A Polite Walk Through

Good morning. I am familiar with the comic books (been reading them for a spell) and was interested when the RPG was announced. Now I find my old brain is having a bit of trouble following the conflict system therein. If someone would be kind enough to give me a brief example of a fight conflict (say, like 2 mice –vs- a snake as in the comic) and an example of one of the other conflicts (not war), I would be deeply appreciative. From said example I could then post additional questions.

Or perhaps, someone could direct me to a thread where said walkthrough has already occurred, that would be grand as well.

Any help is greatly appreciated…

I don’t mind walking you through one of the Fight Animal conflicts that occurred in a game I ran.

A patrol of 5 mice (an overly large group IMO) was returning from their assignment to pour the scent border in Spring. This was a Summer mission. They were approaching Grasslake and a frantic mouse called to them that a monster had taken up in Grasslake and was destroying the town.

They headed into town to find a snapping turtle had lodged itself between the brewery and bakery. The story eventually led to a showdown between the mice and the turtle. They would have to handle a Fight Animal Conflict. The turtle represented one team; three mice represented the opposing team. Tam, Johannes, and Sloan joined together to make an attempt.

I declared the goal of the turtle: I will drive off these mice and protect my nest

Tam declared the goal of the mice team: We will snuff out the bakery oven to reduce the interest which the turtle has in the bakery.

Each privately chose three actions among Attack, Defend, Feint, and Maneuver. The team was under the requirement that each take one of the three actions.

Johannes began with an Attack while the turtle had chosen Defend. Johannes wields bow and arrow, so he described his attack as creating a grand nuisance by keeping his distance and firing arrows at the face and eyes of the beast; however, its defense was far superior to his archery.

Sloan then made a Maneuver, while the turtle had chosen Attack. Sloan described his action as an attempt to get into the half-crushed bakery for a good close look at the oven while I described the turtle raking his head and ears with sharp claws.

Tam then had a Feint while the turtle had selected Attack again. (This is in fact where I made a mistake; Feint vs Attack may not test just as Defend vs Feint may not test) Tam described his attempt to redirect the attention of the turtle away from Sloan by charging close with his shillelagh (staff) and making a sideways assault on the jaws. I described Sloan being struck again with the scraping claws.

At that point the team of mice had been reduced to Disposition 0 and the turtle had been reduced a small amount. We had to work out a compromise. The team of mice conferred while I told them that Sloan had been Injured and the entire team was now Tired from the combat. (This might also be a slight error considering that Tam was the primary when rolling for disposition; he should have taken the brunt of the heavier condition, but owing to our narrative, Sloan had gotten himself in a bad spot). The party of mice took their conditions and suggested the compromise: Yes, we’ve been driven back and don’t think we can dislodge the beast, but Sloan was very close and has learned an important secret of the GM’s choosing. This was a fair compromise.

I explained that Sloan gained three important bits of information, first, the fire in the oven is a wood fire and without adding fuel would eventually die out; the turtle was digging a nest for eggs; and the brewery and bakery could not possibly survive the structural damage of the turtle’s invasion.
The story continued after that point.

In a different mission, the same patrol faced a Negotiation Conflict. They wanted to make an exchange of a copper wire basket for information and rapport with a grain peddler they were investigating. The grain peddler wanted the basket for his sale stand hoping that the shiny copper of the basket would attract customers and coinage.

The merchant acted alone while Tam and Nathaniel tried to negotiate a good deal and maybe a slip of information.

I declared the merchant’s goal: I will acquire that basket for no more than one measure of grain.

Nathaniel declared the goal for the mice: We will exchange this basket for three measures of grain and will create a rapport with the merchant.

We both rolled for opening disposition.

The merchant took advantage of his strong Haggler skill and his Grain-wise opening with an Attack while Tam offered a Maneuver by pulling his flask of mead and suggesting everyone settle in together and talk it over. The merchant made a low offer of a half-measure of grain in exchange for the basket while Tam was gaining position asking about his feelings on economy and politics.

Following that, the merchant had chosen Defend (which was fairly useless as he had lost no disposition) while Nathaniel had prepared a Feint. The merchant talked some about economy and quickly led that topic to the value of his grain and his need to make good sales. Nathaniel was crafty as he told the merchant how certain he was that this basket was hardly a valuable bauble and wouldn’t be more than a storage basket at best—it might even discolor the grain.

The merchant was feeling outmatched by this haggling pair as he rushed to a hasty conclusion with an Attack; he made a firm offer of one measure of grain for the basket in hopes of closing the deal before they could twist the deal. However, Tam also had an Attack by saying that he would gladly accept a single measure of grain in exchange, but hoped that it would lead to future dealings and encouraged the grain merchant to have another drink.

The grain merchant had been reduced to 0 Disposition and the team had lost but a little. I had to suggest a compromise and wanted to throw a twist into the works. They were happy with the result since they would have given him the basket freely in exchange for the information they needed.

I made the suggestion for the compromise: Well, the grain peddler feels like he made a great bargain as he measures out grain and sacks it for you; he starts to talk off-hand about his journal of maps and his friendship to a mapmaker in the town of Barkstone (which other members of the party had recently found out to be part of Jon ‘Midnight’s’ small but growing rebellion). He asked if Tam wanted to look over his sketched maps.

Tam looked over his journal and I assured him that this grain merchant is clean; the journal showed he simply like to sketch maps of his own travel paths and happened to be a friend of the cartographer by chance. He told Tam that he liked to winter in Barkstone with his mapmaking friend to practice his skills. Tam invited him to winter in Lockhaven instead this year and lied to him by saying that Gwendolyn had spoken of him quite positively and preferred his grain to any other. Tam gained the grain merchant as a friend and was working to separate him from the cartographer that was benefitting from his map sketching hobby.

In this case, the grain merchant did accomplish his goal of losing no more than one measure of grain, but it was clear that the party’s interest fell toward the rapport and information more than the value of the basket. I made sure the compromise focused on their direct interest more than the value of the basket. Other GMs might disagree with the decision of how I suggested that compromise, but the party accepted it and liked the result.

wow, fast reply and great detail. need to sit here and read carefully over these examples. thank you very much.
if i may ask though, the impression i get is that all actions are basically simultaneous, with the turtle reacting to all three in quick succession. is this accurate? thereby, if a mouse had an action in 1 and again in 3, it would basically be part of the same fluid actoin (like in the comics, where a character starts an action in one pannel - such as a jump - and finishes his action on another pannel - such as making a diving attack because of the jump). the middle pannel, that being action 2, could be occuring at the same time as action 1. would this be an accurate example?

it does seem to me like the “lone figure” seems to be able to do more. am i missing something?

forgive me if these are rookie questions, i’m just trying to understand.

I’d say yes and no; the conflict is as much a narrative as the events outside of a conflict. In a fight conflict, you could narrate the actions being simultaneous. In our fight with the turtle, I treated Johannes archery as though he were firing throughout the conflict–not just one arrow, but several in aimed shots. Therefore I narrated the defense by the turtle also as ongoing–each arrow fired in may have hit or miss, but overall, the turtle pulled back its head and lowered its shell to defend most of the time.

Sloan’s player narrated waiting for an opportune moment to slide in using Johannes’ archery as cover fire. When Tam saw that the maneuver placed him in a dangerous position, he made his move in to help Sloan get loose.

The entire narrative was very collaborative between all the players and myself. We used the dice as indications of how successful or unsuccessful a ploy turned out, but overall, the skirmish was very fast and the mice were driven off quite quickly.

In our case of negotiation, we were again using collaborative storytelling, but treated it as a lengthy negotiation period. Personally, I imagined it as a thirty minute discussion which began and ended with talk about the basket and grain, but much of the middle was economics and politics and sharing drinks together.

Last night, the patrol faced down a fox and chased it beyond the scent border. The fox acted alone and the patrol split into two teams. Although the fox did not have to share actions with a second member of his team, that didn’t give him much advantage. Although I didn’t talk about how long it took, they travelled over a great distance during their chase and it would have likley taken at least an entire day if not a few days.

When multiple mice work on a team, each member of that team will get to mark pass or fail for at least one skill or ability during the conflict. So, the mice working as a team may not get to take as many actions individually, but they will get to each practice something that will help them in the future.

The narrative determines how fluid the actions are more than the order. A player could easily narrate an Attack action as a leaping charge from a ledge downward into a terrifying assault from overhead as a single action; however, they could also describe the actions working more like steps of a greater scene, telling of beginning a Maneuver in action 1 which leads the mouse up a small ledge to Gain Position while the teammate takes advantage by pushing in against the opponent with a Defend, then completing the round with action 3: Attack from above.

We’ve used both during our sessions. I notice that with larger teams, the wait between a single mouse taking an action increases; thus, it is better they narrate their action being a complete scene unto itself rather than part of a scene that will conclude when they next take an action. This can be helped by splitting patrols into teams where the teams can also act together.

In the chase against the fox, a team of three mice and a team of two mice worked sometimes independently and sometimes merely aiding one another throughout the conflict. One of the challenges in that case was the fox had one disposition score, but had to direct actions against two unique disposition scores. Even though he might have bested one team, the second team may defeat the fox. Then multiple compromises would have been in order.

Don’t allow multiple teams until you feel comfortable with the conflict system. That is another reason that small patrols of 2-4 work quite alright.

As well, the ‘lone figure’ can accomplish much, but also must take the brunt of the defeat alone. He wouldn’t probably gain more than two skill tests either, depending on the skills appropriate to the conflict. So, he won’t gain more ground than working as a member of a team. He also can’t produce quite the same disposition score.

it does seem to me like the “lone figure” seems to be able to do more. am i missing something?

It’s important to recognize that the conflict mechanics deal with entire “sides”, not individuals. While it might seem like an advantage (“My one guy can do 3 actions, your 3 guys each get one action”), it’s actually not:

  • The team can each divvy up maneuvers according to their strongest stats
  • The team has and can spend, collectively, more Fate & Persona than a single character side
  • The team can Help each other for extra dice
  • The team has more Traits to call upon collectively than the single individual
  • The single character suffers on all 3 actions if Tired, Injured, etc. while the team generally has those conditions spread out.

The single character/critter may be “doing more actions”, but they’re going to burn out their resources and reserves faster than a team will.


Far better said than I

has given me a lot to read on and try and work through. i think the disadvantage of being an old school gamer is that i need to try and retrain my mind a little. MouseGuard is definitely a unique game, going to take me a while to learn how to do it justice. thanks for the tips and examples, i do appreciate them greatly.

A quick follow up: What happens when a conflict ends with both sides dropping to zero simultaneously? A example from gameplay: My players were arguing with a fellow Mouseguard Captain NPC and both sides were hoping to receive the support of the town mayor (who was acting as a sort of judge to determine who gets his help). Both sides dropped to 0 at the same time. According to the rules, both sides achieve their goal, but in this case, how is that possible? The mayor cannot support both as, in the plot, they both wanted two very different things they were arguing for (the use of a town boat by the PCs and the denial of said boat by the NPC).

That’s left up to you to figure out. And it’s also something to think about when you’re writing your goals for a conflict. It’s detrimental to your cause to choose a goal that directly opposes your opponent. You want to choose something that’s orthogonal to your opponent’s objective.

Your sides need to have goals that do not directly contradict one another. If the goal of the players’ side in this conflict is to convince the mayor to allow them to use the boat, then if they lose the conflict, they do not achieve their goal (i.e. the do not get to use the boat), regardless of what the other side’s goal was. The conflict mechanics determine whether or not the players achieve their goal. The opposition should have had a parallel goal, like securing a favor from the characters. That way, in the case you encountered where both sides “win” by simultaneously dropping each other to zero disposition, both goals can be achieved.

In general, opposed goals lead to flat conflicts, so they should be avoided.

Thanks so much for the promt reply! Gotta say I am truly enjoying the system and am eager for the box set release as well!

I usually offer the PC’s a check each for using a trait to lose the conflict… Giving the PC’s a major compromise from the NPCs, but losing to them.

And in the case cited, sure, he supports both sides, “You can have the boat… if you can get there before the Captain.” Call then for a race as a single roll. But, as others have said, diametrically opposed intents are bad form.