Animal's Fight Goal

I’m still waiting for my RPG book to arrive, so I’ve been spending a lot of time reading through Actual Play posts, and of course, descriptions of missions and sessions in these forums.

Something that jumped at me as “somewhat odd” is how the animals in the Fight conflicts often seem to have “kill the mice” or “eat the mice” as a goal.

From my understanding of animal behavior, animals don’t become “suddenly raving mad” or “stricken by hunger” when they see a mouse. And they almost certainly don’t always go into “Fight-to-the-Death” situations when they can avoid it.

I’m not sure how much advice the RPG book gives, but I did read some advice in another thread somewhere in these forums that say: “Instead of making the animal’s goal be “kill” or “eat” the mice, use “drive the mice away” instead.” And the context was in toning down the encounter for the sake of beginner players. But, in my opinion, “drive the mice away” should be more common than “eat the mice” … and most of “eat the mice” should really be “eat the mice unless my life is threatened”.

((start edit: I found the thread, here’s the reference))

((end edit))

I guess I have a hard time imagining an animal who isn’t suffering from a condition (ie: angry or hungry) who would continue fighting after a mouse hits him with a sword … let alone a patrol of mice who are actively fighting back.

I understand the need for the GM (and the players) to set their goals high. But it seems rather unrealistic that every fight animal encounter is essentially a “fight to the death” when most animals run away from life-threatening situations.

As I stated in the section you quoted, it doesn’t have to be and I agree with you that it probably shouldn’t be a fight to the death. This will, of course, depend on the animal you’re fighting. With a skunk, it’s goal could be “spray the mice to make them go away.” If the skunk wins, the mice have been sprayed (or some compromise worked out depending on the losing team’s (s’) disposition(s) at the end).

Think of the animal you’re using and consider its nature (which ought to be how it uses its Nature, and that’s given in the animal info in the book). If it’s a predator, it might be hunting or it might simply be looking to defend itself or its young. If its not a predator, how does such an animal harry the mice? It’s not all “kill or be killed” by a long shot.

Hope that helps!

In the real world, I’ve twice seen situations where a live mouse was put in a tank with a pet snake (one a college “mascot”, the other a wild snake captured by a friend and later released) and after several frustrated days of the snake being unable to catch its respective rodent it gave up and accepting the "roommate’. Other mice introduced later still got eaten, but these particular mice had apparently been established as to much work to be worth it.

In the latter of these cases the mouse involved, who routinely jumped on to the snake’s head every time it got the chance, subsequently was moved to a temporary tank of its own and managed to evade certain death again by a curious pet cat who broke into the lid. Ironically that rodent died a few weeks later when my friend attempted to introduce a female to it in joking hopes of breeding a superior strain of vermin: The female mouse attacked and killed it within a matter of hours.

Ah! Samson has been defeated once again!

heh heh!

These replies help a lot! I guess I’m still letting a little bit of my D&D “zero HP means death” creep into my thinking. I gotta get used to dealing with dispositions and compromises … and make sure my players are aware of that as well.

There is a beautiful universal truth in there somewhere. :wink:

On the main topic though, is there a penalty for setting a more challenging goal? For example, if the patrol runs into a snake, they might set as their goal “drive the snake away” which would solve their problem for the moment, or “kill the snake” which might have further benefits to the nearby town (one fewer snake on the trail). Would the snake be forced to declare a lesser goal if the patrol did? What incentive is there to not strive for total destruction of the enemy? Like you I would prefer not every goal be death.

Dealing with intelligent foes, if you always fight to kill, eventually your future opponents will likely hear about it and know an encounter with you is a fight to the death, so they will set their goal likewise. Even if nobody knows its you specifically, when people start constantly turning up dead or missing people are going to assume the worst about everyone, and every mouse in every battle everywhere is going to select killing as a goal just to be safe when they encounter the actual killers.

As far as wild animals, every kill disrupts the ecosystem. A squad of mice who somehow mow down a fox disrupts the food chain. Kill to many predators (which doesn’t take much, they are not that numerous) and the prey will expand out of control, destroying resources. Kill to many prey creatures and the predators will be going mad with hunger, always striking to kill and venturing into areas they wouldn’t normally looking for sustenance.

Society in the Territories outside the Guard functions not on a system of laws, morality, or concern about the greater good, but more a sense of enlightened self-interest. The escalation starts with you.

I’ve watched my cats continue working over a bird even after the bird has given them a solid peck. One of them lost an eye to the bird, and continued to give it the business. Major compromise! :frowning:

Animals are pretty much driven to eat, protect their young, and protect themselves.

Also, if the players come to expect that the conflict goal is probably gonna be “eat the mice!”, that means they’ll expect every Hunter conflict to be a life-or-death struggle. Hot!


I honestly believe that animals who have been “in the influence” of humans actually behave a lot differently than “normal”. Domesticated animals (like your cats) enjoy having much of their basic needs supplied to them without effort – you give them food, shelter, and attention.

Wild animals, on the other hand, spend much of their time just satisfying their basic needs. And, in terms of “fight conflict”, I believe the natural world is far less “bloodthirsty” and far more “self-preservation”.

We’ve all seen those TV documentaries about lions in the wild. I think you’ll notice some things:

– the lions don’t kill every single antelope. They don’t even “kill one per lion-serving”. I think the lions know that if they killed too much, they might run out of antelopes.

– when fighting for “alpha” status, the lions don’t fight to the death. At a certain point, a lion will surrender before they lose their own ability to survive. In other words, a lion doesn’t risk getting himself overly injured that he’d end up dying anyway.

And that’s why I agree with Serpine:

Society in the Territories outside the Guard functions not on a system of laws, morality, or concern about the greater good, but more a sense of enlightened self-interest. The escalation starts with you.

My read on this is to look at the animal’s stated nature descriptors and combine it with a “priorty” of sorts: feed > protect territory > protect young > protect self

For most animals, you’re only going to get a fight to the death when the animal in question cannot run away or is going to kill to feed.

Consider how it all fits together. Say I’m going to have an Animal obstacle on a mission, and it’s going to be a predator, a Hawk. I don’t intend for this obstacle to be anything special, just an encounter with a hawk out looking for a meal (the first priority on the list).

We all know how hawks hunt - they swoop down out of the sky, grab their prey and fly off to consume it at their leisure. So, our Guard Mice spot this harbinger of death coming at them and the Fight Animal Conflict is on and we write Goals.

For the hawk, its Goal is “Seize one of the mice and fly away.” So, it’s not fighting to the death, and even if it wins the fight and flies off with a Guard Mouse, unless it wins with no compromise, the captured mouse isn’t necessarily dead yet. I mean, if the hawk swoops in, makes a killer roll on an Attack action and smashes the Mice to zero Dispo in one go, without taking any itself, yeah, there’s one poor dead Guard Mouse in its talons as it flies away.

Plus, the Guard Mice can’t have “Kill the hawk” as a goal since according to the Natural Order chart, it’s too big for them to slay anyway (not unless they can muster sufficient numbers against it). The best they could do in direct physical confrontation is “Drive the hawk away” (among other things - escape the hawk, lead it astray, etc) which makes perfect sense when you think about it. The Guard Mice win the conflict and the hawk decides getting beat up by aggressive mice with steel weapons is too much for it and flies away.

For a non-predator, if it’s just looking for food it’s goal in a conflict is likely to be “Drive the mice away” but again you have to take its nature into account. If the Guard takes on a snapping turtle, again too big for the mice to kill, it could have a goal of “Swallow any mice that get too close” Could mean death for the Guard Mice if things go poorly, but again, compromises can point the way to outcomes other than death.

Mice can’t kill or trap anything larger than a snake without resorting to war and a large armed force (beavers, hares, skunks, etc. would require at least 20 mice; a bear or a moose would require 20,000 mice), or resorting to science.

For those animals that mice can fight directly, injuries are conflict goals or compromises. If you want to use an injury to drive a predator off, that might very well be how you color your victory in a fight animals conflict.

Also, I think in many cases where the Guard Mice take on a larger opponent, while it may be a fight to the death for them, it won’t be for the other animal (unless of course the mice even the odds with numbers). The mice may face death simply because of the sheer size and nature of the opponent (like the snapping turtle I mentioned above - it doesn’t mean to kill the mice, but if it swallows one, that’s going to be the effect). A larger creature like a wolf or even a deer can kill a mouse just by stepping on him - he doesn’t even have to be actively trying to kill him.

I generally would figure unless the animal is specifically choosing to kill the patrol death could only result if the player offered themself as part of a compromise. For instance if the turtles goal was trample the town, and it wins with a major compromise, and one of the patrol said “Okay, how about just a few buildings were crushed because I valiantly dived into your mouth, distracting you while you chewed.” Having situations where a deer has the goal to “Accidentally trample a guard mouse to death” seems a little drama killing. It’s like the video game Wolf were you would usually be shot dead every 30 seconds by a hunter, it made me feel a little bad for wolves but it was horrible to actually play.

And note to anybody who feels guard mice getting fatally stepped on by accident represents the setting accurately and makes for a better game, go for it. I’m sure the players will dig it. :wink:

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Death (for the mice) is brought up as part of a compromise (by the player). That makes the killing unintentional on the part of the turtle (I mean, he couldn’t help chomping on the mouse that leapt into his mouth could he?) and heroic on the part of the character.

Having situations where a deer has the goal to “Accidentally trample a guard mouse to death” seems a little drama killing. It’s like the video game Wolf were you would usually be shot dead every 30 seconds by a hunter, it made me feel a little bad for wolves but it was horrible to actually play.

Naw, the deer’s goal would never be to “accidentally trample” a mouse to death, and I wouldn’t suggest writing the goal that way. I might write “crush the city flat” or “smash the watermill” or even just “drive the mice away”. But any death would most likely be a result of a compromise like you suggested above. Potential mouse death is there in all those goals, since the turtle is more than capable of killing a mouse.

And note to anybody who feels guard mice getting fatally stepped on by accident represents the setting accurately and makes for a better game, go for it. I’m sure the players will dig it. :wink:

What I’m saying is, mouse death lurks even if the bigger creature isn’t actively trying, intentionally, to kill the mouse. A Mouse Guard dying as a result of a major compromise could indeed be offered by the player (probably should only be offered by the player), in the heroic fashion in your example, making the “accidental” death (the turtle didn’t mean to kill the mouse, it just did it naturally) contextually more appropriate.

Then everyone can pat the player on the back and say thanks for his heroic sacrifice. :slight_smile:

I had a little chuckle as I imagined this …

GM: Okay, as you’re walking, you come across a wide clearing. Someone can use Scouting to…

Sadie: cuts off GM Clearing, schmering. We’re wasting time. I can see the other side of the clearing just fine. This shouldn’t too tough for a quick run across! Rolls Pathfinder 3 - Tough (ooc) Whoa … Snake eyes…

GM: And a stampede of deer appear out nowhere.

Sadie: marks a check (ooc) It’s a good thing we can earn these …

Saxon: Hey, Deer! Come back here! I can take on all-a-yous!

Generally, when setting conflict goals, you want to consider the animal’s nature and what will make the players really fight to prevent a compromise.

Squirrels are using their conflict to steal baby mice to eat. They’ll try to drive attackers away so they can get at the delicious treats, or they’ll simply try to sneak past your defenses.

Raccoons might use a conflict to eat the defenders so it can crack open a mouse town and devour all of its winter stores (and inhabitants).

A beaver might use its conflict to drive away the pesky Mouse Guard so it can flood a mouse town with its dam.

One other thing, I’m not sure was mentioned above (could have been) is that we are talking about a setting where mice talk to each other, sew, make weapons, and actively try to protect something that’s not their young. Given that, just going with the basic concepts of a various animal for their goal would be enough to convey what we see in the comics…animals fighting to the death.

Love the comic, loving this game, jealous of those who get to play (no current players in my area)

My two cents.