City of Mist is a relatively new role playing game by Son of Oak Game Studio. It features a modern urban setting where forgotten gods and myths of old have awakened, at least in part, and have to deal with their new lives and powers. A new Kickstarter, featuring brand-new content, just launched at the time of writing this. If you are new to City of Mist or looking for a new RPG to get into, go check out their Kickstater page as it is a nice point to jump in. From their Kickstarter page: “City of Mist is a cinematic, neo-noir tabletop RPG set in a modern-day city where legends and stories incarnate in ordinary people, granting them mythical powers.”
In City of Mist, you can play as the new incarnation of Little Red Riding Hood, Captain Hook, Zeus, Thor, or any other myth or legend. A nice framework and ruleset is provided, but aside from everything happening in “the City”, the environment is a sandbox. For me, this is a definite positive as I really enjoy being able to create my own world or to be kept on my toes if someone else is GMing.
One thing I really like about City of Mist is that the story, or “narrative power”, is paramount. This goes beyond some traditional role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons, where absolute power levels (and lucky dice rolls) dictate much of the outcome of a given story or plot hook. In City of Mist, characters use “power tags” to influence the story and this provides a great way to even the playing field between those that might wield enormous power and those that are only slightly Touched by divinity. Everything in the game is driven by these tags; there are no hard-defined stats in City of Mist.
Another cool thing that City of Mist does well is guide players through character creation. Themes are an important part of the game and each theme is associated with Mythos or Logos. Mythos represents the unknown and is part of the character’s legend/mythology/folklore. Logos is the flip side, representing the known. This is the character’s everyday mortal self, complete with all the mundane wants, desires, skills, relationships, etc from “normal” life. Plenty of themebooks are included, such as Divination, Mobility, and Relic, which help to get the creative juices flowing. City of Mist allows you to play out horror-themed ghost stories, fairy tales, Arthurian legends, or anything in between. The rulebook provides a tool kit that can be used for any setting or genre.
While reading the core book for City of Mist, I couldn’t help feel similarities with the World of Darkness setting (or Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf, etc) by White Wolf. If you’ve played any White Wolf titles, you know that the story comes first. White Wolf lends itself to role playing where as games like D&D are often boiled down to roll playing. And there is a big difference between the two styles. City of Mist is certainly on the role playing side of the fence. If you like the World of Darkness source material, then you’ll probably enjoy City of Mist. And if you are relatively new to role playing games or have recently cut your teeth on a game like Dungeons and Dragons but are looking for something new and interesting, you should have a look at City of Mist. You can learn more about the game from their website and even download some sample material.
There is really a lot to like about City of Mist, from the art and layout of the book to the numerous examples of play. City of Mist is also well received by critics, picking up two ENnie awards. But, there are two things I, personally, didn’t care for.
The first is the Mist. I’ve seen this in other games, most notabley the World of Darkness setting by White Wolf. I understand, at least to some degree, why the Mist exists, but I don’t like how all-encompassing/all-powerful it is. Some people, even Sleepers, see things they can’t forget. Some things might haunt them to their very grave. But I get that *most* people do write off anything weird and magical as something more mundane. That’s just human nature. But what the Mist does is allow sloppy or careless role playing. It allows players not to have to worry about demonstrating their powers and abilities because all will be forgotten or written off as something banal. So while I’m all for the Mist affecting *most* people, I think some people and some events should be immune to its effects. For example, if my character can set stuff on fire with his mind or levitate objects with his mind, and he shows his best friend, repeatedly, something is bound to sink it. Sure, at first there will be disbelief. That’s normal. But repeated attempts, especially from someone that is trusted, should have a hard time disappearing into the Mist. Sure, in real life most people disregard everything but the mundane, but not everyone. A small percent of unawake people seem to look for the strange and unexplainable. If nothing pierced the Mist, then we wouldn’t have legends at all.
The second thing is “The City is Everything” rule. I kind of get why this rule is included, but I might like it even less than the Mist. Having the characters never leave the City helps to keep things moving forward. It allows a tight focus and creates a solid, dedicated, and controlled background. For simplicity sake, I get it. But, it isn’t very realistic. Travelling to New York, LA, Tokyo, London, Paris, or other cities should serve to create amazing adventures. Maybe your character needs to get back to their homeland. Perhaps your Artifact was stolen from a museum and somehow awoke and thus awoke your Mythos in the process. Now you have to find it before it can wreck any havoc. Or maybe your character was born and raised in a small town, but quickly becomes an awakened Rift. Surely their destiny lies beyond their small town, but according to the game rules, either this situation shouldn’t exist (because it doesn’t feature a big city) or the character couldn’t leave. I do not like it when the rules handicap game play and freedom. Thankfully, that’s what house rules are for, but this seems like a kind of big deal. I’d like it better if the rules strongly featured the City and made suggests to stay within it instead of outright saying your character doesn’t leave the City. I do appreciate the “Just Out Of Town” rule. And of course, in your game you are free to play however you want. Still, I’d like strong guidelines as opposed to hard rules when it comes to this sort of thing.
Those two gripes are small compared to all of the awesomeness that is contained within the City of Mist core book. And they can be easily altered or even omitted by your group, if desired, and the game would still be 100% playable. Overall, I really enjoy City of Mist. Do yourself a favor and check out their Kickstarter for some pretty good deals on physical copies of the game books.