MC Moves for City of Mist TTRPG
The Master of Ceremonies is an important role in City of Mist, because without one, there’s no game! While running a case, MC’s have to become actors, storytellers, referees, and game designers all at the same time. As a Forever GM myself, I know it can feel a lot like keeping plates spinning!
But the MC Moves for City of Mist are not only designed to create cinematic moments, but also to give MC’s, old and new, the tools they need to run the game. We’ve touched on the MC Moves before in our How To Run City of Mist Combat video. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the different kinds of MC Moves, as well as how you can use them to make your game night one to remember.
The first thing to know about MC Moves is that they’re mainly divided into Soft Moves and Hard Moves. Soft Moves are used in between player turns to set up situations and foreshadow consequences. Hard Moves are the consequences.
The primary Soft Move is Complicate Things, which is exactly what it sounds like. No matter the situation, there’s always an unforeseen element that can come up later and bite your crew in the butt. Maybe they catch some unwanted attention during an investigation, or maybe during a fist fight someone else suddenly joins the fray.
As an MC, you’re encouraged to keep the crew on their toes by mixing things up. Be sure to make Soft Moves for other problems during a case as well, such as a crew member’s day job calling them to pick up a shift or a newspaper headline setting up a future case. This makes the world feel real and challenges your PC’s on all the different levels of their characters.
In a conflict, a classic soft move is "oh, no, they're going to hit you!" like a villain raising their fists or revving up some magical ability.
If the crew ignores these hints, then feel free to Hit Them After a Fair Warning. This allows you to make a Hard Move when you would normally make a Soft Move. If you set up a car speeding down the road, and the crew doesn’t move out of the way, then you’re now allowed to hit them with that car!
To add a little more drama to your game, consider the optional Soft Move Activate Weakness Tags as Flaws. Like Hit them After a Fair Warning, this is another "Hard move as a Soft Move" and it allows you to deal consequences anytime, without setting it up, by using the PCs weakness tags as triggers. The PC earns an Attention point for their trouble. I prefer using this rule because there are always weakness tags that are sometimes too awkward to fit into a roll. Background obstacles like an uptight boss or financial issues can be better used to challenge PC’s with this rule.
The separation of Soft Moves and Hard Moves sets up a core rule for playing City of Mist as an MC. No matter what you throw at them, every Danger should be foreshadowed and the Crew should always have a chance to react before consequences strike (except if the weakness tag is the trigger).
While Soft Moves set up danger, Hard Moves bring the pain. A Hard Move is used after a player misses a roll or when specific Moves call for it. For the more punishing MC’s, you can also use more than one Hard Move at a time!
The most obvious one is Give a Status, usually after a Danger strikes. This is the purest mechanical way for your crew to take damage. You can also Reduce or Remove a Status to take away a PC’s power-up or Burn a Tag to take away one of their abilities. These three moves are your bread-and-butter during combat.
Speaking of taking things away, Deny Them Something They Want is the move used for keeping an asset out of the Crew’s hands. It’s also very handy for ending a scene that’s gone on for just a little too long. This can be for anything from a thief getting away during a chase to a computer locking the crew out.
Keep in mind that Hard Moves can be used for more narrative damage as well. Complicate Things, Bigtime is the natural progression for the Soft Move Complicate Things, but here you introduce a big burning crisis. Make Something Horrible Happen is exactly what it says on the tin and is great for end-of-session cliffhangers. Turn Their Move Against Them is handy for when the MC is feeling creative.
Finally, Force Them To Choose is the devious option of making the Crew choose their own consequences. This is great for having a PC choose between two Hard Moves, like choosing between burning a tag or taking a status. It’s also fantastic for invoking themebook Mysteries and Identities, as it forces the character to choose who they want to be. Using this Hard Move enough can end with characters losing themes and becoming completely different people based on their choices.
There’s one more kind of MC Move, and that is the Intrusion. As the name suggests, these moves can be used at any point of the game. Many of the Intrusions listed in the MC Toolkit are about working with your players, such as asking for more details or telling a player what move their action triggers. These Intrusions help guide the referee side of being an MC and help remind MC’s to keep the rules clear for themselves and their players.
Some Player Moves ask for MC Intrusions. The combat moves Hit With All You’ve Got and Go Toe to Toe include Dangers counterattacking as a possible Intrusion. Mixed successes in Investigate, Take the Risk, and Sneak Around can also call up Intrusions as complications.
There are also custom moves and Danger abilities that can call for Intrusions. These abilities usually state what the trigger is, but they can activate at any point, no matter whose turn it is. Some trigger automatically at the start of a scene, like the Necromancer ability to summon a mob of zombies. Others trigger automatically when the PC’s attack, like a legendary weapon that instinctively defends its wielder.
The MC Moves not only specify what an MC can do during a game. They also help to bring new MC’s into the rhythm of the system’s mechanics. Even if you forget the name of an MC Move or trip over a ruling during a session, you’ll be fine as long as you remember to set up what’s coming and let your crew react when it arrives. No matter how cinematic you try to make your case, City of Mist is still a game, which means when things start blowing up, everyone should be a part of the fireworks.
For easy reference, you can find these moves laid out with more helpful tips in the Yellow Pages Quick Reference Sheets. These are available inside the MC Toolkit as well as on DriveThruRPG as a free download. Be sure to check out the City of Mist website at cityofmist.co for even more free downloads, such as the Case Concept Generator we showed off last week.
What else would you like to know about MC’ing? Ask us about it in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!