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I recently started running the Nights of Payne Town campaign with my TTRPG group. We play with custom-created characters, not pre-builds. All of us are long-time TTRPG players but are completely new to the City of Mist. The sessions and cases are working out well and the group is engaged and having fun.

It seems that the players are not interested in delving into their mythos questions/mysteries.

They are not trying to actively pursue them and look for opportunities to uncover them. When I try to throw them a lead, they mostly pass on it in favor of focusing on the current case.

Right now, this dynamic is not causing an issue, but the campaign has been somewhat slow because of it. As a GM I feel that we are not engaging with one of the core systems of the game. I think if we improved in that, our time with the game would improve.

I tried talking to the group about this at the start of the session, mentioning that the mysteries should be one of the driving forces behind their actions.
We also reviewed and went through everyone's mysteries and identities to make sure they were interested in them. Still, things haven't really changed.

How can I motivate the players to engage with the mysteries more? Am I overfocusing on this?

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2 Answers 2

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It's first worth considering the fiction behind the magic.

A Mythos is a story that is trying to manifest itself in the City. It can be an existing myth or legend, like the Mythoi of most player characters, or an abstract concept, like anger itself or the spirit of well-being.

There's some sort of mystical force which is trying to make a story happen.

In game, if you go against that story, you get a crack, and if you ignore a lead, you get a fade, with various negative consequences, and various benefits to indulging them like attention. You can't level up without attention, so if you ignore your mythos, you won't get stronger as much.

Outside of that, they should as players be picking mythos they like pursuing.

When you’re filling out your themes, consider your Mysteries and Identities carefully. These statements aren’t just part of your character. They’re the parts of your character you want to actively pursue.

For your Mysteries, consider if you want a specific Mystery with an answer versus a philosophical Mystery that only your character can answer. If you have a specific Mystery like “Who threatens to blot out the fifth sun?”, you’re setting yourself up for a confrontation with that force. But if your question is something broad like “What does it mean to be everywhere?”, then your character is going to be thinking about that question and viewing the rest of the world through that lens.

For your Identities, consider what is truly important to your character while also considering how it can be put at risk. Any Identity that you put down is going to be tested at some point by a good MC. If you want your character to be married, but you don’t want that marriage to be strained by the plot, then I’d advise not putting “I love my wife” as an Identity.

If they have zero interest in their mythos and mysteries, they probably haven't picked very good ones.

As such, if they deny the beyond repeatedly, they'll fall asleep. See p. 276 of the City of Mist core book. Their mythoi becomes disinterested in them, they lose any ability to see the supernatural or use the powers of their mythoi, and whatever supernatural forces exist in the world will actively use that weakness to mess with them, making the question even more important.

They picked the question, so they presumably think it's important. Now they're asleep they get to see the consequences of the question running rampant with no awareness from them.

The cost of this indifference: get fades, lose mythos

You shouldn't just be giving them leads. If they fail to follow leads they'll get fades and lose their mythos.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Useful answer, especially the part about the Mythoi acting as somewhat independent with their own agenda. I'd say what we ran into is that players are interested in and excited about the Mythoi as a "power sets" but maybe not as much as something to explore. \$\endgroup\$
    – Deeps
    Jul 26, 2023 at 10:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ideally their questions should be something they are actually interested in exploring, as the article notes. If they only want to solve cases, their questions should be something related to the cases, like finding secret magical organizations behind them that are causing problems, or interacting with groups in a particular fun way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 26, 2023 at 11:32
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It looks like your PCs are making some Hard Choices.

Make a Hard Choice

When answers to your Mystery are within reach, but you forego them, mark Fade on that Mystery's theme.

When your Identity demands you act or speak in a given way and you don't, mark Crack on that Identity's theme.

When you sacrifice something you truly want in order to abide by your Identity, mark Attention on that Identity's theme.

-- "Dramatic Moments", City of Mist Player's Guide, p.255, emphasis original

(If you sacrifice something you truly want to pursue answers to your Mystery, you're probably going to wind up marking Attention on that Mystery, but that's covered in a separate move called Finally, Some Answers, which triggers when you finally some answers.)

It's really just as simple as that*. Here it is triggering in one of the examples of play:

MC: In the chaos around you, you see Lars Erickson heading to the back exit. "Let's get out of here and I will tell you what I know about the Riot." While you can't remember who this guy is, you do remember your friend is in that inferno in the restaurant and may need your help. What do you do?

Dani: That definitely qualifies as a hard choice. What to do? I really want to know what information he has and I don't suspect him much more than the usual because I almost completely forgot why I'm after him. On the other hand, I'm not going to let my buddy die.

Jake: I’m not dead yet!

Dani: Yeah, but Flicker doesn't know it. To hell with it, I'm gonna go against the Mystery and try to save Salamander. That's Making a Hard Choice! I guess she takes a big breath, sighs, and says, "I have to help my friend." She's about to turn her back on Lars and go the swinging door.

MC: Great. You mark Fade to indicate you acted against your Mystery.

-- "Sample Playthrough", City of Mist Player's Guide, pp. 306-7

*It's Not Really Just As Simple As That

Like most moves, Make a Hard Choice only triggers when the MC and the players both agree that the conditions for the move have been met. Now, it's usually pretty easy to get agreement if you explicitly put answers to a Mystery within reach and your player forgoes them, but this isn't meant to be something you unilaterally impose. You can call attention to the move, sure, say you forgot about it in the chaos of learning the new system, but from now on it's going to have teeth. But it only bites down if you get buy-in from your PCs that they believed in that Hard Choice and made it the way they wanted.

The book goes into a little more detail on that:

At your option, you can completely ignore your Mysteries and Identities, or use them purely as character role-playing guidelines, without ever invoking Make a Hard Choice. Your character will continue to develop linearly, albeit without any great leaps of evolution.

However, you'd be missing out on one of the best aspects of City of Mist. Ultimately, this is a game of storytelling, designed to take your character through dramatic changes.

-- "Why Should I Choose To Make A Hard Choice?", City of Mist Player's Guide, p.255

So, contrarily, if your players don't believe you're actually offering their PCs answers or a legitimate shot at pursuing them, turning them down isn't really making a Hard Choice. I can't say whether that's a problem you have or not; that's going to be more an optional product of the conversation you'll all have at table about that move and whether or not it applies.

In addition to a more general mechanical concern about losing a trait before it's really had the chance to grow and earn you some build-up track for switching its polarity and creating a Nemesis for yourself, there's one scenario where it's probably a really bad idea to let a Mystery fade all the way.

Back to Sleep: The Tension at Play

If you're playing freshly awakened (Touched) characters with only one Mythos theme, Fade's a real big deal. The night sky isn't lit up with power battles right now because even when most people encounter the mythic they can't keep their attention on its Mysteries, focusing instead on their real life. And if you can't keep your attention on your Mystery, pretty soon that's going to be you too.

The actual effects of having that Mythos fade out with nothing to replace it are further detailed in the Dramatic Moments chapter, but I can sum 'em up real quick as "you've stopped believing in the supernatural, but the supernatural hasn't stopped believing in you, especially those parts of it that are out for revenge." Being in mortal peril from something you cannot constitutionally understand has never really worked out well for the human species, as a whole.

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