More questions about complex tests

Split from this thread: - stormy

This was a helpful conversation :). So, a complex hazaard has several obstacles which will be overcome (or not) by different tests (rolls of the dice). The, let’s say 3, tests may be performed by the same mouse or by various mice who could be helpful. In the example given above, each mouse rolls his own health to see how he fared individually in the torture. Did one mouse roll nature to see if his idea for escape worked or not? What if he fails and another mouse wants to give it a try with a different idea? That would certainly happen in real life. And then another mouse rolls for scientist for the flame trap.

What about building a boat. If its forager for finding materials and scientist for putting it together and something else for getting across the river, what if the first mouse fails the test to find materials? I guess I decide if I want them across or not? If I do, he succeeds with a condition or a twist. If I don’t, he just doesn’t find the material and they have to figure something else out? Is that right?

Is the situation unchanged after the mouse fails?

What about building a boat. If its forager for finding materials and scientist for putting it together and something else for getting across the river, what if the first mouse fails the test to find materials? I guess I decide if I want them across or not? If I do, he succeeds with a condition or a twist. If I don’t, he just doesn’t find the material and they have to figure something else out? Is that right?

No. It’s either condition with full success, or the situation changes because of a twist and some new or intensified obstacle presents itself. It’s never “nope, try again.” Look at Thor’s setup. Any result in a test leads to either success or new things happening. The escape plan in particular leads to freedom or combat.

personal note: when I run mouse guard there are two states, success and success interrupted. I never describe a mouse failing, at anything.

Well, complex obstacles call for complex responses. :slight_smile: I find my own GM style alternates between two methods.

  1. The overall scene is described and table chatter indicates a complicated plan for success. The complicated plan requires related tests which are challenging and could determine/influence success or failure. Let’s pick up using your boating task.
  • Patrol finds they are at Shorestone with instructions to arrive at Venn, the island settlement off the coast of Lillygrove. Table chatter considers optionally hiring a vessel, building a boat, and requesting a lift from ducks. The patrol decides the best plan lies with building a boat, and GM feels this is complicated.

  • GM calls for Forager or Resources test to gather supplies needed to build a quality craft; foreshadows risk of poor materials causing a faulty vessel (foreshadowing a Twist)

  • GM calls for Boatcrafter test to design and construct a ship; say nothing of the risk involved (imagining Success w/ Condition: Tired and Angry)

  • GM calls for Persuader to convince all patrol mates to trust the boatcrafter and the boat; say nothing of the risk involved (imagining Success w/ Condition: Angry)

  • Patrol determines who will test for each skill and roll first. Then, each begins to tell some narrative of the actions and a little bit of the outcome. GM fills in any remaining details and adjudicates the resulting rolls.

In this method, all the complex tasks are rolled early. The patrol kinda knows how things are going from the start. In my example, the determinant of a good craft lies in the materials gathered; however, the same example under another GM may be interpreted differently such that the determinant of a good craft lies in the boatcrafter. GM discretion.

  1. The overall scene is described and table chatter indicates a complicated task to accomplish. The complicated task requires unrelated tests which are challenging and should determine/influence success or failure. Let’s pick up a trekking example.
  • Patrol is ordered to travel from Lockhaven to Wolfepointe under harsh conditions of late Autumn in timely fashion. Table chatter considers optionally asking hares to give rides for the patrol mates, trekking overland best as possible, and seeking a relay patrol near Darkwater or Grasslake to finish the route (sharing the burden). The patrol decides they want rides from the hares, and GM feels this is complicated.

  • GM alerts patrol of multiple needs, and limits number of tests to 3 skills and/or abilities, and limits number of Helpers per test to 1 Helper (everyone is quite busy, so it is not easy to be a Helper for each task)

  • GM describes following needs: daily/nightly warm shelter, daily rations for mice and hares, good route with few backtracks or errors, proper hare-riding, hare-care and hare-whispering, daily/nightly tracking weather for changes/dangers

  • GM reminds patrol that tasks not fulfilled, might cause Twists or Conditions

  • Patrol table chatter determines which tasks are most critical to success, and which PC mouse will test for that task, and who will Help with that task

  • Patrol decides a test for daily/nightly shelter, a test for daily/nightly weather, and a test for hare-care, riding, and whispering; this leads to Survivalist, Weather Watcher, and Loremouse tests

  • Patrol decides Survivalist is Helped by Pathfinder to ensure route allows for good shelters and forage, Weather Watcher is Helped by Loremouse to allow patrol to speak with birds about weather patterns, and Loremouse will be Helped by Healer to ensure hares are given daily massage therapy and checked for health/welfare

  • Patrol narrates actions before tests are rolled. Dice roll, GM adjudicates and fills gaps in details to describe outcome and results

In this method, the actual task requires multiple smaller tasks to be successful, else the entire endeavor could end in tragedy. For example, even with a good route, failure to keep the hares healthy may result in an unruly hare refusing further service; or, even with awareness of the weather, poor shelter may allow for predators to stalk the patrol. Again, another GM may interpret things differently, and the play group might decide on a different course of action to fulfill the task assigned.

Additionally, Thor’s example is top-notch. The above is about my methods, but that’s not the only way to look at things.

I agree with noclue that generally the dice hit the table over success or success interrupted–generally. I don’t treat everything that way, but mostly I don’t say, “well, that just failed.” I always consider what is the twist of failed dice, or what are the conditions of success.

Here’s one of my actual play examples:

As a Tenderpaw, I had poor Pathfinder experience, yet the Patrol Leader assigned me to test Pathfinder for a difficult route between Lockhaven and Grasslake. PL and another patrol mate both had strong Pathfinder ratings and Helped in that skill specifically. So, when I failed (which was inevitable), the GM didn’t say I led the patrol in the wrong direction, or into a loop–the patrol mates helping me, and teaching me as Tenderpaw, would have ensured I didn’t go far astray. Instead, we suffered a twist while in the correct route and not far from completion. The twist delayed our arrival, but it was not due to being wrong, just in the path of a playful otter. It was crazy. And loads of fun.

I am learning a LOT! Thank you :slight_smile:

As a GM new to Mouse Guard this thread has helped a good deal. Thank you, guys.

Noclue, both you and Kendesign mentioned this and it has certainly intrigued me. Would either of you be willing to elaborate on what you mean by “success interrupted”? How does that specifically look different from success or failure? I would mightily appreciate some examples too.


Great, so I like to reuse my example playing as a Tenderpaw among skilled pathfinders; they wouldn’t let me totally fail, so the GM chose ‘success interrupted’ by giving us a twist. That’s copied above.

Success: I think we’re all agreed that indicates the PC mouse and/or patrol achieve things as described in table chatter and as appropriate to the skill and margin of success.

Success Interrupted then is related. Here’s a few insights: the patrol has the skills, gear, and motivation to get started on a task and generally do it right; the patrol has a limited view, but the players and GM have a wider view; the task at hand directly drives the story of what the patrol is going through. Here’s two definitions: Success w/ Conditions – scenario is that PC mouse or patrol has rolled out too few successes (coward or traitor dice) and the exchange to have complete success is a Condition (e.g. persuaded a politician to help but became Angry by the bureaucracy; found a dry crossing but became Tired in the extra effort); Twist – scenario is that PC mouse or patrol has rolled out too few successes (coward or traitor dice) and the unforeseen issue comes about.

So, here’s where examples really help. It isn’t hard to think of examples for Success w/ Conditions, but it can become a challenge to determine which Condition is befitting (that comes mostly by practice):

  • hasty scramble up barren scree stone to avoid a long journey around the ridge results in Hungry/Thirsty
  • long-winded speech to rouse a militia into action results in Tired
  • overnight search for owl’s nest results in Angry discovery of three cloaks already lost to the beasts’ owlets
  • laboring to prepare a storehouse for Winter leads to Injury
  • romantic moonlight swim leads to Illness in morning

Those are off-the-cuff, but really, I could spend more time on the Success w/ Condition list. It’s fairly easy; since, it is just an exchange. Sometimes that exchange is easily described as a direct result, like fatigue from labor, distress from argument, and so on. Other times, the Condition is something of a slip-up, like injury during work, sickness from winter trekking, hunger from a burnt meal going over badly, anger from a misunderstanding; in those cases, everything is mostly going well, but there’s a little slip-up that creates the Condition. That could be lack of preparation or of caution, excessive passion or exhaustion. A key in giving out Conditions is to tell the player what happened to cause the Condition, rather than identify a failure that brought on a Condition. Make it unbiased.

Creating Twists is also a practice that improves over time:

  • during overland trekking, the weather shifts from sunny to rainy (weather twist)
  • while helping local food stores, a fox is stalking the harvesters each day (animal twist)
  • before opening a mailbag to distribute mail, a local thief sneaks into the patrol encampment to destroy a warrant notice (mice twist)
  • chasing crickets escaped from a nearby ranch, the patrol must navigate brambles (wilderness twist)

Now, this is a bit more delicate; since, it is still unbiased, and the PC mouse or patrol didn’t directly fail. However, it needs some clarity about what to do. In some cases, it’s just a small adjustment, like the rainy weather: you don’t need to call for another Pathfinder test during the rain, and maybe not for a Health test either. It can just be a small detail that showcases natural life. In the case of the stalking fox, the patrol could discuss how to address that issue (relocate harvesting, harass the fox, convince some ravens to harass the fox, invite an eagle to hunt the fox, stop harvesting until later, locate new food sources, develop a poison to kill fox), and the table chatter may define how they address the issue. In the case of the thief stealing mail, the PC mouse or patrol might have no knowledge of the lost message until someone asks in town; then the question may be, “How will you respond to the claim of failure?”

So, the Twist introduces something to interrupt the likely success, and could alter whether they fulfill success. But also, you as GM can determine whether they have an additional test afterward to complete their initial task. For myself, I wouldn’t ask the patrol to roll Pathfinder again following the rain, just give them the remainder; whereas, for the fox, afterward, I’d still return to test how much harvesting got done to catch up. With the thief, I’d use table chatter to determine whether another test should follow-on to recover the message or alert the sender.

A key is to stop the PC mouse or patrol before the completion by injecting a twist; don’t make it Success w/ Twist. The failed dice indicate they don’t quite have success yet.

I’m happy to chat more about this but the Forum has a preference against thread necro. I’m sure someone will split it off soon.

Thank you guys very much for the advice and my apologies for the threadcromancy.