Carnival prizes!

So I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to engage my PCs without necessarily catering only to Fighting, or even violent conflicts at all. One of the ideas I came up with was to give the patrol a “day off” to go to some type of festival or carnival. However, being Guardmice, they’re always willing to serve when they’re needed. Some of the obstacles I’ve been throwing around are to try to fix a broken ferris wheel (as a Smith/Scientist-based Conflict) and to try to catch a pickpocket that’s been working the event.

For the Player’s Turn, I envision that the patrol will FINALLY get to unwind and have some fun, and I plan to set up a bunch of games that are based around simple tests for the PCs to play. I want to be able to reward them, however, and while I trust my group to roleplay well and enjoy the games, I’d like to be able to reward them for actually winning.

The problem that I have is that MG doesn’t really seem to have a discrete system for money, as it’s all wrapped up in Resources. I could give them token prizes, like stuffed critters or whatever, but that seems to be kind of lame. So the idea that I had was to create a prize economy in which winning games earns prize points for the mice, and after they’ve used up their checks (I’m also considering giving them all an extra check in the Player’s Turn in addition to any that they earn in the GM turn) they can “cash out” and use their points to purchase Fate and Persona, which really seems like the only thing that would work, and since I’d be rewarding them for roleplaying, it seems like it’s in the spirit of MG.

Any thoughts on this idea, or suggestions for alternatives? And if you like the prize economy, what would be some good “prices” for the Rewards?

I think this is a great idea.

They receive a mission packet from Gwendolyn. Inside it contains…tickets to the carnival. Your orders: Go have fun!

Maybe you could do something like in BW, where netting a given prize grants a +1D to a single Resources test in the future?

My only other thought is: where’s the risk? Are they playing “win or get nothing” or “win or lose” games? Are you prepared to apply a Condition to the mouse that fails at a game?

(Does MG have Tax? A loss could play like a temporary -1D Tax on Resource checks, maybe?)

[I really gotta get my boxed set, dammit…]

I’m not planning to be doling out conditions. Compared to most situations in MG, trying to ring a milk bottle is pretty tame, so I can’t imagine them getting Angry or Tired or anything (they will, however, probably have conditions from the GM turn). But the way I figure it, it’s a carnival! If they’re hungry, they can go have some pie. If they’re angry, a ride on the newly-fixed ferris wheel should sort it out. We’ve had a pretty brutal mouse-year, and I want the idea to be that Gwendolyn’s giving them some much needed time away. Undercutting their fun with the threat of conditions isn’t something that I feel would be conducive to a light-hearted session.

I did think about using the +1D/-1D to Resources, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth. The Rewards points are already set up in such a way as to be desirable and useful, and most importantly countable. I’m not sure how much to make them worth, however, in terms of the prize economy. Generally my PCs end up earning 1 or 2 checks per GM turn (though they’ll earn more if they feel they’ll need them). Realistically, we’d be talking about the average character having probably 4 checks to use to play games. Assuming the characters play the games that they’re likely to win, it’s not unreasonable to think they’ll probably earn 3 out of a possible 4 prize points. If I assign Fate as 1 point and Persona as 2, then most of my PCs will earn at least 1 of each in addition to normal rewards.

Does this seem reasonable?

I’m less inclined to dole out Fate and Persona than +/-1D. You get Fate for challenging beliefs and Persona for even more extreme play to the theme/narrative. I think it might undermine the perceived value of the rewards, if they can be gotten with a check or three, when nothing is really “on the line”.

But if it’s fun for y’all, let 'er rip!

I’d suggest looking at skills and thinking of prizes that could be used as a tool in an unusual way.

The players could state which prize they want to win on a success. Failure would mean that they were only able to win some other prize instead. One attempt is free. The further attempts cost checks.

I actually really like this idea. As far as failure meaning that they’d get a different prize, I think I’d just make it a win/loss scenario. If you win, choose a prize. If you lose, tough crackers, carnival games are fixed anyway. Maybe I could still use a point system and have characters win tickets or something to purchase a prize of their choosing, with better and better prizes for more and more tickets.

Or maybe I could set it up as all the games have Ob 0 tests keyed to relevant skills, and the number of tickets you win is the number of successes you roll–more ranks in a skill means possibly more tickets. That seems like it could make the whole thing a bit more organic feeling, and make the idea of tickets viable as opposed to just an aesthetic justification for how many prizes you get.

I still don’t like them testing and getting nothing “interesting” on a miss.

To be honest, I agree with you from a mechanics standpoint, but I can’t think of a reasonable way to justify it. I mean, if you were playing the hammer game and when you hit the rubber pad it exploded into fiery shrapnel and scorching fragments of the bell came raining down on your head, it would make for a very short-lived carnival. Hyperbole aside, even giving somebody an Angry condition seems like overkill–if you fail a carnival game and get SO ANGRY that you can’t even focus on the next task at hand (or it even carries over into the next GM turn because, after all, we’re in the PT and they’re burning checks), I feel like Gwendolyn may be pulling you off of the circuit for a while.

It’s a one-time thing, and the whole idea is an experiment. I figure that the worst that can happen is my player’s make a few tests with no bad stuff and get lazy. If they decide that nothing bad happening at a carnival somehow translates into nothing bad happening for any failed test ever, I think I can whip 'em back into shape pretty easily. I’ll be sure to let you guys know how it goes, though.

Hyperbole not aside anymore, one of the mice steps up to bob for apples. He fails his Health test and falls back, sputtering and choking. When he opens his eyes, a bobcat is standing ironically before him, having murdered everyone he ever loved. ANIMAL TWIST!

Consider that this carnival aside is part of the larger story. You need to insert drama into the proceedings. But your examples are bad. Carnival is an excellent time to introduce relationship characters. What if an enemy was competing at events? What if there was a romantic interest attending the carnival? What if one guardmouse’s parents were presenting their award-winning apple pie? What if one of the artisan’s was selling wares at the carnival? What if one of the mentors was giving instruction at the carnival?

There’s a lot of room for drama in your set up. It doesn’t have to be a patrol-oriented session, but it should still be exciting and interesting.

That’s a very good point. You’re right; just because there aren’t Huge Issues at stake doesn’t mean that there can’t be drama and conflict. I guess an Angry condition could be applied if one of the patrol fails spectacularly and their enemy happens to walk around the corner with a giant stuffed cricket or something being smug about it. Thanks for the input, Luke.

Did you have any thoughts regarding the prize system? I’m still unsure how I want to proceed.

Just off the top of my head, I don’t see why the Carnival couldn’t be run like a standard MG game. GM’s turn, Player turn, conditions and all. The stakes would be lower, but I could see Angry for losing a game (especially if it lead to humiliation in front of a rival), Hungry, Tired, etc. I’ve seen all of these occur at carnivals.

A very good setting to introduce lots of social interactin, NPcs, build significant relationships etc.

Lower stakes over all, and Conditions likely wouldn’t. Array over to the next session, but it could still be tense, dramatic and fun, while also being a little light in tone. A very good interval in a mostly grim campaign.