Social Conflict in City of Mist TTRPG
They say the pen is mightier than the sword, because you can get what you want more often than not from dueling wits rather than dueling blades. Yet many TTRPG’s treat persuading others like a simple obstacle that only takes one roll to resolve. There’s no dramatic back-and-forth or trading barbs.
But as a cinematic modern fantasy RPG, City of Mist gives you the tools to have that climactic social showdown. After all, there is no shortage of lawyers, reporters, media moguls, and corrupt politicians waiting to string you up by the neck with their influence, and these are some problems that even a well-thought out punch can’t solve.
In these situations, your crew might end up in a battle of wits rather than fists. In our last video, we talked about tips for physical combat. In this one, we’re going over how you can best your foes at the negotiating table! So put on your poker face as we dive into social conflict in City of Mist.
Tip #1: Understand Spectrums
We’re bringing this tip back from our previous video because it’s an important one to make! Instead of ‘health points’, City of Mist Dangers have Spectrums that allow for more ways for Dangers to be defeated. While many have a Hurt or Subdue Spectrum for how they can be beaten in a fight, many also have social Spectrums for how they can be convinced into going along with your agenda. For example, you can defeat a Petty Crook with a punched-2 status or a threatened-2 status.
There are a variety of social solutions for facing these Dangers. Intimidation, flirting, negotiating, or even bribery are all on the table! Just keep in mind that some Dangers can be immune to corruption and threats just as some Dangers can be immune to punches.
With high enough social Spectrums, it can take multiple rolls to build up the statuses to fully convince someone of your agenda. And that makes sense! If you were able to convince the main villain of the case that they were wrong in a single sentence, it would feel anticlimactic. But make that a final confrontation with your crew having to come up with different ways to argue against them, and suddenly words are being thrown like jabs!
Tip #2: Treat Diplomacy Like a Battle
Not every person in your way will have a social spectrum to tackle. Many obstacles can be overcome with a single Convince roll, such as persuading a bouncer to let you into a nightclub. But for Dangers who play a more prominent role in the case, negotiating with them can feel like its own kind of battle.
In a social conflict, you won’t actually be using the Convince move (which is designed for a one-roll encounter). Instead, you’ll be using Go Toe to Toe and Hit With All You’ve Got to represent your verbal sparring. Instead of trading blows, you’ll be trading words and inflicting statuses like intrigued-3 or laughing-stock-4. You can also use Hit With All You’ve Got’s additional options to represent the power of your charisma, such as extending your charm to a gathering crowd or increasing the tier of the social status you inflict.
If you’re the MC, be sure to give the crew a subtle heads up if a social “battle” could happen. Saying things like “This man looks like he could turn the other cheek, but it’ll take extensive convincing” helps get your players in the right mindset.
Keep in mind that Dangers can also fight back socially. Statuses like intimidated or frightened can set the characters back mechanically in an argument while still giving the players agency. You don’t want to just take control of another player’s character after all (unless the Danger is using mind control).
Even outside a face-to-face confrontation, there are many other ways social Dangers can fight back. Many of the most powerful Dangers in City of Mist are powerful because they don’t have to lift a finger to hurt the crew. And one way they can hit the crew is by attacking their reputation.
Tip #3: Protect Your Reputation
Remember when I was talking about media moguls and corrupt politicians earlier? These Dangers can often use their connections to give the crew a besmirched-reputation status or something similar. Even if you don’t care what people think about you, a besmirched reputation can make almost all aspects of the game difficult, from gathering information to talking to suspects to even fighting the police!
If the crew isn’t careful, a sensational reporter or a corporate lawyer could hit them when they least expect it. Imagine if the front page of the newspaper told the bad guys what the crew was doing, or if a misfiled tax return evicted the crew from their private office. With enough red tape, it could become impossible to solve the case.
This is where things like spending your Downtime to help the community can help most. Remember that City of Mist isn’t just about using superpowers to solve murders. Investing in your Logos themes and in the people around you can help fight any personal attacks against your character. Your PCs can use these tags to Face Danger against such social statuses.
Tip #4: Think Big!
These tips aren’t just limited to single conversations between characters. Some social conflicts can stretch multiple sessions or even throughout an entire campaign! This is especially true if your villain is a mastermind manipulator. Imagine someone like an Avatar media mogul with an army of reporters, celebrities, and brands at their disposal, along with connections to other Avatars within the City!
(Not that I’m saying there’s a secret council of Avatars or anything. If you want to do your own investigating on that front, be sure to check out the City of Mist expansion Shadows & Showdowns.)
If you want to make a social conflict bigger, consider adding a custom move with a countdown spectrum in the background of your games. This can be as simple as a “Word of Mouth” Spectrum that eventually alerts a criminal to the crew. It can also be as complicated as a “Citywide Chaos” Spectrum, where the more violent acts that happen on the City streets, the more the City becomes a war-torn wasteland.
Players can think big too! Consider using Stop. Holding. Back! for big social moves, just as you would for an extra-strong punch or big explosion. You could unleash a dramatic speech that literally renders your audience speechless, or stretch your resources to the limit to change your community, like if Excalibur used her rich family’s money to Stop. Holding. Back! and bankrupt a corrupt businessman. If you’re a Rift of a mind-reading or charismatic mythos, you can also make a big social move using your powers!
City of Mist is built on that dichotomy between the supernatural world and the mundane world, so the more you bring social Dangers into your game, the more alive your world feels. In City of Mist, an uncaring landlord can be just as difficult to face as a charging werewolf.
Creating scenes that can be resolved diplomatically allows for the more talkative PC’s to shine. Even if you can’t think of the right words, you can always paraphrase or note the ‘power’ in a character’s demeanor to get your point across. And don’t forget, you can always ask the table for what to say since you’re all playing the game together.
Tell us about your favorite dramatic talk in your own games! Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!