Actions in a War Conflict

My patrol is likely to get into a large-scale conflict between mice soon, and I’m curious about how other people have handled the abstraction/narrative side of the conflict. Did the patrol mice each take control of a group, or did players just describe actions of the army without their characters taking direct responsibility?
The first way seems to be the simplest, but one of my PCs is pretty young and rash. It doesn’t really fit to have him leading a group. The second way feels like it takes the focus off the PCs, so I’m thinking maybe a mix of the two? Having some actions portray critical moments and others be longer periods of time / action.

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Your question is relevant to any RPG and not just Mouse Gaurd.

Generally speaking, unless the PC’s have a major role in leading the battle, I don’t involve them in command of the troops and don’t run the conflict simulation of the battle on the PC’s side of the screen. In Mouse Guard terms, that means that the PC’s are directly involved in choosing strategy or negotiating the results of the battle unless they planned and led the battle.

Instead, what I’ll tend to do is treat the battle as if it were an adventure with a series of challenges within it, where the failure or success of the PC’s during those challenges not only bears on their personal outcomes (whether they survive the battle or not), but also has some bearing on the outcome of the battle. Whether you decide to test the outcome of the battle or just decide how it ended really is a personal choice there.

So the question comes down to did your patrol of mice actually plan and lead this battle, or are they simply participants in it? If the patrol leader is planning and leading the battle, then regardless of whether one of your PC’s is too young to be leading the battle, they should have a leading role in it and you should run the ‘war challenge’ with the PC’s narrating their actions and tactics within it. This narration can be like the “mix of the two” you are thinking about, where the patrol leader issues commands in the battle and your young PC is playing some critical role in critical moments in the battle.

If on the other hand all the PCs are merely subordinates themselves, then IMO you should focus on their ground eye view of the battle entirely. Not only will this feel more natural, but as your PC’s evolve to greater responsibility this will be reflected by the game you are playing so that the players will actually feel their progress in a very direct manner.

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Thanks for the advice (now you’ve got me wondering what a high ranked patrol would be like to play with / plan for). For now, I’ll be proceeding as having them act as subordinates. But, as a follow up, I now have some players wanting to learn the militarist skill. Based on the rules, it seems the biggest use of militarist is in military conflicts and gathering forces. Using the skill to get any of the military “weapons” seems like a good way to build it up, but I’m looking for smaller ways to practice this skill.

Start small with ‘militarist’. If the PC’s indicate that they want to take the game in the direction of the Gaurd’s more militant duties, run a scenario where the PC’s join with 3-4 other patrols to take down a creature two size categories larger than a mouse, where the PC militarist is put in joint command or executive command of the group of 20 mice. Have the PC practice militarist skill by dealing with emotional issues prior to the battle as patrol leaders with different styles clash, and young mice express fear and need encouragement. Prior to the battle, the PC practice militarist skill by coordinating and commanding the mice on his ‘wing’ so that they get into position correctly (or not) and begin their attack at the proper signal (or not). The run the miniature battle as a sort of combat challenge, with the success of the battle and bonuses they have in combat depending on how well they handled the lead up to it.

You could do several of those in a row until the player has 2-3 dice of militarist skill (or dies in valiant battle), and then run a scene where the more senior patrol leader shows his respect to the PC mouse and promises to mention him in dispatches, at which point you have in story reason for why the Guard would utilize the PCs in the role of commanding officer.

Getting military grade weapons - mouse scale artillery if you will - in Mouse Gaurd tends to be more involved in the Scientist skill(s). Likewise, you could have recruiting larger animals as Cavalry a Loremouse test. Utilizing those weapons properly in battle is more of a Militarist thing.

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