BIG Advice

So after the two demos I ran these past two weekends, my play group has decided they want to run a Mouse Guard campaign. We sat down and burned up some mice for characters.

Seeing as how this is our first time playing Mouse Guard with our own mice, I figured getting some experienced advice wouldn’t be bad. So what do you think about these Beliefs and Instincts (we haven’t done goals yet) and how hard/easy would they be to challenge?

Mouse 1: Nolen Jr. the Tenderpaw
He’s an artisan from Copperwood.
Belief: To be useful is to be worthy.
Instinct: Always offer to help.
Notable skills: Smith 4, Healer 3

Mouse 2: Briggan the Guardmouse
He’s a thrillseeker from Darkwater
Belief: The best experience comes from adventure.
Instinct: Never back down.
Notable skills: Fighter, Path-finder, & Weather Watcher 4

Mouse 3: Clover the Patrol Guard
She’s a wild-mouse from a town near the Scent Border.
Belief: Brave the wilds so that others do not have to.
Instincts: Always assess the danger before I act.
Notable skills: Survivalist 5, Scout 4, Hunter 4

Mouse 4: Connor the Patrol Leader
He’s a fighter-mouse
Belief: The strong must protect the weak for as long as they live.
Instinct: Always draw your sword at the first sign of danger.
Notable skills: Fighter 6, Instructer 5, Persuader 5.

I have some thoughts I’ll address later that have come to me since I’ve had time to think about these, but I don’t want to influence anyone’s opinions. So yeah, any ideas/advice?

The following is just my opinion. Others may completely disagree. I’ll just say this as general advice for your players: Beliefs should inform decisions. Instincts should be fun to invoke to create tense, humourous, etc. situations. If Beliefs or Instincts have no oomph, they need to be revised because they won’t affect situations in play.

Pretty good. They work well together, and could get him into trouble. Only issue I see is that they’re TOO well suited. It’s kind of like “Violence is the way.” + “Always fight my way out of situations.” He’ll be missing out on some fun character conflict by having his Belief always invoke his Instinct.

Bad Belief, great Instinct. What does the player think the Mouse Guard does? Build tables? They’ll be out adventuring all the time. :slight_smile: There’s nothing in that Belief, really. “Experience means more than enthusiasm” mebe? Something that works Belief into something meaningful in play. Beliefs are meant to affect decisions. There’s no decision to adventure. It’s what the game’s about.

See what I said directly above. This Belief isn’t sparking – the Mouse Guard braves the wilds. That’s what they do. It’s not a Belief - it’s a fact of life. The Instinct is okay but not super-dooper. Black and white instincts work best. “Never fight if there’s a chance to negotiate” for instance.

That’s good stuff. Easy to challenge and fun to put into effect. He’ll have lots of opportunities to use both, if you’re clever. Things like corrupt/selfish officials will twig his Belief, and surprises or red herrings could get him really rolling with his Instinct.

But yeah… make sure players avoid Beliefs around things that are a given.

I ave to agree with Patrick on most of this.

I always say that in MG Instincts should further develp the character, not just reiterate the belief. The first one is basically “I want to be helpful so I’ll be helpful.”

In hasing out beliefs I find it useful to come up with one way you see to push against the belief. So if the guy who is adventurous is the be challenged he’s basically saying he wants failure to mean he stays at home. I’d be surprised if the player actually wanted that.

Ask the players to approach the beliefs with “what do you want to lose?” and write a belief that pushes away from that. Note: When I say “what do you want to lose” I don’t mean the character’s, rather the players. That’s not an opportunity to say “I want to lose my viginity” or “I want to lose my squalid lifestyle” rather how do they want their characters to fail? What would a cool failure look like? What do they struggle against.

Granted MG Beliefs are far less complex than BE and BW (ducks) but to really shine and to facilitate fun everyone has to take ownership of what they want to see in the story.

So one guy wants adventure. Cool. At what cost? maybe the player should be looking at specific types of adventure - fighting, exploring, survival, discovery, meeting new and interesting mice and killing them - nd focus on that single element of adventure.

The guy that wants to be helpful may want to consider the ways to not be helpful and think about pushing against them. Maybe he’s generous to a fault or maybe he puts his duties to the guard above his family.

Hope that helps,

  • Don

I also agree: The belief and instinct need to differ.

I’d put that always offer to help as part of the complete belief:
_B To be useful is to be worthy, therefore I will offer to help.

Thanks for your responses. :slight_smile: Very insightful.

I think I’m starting to get what you’re going with and that the first instinct should not necessarily always invoke the belief. But what about the 4th mouse?

Belief: The strong must protect the weak for as long as they live.
Instinct: Always draw your sword at the first sign of danger.

Don’t those two link too well, then? Isn’t this mouse going to invoke his instinct and belief together all the time?

Nice. I like that. combined with Rafe’s advice, I think I should be able to help the middle two mice figure out new beliefs.

BIGs are nice when they play off (and against) each other, and these can do that…

A scrawny, but very bad mouse is going to be set upon by some burly city guards. Maybe through a misunderstanding the Guardmouse thinks he is in danger, so he draws his weapon and starts to defend the scrawny underdog.

That gives the guardmouse a conflict - defend the physically inferior mouse from the city guards or let him be beaten and taken in (because the scrawny mouse is actually a bad guy) or let his Belief fall to the side.

Also drawing a weapon might not be the best way to defend the weaker mouse - whether it be a faux pas or just too violent for what the situation calls for.

Individually both of these are stong enough to stand on their own as well (I think) - even if they are usually going to be used in conjunction.

Our pleasure :slight_smile:

The Fourth Mouseketeer: It’s pretty servicable. Yes they are danger oriented and yes the character could use a different Instinct to better draw out the character but ultimately they are talking about two different things. One is about protecting the weak. Well that player is telling me to either have weak characters that are insulted by the idea that they need protecting or maybe they see the Mouse Guard as provoking the violence. And of course, loss means failing to protect someone maybe having to do with Goals or The Mission. May e the group has to fnd another liason or the town blames the mouse forthier loss. Hot!

Violent, sword drawing characters are consequently always getting in over thier heads. Missions should include lots of opportunities to fight and as many instances where other options are the better route. The important thing is to let the player know when that’s the case.

I see scenes where drawing ones sword might provoke a violent response from the bad guys leading to gentlemice to be hurt. Win!

I’m always willing to add my 2 bits about BITS (or BIGs in this case)

I agree with the point that these are basically restating the same thing. Also the belief is okay, but its what I think of as a “fortune cookie” belief. I’d prefer something that was more personalized and more grabby. Like “I must be useful, or I am unworthy of my cloak.”

Mouse 2’s instinct is nice. The belief is meh, for the reason Rafe raised. If the ultimate MG question is “What do we fight for?” This mouse has essentially answered, for experience.

Belief: Brave the wilds so that others do not have to.
Instincts: Always assess the danger before I act.

I like this one better than Rafe does. I read it as “I will brave the wilds, to protect others from its dangers.” This could lead the mouse to tackle wilderness challenges alone for the good of the group.

Mouse 4 is good as written. Having an instinct that helps you follow a belief isn’t a problem. Its a problem when the instinct is superfluous. If Mouse 4 had the instinct “Always protect weak mice when they are threatened,” that would be an example.

Thanks for all your advice, everyone. :smiley:

We had a mini-session (meaning 2 of the 4 mice) yesterday, and I went over the BIGs of the two that were there and your comments. We made some changes, and I’d like a second glance, if you’re willing. :slight_smile:

The two were given a simple escort mission to take the Sciencemouse, Vanier, to Wolfepointe. They’re going to lay the scent-border when everyone meets up next session (maybe).

Mouse 1 had:

Belief: To be useful is to be worthy.
Instinct: Always offer to help.

He changed his belief, rather than his instinct. After we discussed what he wanted for his character, he came up with the following BIG:

Belief: I will do whatever it takes to become a master of my craft.
Instinct: Always offer to help.
Goal: Make contacts with craftsmice in each town we visit.

Mouse 3 had:

Belief: Brave the wilds so that others do not have to.
Instinct: Always assess the danger before I act.

She really liked & agreed with noclue’s assessment of her belief and came up with the following BIGs:

Belief: I will brave the wilds, to protect others from its dangers.
Instinct: Never act first.
Goal: Get Vanier to Wolfepointe, safely.

Are these better than the first round? See anything lacking still?

Maybe my feedback isn’t critical enough, but I think they’re delicious.

“Belief: I will do whatever it takes to become a master of my craft.
Instinct: Always offer to help.”

This says: “I’m ambitious underneath my helpful exterior.” What happens when becoming a master of her craft means she has to step on other mice? Good stuff, here.

“Belief: I will brave the wilds, to protect others from its dangers.
Instinct: Never act first.”

This one, as well, has great potential tension between the B and I. He wants to protect others from the dangers of the wild, and yet never acts first? How is that brave? These are going to clash big-time, which seems fine to me.

Very nice. I’d love to see what happens when Mouse 3 is alone. Lol

Get eaten? lol.

Thanks for your input. :slight_smile: I’ll be back once I get updated BIGs from the other two mice (hopefully this weekend).

I’m back. :slight_smile:

Mouse 4 decided to keep his Belief & Instinct as they were, and I think you all were right, they’re not too similar. Seeing them in play, I think they make for interesting challenges for him to play to & against.

Mouse 2 is still having some issues with his Belief & Instinct. After a long discussion, here’s what I got from what he wants with his character

  1. He’s a risk taker.
  2. He’s a ladies’ man.

His initial thought was to make his belief something along the lines of
Belief: Always rise to face any challenge

But it would be too close to his instinct. So he considered changing his instinct, but the idea he came up with didn’t make sense as an instinct. Everyone said his instinct was good, so we left that alone and went with a different belief.

Currently he has -
Belief: A pretty mouse is always worth my time.
Instinct: Never back down.

I don’t know that I like the first one. It’s not necessarily hard to challenge, but it doesn’t feel like it fits the Mouse Guard very well. But I could be wrong and it could be awesome and I’m just not seeing it.

He’s concerned that they should be switched and that his belief should be about taking risks and his Instinct should be about the ladies.

Thoughts? Ideas? Ways to work around these concepts?

I’d leave them as is if for no other reason than because he will have a lot of fun with that Instinct. The Belief works so long as you both know exactly what it means. Will he put a pretty face before the needs of the mission? Beliefs ought to be a pretty hard stance on something, so if he wouldn’t put a pretty face before the mission, then it’s just sitting there; you could introduce ways of playing to it, but he could ignore it.

So if you both know what his Belief means, go for it. I actually like the idea of a Belief that sits “outside” of a Guardmouse’s core responsibilities.

I could see a case for switching them:

Belief: A guardsmouse never backs down from danger!
Instinct: Always get distracted by a pretty face.