Checks and Tests Question

I’m not understanding the wording used in the Mouse Guard RPG book on page 73 in regards to Checks and Tests. Here’s what I understand:

During a Player’s Turn we are given one free test. Free, as I take it, in that it is freely ours to use without the expenditure of checks earned during GM’s turn.

Here’s what I do not understand. The book states, “If you want more tests, you must spend the checks you earned against your traits in the GM’s Turn…” Skipping ahead, I read, “When you use (traits) to get in your way in the GM’s Turn, you get to do more stuff in the Player’s Turn.” In other words, you’re allowed to spend these checks to add an additional test during the Player’s Turn. “When you’ve used your free test AND run out of checks to spend, you’re done for this turn.”

So, basically, I take this to mean this: It is the Player’s Turn. I’m playing, let’s say, Lieam. I use my free test to recover. Then I spend a check to do an additional test, let’s say, to build armor, or a mouse wheel, I dunno, anything.

But the next paragraph reads:

“You cannot spend a check for a test twice in a row. You get to make a test, then you have to let another player go. Sometimes this means you get stuck with extra checks. You’ve got a ton left, and nobody else has any.”

This sounds like it is contradicting what it said before. You can do extra stuff by spending checks in the Player’s Turn and then “You cannot spend a check for a test twice in a row.” On page 74, it reiterates this by saying, “If you don’t want to donate checks to other players, you don’t have to. Just remember, you can’t make two tests in a row in the Players’ Turn.”

So, my guess is that this means:

1.) You cannot spend more than one check during the Player’s Turn, i.e., you get your free turn, a check-purchased turn, and you’re done.
2.) You cannot redo a failed test by spending another check. I.e., you try to recover using your free test, you fail, and you spend a check to roll again… It has to be a completely different test.

I’m not sure of the meaning, to be honest, and if others have inquired about it here. Just hoping someone can clear this up for me.

Thank you!

Technically you don’t get a free test. You get a free check. Which can be used to make a test.

You cannot spend a check to take a test twice in a row. In other words, you spend a check to make a test. Now you can’t do so again until someone else spends a check.

You are understanding properly, but I think you are misinterpreting the Player Turn as a short moment. The PT often is long. Maybe not as long as GM Turn, but still fairly lengthy–as long as each player earns a Check or two. The more checks, the longer it will go on.

If you have a group of three players, let’s imagine each has earned some Checks from Find the Grain Peddler mission.
Kenzie: Free check, 1x Calm Check, 2x Leader Check (also has Angry, Injured conditions)
Saxon: Free check, 3x Short Check, 1x Fearless Check (also has Angry, Tired, Injured conditions)
Leiam: Free check, 1x Determined Check (also has Tired, Injured conditions)

I do most of my games in play-by-post now, so I have an advantage of written formats to help keep track of things. Also, this imaginary scenario has way more checks earned than I usually see at a session.

So, to help visualize how each player takes turns, let’s begin with a concise description of what everyone wants to do with their checks:
Saxon Free Check: Recover Angry
Kenzie Free Check: Instruct Leiam
Leiam Free Check: Pathfind to Barkstone

Everyone takes their scene and makes a test. Everyone still has checks, so let’s look at another round of scenes.

Saxon Short (1) Check: Make camp outside Barkstone (Survivalist)
Kenzie Calm Check: Recover Angry
Leiam Determined Check: Recover Tired

Now Leiam has used his checks, but Kenzie and Saxon still have checks and ideas how to use them. Let’s look at another round of scenes. Kenzie asks to go first.

Kenzie Leader (1) Check: Argue with Katlynn (enemy) about history of Barkstone [Argument Conflict]
Saxon Short (2) Check: Study records about Darkheather in Barkstone [Darkheather-wise test]

Now, this is starting to really invent some things happening; like suddenly Kenzie’s enemy was in Barkstone for him to initiate a conflict. In fact, everyone joined in the heated debate, so Leiam actually got to have another test in the conflict. Well, let’s look at another round of scenes.

Kenzie Leader (2) Check: Circle up the famed performer, Jasper the storyteller (friend)
Saxon Short (3) Check: 'Source up a gift for Samuel the printer (friend) while in Barkstone

Now, Saxon has one final check, but he is not allowed to use it–he’s just had a test! Instead, he chooses to donate the check to Leiam rather than lose the check outright.

Leiam Saxon’s Fearless check: Discover a rumored entrance into Darkheather [Scout test]

Now all the checks have been used. The players can wrap up the PT and get ready for a new GM Turn–they’ve still got some conditions too.

That’s when the Player Turn ends, when all the checks have been used, whether by the player who earned the check or by giving an extra check away for another player to keep up with the group. It can happen fairly easily when new players don’t feel prepared to use a Trait against themselves. It can also happen during a GM Turn with big stakes at hand where players might feel it is too much risk to lose a die–or worse, give up two dice to an opposing force!

I hope that made more sense.

oh, maybe I missed reading something.

  1. you get to use all the checks; each check spent can be used for a test (or a conflict)
  2. Recovery rules begin page 126. Here is the short answer: no, you cannot use a check to re-test at something you have just failed (such as failing to recover from a condition). You must find a new test to spend the check.

Longer answer: You will not be able to save check from a Player Turn; that gets wiped clean when a GM Turn begins. You can try to very quickly earn checks in the next GM Turn to buy a recovery, or simply suffer under the condition knowing it cannot be used again until you’ve cleared it.

During the Player Turn, you can gain conditions from coward dice. The Success w/ Condition is still an option for GMs to adjudicate the results. I’ve always allowed that if the recovery was passed with a check, then I gave the condition again, the player could attempt again with a check. I cannot guarantee that is a common ruling for other GMs.

Another factor is the recovery order. This can be frustrating when trying to recover from Sick or Injured but having to first recover from Hungry, Angry, Tired. Those are not incredibly hard, but when a player starts with a small number of checks, even one free check doesn’t feel like much.

I also prefer to see a player attempt recovery of Sick or Injured before Circling a Healer-trained NPC. In contrast, I will always allow another player to spend a check to attempt the Healer test for a fellow PC.

Thank you so much, that makes a ton of sense!

I don’t have the right feel about how many rolls in a session is appropriate (or “possible”).
I find this log may help.

Could you kindly explain what tests your player had called?
Thank you.

My question is:
if there are just two obstacle, wouldn’t the GM’s turn be too short?
Could they accumulate enough passed and failed to skill up?
Could the players earn enough checks?
If checks earned was few, then would the Player’s turn be boring and nothing to do?

Getting the right feel for number of obstacles in GM turn is typically two Obstacles, one or two Twists. However, going beyond that starts to depend on circumstances and gut feel. I (personally) tend to restrict my sessions to two Obstacles and no more than two Twists, but I’ve done try-it-out sessions with one Obstacle and no Twists. There are loads of factors which a GM might decide their own method.

The second half of this advice is to say that an Obstacle/Twist might be simple or complex, and some lead to Conflicts (which offer an extra test or so per player). I tend to prefer complex Obstacles/Twists to allow more tests as well as display more dynamic choices in a group. I sorta like Conflicts, but don’t use them often. Conflicts are often time consuming, so it can be a love/hate relationship with that in a session.

I agree the GM Turn can feel short–this can be especially true if the group has passes over the tests–when you only think about the immediate tests to overcome the Obstacle/Twist. Try to always consider a bit of ‘set dressing’ related to things going on around the patrol mice.

Another consideration for increasing the tests (if you feel the need) is to call for tests of stuff that just has to be done even if it is not the immediate challenge.

A PT with few checks doesn’t have to be boring. One of the methods I’ve used at table sessions and convention one-shots is to give the patrol recovery, resource attempts, or circle attempts. When you as GM say, ‘Yes, that goes down exactly how you want, so what do you want to do with your Check?’ then the players really get a bit of free time to think of something more challenging to spend a Check on. This might be a local offering food and shelter, a quick double-take at a rummage pile to spot a neat gadget, or momentary serendipity. You can ask the players, “If you know you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt?” to really spur a creative scene.

Thanks a lot.

More questions here.

Could players propose and fabricate a test on the fly (in order to call for rolls and earn checks) by themselves?
Even GM does not prepare an obstacle?

  1. Could a Tiebreaker Rolls be hindered by traits?
  1. My initial statement is, No. As the GM, you decide whether there is a test or not during the GM turn; however, after a little thought, I’d say, “Say, Yes; Say No; or Roll Dice.”

Most often, I say yes/no about things coming up during the GM Turn. Here’s a recent example: made a pre-gen for a family one-shot. This mouse carried a Sword in gear. Nephew suddenly wanted an Axe. I responded, “Sure, before the patrol leaves Lockhaven, you trade at the armory leaving your sword and picking up an axe; they’re slower and heavier,” Nephew clarified, “No, this axe is small and light; it’s like really small!” I clarified, “Yes, it’s a small hand-axe; be sure to mark, ‘as dagger’ on your gear list beside the hand-axe.”

I wasn’t going to offer a Resources test out of no where.

So, if you want to offer a bit more tests, you can add a small amount of complexity. Here’s three examples:

  • You’ve absolutely got to find this gadget/widget; also, it has to be low cost. The patrol must make a Circles test to find a Smith who makes it, then must make a Haggler test to agree on a low price.

  • After several days slogging through snow, the patrol must pass a Pathfinder test to manage the route, and a Survivalist test to manage the daily encampment.

  • The patrol has access to a load of donated food; too much for everyone to eat before spoiling. The best thing to do is cook as much as possible and distribute food to poor mice who can use this food right now. That calls for Cook and Administrator tests.

In each example, this can be managed with a simple test, but adding a small bit of added complexity allows additional tests. It might be for a larger patrol, it could allow more risk–or to spread the risk–, or it could allow more advancement.

By spreading risk I mean, ‘every roll of dice has risk.’ So, in a simple test, you might plan, Success w/ Condition in some cases and Twist in other cases. In complex tests, you can plan a little more. Such as, if one test fails–Success w/ Condition; if both tests fail–Twist; if the easy task fails–the critical test gains +1 Ob (like if the Cook test fails, fine, but it is harder to distribute food to so many poor mice after the cook realizes there is not enough for the right recipe; or since the Circles test failed, the Smith is less likely to negotiate on price and grabs +1D for the Haggler test).

Here are three other notes which can help add valid/legitimate Tests during GM Turn:

  • Resources and Circles have very easy failure clauses that are legitimate risks. If GM calls for a Resources test, failure may deplete Resources tally; if GM calls for a Circles test, failure may introduce an Enemy. Those are easy and simple; you won’t have to create some big scene such as a Twist.

  • Health and Will can be called out as individual tests–in other words, Everyone has to test alone. Trekking in harsh weather, Health test to avoid Conditions (Tired, Sick, etc.). Compromise following Argument Conflict, inject this Compromise term: ‘Everyone feels frustrated the patrol even had to debate this issue with common mice–everyone must make a Will test to avoid feeling Angry about the topic.’ Think of more!

  • If GM calls for a skill test which no mouse actually has, Beginner’s Luck is an option for the patrol, but also, GM might decline the BL in favor of a complex test to split the major task into parts. Here’s an example: No patrol mouse has Boatcrafter, but that’s what is needed; GM offers Circles test to find a local Boatcrafter mouse, plus Carpenter test to make boards for the boat, plus Smith to make appropriate fixtures for the boat, plus Weaver to make sails and ropes for the boat. Suddenly, what might have been a simple Boatcrafter test has become a complex test of 4 tests! That’s a big chance for risk and challenge from the patrol. Oh, and the local boatcrafter offers +1D Helper to each test.

Here is a final statement about Players creating tests during GM Turn: the patrol is under pressure to act and to work; if a player has a great narration of something cool happening–and it relates to the mission or to the obstacle at hand–that is a good thing for GM to integrate; use the creativity of the table chatter. In contrast, if the player is delaying, getting off-track, or just ignoring the mission or obstacle at hand, remind the patrol of the pressure and don’t allow/call for a test.

  1. I’ve allowed Tiebreaker to be hindered for gaining checks. I don’t recall anything otherwise.

Thank you!

You give a very comprehensive discussion.
It’s hard to absorb everything in a short time, but I’m eager to try in my group next time.