Hello, adventurers, and welcome to another edition of Tabletop Tuesday that does not, in fact, fall on a Tuesday! If you’re unfamiliar with this segment here on Adventure Rules, worry not – it’s a fairly easy one to grasp. This is simply an opportunity for me to talk about a different branch of gaming, one that has been near and dear to my heart for some time. Whether you call them tabletop RPGs, TTRPGs, pen-and-paper RPGs, or just D&D because that’s the only one you ever play, Tabletop Tuesday is a great way to see my thoughts on the hobby.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about games that I want to play but haven’t yet. I’ve discussed the sci-fi/fantasy/post-apocalypse/horror game Numenera, the origin of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, Apocalypse World, as well as the natural fantasy RPG from Japan, Ryuutama. I’ve wanted to play all of these titles for quite some time, but today’s game is one that I just heard about earlier this year. I’ve already talked here about why I’m excited City of Mist, so today my focus will be more on the plans I have when I finally get to play the full version (which is currently slated to be released October 27th, 2017!).
City of Mist is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, a noir/superhero experience set in a mist-covered city. The characters you play have strange abilities that they don’t fully understand, each one a manifestation of an entity called a Mythos. Mythoi can be gods, legends, relics, concepts, whatever, but they manifest through people called Gateways and attempt to accomplish their agenda in the city through those individuals. There are gateways of all sorts and the game follows the player characters as they seek to understand their Mythoi while struggling to preserve their humanity.
This game hits on an aspect of superhero stories that I think a lot of tabletop RPGs miss: the human aspect. Many superheroes have a human identity that they value and seek to preserve. Look at Spiderman, Batman, or Daredevil – these individuals often have to sacrifice parts of their human life in order to be heroes, or be less heroic in order to have fulfilling relationships or careers. City of Mist thrives on that struggle, and more than pitting the characters against other Gateways it focuses on pitting their own beliefs and goals against themselves. Heck, the creators of City of Mist cite Daredevil as inspiration, and even created a character sheet for the guy!
For me, the whole idea of balance between the character’s human identity and his/her Mythos inspires me to create a Jekyll and Hyde sort of character. I picture someone whose Mythos is literally another personality that can manifest itself and lead the character to take actions that they otherwise would not. As (s)he loses themes and gains new ones, favoring either Mythos or Logos, that personality would manifest more often and make the other struggle that much harder to surface. As far as actual powers, I imagine that the Mythos personality would be more combat-oriented while the Logos personality would be more social or have other useful skills to bring to bear. This could make situations even more dire if the personalities have different philosophies or motives; if the party needs the skillset of one personality but the other one is the one that’s motivated to care about their situation, it could create some fun tension to play out at the table. Of course, a character of this style requires a pretty cooperative group of fellow players, as folks could become frustrated by an ally who never uses his/her best skills because “it’s what the character would do right now.” For this reason, I would probably go a different angle for my first time ever playing.
I definitely like the idea of playing a teenager for this game, someone who is already struggling to find his/her identity even without the superpower angle. This character would have goals and dreams – a career to pursue, a desire for romance, important friendships and family members. Characters like Spiderman and Danny Phantom come to mind for this archetype. As far as powers for this character, I don’t really know. In past superhero games I have played, my characters have been skill-based (a la Batman), or had one very specific power that simply manifests in different ways (lightning control or luck control). I think it’d be a nice change of pace for me to play a classic super strength man-of-steel type character. I rarely play characters who specialize in fighting on the front line, so that would force me to be a little more direct in my methods rather than hiding and dodging around all of the time.
Of course, my first time playing this game will likely be as the Game Master rather than a player with a character of my own. Which is just fine with me because I have had the GM itch SO BADLY recently. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing tabletops and getting to portray a character for the first time in years has been a fun experience, but I am more than ready to take up the mantle of storyteller for my players again. The setting of City of Mist is pretty inspirational and I think there are lots of cool things you could do with it.
A big thing I want to play with when running this game is the idea of Mythoi. These unseen forces are the powers that impose themselves on the players, giving them their unique abilities and their biggest questions. The pre-gen characters for the starter set drew their inspiration from lots of different sources. There’s the myth of Excalibur, the myth of Salamander, the myth of Kitsune, but there’s also the myth of Dreams, the myth of Visions, the myth of Adaptation. I think it would be interesting to define in advance one common set of myths to draw from for the Mythoi that inspires the players to create their characters. A hackneyed example of this would be to pull only from Greek myth, or for the Mythoi to exclusively be members of the Roman pantheon.
Maybe the Mythoi in the world I create with my players would only be the conceptual ones, each character drawing their power from an idea rather than a specific entity or legend. Sure, inevitably someone’s Mythos will be “strength” or “love,” but we could also get things like “art” or “learning.” I like the idea of abstract concepts being the Mythoi that inspire the players, partly because I feel like the characters created from that are less likely to be direct knock-offs of some previously established source material. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – inspiration (and a bit of appropriation) makes the roleplaying world go round, amiright?
Another idea I had was to embrace the meta a little bit and use our own stories as the Mythoi for these characters. In this world, the other tabletop games we’ve played and stories we’ve told could be the powerful behind-the-scenes forces that drive the player characters. I think it would be particularly fun if players didn’t use their own past characters as inspiration, but instead used other players’ characters or even the villains from these past campaigns to inspire their powers. I like this idea because that version of City of Mist would be totally our own, with Mythos that we created ourselves with the stories we’ve told in the past. Of course, the down side of that is that we run the risk of players just replaying an old personality in this new engine. And this is all assuming that no one is burnt out with our old characters and worlds – it may be infinitely more appealing for us to tell a totally new story.
My third idea (for now, anyway) is to all use video games as the common inspiration for our Mythoi. Everyone in my RPG group is an avid gamer, but the cool thing about video games as Mythoi is that there is a really large selection of source material. Everyone plays different kinds of games, so the characters we could get in this manner would be really diversified from one another. Yet again we run the risk of characters simply being appropriated from the games that inspire them, but I think my players are clever enough to successfully create a character that is inspired by – rather than a carbon copy of – their favorite video game protagonist. This also gives me as the GM some really fun things to play with when it comes to creating villains and nemeses – I will never be hurting for source material in a video game campaign.
As you can probably tell, I am very excited for City of Mist. The game looks awesome and I can’t wait to dive into it with my friends. But now I turn the conversation to you, adventurers: are you excited for City of Mist? Do you plan to pick it up when it is released this month? What kinds of adventures would you wish to have in this flexible and compelling setting? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!