City of Mist in Action #2: Soft and Hard MC Moves
Welcome to another City of Mist In Action, where we explain the rules of our favorite cinematic modern fantasy RPG through showing them off in-game. In our last video, we went over how players can approach combat in an alleyway fight using the many options at their disposal. And in today’s video, we’ll be focusing on the Master of Ceremonies’ role through the setup and payoff of Soft and Hard Moves.
Remember that Soft Moves are setups used to complicate things, and can be done pretty much any time in between player turns. Meanwhile, Hard Moves are actions taken against the PCs and are most commonly reactions to a player’s failed roll. There are other Hard Moves for reacting to a PC’s attack and reacting to a PC ignoring a threat, along with intrusions for acting during a PC’s turn. Be sure to check out our video on MC Moves for an in-depth look at the tools at your disposal.
For today’s scenario, we’ll be using two more characters from the All-Seeing Eye Investigations Crew, whom you can play as in the City of Mist Starter Box. Detective Enkidu is a police officer with the ability to conjure thorny vines, while her partner Baku is a monster-hunting martial artist with shapeshifting powers. The two of them are teaming up to investigate a magical drug called Candy, which they believe is being smuggled into the city through the docks.
As they approach the docks, the MC describes everything you’d expect. A large ship is docked in the harbor and crates are stacked everywhere. However, the MC also uses the Soft Move Complicate Things during this setup. Enkidu and Baku aren’t alone, as a surly dockworker is busy moving crates and could complicate their investigation. What the MC doesn’t mention is that the dockworker is secretly one of the smugglers currently handling the drug.
Detective Enkidu starts by looking around the area to see if she can spot anything suspicious. Rolling to Investigate, she uses her power tags police work and search for evidence for a Power of 2. Unfortunately for her, she ends up rolling a 1 and 2, for a total of 5. Not only has Enkidu not found anything, but also because of this Miss, the MC can make a Hard Move to dish out some consequences.
In this case, the MC is going to creatively Turn Their Move Against Them. Seeing two random people poking around where they shouldn’t, the dockworker loudly comes up to both of them and immediately starts asking them questions such as what are they doing and who are they working for. Enkidu and Baku now have to deal with this dockworker before they can investigate further.
Our martial artist Baku isn’t much of a talker, so he decides he’s going to scare this dockworker away by showing off his nightmare-devouring maws. However, the MC invokes a weakness tag. The MC reveals the dockworker is a Sleeper, meaning Baku’s weakness tag less effective against Sleepers comes into play. With 0 Power, Baku rolls a 7, narrowly making a Mixed Success.
The dockworker is intimidated alright: he steps back, shuddering in fear, and lets the monstrous monster-hunter snoop around. But instead of fleeing in fear, he’s still going to “protect his own agenda”. Now the spotlight returns to the MC, and as the dockworker backs away, he stutters that our two investigators need to leave immediately, and bangs with his crowbar on a nearby pipe, making a loud echoing din. This is the MC’s Soft Move, Complicate Things, but the MC doesn’t spell out the consequences yet.
Baku and Enkidu don’t take this seriously. What’s a single dockworker going to do to stop them? They just ignore him, get back to the investigation, and inspect the crates. They Investigate and pick up a few Clues about the drug, but ignoring the warning signs will cost them.
This is where we bring in another way Hard Moves can land. If the MC sets up a complication and the players choose not to act on it, the MC can Hit Them After a Fair Warning and land a Hard move instead of their next Soft Move. Now that the spotlight is on the MC again, the MC is going to use a Give A Status Hard Move from the smugglers Danger Profile. The dockworker’s fellow smugglers rush to the deck overlooking the investigative duo, open a nearby crate, pull out an over-the-top firearm, and fire away. Bang!
The investigation’s gone from bad to worse as Enkidu and Baku both now have to Face Danger against pumped-full-of-lead-4. Enkidu uses her feral athletics, rolls a 9 for a total of 10, and hops out of the way in a complete success. But even with his predator senses and instinctive dodge, Baku rolls snake eyes and fails the roll. Baku gets shot, taking the full pumped-full-of-lead-4 as a status, and falls to the ground.
(It’s worth noting that rolling a miss in Face Danger does not trigger another Hard Move, since Facing Danger is in itself a reaction to a Hard Move. Otherwise, players could get caught in an endless loop of reacting and failing to Face Danger without getting a chance to act for themselves.)
Now that shots are fired, the action scene is in full swing. There’s no traditional turn order in a City of Mist conflict where one player goes and then another player and then at some point the Danger gets a turn. Instead, the spotlight is passed around the players, with the MC occasionally setting something up with a Soft Move and then hitting the PCs with a hard move when they ignore it, or when they miss their rolls. Let’s see it:
Enkidu grabs the spotlight and says she’s going to go berserk on one of the smugglers. Using her power tags unleash the beast within and thorny tentacles, Enkidu decides to Go Toe to Toe against the smuggler, but only gets a mixed success. With few other options, Enkidu chooses to take something they hold… in this case, the smuggler’s gun!
With the attack moves Go Toe to Toe and Hit With All You’ve Got, if the player doesn't choose to dodge a counterattack, then the MC can hit them back with one of the Danger’s Hard Move attacks. This is one more way an MC can activate a Hard Move. Sure enough, the smuggler shoots at Enkidu, but another successful Face Danger means Enkidu grabs the gun without a scratch.
After Enkidu’s move, the spotlight is on the MC again. The MC decides to Complicate Things and says that one of the smugglers, carrying a nylon bag full of the mysterious Candy, starts running away. Baku tries to tackle him using 3 power tags (Mixed Martials Arts sensei, nightmare-devouring maws, and claws, horns, and husks), but the -4 from his bullet wounds proves too hard to overcome. With a roll of 7 that turns into 6, Baku fails to even stand.
And with that miss comes another Hard Move. MC’s can actually make multiple Hard Moves at the same time, within reason. In this case, the smuggler makes one Hard Move to knock over some crates and Give a Status of blocked-3 to his pursuers. He makes another Hard Move to call on a getaway van to get him out of there.
Now, if Enkidu doesn’t do something quick, their prime suspect is going to escape with the biggest chunk of evidence! Enkidu chases after the smuggler and tries to jump over the crates to catch up with him. Taking the Risk, she goes all out with 3 power tags ( you’re in my jurisdiction, thorny tentacles, and feral athletics). That’s 3 Power against a -3 status, so she has +0 to her roll. Enkidu’s got this!
Except with a roll of 5, she doesn’t. The dice are not with our crew tonight as Enkidu trips on the crates and falls to the ground. With scuffed knees and wounded pride, Enkidu looks up to see the smuggler make one last Hard Move. Climbing into his getaway van, the car peels out and Denies the Crew What They Want.
Injured and under fire, Baku and Enkidu are left at the docks and now have to figure out what to do next (other than get a new dice set). The MC reminds them that, if Baku doesn’t get treated, he very well could get worse. But now that the Candy got away, whoever’s behind this magic drug knows someone’s investigating them. Both of these statements are a Soft Move setting up things to come. And if the crew fails to respond to them next session, the MC will Hit Them After a Fair Warning with the consequences.
As we end the scenario here, we hope this highlights how much the MC’s role in the game is to set up and pay off using Soft Moves and Hard Moves. Be sure to check out our previous City of Mist In Action for a more in-depth look at combat, along with the other videos on our channel for all things City of Mist.
Until next time, let us know what you think in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!