Getting my head around Mouse Guard

Hi, everybody! I’ve been throwing myself into the rules and the forums here. I’ve also been following people’s actual play via the Walking Eye podcasts and APs here on the site.

I haven’t played myself except for a bit of tinkering and I’m definitely more used to the old-school D&D type of roleplaying, but I’m trying to get my head in the right place for this system.

I have a few questions for one and all about how everyone has been thinking about some game management and philosophy, and how that fits with the overall game design:

1) The structure of the GM turn is fairly well-defined: send obstacles at the players, spin them into twists if things go awry, and so on. I love this for keeping the action moving, keeping players from saying, “we’re going to camp out until we’re all healed up, build a ballista, then assault the castle,” and so on. But there are references to players using, say, Weather Watching, during the mission.

Would this be: a) something that would have to be built in as an obstacle when designing the mission, or would it b) be something that happens in the course of planning a medium-to-large operation–like driving a turtle from a town?

An operation like the turtle misson could easily involve elaborate plans on the part of the players–“we gather grass to build a fire, boil some tree sap, and get some townspeople to carry barrels down to the bay…” At a time like this, it might not always be useful or practical to do it as a player turn (what if they’ve earned no checks?), but obstacles and tests are coming up that are a little player-turn-ish.

Likewise, the rules refer to players arguing with one another during the course of the game–is this something that I should allow to occur during the GM turn, or something that they should only be able to set up during the player turn?

2) Another example: A mission is introduced; the guardmice are looking for a band of gypsy mice. After the mission begins, the players learn that their quarry is hidden in a swamp just beyond Grasslake. While in Grasslake, one of the players says, “Hey, I wanna buy/make some mosquito repellent…” What’s my line as a GM?

a) say, "Sure. Resources Ob 4." (Failure results in ?)
b) say, "Okay, let's do a quick player turn. Spend a check."
c) say, "Nope, you're pressing on towards your destination..."
d) Keep them from stopping in Grasslake in the first place--they should have been taken from the previous obstacle to this one
e) Why the %&^$@ are you worrying about this? Play the game and have fun!

3) Checks and the player turn: what does a check equal? Should it always be one test = one check?

If a player (who has earned two checks) says, “on my Player turn, I want to go to Lockhaven and confront my enemy,” it seems reasonable that that’s two checks–one to travel, one to find the enemy. But if travel goes badly, (say a failed pathfinder test) what happens? As a GM, do I mercifully impose a condition on the failed test and allow the confrontation? If I impose a twist, would rolls to overcome that obstacle suck up the player’s second check? Is it just the player’s problem to use their checks as they go along? In a case like this, how do you all handle keeping it from becoming another GM turn?

If a player says, “I want to cook a nice meal for my patrol,” would it require two checks, for, say, foraging and cooking? Or is it okay to treat the “cook a nice meal” action as one check with two tests?

I know this is a lot of stuff; I appreciate your taking the time to read it and I look forward to any thoughts you can share!


  1. WW can come into play when the players design a plan of attack for an obstacle and WW can be very useful when overcoming weather obstacles!

Remember, in the GM’s Turn, you get to tell the players what steps they need to take to accomplish their plan. So they might come up with an elaborate plan, but you can fold it into one Survivalist test. Or they might describe all sorts of cool stuff for their characters and you can say, “Great, now lets test against that obstacle.” The cool description, we call that roleplaying. We do it before and after we throw the dice. :slight_smile:

Also, reread page 71, Player Versus Player in the GM’s Turn.

  1. a or c. Or even just narrate their passage through Grasslake. The player will inevitably ask anyway and you can say, “Do you have an Instinct about it?” or something like that. If so, then maybe (maybe) give him the test. Otherwise, press on.

  2. Reread page 75. But the rest of your issues require you to take a step back.

It costs a check to test to get to Lockhaven…maybe. Is it important to test?

It certainly doesn’t costs a check to find your enemy – unless he’s actively hiding.
Enemies appear at the GM’s discretion. Why would you block a confrontation between a player and his enemy?

Travel goes badly…so what? There’s a twist or a condition. In this case, since we all want to see the confrontation, a condition is the appropriate response to the failed test. Now the player’s mouse shows up bedraggled and tired. Cool! But if you have a juicy twist in mind, why not use it? Obvious one that I can see: Player is captured en route to the confrontation and his enemy comes out and saves him. That’s one twist.

If you impose twists in the Players’ Turn, the players must spend checks to overcome them. But note in the example above, I folded my twist in such a way that the player is still going to get to confront his enemy.

Cooking a nice meal for your patrol costs one check. The player didn’t say, “I want to get some dandelions for a salad and then make a feast for my patrol.” That’d be two checks. See the Supplies rules on page 241.

Thanks a lot, Luke!

I realize that I’m to some degree overthinking the game–I look at it and understand the basic intention of keeping a story advancing, controlling the pace and so on. I feel like I’m on board with that.

So, let’s say we’re in the turtle-rousing scenario, and the players come up with an exciting plan to get the turtle on its way; I can handle it in (at least) three ways, right:

  1. Single obstacle (one test roll) with narration of cool plan;
  2. Complex series of obstacles;
  3. a Conflict

I feel like I’d choose any of these scenarios based on the following considerations:

  1. Keeps things moving, gives players fewer chances to advance different skills; provides an opportunity for unimpeded storytelling; provides the same opportunity for maximum storytelling freedom on the GM’s part in the case of failure.

  2. Allows players to move towards advancing more skills; allows more suspenseful dice-rolling; GM may apply many conditions or small twists to story, possibly beating up the mice even more; storytelling may be more fragmented but faster-paced with greater player involvement.

  3. Tactical fun to be had; smaller-scale RP narration; stakes are high; not a lot of skill advancement

Do you have a guideline for how many rolls or tests players should be making in a session? From my time on the boards, I’m assuming your answer will be, “absolutely not. I’m here to make up stories.”

Likewise, can I assume that you make players spend checks based on what works, roleplaying- and storytelling-wise? For example, in the case of my mouse traveling to another town to confront an enemy, unless I have some reason in mind that it should be more, I should pretty much let the player do it with one check?

In such a case, if my Cook mouse is out in the woods and he wants to make a meal for his beat-up and lost patrol, should I make him use a check to forage and to cook, let him make both rolls for one check, or just assume he’s got the stuff he needs and just roll the cooking check?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond–not just to me, but to everyone on the boards. It’s very helpful.


Hi Ron, a suggestion about how to choose which way of handling it: look at your notes about the characters BIGs (beliefs, instincts and goal); If the obstacle is directly related to one of these (and especially if its more) consider a conflict, if its not go with a simple obstacle.

If you have a simple obstacle, let failure generate twists organically to create a series of obstacles. When preparing a mission you might find it useful to prep some possible options but dont force those on the characters if they test well!

This is a pretty coarse grained metric, but i’ve found (as another noob) that applying it and letting the rules as written handle the rest works wonderfully.

The obvious corollary of this is that you should be considering your characters BIGs when putting together the mission :slight_smile: