Differences in play between MG and BW

Because I’m supporting them with my paycheck, dangit!

Anyway, just looking at the char sheet with all the system stuff, and the previewed pages available on teh internetz, I’ve been already sure about needing this game. I just hope there’s a way to retrofit it onto the character sheet data for my old BW, and as for adopting the Monster Burner and Character Burner… well I’d shell out for a new streamlined edition of BW developed along Mouse Guard system ideas, TBO (hint).

BW is all about choices and risk. You have multiple ways of getting at a test (so many skills) and there is a deliberate element in the test where you have an explicit awareness of risk, yet you can’t Advance without taking risks which help drive the story. That’s how my game goes, a test is ominous because it comes at dramatic points and I pile on the goodies, fat juicy success on the one hand but ‘Sidney Whipplesnap ties the girl to the traintracks’ consequences for failure. The only time a PC gets stopped dead in his tracks is in Fight! (and that’s literally).

What I’ve read indicates MG puts that idea even more explicitly in the story structure with something called twists and GM turns and seasons. How do those mechanics work, in broad terms? Does an MG session feel different to BW, and in what way?

GM Turn: GM presents obstacle; players overcome obstacle in some way. Repeat. Possibly repeat twice more.

If skill failed: Either [ul]
[li]a condition is marked (essentially, damage to character(s)) †[/li][li]a twist (extra encounter/obstacle) †[/li][li]force a different approach to the problem (you failed… now what)[/li][/ul]
†: you still achieve the intent in these cases, but at the expense of the damage or twist.

Player turn:
Players in turn get to act, narrating until such point as a roll is needed. At whcih point the task is framed, the Ob is set, and the player gets to narrate just the element of success, or the GM the element of failure. Repeat until out of checks.
Note: finishing the GM turn grants everyone one free “Trait Check”
Healing i the Player turn is cheaper than in the GM Turn.

Cycles of Reward & Punishment:
Artha (Caled Rewards in MG) - Fate and Persona for playing beliefs, instincts, and accomplishing goals, and for MVP, workhorse, and embodiment.
Trait Checks: use your traits against yourself (yes, to make your own rolls less easy) during the GM Turn in order to be able to make more rolls in the player turn. Spend them to recharge traits for benefit to self, or for healing, during the GM turn, or save them for making rolls in the player turn
Skill Gains: Succeed and Fail enough times, and the skill goes up. Since failure is REQUIRED, players start thinking about when to fail.
Annual Cycle: The four seasons, with trait votes in the winter (after any winter mission, but before the player turn), and a non-trait-check limited player turn.
Experience: As characters get more experienced, they are able to take more penalties comfortably, and thus gain more checks, and thus get more “free time” to pursue their own agendas.

MG has a decidedly different feel to BE. (I’ve not yet run a real session of BW/BWR, but have run BE.) Rolls in the GM turn are slightly more intense, since they almost always have consequences, AND players need failures despite the consequences; they are less potentially devastating, however, since the scope is more imited for failure options. (More drama, less fear.)

Conflict is faster, both for DoW and Combat, due to fewer options to script, thus easier to memorize interactions, and thus also faster resolution. Conflict also serves nicely as a resisted extended test mechanic for just about any skill that can be said to be resisted.

Intent is as important, perhaps a bit more important… due to actually achieving intent more often, the twists can hang on how the intent can backfire just as much as other “fits the WWAM! Model” twists.

That was a fascinating read. Taking risk for advancement award in failure; failure as achievement of intent with caveat; players turning their own traits against themselves; mechanically it should entice players to seek greater risk and experience dramatic shifts rather than optimizing for success.

I can see these mechanics tending to generate a more suspenseful tension and encourage a mindset that deters mini-maxing attitudes. It will be interesting to see how my friends twig onto that inversion of the munchkin paradigm into a more sacrificial one.

Oh, it can be munchkined all to heck…

Oh, and WWAM! is code from the Mission obstacle reccomendations… Weather, Wilderness, Animal, Mouse. How to use it is in the book. Get it, read it, try it.

Certainly, but gaming this system has players saying, “I’m so obsessive, I miss important details and still take all day to do it.”

You have to earn those checks. And to do that, you have to make your character vulnerable.

Haven’t read the final yet but one thing we found in playtest is that you have to watch for just handing out free “meaningless” tests in the Town phase at the end of the session. The players have those Trait checks they earned and want to turn them into rolls so the can log advancement checks. Often they’ll want a Fail because they’ve filled the Success track, so they’ll load up on making it so difficult it’s effectively impossible to succeed without Fate or Persona.

It’s a bit tricky as a GM to make the failure count. What I found works is using the results as setting up the backdrop for the session’s scenario. They do a Weather check and fail? They are going to be fighting very nasty conditions through the next session or it’ll impact what is available for equipment or even heavily colouring the plight the PCs address the next session. Even if you do something that is mostly colour, little mechanical impact for the PCs themselves, it seems to help a lot. It seems to gives that sense of impact on the world, a sense of responsibility for things gone wrong.

Yeah, perfect excuse to set up the next mission.

You can also break gear, piss-off locals who run you out of town or worse…

My wife has had Nola suffer beestings to acquire her apiarist skill. It took Nola a year to learn, but now she has it. one of those checks cost her 4… one fail on apiarist, one on the poultice (healer, made), one on the health roll (failed), and one on finding a healer. to fix her progressing illness.

We should retitle this thread. What should we call it?

“Oh, it can be munchkined all to heck…”?

More seriously how about “Differences in play between MG and BW?”

Does an MG session feel different to BW, and in what way?

Mouseguard felt like I was playing frontier lawmen of this variety within an organization that stressed resourcefulness, valour, service, and honour. The PCs are a team, with maybe a touch of inner tension, and some support from and intrigue in the headquarters [in Lockhaven]. But mostly it was you and the other PCs against the big, wide world saving mousedom one little crisis at a time. I found that this “Team” theme was baked right into how the conflict resolution rules work.

It obviously isn’t as dark a theme as Burning Empires. It’s a pretty “uplifting” setting in that you are the shining beacon of goodness, a source of hope for the rest of the mice [whether they want you or not]. If you have ever read the comics, it hits that tone incredibly accurately.

Also I think because of the GM Turn/Player Turn I found it felt a little closer to “traditional” RPG structure in the session and GM driving of the plot. I definitely found myself planning more than I usually do for BW sessions.

It also had a much more episodic feel, if you know what I mean? I think the way it encourages recaps of the last session at the start of the new session, and the GM Turn/Player Turn setup really drives that. Of course this is also part of why it feels so much like I’m playing a character in a MG comic.

The Royal Canadian Mousey Police?

North West Mousey Police, as in back when it was much more “frontier” here. But yeah!

If I ever happen to make it to another con David is at maybe I’ll ask him to do that [definitely non-canon] sketch. Human-sized MG on a horse. Or on a mouse-sized horse. And title it North West Mousey Police. :slight_smile:

EDIT: Afterall, they also ultimately answered to a head matriarchal figure. Named Victoria rather than Gwendolyn.

This is based only on our playtesting and not the final work, but I assume it didn’t change much in the final draft…

Things I like about MG better than BW:

  • Way, way easier for pickup/no-prep games. There are lots of hooks built right into character creation, the season structure, and the physical map.

  • Unified scripted conflict system. So hot.

  • Advancement is far less fussy, while still pushing players to outright fail rolls once in a while. I like that it’s an explicit “you need to complicate things if you’re going to advance,” rather than the fine-grain Ob breakdowns in BW (although that also pushes slightly different Artha-driven behaviors)

  • Trait invocation and trait levels. So easy.

Things I like about BW better than MG:

  • More nuanced characters. 3x Beliefs and 3x Instincts make for far more involved, conflicted characters.

  • The bigger Artha cycle. I like how BW metes out Artha better.

  • The level of tactical detail you can squeeze out of a Fight! between two capable players. The problem, of course, is the learning curve leading up to becoming “capable.”

  • The extra hook angles you get out of MagBu and MonBu.

  • Overall bigger possible narrative focus. While missions are an expedient way to pull together an evening of play, they make up such a small slice of what’s possible in the RP medium.

And finally, things I like better about BE than either BW or MG:

  • Script economy maintains a snappy pace while adding competitive crunch; I like the energy it produces better than the jump-through-the-GM’s-hoops structure of MG’s GM’s Turn.

  • Firefight! is my absolute favorite iteration of all the B* scripted conflict systems.

  • I dig the Tech Burner, and miss that there’s no “burner” type system in MG. I get why there isn’t. But of all the various “burners,” the Tech Burner is my favorite.

  • Decoded and mentally recompiled for my personal consumption (see the wiki), the Infection mechanic is an extraordinary piece of work. It requires a staggering investment on the players’ part, but I have yet to see a single mechanic that handles long-form pacing so very, very well – while rewarding the “right” kind of at-the-table behaviors. We played through a full year in our MG playtest, but it was over pretty quick and it didn’t have the heavy finality of wrapping up a Phase.


  • More nuanced characters. 3x Beliefs and 3x Instincts make for far more involved, conflicted characters.
  • The bigger Artha cycle. I like how BW metes out Artha better.

A result of these is that you don’t get the same heightened sense of where the character’s personality is headed towards. At least until the end of the Year when you reflect back on the sessions and do the Trait vote stuff. You don’t have that same relentless drive from inside the mechanics that BW and BE BITs give. For BE I find that drive, probably because of the sense of time crunch from the scene limits, is almost frantic. EDIT: Others probably find it quite frantic.

So MG is a bit more laid back about character personality development. The mechanics for it are more retrospective focused? It’s sort of easy going that way.

EDIT: I should also caveat that I also am basing this on play with the draft. I haven’t read the final PDF yet and it looks like there were a few tweaks to at least the character sheet organization (that look great) but I get the sense that all this is fundamentally still valid. Further, the way MG Traits work you do get the heightened awareness of where your character personality [suppository] IS during play, that drive is still there. Maybe even a little more-so than BW/BE once you get how valuable those little checks for the Traits are. The result is that Mouseguard characters felt a lot more in the moment than someone heading towards something…if that makes sense?