My first mission! Finally!

I finally got to run my first Mouse Guard game for a couple friends last night, mixing the Deliver the Mail scenario with one proposed in the The Danger of Foxes thread. Their characters were Connor and Nixxie who had been raised on heroic tales of the Mouse Guard.

Connor is an older mouse, but is still fairly new to the Guard as he had fought along side during, and then joined the Guard after, the recent war with the weasels. He lost most of his family when Woodruff’s Grove was overrun, and has a serious sore spot when it comes to defending the helpless, or dealing with weasels. Connor’s enemy is his brother-in-law, who feels that Connor was somehow at fault for the town (and wife) being lost to the weasels. (It’s not a rational thing, but the mouse lost his wife when the town was lost, so you can’t exactly expect him to be rational about it.) He’s quite the heavily armed & armored Guardmouse, packing a bow & quiver, sword, and light armor.

Nixxie is a newly-cloaked Guardmouse. She was raised on heroic tales of the Mouse Guard’s exploits, and dreamed of nothing more than joining the Guard when she was old enough. She was so impatient to join that she ran away to join the Guard a full year before her parents were trying to make her wait. In fact, she was so impatient that she actually ran away near the end of Fall, and ended up lost in the woods, wintering in an abandoned squirrel nest. (“I can’t even look an an acorn without getting indigestion.”) Lucky enough to survive, she was found making her way to Lockhaven far too early that spring, and spent two extra seasons apprenticed to an artisan (trying to teach her patience) before she became a tenderpaw. It was her time as a tenderpaw that finally tempered her (still evident) enthusiasm, as she discovered that the Guard seems to spend an inordinate amount of their time wet, something she dislikes quite thoroughly. Nixxie carries a sword and sling.

I started the GM’s turn off with their early spring trek from Lockhaven to deliver mail, pick up medicine along the way, and take it to Silverbrook, a small settlement I situated on the ‘road’ between Elmoss and Barkstone which had been hit by a plague right before winter began (leaving the road there completely impassible). On the road between Dorigift and Elmoss they ran into the raven problem described in the ‘Deliver the Mail’ scenario from the book, losing the mail bag, but fortunately not most of the mail itself. (The raven’s goal was to get the ‘shiny’, the mice’s goal was to save the mail. The raven won the conflict, but with less than half of its disposition left, forcing a compromise.) Having reached Elmoss (as far as the medicine was able to be taken before winter closed things down), they picked up the medicine and made for Silverbrook. Once there, they found the town a shambles, buildings knocked over, and not a mouse to be seen. One successful Scouting check later, they managed to find the survivors, hiding deep in a particularly thick patch of thorny bushes. They learned that a fox had somehow made it across the scent border, and had caught the village unawares. And that’s where the player’s turn started.

One of the characters, ‘Nixxie’, spent her single check to help distribute the medicine, and in the process learned that most of the missing mice actually hadn’t been killed by the plague, but rather by the fox, which had arrived just days earlier. Unfortunately, many mice had been killed, including most of the men and the elderly who had made a desperate sacrifice to save their families. The other character, Connor, led the pair on a scouting mission to find the fox’s den, and did so handily, discovering the den full of newborn kits while both parents were out hunting. There was some discussion on the trip back to the thicket on how to deal with the threat, and Connor came up with an ingenious (read ‘insane’) idea. Grab one of the kits, and hoist it up into a tree, thereby occupying the fox parents long enough to evacuate the surviving mice.

Unfortunately, even a newborn kit is too heavy for a pair of mice to hoist up a tree, so they needed to convince the terrified villagers to supply some additional mousepower for the task. Connor’s second check went to an Orator-centric conflict in which he attempts to rally the mice and get some volunteers. This conflict lasted quite a while, with the first round of actions going Connor: Attack, Attack, Attack (“We need to do this, and we need to do it now!”); Survivors: Defend, Defend, Defend (“Are you insane?! There’s a fox out there!”). During the conflict, Connor spent a Persona to tap his nature, bringing in an impressive pile of dice, and barely rolling a success. (With a margin of 1. Ouch.) After 6 rounds of cards, Connor’s arguments finally won over a small band of volunteers, and the plan was set into motion. (I don’t think Connor’s player has quite realized the utility of the Maneuver and Feint actions yet, though Nixxie’s player has.)

That began the final conflict. The mice’s goal was to keep the foxes occupied so the survivors could evacuate to safety. The foxes’ goal was to rescue their kits quickly. This was hard-fought, with bad disposition rolls for both sides (4 for the foxes, 5 for the mice). The foxes won that conflict, but with only a single disposition left. The mice had misjudged how high they needed to hoist the kit, and so it was rescued quickly. The major compromise was that the ruse had allowed the mice to evacuate, but that in their haste they didn’t think to disguise their trail. How to deal with the actual threat of the foxes may well come up in the future.

Things were a bit rough at various points (because I forgot about the conflict cheat-sheet until after the end of the session). I was using Nature + an applicable skill for disposition rather than Nature + Health or Will. Both players forgot about their weapons, although I don’t think it would have changed things too much if they had remembered them. They both loved the sketched-in mouse silhouettes on the character sheet, and by the end of the session they had done everything but color in their mice. There are a few things I miss on the smaller 8x8 character sheets from the boxed set, mainly the ‘Skills by Conflict/Action’ chart, and the Maneuver details. I’m going to start keeping a copy of that side of the full-size sheet handy for future games.

I expect I’ll have a third player for next week, who will either be the group’s assigned Patrol Leader who returned to Lockhaven just after Connor & Nixxie were sent out on their mission of mercy, or a fresh Tenderpaw for the team, left sick in Silverbrook when her mentor ran back to send word of the plague.

Sounds like things went great!

Yep, I’ve got to agree that it went pretty well, all things considered. It’s a shame it’s going to be a short-run campaign (just 1-2 more sessions until we get our last player back from a work-related emergency, and go back to the Pathfinder campaign our regular GM is running).

Well, the missing player came back early, but everyone decided that MG would be our fallback game when someone couldn’t make it, so there have been a couple more sessions since I last posted here.

Episode 2 - Flight from Silverbrooke

This session didn’t go quite so smoothly. Based on the prior session and my own inexperience with the system, I built the first of the major obstacles for the GM’s turn as a twist for failing a simple test. (Oops) They breezed right past that one with a success on an Ob 5 Pathfinder check. Lesson learned there.

The second, a sudden spring storm that threatened to sweep away the refugees, went fine mechanically, but I wasn’t terribly pleased with how it felt. (I had a lot of difficulty with descriptions of the storm, and didn’t think of giving the storm ‘weapons’ for the conflict. (Which is fair, I suppose, because the players didn’t think of anything they could use either.) Beating the storm with a major compromise, the players successfully kept all the refugees together, but they picked up a variety of conditions, which I selected based on the actions they had described.

Arriving at Elmoss with the refugees, they attempt to bring in the sick, hungry, wet and cold refugees for shelter, but are turned away by the mayor, who is afraid of what might happen if he lets in so many people who are still apparently sick.

At this point, the players’ turn began, and here I accidentally fell into the ‘typical RPG’ mind set of ‘fail the roll, fail the task’. (My bad. I’m definitely going to have to watch out for this one!) A series of bad rolls on their turn left them and the refugees stranded outside of Elmoss with the players quite frustrated. This failure on my part, and the bad planning in Obstacle design made for a fairly short game. Overall everyone said they enjoyed it, and wanted to keep the game as our fallback.

Session 3 - Refugees of Silverbrooke
At the beginning of this session, I explained and apologized to my players for my failing at the end of the last game, and did a bit of a ret-con so that the guard members were allowed into Elmoss (without the refugees) in order to see if they could drum up popular support and/or supplies. This session went better, due to better planning on my part and good thinking on the players’ part.

The first Obstacle was a collection of checks to find/build popular support to help convince the mayor to help the refugees, as well as dig up supplies and find a possible site outside the city just in case they couldn’t talk the mayor into letting the refugees enter. They built up a sizable pool of bonus Disposition dice, and evidence/information which they could use as ‘weapons’ in the upcoming conflict with the mayor. (One of the players, Nixee, had chosen Elmoss as her hometown, so she had several contacts she could make use of.

When Connor and Victor decided that finding a suitable quarantine site would be a good plan, they left Nixee to do her thing while they went scouting. Almost as soon as they had exited Elmoss, they were ‘accosted’ by a little 13-14 year-old girl mouse who was panic stricken. With most of the Silverbrooke adults dead (back before the first mission, they had fought a desparate holding action against the foxes to allow their children to escape to the relative safety of the thick thornbrush), the young girl had been watching over nearly 14 children, and in the chaos discovered that 4 between the ages of 5 and 6 of them had suddenly gone missing.

The children had wanted to help out, and had wandered off to go pick berries, but become stuck when a muddy slope collapsed under their feet because of the earlier heavy rain. Connor and Victor found the youngsters just as an obviously hungry Snake (p219) arrived on the scene, and had to rush to defend them. The dispositions started high on this one, at 10 vs. 12 in the snake’s favor, but a good initial roll disarmed the snake’s fangs, and things went down hill for the scaly beast after that. The players, however, had lost half of their disposition in the process, so I saddled Viktor with ‘Sick’ as the constant time out in the wet weather finally got the best of him (he already had Injured from the prior session). Connor picked up Injured, having pulled a muscle dodging out of the way of Viktor’s spear when the Snake disarmed him, leaving him Thirsty, Angry, Injured and Sick. He wore all those conditions like a badge of freaking honor through the session for some great role-playing!

Returning with 4 unharmed little mice, who broke the players’ hearts when they told them they had just wanted to help, and hadn’t asked because, “They would have said, ‘No.’” (said in my best petulant little kid voice). Nixxie took one look at the other two guards, and said, “What the hell happened to you two?! You look like something a badger shit out!” There followed much roleplaying of the discussion and description of events, complete with embellishments that weren’t actually described during the fight.

Meanwhile, Nixxie had been digging, and had turned up good support and mention of prior quarantine tents (from when a plague had hit Elmoss 10 seasons back). Unfortunately, the tents weren’t where they were supposed to be, and no one had been able to find them. Unfortunately, Nixee didn’t take the bait there, but I may still be able to use that tidbit of information in the future. (There’s an undecided chance that the tents were mislabeled after the Elmoss plauge and then mistakenly sent to Silverbrooke as relief aid last spring when bad weather had caused several of their buildings to collapse, rather than being destroyed as intended!)

Getting ready to go talk to the mayor, they realized that Connor, who was just about ready to “…feed the bastard to a damn snake myself!”, would be a major hinderance to their efforts to negotiate. About 3 seconds shy of me and Nixxie calling for a conflict, Connor relented and decided to go sit thing out in a bar. Drinking. Heavily. (Thus setting up his later check to get rid of the Thirsty condition.)

The conflict with the Mayor started off with scarily small Dispositions on both sides. The Mayor had his Will of 4, and 2 Dice (beginner’s luck Haggling). He rolled 2 successes, giving him a disposition of 6. The players started with a Will of 4 and pulled together a total 8 dice including bonuses. They rolled one success, giving them a Disposition of 5. The negotiations were hard fought, and ended with the players victorious with only 1 Disposition left! In the end, they were able to convince the mayor to allow the setup of a refugee camp nearby, but aside from a few guards to help watch for predators, and whatever supplies the townsmice gave up voluntarily, they would have to forage for themselves.

That taken care of, they players each had one check to work with during the PCs turn. (I still hadn’t managed to convince them of the utility of hindering themselves, but I think one or two of them is starting to ‘get’ it.) Nixee, thanks to being able to grab a bed in her parent’s house, was able to shake of her Tired condition, allowing her to spend her check to take care of Victor’s Injured condition. He spent his check to take care of Sick. (I might have that backwards, but he is condition free at this point.) Connor spent his lone check on drinking his Thirsty condition into submission, leaving him Angry, Sick, and Injured. (He’s milking that for all it’s worth in role-playing time, and loving it!)

I’ve got two ideas for next session, and may actually be able to put both into play.

  1. A couple days after the negotiatons are finished, and after the quarantine camp is set up, the mayor sends for the guardsmice to try smoothing things over a bit, when a watch mouse barges into his office, saying a forager has just returned, saying she’d seen signs of weasels!
  2. A rash of minor burglaries are reported, and word reaches the players that a masked mouse has been spotted breaking into a merchant’s store.

(I don’t want to go into too much detail there just in case my players have started reading these forums.)

This really sounds like it is developing into a very good campaign. Kudos on the innovative use of the system.

I agree that it’s turning into a fun game.

I’m not sure though, what you mean by ‘innovative use of the system’. As near as I can tell I’m running everything just like the book says I should. :?:

Bad phrasing on my part. I meant you have a creative use of creating obstacles and the tests involved. Sorry for the confusion. I also applaud the roleplaying. Again, great job!! I look forward to reading more.

Episode 4 - Mystery at Elmoss (Summer)

In this session, the mice find themselves several months later, nearing the end of the agreed upon quarantine period, and attempting to make more permanent arrangements for the refugees from Silverbrooke. Recent weeks have seen the rise of an unusual set of burglaries, mostly items of very little value. More recent instances, however, have included some uncommon medicinal herbs which cannot be re-gathered until fall. The loss of those herbs raises the potential for problems with sickness later in the season, so the assistance of the guardmice has been requested. Additionally, while in a meeting with the governors of Elmoss, a watchmouse barges in, announcing that a forager has returned, reporting a sighting of weasels.

Thus interrupted, the meeting ends, Nixxie oversees the evacuation of the quarantine camp into Elmoss proper, while Connor and Viktor leave to deal with the potential threat. The weasels are eventually found, but the search gives away the patrol’s position, and they are ambushed. Making surprisingly quick work of the weasel soldier and his two weasel conscript companions (12 vs 10 disposition and it took the patrol 4 actions to finish the fight), the patrol tracks down the large wagon tracks also discovered near the scene, finding three ferret laborers with a slave wagon obviously intended for gathering mice. Attempting to frighten the ferrets into surrender so they can be questioned, they barge into the camp, throwing weasel ears into the light of the fire, and attempting to intimidate the ferrets. The roll fails, and the ferrets scatter into the darkness, leaving their wagon behind. The wagon is burned and the patrol returns to Elmoss to report on the situation.

Just as they return, and are meeting back up with Nixxie, they see a small brown blur as a young mouse rushes past them, followed shortly by shouts of “Stop! Thief!”. The mysterious burglar has struck again. Connor is far too beat-up for the chase and stays behind to question the merchants while Nixxie and Viktor give chase. The chase goes on for a good long while (3 full sets of actions) before the burglar, a skinny brown-fur with a tuft on the end of his tail wriggles through a gap they all thought was far too small to fit even a mouseling and escapes. In the meantime, Connor has been questioning other witnesses and victims. In the process, he discovers that some of the missing items had been spotted in the quarantine camp, and that a subset of the town seems to know more than they want to let on, also there is some disagreement among the victims as to a very visible portion of the burglar’s anatomy. Some insist that the thief has a tufted tail, others are absolutely positive the thief does not. By the end of the scene, they have come to the conclusion that someone is attempting to put the refugees in a poor light to keep them from becoming permanent residents.

(Truthfully, the ‘thief’ is a pair of cousins, one a refugee, the other a native of Elmoss, who have seen certain merchants profiteering from the refugees, charging outrageous fees for basic necessities knowing the refugees don’t have any other options at this point. Unfortunately, with the certainty of youth, the little bandits have assumed then that all the merchants are in the wrong, and have been supplying the refugee camp with whatever basic items they can get their paws on. The missing herbs were stolen for their pleasant scent, to help hide the smells of the crowded camp, but the young mice have no idea that the herb has any other purpose.) This will be interesting, because all three sides of this situation can be seen as being in the right, the refugees and the townsfolk who are hiding the destination of the goods, the young burglars who are trying their best to help those in need, and the innocent merchants who are suffering because of the hidden actions of some of their neighbors.

Overall, the session went very well. Unfortunately, the players still haven’t quite gotten the point of hindering yourself for more checks, so they each had only the free check at the end of the session. I made a point of explicitly pointing out the rationale behind earning checks, and they say the understand, but I think it’s just too many years of RPGs where the rule is “roll = success or failure”, not “roll = success and/or twist”. As a result, Connor is still saddled with Tired, Sick, and Injured, though the rest of the patrol was able to spend their single checks to take care of their own conditions. I think I’m really going to need help with this aspect.

You should prompt them before they make a roll.

Connor’s going to get it. Next session remind him before he makes an easy roll. It’ll click.