“The Mouse Guard RPG is an absolute gem, with a system that’s meatier than it looks, a fun, simple concept, and beautiful artwork and design — and if you want an RPG to play with your kids, or to run as a first-time GM, this is it. But this gem won’t be for everyone; the scope and the structure of play may turn some folks off.”
Martin and I are friends. We met at Gen Con in the old days of crazy 20-person BW games.
I understand that this is a common perception. Martin belabors it a bit in the review. I think it’s interesting that he even takes time to point out that Mouse Guard simply makes explicit a structure that’s implicit in most games. Even more fascinating that he has to studiously warn potential players away from the structure mechanics even though he notes the structure is a common and practical one.
I’m in no way trashing Martin’s review or taking shots at him as a person. We’re friends and it’s a great review. I simply find this viewpoint fascinating. MG structure is practical in nature and common to most games, yet there is a deep, gut-level reaction against it because it puts the lie to the idea that “you can do anything” in a roleplaying game. You can’t do “anything” in a roleplaying game. You never could. Not way back in the olden good old days before time. Not now. We have always simply been able to play the games. That’s it.
This ties into my criticism of Call of Cthulhu. Let me explain: Those Olden Times Games had premise just like those new fangled “indie style” games, but more often than not there was a divide between the type of play the rules supported and the type of play the premise asked for. There’s a lot of space between those two elements. Some groups are able to maneuver profitably in this space and, despite a lack of support from the rules, able to cleave close to the premise. Some groups held to the rules as written and abandoned the premise. Some groups just got stuck in the middle and abandoned the game. In both successful models, there’s a sense of ownership that is born from making the game work. Each group had to find its own path and, hence, put its own stamp on the game. I think this is where the feeling of “you can do anything” in a roleplaying game arises from.
My games, Mouse Guard included, attempt to marry premise and rules in the text of the game so that a group doesn’t have to do that initial searching work. They are built so that a group can sit down and play as written and derive the intended results. To those accustomed to the old style, this method seems limiting. And maybe it is. Perhaps having a premise, combat, magic and sanity rules is the only way to go. But the hope, for me, in designing this way is to cut out the dross and provide an opportunity to play the game – not what one person thinks the game is – and use that game to elevate the experience. So that we’re all on the same page when we start and we can all rise and fall together.
Lofty goals, poorly expressed, I know.
And once again I break my own rules for commenting on reviews.
Thanks, Martin for all your hard work! I appreciate it!
This is PRECISELY what I’m talking about. You and your group have managed to find a path and create and experience that cleaves to the premise. That’s cool. The game itself, however, is an open question.
BoingBoing is the “real internets” like youtube is also the real internets. Given that, I’ve been pleasantly surprised reading the comments! It’s been very civil and people seem to generally like our stuff. Yay!