Group division on a Journey

I just came across another question I had. I am doing a Winter game for the one shot and as such there is going to be a conflict to determine how well they make it to their destination. I am expecting 5-6 people for this game and I was wondering how you handle groups in this kind of situation. This is a patrol of Mice Guard, why make two different dispositions for this? Or would you roll them all into a single group (a group larger than 3) for this particular instance so that everyone shares in the twist/complications?

Thanks in advance for any information. Getting excited! My first Mouse Guard game in 2 days! I am trying really hard not to prepare as much beforehand but it is hard for me to do. I like mapping things out and I want this to unfold more organically.

Choosing sides in a conflict will determine how the group splits. With a group of 5-6 you may find that–as a GM–you want them to split into two groups of 3 mice knowing that the Wilderness or Weather will be the other opposition in the conflict.

The conflict Goal will also be a huge determining factor of teams and team size.

So, let’s imagine Weather takes a side in the conflict as a thick blizzard rolls in from the north coast while the patrol is given an urgent duty to reach Barkstone (a lengthy trek). The blizzard is a symptom of the season; we’ll imagine the conflict Goal of the Weather is, “I will drain traveling mice of resources, motivation, and drive; any mice traveling while I am in control will risk death to accomplish their objective.”

Now, if each and every mouse agrees on a conflict goal (for example, “We will not be delayed under any risk to reach Barkstone and deliver our duty.”) then you haven’t got separate teams. Everyone will simply join the same team.

On the other hand, if some mice have an idea for the trek which is different than others, then you’ll get more sides to it. Let’s imagine a group of three mice agree, “We will risk any hardship to reach the destination promptly; our delivery is of utmost importance to health and safety.” In contrast, a group of the other three mice declare, “We must not risk death, for the message we carry is urgent; if our own safety is at stake, we must delay in order to ensure we arrive at Barkstone.” Now, that’s a good reason to split the teams.

Ok, our imaginary scenario is:
Weather: Team Killer Blizzard - “drain resources, motivation, drive; mice risk death” which might translate later to Hungry, Tired, Angry, Sick, Dead.
Mice 1: Team Risk Anything - “any hardship in favor of time; delivery must be timely” which might translate to any number of Conditions as long as the delivery is quick
Mice 2: Team Safe Delivery - “cannot risk safety for urgency; delivery must be successful” which might translate to a delaying Twist as long as the delivery is possible

Next, the teams must apply another condition: it is all-on-all (rather than two-on-one). The two teams have divergent goals with one willing to risk hardship in favor of urgency while the other will not risk safety in favor of urgency.

This means some of their Attacks, Defends, Feints, and Maneuvers will be directed at each other in hopes of ensuring their own Dispo survives to win.

Even if both mice teams work together initially to drop Weather’s Dispo to 0, the conflict is not over! Only one team may remain with Dispo above 0. This means that they must drop Dispo of one another, and it means Weather continues to take actions while the conflict continues! It is a very precarious position to be in.

Once there is a single winner, the compromise can be negotiated. If Weather wins, but owes any sort of compromise, then the players can begin to debate who takes the brunt of the resulting Conditions/Twist. Probably the mouse who rolls for Dispo of a team faces the most debilitating Condition(s).

In the negotiation, I might recall which team hit 0 first and offer them less in the compromise than the other team (i.e. they get the worse deal).

If a mouse team survives with both Weather and other mouse team hitting 0, then probably no mouse risks death, but certainly the result cannot be both urgent delivery and safe delivery–one or the other will be the result. Additionally, Weather will want to make claim in the compromise also.

Three team conflicts are intense. Actions still have to be secretive. Goals must be divergent. Teams must Attack and Defend against a designated target, but must face both teams.

Lastly, if Weather hits 0 Dispo, then a mouse team chooses to Surrender to the other team–they lose everything about their goal. Even Weather would get a better compromise result than the Surrendering team.

This is a new group, none (including me!) have ever played Mouse Guard before and I just wanted to ask if they could all be on the same team. I assumed there was a reason that larger groups were discouraged, the most obvious is that it takes awhile for everyone to come back around on their turn. I wanted to just do a Conflict to start just to get the hang of it. Maybe a simple vs. test would be better to get things started faster? I have a fair amount of story ideas down the road but I suppose I could just work them in as twists or complications in this conflict.

I agree with your concern that having everyone on a team may take a while to get a turn. A simple Vs test is a good start which can allow participation through Helper skills and wises.

With a new group that is large, it might be advantageous to have a complex obstacle which represents a smaller piece of an overall goal.

In the case of a journey in winter, you can still get a lot of interesting results from a complex task to complete the journey while encouraging more participation.

It might look like:

Wilderness Obstacle: while traveling between Lockhaven and Flintrust the patrol must handle the expected matters of navigation, encampments, and supplies in addition to encountering a group of waylaid pilgrims intent on arriving at Appleloft to spend the winter performing. The pilgrims are arguing about the best route now that a frost and snowfall have blocked a normally easy trail.

In that scenario, one portion of the complex obstacle might be any of a Pathfinder, Survivalist, or Harvester tests with an expectation of Helper from other skills or wises. The next section might be a test to calm the pilgrims and set them in the right way with any of Orator, Instructor, or Cartographer tests. It would also be a chance to see what the group suggests to both fulfill the trip as well as help mice in need.

While one or both of the complex obstacles could serve for Conditions, each could serve as a catalyst for a Twist instead. This allows for the group to split towards the task they find most important or which they are most suited to accomplish. However, it also keeps the group united in a primary effort to avoid conflicting with each other over success.

If all mice act as helpers to a complex task, they can maintain participation with less taking of turns.

In a journey, you can very easily use a Twist to make the situation worse and allow the group to consider what additional plans will be needed. This allows for more mice to put forth effort by saying, “That mouse has used the skill, but if you want to face the worsened situation with the same skill, it will need to be through the effort of another mouse.” In that way, two mice with similar skills can both be considered useful.