A Custom Mission - Lake Towns Mail Route

I recently ran a brief double session with some friends’ kids as a babysitting tactic. It was three young men–age 8, 12, 16.

The oldest played Patrol Guard Spencer, a naturalist from Sprucetuck, child of a Guard, and very science-minded. The middle played Patrol Guard Erick, a warrior from Grasslake, child of a Guard, and very crime-fighter minded. The youngest played Guardmouse Sinclair, a ranger from Grasslake, child of a Guard, and very poison minded.

They were given the following mission:

Lake Towns Mail Route
The patrol is sent on a routine mail route carrying large pouches of mail for Wildseed, Lonepine, Burl, Grasslake, and Wolfepointe. The course is long–such that it will require a midway rest–and wilderness, weather, and animals are the greatest worry for mice on this mail route. Gwendolyn admits to troubled heart and mind over the low recruiting–hopefully the patrol will be able to visit Rustleaf or other settlements for a festival; that’s often a good place for recruitment. In addition, she admits a troubled feeling that no Guard member is currently assigned to Frostic or Calogero; if the patrol can possibly confirm those are not occupied by a ne’er-do-well, it would do some good to her dreams of late.

Assign the Mission: Carry the mail to Wildseed, Lonepine, Burl, Grasslake, and Wolfepointe during the season–possibly requiring some backtracking to ensure all mail is delivered and new mail is exchanged.

GM Turn:
Wilderness Obstacle: Crossing Snake-land
The route for this mail crosses many areas of terrain; the patrol should be careful at all times of the possible dangers. One particularly troubling area is that of several rocky outcroppings along the coastline of Grass Lake which are easy lairs for countless snakes–actually garter snakes. In Spring, this is a danger due to mating which brings together writhing masses. In Autumn, many snakes are desperate to get a last meal before a torpor through Winter.

The route cannot be planned in entirety; the patrol must choose a midway point to rest and prepare, then may continue onward. Due to this, the task is an Ob 6 Pathfinder, but will not represent the entire mail route. GMs and players should establish the midway point; the continuation of the mail route must be during the Player Turn or a subsequent GM Turn.

Mice Obstacle: A Cryptic, yet Irresistible Request
During the route, and certainly not far along, the patrol delivers mail and must await letters or parcels in exchange. While waiting, they are approached by a mouse (secretly a charlatan) interested in sending a special token or device to a specific mouse in Grasslake (which is an excellent chance to include a relationship NPC from the character sheets). This is an object (I used a glass token) marked very distinctly with the symbol, logo, or coat of arms from a prominent Sandmason family (who the patrol possibly does not know) which should be delivered with the following message: “I respectfully decline the opportunity for a business partnership.” (Or something like it)

Following the request, this mouse–pleased the Guard will undertake the task along with normal mail–offers a further request. There is a young [lady] mouse of Grasslake whom he wants brought to meet. She need not be brought under her own will; in fact, she is a known thief and arrest might be appropriate. She stole something of value which this mouse wants returned. He won’t volunteer to the Guard what was stolen, and would hastily concoct a false description of something valuable which he claims was taken.

The charlatan would happily bargain with the Guard patrol to serve them in some fashion to coax them into acceptance of the request. This probably will lead to a Persuader or Deceiver test, but the charlatan would be willing to enter a Negotiation Conflict to gain a promise from the patrol.

Animal Twist: The Lost Grain Peddler
Considering the well-known Long Trail begins in Grasslake, and leads through Burl into Sandmason, the patrol will easily find there is quite a lot of mail exchanged in Burl which requires they make a brief side-trek to Sandmason in order to make a delivery. Along the path, they will find an overturned grain cart. The grain is scattered, but otherwise undisturbed aside from perhaps some ants or birds taking an interest. The grain peddler is gone, having been eaten by a garter snake.

Using a Hunter Vs Nature (snake) will allow the patrol to discover the snake with a bulging belly. Using Scout Vs Nature (mouse) will take longer–the grain peddler is not hiding–but will lead the patrol to a similar discovery.

Player Turn:
Having a variety of possibly results, allow the Player Turn to begin without requiring the patrol to attack the snake. Also, do not require the patrol to make the arrest of the young lady mouse. Remind them the remainder of the mail route must be planned from the midway point onward; some mail might require backtracking for delivery. It would be good to remind them to consider how they might settle matters which are troubling Gwendolyn too.

Having recently created this almost shooting from the hip, I really had a great time. It was fantastic at the table.

The patrol set the midway point at Burl, and wanted to pass Darkwater along the initial route to possibly arrange a ferry between Frostic and Calogero–Spencer made it his goal to make a report to G about those outposts. That gave a perfect location for the charlatan to pose as a ship captain. He promised passage in exchange for the arrest. Now, this was a bit odd, the patrol agreed without a test, so I used the animal twist. The clincher was the best part. It was difficult to get Erick into the agreement, and having successfully rolled 6 of 7 dice for a BL Pathfinder he was eager to make the route without hiccups. It worked; because, Erick’s Enemy was listed as such, “Enemy: Thieves, all of them, everywhere”! Once the charlatan mentioned Florette (the lady mouse) was a known thief, Erick could not resist.

Sinclair had also placed a goal of hunting a snake–it was a very simply stated goal. So, with his collection of: sleep poison, death poison, fear poison, blinding poison, and paralyzing poison, Sinclair was very excited to discover the snake. Interestingly, upon tracking it (successfully of course) he admitted to the patrol that the mail route was very important, and must come first. Once the mail was complete, they could prepare for the snake hunt. He was also very excited when I described the Legends of the Guard tale of the snake-fang horns–he was truly seeking a legendary item by making the Fight Animal goal: “I will kill this snake, take its fangs and its scales!”

Spencer employed Scientist, Forest-wise, Herb-wise, and Mineral-wise at appropriate tests as a Helper throughout, but made only one test of his own. During the Player Turn, he opted to arrange the ferry from Burl to Grasslake.

Erick was able to conduct a stealthy arrest using Sinclair’s sleep poison on Florette and her cousin. It was a bit dark how well the three brothers planned and coordinated the operation to abduct the two females (innocent–by the way–females); however, these are army brats, so I suspect they have a bit of overheard knowledge about how to manage a “snatch-n-grab” operation as a squad. Oh, also a really difficult Nature (mouse) Vs Health test for the group to manage.

Sinclair and Erick allowed Spencer to stay in town while they coordinated an amazing snake hunt. It was really exciting, and the boys were totally fantastic at imagery in all their descriptions of actions, skills, weapons, poisons, etc. It was really intense. In the course of the fight, Sinclair’s spear was broken during a disarm, and his knife had been thrown away earlier. So, he leapt into the remainder of the fight with tooth and claw (Sharptooth trait helped) as well as some broken glass from the empty sleep poison bottle. The compromise left both Injured, and allowed the snake to escape into the grasses to die (yes, they killed it, but it got to attempt hiding to die in a lair or something–unaware that it would die of the wounds–just trying to get away from the aggressive mice)

So, Sinclair and Erick still had one check each. Erick repaired the broken spear (too easy). Sinclair tracked the snake again to complete the desired goal of taking fangs and scales.

We started another GM Turn to manage the remaining mail route, and to figure out the glass chip which meant something to the charlatan. They found the toolsmith’s shop, but a buddy told the patrol he’d gone to Rustleaf to earn money during Morton Harvest. They would have to find him there. Still, he was confused why they had that glass chip to deliver. It was the symbol of a prominent Sandmason family–of which Florette, their prisoner, is a daughter. This glass chip is something that a daughter in the family can give as a betrothal gift signifying who she wants to marry. It can later be brought before the family patriarch and matriarch by the intended spouse as proof the daughter wants to marry him. So, why would some boat captain in Darkwater have it? And why was he sending it to Lester (the toolsmith)? Well, Of course Lester wants it; since, he loves Florette, and Florette loves him. But, she would have given it to him herself.

So, it was a bit of a mess.

The patrol actually proposed their own follow-on mission: Animal obstacle, Mice Obstacle, Weather Twist. They didn’t realize it, but they actually did it perfectly.

They proposed riding hares from Grasslake militia to Wolfepointe, then out to Rustleaf for the Morton Harvest (and finding Lester) and recruiting needs. Only, no one had Loremouse, Pathfinder, or Survivalist. It was kinda hilarious to me they were really creating their own worst team for the proposed plan.

So, this is a summary of the follow-on mission: Lake Towns Mail Route (part two)
The patrol must complete the mail route, and they’ve got a plan to borrow hares from the Grasslake Militia to speed their route. They’ve decided to recruit mice from Rustleaf’s festival, then arrive at Frostic as agreed for the boat captain to provide ferry across to Calogero.

Sinclair remained in Grasslake to recover from Injury. The 8 yr old couldn’t sit through another session, which was fine.

Assign the mission: Complete the mail route

GM Turn:
Animal Obstacle: Do You Even Know How to Ride Hares?
The hares who serve Grasslake’s Militia are very rarely hired out without the hare riders of Grasslake; the very few members of the Guard who know how to ride hares have their own relationships with other hares. So, Guard asking to borrow the hares is a strange request. But, it can’t be too bad. Just remember, the hares expect their keepers to forage their food, set the path, and treat them to comfort. The patrol will have to keep the hares fed and happy, teach them the return route (they’ll have to release them in Rustleaf to run home to Grasslake without riders), and speak to them kindly–it won’t hurt to offer a massage of the muscles after a lengthy run.

This is a complex obstacle requiring a rare set of skills:
Loremouse serves to speak with hares as well as a bit on understanding the need for massage, reassurance, and clear instructions
Instructor may be needed to teach the hares a return route to Grasslake
Pathfinder will be needed to teach the hares a return route, and it will be needed to plan the mail route, and it will be needed to arrive in Rustleaf
Healer may be helpful for the massage and recover or tired or sore muscles along the route
Nature (mouse) can be used to forage food
Harvester can be used to gather food

I made the patrol test the following (all of which they were unprepared for):
Pathfinder Ob 6
Nature (mouse) Ob 6
Loremouse (w/ Instructor as Helper) Vs Nature (hare)

It is rare that I use three skills for a complex obstacle, but this was too appealing. They asked for it with the proposal to ride borrowed hares having no knowledge of loremouse.

Mice Obstacle: Loves Lovers Losers Lost
The complex situation with the charlatan, Florette, and Lester is all in the small detail of the glass chip. It is a token, but can also be faked. Now, it is not easy to fake a glass chip; just getting a proper melt requires a kiln and about two weeks to get it heated. There are other factors, like the mineral mixture (Spencer’s mineral-wise is inspiration for this), which can signify the real compared to the false glass chip. Another factor is that a mold taken from a glass chip will not create the same degree of definition as the original stamping die–another factor signifying a counterfeit.

In addition, the daughters–even of the prominent families–of Sandmason families need not honor pledges given out. They may admit to giving a token of love, but might later refuse to marry. This is compounded when the beloved feels slighted and gives away the token to some other bloke–kinda as a dishonorable exchange.

So, Lester wanted Florette; he truly has a crush not at all based on really knowing her, but she is very pretty. The charlatan has a habit of making counterfeit glass chips, yet, this is not a counterfeit; he was given this authentically by Florette herself. Why is he having her kidnapped by the Guard? You decide (I’ve got my answer below). Why is he sending the token to Lester? You decide (I’ve got my answer below). What should the Guard do to mediate the mess? Tell players to be creative (I’ve got my suggestion below).

Weather Twist: Come Be My Love In the Rain
The patrol, having failed at something critical, and still escorting Florette as prisoner, is forced into a terrible weather event: A heavy squall comes from the West sea into the Darkwater Bay just about the moment they are arriving in Rustleaf. It keeps them camped shortly outside, and they’ll have to deal with all the seastorm chaos that brings. Once they’ve managed that, Florette is enchanted by the hardy lifestyle. Not only has the storm given her a chance to escape, but also, it has given her a chance to get into trouble–best of all is that her new rescuer, one of the Guard, is close by to keep her safe.

Player Turn:
Don’t worry that now the patrol is mixed up in the love triangle. It might not hold the attention of all players. See if someone acts on it, but don’t try to force it. Let the players decide how to complete the tasks of the mission. Especially remind them they’ve set a schedule with the ship captain; they ought to arrive in Frostic with enough time to meet the ferry to Calogero.

Here is my take on Florette, Lester, and the charlatan.

Is not actually a thief. The charlatan is quite taken with her, and will ultimately admit she stole his heart. She is a romantic. She likes to be placed in danger and rescued. So, she kinda doesn’t hate being kidnapped by the Guard. I mean, she wouldn’t want to be actually abducted, but she knows the Guard (or believes the Guard) will be gentle, fair, and safe from assault. When the Guard are forced to rescue her from the sea storm, she’ll swoon for one of them–or both. She’s still too flirty and young to settle on an actual marriage partner.

Is a toolsmith. Is mature enough to manage a household. Does want an attractive spouse. Is clueless about attraction, relationships, etc. He is a pragmatic soul, but foolish about love. He is perplexed about the token being given by the charlatan, but really this is part of the charlatan’s ploy to rescue Florette once more.

Name him however you like; this is a scam artist with the purpose of securing Florette’s love. He is quite aware of Florette’s romantic notions of heroism. He arranged the Guard kidnapping in order to stage a rescue. Have fun with that when he arrives with a ship and crew ready to take the “dastardly” kidnappers into open water. He also sent the token to Lester–a poor fool–in order to stage a different type of rescue. He assumes Lester will take the token to Sandmason in order to barter for Florette from the patriarch and matriarch of her prominent family. They might pressure her into an unwanted marriage, which he will rescue her from. Everything he is doing serves as a reinforcement of Florette’s desire to be rescued and her thrill with being rescued.

Florette is not a stereotype; she is a character. Not all female mice are like her. It is probably few female mice who are like her. She is an individual with this particular personality and desire to be rescued in romantic, heroic panache. She loves the drama.

The Guard Patrol:
This is partly the escort duty, but it is also a mediation duty. They might discover different parts of the uncomfortable love triangle in various ways, and you should give them ample foreshadow to spur their discovery of something being wrong. Overall, they need to make a decision to act in order to settle the matter. They could probably take action to protect Lester from being a rube. They could do something to keep the Guard from appearing as kidnappers/ransomers/extortionists. They might separate the charlatan and Florette by sending/taking her home. This is a vague situation which might be handled in many ways. I suggest most of all, as GM, decide what is probably best, consider some fair alternatives, and place emphasis on narrative foreshadow in order to clue the players about what to do about the uncomfortable situation.