Stop. Holding. Back! in City of Mist TTRPG
We’ve all watched this scene. The protagonist is up against a wall. Their enemies are closing in. And just when all hope seems lost, our hero decides to go all out. It’s time to Stop. Holding. Back!
City of Mist is a cinematic tabletop roleplaying game, and one of the major ways the game’s mechanics foster a movie-like narrative is through the move Stop. Holding. Back. It’s a trump card and a last resort all at once, with a guarantee that no matter how you roll, the characters–and potentially the entire campaign–will be changed forever. Today, we’re exploring the most cinematic move in the game and how your crew can use it to create an unforgettable session.
What is Stop. Holding. Back?
Stop. Holding. Back. is the move where players can use their powers in a new and never-before seen way or scale. We’ve talked quite a bit about how you can do nearly anything in this game, especially in terms of all the strange powersets you can give your character. But whether you’re fighting someone with a sword or superpowers, how much you can affect the narrative is still limited by the rules of the game. There’s only so many power tags you can add to a roll and only so many options you can pick in a move.
Stop. Holding. Back. takes off the limiters. When you use this move, you can pull off anything–yes anything–as long as it’s reasonably related to your Mythos or Logos. I’ve had groups call it the Spirit Bomb move, the Limit Break move, or the Ultimate Attack move. No matter what you call it, the effect’s the same.
Characters in City of Mist are, for the most part, ordinary people that channel a legendary Mythos in limited ways. But whether it’s the final battle or a moment of intense stress, your character can knock their inner walls down and unleash the full power of their Mythos. With Stop. Holding. Back., you can banish a horde of monsters, turn back time, become the richest man in the city, and more! If you can think it, you can do it!
But that doesn’t mean you can do it all the time. In fact, you’ll find that wielding ultimate power, even for a moment, comes with a heavy price.
Degrees of Sacrifice
The mechanics of Stop. Holding. Back. work like this. At an appropriate moment in the story, a player describes how they want to unleash their powers. The MC will then choose one of three degrees of sacrifice the character must roll against to accomplish their action. This can be a Significant sacrifice, a No Return sacrifice, or an Ultimate sacrifice.
The MC chooses the degree of sacrifice based off of the degree of change the player is trying to enact on the story. If a PC is doing something big but will only affect the current case or session, like defeating a minor Danger or overcoming a challenging obstacle, that should be a Significant sacrifice. The character will probably burn all the tags in a theme and mark Fade or Crack, but all of that can be regained.
However, if the PC wants to do something that could affect an entire season or defeat a major Danger, then that could be a No Return sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice could end with a PC losing one of their themes and becoming permanently changed. For more information on what happens then, be sure to check out our video on replacing a theme!
Finally, if the PC wants to do something that affects the entire series, whether it’s permanently changing reality or overcoming the main villain, then they could be facing the Ultimate sacrifice. On a full success, that character still ends up replacing a theme. But on a failure or even a mixed success, that character is killed, destroyed, or transformed forever.
Rolling to Stop. Holding. Back.
Once the degree of sacrifice is chosen by the MC, the player will need to roll. But the player doesn’t add power tags or statuses to this move. Instead of rolling +Power, they roll +Logos, which means they add the number of Logos themes their character possesses to the roll.
Logos themes are the mundane parts of your character’s identity that keeps them grounded to their normal life. The idea is that the more grounded a Rift is, the greater they can control a sudden outburst of mythical power. Ironically, this means that Touched characters like Detective Enkidu who have three Logos themes are better at going all-out than Legendary characters like Baku. With only one Logos theme, Baku will have a harder time controlling himself if he chooses to Stop. Holding. Back.
There is also a variant for Stop. Holding. Back. where you roll +Mythos instead of +Logos. In these situations, a character is unleashing a part of their normal life in a manner that still changes the story in a big way. This could be something like the rich heiress Excalibur using all of her money to overturn the economic status quo within the City. In this way, you’re calling upon the miraculous power of your Mythos to fuel your belief that things can change through ordinary means.
When to Stop. Holding. Back.
I love Stop. Holding. Back. It can be used in really creative ways and it can make a session unforgettable. And no matter how dire the situation, players can always rely on Stop. Holding. Back. as a last resort.
But when thinking about using Stop. Holding. Back., players should not only consider what their character wants to achieve. They should also consider what’s interesting for the campaign and for the table. Always remember that you’re playing a game with friends. Defeating the arch-villain with Stop. Holding. Back. can make for a great culmination of everything that came before, or it could be an annoying anti-climax depending on when you use it. Don’t ruin the whole series just because you can.
That said, I find the consequences of Stop. Holding. Back. tend to keep players from overusing it. Even on a complete success, characters still feel a cost. And on a failure, characters lose control of their powers and the MC can make as many hard moves as they want to match the severity of the situation. If you’re an MC and a player misses a Stop. Holding. Back., that is a gift.
To learn more about Stop. Holding. Back. and the other moves that make this a cinematic roleplaying game, consider checking out the City of Mist Player’s Guide at cityofmist.co.
Does your group have an interesting Stop. Holding. Back. story? Let us know in the comments, on social media, or on the City of Mist Discord. Until then, have fun!