Backstory authority

I’ve started running Mouse Guard but I’m stuck with a basic question: how much authority have the players over the backstory?
If I have allued to a conspiracy in the GM turn, can the player with their checks not only investigate, but also decide who is the conspirator?


Hi Marco

They can investigate sure. It’s their choice to spend their Checks to take the story in that direction. If they spend their Checks, it means they’re interested. Cool!

But as for authoring the conspirator, nope. The GM is tasked with challenging a character’s Belief, so the conspirator will be focused on doing that. The player’s author their own Beliefs, so they do have some influence in that regard, but it’s the GM’s baby.

For “colour” stuff, the player’s can narrate with as much authority as the GM. By “colour”, I mean anything that isn’t reflected mechanically - so a player can’t just state “The weather is fine and sunny” - because Weather is a mechanical element of the game.


The GM sets out the initial, overarching problem.
The players write their Beliefs about the situation – the problem – in the game.
The GM uses obstacles and action in the game to challenge the players’ Beliefs.

No one has wholesale authorship, each side has responsibilities. Neither side can simply invent an element that lacks precedent in the other side.

So, in the exemple, with their cheks the players cuold ask for an investigation to locate the clues, but is the GM that tell what kind of clues they find.
Is it correct?

Can’t Circles and Wises be used in this fashion?


They can do more than just ask for an investigation. They can set the direction of the investigation too. For example, one of them could spend a Check to investigate the conspiracy by speaking to “Oldfur McGregor, a Mouse Guard spymaster who has a contact in every town and knows every secret in the Territories”. That’s a Circles Test right there.

Succeed and bam, McGregor can give the mouse a lead on the conspiracy - as the GM you narrate what that lead is.

Fail and then maybe McGregor is a part of the conspiracy and the mouse has just made him aware of the threat posed by the patrol. Or, something else entirely.

You know, failure always seems more fun in BW-style games. Success sucks :slight_smile:


What you can’t do is deprotagonize the GM :wink:

No. How would this really happen in play?
Player says, “I"m looking for a clue!”
GM says, “Where? Clue leading to what?”
That’s what the GM’s response is to such a vague question, right? Because there’s no “find generic clue in generic location” skill or ability.
The player’s answers to the GM’s quesitons give context, set the obstacle and indicate what ability or skill needs to be tested.

I chose my words carefully: “Neither side can simply invent an element that lacks precedent in the other side.”
Circles and wises need precedent in order to work.

Works for me. Thanks for the clarification.

Yes, this was clear :slight_smile:
Essentially: the pleyers describe what and how they seek and the GM describe what and how they find.

Anyone could explain this for me?

Marco, when you burning up a world, characters, and situation you’re laying down some foundations: what this game is going to be like, what we’re going to play, what races there are, is there magic? what monsters? what environment? etc. etc.

There’s some basic assumptions about what’s there, what’s possible, what’s going on. I think Luke’s saying that everyone at the table needs to build on those ideas. You can’t invent people and knowledge out of thin air without previously agreeing such things are possible.

So, for example, if you’ve decided that, in your game, writing hasn’t been invented, you’re not going to Circle up a Scribe.

But it can go finer than that.

Let’s say you group decided that every last watchman in the city of Moar was killed by a mysterious plague.

Would it be cool for the GM to introduce a watchman? How about a player, “I found the last one!”?

I’d say it depends. Depends on the story, depends on what’s happened before, depends on what the table agrees to.


Player tells the GM what he’s looking for. The GM determines if this is appropriate. Dice determine if the player finds this or not. Both player and GM work together to describe the outcome. In the case of success, the player gets what he wanted; in the case of failure, the GM introduces a twist or condition.