Misc MG questions from a brand-spankin'-new GM


First a bit of a background, so you guys know where I’m coming from. I’ve got ZERO tabletop RPG experience, though I’ve played a few computer RPGs in the past (Fallout 1 & 2, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, etc.). I wanted to play D&D but balked at the complexity plus I was hoping to play with my wife and son (age 6) so I felt D&D was too, I dunno, rough and brutal for him, so I shelved that for a few more years down the road.

I’ve been scouting around the internet and stumbled upon a few reviews of Mouse Guard and decided to pick it up… and I couldn’t put it down. The comics are simply awesome and so far, only Conrad and Celanwe have died and in a way that is easy to explain to a 6-year old kid, so that’s good.

I’m now halfway through my SECOND read of the RPG book, and while it has been a very interesting read (much better than the D&D Player’s Handbook, and the art is simply awesome), I feel like I still have to grasp the actual game mechanics of this “simplified” Burning Wheel concept. While I love the idea that roleplaying is what is rewarded, as opposed to how many bad guys you put down, I’m having a bit of a trouble wrapping my head around this concept.

Again, guys, I have no previous tabletop experience, so please bear with me. I don’t even know how to begin, so I’ll just throw these questions out there as I come across them. These are what I have for now, but I bet they’ll lead to more questions and I’ll even have more as I go through my second, more-detailed read of the book.

  1. “The Little S” = is the success applied BEFORE or AFTER determining if you made it? ie., if I need 3 successes (maybe an Ob 3 test), and I have a “+1s” and I rolled 2 successes, does the “+1s” mean I actually get 3 successes? Or does the “+1s” only work if I passed the test and it only serves to increas my margin of success?

  2. Gear (p.35) - Does this mean that weapons give a +1D to rolls that use Fighter?

  3. Must the BIGs be challenged/tested on each mission? I mean, must I test EACH mouse’s BIGs each session? Or can I push Mouse 1’s B, then challenge Mouse 2’s G, and maybe challenge all their Is on a session?

  4. Rewards - If a patrol works towards a goal and actually accomplishes that goal, does that mean they get one Fate point and one Persona point?

  5. Actual Game Play - In this example, let’s assume I’m playing with two other players (my wife and son). Now I’ve set up a game wherein they deliver the mail, but find the “usual path” blocked by a fallen log. Does this mean that I narrate the introduction, give them the mission (pause for them to write goals), then narrate a bit up to the log, then just call for, say, a Pathfinder test, Ob 4 maybe? If they pass, they find a way through and on to the next obstacle, if they fail, they find a way through but one gets Tired and another gets Hungry. Does this sound correct?

  6. Game Time (GM Turn only) - now assuming I follow the above game, and I know I haven’t played before, but won’t this just take up, oh, about 10-15 minutes? Maybe 25-30 minutes if I include the second obstacle? So that’s maybe an hour if I include the Player’s Turn. Is there something I’m missing? From what I see, the only other “event” that would take up more time is if I have them do a battle (er, conflict, I think the MG term is), or table chatter. Maybe I could make a more complex test, like doing a Scout test to “steer” the Pathfinder test in the right direction (“Do we go left and find a new trail that way or do we go right?”), but that’ll add, oh, maybe 5 minutes to the game. And again, that GM Turn looks to me like I’ll be doing all the talking, I think the D&D term for it is “railroading.” Again, I may be completely off target here, but this is how it looks to me at the moment, I’d appreciate if someone would explain this part to me.


Hello, and welcome!


Not exactly, look up the individual bonuses for each weapon on pages 117-119.

It makes the session more rewarding if you can challenge these - I would aim for challenging a single BIG for each player per GM Turn (and great if you manage to fit in more).

But the big one, for me, is that each player should really be gunning for player checks via their Traits in the GM turn.

Yep - and don’t forget the End of Session votes or the Prologue.

Yep, narrate all that as you’ve said - but also make sure that they talk about how they are going to overcome the obstacle, what skills they are going to use, how they are helping each other during - Table Chatter stuff. Then narrate how they succeed or fail.

And if they fail…

Conditions - just have it make sense that their conditions are because of the narrative you introduce as a result of what they did - so explain to them why they are Tired or Hungry (and how they got that way).

And of course you can always introduce a twist, instead of Conditions, as well - and this leads to your next question…

Sure, if the players make all of their rolls they get to head straight on to the Player’s Turn, no big deal. They won’t have that many checks to use though since failing is the way to get checks for the Player’s Turn, not to mention it is exciting to fail in Mouse Guard.

Failure also makes the GM Turn last longer because you can introduce a Twist. Per your example, if they fail, perhaps (instead of gaining Conditions) - they make their way around the log and they encounter a hungry toad that wants to eat them. Maybe as they go around they see a poor little mouse stuck in the middle of the river desperately holding on to a rock.

Just because they get a Player’s Turn doesn’t mean that the game has to end either. You can always cook up another GM Turn.

You will be talking a lot, but so should they. Table Chatter for them - then in the Player’s Turn it is pretty much all them talking, with you narrating some.

I definately recommend using the pre-canned adventures from the book - Find the Peddler, Deliver the Mail, Trouble in Grasslake (and even going in that order of presentation).

No problem, I just hope I helped and didn’t hinder (I’ve been playing BW recently not MG - so I hope this is all correct).

Double post -ignore.

Ice, when will you be runnng this?


Hi & welcome to MouseGuard.

Irminsul answered most of your questions, but I want to clarify a couple things.

  1. You only get the additional success if you already have passed the test. See page 13. So you would need to have rolled 3 successes and then you’d get a 4th success. This is important during conflicts or certain situations where the margin of success matters.

  2. It depends. If you’re using a conflict, consult each individual weapon. If you’re making a simple fighter test, then if the weapon works, it’d give +1D. For instance, in the Winter book, vs the Owl, Sadie’s fighter/hunter test to drive off the bird would get +1D from the sling.

  3. You only get the Fate point if you FAIL to accomplish the goal. If you accomplish it, you get the persona point instead.

  1. You got it. Mix it up.

  2. Basically.

  3. Play a “session” in an hour. Enjoy the depth and quality of play you can achieve in a short time. Then play again!