Rather than necro an older thread, I’ll take a relevant quote from Luke there:
My group and I played our first session of Mouse Guard this past week, and it was most certainly a blast. But, we ran into a problem right away that bothered us. Character creation is definitely not balanced, and as the quote from Luke above illustrates, it was not intended to be. However, I found a problem with that. There are things that Tenderpaws can take, or get double of, that other classes of the guard do not get to take or get double of. In other words, simulation/realism is not fully upheld, and for some reason upon becoming official Guardmice, tenderpaws seem to forget certain skills. (Comparing a freshly made Tenderpaw to a freshly made Guardmouse.) So balance actually seems to be a factor after all. Here are some examples from the book:
Why do only tenderpaws and guard captains choose two areas of natural talent? Do they lose that talent upon becoming guardsmice, and only regain it upon achieving the highest rank? Is that realistic? (p. 301) Why do tenderpaws get two skills stressed in training? Guardmice already forgot them? (p. 302) Do Guardmice forget their parent’s trait that quickly, or even lose a physical trait like Bigpaw? (p. 308)
I could be wrong, and these things are realistic elements or story elements that would be there regardless of whether this was a game or strictly a way to collaborate stories (diceless, say.) I would, though, like to hear how that is the case given the above. But it seems that they are balancing elements to make the Tenderpaw, especially, a little more powerful than their experience in the guard would lead you to believe.
The other, actually more prominent, problem we ran into was questions during character creation that only give your character a penalty. I think the problem with this boils down to the group not fully buying into ‘failure is good’ or ‘failure makes things interesting’ part of this game yet. The game wants you to believe that succeeding at a task because you have 7 resources instead of 3 does not make the game more interesting. If anything, it is neutral, both are interesting, but possibly success is more often less interesting than failure. So the penalty-only questions serve a purpose of being a way to create an interesting character with flaws and whatnot.
I actually have a few problems with this. The answers to questions don’t really have a good place to go, they just reduce your number and that’s it. For example the question “Have you ever been in debt? Or are you generally bad with money?” decreases your resources by one, and that’s the only record of it on you sheet. It doesn’t enter roleplay unless the player’s make special note of it, or remember it, or what have you. Other questions that restrict your trait options are better, but it’s not like you write down somewhere what traits you don’t have. The other problem is a lack of balance. For example, I think the questions should have been more like, “Do you buy gifts for friends during the holidays?” should decrease resources by 1 and increase circles by 1. In fact, that’s exactly what I did for that question character creation, ignoring the first circles question instead.
So my problem can be summarized like this: If balance is not a factor, the system should just be choose a number from X to Y, the higher the better, that will be your Nature, Resources, and Circles. If the questions were meant to be important, have them give traits instead of take them away, so they actually enter roleplay. Answering yes to giving gifts to friends decreases resources, increases circles, and lets you choose the “Friendly” trait, or whatever. Answering No does the opposite, and you can pick the “Loner” trait.
Anyway, we still had great fun in the session, as it was the story and roleplaying that were the important factors, but I still think character creation could be mechanically more balanced while also still having great roleplaying. Rather than just changing things, I would like to hear contrary opinions, and I’m interested to see if anyone else had any similar issues with their group.
- Kyle L.