Mouse Guard Campaign, the story so far.

I recently started a campaign for 5 players (eek!) and thought id start posting the missions i use, for people to hopefully take away some ideas and add new ones.

week 1: very simply, i used ‘deliver the mail’ from the book. it gives lots of opportunity for further stories with the various mice and raven, so it seemed a good start. the only changes i made were to add in an extra pathfinder check to get there, factoring in a downturn in the weather.
results: the group decided to ignore martin, and convinced loretta to go with them back to lockhaven with their checks.

week 2: escort the grain cart to port sumac
first obstacle was to make their way to darkwater, a fairly routine pathfinder check.
the second part i gave them the choice or two or three ways to proceed. next was obtaining a boat to get across the lake, the team opted for disassembling their cart and using their carpentry and boatcrafting to make their own. they then opted to find a captain with circles rather than sail it themselves.
within sight of port sumac they were set upon by a pair of angry geese, and went halves in a fight animal conflict. the geese’s goals were to sink the ship, and steal the grain. the patrol’s goals were to save the crew, and save the grain. in the end they narrowly managed to defeat the geese, but the team opted to save the grain rather than the mouse crew. (patrol leader’s belief to stay on mission)
results: the conflict was quite complex 2 vs 2, and once id defeated one mouse team, i decided it would be simpler to put the two geese together and continue 1 vs 1. in retrospect, 2 goose teams (nature 8) were a bit much for my mice to handle, with their prodigious lack of fighter overall.

week 3: escort the councilmouse to lockhaven.
the patrol were approached in port sumac by a wealthy and influential mouse wishing to visit the acting matriarch at lockhaven.
first obstacle was a pathfinder to get on the way. the patrol have mostly been doing these with the most skilled pathfinder, in mortal fear of the fate that should befall them if they fail. eventually they should cotton on.
the next obstacle was a fight against 6 bandits, two teams of 3, led by an ex patrol guard and some muscle. they came out on top on this one (just), and saved the councilmouse from being carried off.
last part of GMs turn was the discovery of the bandits’ tracks, followed closely by those of a fox. they party’s beliefs were split between saving the bandits, and leaving them to their fate, and after some debate they followed the tracks, and saw off the fox. the encounter goals were saving the bandits, and driving away the fox. unfortunately in the confusion the bandits escaped.
results: all players worked their beliefs into the last conflict, so hopefully i’ve given them a taste for using their beliefs more. the first fight was much more even, and made much simpler by limiting it to two 1 vs 1 conflicts as opposed to a full 2 vs 2, as the interactions can get very confusing when each team has to choose their target (what order do you choose targets? how does feint work? how do you pick goals effectively without excessive crossover? etc)

ongoing issues:
im gradually getting the hang of balancing for 5 mice, but im considering changing conflicts to sets of 5 actions rather than 3 to make this easier. ive looked around for other suggestions, but all such threads tend to devolve into ‘use multiple teams!’ which i am. which makes things overly complicated and confusing, sometimes leaving my players feeling a bit cheated when bad stuff happens.
one thing that’s coming up is a general lack of checks, down to all the players grabbing very positive things like nimble, clever, natural bearings etc with very vague downsides. we should be pushing on to winter fairly swiftly, which will give them a good chance to re-evaluate what they want from their traits.’
in terms of characters they are fairly diverse and interesting, but i still have one player (a tenderpaw) who has maxed his fighter and basically gone for a combat monster with very little else. he has since realised that although his fighter skill his very useful, it will never advance, and so while everyone else is improving at the things they do a lot of, he is standing still, very frustrating when youre a tenderpaw. i want to sympathise, but he was very set on his character concept when i told him he would have issues. this is further compounded by the next problem:
they are still in the habit of maxing out any tests they need to make, with all the help dice and the best mouse taking the test. i think they feel that if they fail, the punishment can be excessively harsh with all of the helpers getting hit with conditions, or even a twist in the story still being a ‘punishment for failing’. hopefully their approach will gradually change as some players get more frustrated, but my only thought for dealing with it from my end is to leave more open ended obstacles, that the players can decide on how to deal with it, effectively making them very complex obstacles. the downside here is that this is what the players turn is for.

next session is saturday when the group’s healer is absent, so i will only have to deal with four players. will repost with my next adventure when ive drafted it, but am eager for discussion and ideas until then, especially for better complex conflicts and obstacles.

I don’t know what to say for conflicts that range on the team of 5. I had a team of six most weeks and frequently had noly a small number participate in a conflict while the rest fulfilled other tasks. In the case of a fight against the geese, you used two teams; I used a two team method when the patrol met up against a fox. That worked quite well for them to handle the high dispo of the fox. Each team had a uniquely different goal in that conflict. I’d say taht if the mice all share the same goal, then let them band together as one team and give them the warning that each mouse might get fewer actions in the conflict because of it.

Remember this doesn’t mean their character is doing nothing. Think of each action in the conflict being a moment of the conflict that would get placed on the highlights reel. Other things are going on too, but maybe just are not influential enough to deserve dice. Also, in that sense, it might not hurt to use more actions to ensure that each character gets to act once during the first round of actions in a conflict. That doesn’t gaurantee that the opposition won’t beat/be beaten before action four out of five…

Traits took time for the group to use in my experience. They saw plenty of potential for using traits to their advantage, but found it harder to use their own traits against themselves. I’d say review the book text about using traits and earning checks with the players and leave that on their shoulders. They will have to decide that what they want to accomplish as a goal is of such great importance that they must acquire checks. Once they own their traits and desire the checks, those players will get creative in how their seemingly positive traits are working against their best interests.

I can’t say much to the anti-powergamer tips and tricks. I will say about tenderpaw a few things. In our game I made sure the tenderpaw had a mentor among the other players that could speak to that player one-on-one. The players had to be friends enough that the mentor’s player could speak harshly without hurting feelings. Also, the mentor had to recommend to Gwendoln whether the tenderpaw should be promoted, held a year, or dismissed. It gives you a chance to hear the perspective of another player at the table. After the recommendation (which in my game was ‘hold for another year, and here is why’) Gwendolyn gets to have her own interview with the tenderpaw; again, this gave a player perspective.

Lastly about the tenderpaw, at our table, the mentor of the tenderpaw had a high Instructor skill and used it frequently to forcibly teach important things to the tenderpaw (in our case it led to hte mentor having the angry condition for the failures of his tenderpaw to learn almost every time). He even earned and spent checks specifically to use Instructor to teach things to the tenderpaw. He asked for others to not make a check in favor of letting the tenderpaw learn even when their rank was far more favorable. That extra action on the part of the player’s role-play decisions gave a better impression of the tenderpaw being incompetent in anything but Fighter skill (seems we had a fairly similarly built tenderpaw at our table).

As the Gm I knew the approximate stats of everyone, but I didn’t adjust my presentation and missions to cater to the tenderpaw’s high fighter skill. The group had one mission of 4 that was pretty good for a Fighter, but other missions focused on Survival, Pathfinder, Healer, etc. I tried to show the group that the Guard handles many things. Each session, some players didn’t have the optimal stats to participate like superheroes.

Looking back, We had more memorable successes made by those without a key score that tapped Nature to gain the upper hand, mice that used their traits against their best interests and still succeeded, and those that helped each other. The one-offs that were easy successes were not as memorable.

Remember the rule: First to say it rolls it. If they’re talking who gets to roll it, stick whomever first opted for that method with rolling it, especially if they are NOT the best.

ok, so next session tonight and i have an idea of the mission.

Mission Goal: Go to sandmason and buy some glass from the merchants there. return with an envoy to lockhaven.

im working up a recurring theme of gathering dignitaries from the various settlements for a sort of ‘council territories’ in the wake of midnights rebellion.

Journey conflict: through desert. summer is only ob 4 so should be easy. may invoke a heatwave (ob 3 health test or sick) before the conflict to hinder them somewhat. compromises will be conditions. the desert is harsh.

Negotiation conflict: will get some of the team to negotiate a good price for the glass vs a merchant. this will be quite difficult for them as none of them have haggle, and the merchant is a bit of a wheeler dealer of course. not sure what to do with compromises here, possibly just lots of angry conditions at being diddled out of a fair price. i predict lots of life of brian quoting here - i for one will try to push a nice gourd on them.

next is their return to lockhaven. now they have a native, i may skip the return through the desert, as i dont want to pile on too many conflicts. instead i may just throw in a flash flood, and leave it to them how them cross the new stream. most options are ob 5 or 6, but the players may come up with something else here.

Animal - the raven that stole their mailbag a few sessions ago is back and he’s… injured. this is a nice moral dilemma for one or two of them, and has several paths to deal with it.
Wilderness - tree fallen across the main ‘highway’ to lockhaven. options are pathfinder, laborer, carpenter etc. with their checks they may decide to come back with a delegation and chop it up for firewood and building materials.
Weather - the usual stuff, though i will probably hold back as all the interesting weather will probably have already been used by now.
Mice - things keep going missing - is there a thief in their midst?

ive gone for more open ended obstacles here, with a few pre-prepared options and things that i think they will go for.

with the conflicts there are only 4 of them this week, so i will probably put them all in one team, or with the negotiation i expect only one or two or them will participate, so ill give the others free reign to go do things (in game) in the meantime.

with their traits, im happy to just let this be an issue until our first winter session, as there doesnt seem to be much i can do in this case.

i will take the patrol leader to one side, show him the sections on advancement so he knows what the tenderpaw needs to be doing. this should encourage more RP and tests for the tenderpaw.

as a final note, this is the first session without a planned fight of some kind, so im expecting the tenderpaw to get frustrated at not having much to do. hopefully this, mixed with some more prodding from the guard captain will result in a bit of a shake-up. my only worry is that they now have a decent stock of fate and persona and much reduced natures all round, and so may end up making this worse by trying to win at everything.


this week’s session went very well.

first journey the team aced, even though it was only a bit of summer. a really risky choice of defend/defend/feint in the final round won it for them, with no compromise, showing them what can be done with a bit of risk taking. i might have to abandon my good old MAD routine.

then they got to Sandmason, and were split into two groups of two, one to negotiate for some glass vessels, the other to get a political type to come with them. i started off both teams with a circles test to find who they wanted, and after two failures made both the NPCs antagonistic to the guard, giving them +3s to their disposition in the ensuing conflicts (a negotiation and an argument). the politician won with a lot of compromise, despite starting dispositions being 11 to 4 in his favour. the compromise? he requested the team ‘big him up’ in a public speech, and sent a lackey to go with them instead of himself. the negotiation lasted a bit longer, with the two more experienced mice in the group eventually beating down the merchant, but not without some long term trade concessions.

after these conflicts, the group had plenty of checks due to some draws, and some very creative use of their traits, so we plunged on with the players turn. with this, they practised a lot of their skills, taught the tenderpaw a thing or two, learnt a LOT of deciever, and finished up by using their wises to introduce a religious group of carp worshippers. sigh.

we didnt get round to open ended obstacles, but with the number of players i have, im beginning to feel a bit more open to throwing in more impromptu obstacles, such as the circles tests.

the conflicts went well, but i will probably avoid doing two conflicts in one session again, as it can make the game drag on a bit.

traits were used a lot more as people get more used to roleplaying them. there’s still a bit too much 'heres the roll i have to make - how do i shoehorn my trait into this? what about my other trait? what about my radish wise? what about my gravy wise? etc etc… hopefully this will come with practise and players being more ‘comfortable’ with their characters.

nature featured quite heavily this session - as the players had a healthy stack of persona from last week, we saw nature’s plummet as they endeavored to learn new things. we had to go over the rules of how temporary/permanent relate to each other, especially how maximum nature is used for determining nature rising and beginners luck, and how its possible to lower your max nature at any time to increase your temp nature. additionally i’ll be going through their sheets and making sure all who have done so have also got rid of any tests for advancement too.

im off next week, so i have a bit more time to prepare for my next adventure which i already have the concept for - it will hopefully centre around a chase conflict where the mice are being hunted by a pack of wolves.

this weeks mission was missing 2 1/2 players (one had to leave early) so i brought in my girlfriend as a ringer to make the numbers.

general plot outline: shamelessly borrowed from another thread here, outbreak of plague at lonepine - go there with medicine, find village eaten by a predator. the fox encounter earlier in the year sets up their expectations, which are somewhat derailed when after a twist they find the fox chewed up and left by a tree. from here, they can either follow a mouse trail which mysteriously stops in the middle of a field, or trail a very large mammal indeed (wolf). the team opt for following the mouse in this session, leading to a chase for cover, then a fight.


SICKNESS i had fun describing the desolation of Lonepine, leaving hints and clues, some less subtle than others (large holes in roofs). players who failed search rolls got twists, that being a will test to avoid becoming sick with fear (or ‘the plague’). this meant along with several of their more combat ready players being missing, that they were somewhat ill equipped for combat, but being guardmice, persisted!

THE WOLF was a great cause of tension, with the players hiding in a tree all night. the pine forest was an excellent place for this as it limited their ability to go from tree to tree (theyre not squirrels after all) and i used by (admittedly limited) powers of descriptive horror to put the fear of (the wolf) god into them. i decided that in their current state a wolf was a bit excessive, and so i had it leave them be for the night

COMPLICATIONS instead they follwoed the trail of mice, which slowly dwindled to one, which stopped in the middle of a meadow. one of the players was particularly on the ball, and inquired as to how many large airborne predators were in the vicinity. in my generous mood, i opted for one regular owl (still not a trifle, but enough to push the team) a chase then ensued. we then got stuck in the first action of the chase conflict, as my ‘ringer’ insisted that as her hook and line said +1D, +1S on it, she should get that bonus. from my perspective - thats a fight weapon, not a chase weapon. it wont give you the same bonuses. it can count as a tool in a dirty trick (a feint), but the maneuver she was attempting wasnt really relevant. in the end we spent 5 minutes trying to get this into her head, and even a desperate ‘i am the GM, and i say that you cant get this for x, y, z reasons’ didnt stop her. eventually she noticed the glares coming from across the table, and we were able to continue.

A TALE OF TWO CONFLICTS the chase was very closely run, but in the end the owl arose victorious due to a very gutsy feint on the part of the owl. i ruled that they had been cornered (and forced into a fight), but they were close to salvation, with the owl the only thing in the way. the fight itself was surprisingly close considering all the conditions weighing in on the team, but after a wonderfully timed feint of their own (a very useful remedy for someone who thinks they can defend with maneuver!) the beat the owl 1-0 ,after both started with 11 disposition. the compromise? i demanded a blood sacrifice.

PLAYER DEATH, AND REBIRTH and so it cam to pass that our slightly subversive (looting corpses) player took one for the team, with two fingers aimed at his belief (take what you can give nothing back). as compensation, i allowed him to tell the story of his death and the fate of the owl. it was fortunate at this point that he was the only mouse not to have medicated himself to ward off the plague, and the owl died a few weeks later of massive dysentery, orphaning several owlets. we then had some quick banter about a new character, and he does seem a bit fixated on some kind of high priest, which raised further questions:

religion - does it exist in mouseguard? will a evangelical missionary even work in the guard? right now im going to need a lot of persuading to let this go, as theres only so much cheesiness i can tolerate (i despair at the possibility of an openly marxist mouse trying to rouse the masses) i think i may try and let his enthusiasm for this cool by ruling that he cant take it at creation, but if he has an appropriate belief, or has an ‘epiphany’, and then continues to RP this in a sensible way then he could MAYBE take ‘religion-wise’, or ‘deity-wise’ next winter. MAYBE.

magic - im hoping he will be placated by the allowance of ‘magic-wise’. how i imagining this working is as a very useful and widely applicable wise, with the caveat that his powers be fairly tame unless he adds dice with persona, and that twists will be quite drastic. there’s also the long term implications of being branded a ‘witch’, or a ‘messiah’, and the interest weasels would take in such a being. but this ofcourse, is what drives plot, and id quite like to encourage the players in general to ‘advance the setting’ into unexplored areas. i think one or two of them already want to create gunpowder and bombs, which im all for.

what have other GMs experiences been with wises, and peculiar setting advancements?

I think if my players decided they wanted to do this, I’d have trouble concealing my evil grin at the prospect. After all, once the weasels hear about this new weapon, they’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on it, and that opens up a whole mess of new possibilities.

you might be able to look over Chronica Feudalis for ideas of a lite type of sorcery and witchcraft or soem sort of connection with religion and mysticism.

I wouldn’t inject too much of religion and magic into MG personally. I feel it might break the premise. However, Chronica Feudalis has a method of injecting a bit of the superstition and paranormal without losing sight of the premise, so you may be able to with MG.

Also remember that his character may have religious conviction and even ecclesiatical power, but the character is still a member of the guard and has a rank within the guard. He can’t replace his guard duties with clergy duties. Keep everyone on the same team together. Otherwise he becomes a task for the team to protect, escort, and serve instead of being part of the team.

But if you can balance it well, it can also be fun to put the two sets of duties (guard vs. clergy) at odds.

Of course, short of adding mystical powers, the religious stuff could be handled with a well thought-out Belief.

Thats my hope at the moment. My worry is with this player it could easily get very very tedious (how many of these frogs can I convert?)

I still have flashbacks of playing a pre-gen adventure with the mouse that has radish-wise, and the ‘never trust a rich mouse’ belief. Cue 3 hours of attempting to lever radishes into EVERYTHING and constant citing of the communist manifesto. Tbf, this was a different person, but I can see the same warning signs.