Extensive rules questions

Ok, so I had my first real session yesterday. Setup and recap can be found here: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?12331-New-Player-New-Mission

As a result of being new to the game, we found some rules not entirely clear so I’m hoping some of y’all can help. Here’s the list:

In regards to conflicts:

  1. How exactly does the Feint action work against an attack action? The rules say something to the effect of “The Feinting player can neither attack nor defend”. Does that speak to the specific actions (attack and defend) or more of thematic action in the conflict (as in they roll no versus or independent dice)?

  2. How does help in conflicts play out specifically? Anyone on the same team can assist with disposition rolls, but is there a restriction to it? I view disposition as an overall commitment to your conflict, so is assisting with a disposition essentially “pumping up” the rolling player for the fight/speech/argument?

  3. Once in a conflict, is there a restriction to how many times you can assist another player in a conflict? If Player A is making an attack against a squirrel using hunter can player B assist with Loremouse, and then Player B makes an attack and Player A can assist with Squirrel wise? IF it goes to multiple rounds can they use the same assistance again? In argument it’s clear that they cant use the same point over and over, but in an attack it seems like they could possibly?

  4. In a conflict, how do you determine the margin of success on a tie? It’s specifically important to all of the conflict actions on a versus test.

  5. In regards to argument “gear”, is it something you would have to establish beforehand or is it a discretionary RP thing for the players/GM?

Player Questions:

  1. In using Nature in place of skills, is it correct that a mouse can only test against it’s nature if it doesn’t have an appropriate skill? Or can it test it’s nature any time (in or against it’s nature) as long as they are willing to take the risk?

  2. Is there a maximum for starting skills, or maximum skill rating? One of my players has fighter 7. I think 7 is the highest ranking for a skill but I’m not sure if it matters if it’s that High for creation or not.

  3. Is there any restrictions to advancing a skill on the players turn? For example, my players ran into an aggressive squirrel that chased them away, so on their turn one of the wilderness savvy characters (who hates towns/settlements) went out to scout around for more squirrels. The players intent was specifically to advance the skill, but it seemed fitting for the character/story. Especially since he was angry from the conflict.

  4. Is there an accepted travel time/distance in the territories? Does it matter?

Thanks in advance!


1.) Feint vs. attack, the feinting player doesn’t test. Feint vs. defend, the defending player doesn’t test (page 107). Playing feint vs. attack is a great way to lose a conflict.

2.) Anyone on the team can help the character rolling for disposition, by adding one die as per the helping rules (pages 102 to 103). Animals and non-player mice help each other on disposition and actions, too.

3.) Teammates can help repeatedly, as long as the descriptions are appropriate (pages 93 to 95). Be wary of uninspired repetition.

4.) In the case of a tie, margin of success is zero. Guardmice can earn two checks for the Players’ Turn using traits to break a tie in an opponent’s favor.

5.) Either can be appropriate, depending on the “gear” in question. E.G. a promise can be extracted during the course of the argument or have been made earlier.


1.) A mouse can test against his nature only when he doesn’t have the proper skill (page 233). Acting within nature comes at no risk (page 232).

2.) Skill maximum is six (http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?8777-Maximum-Skill-Rating).

3.) Scouting for more squirrels is a fine use of a check. Gaming advancement is common practice. Make sure failure puts the character in a spot!

4.) One inch on the map equals one day of travel under optimal conditions (http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?6863-What-s-the-scale-of-the-Territories-map). But it doesn’t matter much.

Thanks Daniel, this makes things a lot clearer. Some responses below.

  1. But since the GM chooses first, the players wouldn’t really know what the competing action is right? This is how we read the ruling for this as well, it was just the wording was unclear (feinting player cannot attack or defend, rather than feinting player cannot test

Last night the players were creative in their assistance. Some of it was a bit of a stretch (using poison-wise to explain that taking a undesired shortcut could be hazardous due to potentially harmful plants) but they were definitely trying to keep it creative.

For the sake of last nights session, we treated a broken tie with a margin of success as 1, but this is clearer.

  1. That’s how I understood it. I think we read something wrong the first pass through.

  2. Great, that clears it up a lot!

  3. Now, on the players turn, how would you handle a failure? I know the rules lean towards no twists during a players turn, so would a condition be approrpriate here? I also thought that allowing him to spend his check was a good use, especially since he was choosing to remain angry after his initial run-in with a squirrel.

  4. Awesome, that clears things up a lot. I know functionally it doesn’t matter, but it sits better with me knowing a rough idea of travel time.

One other question regarding conflicts, how do you determine who rolls Dispo? I know the rules say whoever instigated the conflict, but what if it’s an NPC or enemy who is instigating? Do the players just decide amongst themselves?

1.) Right. As game master, I quickly choose my conflict actions and then turn over my sheet. The players deliberate and choose their actions. We reveal simultaneously.

2.) I’m loose with the players at first, but when they understanding the advantage of helping better, I tighten up on appropriate helping skills and descriptions.

3.) See pages 88 to 90 for additional information, but ties in conflict rolls can mean no side gains an advantage on the other.

I think Wikkidkarma’s question is more, in the case of someone breaking a tie, what’s the Margin of Success. I think 1 is probably the right answer.

3.) Assigning a condition is more than appropriate. Depending on how many checks that player has remaining, however, you can put him in a situation that he needs to use a check to get out of (e.g. he locates the squirrel burrow, but now needs to test nature to escape being cornered by the group of predators and make it back to the settlement) or use it to kick start the next mission (the rest of the patrol has to go after their missing friend). Warning–either of these can be considered dick GMing.

Regarding rolling disposition, I’ve found that it’s usually clear from the preceding roleplay who’s taking the lead in a conflict, even on the side that isn’t instigating. If it’s really unclear, have the highest-ranking guardmouse do it.

It looks like you all had a good first session. I’m happy to help.

Page 260–“the margin of success is always 1.”

Psuedo nailed my question. Thanks for clarifying this, and everything else! We did have a good session, and I’m looking forward to more!

Hey guys,

A couple more quick questions if you don’t mind:

  1. When dealing with other animals, there are aspects of their nature listed. Do those come into play in any specific way? I know the mice nature aspects are important because they allow you to test nature without penalty, but when dealing with other animals, they are always testing nature, so why does it matter what the aspects are specifically?

  2. In a complex obstacle, do you assign twists or conditions to each failed test of the obstacle, or do you do one for the whole complex obstacle?


  1. Animals only act in their Nature.

  2. To each segment.

Thanks for the quick reply Luke. In regards to nature, I had an earlier session where the patrol had stumbled into a clearing that had a ground squirrel in it. I played it as a conflict as the squirrel had it’s stash of food nearby and was fearful of the mice stealing his food. Was having this conflict wrong since the squirrels nature is Burrowing, Stealing and Sneaking? Was having the squirrel in an antagonistic situation like this going against the nature of the squirrel?

It was.
By its Nature, the squirrel would have fled (chase conflict) and come back later and stolen something from the patrol (special conflict!).

Awesome! Thanks Luke. Both of those ideas sound infinitely better and more interesting than the way I played it out. :confused: I’m still trying to switch gears mentally from years of playing D&D. It’s hard to think of conflicts as anything other than straight out fights. I feel like the 4th edition D&D mechanics of skill challenges is similar, but I think the structure of BW really allows for much more flexibility and organic conflicts. So far I’ve only exposed 3 of my gaggle of gamers to Mouse Guard but the response has been really positive.

I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Mouse Guard loves a good conflict, but they shouldn’t always be fights. You want to be creative with the different types of conflicts to keep your players interested!