Attack option seems too strong in conflicts

Istaran, your compromise was way too weak. My compromise would have been that the fight attracts the attention of a raptor who swoops down to grab snake and dessert—one fresh mouse.

If you hand-wave the compromise rules away, don’t bother to use the conflict system. Make a versus test and get it over with faster.

If she sits out the fight she can’t gain advancement or checks. Plus she might have something that she really cares about at stake. She should want to fight for what she believes is right as that is what the game is about. The game is about facing incredible hardship, knowing it’ll hurt, but doing it anyway because you have what those other mice don’t have. A cause.

I should probably re-read the compromise section and get a better feel for it. The conflict occured when we were already well over the scheduled end of our session as it was, so starting up another conflict definitely wasn’t in the cards, especially not when the conflict itself was a player’s “free check”.

Totally Guy: The character in question is blatantly cowardly, to the point where being in the guard is a bit questionable. Hopefully she’ll experience some nice character growth down the road. I’m pretty sure the player is enough of an RP-er that when given a choice between joining a fight and gaining progression or staying out and being in character, she’ll stay out. On the whole, our patrol is not entirely consistant of paragons of virtue… to the extent that a few members party gave me helping dice to oppose one of the patrol member’s free check. It’s working out quite entertaining for us as a whole.

I really agree here. The patrol lost more than half their Dispo to fulfill their goal of killing a snake.

I think my first compromise offer to the patrol would be, ‘The trouble-is-my-middle-name Guard is Injured, Tired, and suddenly the target of a dying snake hoping for one last chance at a sucker-punch to these upstart meals. The patrol mates are Tired near exhaustion as they watch the crippled, dying snake slink off into the leaf cover. The snake is Injured, Tired, Angry (and keep this in mind) with an entirely new intent: I’ll hunt after I regather my strength.’

Now I’d say that this takes a bit of player buy-in; however, I wouldn’t allow them to Pathfind back to a safe place–they are too tired and possibly can’t move the injured mouse. The following GM turn (unless the players use checks to hunt the snake) begins with an animal obstacle as the snake (still Angry, Tired, and Injured; or maybe now Hungry, Angry, and Sick) tracks them down to interrupt any sort of activity they are now dealing with.

I say this because I’m looking at pg 130-131 and considering that the patrol had a major compromise (barely, but major in my estimation). I wouldn’t give them the kill–only mostly there. I’d use the compromise to set-up an obstacle for the GM Turn upcoming (unless they spend the checks to hunt the snake after the compromise). I’d hold on to the conditions for the sake of penalizing the snake’s stats for a next fight animal conflict.

The players might want to counter-offer my initial compromise, but I think there are some keys. I see the patrol facing a major compromise, a deadly opponent, and a mostly binary goal (we want to kill the snake, the snake wants to kill us). All of that adds up in such a way that I’d make the compromise a fat bastard.

Had they retained Dispo 6 of 11 I’d call it a compromise. If the goals were not so binary, I might kill the snake outright while shifting the compromise against their actual goal. Were they hunting a less deadly opponent, I’d be less likely to bring the animal back in the future.

I’m still new to the system, so I’m definitely still getting a feeling for what is appropriate levels of damage. What you described is probably what I would have done if the mice had LOST as a major compromise from the snake. It’s entirely possible I’m just going too easy on them. :stuck_out_tongue:

To give me a better feel for scale, could you give me some suggestions of, say what would be no, minor, moderate, major compromise in either direction, plus tie?

For example, roughly what I would have gone for:
Mice v Snake
0 v 10: Mouse eaten. Snake wins!
0 v 7-9: Mouse fatally injurred, has time to make a stirring death speach but then dies.
0 v 4-6: Mouse injurred, tired, angry. Snake retreats for now, but may well come back.
0 v 1-3: Mouse injurred. Snake retreats for now, but likely to come back.
0 v 0: Snake and Mice both dead.
1-3 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse injurred.
4-6 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse tired.
7-9 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse hungry.
10 v 0: Snake dead. Complete victory!

You can see that there’s a scaling across the whole spectrum. Generally the compromise on either side regards the mouse: if the mouse wins the snake is dead but the mouse may have taken some conditions. If the snake wins, the snake is alive but the mouse might use the compromise to not be dead. (Unless he didn’t earn enough compromise.)
But as you pointed out, maybe my whole scale is off. Could you give examples of what you would consider a more appropriate scale for such a fight?

I disagree strongly with kendesign. The winning team gets their goal. To impose conditions and have the snake survive is BS. Choose one—and discuss it with the group! It’s not up to the GM!

Also, 5/11 is still a medium compromise, not a major.

Anyway, regarding the AAA strategy thing: yeah, it’s just not a problem in play. It’s not that I’ve never scripted it; it’s fine sometimes. But it’s not unstoppable.

One other thing I want to point out: some weapons make Attack a versus test against another Attack (I think Spear; can’t remember if there are others); if you’re facing an opponent with such a weapon (unlikely for the PCs, but likely for the GM), then Disarm becomes a very attractive option.


I have seen those in play, but I’m not sure what the advantage is (aside from a quirk in the two team v one team rules, where mixing close and range would allow two attacks to be rolled against the enemy’s attack or manuever - one versus, one independant). It seems like it just lowers damage in both directions. I guess if the mouse has more dice then they will frequently be getting damage in unharmed, whereas if they have fewer dice they will be getting hurt without dealing damage. So I guess it effectively makes it that much more important which side has more dice?

Is that where my breakdown is in general? The game favors attack overmuch at even dice all around, but certain strategies become more favorable as the mice have more or fewer dice? (I can see how in play you might choose, say, Defend, because you have a high nature and a shield so it gets a lot more dice. I’m having trouble seeing why you would want high nature and a shield instead of high fighter/hunter and an axe.)

As a semi-related question: if you have equipment like an axe, it’s +1s “to a successful check”. Does that mean in a versus test you have to win without the +1s, then just count the +1 toward margin of success?

Disarm is also useful against a variety of animals.

The thing you’re missing (as said by Luke et al) is compromises should be hefty. Also conflict goals. If the patrol were all in the conflict, the goal for the snake should have been to eat all of them. Then the text on p. 131 is pretty clear:

“If you win with a [standard] compromise in a group conflict, one character takes it for the team. Everyone else is Injured and Tired.”

So your answer to the defend question is maybe you don’t want to keep having to restaff your patrol.

That only answers it if my analysis is incorrect: which is to say the math tells me Defending will make your compromise worse (or make you lose), while Attack will make you lose less dispo by the time your enemy runs out of dispo.
If that analysis is incorrect, then your point stands. If my analysis is correct, your point is stupid: defending will get more mice killed.
And the analysis was based on about even dice all around. For my particular cast of mice, they have somewhere around 6ish dice on attack and 3ish on defend. Maybe +2 to both for Helping. If Defend is foolish with even dice, it’s downright suicidal at three less dice.

To be clear, let me run down the list:
Suppose the mouse defends, with say 5 dice (two from helping).
If the snake attacks, he has 7 dice. On average the mice lose 1 dispo. They are losing ground without progress. This means they will either win with more compromise, lose with less compromise, or go from winning to losing. THIS IS BAD FOR THEM.
If the snake feints, he has 6 dice and they have nothing.
If the snake defends, he has 7 dice and they have 5. The snake has a fair shot at gaining 1 dispo and they probably won’t gain any. (Need at least 4 of the 5 dice to go their way.)
If the snake manuevers, he has 6 dice and they have 5. The odds favor the snake, but it could go either way. A loss by one (or tie against them) means -1D on their next check. A win for their side is +1 dispo.
There’s a really good chance that the patrol simply loses dispo without making any progress.

Supposing they had a Defend expert in the group, I could see the dynamic changing. Someone with 6 nature and a shield, +2 helping dice all the sudden is throwing 10 dice at the problem. Versus 7 attack dice from the snake, that’s 3 dice net. So +1-2 dispo on average rolls vs attack. The only problem there is that, essentially, being a defend expert at least at creation means it isn’t in character to be in there engaging in the first place. (Okay, I could see a loremouse doing so, but the questions that determine starting nature clearly award nature for being a coward not a combatant.)
But that all depended on racking up dice. If you can’t rack more dice for Defend than your opponent can for Attack what are you supposed to do? I mean, if you’re throwing more dice than your opponent that tends to lead toward success. But Defend is a losing option without dice advantage, and risky with it (opponent could smack you with a Feint). Otherwise, it feels like we’re playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with a houserule that Scissors ties Rock.

People keep suggesting I should have been deadlier with the compromise, but I want people to understand that if the party had defended or otherwise attacked less they would have had less disposition and been in even worse shape. With how long character creation took us, I don’t want to be killing off characters lightly. The rules specifically state that your character can only be killed when you lose a conflict with little or no compromise. I realize there’s an exception for when multiple mice are involved, but I don’t want to be killing mice left and right. It makes the characters cheap and disposable, and deadens roleplaying. That’s the opposite of what I want! I can maybe tolerate it in D&D if I know going in that’s what we’re playing, but for something like Mouseguard that’s just not going to fly for me. Death can be on the line without being functionally inevitable.

Istaran, be civil.

Sorry. I meant it to be clear and emphatic, not uncivil.
Defend is counterproductive without a dice advantage, preferrably a substantial one. Without that dice advantage or just a lucky roll, there is no situation where Defend makes you better off.

Do GMs usually use only/primarily enemies with less dice than the patrol? Substantially less dice? I’m trying to understand the disconnect.

Well, for one, your example had mice Defending with 3+2 dice. You Defend with nature, right? 3 is a very low Nature score. 4 is a relatively high Fighter score. It seems very likely, to me, that you will typically have higher Nature than Fighter.

Secondly, fighting something big like a snake is tough - realistically, I’d expect to see Fate/Persona blown in a significant way. Even the book portrays the vs. Snake fight as a (not-Artha) dump-fest.

But, yeah, your analysis is pretty much on-target if you assume equal dice for Attack and Defend. And if you’re fighting something bigger than you (read: something that has more dice), it’s going to be a tough go without gear, some massive FoRKing, or blowing a bunch of not-Artha.

Ignoring for now the issue of nature taxing/depletion (since so far we’ve had 1 point of tax total), there’s the issue of character creation.
Nature starts at 3, then you have 3 options to get +1 nature:
One is a question about saving things for the winter. We had about 50%/50% on that question.
The other two are questions along the lines of “Are you cowardly”. We had 1 mouse answer yes to both, the other six said no to both. Because they were playing brave mice. Which is why they are in the guard to begin with. And the cowardly one is borderline too cowardly to be in the guard. Unless/until she has some character growth, she will avoid combat when possible. So the mice in a combat are going to be 4 nature, tops.
By contrast, it’s really easy to max out fighter if you want to, except for the tenderpaw. It’s a tradeoff, between that and the other prime guard skills, so not all of them are as fighter-ey. But it isn’t terribly hard to put 3 checks in Fighter or Hunter, out of the fistful you get. (I think even the tenderpaw can start with 6 if he wants to focus on it like a laser beam.)
Over time, nature might get up there with the advancement rules, but of course nature is the one that gets taxed when you start throughing persona points around so… remains to be seen.

btw, what do you mean by “FoRKing”?

I’m pretty sure Nature isn’t taxed by Defending.

FoRK-ing is a Burning Wheel term, in Mouse Guard it is called: “I am Wise” and “Helping Yourself” (or something, I didn’t look in my book). EDIT: the ones that allow the player to add dice to a roll by using another similar skill.

I just want to pick at one little issue on the side here. A mouse with 6 Nature is still brave enough to be in the Guard. If I were to put together a 6 Nature mouse, it would go something like this:

Pack for winter?: Easy point, an automatic +1 on any of my characters unless Bold or Fiery is going to be the basis of their personality.
Fear predators?: My mouse will do his duty, he knows that to serve the Guard he should fear certain foes. Taking on a wolf is suicidal and throwing his life away would hurt the Guard more than help it.
Run and hide?: My mouse’s reaction to any fight is to back down. But when the patrol decides to stand and fight, he can’t abandon them. If my mouse would stand by and watch as his friends died, he would have never earned his cloak to begin with. He is likely to prefer staying out of the melee, opting for a bow or sling. Maybe he works up the courage to wield a staff or knife, but ends up throwing it every battle. Or perhaps he has skill with a shield, and would rather let his opponents wear themselves out while he ducks and dodges, letting his comrades handle the dirty business of killing.

I feel like role playing a mouse that actively removes himself from taking part in conflicts would never make the cut to join the guard, and would actually be representative of a Nature 7 mouse. You could take a player like that aside and maybe discuss a possible role for them in conflicts that wouldn’t betray their role playing of a mousy mouse. The skittish ones certainly have a place in combat, and maneuvering and defending make for great role playing opportunities in battles.

For example, roughly what I would have gone for:
Mice v Snake
0 v 10: Mouse eaten. Snake wins!
0 v 7-9: Mouse fatally injurred, has time to make a stirring death speach but then dies.
0 v 4-6: Mouse injurred, tired, angry. Snake retreats for now, but may well come back (in another GM Turn).
0 v 1-3: Mouse injurred. Snake retreats for now, but likely to come back (in another GM Turn).
0 v 0: Snake and Mice both dead. Or, snake and mice both fail their goals; Injured, Angry, Tired, both retreat the skirmish alive and/or left for dead.
1-3 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse injured and tired.
4-6 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse Tired.
7-9 v 0: Snake dead. Mouse Angry.
10 v 0: Snake dead. Complete victory!

That’s a rough sketch of my scaling. It is certainly a close call. However, this fails to consider goals too. The goals taken up by the two sides seem to be at opposing angles rather than askew angles.

Here are some ways the goals might have shifted the overall fight:
Snake: I must eat to keep up my strength before laying eggs
Mice: We cannot allow this snake to find refuge among this thicket

Snake: I cannot allow these mice to prevent my escape from the circling eagle
Mice: We should prevent this snake from getting any closer to [a settlement or other site]

Snake: This lucky encounter must not be squandered, I will hunt a mouse and eat it
Mice: We will provide an easy target for the circling eagle by injuring/killing this snake

See, each of those goal pairs does cross, but they cross askew, not head-on. That can make it easier to form twisting compromises rather than binary compromises.

I have to agree with you! The group does need to discuss it. In the above example, I assumed that as GM, I’m watching my snake lose all of its Dispo and threfore must present a compromise to the winning team.

I think I would still make that a first offer; however, that includes the expectation of the patrol responding with a counter.

I would totally expect the group to look it over and say, “Whoa, we lost about half–losing 6 of 11 Dispo–and we ought to face only a compromise. What you’ve presented is far too much. Our goal …”

Since they didn’t win with a minor or no compromise, I’d feel inclined to have the snake get away to do its death scene; the mice just might not know they delivered a fatal blow–even if the players know due to an openly discussed compromise. And, considering that the snake got some good hits, I’d expect the mice may be injured and tired from the fight. Other details might be discussed too. But, that dialogue is a key element.

In fact, it is an element I really like about the game, and I feel your disagreement celebrates that facet of Mouse Guard: the players need to do some meta-game discussion during the session; they need to negotiate with each other sometimes. It helps to ensure that everyone has a stake in the narrative and gets to add their voice to the unique setting.

I do tend to avoid allowing the mice to kill animals–even those beneath them on the Natural Order. I never want to defang a predator. Having some prior experience in D&D I was frequently disappointed that fabled beasts simply felt impotent. It was often a given fact that the PCs are intended to kill their opponents in order to win the game.

I was glad that MG does not provide the impression that anyone is winning the game, and diminishes the feeling that the PCs are intended to kill all opponents in combat.

So, through all my groups, the players have become accustomed to interacting with animal conflicts which rarely lead to killing. That’s not to say it has not occured, nor should it indicate the patrol has not defeated significant threats.

One of my favorite sessions was a patrol which chased away a fox losing no Dispo (losing none, not losing some but restoring it through defend). It was a surprising and epic chase conflict.

Wait–Istaran, you have seven players??? That’s your problem right there.

Due to the Nature rules, most patrols have one mouse with a Nature of 6. This substantial base makes Defend an attractive option against most opponents. A high Nature also can help with an Attack or too if you’re willing to spend persona and tax your rating down.

You are still learning the game. You should have played the first campaign with pre-generated characters. (Their are amazing, anyway.)

You can be killed without compromise, with little compromise and with a compromise if your enemy wants to kill you. You don’t die with a mayor comprimise.

In fact, quite the opposite. In my opinion, you should forget the math and just play the game to see how it goes. (Forget the numbers. Thing in fictional terms.)

As Deliverator said, you can’t have seven mouse in your patrol. Five is the limit. (I prefer less than five. Maybe four or three.) Split your group in two, if you can.

In general, it feels like the character generation system is very weak to gaming, in part because there are so many of these questions like this that represent more of a “do you want to be mechanically advantaged? (yes/no)” rather than a mechanical tradeoff. Fortunately, the way we went into it… asking the questions, then providing the repercussions only after the answers were committed, basing the answers off of having thought about the respective mice for a while rather than seeking advantage we got about the best results I can hope for from the system.

I feel like role playing a mouse that actively removes himself from taking part in conflicts would never make the cut to join the guard, and would actually be representative of a Nature 7 mouse. You could take a player like that aside and maybe discuss a possible role for them in conflicts that wouldn’t betray their role playing of a mousy mouse. The skittish ones certainly have a place in combat, and maneuvering and defending make for great role playing opportunities in battles.

Right now we only have commitment for a 4-session run, and then real life will be in our way and we will re-evaluate picking up next spring based on how much we enjoy it now. If (/when) we get the game running for a longer run I will definitely encourage that player to consider, shall we say… “character growth” in a bit more practical direction. (Such as grabbing a shield and being the party Defender.) I do think the character is a little overboard.