The Balance of Power in City of Myst: Mythoi, Avatars, Legends, Borderliners, Touched, and Sleepers
It’s in the dark alleyways, in the glass-coated skyscrapers, in the downtown pizza joints. The influence of the mythical powers from beyond the Myst is everywhere in City of Myst. Some can sense it, read it in the faces of the people and buildings. Others ARE that influence, Gateways that express the will of the Mythoi in our forsaken shadow of reality. Others again are completely oblivious to all of the above. This human condition is called the Balance of Power.
(!) This article contains excerpts from the City of Myst beta book, which will be made available soon in PDF format as part of our playtesting program.
MYTHOI are the City. They make the trees grow and the sewage flow and the homeless bum around. They are the buildings, and the hands that built the buildings, and the rich that own the hands that built the buildings, and so on. They are the people. You could say that the City is the phenomenon that arises when the mythoi dress themselves in the Myst (deep, I know). A few points about mythoi: you can never kill a mythos; you can’t understand a mythos; and if you want to see a mythos, you have to zoom out. A LOT. Mythoi are visible in the City only as trends, general feeling, and city-wide events, conditions, or attitudes.
Through the Myst, the influence of a mythos mixes with that of other mythoi and diffuses, so its effects are seen only on a very large scale. AVATARS are the chief gateway by which mythoi directly influence the City – they embody the mythos in our reality. They are so powerful and farsighted that it’s almost impossible for them not to know about each other and of any new avatars that emerge. Avatars run the city. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the government; they don’t need to be. They can have people under their influence so that they effectively control what is happening and steer things the way their mythos would have it.
LEGENDS are more Myst-shrouded than avatars. As a result, they are more involved in life, having a persona and attachments they care about beyond the sheer agenda of their mythos. Legends are also more understandable than avatars. Instead of just a concept, they embody a story that wishes to relive itself over and over again. So there can be a legend that is the story of a knight in shining armor that rescues a kingdom or the tale of a creature born of the night who hunts unwary city folk for prey. Being more of this world, legends often re-interpret their mythos story as a modern tale. So the knight might be motorcyclist with a fancy jacket; the night creature could be a city vampire. Legends hold a great deal of power, but it is not infinite. They ‘serve’ their mythos’ purposes by simply existing and achieving their own goals, which are often related to their story. Kitsune is the only playable character that starts as a Legend (with 3 Mythos and 1 Logos themes), although other characters can become Legends and Kitsune may change its Balance of Power position during play.
BORDERLINERS are the frontier of the struggle between awareness and everyday existence. While they feel their mythos as something constant, it appears in them only as a feeling, a sensation, or a ‘knowing’ – they don’t really know what it wants, differently from legends and avatars. Their lives contain much of the personal and everyday. They don’t just have a story (like legends) – they have a personal story – but within that story a lot revolves around the presence of their mythos. A borderliner is a walking struggle between mythos and Myst, the latter taking shape as the known and familiar aspects of the borderliner’s life (Logos themes). Mitosis, Post-Mortem, and Flicker, start the game as borderliners (2 Mythos and 2 Logos themes), but that may change during play.
The TOUCHED are individuals who are for the most part absorbed in their lives with the exception of moments of awareness to something greater. These moments can give a touched person a great deal of power but they also scare him or her as they realize there is something much more vast than their personal life out there. If a borderliner lives a life split in the middle, a touched person leads a secret life. The mythos in them is a mysterious and horrifying aspect that they do not know how to fit in their lives. Salamander, Excalibur, and Declan L’Estrange start the game as Touched (1 Mythos and 3 Logos themes), but again, that can change during play.
(!) It’s important to note that thanks to the roll+tags mechanic, characters’ power level in the story does not affect their agency in the game. Touched characters have the same degree of influence over the game as legends, just in different ways.
SLEEPERS are the majority of the population of City of Myst. They are the unaware pawns that mythoi play with. They just go from day to day doing whatever it is they do. Sleepers like the security and stability of what they know but that doesn’t mean they are all accountants, insurers, and home-makers: criminals, artists, slobs, rebels, academics, and spiritual seekers can also be sleepers, if they do what they do in a completely repetitive and automatic way. Being unaware does not mean sleepers are not touched by the mythoi. The opposite is true: all sleepers do is execute the will of the mythoi while thinking they are living a free life that they are choosing. People go to the gym because they absorb media that tells them they should be fit; they get
a degree because it is required in the current work market; and they go to a demonstration because the winds of change are blowing over the City. All these high-level influences come from mythoi and sleepers just respond to them.
So, what do you think about the Balance of Power in City of Myst? Share your thoughts in the comments.