Son of Oak's New Game Engine
Son of Oak is venturing into new frontiers! After the success of City of Mist, the studio is coming out with two new games: the soon-to-be-released mythic cyberpunk :Otherscape and the rustic fantasy Legend in the Mist, coming to Kickstarter this February. One is science fiction and the other is sword and sorcery. But there’s one thing that ties these two disparate games together, and that is a brand new game engine!
When :Otherscape was first announced, the new ruleset was marketed as City of Mist: Reloaded. But over the course of development, the engine became something very different. The rules are now streamlined and allow for greater creativity. Some systems were thrown out and others were added in. And while you can still see City of Mist at its core, these new rules will make for a whole new experience.
First thing’s first, Son of Oak is officially retiring the term City of Mist: Reloaded. Branding is yet to be finalized on the new engine, so for now we’re tentatively going with the Mist Engine.
NEW CORE LOOP
So what can be expected from these new rules? To start, the core loop of the conversation at the table has been changed and better codified. This is great for new players who need more guidance on what to do next and for veterans who found the Powered by the Apocalypse aspects of City of Mist a little too handwavy.
In the new flow, each turn follows a 3-step sequence: Establish >> Action >> Consequences.
- First, the MC establishes the scene by describing the location, presenting Challenges such as adversaries and hazards, and describing how these Challenges pose Threats to the PC’s.
- Then, one of the players takes the spotlight and takes action. This step has some of the most interesting changes, so we’ll talk about it in greater depth in a minute.
- Finally, the MC delivers consequences for the action if the action didn’t go as planned or if the PC ignored an established Threat. The most common Consequence is a Threat being delivered, like getting hit by an attack. Consequences can also include side effects like exhaustion, running out of ammo, or an innocent getting hurt. In some cases, the PC can react to mitigate the Consequences.
This cycle repeats throughout the scene with a different PC acting each time.
In this engine, the MC still never rolls dice. Adversaries make a Threat in the Establish phase and land a hit in the Consequences phase if the PC’s Action doesn’t prevent it. This keeps things moving and the story flowing.
SAME TAG-BASED ROLLS, NO MORE “MOVES”
The core roll-and-add-your-tags mechanic that makes City of Mist so unique has largely been preserved but streamlined. Characters are still a collection of descriptors called tags. When you roll, you still count up all the relevant tags you have into a value called Power, giving yourself +1 Power for every positive tag and -1 Power for every negative tag. Then, you add your action’s Power to a 2d6 roll.
Let’s say you want to shoot a guy and you have the tags firearms training and gun. That’s +2 Power you now add to your roll. Now let’s say that guy has the tag armor, which makes it harder to shoot him and gives -1 Power. You now roll with just +1 Power.
At this point in City of Mist, you would choose a move that fits your action. But in this new engine, Son of Oak is doing away with moves entirely. All actions are now covered through a single roll.
If your total is 10 or more, your action succeeds. If it’s 6 or less, you fail and you suffer Consequences. If it’s between 7 and 9, it’s mixed: you both succeed AND suffer Consequences.
What makes this single roll different each time are the tags. Tags can come from your character sheet or they can come from the scene itself. The MC can keep a scene simple, or they can litter it with tags like cover, raining, or dark magic. There is no limit to the types of actions and interactions you can describe using this simple system.
SWITCH BETWEEN QUICK AND TRACKED OUTCOMES
This new engine also gives MC’s more freedom to choose how actions are resolved. For simple Challenges that can be overcome with a single roll, MC’s can make it a Quick Outcome. These outcomes function like D&D skill checks. You either convince the guard at the door to let you through or you don’t.
The difference is a Quick Outcome never just ends with “it didn’t work”. There are always built-in Consequences that drive the story forward and make things interesting, sometimes even when you succeed!
Now when the scene gets more tactical or the outcome requires more work, the MC can go for a Tracked Outcome. With Tracked Outcomes, a Challenge is overcome when you give them statuses that exceed a certain Limit. For example, a zombie only stops being a threat when you give it bashed-4 or a bandit leader only surrenders the hostages when you give them threatened-5 or bribed-2. PC’s also have Limits, tapping out with tier-5 statuses and dying or being transformed with tier-6 statuses.
For actions with a Tracked Outcome, players will spend the action’s Power on buying Effects. The more Power you have, the greater the Effect you can dish out.
Effects are basically different ways to add or remove statuses and tags from the game. You can Attack to give your opponent statuses like wounded or subdued; Influence them to give them convinced or threatened; Boost to give yourself a protected status; or Restore a hexed ally by removing cursed. You can also Create other tags that represent objects and people, such as brewing a potion or recruiting a bodyguard. Learning new information is handled by the Discover Effect, which gives you one valuable detail per point of Power spent, and you can also spend Power on Extra Feats to add useful features to your action.
This is just touching on some of the major points in the new engine, which Son of Oak designed to give players a simple-to-learn yet incredibly versatile roleplaying experience. There are additional updates to the famous City of Mist character evolution system as well as a new gear system called Loadout in :Otherscape.
Now some in the community have asked if City of Mist will be updated with the new game engine. Son of Oak believes that City of Mist’s current ruleset is perfect for City of Mist, especially for the noir mood and the shifting dichotomy between Mythos and Logos. That said, a rules conversion PDF isn’t out of the question, but it won’t be coming in the near future.
What do you think about these engine changes? Are you eager to test it out, or have you already run a game with the :Otherscape playtest rules? Be sure to make your voices heard in the comments, on social media, or on the official Discord.
Until next time, have fun!