Advanced Danger Mechanics in City of Mist TTRPG
In the City of Mist TTRPG, your crew of players will be equipped from the start with all manner of strange abilities and they’ll only grow stronger as they solve cases and gain improvements. The crew will start out fighting thugs in dark alleyways and they’ll eventually graduate to fighting a mastermind’s deadliest minions. At a certain point, the Master of Ceremonies will need to step up their game when it comes to Dangers, and that’s exactly what this week’s video is for!
In this cinematic modern fantasy RPG, Dangers can come from any number of legends and fairy tales within our world, which means they can come prepared with any ability from any known story. In today’s video, we’ll cover how you can use the City of Mist mechanics to create advanced Dangers and keep your players on their toes.
If you aren’t familiar with the basics of how Dangers work, be sure to check out our previous video on Using Dangers. We also cover a lot of this and more in our Danger: Construction Zone live streams for building Dangers, and everything is explained in greater detail in the MC Toolkit chapter about building Dangers and Custom Moves. Let’s get started!
One of the simplest ways to “level up” your Dangers is to give them a story tag or the ability to create story tags. In this game, story tags are elements in the scene that are important enough to be labeled and to affect the gameplay, normally through a +1 bonus or -1 penalty depending on the narrative. For example, if a Danger has the story tag shield, then players will normally take a -1 penalty to physically hurt that Danger.
Story tags on Dangers accomplish two things. The first is the numbers advantage I just described. A single point swing in either direction is big in City of Mist, especially since most player rolls in my experience are made with either a +1 or +2 bonus. Knocking that +1 to a flat roll could be the difference between success and failure.
The other thing story tags accomplish is giving your players an additional element to think about. When the MC points out a Danger has a shield or sword story tag, savvy players will start to think about how they can get rid of those story tags or even use them to their advantage. Suddenly the scene isn’t just a slugfest with players trying to hurt the Danger as hard as they can. Now the players have to communicate and figure out ways one player can Change the Game on those story tags while setting up another player to Hit With All They’ve Got.
Dangers can start the scene with story tags, but they can also have the ability to create story tags mid-scene, usually as a hard move. This can shift how a conflict is going dramatically. For example, you can give a Danger the Nature Spirit or God power set from the MC Toolkit, which comes with the ability to alter the weather with a story tag. Not only can this completely change the battlefield with one tag, but it can also be doubly effective toward elemental heroes like Salamander from the Character Folio Pack or Tlaloc from the City of Mist Starter Box.
On a similar spectrum to giving Dangers story tags is giving them statuses. Statuses work like story tags in giving bonuses and penalties on rolls, but can come in tiers greater than 1 and are better for certain attributes and conditions. The difference is that statuses don’t stack. Only the best and worst statuses are applied to every roll, while story tags do stack.
Similarly, statuses can point out elements of a Danger that are important for your players to know. For example, let’s say your crew is coming up against a group of cultists. To represent how deep in the kool-aid they are, you can give the cultists a status of zealous-3 whenever a PC tries to persuade them. This makes talking to the cultists incredibly difficult and tells your players through the game’s mechanics that these cultists are not in the best headspace.
If you want to see an in-game example of story tags and statuses being used, be sure to check out our City of Mist In Action video for the move Change the Game.
Our next mechanic is adding intrusions to your Danger. With the way soft and hard moves work in City of Mist, an MC can’t activate a Danger’s ability unless a player ignores a warning or fails a roll. Intrusions allow for a Danger’s ability to activate at any time, especially when it’s dramatically appropriate. Every custom move that triggers even when a PC has the spotlight is an intrusion.
Intrusions are great if you’re running an ambush Danger, because then they can jump into the scene already swinging before your crew even knows what’s going on. Intrusions are also great for Dangers who need to summon minions as soon as a fight breaks out. Whenever I run a necromancer in City of Mist, I make sure their ability to summon zombies or ghosts is an intrusion, because what’s a necromancer fight without undead minions?
That said, MC’s should be careful when using intrusions, as it bypasses a bit of player agency. You don’t want to give a player a tier-6 status as an intrusion because that’s essentially pointing at a player and saying “your character’s dead”. An intrusion works best when it suddenly makes the scene more dramatic and fun while still giving the players a chance to react afterward.
The three most common intrusions are Starting Status or Tag, Active Shield, and Status Filter. However, there are many custom moves that trigger as an intrusion, such as the Bodyguards move that allows a boss to use their henchmen as cannon fodder.
>> Starting Status or Tag
A Danger can have a hard move that grants them a status or a tag, but that requires your PCs to first fail a roll or ignore the Danger long enough for the Danger to do so. To increase the challenge, you can give the Danger a Starting Status or Tag so they start the scene with it.
You can also specify how easy it is for the Danger to restore the status if it’s taken away. Normally a status can be restored with a hard move, but challenging adversaries can sometimes restore a status with a soft move, which means a PC has to remove it and then the next PC must take action to exploit that moment when the status is down, because the next moment it will be automatically renewed.
>> Active Shield
Our next intrusion is the Active Shield. Normally, direct combat involves a player using Go Toe to Toe and then potentially having to Face Danger based on their roll and choices. Active Shield custom moves work great if you want to give a Danger a first strike ability or a damaging shield ability. With an Active Shield, the player will have to Face Danger first, before they even get a chance to strike. This could represent a legendary assassin that can land a fatal strike before you even pull the trigger, or a burning hell-worm that scorches anyone who comes in contact with it.
>> Status Filter
Our third intrusion type is the Status Filter. A Status Filter reduces the effectiveness of certain types of statuses that hit the Danger by shaving off tiers from the affected status inflicted by the PC’s, and even ignoring a status if it’s too weak to penetrate the filter. It’s a form of damage reduction that always works, and usually can’t be taken away, like a Demigod’s innate ability to brush off harm that could be deadly to mortals.
When it activates, the MC should let the player know their attack seems to have a lesser effect than they expected and describe the special effects, if any; then reduce the status by the number of tiers listed.
Use Narrative to Your Advantage
Now our final advanced Danger mechanic requires thinking past raw game mechanics. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and just think about the numbers and action economy of a Danger, but never forget that City of Mist is a cinematic TTRPG. Who and what your Danger is in the narrative can be just as important if not more so than its numerical bonuses and penalties.
To use a Danger’s persona effectively, it’s best to think about how they bounce off the PC’s. If one of your characters is a cop like Detective Enkidu, then a scene where they deal with petty crooks is gonna be remarkably different than a scene where they’re dealing with corrupt beat cops, even if their Danger profiles are similar in terms of power. The narrative consequences are different, which means the PC’s have to think in different ways to solve the conflict.
Exploiting a PC’s weakness tag through a Danger’s identity can make this even more direct. The high school ninja Kitsune from the Character Folio Pack has a weakness tag labeled powers do not work on gods or spirits. As an MC, I see that almost like a contractual obligation to throw spiritual Dangers at this PC at some point in the case. If you want to use a Danger to its fullest potential, you have to think past the numbers and what it can do in the game. You also have to keep in mind who and what they are in the story.
We hope these advanced Danger mechanics help notch up the difficulty and excitement at your table. There are still so many ways you can customize a Danger, and we’ll be sure to have more videos on this subject in the future.
What was the most exciting Danger your crew has faced in your own game? What Danger move was your favorite? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!