Help with Goals in Combat particularly

Hey all!

Very new to Mouseguard and was needing some help wrapping my brain around the goals involving combat. I have done a couple of test runs through the game and have found that it is very likely that the Mouse players will lose a conflict either sooner or later. What are some examples of Combat goals, particularly when the mice are fighting other animals. Weasels seem more like the mice in that they can have more complicated goals but i am having more trouble with things like snakes. I suppose my real question is how do you turn a combat conflict that the mice lose into a turning point for the story instead of the end of it?

From the example from the comics, when the mice fight the snake, the snake’s goal is to protect its eggs. The goal of the mice would be to locate the cart driver, but does that translate into a combat goal? I know players, particularly ones new to the game, are going to default to “Kill X” as a goal. Does this mean that the other’s goal becomes “Kill mice”? Some advice would be great, some examples would be even better!



this is a good question; because, it leads to examples. I’ll start right away, then leave comments.

Hawk: The lake towns are rich hunting grounds; I will not allow a few mice to unsettle my nesting

Mice: The lake towns provide many resources; we will prevent this predator from disrupting local commerce [by killing it | by unsettling the nest]

Results (if mice win):

Minor Comp (two possibilities): We’ve won; the hawk’s nest has been dumped from the tall, lonely pine; unfortunately, several merchants feel insecure and want Guard escorts–in wholly different directions. It will be nearly impossible to offer our duty to all of them this season. OR We’ve won; the long hunt ended with the death of the hawk; unfortunately, weeks of harvesters hiding out of sight has caused a serious shortage of grain and fruits. It will be a challenge to gather enough forage for the towns to last next season.

Comp (two possibilities): We’ve won; the hawk will seek a nest elsewhere, but we’re all tired from the hunt and the lake town mice don’t feel any safer. Commerce and harvesting may suffer while mice don’t believe they are safe enough to go above ground. OR We’ve won; the hawk is seriously injured, but our patrol leader is injured and we all are tired. How can we serve other duties while our Patrol Leader needs to recover?

Major Comp (two possibilities): We’ve won; the hawk’s hunting grounds are marked for lake town residents to be safe; unfortunately, we’re all injured and tired, and worse, the lake town mice don’t trust us to solve the problem. We’ve got to rebuild relationships and trust in the Guard. OR We’ve sorta won; the hawk is still a serious threat, and we’re all hungry; however, we’ll be able to escort the merchants of the lake towns safely. We can’t rid the Territories of every predator, but we can minimize the danger.

Of course, we could look at examples of results if the hawk wins, but I’ll have to save that for another comment.

First facet, don’t think of the goal as the animal’s actual thinking. Do think of it as a general sense of instinct.

Second facet, don’t make or allow players to make goals that are directly opposed. Make goals that are askew; they are moving in roughly divergent directions, but cross each other. The conflict occurs, then the compromise reflects how the path is distorted after they meet. Directly opposed goals are like head-on collisions or at the very least like playing chicken.

Third facet, look for surrounding factors that matter to the story. If a friend or enemy is nearby, draw them into the circle of conflict. If settlement mice are going to see or hear the conflict or the results of it, it had better cause a ripple effect through the settlement(s). If the patrol is not struggling to fulfill duties or mission objectives, drive the compromise to place an obstacle to such completion.

Thank you very much for your well thought out post!

One of the things I was thinking about when I posted but neglected to write down is when you use an animal as a complication. If using a hawk as a complication would you likely just run things as a chase, then? The comprimises would be based on the severity to which the mice win or lose.

Say another example, the mice are looking for shelter and fail their roll so they find a nice warm hidey hole but it already has a snake in it. What would some ideas be for combat goals then? “Get these mice out of here!” for the snake? “Drive the snake off so we have a place to keep warm” for the mice?

Anyone else out there want to chime in?

Maybe “protect my eggs” for the snake and “Drive the snake off so we have a place to keep warm” for the mice.

The two goals you have are to dircetly opposed, they need to be more besides.

So for a snake with the goal “protect my eggs” and the mice with the goal “Drive the snake off so we have a place to keep warm”, what would be some compromises?

Full victory for mice: They drive the snake off. I am thinking full victories are rather unlikely in Mouseguard.
Minor Compromise: Perhaps they drive the snake off but become Tired
Compromise: They find a nook in the back of the cave that they can plug up and spend the night but will have to sneak past the snake again in the morning. Or they can drive off the Snake but are Tired and Injured.
Major Compromise: They can take the nook in the back of the cave and plug it up but are also Tired and/or Injured.

What do people think?

That’s the kind if stuff you want to do in compromises. I don’t think I’ve ever given two conditions at once, but I’m not sure if that’s preference or rules. Lots of compromises possible here. You drive off the snake but its waiting outside to ambush you. You drive off the snake but break some of the eggs and make an enemy of the snake for life. You drive off the snake but the hole is less warm than you hoped, tired condition. You drive off the snake but lose important gear.

I like to challenge the players BELIEFs, INSTINCTS, and GOALS.

So, if there needs to be a compromise offered to an enemy, as a GM, just quickly scan your GM sheet and pick a key player and analyze his BIGs. Then tweak the compromise to be something that will create tension against his BIGs OR create a new situation that will work as a lure for his BIGS or play against them.

Using your snake vs mice example, I might suggest the following for a compromise if the mice win. Maybe the snake has been driven off from the nest (victory!) BUT the brand new patrol leader is humiliated because his GOAL is to prove himself as a competent leader in front of his new patrol. While the snake fled, it could return at any moment and the patrol leader is consumed with concern over the matter, making him ANGRY.

Something like that!