Looking to run MG for kids

Hi, all,

Recently, a buddy of mine’s son (age 12) has taken a fancy to gaming. He’s even in a gaming club for kids age 11-14 (which is something I wish had been available to me at that age!). He knows I’m a gamer and has been bugging me for a number of months to run a game for him. His sister (7 or 8), not wanting to be left out, also wants to play.

I got hung up on D&D, since it might be a bit… inflexible (though likely fine for the 12-year-old). However, when I found out about Mouse Guard… well, let’s just say I think it’d be a perfect fit in terms of purpose, setting, scope (mission-based) and game mechanics. (They’re going to eat up the Duel of Wits, when that’s introduced - sibling arguments that bubble into our playing determined via a “mini-game”? They’ll love it.)

My thought is to use pre-made characters, include their parents in the game (whom I’m best friends with) and very very slowly introduce the actual mechanics. At first, I’ll just focus on narrative, getting them used to sharing narrative control and making decisions once they understand the consequences, and getting them used to thinking about their Belief and Goal and how that drives their decisions. Narrative control will not be hard at all. In fact, it may be hard to control (pun intended) given how imaginative they are and that they’re kids.

One thing I will be doing (which was bluegargantua’s idea) is to use cards for scripted things, once I decide to introduce that mechanic in play. I’ve got Magic Set Editor, so I can make my own cards for the various options. I think that will speed up play and make it feel a bit more like a card game, which is something they really enjoy.

Has anyone tried to run a Mouse Guard game for kids? If so (and even if not), does anyone have any advice? What works, what doesn’t? What rules to draw attention to and which to leave to be slowly introduced over time?


You should play Mouse Guard with these kids.
I don’t think you need to very slowly do anything in the game.
I think these kids would beat you in Pokemon or Yugioh so fast, you’d wonder what the hell you spent your youth doing.
In my experience, kids understand Beliefs and Goals. Kids know what it’s like to believe in something – “When I grow up, I want to be…”. They live their lives under a set of daily given goals – “Finish your homework, then you can play Nintendo.”

Be sure to give them the double-sided character sheet with the rules for the conflicts on it. They’ll be Feinting your Maneuvers before you can say “Santa ain’t real.”


There’s not really enough mechanics in the game to piece-meal it!

I think you’re right, Luke: These kids will take to it pretty quickly. I will see their step-mom at work today (we work on opposite sides of the same office), so I’ll bug her about it and see what she thinks. Four players seems like a good number (two kids, dad and step-mom) for Mouse Guard, or any game.

stormsweeper: I’d say that’s good news for both myself and the kids! :wink:

Thanks for the responses! I’ll see if I can put this together and also write up an AP for it, when it happens. I think that’d be a really interesting read (so long as I don’t mess up too badly with a first attempt at using MG rules in play).

My 9yo plays full rules just fine. She gets bored more easily; that’s it. Full rules from day 1.

I made a set of scripting cards; my group loves them. We laminated 5 or 6 cardstock sets.

Awesome. Glad to hear that works well. Definitely going that route to provide them with something physical. I find that helps people (of all ages) stay engaged.

I was also thinking of laminating the character sheets. More trouble than it’s worth, do you think? The idea was that they could circle their weapon and write in conditions and such without fear of tearing sheets (or crumpling them, etc). The only issue would be the two-sided factor… wet erase would still come off a bit on a tablecloth or what have you. Hmmm…

THat’s simple… go to Home Depot, pick up Con-tac® brand clear non-glare laminate, and let them use pencil. $6 for a 20’ by 2’ roll.

You’ll need vinyl or gum erasers (preferably gum), but it works really well. It does result in lighter marks than normal.

Or, for the artha section, cover it with scotch® brand magic tape (the type that is frosty on the roll, but disappears on the sheet). Same issue with erasers as Con-Tac.

I ran this game with my gfs family (a 10yo and a very confusable 49 yo a 52yo gaming vet and a very beautiful and intelligent 22 yo :)) things were a little rocky due to confusion over why only 1 person on a team could take an action during an action phase instead of everyone being able to take an action and overwhelm the snake with teamwork, also the check system seemed a little bit difficult to grasp (why would we want to hurt ourselves???) but once they got used to that everything was pretty smooth.

It’s a great game for families because it doesn’t have a lot of mindless hack and slash fighting that can turn some people off to rp games like D&D. A game that I’ve found similar in being pretty family friendly is the serenity roleplaying game based of Joss Whedons Firefly universe. The D2 system is a little weird to get used to but otherwise is a pretty fun game.

I’m looking forward to running MG with my son. At the moment we’re playing a hack of the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG (using FATE), but I’m already grooming him for Mouse Guard. :smiley: We just finished up listening to the audio book for Redwall (which he loved and which is very good, quality-wise) and are currently listening to Martin the Warrior (which is good but the heavy accented voice actors make it hard to follow at times).

I collect comics. My 7 year old daughter LOVES Mouse Guard and got me to read it. It is fantastic. My daughter and my son started playing Mouse Guard on a regular basis and I thought, “What a great way to play something as a family.”

I have never RPd in this fashion. I read a review and interview from the creators and everything I saw claimed that it was based on simple mechanics and easy and fast to learn. So I bought the book.

My only experience with RP games are Arkham Horror and Last Night on Earth. Both are more like board games than D&D though… Never playing a roleplaying game before and certainly never being a GM of one…May be the rub here.

So far the book is presented with simplicity. I am as far as GM turn Vs. Players turn and it is becoming hazy to me. I come on to this site and the questions people are asking are like reading and trying to figure out Japanese fighter pilot codes.

I go to print out the character sheets provided and my stomach drops… I would be less hard pressed to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls than that sheet.

This is not a bash on the game. This is not a way of me saying that the book is not clear. This is a guy that is 36 trying to learn how to play a Roleplaying game for the first time in his life and being fearful that by the end of me reading the book…I will be lost.

I am not very far in and so far I get almost everything presented. But it scares me to see seasoned RPers not understanding what to do.

Like I said…Time may cure all of that…I sure hope so. I’ll keep reading and I’m sure I’ll make one LOOOONG post about the things I don’t understand…I just hope this community isn’t like the WoW forum community or I will be doomed

Heh No fear on the “like a WoW community” – it ain’t.

If it’s your first time ever playing a table-top RPG, you need to expect to have some troubles. Remember the first time you played baseball? Did it make any sense? It didn’t to me. I was so damn confused: “Hit the ball? Okay. But… I can choose not to swing? Why? Wait. I run where? Why can’t I run if the ball’s caught?” In other words… it was a “what the hell is happening here?” situation. :slight_smile:

Like anything else, you can’t expect RPGs to just up and make sense. My best advice is to play MG as a player first and then, once you understand how it all works (or have some experience playing it), give it a shot as a GM. Every system has its quirks and things to get used to. Even the most experienced players have to (I’d say “get to”) move through a learning curve.

The only way to really learn it is to play it. Expect mistakes/misunderstandings, and just roll with 'em. Learn as you go, laugh at your mistakes, check how to fix 'em, and have fun!

Wow what a great post!! If everyone is as patient and cool as you are with helping…Then I will put my “WoW forum fears” away.

Ideally I would like to start as a player…Realistically…Not an option. I don’t know any other role players. I have my two kids and my wife interested and to play this game it’s on my shoulders for all of us to play.

I love the “it’s ok to learn but may crack a few eggs along the way” advice. I just have it in my mind that if I screw up too much the family will lose interest.

The book is very very accommodating and right now I don’t have any true misunderstandings…But when looking at the character sheets…I feel like it will be too difficult for me to understand. It LOOKS daunting, but I may get to the end and think, “huh I get it.”

Every review I read states how easy this is and how it was designed for the comic book reader with no RPG experience…That is me.

I feel confident now thanks to you Rafe. Just knowing that there is a community forum where people are patient and there to help… Makes things so much easier to take on this task.

Thank you so much and I’m sure you’ll be helping me in the near future :wink:

Rafe is wise. I’m sorry you’re intimdated by the character sheet. But it is nearly all of the rules for the game, so that should be encouraging.

The core of it is coming up with a cool mission for your patrol based on the characters’ Beliefs. Then you challenge the Beliefs on the mission with obstacles. Characters overcome obstacles by helping each other and rolling a fistful of dice. If the required number of successes is generated, the test is passed and the players get what they want. If the required number of successes is not rolled, then the test is failed and either there is a twist or the players pass, but they suffer a condition.

Good luck.

No worries! You’ll find most people here helpful.

It might happen, but it shouldn’t. However, I’d definitely suggest you say up front that you’re going through a test run, and that they should not expect to understand everything or for everything to go smooth as water on the first try.

That said… the best advice anyone can give is to do the sample mission. I’d suggest “Find The Grain Peddler,” and use the sample characters for it. This lets you get into the action right away, no one feels too attached to their mice, and Beliefs, Instincts and Goals are taken care of. It’s easier to understand those essential three things by seeing them already worked out and specific to the mission. After that, it’ll be easier to create their own characters.

It looks like Greek because it’s essentially all the core charts and info all condensed into two sheets. :slight_smile: It’s pretty dense info if you haven’t read the sections of the RPG that put them into context.

Like I said, use the sample mission and the associated sample characters (Saxon, Lieam, Kenzie [and Sadie]), and let your family know mistakes WILL happen. Don’t sweat it, and focus on the fun. If something’s fun, pursue it.

You won’t, but that’s okay! In fact, I would say that after you finish the book but before you play the game is the period of maximum confusion. You have all these rules and bits floating around in your head, but you don’t know how they fit together or flow. Once you start to play, though, it all becomes clear!

You might do a trial run before you start the real deal: Grab your wife, give her one of the pregen characters (like Sadie or Kensie) and try a couple obstacles and a conflict, just to get a handle on the flow of the rules.

I’d agree with the points about the character sheet being overwhelming until you realize virtually <u>all</u> of the critical rule pieces are on there for easy reference. Luke (or whoever is making the various character sheets) has a knack for creating very utilitarian character sheets but which can be very intimidating to first time players - my own players freaked out when they saw their BW character sheets for the first time because of all the details on there. They’re just now (3 sessions in) getting used to the idea that everything they need to know about their characters are on that sheet.

I am <u>not</u> a master of Mouse Guard, nor BW, but love both games. I too have struggled with the player vs. GM turn because it’s not a structure that is explicitly laid out in most RPGs. In fact, it’s more present in cooperative board games so if you’re used to Arkham Horror or Descent, it might be useful to think of the GM’s turn is the point in the story at which the “adversary” takes over and does all the stuff to make life difficult for the characters while the players’ turn is the point in which they take control of the action. It’s not a great analogy because in most board games you go back and forth much more often than in MG, but it may give you a better feel for how the emphasis of the story’s direction changes.

My suggestion for starting out is what others have said: Choose one of the premade scenarios, hand out the character sheets, and just play. Don’t worry so much about playing exactly right; only that you understand the mechanics and get a feel for the game. If you emphasize the story and having a good time, and don’t bog them down in trying to make sure every rule is used correctly, everyone will have a good time.

With younger kids, I think it might even be useful to read the comic story with them and then play out the action - don’t worry about them having knowledge of the plot; that is in fact an advantage because they’ll feel like they know what they should do. You can always throw in a few changes just to keep it from being too close but that isn’t really even an issue since the die rolls are going to shift the outcome and pace from the original story anyways.

Heya! I’m just catching up with all the forum posts I’ve missed the past month (it’s been a very very busy May).

Here’s my two pieces of advice for first-time-roleplayers

  1. Focus on the first page of the character sheet; try not to get too involved with the second page … for now.

  2. Focus on the STORY and how the characters contribute to the story. Once you get that, then you can add on the more complex (aka Conflict) rules.

Now let me give you a ray of hope: As a first-time roleplayer, you are actually better off than most of us who have been ingrained into the “D&D Hack-and-Slash” mentality.

It looks like you’re familiar with World of Warcraft … so to put it in terms of MMORPGs, the way most players do D&D-style roleplaying is essentially WoW.

Mouse Guard is different. It’s like having a bunch of people – your best friends and family – come to the campfire and SHARING stories.

As the GM, you set the starting point … “In today’s episode, Gwen sends you to deliver the mail …” The players then get to chime in with what they want to do (aka Goals) and SHARE this with everyone … “Hey everyone, I’m going to make sure that mail gets there on time!” and another … “And I’ll make sure the group gets there alive!” During the GM’s turn, you challenge these Goals, as well as the player’s Beliefs and Instincts – you put them into situations that put their goals at risk, threaten their beliefs, and drive into their instincts.

And the fun doesn’t really come from rolling good dice results; the fun comes from getting into tough situations, suffering and struggling through it, and achieving your goal despite the conditions you faced.

Lay down your fears, Booly; this isn’t the WoW forums.

The GM versus the Player phase can appear to be … a little loosey-goosey … that’s not your understanding fading as you read in, it’s just they way it’s presented, a bit. Don’t lose heart.

Re: the character sheet:

  1. Don’t get intimidated by the character sheet.
  2. Make a character or two following the instructions at the back of the book, but DON’T use the character sheet at first. Just scribble notes on a piece of note paper, figure out the numbers, and write the final product out the way that Sadie and Saxon and Kenzie and Lieam are written out in the book. It is simply and painless and easy.
  3. Only then should you transfer that character to the sheet.

Understand that most of the complexity of the sheet is there to let you track stuff during the game… Pass/Fails and things like that. The backside is all just a nice (and helpful!) rules summary.

In other words, the characters are not complicated… it’s the scoring sheet that is.

You can do it. You totally can.

I think you and Rafe are right… I read more last night and I can see how it flows now.

What rolls when are a fear, but I am going to take the wife and use her as my guinea pig :stuck_out_tongue:

Thank you all for your posts! I am thrilled that you all are so supportive…

I’m sure I will have more questions and I look forward to your advice.

btw…Is the Luke poster the creator of the game?

If Yes then I am in awe. That is unheard of that the creator of a game personally answers posts!!! That makes me proud that Mouse Guard is my first RPG :slight_smile:

If it’s not him… Oh well you were still very helpful and ty

Ha, yeah, that’s the infamous Mr. Crane. Beware his sarcastic streak though.

Honestly, MG is different enough from most other RPGs that it’s probably good you’re playing it first! Lots of people (me included) had trouble wrapping their head about the structure and form of MG.