Is there a way to do without the GM Turn / Player Turn format and just run MG like any other RPG? Giving some “downtime” points for them to spend checks on recovery and such.
Or maybe someone can explain the GM Turn / Player Turn format to me better? It seems like I give them a singular task (gm turn) and they deal with that before moving on (player’s turn). But that seems to lead to very short sessions that only last a couple hours at most. This barely gives anytime to have any checks or have traits come into play.
There are plenty of other RPGs out there that don’t use a turn structure. Mouse Guard is special because it does use one.
As you’ve intuited, the turn structure makes play go very smoothly, resulting in fast sessions full of action. And if you should find your “session” too short, you can always play another one. There’s certainly no rule that says you can’t. In fact, we encourage it because back-to-back sessions make the traits/checks system even more vital.
Specifically, you give them two mission obstacles in the GM’s Turn. Using complex hazards or extended conflicts will increase the number of tests each character makes and consequently the opportunities they have to earn checks. In addition, there’s the chance for a failed test to spin off into a twist, which would lead to more tests for the patrol. For your group specifically, with two characters, they’re going to be challenged by most tests, but likewise will have more opportunity to bring in their Traits.
I agree with Luke that it’s easy to have more than one GM’s Turn-Players’ Turn cycle in a session, but something else you can use to augment the GM’s Turn is to introduce elements that aren’t obstacles, but have to be considered by the characters. Weasel tracks, lost mice far from home that ask to accompany the patrol, and run ins with relationship characters don’t have to create problems immediately, but they can provide things for the players to follow up on during their turn. I find that the patrol having to choose between completing its mission and attending to other business that tugs at their BIGs makes for compelling Players’ Turns.
I love to see my players trying to decide how to use their single check in the player’s turn; most of the time they choose to do something other than sleep or recover from a condition. The limits of the turns keeps the game moving and forces everyone at the table to do what’s important to them. (No long hours of game session time spent hanging out in the tavern.) Sometimes a player gets 2 checks to spend in a Player’s Turn. But it’s this limitation which makes the game interesting; the players can never do everything they want their characters to do before the game is already moving onto the next challenge, onto the next mission.
Not everyone realizes that the players turn is about hard choices.
There is no need to do that. Listen carefully what this people are saying to you. Two GM’s Turn, two Player’s Turn. A lot of fun!
Don’t forget embellish your narration too (and players must do this either). That add time to the game.
I guess I just don’t get it, what is it about this play structure that makes it better then the standard method of roleplaying? I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.
Ran Deliver the Mail last night with three new players. 2 experienced RPGers, 1 1st timer.
GM Turn/Player Turn structure was not as clear as I had hoped. It will take some practice for both me and the players.
We flew through the first Mission and had time for a second, including some fun with Weasles.
This game certainly plays fast. My players liked it, want to play more and are excited to buy the rule book. I can’t ask for a better result than that.
Now I need to come up with additional missions, and work on making the structure clearer.
In my experience, the turn structure helps me:
- Beat up on the players without them just taking a rest and negating my efforts.
2a. This forces them to make hard choices about their checks during their turn. “Should I use my checks to recover, or try to pursue a Goal or Belief?”
2b. Because of limited Checks, the players can be tempted to screw themselves over during the GM turn to earn more. This is one of my favorite things about the system. I had an mouse who would constantly use his Old Fur trait against himself, to represent bad eyesight, aching bones, cantankerous attitudes against the new generation, etc.
- There are fewer contingencies to consider when designing a mission. You come up with a few obstacles for them (Mouse, Nature, Monster, Weather), and give them an objective they have to work toward. When the players can freely ignore the mission at hand, things can wander off and then you’re forced to either abandon the mission or force them back on track, which can sometimes be an abuse of GM power. By explicitly writing the turn structure into the rules, it’s okay to say “Nope, you’ll have to wait until the mission is over if you want to pursue that.”
As for advice: like other people have said:
- Come up with more than just one obstacle for your mission. I usually went with a little flowchart of Obstacles and Failure possibilities.
- During play, there might be a few more tests to wiggle in here and there. Let the players breathe a little bit, but don’t linger too long or let them wander too far.
- Play 2 cycles. GM Turn, Player Turn, GM Turn, Player Turn, Artha Awards
It’s fundamental to the checks economy. If the players could spend checks just whenever, there would be less urgency to earn them and fewer hard choices on how to spend them. There are two currencies at work, checks and the time to spend them. This is also why the mice (other than the patrol leader) have Goals outside the mission.
Try this: rather than focusing on “first you do what the gm tells you, then you can do whatever,” focus on “when the players come up for air, use their limited time and earned checks to make them make hard choices about what’s important to them.”
The turn structure is in place to reinforce certain setting conceits, to create a particular feel at the table. Guardmice always are at the mercy of their mission. Time is of the essence, in both the GM’s Turn and the Player’s Turn. There’s never a chance to do everything. Choices must be made; winter is coming.
I suggest running “Deliver the Mail” as written and them come back to us with specific questions from that experience.
The Gm’s Turn and Player’s Turn format isn’t a strange, alien thing unique to Mouse Guard. It’s really just a formalization of a structure of play that’s been with RPG nearly since the beginning. An early example would be: “In this part of the game we go adventuring in the dungeon, fight monsters and acquire loot, and in this part of the game we go back to town to recuperate and reequip.”
So in the GM’s turn you press them hard with the obstacles you have planned for the mission. As soon as the characters resolve those two obstacles (plus any additional obstacles that arise out of twists), they return to a mouse settlement and enter the players turn. In many cases, the characters will not yet have resolved their Goals when you switch to the player’s turn, so in addition to recuperating, they’ll want to use any checks they’ve accumulated to complete those goals.
It’s not a good idea to eliminate the turns because you’ll lose all incentives for players to earn checks with their traits, and with it a very flavorful part of the game. Also, conditions will pretty much lose their teeth if you can recover whenever you like.
Thanks Thor. If I read you correctly Mouse Guard’s turn structure just makes “explicit” what has long been “implicit” in the structure of RPG sessions and adventures.
I think I can handle it a lot better now. It just seemed odd at first to shift game mechanics and styles. Given that we managed to fly through two GM’s turns and two Players’ turns in a fairly short session of play, it will help to have a clearer perspective on how they work together.
Now if I can just get used to how fast this game moves…
The traditional game only has that explicitness in a dungeon crawl… during the dungeon, the GM beats you up; after the dungeon, you hobnob at the village, heal up, make prep to do it again.
MG is a change of scale, and puts this constraint into the forefront, but without the physical walls to rail you in.
Plus, the check economy… It really can be done without the GMT/PT structure… but you’d need an endless GM turn, with players having to earn checks to go “off on tangents”… it can work, but it’s far less clear, and not as satisfying. Further, the GM doesn’t have the surety of his “story” being delivered in the GM turn.
The dirty secret of MG is important, too, for understanding why: [ul]Any obstacle is overcome by any of three modes[ol]succeed on die rolltake a condition for failing the die rollovercome the twist[/ul]if the GM puts the mission objective in the GM turn, then players can only fail by death or compromise.if the GM does not put the mission objective in the GM Turn, then players will fail unless they spend checks to succeed.[/ol] Because of this, if a goal is left in reach but not done by the end of the GM turn, players must choose between failing the mission and doing personal stuff… the kind of drama that is key in a good MG campaign.
yeah, that’s pretty much it. Another way to look at it is the action movie structure: the GM’s Turn is the part of the movie where the hero is reactive. The world throws all sorts of crazy hazards at the heroes, and they do their best to react and survive. The Players’ Turn is when the heroes gain time to catch their breath, plan and move proactively to deal with the villain or other problems.
Think about it in a estetic way: it’s a nice mode to do it. You can play in the old way, or you can play Mouse Guard. In this case, I prefer Mouse Guard.
Ok, we’ve played a few sessions now and it makes more sense to me now. Thor was correct in that it’s just a formalization of the standard method of play in most RPGs. The big difference in being that the players are kind of railroaded into following your story and can’t just wander about doing whatever they want. Which really isn’t too big of a deal. Anyways thanks all, I get it now!
What’s been happening during your group’s Players’ Turns? How are the players spending their checks?
Mostly to make recovery checks. They haven’t quite gotten a hang of using their Traits against themselves yet. And yes I know they can do the things they want during the player turn, but that’s not always the same. I didn’t mean to sound as though it was a complaint, we’re very much enjoying the game, now that we’re getting used to it.
I think it’s intentional for the players to feel “railroaded” for half the session. After all, their characters are being sent on missions at the behest of superiors.
Glad to see you all have been enjoying the game.