Are the obstacles as difficult as they seem?

On page 86 of the book it says that in very broad terms, ob1 is easy , 2 is kind of hard, 3 is hard to most and risky for everyone, 4 is really hard and 5 is a fat bastard.
Still, all the obstacle examples in the book, seasonal weather ratings and animal natures you will do versus tests against are all set very high, often above 5 by a little or a lot…
It all seems very difficult compared to mouse skills and abilities and to the description not page 86…

How does this play out? Does everything feel very hard in the game? Are mice supposed to struggle and fail half the time or more? Or does it translate differently to the game for some reason? Even with teamwork and gear, Fate and persona it seems hard to me, if the players don’t min/max skills for types of conflicts … What am I missing?

Yes, you’re expected to “fail” a lot of the time.

Right, so there are many animals and several seasons with a rating above 4. Right. And in a Versus test, that’s always going to be a variable thing. So, maybe a Weather Watcher Vs Spring turns out to be fairly easy, but could be unpredictable–that’s part of the personification of the seasons and the symptoms of seasonal wilderness attributes.

Also, right, animals with a moderate-to-high rating is tough for a patrol to face. There are highs and lows if you face the same beast a few times; because, that’s the nature of rolling Versus. And that’s unpredictable for GM too. I’ve seen some unpredictable luck for players when a fox just seemed to do very poorly against a patrol with very few successes rolled. But I’ve also seen moderately easy beasts, like Frog, become a monster by the random dice rolls.

So in respect to Versus tests, to improve the predictability, use Conflicts to allow for more dice rolls and some opportunities for Independent tests. For example, in a Fight Animal Conflict, the patrol might see some instances of Independent Ob 0 tests or Ob 3 tests; likewise, the GM might see some of those for the animal. By making more tests, there will be some increased opportunity to see an average result play out.

Another way to increase predictability is to use Traits for recurring NPC animals; that gives the patrol something to observe about a recurring NPC animal and actively strategize to mitigate. That’s not always perfect, but it’s a manner of prediction if players see that a Trait induces some behavior which could be manipulated.

When facing Versus tests, I do think it makes everything seem hard, daunting, challenging, or stacked–sometimes even rigged. Struggling and failing is a hard thing. There are a few ways to look at it; (1) during the GM Turn tolerate more failure and earn Checks, Twists, and Conditions; (2) Use earned Fate and Persona to turn the tables in your favor more frequently. Those are after seeking support from patrol mates, of course.

In addition, your observation about min/max of critical Abilities, Skills, Wises, Traits can serve a patrol especially well if they coordinate during Recruitment to shift in diverging ways; this can be improved when they have a sense of the campaign this patrol will experience. For example, having a group that prepares to handle Pathfinder, Survivalist, Weather Watcher, Loremouse, Harvester, Laborer, Carpenter, Boatcrafter, (and others) tests will suddenly feel out-of-place in a campaign of politics and cloak-n-dagger social elites. So, spend a moment to give foreshadow of the sort of campaign the players will have and let that meta-knowledge inform some decisions of Recruitment.

Lastly, yeah, there is loads of failure in MG. The dice will inexplicably turn sour. Large dice pools seem to have malicious intent. In the GM seat, be mindful if the overall story is just feeling too harsh and too overwhelming; you don’t have to mix failure with cruelty. Also, keep in mind the mechanics translate successes and failures toward driving the narrative forward–whether by Success, Success w/ Conditions, or Twist the players should rarely experience the simple, “Nope! That’s just failed and here is the terrible result of trying!” Even a Twist is generally, “You were doing fine until this unexpected twist happened which you totally have to face right now.”

Now, in Recovery, you might easily as GM say, “Nope! You made an effort to set aside your anger, but you are still angry.” and other things like that. Also, in Circles and Resources failure can lead down other paths via Depletion and Enmity Clause. Those aren’t meant to be cruel failure points, but certainly finding an enemy when seeking a friend can feel cruel.

I see. Is a group of mice meant to be able to challenge and animal with 7 or higher nature at all? The patrols skills will vary and the animal is likely to have higher disp and higher number of dice almost every exchange. Also for Journy conflicts it will seem almost too challanging if you are supposed to use the season’s weather rating against character’s skill that might have a 2 rating or even 0… It seems I can’t mix up different conflict types in a game and expect the players to achieve their goal even half the time (?)…
Maybe Fate, persona, gear and teamwork tips the scale more than adds up by the math I do in my head right now…

I see. Is a group of mice meant to be able to challenge an animal with 7 or higher nature at all? The patrols skills will vary and the animal is likely to have higher disp and higher number of dice almost every exchange. Also for Journy conflicts it will seem almost too challanging if you are supposed to use the season’s weather rating against character’s skill that might have a 2 rating or even 0… It seems I can’t mix up different conflict types in a game and expect the players to achieve their goal even half the time (?)…
Maybe Fate, persona, gear and teamwork tips the scale more than adds up by the math I do in my head right now…

I like the system and think it’s very interesting, but the expectations seem to be different than most games I’m used too.

Fighter 4 +2 helping dice +1 from a weapon (for example) = 7 dice. That’s without spending Artha or tapping nature.

So, I think I’m missing part of what you mean, but I saw some elements to clarify.

Facing off against Animals: (Natural Order, Pg 221)
So first, allow me to simplify the ways mice (whether Guard members, settlement mice, or wild mice) interact with animals. I say there is Livestock & Vermin, Enemies & Predators, and Scavengers & Migrants, with a few Monsters & Gods.

Livestock & Vermin are insects, arachnids, little fish, maybe moles, shrews, bats, frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, small snakes and insect-hunter snakes; I think hares, rabbits, medium (non-raptor) birds and small birds, are livestock and/or vermin. So these are animals the mice use or work against. In the case of livestock, they are managing these animals for beneficial purposes, so like having a silk farm of either silk worms or spiders could be a typical career among settlement mice. We know the Guard has a beehive with honeybees. A hive of ants or termites might be a food livestock or a trained construction livestock. Small fish might be food or used as bait for other things. Now, this means animals which are attracted to these livestock sources or the other food sources of mice, yet are not predatory towards mice, are vermin. So, that’s why to list frogs, toads, snakes, bats, moles, shrews, newts, salamanders, birds, and insects or arachnids as vermin–they try to get at the livestock of mice! So, the mice need to actively work against infiltration of these vermin. It could also include mites, lice, ticks, mosquitoes, fruit flies, fungus gnats, etc. as vermin that are a nuisance to mice. Ok, so that’s the simplest terms of Livestock & Vermin. Oh, the hares, rabbits, birds could be transport animals just as we use horses, that makes those livestock.

Enemies & Predators are weasels, minks, ferrets, fishers or martens, sables, and the many predatory animals listed such as fox, wolf, owl, hawk, falcon, coyote, flying squirrel, snake, shrike, etc. This fills two roles. The enemies can be treated like civilized, although antagonistic, NPCs who conversate, negotiate, manipulate or persuade, and otherwise interact. No every campaign has to treat these as kill-on-sight, but that is a frequent outlook. Just keep in mind these enemies are interested in using mice–these are not competitors. They have an interest in eating mice, making mice work for them, stealing from mice, and possibly holding mice as livestock. Predators are fairly similar in the desire to eat mice or capture for later eating, but don’t have the established civilization; I very rarely want the players treating the predators as something to talk with, but I always allow a Loremouse test to provide some rudimentary exchange of intent without a full conversation. Like, I’ll never have players using a Speech conflict among predators, but I’d allow a Negotiation conflict if they think there’s an exchange to be made. Ok, that’s the simplest way to look at Enemies & Predators–they want to eat mice, capture mice, or otherwise kill mice, rather than steal food, lands & burrows, or cultural pieces. Well, I guess maybe weasels and their cousins might be trying to steal burrows and lands and cultural elements, even scientific research. That’s a bit fluid based on the campaign.

Scavengers & Migrants are porcupine, badger, whistle-pig or woodchuck, otter, raccoon, skunk, deer, crows, ravens, vultures, and many birds which migrate such as ducks, geese, herons, and various song birds. Mostly, these animals don’t actively seek out mice as food, but many are willing to eat mice when there is opportunity. So, badger, skunk, otter, are examples of scavengers that would take a swipe for a mouse if there is a chance, but they aren’t going about stalking mice. Heron is a bird example of the same. Other effects of the scavengers is they will destroy livestock, grazing they’ll sift trash pits and granaries or storehouses. Especially enjoyable is the penchant for mischief from raccoons, crows, and songbirds. In addition, the deer lies near the line of Monsters & Gods; a buck in rut could cause immense damage–thought not maliciously–in mouse terrain such as trees, burrows, fields. Most migrants are grazers that can overwhelm a food source terrain where mice frequently harvest. Ok, that’s a simple view on Scavengers & Migrants.

Monsters & Gods are bear, moose, wolf, wolverine, and deer, maybe includes eagle, condor, albatross, flocks of geese, hordes of locusts, schools of fish such as sardines. These are the forces of such size that mice barely get noticed against their footprint and rarely can take action against them and their presence. These are very rarely seeking to hunt mice, but will use opportunity if possible. They are just so big compared to mice that even a lite snack is a massive mouse storehouse of wild fare. These rarely interact directly with mice and could barely be influenced by mice.

So, that’s a simplified view of the animals. Now, let’s look at the Natural Order bullets to simplify the ways that mice might interact in tests or conflicts with animals.

First, Killing: mice could kill other animals whether with weapons, traps, snares, nets, knots & bindings, teeth, paws, claws, or whatever. That’s specifically using Fighter or Hunter.

Next, Capture, Injure, Run Off: specifically using Fighter or Hunter mice could capture animals, cause injury, or drive the animal(s) away.

Finally, kill, injure, trap using Scientist or Militarist.

All of these relate to the natural order ranking; if you look at natural order and Nature rating, most of the Livestock & Vermin, some Scavengers & Migrants, and Enemies are approximately in range for mice to handle capture, injure, drive off, or kill. Clearly dealing with livestock is an area in which killing is simple; dealing with enemies and small scavengers is a challenge. Dealing with larger scavengers, predators, and large migrants in restricted to only driving away. At least by Fighter and Hunter tests or conflicts.

When looking at Scientist and Militarist tests and conflicts, then you can begin to face off against medium and large animals of all types and can engage in killing, trapping, injuring as desired.

The Natural Order table shows that most of the high Nature ratings are above mice and above by multiple ranks–which gives clues about developing invented animals not listed in the text–and that restricts how a group of mice or a single mouse can interact with those animals. A patrol of three or four cannot really deal with a bear effectively in any way without using Scientist or Militarist (which indicates a large group of mice being rallied to assist). A patrol could probably deal with foxes and lesser best via Scientist or Militarist (still indicates a group of volunteers), but alone could do little more than drive off using Fighter or Hunter tactics.

I’ve left some animals out of my descriptions, but you can probably figure a space for those.

The next thing to consider is how animals interact with mice. The livestock, vermin, enemies, and predators have a fairly one-to-one relationship with mice and have face-to-face encounters which may lead to major conflicts. The scavengers, migrants and more would typically ignore mice or see them as a nameless, faceless wild creature.

anyways, the shortest answers is, Yes, a patrol or larger group is meant to challenge even large animals. The additional notice is that they should be facing larger animals with Scientist or Militarist and should be prepared for a massive challenge with very limited results (in other words a significant compromise and sacrifice of effort, time, energy, resources, and training). As for how often they can expect to reach their goal, that will depend on the goal, the skills, the dice, and the investment of resources like Fate, Persona, Gear, and Traits. But, another look at that is to say that PC mice are generally getting Success, Success w/ Conditions, or Twist. Even the results of Conflict & Compromise should roughly appear to be Success, Success w/ Conditions or Twist–but with more nuance and variety.

Using the Season as Ob isn’t the intent. The intent is to use the Season as Vs. Such as:

  • Weather Watcher Vs Spring 6
  • Health Vs Summer 4
  • Will Vs Fall 5
  • Resources Vs Winter 7

As examples, that was:

  • Player attempts predicting upcoming weather during Spring by testing Weather Watcher against Spring’s rating.
  • Player(s) must test Health when facing excessive humidity of Summer (to determine whether they get a fungal infection from lack of hygiene) against Summer’s rating.
  • Player(s) must test Will against Fall’s rating when driving through Cold Rain to keep up spirits and morale of escorted mice headed to Lockhaven (later followed by Ob Health test to avoid becoming Angry or Sick)
  • Player leads stranded group in developing improvised rations, shelter, and hiding beyond the Scent Border when Winter Blizzard causes the group to decide to hold position against Winter’s rating rather than a Pathfinder attempt with risk of becoming lost.

Those are off-the-cuff examples, and not precisely how things might play out at the table, but examples are harder than in-play rulings (IMO).

Oh, yeah. Using Weather rating or animal nature as Ob would be crushing.

I am understanding the system more and more and how the game plays, after two sessions now. I’m getting the hang of it and I understand now why everything is supposed to be challenging. It underlines the fact that you are mice, the need for teamwork and it drives the story forward.
Thanks for all the feedback and help :slight_smile:

I had this same thought haha. :slight_smile:

In the book there was a place about how only the most competent patrols get assigned the Scent Border job and I was thinking holy crap that doesn’t really jive with the difficulty of everything.

Of course after reading further we understand that the task can still succeed just at a “negotiated” price. Does the scent mostly always go down? Yes. Does the patrol doing it usually get beat-up? Yes!

Another way I like to think about it is that there are different types of stories to tell.
The story where everything goes right is not what we’re here for. We’re here to tell the tales when things got twisted!

Yes. It’s important to get into the mindset that failure on the dice is not necessarily failure in the fiction of the game. Instead, it means your mice take a little punishment but succeed, or something new and interesting happens. To really resolve something, you need teamwork, a clever idea, the right gear and Fate and Persona earned previously by really playing your mouse’s belief, instinct and goal.

It’s good for new players to look at all of those “F” bubbles next to skills and really fit their head around what they mean.

You need to fail a little less than half of the time to grow in this game. Yes, that makes this very different from most games.

Try to emphasize the difference between character failure (F on the character sheet can be a desirable thing) and player error (which can, in fact, mean passing a roll when you shouldn’t have.)

And lastly, consider Pixar’s #1 rule of storytelling: “We don’t like characters because they succeed, we like them because they try.”