Mouse Guard + Torchbearer = Less Stressful Heroic Fantasy?

I’ve read a bit out of the MG RPG, and the games obviously seem very similar.

How hard is it to remove the grind from Torchbearer, or re-skin the mice in Mouse Guard to produce a less focused game?

I know there is Burning Wheel, but I enjoy the simplicity and unified structure of conflicts in Torchbearer and Mouse Guard.

They are arguably a lot more light-weight than Burning Wheel, and easier to digest. But both games have a very certain story to tell.

I realize this is a feature of the designs. But I really enjoyed the mechanics of Torchbearer, but the grind coupled with the immersion-breaking of the 3 phases was in a way a deal-breaker.

Anyone have any experience in freeing the basics of these games into something more generic?

Please understand, that I am in no way bashing Torchbearer. I love the whole package, but I’d like to perhaps enable people who otherwise wouldn’t buy the themes of these two games to use it.

I recommend Dungeon World for your light-weight non-BW needs.


The basics of these games is a really difficult thing to pin down.

The dice pool mechanic? Boring!
Beliefs, Instincts, Traits, Goals? Not without advancement, artha and checks!
The atmosphere of my unlikely heroes accomplishing something when it felt all hope was lost? Not without the Grind, Nature and camp
(And vice versa)
Unified conflicts? Kinda.

See, if your issue with Burning Wheel is the complexity of the conflicts, I’ve got a treat for you: use Torchbearer conflicts in burning wheel. The system runs fine if you leave out everything past Circles in the book.

I did! I wanted an interesting musician’s duel versus the devil. I used Torchbearer rules, with attack using Flute, defend and maneuver Will, and Feint Composition. It worked!

If the hub and spokes of Burning Wheel aren’t evocative enough, and the unified dungeoneering focus of Torchbearer is a deal-breaker, there are several games without these flaws:
Dungeon World
Lamentations of the Flame Princess (not heroic)
Dungeon Crawl Classics (often heroic)
Fate (I guarantee Fate can do heroic dungeon fantasy)

I would run Mouse Guard with the TB conflict rules. Need to see if I would port the condition rules as well. The not-so-strict heloing rules in MG fit it better I think.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. You should realize that Mouse Guard doesn’t have classes or abilities. If you are ok with that, you could simply use the Stocks, Stock Traits, Nature and Home Traits from TB, but use the Trait and Wise rules, GM’s Turn and the Player’s Turn of MG.

I would use the conflicts of MG and the weapons and armor of TB. They would work fine together.

At character creation, you would choose a stock/class combination from TB. But that would only be to determine your available weapons, armor, spells, prayers and initial trait.

That being said, magic would be the hardest to convert. With no levels or abilities, spells would be hard to allocate. I would start by making magic a roleplaying/effects tool. For example, if you’re playing a human cleric (in concept only, since there are no classes), you could try to heal your teammates and use your Touched by the Gods trait in the roll, describing how you are invoking the blessings of your god to heal your companion.

As far as specific spells, I would give them weapon stats. Like Magic Missile could be equivalent to a thrown dagger. Or a Charm Person spell could be the equivalent to a sword, but only in Argument and Negotiate conflicts. I would allow each character to know one appropriate spell/prayer for each point of Will they have, but each spell/prayer is only usable once per GMs turn.

All this would be a simplified version of TB (or an expanded version of MG). Just quick thoughts. I’m sure it could be more detailed or better thought out.

I second Dungeon World. If you want a rules light fantasy adventure game that mechanically encourages role-playing and helps the group create memorable stories, DW is a great game.

Torchbearer is the original game of dungeon crawling D&D that the rules said they were and the way bearded men fresh off the battle fields of sandbox wargaming played the game in 1976, Dungeon World is the B/X/2e D&D everyone else played when they were 14 years old.

I like Dungeon World, but it is not the game I am looking for.

Using Torchbearer conflicts in Burning Wheel sounds doable!?

But would assigning skills feel wishy washy?! Would you allow forking?
Should you import the weapon system from TB?

I’ve heard you comment Lukee that the systems are actually quite modular, snd that you could switch out the moving parts.

Dungeon World is great, but classes rub me the wrong way.

Assigning skills:

“useful” skill for Attack (and probably Feint). Stat for Defense (and probably Maneuver). If there’s a Finesse skill you want, put it in Feint or Maneuver (my example was Composition, or whatever the actual writing of music was). FoRKs fine.
Weapons I imported slightly skew-iff, having reskinned the conlifct for something else, but we followed their rules.

In my experience, the main source of stress in TB is that dearth of checks, and the fact that there are a lot more drains on your resources (which are your means of access to checks).

Mouse Guard not only lets you enter the player turn with no earned checks, but gives each player one free check. That’s crazy generous by Torchbearer standards. As a result, characters are able to recover more easily and are less often in a shambles.

Try running Torchbearer as-is, but have “setting up camp” cost one turn, and once camp is established give every player one check (if the camp phase is not interrupted by roll results). That should put some constraint on setting up camp, but creates a system where it is much easier to stay healthy and competent. If this turns out to be a little too generous, maybe have camping consume supplies (firewood?) as well.

Why not use group (or even individual) disposition as an analog to basic D&D hit points and remove the grind (hungry, angry afraid et al) all together? You get the benefit of Torchbearer task resolution and skills with the ease of keeping track of hit points? Failed skill and obstacles rolls are just failures with no grind associated therewith. Viola!~ skill based D&D. If you really don’t like the grind, and to be fair, lots of d&d players ignore the grind/resource management inherent in that game as well, you’re in good enough company, just put more emphasis on disposition/aka hit points during play.

Torchbearer is B/X d&d RAW. But so many d&ders of Holmes, mentzer et al ignore the “grind” as I mentioned. No resting 1 turn after 5 turns of movement, no tracking of rations or water, or even encumbrance. It seems its this “type” of d&d you’re looking for combined with the beautiful task resolution structure of LC. The answer just might be to play Torchbearer and just yank out, root and branch, the Grind and leave everything else as is. If you want to add “bite” to failed skill tests, treat a failure like a Dungeon World GM “move” (break their tools, throw a wandering monster at them, or even reduce their “disposition” aka “deal damage” etc).

I see where you are going with this but.

About making camp costing one turn?

That doesn’t seem to make much sense, because you’d reset the grind timer for free every 3 turns?

If you however, could camp without a check. (And only use Instincts for recovering)
That would alleviate the weight of the grind?