City of Mist: Dead of Night

Fresh Start

New month, new year, new decade: I finally launched the City of Mist game I had been prepping since late November, running online via Roll20 and Discord. I’m not ready yet for a game review, but here is what’s going on with the campaign setup and launch.

I had backed this Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) game at the PDF-only level in the original Kickstarter funding campaign in 2016. Since then, I had received not only the materials covered by backer tier, but a goodly number of supplemental materials since publisher Son of Oak Game Studio was generous with free content to backers. But that bounty became daunting: there seemed to be so much reading to do that I kept pushing in back in the reading queue in favour of shorter games and fiction.

When I did start reading, however, I was soon swept away by the atmosphere in the setting portions, and delighted to finally see an interesting mashup of the PbtA structure with the narrative weight of Fate Core‘s Aspects under the guise of “tags.” But I will review the system in another post when I have played enough to be satisfied that I really grokk it. Suffice it to say that I soon found myself planning an online campaign.

This new campaign started with a disappointment since two dear friends who initially signed on to play had to back out. But new heroes stepped forth to fill the front lines and I now have five players, which is a great number to be able to run regularly, even when one or two can’t make it for a given episode. In addition, it’s a fairly diverse group, which I enjoy and feel more comfortable with than the monocultures of white cis men of my youth.

Geeking Out

Our virtual tabletop is Roll20, where it turned out that Son of Oak Game Studio had already released a really slick version of their regular character sheet, fully interactive with scripts allowing you to click to roll the dice without ever having to worry about the math. This made it more fun for me to set up my play space because I’m a great big nerd!

I also set up a folder on Google Drive to store the various play aids and cheat sheets, dedicated text and voice channels on my Discord server for our group to chat about character and crew creation, and a big Pinterest board to save visual inspirations.

I have not made a music playlist yet because I want to discover what will best fit the characters but for the moment I’m listening to Spotify’s film noir playlist. 😉 Additionally, one of the rewards for the City of Mist KS campaign was a collection of ambiance music tracks which I added to the Roll20 jukebox, along with some of pieces and sound effects from Roll20’s own library. I’m not sure whether I will end up using music in play because sound clarity is paramount, but I do want to experiment since it seems to enhance the game experience on some actual-play podcasts I listen to.

Some maps are included in the City of Mist GM Toolkit, so I set these up as separate pages I can bring up on Roll20. Thank you to my friend and player Bryanna for showing me how to choose page and image dimensions properly so that they display decently on all monitors (and a lot of other tips and tricks!) I also created a landing page

As you can see, I’m also making a bunch of character tokens for both PCs and GMCs. Speaking of which, I should talk about the setting and premise our group created.

The City and the Crew

The city creation was a little hazy at first, especially due to the change in player line-up. We had a sense that we wanted a kind of “every city” with a dark side magnified, a sort of Gotham City; we just call it “The City.” We decided we wanted a coastal location with a busy port and a cosmopolitan population, but we didn’t even determine which coast it was on. I would have been happy to set it somewhere else in the world, but I think the players just assumed it would be in the USA.

We also decided we did not want to focus on real-life routine regressive attitudes and isms unless we decide to make it an adventure theme. In other words, we don’t want to role-play the PCs dealing with prejudice all the time, just when it’s time to kick the kyriarchy’s butt.

Of the three periods suggested to set a campaign in (1930s classic noir, 1980s neo-noir, or the present), the majority of the group preferred the contemporary one with some fuzziness about historicity.

Team creation was a bit iterative: players settled on character concepts, then discussed the crew concept, and finally (mostly) fleshed out their characters (one character is still TBD.) Although the rules allow you to create any kind of crew with your heroes, City of Mist offers ten ready-made crew themes to make selection easier. The players liked the concept of The Event:

After it happened, you were never the same again. Sleepless nights, working overtime, and indulging in all kinds of distractions didn’t work for any of you. Flashbacks still haunt you of that day, blurry memories. You couldn’t leave it behind. You wanted to know, to understand, to find a solution or a way out, so you decided to get to the bottom of it. Soon enough you discovered that you’re not the only one. There are others like you, others who have been there too, and they too are looking for answers. Together, you have a better chance at finding out what the hell happened there and put an end to this. Permanently.

Series focus: a traumatic or life-altering event shared by everyone on the crew

Characters: a mixed group of people from all walks of life

Possible cases: locating other people who were involved, overcoming Rifts who set out to hide the evidence or rogue Rifts related to the event, dis- covering the Rift or mythical operation behind the event and fighting to bring them down.

The Event is also the crew theme used for the exemplar heroes throughout the book. The players liked the particular event presented, and decided to use it as inspiration:

(Click to enlarge)

The Event: An entire hospital has disappeared, and almost everyone immediately forgot it had ever existed. It used to be the best hospital in the City, centrally located and serving people from all over; now the crew may be the only people who remember it. In its place stands a creepy-looking marvel of Brutalist architecture.
Mystery: Reveal what happened to the hospital!
Why us? Support group/meetup of survivors “led” by Joe Lazar, a Rift of the Peasant Knight.
Power Tags: (These are based on questions picked from a list which the players chose to answer.)
A – How do you help each other? Answer: We gather real information.
B – Where do you meet? Answer: Park Avenue Delicatessen & Liquor, in the back room at night.
H – What sort of reputation or name have you made for yourselves? Answer: Harmless kooks.
Weakness: No clear leadership.

So far we have the following characters:

Ronnie McBride, a college sophomore and women’s basketball rising star, as well as a Rift of Lady Justice. She has two mundane themes: Routine (College Life) and Training (Basketball Star); and two mythic ones: Relic (The Sword of Justice) and Divination (Nose for Violence.) These themes put her in precarious balance, pulled equally by her humanity and her myth.

Joe Lazar, small-time deli owner and neighborhood bookie, and a Rift of the Peasant Knight. He has three mundane themes: Personality (On the Make), Routine (Park Avenue Deli & Liquor), and Mission (Eliminate the Competition); and one mythic theme, Expression (The Peasant Knight.) For now, the pull of his daily life is stronger than the mythic impulse.

Gail Dunbar, night shift emergency room nurse in a run-down hospital and a Rift of Scáthach the warrior teacher; her sister was also a nurse and worked at the hospital that has disappeared. She has two mundane themes: Training (Registered Nurse), and Event (WTF Hospital?); and two mythic themes: Bastion (Fearless Defender) and Divination (Delve Into Shadow).

Badge #436, the most mythical of the crew, a recently killed cop whose body was actually in the morgue of the missing hospital when it disappeared! He is a Rift of the Ghost Cop. He has only one mundane theme still anchoring him, Training (Cop); and three mythic themes, Bastion (Already Dead), Mobility (Flight), and Subversion (Invisibility.) No picture available yet, ectoplasmic entities are notoriously difficult to photograph.

We also have a fifth player character on the way, details to be determined. This means that the beginning of the next game will be spent finishing up relationships, which has been a delightful process so far, before we delve into the first story arc. I can’t wait!

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