Mission: Spring 1153 -- Transporting Glassware from Lockhaven to Sprucetuck

Hello! This is my second post here, and I was hoping I could get some advice on putting together a mission for Mouse Guard. I’ve not played the system yet, but my group had just decided to (thankfully) put aside a disastrous Gamma World campaign and give Mouse Guard RPG a try. I’ve GMed for quite a few years, but the style and mechanics of Mouse Guard are something fairly new to me and I’d like to see what people think of the first mission I’ve put together.

Any feedback or critique would be greatly appreciated! I don’t yet know what my players are thinking about for their patrolmice, but I suspect they may be… difficult. The group has a habit of running with weird or zany ideas, but I think they will be interested in Mouse Guard.

Season: Spring, 1153

Mission: Escort a wagon containing a shipment of glassware to Sprucetuck as a way to repay their kindness during the Winter of 1152.

Initial Weather: Clear and Warm. The days have been growing particularly warm, and while it will make for better weather to be out in, it may result in severe snowmelt and muddy trail conditions.

Hazards:

Wilderness Hazard: While traveling, the patrol comes across a wide stream of water made via snowmelt. The stream is too deep to ford, and the patrol will need to caulk the wagon in order to cross. Make a Boatcrafter (Ob 5) test in order to get across the stream.
Failure: The wagon makes it halfway through the stream before it begins sinking. The patrol manages to keep it afloat (barely) and wind up wading through freezing water as they make their way across. Everyone becomes Sick.

Wilderness Hazard: After a long day’s trek with the wagon, the patrol finds the path becoming rougher and rougher and more choked with mud. Unfortunately the patrol will need to navigate a new path through the wilderness if they plan to reach Sprucetuck without becoming mired in the mud! Make a Pathfinder (Ob 6) test to blaze a new trail around the mud.
Failure: Weather Twist: The patrol becomes lost in the wilderness and loses a good deal of time. As they are struggling to forge a new path, a cold spring rain begins. The patrol can either choose to hunker down and wait out the storm or try to soldier on through the inclement weather.
If the mice choose to hunker down, the patrol must make a Survivalist (Ob 3) test in order to create waterproof shelter; a Nature (Ob 3) test in order to find enough food for everyone and a Cook (Ob 3) test in order to make everything edible. If the Survivalist test fails, the patrol becomes Sick (if not already); if the Nature or Cook test fails, the patrol becomes Hungry.
If the patrol chooses to press on, each member must make a Health (Ob 3) test or become Tired.

Animal Hazard: As the patrol draws near towards Sprucetuck, they hear cries for help from off the path and a loud snuffling and rasping sound. A skunk has trapped a pair of young mice beneath a fallen long, and is attempting to burrow its way underneath to get at the mice. This will involve a Conflict against the Skunk.
Skunk: Nature 6 (Waddling, Scavenging, Not Doing What You Want It To Do); Skunk Weaponry: Musk Spray: +3D to maneuver, Missile
Skunk Conflict Goal: Get rid of these annoying pests so I can get back to my meal.
Compromise: Compromises may involve the young mice becoming hurt, the patrol gaining the Injured condition or the glassware from Sandmason being damaged or broken.

Resolution: Once the Patrol arrives in Sprucetuck, they are met by Autumn, the barmouse who runs the breweries in Sprucetuck. She is currently waiting outside of the town’s gates, looking nervous. If the patrol saved the young mice from the skunk, she will rush towards them and embrace her two children. They may add Autumn as a new friend in Sprucetuck, and she will agree to provide them with lodgings and freshly brewed beer during their stay. If the players failed to rescue her children or her children were hurt in the conflict with the Skunk, Autumn will demand to know if the patrol has seen her missing young. If they try to lie to her, they must make a Deceiver versus test. Use the stats for a Barmouse for Autumn. If they fail (or bluntly tell her the truth), she will become furious with them and they can count themselves having made a bitter enemy in Sprucetuck.

Once the patrol has delivered their glasswares, the GM’s turn ends and the Players’ Turn begins.

Possible Directions during the Player Turn and subsequent missions:
A sciencemouse will want to utilize the beakers to collect samples, but will need the help of the guard to keep him safe while traveling through the territories. He intends to find some rare herbs along the western scentborder.

A caravan is being sent to bring the chemicals needed for the Scentborder to Wolfepoint and will require escorts. This would be quite a long journey, but it is of the utmost importance that the chemics reach there in time to apply them and keep the Territories safe!

If the skunk was driven off, a sciencemouse would love to capture it in order to have a steady supply of musk to use for his experiments involving the scentborder. However trying to capture such a creature is quite a dangerous undertaking and would require particularly brave of foolhardy memebers of the Guard!

The village of Dorigift is in rough straights after this winter and many areas require repairs. The guard could certainly be a big help if they could travel there and lend a hand!

Checking in with Autumn the barmouse reveals that she is doing well if her children have been returned safely to her. Her stores are not what they could be however, since the grainmouse who was supposed to deliver her wheat from Ivydale last Fall never arrived. She worries it may have had something to do with the events in Barkstone, but she is unsure. If her children were not returned or had come to harm, she has absolutely nothing to say to any member of the patrol.

Lots of good stuff here, though I do have some suggestions…

I would let the players decide how they want to overcome this obstacle. Based on their proposed strategies, then come up the the tests required. Also, remember that they may not weasel this situation (pg. 87)!

Wilderness Hazard: After a long day’s trek with the wagon, the patrol finds the path becoming rougher and rougher and more choked with mud. Unfortunately the patrol will need to navigate a new path through the wilderness if they plan to reach Sprucetuck without becoming mired in the mud! Make a Pathfinder (Ob 6) test to blaze a new trail around the mud.
Failure: Weather Twist: The patrol becomes lost in the wilderness and loses a good deal of time. As they are struggling to forge a new path, a cold spring rain begins. The patrol can either choose to hunker down and wait out the storm or try to soldier on through the inclement weather.
If the mice choose to hunker down, the patrol must make a Survivalist (Ob 3) test in order to create waterproof shelter; a Nature (Ob 3) test in order to find enough food for everyone and a Cook (Ob 3) test in order to make everything edible. If the Survivalist test fails, the patrol becomes Sick (if not already); if the Nature or Cook test fails, the patrol becomes Hungry.
If the patrol chooses to press on, each member must make a Health (Ob 3) test or become Tired.

Animal Hazard: As the patrol draws near towards Sprucetuck, they hear cries for help from off the path and a loud snuffling and rasping sound. A skunk has trapped a pair of young mice beneath a fallen long, and is attempting to burrow its way underneath to get at the mice. This will involve a Conflict against the Skunk.
Skunk: Nature 6 (Waddling, Scavenging, Not Doing What You Want It To Do); Skunk Weaponry: Musk Spray: +3D to maneuver, Missile
Skunk Conflict Goal: Get rid of these annoying pests so I can get back to my meal.
Compromise: Compromises may involve the young mice becoming hurt, the patrol gaining the Injured condition or the glassware from Sandmason being damaged or broken.

Resolution: Once the Patrol arrives in Sprucetuck, they are met by Autumn, the barmouse who runs the breweries in Sprucetuck. She is currently waiting outside of the town’s gates, looking nervous. If the patrol saved the young mice from the skunk, she will rush towards them and embrace her two children. They may add Autumn as a new friend in Sprucetuck, and she will agree to provide them with lodgings and freshly brewed beer during their stay. If the players failed to rescue her children or her children were hurt in the conflict with the Skunk, Autumn will demand to know if the patrol has seen her missing young. If they try to lie to her, they must make a Deceiver versus test. Use the stats for a Barmouse for Autumn. If they fail (or bluntly tell her the truth), she will become furious with them and they can count themselves having made a bitter enemy in Sprucetuck.

This GM’s turn includes many hazards: Wilderness, Animal (with a side of Mouse), and Mouse (Autumn); this can be very danting, especially for new players. Being a newcomer to the game, I would strongly suggest you stick to the ‘Pick Two’ approach (either Weather, Wilderness, Animal, or Mouse; pg. 61)… at least until you and your players are comfortable with the dynamic of the game.

Possible Directions during the Player Turn and subsequent missions:
A sciencemouse will want to utilize the beakers to collect samples, but will need the help of the guard to keep him safe while traveling through the territories. He intends to find some rare herbs along the western scentborder.

A caravan is being sent to bring the chemicals needed for the Scentborder to Wolfepoint and will require escorts. This would be quite a long journey, but it is of the utmost importance that the chemics reach there in time to apply them and keep the Territories safe!

If the skunk was driven off, a sciencemouse would love to capture it in order to have a steady supply of musk to use for his experiments involving the scentborder. However trying to capture such a creature is quite a dangerous undertaking and would require particularly brave of foolhardy memebers of the Guard!

The village of Dorigift is in rough straights after this winter and many areas require repairs. The guard could certainly be a big help if they could travel there and lend a hand!

Checking in with Autumn the barmouse reveals that she is doing well if her children have been returned safely to her. Her stores are not what they could be however, since the grainmouse who was supposed to deliver her wheat from Ivydale last Fall never arrived. She worries it may have had something to do with the events in Barkstone, but she is unsure. If her children were not returned or had come to harm, she has absolutely nothing to say to any member of the patrol.

While these continuations are great (I’ll probably steal one or more), make sure they feel like a natural progression of the story. That is to say, don’t just ‘tack on’ further things to do after the end of the GM’s turn.

Also, and most importatly, make sure you’re testing the players’ BIGs (Beliefs, Instincts, and Goals). The end of the GM’s turn should leave players with options that make them prioritize (based on their BIGs) what they will do during the Player’s Turn (and they probably won’t -shoudn’t?- be able to complete everything).

Here’s my approach to your mission:

Mission- Escort a wagon containing a shipment of glassware to Sprucetuck as a way to repay their kindness during the Winter of 1152. (I would also try to include some kind of timeline for this; it looses drama if the patrol can take a whole season or two to deliver.)

GM’s Turn
Hazards:
Wilderness - As presented (with my above proposed adjustment)
Animal- Skunk (as presented)

Twists:
Weather (as presented)
Mouse- Autumn (as presented- this can be almost guaranteed if incorporated as part of the compromise with the skunk)- perhaps have the skunk make off with one of the young mice. Then, in the Player’s turn, they would need to mount a rescue mission. Or, you could introduce a sciencemouse who would love to capture the skunk in order to have a steady supply of musk to use for his experiments involving the scentborder, or, shortly after the Skunk, a caravan is already on the road to bring the chemicals needed for the Scentborder to Wolfepoint and will require/request escorts.

This will allow for natural story progression and force the players to choose which duty they will undertake during their turn. Also keep in mind that these will need to be tweaked to address players’ BIGs!!!

Good Luck, and Happy Gaming!

Thank you for the help! Would you recommend I try and wrap the two different Wilderness tests into one and allow a bit more freedom in how to solve it? The initial reading of the book made it seem like the GM tended to create situations and the approach to completing it – in play does that tend to happen or are the players given a greater sense of control of the events during the GM’s turn? My other thought on trying to fit in a number of different tests was to give my player’s plenty of opportunities to use traits to hinder themselves and maintain a longer players’ turn, as opposed to everyone only getting their one free check. Will those two hazards (including a conflict and any roleplaying rolls that may come up) really provide enough ways to challenge the players and generate additional turns during the players’ turn?

Short answer: Yes (see below).

The initial reading of the book made it seem like the GM tended to create situations and the approach to completing it – in play does that tend to happen or are the players given a greater sense of control of the events during the GM’s turn?

From Pg. 87: “The GM may suggest an alternate method… He may also accept suggestions from the players…”

My other thought on trying to fit in a number of different tests was to give my player’s plenty of opportunities to use traits to hinder themselves and maintain a longer players’ turn, as opposed to everyone only getting their one free check. Will those two hazards (including a conflict and any roleplaying rolls that may come up) really provide enough ways to challenge the players and generate additional turns during the players’ turn?

Your inquiry regarding check earning opportunities is well founded, and I don’t think there is a blanket response.

There are, however, three things I would keep in mind: 1) as new players, help them by mentioning when might be a good opportunity to earn a check (or checks) during play, 2) it is not the GM’s duty to provide opportunity to earn checks; the impetus for earning checks is entirely on the players, and 3) don’t get bogged down trying to ‘balance’ the number of checks players earn based on the possible loose ends/conditions that may be available/need to be recovered from during the Player’s Turn (I recall- perhaps incorrectly- Luke noting on several occasions and for different aspects of the game that balance was not part of the design mindset per se).

It is a very slippery slope, though. The more potential for earning checks, the more potential for further twists and conditions- which, in turn, require more checks to overcome and recover from.

I would suggest not adding new hazards; rather, expand on what you already have established (this will also add depth to your story). I’ll use another example based on your mission.

Crossing the swollen stream:

Depending on player approach, they may want to take your suggestion to float the wagon across (which I would expand upon: Ob 4 Scientist- someone has to know what is needed and be able to provide a suitable sealant for the cracks to provide buoyancy- and Ob 5 Boatcrafter- to ensure proper navigation across the stream). 2 check potential.

If the players want to find another way across, I would require an Ob 4 Pathfinder test to find a way around, which should take longer and mandate an overnight camp requiring an Ob 3? Survivalist test. 2 check potential.

Also, the fact that the stream is not easily passable requires that the Guard remedy the situation (after all, if the Guard has difficulty, what chance has a merchantmouse or some other traveler?). Perhaps their strategy to cross is to make a bridge so that they and any others can safely pass (if not, this could be a loose end that should be addressed in the Player’s Turn). Constructing a suitable bridge could require Ob 5 Scientist, Ob 3 Laborer, and/or Ob 4? Carpenter. 2-3 check potential.

(Remember, based on the strategy they present, the GM tells them what will be tested, not what the Ob number is. Once they decide on a strategy, they cannot change because the Ob number is too high. No weasels!!!)

Moreover, failure on any of these attempts could result in a complication/twist: some or all the patrol has fallen in the stream, requiring a Health test to get to shore and avoid getting swept away (this should be particularly difficult if the wagon is also swept away, requiring a stroke of Luck). Failure here allows for success but imposes a condition. 1 check potential.

Furthermore, if a wagon is being used, how is it being hauled? A beetle (requiring Insectrist)? Someone pulling (requiring Laborer)? You could require these tests before they reach the swollen stream (I would apply a condition for failure here, if a test is required- though you may choose to forego this altogether). 1 check potential.

Realistically, given that you have chosen a Complex Obstacle and a Conflict (and the potential for twists and complications within these hazards), I’d say there is fair opportunity to earn checks. I see potential to earn 4-5 checks in the first hazard (given my examples), and that’s not factoring in the skunk conflict, which, with each action, provides another opportunity to earn checks (this is nearly impossible to quantify because there is no way to predict how many actions it will take to resolve and, with a tie breaker, the potential to earn multiple checks on one action).

Overall, I’d say the opportunities are there. My suggestion is to focus on deep-emersion storytelling and provide detailed, vivid descriptions. Let the game mechanics take care of itself (after all, these are the things the game designer handled in creation…).

Lastly, I’d like to address a specific statement you made regarding “… any roleplaying rolls that may come up…”. This is of particular concern. First, let me explain my interpretation of what you meant by that statement: I took it to mean that if, for example, a player asks what his character might know about a given situation (using a -wise, for example), you would ask for a roll to determine what is known. I understood this to NOT be a mechaninc of the game (passing doesn’t accomplish much, if anything, and what is the result of a failure?). That is to say, as a GM, you should simply tell the player whatever is relevant to keep the game going. Rolls are only made to accomplish some difinitive task, with twists and conditions applied for failure. Recalling specific information doesn’t really fall into this approach. (Though if I’ve misinterpreted your meaning of the statement, please disregard.)

I hope this helps (and, btw, I AM stealing this…) ;D

I see. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure how much groups tend to push the division between the reactive GM’s turn and the proactive stories in the Players’ turn and how much of a difference really comes up in play between the GM driving the story and the players. I think for this hazard I will suggest caulking the wagon and then allow them to come up with other possibilities as well (and who hasn’t loved that suggestion since playing Oregon Trail?) – although that does bring up the notion of time.

I’m thinking this first mission won’t be under a strict time limit, so that the players can spend some time exploring the world and getting used to their characters and the system mechanics. I worry if they’re under a strict time limit, the idea of trying to build a bridge may never occur to them and they will instead try to either get across as fast as possible or find a way immediately around. If they decide to follow up on a mission that takes them back towards Lockhaven, they’d be really glad they built a bridge!

Your inquiry regarding check earning opportunities is well founded, and I don’t think there is a blanket response.
Hmmm. There is definitely a lot to think about there. In truth, I’m a very mechanics oriented gamer, and I tend to focus on the mechanical side of things (part of what drew me to Mouse Guard was the unique separation of the GM and Player turns) and so if even the designer said balance wasn’t an issue, it might get a little hectic down the line with some players… still! We’ll burn those bridges when we get to 'em!

As far as the players earning checks, it sounds like the more I open things up on how they choose to solve a hazard, the more possibilities for earning checks will come up. My concern is that, by and large, when most players initially try out a game their last thought will be to take actions that specifically hamper their potential for success. It sorta goes against the grain for most people, and I think that it’ll take some getting used to – particularly if they have a bad time of it and wind up with Conditions left over at the start of the next session!

Lastly, I’d like to address a specific statement you made regarding “… any roleplaying rolls that may come up…”.
My meaning behind this was if the players interact with the mission or one another in unexpected ways, it may result in tests and checks being made. For instance, if two players fundamentally disagree about how to cross the stream, they may want to make a Persuader versus Persuader test. Could one player choose to use his traits to hinder him- or herself or break a tie in the opponent’s favor during such an exchange and still gain a check(s)? It seemed to me that it’d be fine to allow that rather than having checks only be generated from more “scripted” types of rolls. I don’t think any of my players are likely to abuse such a system, but I’d be curious to hear other people’s experiences.

I hope this helps (and, btw, I AM stealing this…) ;D
I’m glad you liked it! If the campaign goes well (and it certainly can’t go weird-er than the last game I tried with this group…) I’ll try to post more missions as we play! Thank you for all the help!

Regarding what happens in the Players’ Turn: If you try to build your mission so that it is the start of a story, rather than the entire story, you might be surprised how many things the players will come up with to do on their turn. I’m not recommending that you make the mission unable to be completed within the GM’s Turn, but rather using what happens in the GM’s Turn to toss out lots of little “hooks” for things in the Players’ Turn.

Some examples:

  1. If the cart was being hauled by a beetle (or some other wee-beastie of burden), and you can find a way for the beetle to be killed, lost or even injured during the GM’s Turn, it’s easy to immediately impose a Tired condition on the players as they take turns hauling the cart, as well as seeding the idea that they will want to wrangle up a new cart-pulling beastie during the Players’ Turn if they wish to be able to recover from being Tired (assuming they’re not just ditching the cart).

  2. You’ve just rescued those mouselings, and have been praised by Autumn, who takes you under her care. However, you notice that other townsmice are treating Autumn strangely. Perhaps they’re stand-offish around her, or even scared. Perhaps she’s trying to keep some brave guardmice close to her for some reason other than thanking them for rescuing her children. Why? What’s going on here? Give the players an ambiguous situation, and let them start coming up with ideas. Maybe they drive the story in the direction that she’s got damning information on various important townsmice, and are blackmailing them. Maybe those were not her children, and she’s running some kind of mouseling slavery ring. Maybe they decide that for some reason the townsmice have determined that beer as good as hers could have only been brewed via witchcraft, and they’re planning to lynch her. Maybe (and most likely) they come up with something entirely different, and far more interesting (at least to them) than my or your ideas. Let the players really drive during their Turn, and see what shakes out.

Thank you all for all of the advice – the session went really well! We had some interesting roleplaying moments and great character interactions between the members of the Patrol as they overcame the melted river. During the conflict with the skunk, the established Guardmice charged ahead and told the young Tenderpaw to guard the cart. This left him sitting out on the conflict with the skunk, but it was a great moment afterward when, for the compromise, the young mice fled during the battle and ran into the tenderpaw. He had to convince them that they were safe and he was going to take them home to their mother.

During the Players’ Turn, the Patrol tended to their tired companions, sought out maps for the western Territories as they prepared to lay down the Scentborder next session and spent time getting to know Autumn and her kids. It was a little strange at first but the group really clicked and the Players’ Turn felt very natural afterward. I’m very excited for our second session and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

on a failed Survivalist test, I generally indicate that no guard could sleep well and some are Tired because of that.

Your list of possible other missions is good; each could serve an interesting session of ideas. I would not make them a large portion of the Player’s Turn due to how large those tasks could become. Sometimes the players will come up with ideas that lead to conflicts, travel, and possible twists, but generally their turn is shorter. Also, once a twist is starting to rear its head from their turn choices, I usually push that twist to another session instead of throwing them against a twist they can’t or don’t want to spend checks to handle.

i tend to create in my mind one or two methods they could appraoch and solve a problem, but don’t say aloud what must be done, only a possible step 1. I expect that each player will think it out in their mind, discuss with others how to face the problem, and look for alternative to others’ ideas.

If it seems no one can think of a good solution, I’ve already thought through some methods that may work fine and share those with the group as well as the expected test(s) of such a solution. Over time that might get more frequent or less frequent. Some sessions the players don’t want to expend as much mental energy. Some puzzles I come up with are easy for players to recognize, others are hard for them to grasp.