Animal Conflicts

We are relatively new to Mouse Guard and have never played another role playing game. There is so much to learn (and forget) and when we play we often just do our best, knowing we aren’t doing it all right. But, I want to get good at being the GM and my biggest question involves animal conflicts. I’ve read it in the book several times but each time we play it out, something doesn’t work right.

I have one person who is a loner and will almost always prefer to fight, but fight alone. Then there are usually 2 or 3 others who are willing to be a team. On another post, I found a few questions answered on how a team works. But, if I have a team fighting 1 snake and this loner fighting as well . . .

I know the team will share one disposition (that of the player initiating the conflict) and they will take turns as a team with the snake. And they will take turns within the team. But how do I play the loner? We’ve played Snake, Team, Loner, Snake, Team, Loner etc. And we’ve played Snake, Team, Snake, Loner, Snake, Team, Snake, Loner etc. The animals rarely seem to win. How is it supposed to be done?

if the loner’s Conflict Goal is the same as that of the team, I believe that technically the only option is to have the loner be part of the team, and the loner’s player can just chose to not accept help from others on the team, as well as not offer any helping dice to the rest of the team on his Actions. The “loner” part of it would be primarily roleplay. For game mechanics purposes, the loner would share in the team’s Disposition, as well as the results of the outcome (compromise, conditions, etc.).

If the loner choses a different Goal, you could possibly break him off into his own team. According to the rules, however, when you break into multiple teams, I believe you’re supposed to make them each of them approximately the same size.

Note: This “I’m too much of a loner to be part of a team” situation can make for interesting roleplay… but probably not for very long. I hope that the player of the loner character is interested in eventually growing out of that trait (or at least such a strict interpretation of the trait), and that it makes for an interesting story arc for his character, rather than an ongoing nuisance for the patrol as well as the other players. I guess I should also point out that if the loner is a tenderpaw, he’s likely to not get promoted to full guardmouse by his companions/elders, which means likely expulsion from the Guard by the time you reach the Winter phase. If he’s already a ranked guardmouse, I hope that you as GM spent some real time with his player discussing how and why he could be so detached from his team, and what it’s going to take to get him to work, at least somewhat effectively, with his group. I also hope that the other players at the table are genuinely ok with the situation. Otherwise, no one’s going to have a good time.

If this were my game, I probably would not let this go as far as the Winter phase. If the other players did not sort out the loner (probably via some “learning life lessons” and “tough love” during the Players’ Turns – aka. PvP), I would try to point out to the loner that teamwork is pretty much essential in Mouse Guard. I would not do this necessarily via a conversation so much as having the loner mouse get separated from the group, and put into some serious trouble. Possibly even killed. The world of Mouse Guard is dark and dangerous, and mice (even with swords) are still amongst the smallest (and tastiest) of creatures in the territories.

If it’s a problem with the player, not the character, then that’s a different situation. Any advice any of us could give you if that’s the case is just conjecture, and a stab in the dark, but I guess I would offer up this: Mouse Guard is not necessarily a game for every type of RPG’er, and if the player of your loner refuses to conform (at least somewhat) to some of the game’s core conceits, there are probably better games that your group could play. Or, you could ditch the player.

Another approach you may be considering might be to not have actual Conflicts in your game, and just resolve everything via Simple or Complex Tests. I would not recommend this, however, as Conflicts are a) fun! and b) the source of most of the dice rolling in the game, which also means it’s the best way for your players’ mice to earn Checks and advance skills.

As was said, a key in multiple teams is different goals.

The issue with multiple teams which some groups will forget is that only one team may end with Dispo above 0. So, the conflict continues until that point and all teams have to compete with each other as well as compromise with each other over their intended goal. It could be really messy.

I also echo that the spirit of the Guard doesn’t embrace loners. The Tenderpaw joins the group, or is sent home; the Guardmouse works with the team, or fails to thrive. It is true the Patrol Guard can be a lone-operator, but should be prepared to act as a member of a patrol as expected. A Patrol Leader should be always in the midst of the team and interacting with the team. That’s all pretty much part of the game design; it would be fairly disengaging if the team doesn’t cooperate.

But, I’f like to hear more about how you are presenting and personifying animals. I can imagine the presentation can identify how the patrol would treat the situation.