MG resolution system... (sell me on it)

It’s not my intention to be provocative or troll-like with this post and I apologize in advance if anyone takes my criticisms too personally.

I’m a 20+ year veteran of about a jillion rpg systems and over the years I’ve been leaning more and more towards leaner systems that encourage storytelling/role-playing over managing massive data tables. I heard about the simple/elegant systems behind MG and decided to pick up a copy (having no experience with BW).

The character creation system is a charming, the task-check system is clean, the traits system is an interesting take on the kind of character defining attributes that Spirit of the Century uses, etc. etc. All good stuff so far.

And then we hit the RESOLUTION section of the rules and all of the elegance goes out the window and the “simplicity” turns around to bite the user on the butt. I’ve tried to give this system the benefit of the doubt but I find it so wildly contrary to the rest of the attitude of the system that stresses role-play and simple mechanics.

It’s contrived (the weird “team-based” objectives - regardless of what motivations the individual might have and how those motivations might be mercurial during the action), it’s clunky (the cross-reference charts that are modified yet again by particular weapons), and the “tactical” choices are hollow (choosing between attack, defend, etc. is almost always an obvious character choice or comes down to a random rock-paper-scissors game).

The whole resolution system smacks of “different for the sake of being different” rather than actually offering anything better than what has been previously designed in other game systems. And where I find FREEDOM in the rest of the open-ended mechanics of MG, I find the rigid, board-game structure of the resolution system to be absolutely stifling.

I gm games for my kids on occasion and try out various systems with them and I thought that MG would be a nice one to try out but the irony is that the conflict resolution system has been the least intuitive one that they have tried to digest. They feel straight-jacketed by it (and so do I).

I like the notion of compromises and of doing away with “hit points” but I just can’t see the appeal of using the remainder of the conflict rules. When I go through the motions of trying to convince myself that the system works and just go with the flow, other simple game systems pop up in my head (Savage Worlds, Fudge, d6, etc.) and remind me of how EASY and narrative the same combat actions could be instead of the strange 1-2-3 dance of MG.

So, short of gutting out the conflict resolution system and replacing it with something that doesn’t require more modifications to the character/skill system, I am trying to come to grips with MG and see if maybe I’m just missing the BIG PICTURE. I’d hate to think that the MG resolution system is like beer in that everybody hates it at first but after you suffer through tons of the bitter stuff, you’ll eventually develop a taste for it. I want to enjoy it out of the gate.

Obviously a lot of thought went into it and a lot of people find it a usable and enjoyable system, so my request goes out to those people: what is it about the system that is worth sticking with it rather than ejecting it in favor of something cleaner? Sell me on it, if you care to.

Ehh, I liked beer the first time I tried it.

Well, how can I possibly take advice from an obvious fibber?!?

Hey, I was just kidding around. I really do like beer though and I don’t remember ever taking a sip and going, “wow, that was awful.”

As for MG, I guess I shouldn’t have posted in your thread since I don’t see the game the same as you. I think the Resolution chapter supports the spirit of MG. I see the system as not only requiring story development but creating it.

Unless I’m reading your post incorrectly, it doesn’t seem like you’ve actually played the game yet, just read the book. If that’s right, wait till you actually play the game. I think you might have a different reaction to the game’s conflict and obstacle resolution mechanics. I know I did.

Just take it slow, make sure everyone is talking and offering advice, take time to reference the rulebook, and allow the game to present itself piece by piece.

And make sure to have a beer to sip as you play. :slight_smile: cheers!

Don’t take this as being cruel…

My knee-jerk reaction is to say “not every game is meant for everyone”. If you don’t like the system then perhaps the game is not right for you?

You even gave a number of other systems that you seem to enjoy. Roleplayers enjoy the options of many systems at this time.

I personally like the Volley mechanic - it adds a certain amount of uncertainty to Conflicts. And it is a unified mechanic since a Conflict is not simply combat - it can be any Conflict - from building a bridge to evacuating a town to combat (and anything in between). In essence it is bringing the camera closer.

I like the system. But then I also like Burning Wheel.

So why do you want to play this game? (Seriously, what do you want to get from it).

Dude…it is totally your intention to be provocative with your post. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s all the emotion-laden language that gives you away. I’m totally fine with that – I’m a fan of provocative posts myself! – but let’s be honest about your angle here.

To address your final point, we need to accept your thesis that MG’s system is not “clean” and that there’s some value to its “clunkiness.” That’s gonna be a tough one, given the meager case you’ve laid out and your lack of AP experience with the system. It looks like your primary points is that the system is a) contrived (teams make no sense to you), b) clunky (there’s a chart involved, and modifiers), and c) tactically unfulfilling (four choices, and their various interactions, aren’t enough).

Point a) is a matter of both theme and expedience. The point of MG is that, most of the time, you’re part of a team of guards. They work together. That’s just how it is. If you want to go do your own thing, you set a Goal, earn some checks, and go do your thing when it’s your turn. The team element is further supported by the fact that you can help boost your side’s disposition but now you’re sucked into the conflict as well. In for a penny, in for a pound. There’s also the matter of expedience: If you gave everyone their own scripting sheets and then tried to figure out how they all interacted, you’d never get through a conflict.

The typical sales pitch for scripted conflict in BW games is that it introduces both uncertainty and tactics. Since you have to commit to moves a couple rolls out, you really don’t know how things will turn out. IMO many RPers don’t actually like uncertainty, therefore reject scripting entirely. The second point – that there’s a high level of tactical thinking required to succeed at scripting – also hits point c). I’ll get to that later.

Your point b), that conflicts are clunky due to the presence of a chart + modifiers…this strikes me as a matter of taste, frankly. The chart is built right into the character sheet, so you’re not even referring to an outside book or anything. The chart’s also part and parcel to scripting – you can’t do scripted conflicts without a chart showing interactions, not really. Also, each node of the chart only features one of three outcomes: it’s a versus test, it’s an independent test, or something special happens. That’s it. It’s not like there are 16 different possible outcomes to every exchange.

Point c), that you have only tactically hollow choices and/or the whole game is just roshambo, points to the fact that you haven’t actually played it yet. The thing that makes scripted conflicts different from straight versus rolls is that each side has a disposition – hit points representing your investment in your side of the conflict, right? Well, not only are you beating the shit out of the other guy, you’re trying to protect your own side as well. If you lose too many points of disposition, you’re required to offer a compromise. Do you really want to do that?

I mean, if you don’t care about compromising then, mathwise, there’s an optimal path to scripting: attack attack attack. The game assumes you do not want to compromise, thus gives you options to fake out the other side. If you don’t feel invested in avoiding compromise, I would offer that the other side didn’t set a suitable intent.

There’s also the matter of the game fiction driving the action. In many cases, the thing you want to do can’t honestly be characterized as an “attack.” It’s probably more of a feint, or a maneuver, or whatever. Well, if you’re playing the system in good faith, you work at matching the mechanics to the fiction (not the other way around).

And finally, there’s that whole team-based thing again. If you have lots of characters involved in a conflict, the tactical choices often come down to figuring out when to stage each character and what they’re best at (or least bad at). One of your dudes may only be good at defending, but when it’s his turn to go he’s been scripted a feint. Oops.

I think that a lot of your concerns come down to the novelty of the system, not the mechanical effectiveness of any of the design choices. The game pushes different buttons than other RPGs, so it’s unreasonable to stand it up next to Fudge or D6 or GURPS or whatever. If you wanted the GURPS Mouseguard experience, it’d be trivially easy to accomplish.

Hope this helps.


Paul pretty much offers up the standard defense.

I just like to be provocative and say that Fudge, GURPS, Savage Worlds are all D&D. They all play exactly the same way. If you enjoy those games, that’s great. Play away. But Mouse Guard (and all Burning Wheel games) are different. They rely on different processes and priorities. They are not different for the sake of being different. They’re different in order to engage different aspect of play, different to produce different results.


To extend on that, if you look at MG and try to make it give the same experience as SW or GURPS it will not be a fun time.

Mind if I boil this down to two points?

I think you’ve hit on the balancing point that MG is trying to straddle. MG is a lean system that promotes storytelling and roleplaying. I’ve played games where there is no system at all … just a GM making judgements and telling the story (sometimes in spite of the players). And in a way, MG is close to that. MG is a collaboration between the GM and the players (and if I understand BurningX, it is the same way)

Instead of seeing the conflict mechanism as dictating in black-and-white, use it as a canvas on which you describe how the players try to overcome an obstacle. Actually … let me correct myself … use the conflict system to allow the players to describe how they try to overcome an obstacle.

And even if their disposition falls to zero, chances are that they managed to lower the opposing disposition; which allows for some measure of compromise. And that’s where you get a chance to tell the story some more.

Okay… I am digesting all of this. I’ll reply when I have something more than “feelings” as a foundation.

But to quickly answer the question as to why I want to play this system rather than going with something that I am already comfortable with, the answer is that I really dig all the other aspects of the game immensely and WANT to like the combat/conflict system as well but it’s just not grabbing me.

I find a lot of MG somewhat analogous to Spirit of the Century (a FUDGE based game that is as far from D&D as MG is) another game that has a very unique and unconventional conflict system (it didn’t take as much noodling to come to grips with that one).

I’ve become something of a minimalist when it comes to having to look at charts and tables and reference books while running a game and seeing those things suddenly crop up in MG after reading the elegant check system was like finding a rat in my salad (no pun intended).

anyhow… thanks for the replies… will respond when I have something more.

Let’s just say that the MG conflict system is nothing like other chart-oriented systems like Rolemaster or Living Steel or whatever.

Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to play,


It’s also nothing like Spirit of the Century, which being a child of FUDGE, is pretty traditional.

MG’s conflict system requires 3 tables total to handle all situations.

the first is what skills are used for each maneuver. Referenced once per conflict, or even ignored and the skills announced at start of conflict.

The second is the actions table. It has 4 outcomes and is readily memorized. Outcomes are Versus, Independent, You roll but they don’t, they roll but you don’t.

Third is the weapons table.

The system of forming teams limits help, and honestly, speeds conflict up. (I’ve had ‘every pc is a team’ conflicts… it’s slower. Very interesting, but slower.) It also allows one to succeed at actions where one’s character sucks…

EG: Nola has Persuader 4, Folker Deception 4; neither has the other skill. Spearately, Folker will not make much headway against an opponent in a Duel of Wits type conflict, and Nola can’t feint or defend. Together, they can do both.

Ignore some of the ridiculous posts here.

In the end, I can agree with your observations, but I think you have to approach MG with a different approach then other games. It is far less “roll and see” and more “script and roll”.

MG seems to be the kind of game where you find a way to tell a story using the system, and based upon my frustrations with conventional RP systems, this one may help break free of them.

I like that combat is less swing to swing. I love that there is a central, unifying system that links all kinds of conflicts together. My advice is to play a few times, and modify according to your tastes.

Other posters in response to the original message, there is a way to talk critically about anything. The person asked for an honest, intelligent discourse of the system, and wanted people to know how he felt from out of the door. Instead, you accuse him of trolling and not liking the system. He had reservations about it, which is reasonable. But that’s my 2 cents.

I have my first session planned now, and will post my observations and questions once it’s done.

This is one of my favorite parts of the conflict system as well. The most memorable conflict from my first campaign was a journey conflict to get a cart through the mud in a spring rainstorm. I love that any situation the players desire can be give that mechanical importance.

Same here. It dawned on me yesterday that of a half dozen possible missions I’ve come up with for my campaign, there hasn’t been a single one that would have an actual battle in it unless it was the result of a twist or provoked by players request in the player turn… I don’t think any other game has made me think about non-combat scenarios as engaging enough to supplant combat altogether.

Couldn’t agree more, and it’s certainly a great virtue of the game. I really enjoy how both MG and BWR (can’t speak for BE) use game mechanics as inclusive with roleplaying instead of it being an either/or situation, which many RPGs have.

Not really. He said he was not being troll-like and yet, as Paul pointed out quite neutrally, his tone and choice of words were assertion driven as opposed to opinion driven: “It’s contrive” instead of “it seems contrived”; “the ‘tactical’ choices are hollow” instead of “I think the options in conflicts are too constraining” etc. I could go on.

Suffice it to say, responses re: the tone of his message were handled quite well, I thought. There’s no problem with people hating something or being opinionated one way or the other but, as Paul said, just say “I hate it.” Don’t say “I don’t mean to sound negative buuuuut…” and then be blatantly negative. A challenging tone also doesn’t set a great stage for a subsequent intelligent, neutral, constructive discussion. Just sayin’.

Some people will love the game, some won’t. Others will want to test it thoroughly and then decide. Some will test it out and hate it or just not feel it’s for them. That’s fine. Everyone games differently.

There have been lots of opinions given here as to how people feel about the MG conflict resolution system and, positive or negative, all of them are valid and have added to the discussion.

And it is extremely delightful that we are able to discuss it! Iron sharpens iron!

Being fairly well expierienced with SOTC (Ran a campaign of it, played in three games of it) I’d like to add abit of nuancy to the traditional game comparisons:

D&D is either: A) We stand and hit each other, and the strategy and interest come from elsewhere -OR- B) We “zOMG roll under the table and ROFL knock a chandlier at you”, which the GM arbitrates, usually to force dramaticly interesting outcomes while simultanously rewarding people for participation.

GURPS has a D&D approach but has way more rules, so “zOMG roll under the table and ROFL knock a chandlier at you” actually has a meaningful mechanical effects. Its complicated to the degree that most people just forget those rules, and treat it like B option of D&D.

World of Darkness is like D&D, but option A totally sucks so most people will opt for option B.

In Fudge, option A is almost non-existant because there’s very little strategy to be found elsewhere, so option B becomes an even stronger mandate.

SOTC is like option B, but with a lot rules about it (Not so many intervening rules like GURPS that it becomes unlikely to see use), some strategy around those rules, and some nice dramatic pacing rules meaning that there’s pretty much no need for GM arbitration or forcing dramatic outcomes. (I did however, play in a game of SOTC under Option A. Sucked kinda bad)

Sirogit, I think the comparison was a less about rules adjudication and more about the dynamics the game fosters at the table between the players and the GM.