I’ve been busy with day-job workload, but I had time to settle in for reading the Recruitment chapter. Here’s the kneejerk review.
Firstly, Recruitment is just the (better) term for Character Generation in Mouse Guard–in case anyone reading didn’t realize. It has traditionally been an easy process, and the new edition provides a slightly streamlined process. I do think it’s an improvement; however, I’ve got a .pdf of the earlier process in case I want to offer more customization for players that don’t like the constraints of the new steps.
I think that’s probably the best note to be mentioned: If you have the earlier rules, it is an easy option to use those earlier rules in case you don’t like the new edition Recruitment process. This will vary among GMs and players as it will also vary based on the sort of campaign a GM and players wants to develop.
All Together Now:
Do play-group Recruitment for characters rather than individual player Recruitment for a character. That’s the same advice as previous, but I just like it.
I don’t see a change here; I want to call this out for being too simplified. Concept is Conquest! In the Mouse Guard game (and from my experience, Burning Wheel and Torchbearer share this), the concept is a very important step. I’d say this critical step for a play group to discuss together. When I have introduced players into table sessions or shared google doc sessions, the concept sheet is a step I provide first; it is a page which encourages the player to describe the concept in a concise paragraph rather than a short phrase.
Here is the meat of PC capability–though not the whole identity.
The new rules will feel more like Torchbearer in the case of a starting package. Rank now determines Skills baseline, Health & Will (as before), and (later) Circles & Resources. Rank provides influence on Age, Wises, and available Skill/Trait choices.
This marks a change in the process by which a baseline package of skills is determined which speaks to the minimum requirements for function in the organizational rank; this is story as mechanics. Some GMs and players will hate that. To that demographic especially I advise adapting the earlier Recruitment rules.
To other GMs and players, I suggest this is a good tool for determining Promotion–if you start a PC and reach at least the minimum baseline in the Recruitment Skills for your next rank, then you’re probably a candidate for promotion!
This does not show automatic progression in the same skills from Tenderpaw - Guardmouse - Patrol Guard - Patrol Leader. Each rank has some overlap, but also some skills are set in a rank which does not show in another. I recall some comments about this in the forum. Summarized, the comment seemed to ask, “Why would another rank no longer have the skills they previously acquired?” which is a bit of a misunderstanding about the recruitment process. It is intended to create a snapshot of the PC in media res–all the play which happens afterward will change and develop the character further.
This new process removes the tabula rasa experience for players who were trying hard to build a PC to deal with exact obstacles of the campaign or mission. You don’t get a blank slate from step one. You now begin with a baseline Skill package. Each other mouse of a same rank will also have the same baseline. This will be a guide for Helper dice, but it will also provide some table chatter about who makes the test—now more players will have similar skills in a patrol.
Side note: Guard Captain also has a starting skill package.
Choosing Skills: Where were you Born?
The hometown choices have been provided again. It will provide a Skill and a Trait intended to represent the hometown. I’ve personally never liked this, but I don’t complain too much.
I’d rather see a list included of common skills and traits which could be chosen instead of the Hometown package. I think it would be especially appealing for PCs of Patrol Guard and higher rank who may have been away from home for longer. That’s me linking story and mechanics (which some GMs and players hate); however, considering this is a status quo of the new process when choosing rank, maybe it is fitting to consider this. It does not, however, fit with the goal of a streamlined Recruitment process.
Choosing Skills: Life Experience
Everyone has a natural talent; I can understand why Tenderpawsand Guard Captains choose two from this list. The Tenderpaw has recently come from home—they had more time for developing a natural talent. The Guard Captain is rarely on the patrol—they’ve got more time for engaging a natural talent.
Everyone has a trade learned from parents. I kinda wish this list were longer. I’m not convinced everyone’s parent passed a craft/trade skill; however, I give this a pass.
Everyone has interpersonal communication: Manipulator, Orator, Persauder are the choices here. I’ve always wished Haggler were a choice. It is not easy to pick up these skills and not frequent they are practiced in sessions.
Everyone experienced an apprenticeship when joining the Guard, and the available skills are craft/trade centric—just like the parental skill.
Everyone had mentorship when joining the Guard, and the skills available come from the Guard list, excuse me, the patrol skills. A Tenderpaw no longer chooses two—the skill package supplants having two picks from the mentorship.
Everyone aside from Tenderpaws has a specialty among the patrol skills.
This has moved to post-Skill tally, which is a good choice as it provided in past some influence over the Traits allowable and the Fighter skill. In the move, some wording has changed to retain the influence over Fighter, but also allow a player to gain Traits in the process of answering questions. This might offer more of the same Traits in a patrol too.
Side Note: for those adapting the earlier process, I would be sure to use this observation about moving the Nature step after the Skill step and before the Trait step.
The rank determines the number of starting wises and influences the choices. Specifically, Tenderpaws must choose one of two options—both of which confuse me a bit. Guard Captain must choose one of two options—both of which seem totally apropos. However, whether these confuse or are apropos, I’m still thinking about the new system for Wises and wondering how much shoehorn I already had to listen for regarding Wises about unrelated stuff—sometimes it was really good roleplay and enriching story. Most often, players in search of a bonus didn’t know how to make the most of Wises. The required choices for Tenderpaws and Guard Captains don’t seem easy to apply in all cases—which is fine—and seem downright campaign or mission specific in most cases.
Determined by rank; no questions.
Determined by rank; no questions
I feel these could have been listed in the starting rank package alongside Health & Will to save page space; however, there is still a short blurb of text about each Ability. That blurb also exists in greater detail in the Abilities & Skills chapter.
Everyone has a natural inherent trait choice, and this appears to be a large list of options. I think I’d have chosen the more physical and mental traits for this list and left off the emotional and experiential traits. For example, Weather Sense seems rather like an accumulation of weather event experiences while Short seems rather like a physical description. Another example, Longtail seems a physical description while Curious seems a mental quirk. This is not a huge issue, but seems like a niche place to encouraging players to have Traits which come from multiple facets of character attributes.
Only the Tenderpaw has retained a parental trait. I wish Guardmouse also had this choice, and I think for most of my GMing I’ll allow Tenderpaw and Guardmouse to have a parental trait.
Only Patrol Leader and Guard Captain have acquired a Life on the Road trait, and the text now specifies this is not for Patrol Guard where earlier text only specified Guardmouse and Tenderpaw. I think for most of my GMing I’ll allow Patrol Guard and Patrol Leader to have a Life on the Road trait—Guard Captains have to spend more time in Lockhaven, so they’ve kinda lost this attribute.
The idea for me is that choice of, ‘how many traits can I get?’ sometimes determines the choice of rank. I’d rather reduce that for players. I think most new players should be starting as Guardmouse, some playing time prepares them for Patrol Guard or Patrol Leader. Only veteran players should be Tenderpaw or Guard Captain. That’s just my opinionated opinion. No one else should feel compelled to agree.
The remainder of the Recruitment process is unchanged: Name, Fur Color, Parents, Senior Artisan, Mentor, Friend, Enemy, Cloak Color, etc.
Now, Torchbearer doesn’t fill your contact list with NPCs, and I kinda wish Mouse Guard did something similar. Torchbearer declares the PC has not got more than three NPC relationships. I’d like to see something like that in Mouse Guard, but with the explicit declaration that one or more of the Parents, Artisan, or Mentor is dead—lost in some foul way to predator, weather, or wilderness. Yes, someone your PC once knew closely has met an untimely and unfavorable death! And it shaped something about what you do in the Guard.
Another Torchbearer declaration is about level, but might—maybe—be translated into Rank. It states that you surpass your mentor and must choose another. I’d like to see something like that in Mouse Guard. I’d prefer that Patrol Guard and Patrol Leader must have a different mentor than when they were Tenderpaw and/or Guardmouse rank. So, its fine if, as Tenderpaw or Guadmouse, you have a dead mentor, but upon making the promotion to Ptl Guard or Ptl Leader, you had better find a new mentor—a living mentor—who helps you progress and stabilize in the new rank/role.
But, that’s a silly dream; since, we’ve gotten this new edition due to extensive effort (not by me, but by the Burning Wheel team), and having a new change for a few silly wishes by a fan would be absurd.
Well, that’s the end of it. I’ve finished my kneejerk review. I still want to chat more about it. I think I’ll have to create another, more thoughtful review. I’ll have to create some additional review from a new perspective.
Best wishes to everyone—go play!