Re-posted from SG, with some edits.
So… I’m running Mouse Guard again, this time for SGBoston, and I thought I’d distill the principles I use when building missions into something kinda like Dogs in the Vineyard’s town creation rules, in case it might be helpful for other folks looking to create complex adventures.
Under each bold heading, pick something. Once you have one of each category, if you decide the settlement isn’t messed up enough, double up on one of the categories by adding an additional element. Keep adding elements in this fashion until the settlement is as crazy as you want it to be. You can also add additional settlements if you want to make a regional conflict or a conspiracy involving more than one settlement. For example, the original Fall 1152 series involves both Barkstone and Lockhaven.
PICK A SETTLEMENT
- Pick a settlement one or more of the patrol members are from or have history with (default)
- Look at the map and pick a location that looks juicy and interesting
- Pick another location (second pass only)
IN THE PAST
- The Guard messed something up there
- Local mice messed something up there
- Weather messed something up there
- Wild animals messed something up there
- Weasels messed something up there
- The Guard responded poorly (second pass only)
- Local mice responded poorly (second pass only)
IN THE PRESENT (YOUR MISSION)
- Mail must be delivered to the settlement
- Important mice or supplies must be accompanied to the settlement
- Local mice are creating difficulties for the settlement
- Weather is creating difficulties for the settlement
- Wild animals are creating difficulties for the settlement
- Weasels are creating difficulties for the settlement
- Local mice resent and/or usurp the traditional duties of the Guard
- Pick two elements and make them inter-related (second pass only)
- Local mice have no clue about what’s really going on (second pass only)
IN THE FUTURE
- Local mice will attempt to handle the current difficulties on their own (and do so poorly)
- Local mice will blame the patrol (and the Guard in general) for current difficulties
- Local mice will act to preserve themselves and push the patrol towards the difficulties
- The difficulties will get worse
- The difficulties will experience an unexpected twist
- The difficulties will target the patrol directly once they arrive
When you pick elements from these lists, you should flesh them out immediately before picking the next one, because the details of various ones should flow together. Settlements are small and deeply interconnected. If a unrest is fermenting, for example, that means local leaders are either incompetent (another problem), willfully ignoring the problem, or co-conspirators in rebellion.
Once you have enough elements to create a dynamic, hazardous environment for the patrol to be walking into, go through these elements and figure out who the core characters and obstacles are that patrol mice are likely to interact with. Name each one and either decide which mouse/animal template you’re going to use for each one or, in the case of weather or other obstacles, set the Ob number you think it’s likely to be. The Ob numbers can still be adjusted on the fly during the game, based on how the situation evolves and what the players do, but it’s good to spend time now thinking about what a good Ob is, so you don’t have to make one up on the fly without any time to think. When making NPCs, remember that’s is a good idea to make sure at least two of them are closely connected to the patrol, either personally or through their parents, senior artisan, mentor, friend, enemy, or contacts.
Then you assign the patrol their mission and go!