Impossible Tasks

My second question’s setup is this:

If I understand correctly, the mechanics are made to make the game move forward. If the characters succeed at overcoming an obstacle, the game just continues. If they fail, then you have 2 options.
Option 1: Bring a Twist
Option 2: They succeed anyway but with a condition.
If you go with a Twist, you can bring, you bring other Obstacles or a Conflict.

There is no way that they just cannot overcome an obstacle apart from being defeated in a conflict without causing the other side’s Disposition to go down. Even if they lower the other side’s disposition just a little bit, they can force something on it.

That’s all good in the GM’s Turn where the GM chooses the Obstacles.

My Question is this:

What happens when the players try something impossible in the Player’s Turn. If they spend a check on it, they should get the right to at least try, but they shouldn’t succeed. I’ll give you a very extreme example (might sound ridicule but that kind of player exists):
A player says: “I climb on top of the tower, flap my arms and try to fly away…”
Obviously, he should simply fall and get hurt.
But I can’t Injure him without making him succeed at his task…
And even if I twist it, at the end of the last Obstacle, he’ll get what he wants…
How do you guys address that?
He falls and gets injured?

The truly impossible, let them keep the check, and give them the condition… and nominate them for “Crazy” or “Mad” if they make it to winter."

Simple failure exists for
(1) All conflict rolls.
(2) All health rolls and will rolls to recover from conditions.

Note that Resources and Circles have special twist options as well.

So, in a conflict, none of the rolls is subject to condition nor twist; the outcome is the outcome, and could include conditions and/or twists, if those were in fact intended for the conflict; the individual rolls, however, don’t generate them.

Note that, for tests where failure will not hold up the mission, simple failure, while not in the rules, could be a viable option as a house rule. It’s not like Luke will be standing there with a weapon at your head as you GM…

I lose more mouse characters that way. They just keep flying away.

Are you kidding? Have you SEEN the cover of Jihad? The guy on his knees was a former BW GM who departed from the RAW.

I think I would apply MG’s rule 0: “Don’t be a dick” first and foremost to any impossible tasks. FWIW this is pretty much rule 0 in any RPG I am aware of, so the player should be familiar with it :slight_smile: Talk to the player and explain to him that his suggestion is inappropriate.

A more interest situation is one where a player tries a very difficult task. I see no reason why the rules as written wouldn’t work fine in this situation. Simply set a high Ob.

The flying example may fall under Rule 0, but there may be similar situations where it’s not so obviously ridiculous.

One way to look at it would be to treat falling as a twist. Ob 1 flying test, except with the “No Wings” factor (start counting at 20) it’s Ob 21.

The would-be flyer fails, and the GM throws a twist. He’s falling! This is a new obstacle, Ob 10 Health test to land on your feet. If you fail that, you still land, but you’re Injured.

Applying “Don’t be a Dick”, just let them slap ground, injure them, and don’t waste the time with the rolls. And being nice, let them try to shrug off the injury.

Actually, the Ob10 health roll is doable for some mice… I had a player hit 16s on an attack…
Skill/stat max 6
+Nature max 6
+3 persona
+1d Trait
+1d stuff
plus fate…
17d6 open ending 6’s. With no help.

My recommendation when applying rule 0 is not to punish the player with the mechanics to harm their PC.

Simply speak to the player OOC and note that having his mouse attempt to fly is impossible and will not work for reasons that should be bovious to everyone. Ask them what they are trying to achieve and if they do have a valid reason of any kind, work with the player to achieve it through more reasonable means.

If you have players doing stuff like this, I suspect you have bigger concerns than deciding what ability to test.

As I said, it is an extreme example.
But I beg to differ on the validity of such a request or on the sanity of the player :wink:

For example, the player wants to lower his nature but the nature trait is too high and even if he goes against nature, it doesn’t get taxed for he always succeeds… That kind of check would make sure he fails and get’s taxed.

Also, it could be tried for dramatic purposes, to satisfy a Belief of “Always test the Obvious” or to gain faillure checks in a skill. That is why I asked for something solid to put at them if the situation occurs.

But I like the replies I got so far and I think Fuseboy made me realise that with a twist, the goal can change from one thing to another: from flying to falling…

Weird, the forum didn’t register my last reply.
That’s why I’m bumping the thread right now.
Just to make sure you see that the discussion is still going.

Remember, when a test is failed, the GM takes over and describes what the character does.

That alone should scare any player away from deliberately failing a test.

However, Kenshin, I think perhaps it’s time we had a discussion about intent and task. It’s broken out explicitly in our other games, but it’s still the backbone of Mouse Guard as well.

In a BW game, when a player takes an action, the GM gets to say, “Why, what are you trying to accomplish?” Then, based on the that answer, the GM asks the player, “How are you going to accomplish that? What does your character do?”

In other words, the situation must make sense. You are the arbiter of sense. If it doesn’t make sense, there’s no test.

Oh my god!

Thanks a ton, just understood everything!
Now I can see how to react in such a situation.

Correct me if I’m wrong but what your saying is, if they want to do something but I feel that it doesn’t “accomplish” anything that makes sense in the game, then there’s no need to test. Hence, in the previous exemple, they fall and injure themselves, voilà! But if they want to seduce someone by their bravery, then I could (and probably should) devise a test for it…

Yes, a simpler and more fair way to look at it: If what they’re trying to accomplish doesn’t fit into a test for any skill or ability, then move on.

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and I don’t think BW adresses it properly. Or any game that I’ve seen, really. Luke is grasping for it here, but isn’t crystal clear yet.


If a player wants to accomplish an action that you think is “impossible,” this is not an in-game issue. It is a conflict between players, or more specifically, between their ideas of the genre they are playing in.

There is no such thing as “impossible” in fiction. Climbing a tower and flying away is impossible? But little mice who talk, wield swords, and build cities isn’t? Anything is possible in fiction, and the idea of impossible actions is a leftover from the world-simulation phase of rpg development.

The limits of what a character can do are designated by genre – some actions are in-genre, others are out-of-genre, or off-genre (I think off-genre sounds better). In the Mouse Guard genre, mouses can talk and they live in cities. They cannot fly.

So, if a player says he wants his character to climb a tower and fly away, don’t make him fall, don’t give him Ob 21, and don’t roll your eyes and laugh – that IS being a dick. Just tell him you don’t feel that is appropriate to the genre of the game. Usually (as Luke says above) the GM is the “guardian of genre” or the person who presents the genre to the players and determines what the limits are, and players tend to accept that. Maybe you’ll fight about it, maybe you’ll have to add a Flying skill because all your players demand it, but most likely the player will say “oh, okay. That makes sense!”

And then you’re all good again.

Holy jesus. Genre’s not a can of worms, no.

And here I was thinking it was gravity :wink:

No it’s not. At BOTH a ya!

In many Genres, yes. If runnning in the Smoke Ring (of Niven’s Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring), no, Tide is FAR more important…

Don’t worry johnstone, I know the player from a long way back, he never does something without a reason or to disrupt the game per say. But I’ll keep that in mind if I encounter such a person.