Dwarf Guard

Me and my friend Mike have been working on a hack for Mouse Guard, based on our shared appreciation of Dwarves. This is what we came up with, following the set of the instructions on the hacking thread.

I’d like to hear what people think.

Dwarf Guard:

A hack for Mouse Guard, set with Dwarves.


The Dwarf Guard keeps the areas between the Dwarven Holds safe. They go on missions above and below and keep the ways between the holds safe. Not only that, but they have to deal with the fact that the Holds and the Clan Patriarchs who rule them are family-based, insular, and suspicious of the Dwarf Guard.


Foraging for special items from the Fire Above and the Fire Beneath. Clearing and scouting paths between the holds. Rescuing, delivering important mail and people and Trade caravans.


We came up with a very modified Gear system, so that the Dwarves can have and horde lots of stuff. Gear works a bit like Traits.
You can carry your health Health Rating pieces of Gear at a time. (Removed Health +3)
You can only use one piece of Gear per roll.

Level 1 Gear adds 1D to one relevant independent test, or versus test, or all of one conflict, per session.

Level 2 Gear adds 1D to all relevant tests.

Level 3 Gear lets you reroll successes (and has an exception to the one Gear per roll rule) once per session.

In conflicts, Level 1 and 2 Gear items are defined as helping with +1D to each of two actions (Attack, Defend, etc.), or +2D to one action.

There is no fixed set up for axes versus swords or hammers. Players define their Gear when they create or purchase it.

Level 1 items can be made by ordinary skills, or bought with Resources.

Level 2 items can only be made by Home or War Artisans. They cannot be got with Resources tests.

Level 3 items are artifacts, and cannot be made by mortal hands.

If a piece of gear is used in a test that fails, the gear may be damaged as a possible consequence.


The Fire Above, a maddening realm where the world has no ceiling and two great flames chase each other through light and darkness.
The Fire Beneath, a realm of burning seas of liquid stone, and hot, twisted catacombs.


In the realm between, the realm of the Dwarves, there are four seasons. Time of Dust, Time of Ice, Time of Fire, Time of Shadows.

The nicest season is the Time of Ice, the world is largely stable and the lakes are frozen over.

However, this is succeeded by the Time of Fire, when the waters melt in deadly rushes, and geysers and flaming fissures erupt in the earth.

When the fissures settle, the ancient evils from the Fire Below emerge. Then is the time of Shadows, when the Holds draw closed their doors and answer no knocks.

Lastly, when the Shadows have departed, and the fissures shake closed, there is the time of Dust. To travel at this time is to brave whirling dust storms.


Lots of miscellaneous monsters, but the most important non-Dwarven denizens are the two evil sentient races.

The Giants of the Fire Above, and the Goblins of the Fire Beneath.

Giants are enormous, greedy titans, who regard dwarves as tiny pests that indicate the presence of nearby ore. Giants, finding a Dwarf Hold, are likely to dig it up in order to get at the ore upon which it is built. The Giants also send their Wargs underground to catch dwarves and bring them back to the Fire Above. Such captured Dwarves are then made to lead the Giants to the Dwarven Holds. Giant Nature is Hoarding, Gigantic, and Implacable.

Goblins are basically similar to dwarves, but they are hideous, hairless, with pointy ears and tails. Goblin Nature is Hoarding, Deceitful, Feinting, and Cowardly.


Skill have stayed mostly the same, with the following changes.

Carpenter is called Builder (as almost nothing is made of wood), Healer is called Khirurgeon, Insectrist is called Herdsman, Loremouse is called Beast Lore, Persuader is called Cajoler, Orator is called Stentorious Orator, Scientist is called Runescribe, and Weather Watcher is called Tunnel Sage.

There are two new skills, called War Artisan and Home Artisan, which are required for use in the new Craft Item conflict type. Using them is the only way to acquire Level 2 Gear.


Obviously, the Wises need to be wiggled. But we have not worried about that.


Traits work the same, but we have some alternatives and additions:

Taciturn, Sausage-Fingered (instead of Big Paw), Long Beard (instead of Long Tail), Gray Beard (instead of Old Fur), Big Nose (instead of Wolf’s Snout).

Also, Stonesense for detecting the shape and sturdiness of passageways, and a ton of Dwarf traits added from the Burning Wheel, like:

Baleful Stare, Drunk, Meticulous, Obsessive, Oddly Likable, Iron Nose, Iron Memory, Hard as Nails, Stone-faced, Stentorious Voice, Squinty, Quirky, Grumbling, Oath-Breaker


is replaced by Beard Colour.


are the same, but Tenderpaw is replaced by Ingot, and Guardsmouse is replaced by Guardsdwarf. Ingots become Guardsdwarf in a ceremony called “the Forging”.


Dwarf nature is Hoarding, Stubborn, Defending, Drinking. Nature took a long time to hammer down.

Everyone’s nature begins at 2, modified by the following questions.

Do you have something that you don’t want to share?
Yes: +1 Nature, and you cannot take the Generous trait (Removed -1 Resources, it was far too punishing)

Do you continue to argue even if you know you’re wrong?
Yes: +1 Nature, but may not take the Rational trait.

When confronted, do you crush your enemies or protect your friends?
Protect Friends: +1 Nature, and Fight skill opens at 1 instead of 2.

Would you like a drink?
Yes: +1 Nature


The towns are now Holds, and they have been renamed as follows:

Lockhaven: Strata
Barkstone: Lodestone
Copperwood: Copperhold
Elmwood: Wellspring
Ivydale: Steamhold
Port Sumac: Hammerdam
Shaleburrow: Meadwall
Spruce Tuck: Phospher.

Each town has a Patriarch, and when the Council of all Patriarch’s meets, it is comparable to “an angry, two-drink minimum British parliament.”

The Guard is guided, on the other hand, by a Matriarch, who actually gets things done without much fanfare or ale-foam.


Stays the same, but the first two questions are now:

In the Time of Shadows, do you still practice a trade for the Guard?
Yes: +1 Resources

Are your parents smiths, politicians, merchants or myconologists?
Yes: +1 Resources


The first two questions are:

Are your parents Brewers?
Yes? +1 Circles

Has your character broken an Oath?
Yes? +1 Circles, and you may not take the Honest trait.


Angry has been replaced by Ashamed (Anger didn’t strike us as a detriment to a dwarven method of social conflict), and Ashamed switches places and recovery obstacle sizes with Sick in the condition order. Will is still used to overcome Ashamed, and health is used to overcome Sick.

Dwarves are a doughty stock, and can recover from sickness easily, but being Ashamed is a difficult thing to overcome.

Runescribes may be consulted to help you deal with your shame, just as Khirurgeons may be for your sickness or injury. The same rules apply. We figured that Runescribers have a rudimentary psychology to go with their more scientific skills.

That’s what we have so far.

Cool stuff!

My favorite part:

Wow. By far the best hack to date. Completely playable!

Belief, Goal and Instinct would have to change to Oath, Goal and Instinct, right? Or Belief, Oath and Instinct? Hmm.

The gear rules are cool, but they make me very nervous. You’re adding a lot of dice there and simultaneously cheapening the value of traits (which work very well in this system).


Dwarven Fortress: The RPG

Also, have you read Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky? If you have, you’re totally using it! If not, it might help inspire you to flesh out the seasons mechanic.


Very cool - that’s inspiring!

Awesome! I love Dwarves and this hack rules!

+1 recommendation for Deepness in the Sky, too.

First of all, thank you for the book recommendation! I’m a third of the way through A Deepness in the Skyand I’m quite enjoying it. The descriptions of the deeper darkness are very inspiring.

Burning Wheel gives Dwarves a Fourth belief slot for their Oath. Can Dwarf Guard do the same? I’m trying to decide what ramifications adding an additional potential source of extra fate or persona would have for the system. I’d like some thoughts on that.

However, Oaths would use the same set of questions for reward gain as beliefs, so the only way to get a persona would be to break your oath… and I really like that.

Reduced the amount of gear you can hold to Health rating. I’m hoping that will assist with discouraging die bloat, and be easier to remember. As the gear bonus die replaces the Tools bonus die, I think it evens things out.

One of the things I want to put in is that once gear is used on a roll, it becomes fair game to be damaged as a possible consequence if the roll fails. It works along the same lines as helping rules. Damaged equipment is unusable, still takes up a space in terms of available gear, and can only be repaired or replaced during the player’s turn.

In addition, I like the idea of the characters having a Hoard. This is essentially a place to store additional gear they have purchased or obtained, but it has a few restrictions to it.

The Hoard can be used to add or remove pieces of Gear after the mission is given. However, once everyone’s goal is set and the mission begins, they cannot get access to their hoard and switch out their gear until after the next mission is given. This allows people to stockpile a large amount of items, but still only gain benefit from the gear they choose to have on them. It also fits the theme to have greedy dwarves with their pile of stuff.

I believe that Traits will still have some value as they are still the only way to get checks for the player turn. I do feel that a large part of the Dwarf theme is their focus on creating objects and placing great value to objects, and I wanted to systematize this as much as possible.

I’m going to be trying out this hack with players tomorrow. I’ll write about how it went, and what the players thought about it. Any suggestions on an initial mission?

Do not add an Oath belief, just change Goal or Belief to Oath (depending on how you want the Oath to operate in the game).

This is awesome.
I wonder if there’s room for Grudges in here somewhere.