Life in the Territories

Non-Mouse Guard character creation rules.MGsupplement_2e_r1.pdf (265.8 KB) Feedback welcome. I haven’t designed anything for Mouse Guard in maybe six years, so please be gentle!

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That’s really good, you could use it for a character arc about joining the guard which sounds really cool.

There’s a bit missing on the nature questions on page 19 for if you stand your ground. I think it used to suggest replacing your home trait with Fiery, Foolhardy or Defender maybe.

The cloak colour paragraph on page 25 doesn’t apply to characters made with these rules.

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Oh, this is going to be fun. Will review!

I’ve been working on NPC creation processes for years, but mostly in my head. I haven’t got solid written documentation of my process, but there are some notes, and those notes will help me contribute some insights into this.

I see this is really about giving PC options that fall outside the Guard, so this is not the ground I have tread. I’ve remained committed to, “PCs are Guard members!” Regardless, I think there are insights I can share from my work.

I’ll write again later today or tomorrow with more actionable notes.

Great stuff! I love it, but especially as a stepping stone for deeper content. My review is as follows.

Bound by the Guard

I am glad you place this as the first subheading. I have always held this game works best with players characters coming from the Guard only, and that only mice are player characters. So, seeing this focal emphasis on creating characters outside the Guard, but not outside the orbit of the Guard is something I praise. I feel that’s simply critical to maintaining the tone of the game.

Age

I think this is an elegant means of removing the birth year and age spans; it just allows a player to decide on one of three bands for age and apply the rules.

However, I think there are some too-heavy-handed elements in the rules, as well as a few missing elements in the rules for age.

Oldfur: I would rather see the rules clearly state that selecting this as the age immediately gives Oldfur at level 2, gives Health 3 and Will 5, caps Health at 5 and Nature at 6. I feel the removal of a Nature descriptor is an elegant method to implement one additional impact of age. It might be worth having a bullet to remind players and game masters this presents some added risk of Tax for players; because they can still do each of the activities from the descriptors, but now, one of those is outside Nature for that oldfur character. I think a reminder would be good for clarification.

Yet, overall, the trade-off as-is seems a bit heavy-handed; the as-is state tells a player to pick up Oldfur trait, but does not tell when or whether that’s an enforceable rule. So, I’d rather it is a bulleted rule of declaring one’s character is an oldfur. And, in the midst of that, there is a new question: if a character gains Oldfur at a later time, do the caps to Health and Nature arise and apply? Should the character then remove a Nature descriptor? It might be another spot for a bulleted rule to indicate whether gaining the trait at a later time impacts in any additional way.

As well, I feel the Circles and Resources gaining a bonus is well-founded. All the old folks just seem to know one another. And, living a good deal older probably grants some reputable status in a community. I do not feel the trade-off of caps on Health and Nature are quite equal rivals to the benefit of Circles and Resources, so it might be easier to provide guidance to players that Oldfur as a trait should be used for benefitting or detriment Circles and Resources rather than placing the bonus as a rule. Personally, I’d leave off the hard-coded bonus, and place the guidance that it should be applied as benefit or detriment in Circles and Resources tests. This places it firmly as player empowerment.

TL;DR: Character immediately gains Oldfur 2 trait, has caps on Health and Nature, has Health 3, Will 5 assigned, and guidance is offered for players and game masters about including Oldfur in Circles and Resources tests. The player removes one Nature descriptor. If the Oldfur trait is later gained, the caps apply and a Nature descriptor is removed by whomever applied the trait.

Youngfur: This is not great. As with oldfur age, I’d say there should be a hard-coded rule giving the Youngfur trait immediately at level 2, Health 5, Will 3, and guides players and game masters to include Youngfur as benefit or detriment in Circles and Resources tests–again, this is a player tool, so player empowerment.

It remains a less-appealing choice in building a character, as there are few benefits of selecting the youngfur age. It pretty neatly translates to one extra choice of a trait at a later time; oldfurs also have an additional trait at a later time. As-is, this indicates the oldfurs get a bonus and the added trait selection while youngfurs get a penalty and the added trait selection. I’d say that loses appeal.

TL;DR: Character immediately gains Youngfur 2 trait, has Health 5, Will 3, and guidance is offered for players and game masters about including Youngfur in Circles and Resources tests. If the Youngfur trait is later gained, nothing else is applied.

Midfur: No worries here. It’s the basic path for the majority of adults.

Raw Abilities

As mentioned in the selection of age, I’d assign values for oldfurs and youngfurs, so the midfurs should probably be assigned Health 4, Will 4. If that assignment of the Health and Will are moved to the rules for selecting age, this subheading can be removed.

Profession

Overall, I would bring Circles and Resources into assigned values for each profession rather than using a rubric at a later time to determine the starting Circles. I see that is gaining insights from Torchbearer, but I wouldn’t use it as a game master in Mouse Guard. Circles as an Ability is simply less impactful, so I’d rather simply assign it alongside Resources. It speeds character creation and creates another lever in the decision-making of selecting the profession.

Apothecary: I’d assign Circles 2, Resources 3; skills as-is; wises as-is; Traits: Determined or Suspicious; gear as-is.

Bandit: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; skills as-is; Wises: Ambush-wise or Racket-wise; Traits: Vengeful or Natural Bearings; gear as-is.

Beetle Wrangler: I’d assign Circles 2, Resources 3; Skills: Insectrist 3, Laborer 3, Scout 2; wises as-is; Traits: Hard Worker or Curious; gear as-is.

Boatmouse: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; skills as-is; wises as-is; Traits: Steady Paw or Otter’s Fur (this is actually just intended as a superstitious title to replace Water Resistant as though it bears similarity to Wolf’s Snout or Hawk’s Eye); gear as-is.

Cultist: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Loremouse 3, Manipulator 3, Weather Watcher 2; wises as-is; Traits: Skeptical or Vengeful; gear as-is.

Diplomat: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Orator 3, Haggler 2, Administrator 2, Archivist 2; Wises: Town Problems-wise or Political Intrigue-wise; Traits: Cunning or Driven; gear as-is.

Forager: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Haggler 2, Harvester 2, Laborer 2, Survivalist 2, Pathfinder 2; wises as-is; traits as-is; gear as-is.

Hermit: I’d assigned Circles 2, Resources 3; Skills: Baker 2, Cook 2, Harvester 2, Survivalist 2, Weather Watcher 2; Wise: Strange Happenings-wise or Broken Society-wise; Traits: Hare’s Ear or Warbler’s Voice (in this case, replacing the Deep Ear with Hare’s Ear is just a renaming to align with Wolf’s Snout or Hawk’s Eye; Warbler’s Voice is just another superstitious ability having to do with a singing voice); gear as-is.

Hunter: I’d assigned Circles 3, Resources 2; skills as-is; Wises: Predator-wise, Raptor-wise, or Serpent-wise; traits as-is; gear as-is.

Mountebank: (Honestly, I’d call this Charlatan, but that doesn’t much matter) I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Haggler 3, Orator 3, Brewer 2; wises as-is; Traits: Suspicious or Brazen; gear as-is.

Peddler: I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Haggler 3, Pathfinder 2, Survivalist 2, Weather Watcher 2; wises as-is; Traits: Clever or Cunning; gear as-is.

Retired Guardmouse: I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Fighter 2, Hunter 2, Pathfinder 2, Scout 2, Survivalist 2; wises as-is; Traits: Scarred or Proud; gear as-is.

Scientist: I’d assign Circles 2, Resources 3; Skills: Scientist 3, Brewer 2, Miller 2, Weather Watcher 2; wises as-is; Traits: Rational or Curious; gear as-is.

Soldier: (Although I think Sentry is more appropriate to my take on this) I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Fighter 3, Administrator 2, Archivist 2, Armorer 2; wises as-is; Traits: Drunkard or Stubborn; gear as-is.

Schoolmouse: I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Archivist 3, Administrator 2, Instructor 2, Orator 2; wises as-is; Traits: Wise or Foolhardy; gear as-is.

Trademouse: (Although I’d call it Merchant, but that doesn’t much matter) I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Haggler 3, Administrator 2, Archivist 2, Instructor 2; wises as-is; Traits: Penny Wise or Foolhardy; gear as-is.

Wanderer: (Although I’d call it Pilgrim, but that doesn’t much matter) I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Laborer 3, Pathfinder 2, Survivalist 2, Weather Watcher 2; wises as-is; Traits: Generous or Compassionate or Natural Bearings; gear as-is.

Woodsmouse: (Although I call this Wildemouse in all my content) I’d assign Circles 3, Resources 2; Skills: Hunter 2, Loremouse 2, Pathfinder 2, Scout 2, Survivalist 2; wises as-is; Traits: Lost or Natural Bearings or Weather Sense; gear as-is.

Choosing Skills

Starting Skill Ratings: I just want to note here that you designed this tally process to open any skill at rating 2; I used that to set every Circles or Resources rating above in professions to minimum 2. At rating 1, a character has only a single passed test to advance, and that’s not as hard as might be expected. At rating 2, a character needs a minimum of three tests–two passed and one failed; that’s a bit more grit to require of a character than a single passed test in order to advance that stat.

Where were you born?

I’d suggest that every possible hometown should offer four skills and three traits as an option; this is to empower a sentiment of diversity for the variety of mice who come from the villages, towns, and cities.

Barkstone: I’d assign Skills: Carpenter or Glazier or Potter or Smith; Traits: Steady Paw or Big Paw or Stoic.

Copperwood: I’d assign Skills: Smith or Haggler or Scout or Laborer; Traits: Independent or Driven or Lost.

Elmoss: I’d assign Skills: Carpenter or Harvester or Haggler or Instructor; Traits: Alert or Fearful or Jaded.

Ivydale: I’d assign Skills; Archivist or Harvester or Baker or Miller; Traits: Hard Worker or Wise or Generous.

Lockhaven: I’d assign Skills: Armorer or Apiarist or Administrator or Weaver; Traits: Guard’s Honor or Defender or Bodyguard.

Port Sumac: I’d assign Skills: Boatcrafter or Brewer or Haggler or Weather Watcher; Traits: Drunkard or Weather Sense or Natural Bearings.

Shaleburrow: I’d assign Skills: Baker or Brewer or Cook or Miller; Traits: Open-Minded or Independent or Fiery

Sprucetuck: I’d assign Skills: Healer or Loremouse or Scientist or Archivist; Traits: Rational or Inquisitive or Curious.

Life Experience

Alright, so this is the first point at which the age selection hits hardest; oldfurs choose from the list to select three?! Youngfurs only select one?! I think we’ve got a different view on what the value of age happens to be. I’d suggest a reversal. But, let’s look at how to cause a trade-off between the oldfurs and youngfurs.

  • Youngfurs select three skills from the following list
  • Midfurs select two skills from the following list
  • Oldfurs select one skill from the following list

Now, contrasting the above, I’ll briefly leap over parent’s trade, specialty, social graces, and Nature to look at wises.

Being Wise

Here is where the trade-off between oldfurs and youngfurs occurs.

  • Youngfurs select one wise from the list or created based on the examples
  • Midfurs select two wises from the list or created based on the examples
  • Oldfurs select three wises from the list or created based on the examples

Combined with the choices of life experience, this indicates a youngfur might have more exposure to a variety of skills, but have a shallow dive at one or more of those life experiences, and youngfurs do not know quite as much about the world. Yet, it indicates an oldfur has forgotten the shallow exposure to a variety of skills, and kept only that which they had a deep understanding, and oldfurs have built a wellspring of knowledge upon which they can draw to assist others.

I suggest this for two reasons

  1. Youngfurs will now have more skills rated at minimum 2, which can serve as Helper dice, but probably are not the go-to character for testing those low-rated skills; the youngfurs can Help companions but are at the same risk of Condition(s) from coward dice.
  2. Oldfurs will now have more wises, which can serve to assist or support, but cannot be the go-to character for testing the wise itself (although, they can test higher-rated skills with the wise as a back-pocket recovery using Fate or Persona); the oldfurs can contribute to companions but are at no risk of Condition(s) from coward dice. Plus, they can complain that coward dice show their companion didn’t listen to their insights.

So, push risk onto the youngfurs while giving them more skills; reduce risk from the oldfurs while giving them more wises.

Returning to the process as-written, let’s look at parent’s trade, specialty, social graces, and Nature.

What was your parent’s trade?: no comments; leave as-is.

How do you convince people that you’re right or to do what you need?: no comments; leave as-is.

What’s your specialty?: I would suggest each character must choose a specialty from the skills available to their choice of profession, rather than the life experience. I’d push this tally to be, improve something you already do, rather than allowing for a player to select as specialty something the character does not already have one or more tally marks, thus giving them a rating of 2. It’s meant to be their specialty, but they are rated at 2?! I don’t like it. I’d constrain the characters to improve something they already have rather than permit the opening of something at 2 that is meant to illustrate a specialty.

Tally: no comments.

Nature

My only review comment is that you have left off some text in the responses to the second question, “If you stand your ground, .” This is missing any text to complete the sentence. Otherwise, no other comments; leave as-is.

Or, maybe don’t. I suggest this is a good spot to reinforce the message from Bound by the Guard with questions that describe something more about living within that relationship to the Guard. Long ago, I had worked on a process for NPCs until I decided it is better to assign a Nature rating to NPCs rather than use the rubric of questions to assess the NPC Nature rating. So, the following two questions came from that.

  1. Does this mouse engage in confrontations or concessions with the Guard?
    If the mouse concedes, increase Nature by one. If the mouse confronts, decrease Nature by one. If uncertain or the answer depends on circumstances, make no change.
  2. Does this mouse express faith or doubt in the affairs of the Guard?
    If the mouse expresses faith, increase Nature by one. If the mouse expresses doubt, decrease Nature by one. If uncertain or the answer depends on circumstances, make no change.

Neither is perfectly fitting, but I think both serve as a suggestion to reinforce the focus on this character having connections to the Guard. I think it is something worth considering for this project.

Circles and Relationships

I have no distinct comments on this; I don’t think this rubric of questions is quite as good in Mouse Guard as it is in Torchbearer, but I don’t have any specific comments to improve on this. I guess I can say, I wouldn’t use this as a game master, but I wouldn’t have anything to replace it with. When creating characters, I only want a player to consider, name, profession, where the relationship typically lives or travels, and whether they are living or dead. I do not want to tie the number of relationships to the Circles rating.

Mouse Traits

This rolls very similar to the existing rules for Recruitment, so I have less to say outright, but there are a few considerations.

Choose a quality you were born with: I would cull this list down to only those terms that seem distinctly linked to physical attributes or superstition, and move all those that seem linked to mental or emotional attributes to another list for selection.

Choose something you learned or inherited from your parents: As this is for youngfurs only, I suspect it would be good to cull this list down to only those terms that seem distinctly linked to life’s lessons from one’s parents, and move all those that seem linked to life’s lessons from the school of hard knocks, physical, mental, or emotional attributes, or superstition to another list for selection.

Life in the Territories: As this is for oldfurs only, I suspect it would be good to cull this list down to only those terms that seem distinctly linked to life’s lessons from the school of hard knocks or superstition, and move all those that seem linked to life’s lessons from one’s parents, physical, mental, or emotional attributes to another list for selection.

All the rest

I do not have comments for the remainder aside from adjusting Cloak Color to something like Raiment as found in Torchbearer.

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I just started a Mouse Guard campaign and I am using this document to run vignette situations between sessions of the main campaign. The idea is that these will be short duet sessions about a character whose situation was impacted by the actions of the player character patrol.

In the first session, the patrol escorted some new settlers to Pebblebrook from Barkstone. It became clear that some of the settlers had fought for Midnight in the previous year’s rebellion and they were denied entry to the town. The patrol advocated for these former rebels and convinced the mayor to honor the treaty between the guards and those who had fought beneath Midnight’s banner.

In our first vignette, a player will play as one of the settlers they helped: specifically the veteran who was spoiling for a fight when they were first denied entry into town. I created a character using the Life in the Territory rules for this session.

Laird
Fought for Midnight in the rebellion but has seen how the Guard puts their lives on the line for the mice of the territories.
Belief: Pebblebrook is my home, even if they don’t want me here.
Goal: I will find a way to make a living in my trade.
Instinct: When words won’t work, come out swinging.

GM Turn:

  • Mine metal for the forge. Laborer ob3. Tired condition on failure.
  • Choose:
  1. Make tools for the craftsmice. Smith ob3. Twist on failure.
  2. Make spears for the town guard. Armorer ob2. Twist on failure.
  • Twist: A local comes looking for trouble, maybe even to wreck Laird’s forge. Several versus tests possible. Persuader/ Manipulator/ Fighter. Condition on failure.

Plenty of options on the players’ turn (Haggle to make your first sale, Circles to hire an apprentice, etc).

It is possible that the missing part was… “if you stay on the ground… eliminate escape from your Nature”.

Because the Nature descriptors are written suspiciously below.