Running a Horror Game in City of Mist TTRPG
It’s that spooky time of year once again! As the leaves change colors, Halloween comes closer with the promises of tricks, treats, and terror! In City of Mist TTRPG, solving mysteries and catching criminals can be its own kind of thrilling. But if you want to turn up the tension and host a real thriller, then it’s the perfect month to run a horror game!
Luckily, City of Mist is no stranger to horror, especially with its variety of deadly Dangers and creepy conspiracies. However, you might be wondering how you can run a proper horror session when your PC’s can turn into monsters and fire lightning from their hands. You need to do more than throw a single guy with a hockey mask at them. That’s why in this video, we’re going over a few tips to make your game night truly spooky!
Tip #1: Choose Your Brand of Horror
One of the most common questions I get for running any session is, “where do I start?”. A horror session needs to be scary, but just ‘scary’ is too broad. In truth, there are a variety of horror stories, from slashers to eldritch horror to creature features. Figuring out the type of horror you want to run will help form your case as well as give you more specific ideas for how to scare your players.
That’s why, for tabletop roleplaying games, I keep a go-to list of horror scenarios. These scenarios are simple enough to fit in a single session, but flexible enough to put whatever dark forces you want to in the narrative. These scenarios include:
The Haunted House: A creepy manor draws the crew inside to uncover its mystery. While they search each room, uncovering clues and secret terrors, a force lurks inside the walls.
The Monster Hunt: A terrible creature is out there, and if the crew doesn’t take care of it, it’s coming for them next! Make sure your monster is beefy enough to ambush the crew and drive fear into their hearts.
The Secret Cult: Strange figures begin stalking the crew until they prepare a ritual later that night. This scenario gives a human enemy, a feeling of paranoia, and some room for mystical horrors. You can create your own cult or you can run the Magnum Opus, who appear in the Nights of Payne Town case, Cult of the God-King.
The Scary Artifact: A strange item like a statue or puzzlebox causes terrible nightmares and other spooky effects. If you want to make this scenario even scarier, make sure investigating the artifact ensures it will activate even more!
Tip #2: Set the Scene
Atmosphere is very important in horror games, both in-game and around the table. After all, a scary movie is a lot scarier when you’re watching it in the dark.
In the same way, make sure to set the scene around the table. Make it dark, light candles, and play some spooky music from your favorite game. Setting the mood will make the game feel more intense, although be sure you still have enough light to see your character sheet! If you’re online, consider making a landing page with graphics that set the tone for your case. You’ll also want to upload music to your virtual tabletop of choice so you can play it during the session.
During the game itself, go wild on the scenery details. Remember to use all five senses to describe the sound of cackling, the smell of dust, and the feeling of blood dripping from their hands. If you’d like some inspiration, the MC Toolkit has perfect examples for scenery description in it’s “Cinematography of the City” section.
Tip #3: Throw Players Off Balance
A large part of horror games is making the players feel vulnerable. That might sound difficult if your crew has the powers of literal gods. But no player character is invincible, and remind yourself that the Master of Ceremonies holds all the cards.
When coming up with a scenario, make sure to put the crew in situations that run counter to their strengths. Perhaps the cultists that are hunting them have concoctions that limit their powers. Or maybe the Danger they’re hunting can’t be beaten in a fight, so they have to perform a special ritual to get rid of them.
Don’t forget you can also draw from the characters’ mythoi to hit them where they’re vulnerable. If one of your characters is the Rift of Little Red Riding Hood, how do they handle coming face to face with the Big Bad Wolf?
Finally, don’t be afraid to split the party. Traditionally, splitting the party in an RPG is a no-no. But as long as you’re taking the time to bounce between their separate stories, separating the crew can make them feel less safe and gives you, the MC, more chances to sneak up on them!
Tip #4: End on a Twist!
While you’re ramping up the scares, remember that City of Mist is largely a mystery game. While you’re creating your haunted house or creature feature, make sure to put a horrifying secret in there as well.
Perhaps the horror is tied to one of the characters. In this way, you can make the Danger a figure from their past or a product of their Mythos. When the secret is finally revealed, they’ll have to contend with what that means for their character, and that’s only if they survive the night.
While you’re throwing monsters and mysteries at your crew, consider also giving them a dark choice. If your crew uncovers something powerful during their night of terror, they might not wish to destroy or turn away from it. Consider having your horror tempt the crew to the dark side and put their very soul at stake.
Tip #5: Check In Before & After
Before running the session, be sure your crew knows they’re playing a horror game from the beginning. No one wants to go into what they think is a detective mystery and end up with their character eaten by a werewolf. Your group will have a much better time if they know what they’re getting into.
Be sure to check in with your crew after the session as well. While the point of a horror session is to scare your players, you don’t want anyone to get traumatized. Talk with your crew if there are any subjects they’d like to avoid due to their own real phobias. Consider using safety tools like an X-Card so your group has a way of pulling out of the action without stopping the session in its tracks. And as always, make sure to ask if they had fun!
It’s the perfect time to go on a spooky mystery, and City of Mist is the perfect game for it. There’s tons of scary content to explore, including the urban legends that exist in Districts like La Colonia de Sombras and The Undertrash. If you want a quick one-shot you can play by itself or slide into an existing campaign, check out Small Time Villain: Puppet Show where you face the serial killer Rift of Geppeto the puppetmaker.
Tell us about your spookiest moments in City of Mist! Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!