Theme Kits in City of Mist TTRPG
Have you ever wanted to give your players a magic item in City of Mist? What about a home base that they can customize however they want? You could just give them a story tag, but sometimes a story tag is just too simple. If you want to give your players something with depth that will grow alongside them, then give them a Theme Kit.
Theme Kits are introduced in the City of Mist expansion Shadows & Showdowns and also feature extensively in the story arc book Nights of Payne Town. These kits function essentially as blueprints for a theme and include options for 10 power tags, 4 weakness tags, one or more Mysteries or Identities, and optionally a custom theme improvement. It’s a structured way of presenting a new theme, and there are a variety of different ways you can use them, whether you’re a player or an MC!
How Players Can Use Theme Kits
So what do you do with a theme kit? A theme kit can be used to build one of a character’s main themes, like in the rapid character creation system in Shadows & Showdowns. Or it can be used as inspiration for tags to spend Juice on. So when you Change the Game to summon an incubus Conjuration or call on a series regular Ally, you can grab tags from their theme kit, if your MC provided one.
But during the campaign, theme kits are most often used to build out an extra theme, which is an additional theme that is somewhat secondary to the PCs four main themes. A PC can obtain an extra theme as a level-up reward in a Moment of Evolution or as a narrative development if the MC chooses. A crew can also get one with the Season Finale move, after they accomplish a major crew goal.
For players, theme kits provide a ready-to-use list of abilities and benefits they can choose from for a newly important part of the campaign while still keeping the options within a structure. The MC isn’t just handing the players a Relic themebook and asking them to fill it out with whatever. Instead, the players are handed a list of options that allow for customization while still fitting thematically with the relic, ally, home base, or whatever else the theme kit is for. These options can also be chosen whenever the theme levels up and can provide a potential roadmap for upgrades in the future.
An important point to get across is that players don’t have access to all of these tags during play. Once the players are handed a theme kit, they use it to build their extra theme: they’re given one hardwired power tag and choose which two other power tags, one weakness tag, and Mystery or Identity they want to have.
For example, if I were handed the Magic Skateboard theme kit based off the Queen of Sheba’s flying carpet, I’d have the first power tag flying skateboard by default and then I’d choose two more tags like aerobatic maneuvers and faster than an airplane. I could choose a weakness tag like no grip and the mystery “how risky dare I be?” and just like that I’d have a new extra theme!
Just note that the rules for extra themes still apply. Power tags from extra themes are crispy, meaning they can only be used once until they’re burned. You also can’t burn them for a hit like you can do permanent power tags. You can recover these tags by using the Montage (Downtime) move and choosing to recover all burnt power tags. Extra theme power tags are also recovered automatically if you choose to give the extra theme attention or explore its Mythos during this Move. Finally, according to the Extra Theme Arsenal rules in Shadows & Showdowns, a PC or crew can have unlimited extra themes, but they can only invoke tags from one extra theme in any given scene, to avoid tag inflation.
Theme Kits level up and gain Attention in the same ways other themes do - by following their Mysteries or Identities and by invoking their weakness tags. When you hit three Attention, you can choose a new power tag from the list or grab the theme improvement, which is often custom tailored to the theme kit.
How MC’s Can Use Theme Kits
For Masters of Ceremonies, theme kits provide the perfect structure for handing out major in-game rewards. Players love gaining powerful artifacts in tabletop roleplaying games, so if you want your crew to wield Thor’s thunderbolt sledgehammer, you just create a theme kit using the Relic themebook and hand it to your players.
You can also hand out theme kits as faction rewards should the players start choosing sides in your City. For example, let’s say the players join the Stormbringers we mentioned in our Avatar Spotlight on Barbara King. The Stormbringer Base theme kit gives them a safe place to hunker down along with a list of other “amenities” they can add to the base over time. Now the players aren’t just part of a group; they’re part of a group with benefits!
When your players grab onto an NPC and insist they be part of the main crew, you can represent that ally as a Theme Kit as well. This actually solves a problem I have in other TTRPG’s I play. Sometimes my groups will treat an NPC as equally as they would a PC, meaning I have to come up with custom mechanics for leveling them up as the campaign goes on or risk them becoming underpowered. With a Theme Kit, that ally levels up along with the crew, and at a proportional rate to how much airtime they spend on that ally. Now when your crew insists on bringing Boblin the Goblin into a dangerous situation, Boblin will at least have the power tags to back it up.
Creating a Theme Kit for Your Players
Creating a Theme Kit follows the same process as creating a character theme. To start, pick out the themebook that works best for your concept. Did the crew stumble upon a magic item? Use the Relic themebook. Has a prominent figure joined their case? Use the Ally extra themebook. Have they taken a liking to a new animal companion? Use the Familiar themebook from Shadows & Showdowns!
Once you have your themebook, the next step is to fill it out the same way you’d create a character. Only this time, you’re answering every question the themebook has. That means power tag questions A through J and all four weakness tag questions. You also want to craft its Mystery or Identity, and you can create multiple if you want the Theme Kit to have more options.
The final step is the theme improvement. Almost every official theme kit has at least one listed as an option. You can choose a theme improvement from the back of the chosen themebook itself, but if the concept coming into your campaign is important enough to warrant a theme kit, why not make a custom improvement? A custom theme improvement can be any ability and can give your theme kit that final unique touch.
For example, let’s go back to the magic skateboard that possesses the powers of the Queen of Sheba’s flying carpet. Its custom theme improvement Racer makes the skateboard more effective when chasing Dangers with a catch spectrum or fleeing a Danger with an outrun spectrum. It’s narratively satisfying, unique to the relic, and situational enough that it doesn’t break the game.
To sum it all up, Theme Kits are themebook blueprints for everything from magic items to secret bases that gives players the freedom City of Mist is known for while keeping it all in a thematically-appropriate structure. Creating a Theme Kit also gives the Master of Ceremonies a chance to flex their design skills, especially if they choose to create a custom theme improvement.
If you want a list of Theme Kits to throw at your players, consider checking out the expansion Shadows & Showdowns. The book contains Theme Kits for relics, familiars, locations, and more that are pre-built and ready to throw in any of your cases. It also hosts a list of Mythos and Logos theme kits that makes City of Mist character creation even easier.
Do you have a custom theme kit in your game? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!