Mode.
Grit Mode is an optional rule that changes how Power is added up so that it's harder to get 3 or more Power in a roll. Instead of rolling +Power, you instead roll +Grit. You gain Grit in the same way you would gain Power by adding and subtracting tags and statuses. The difference is that in order to reach the next tier of Power, you need successively more Grit.
You can use a status card to translate Grit into Power. Just like when adding statuses together, you should use the pips in between tiers of Power to add up your Grit. 1 Grit equals 1 Power, and 2 Grit equals 2 Power. But in order to get to 3 Power, you need 2 more Grit, not 1. And when going from 3 Power to 4, you need 3 whole Grit to get there. That means each tier of Power requires more and more Grit. If you want to deal a tier-5 status in a single roll, you’d need to put together +11 Grit.
Grit Mode will organically cap your players around 2-3 Power a roll, but be careful while using it. Powerful Dangers in the base game will become even more deadly in Grit Mode, and outcomes of rolls will lean more toward mixed and negative results. If you want to add Grit Mode into your game, talk to your group and make sure that’s the kind of game they want to play as well.
As I said before, the City of Mist roleplaying game has an extensive toolset experienced MC’s can use to raise the difficulty of their games. Experienced players love a challenge, so be sure to use a variety of statuses, loads of threats,and different Dangers to give them one.
And if you want more tips on how to upgrade your game, be sure to check out the official City of Mist MC Toolkit at cityofmist.co. You can also visit the City of Mist channel for more videos, including our video on Advanced Danger Mechanics.
What else would you like us to talk about in these videos? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!