Need some help jump starting my game

Hello everyone - first post on this forum!

Long time gamer here. I’ve played numerous gaming systems but lately it has primarily been GURPS and DnD 5e. I’ve only ever GM’ed GURPS and WoD though. I have a small group of players with whom I’d like to GM a Mouse Guard game. It’s kind of a couples game. My girlfriend has zero RPG experience but she loves Mouse Guard and has lots of mouse miniatures which she is intent on using - more on that later. Another couple will also play. The boyfriend is a grizzled RPG veteran who loves DnD 5e. He is skeptical about this. His girlfriend is like mine - no experience and is a little worried for her first experience.

So, I thought a Mouse Guard game would be great - whimsical with a rather low investment on my side in case we don’t play again. Well, the investment part hasn’t really panned out in my favor. :slight_smile:

Anyway, in preparation of GM’ing the game (did I mention that I would be GM?), I’ve read most of the comics as well as the Mouse Guard rule book. I have not read any of the Burning Wheel rule books, however. I’m looking for some help/advice with the items below from you experienced folks. Thanks in advance!!

[ol]
[li]My girlfriend really wants to use her miniatures in the game but, from what I’ve read so far, Burning Wheel does not need them. I’ve read a suggestion in one of the posts of this forum that you should print a big version of the overland map and put it on the table. I guess we could put their miniatures on the map to represent where they are. Any other suggestions?
[/li][li]I’m really confused by the notation of “+1s” in the Mouse Guard rulebook. What does this mean? The first time I encountered it was in the section describing weapons but I don’t remember this notation being use anywhere else.
[/li][li]I’m REALLY confused by the use of teams in battles. When Teamwork is being used and there is a versus result in the battle that the mice don’t take separate actions, but one combined action. Is that right? If so, do you use the greater of the dice pools then add +1D for the ‘helping’ mouse? How does that work? I’m lost.
[/li][li]I don’t quite understand the idea of “tests” for characters. I mean, I’m a GURPS veteran so I totally understand the idea of making players test their abilities, but Mouse Guard implies that you only get so many tests and that players can earn more tests by making things hard for themselves and what-not. I just found this confusing. Can anyone help explain this to me?
[/li][li]My girlfriend really likes the board game called Mice and Mystics. It has cards with special attacks and what-not. For example, one of them is called “Battle Squeak” which she thinks is super cute. Has anyone incorporated more of this flavor into their Mouse Guard games? Just curious.
[/li][/ol]

Thanks everyone!

Hi Brax,

Because Mouse Guard (and Burning Wheel) like to keep rolls focused on what’s important, and because of how advancement works, characters will have limited opportunities to test skills during a session. In the GM’s Turn, you’ll present the patrol with two hazards, each of which will necessitate a test. In the Players’ Turn, they’ll be able to make further tests, depending on the number of checks they earned during the GM’s Turn. Sometimes, a twist or a complex obstacle/conflict will generate more chances for rolls, but that’s the basic economy.

You can think of theses tests like scenes. The GM’s Turn will have two scenes in which the players get to test their skills against the mission you’ve presented them. Each character gets one scene in the Players’ Turn to pursue something important to him- or herself, plus additional scenes if they did things like used a trait against themselves on a test in your turn.

It’s a little unusual, but if you follow the mission structure in the book, your group will get the hang of it in no time. In practice, Mouse Guard’s turn structure simply codifies the kind of action that happens in a typical RPG session, with the goal of keeping it focused on the crucial moments of the narrative. I hope the explanation helps, and feel free to post any followup questions you might have.

  1. You could use them to vaguely represent positioning. “You swing and he dodges around you, and now you’re here and he’s here!” kind of thing. You’re right that it’s not necessary though.

  2. +1s means “plus one to your margin of success.” So if you’re rolling against Ob2 and get 3 successes, normally that would be MoS 1. But if your weapon gives you +1s, then you get MoS 2. Note that it only applies if you actually meet the obstacle to begin with, it can’t turned a failed roll into a successful one.

  3. The Conflict Captain assigns each action to a mouse, who rolls the dice for his skill level. That mouse can get help, if it makes sense narratively and the helpers have the relevant skills. Each helping mouse contributes +1D (max of 2).

  4. I haven’t heard of anyone doing this. Either people want the flavor of the comics as is, or the rules are complicated enough without fiddling with them. But it’s your game, so if you want to add more cute animal fantasy stuff, go ahead. I would recommend playing it straight for a least a bit first, just to see what it’s all about.

Having played both games, I’ve found that the conflict system in Mouse Guard has too much nuance and interaction to benefit from special actions. There’s already enough narrative pressure that “I use Battle Squeak” doesn’t fit with how the mechanics play out. That being said, you could accomplish a similar feel through either traits or conflict gear. Especially if you go the former route, it would be satisfying to see a trait called Battle Squeak evolve from conflict descriptions, to trait vote, to something the player can use for our against her character on tests. Check out the chapter on the Winter Session for more information about how traits are gained over time.

Welcome!

… I’ve read most of the comics as well as the Mouse Guard rule book. I have not read any of the Burning Wheel rule books, however. I’m looking for some help/advice with the items below from you experienced folks. Thanks in advance!!
well, you’ll do fine without reading the Burning Wheel material. Certainly, MG has some roots in BW, but not so greatly that you need to understand both in order to make a great game of things.

[ol]
[li]My girlfriend really wants to use her miniatures in the game but, from what I’ve read so far, Burning Wheel does not need them. I’ve read a suggestion in one of the posts of this forum that you should print a big version of the overland map and put it on the table. I guess we could put their miniatures on the map to represent where they are. Any other suggestions?
[/li]> [li]I’m really confused by the notation of “+1s” in the Mouse Guard rulebook. What does this mean? The first time I encountered it was in the section describing weapons but I don’t remember this notation being use anywhere else.
[/li]> [li]I’m REALLY confused by the use of teams in battles. When Teamwork is being used and there is a versus result in the battle that the mice don’t take separate actions, but one combined action. Is that right? If so, do you use the greater of the dice pools then add +1D for the ‘helping’ mouse? How does that work? I’m lost.
[/li]> [li]I don’t quite understand the idea of “tests” for characters. I mean, I’m a GURPS veteran so I totally understand the idea of making players test their abilities, but Mouse Guard implies that you only get so many tests and that players can earn more tests by making things hard for themselves and what-not. I just found this confusing. Can anyone help explain this to me?
[/li]> [li]My girlfriend really likes the board game called Mice and Mystics. It has cards with special attacks and what-not. For example, one of them is called “Battle Squeak” which she thinks is super cute. Has anyone incorporated more of this flavor into their Mouse Guard games? Just curious.
[/li]> [/ol]

  1. I agree that using the map to show locations is a great choice for including the minis and encouraging theater-of-the-mind. This would work especially well if you choose a mission which requires distance trekking in which the obstacles are within the trek. Consider the Deliver the Mail sample mission; this mission can begin from Lockhaven, with instructions to reach Gilpledge and Dorigift. Then, you have a chance to play out the Wilderness Hazard shortly outside the rural hamlets and homesteads beyond Ivydale and specify some obstacle of how the wilderness is impeding the trek, such as the sucking mud suggested in the sample content. Also, you have suggestions there for Animal Twist and Weather Twist which both can occur while trekking in the distance between Lockhaven to Gilpledge. So, that would be a good way to illustrate using the map and minis without trying to integrate minis into a beat-by-beat scene of fighting, arguing, or something.

  2. Teams in a Conflict may take some rereading and look especially at the example. It is a topic frequently discussed in this forum, so look through a few older threads (without thread necromancy) to get a few ideas, then start a thread with your remaining questions.

  3. The mission is essential for the players to engage. If they are distracted by other objectives, you could choose a few methods as GM to keep them attentive to the mission. Now, this will seem a bit like railroading, and you should note that’s part of the spirit of the game: you’re a mission-oriented patrol, not treasure hunters, detectives, quest-fulfillers, or something like that. So, first is the advice, “Yes, No, or Roll Dice,” in this case, when players want to illustrate skills, traits, wises, or just cool gear that’s excellent and should be encouraged; however, not everything is worth the risk(s). As GM, some things you can just say, “Yes, things play out just as you’ve described,” and maybe embellish as desired–in other words, let them show-off the awesome skills, traits, wisdom, or gear, but don’t roll dice over it. You can also say, “No, not quite, here’s what’s really going on,” or, “No, you don’t have time for that,” or, “No, that’s too far to reach right now,” or really any other denial. Denial should be reasonable, but purposeful, so don’t just deny 'cause it might trivialize some future obstacle. Lastly, as GM, you can say, “That’s a risky proposal, here’s the test you need to pass; the risk of failure is…”

Now, the players need to think ahead to the Player Turn when each test or Conflict requires they spend a Check to make that scene happen. By using Traits as a detriment during the GM Turn, they gain Checks to use in the Player Turn. As you are just starting, be super encouraging of players using Traits both as benefit and detriment. Lower tests can encourage players to win, and higher tests are opportunities for controlled failure. What I mean is, a Pathfinder 3 trying to trek the route from Lockhaven to Gilpledge faces Ob 6; even with a patrol of Helper dice, and a critical piece of gear, they might only gather 6 dice to roll–That’s a beastly attempt and without the advantage. It would almost be better to gain checks and tolerate the failed dice knowing that the risk is possibly Success w/ Conditions or an exciting Twist which would otherwise be bypassed.

  1. I wouldn’t use that during a Conflict yet; however, I would attempt to incorporate something that a new player feels interested in and familiar with. So, maybe that’s a great Trait: Wolf’s Voice; let the player decide when that provides benefit or detriment and maybe even consider it as a gear in some circumstances. Look at Weapons of Wit (pg 118): intimidation or deception is a prime spot for using a Wolf’s Voice howl. Also, Cut to the Chase (pg 121): Dirty Tricks seems a good spot for a Wolf’s Voice howl. So, look for subtle ways those familiar roleplay elements can be included even if not frequently at the front of stage.

Thanks for the great ideas. I think I’m going to put them on a large printed overland map and, during combat, I might draw some features of the terrain so they can embellish their attacks. If I feel they do something really clever (such as using a Maneuver to go under a fallen branch to get behind an enemy) perhaps I’ll give them an extra die.

I have to say this is VERY poorly described in the boxed set. Perhaps I don’t have the current 2nd edition rules - I’ll need to read a little more.

Thanks for the feedback guys, but the idea of such structure and railroading goes against everything I stand for as a GM. Now I realize that this is ok for my new-to-RPG players, but it will be abhorrent to my experienced player. Also, I feel it is unnecessary and perhaps not the kind of RPG to which I want to expose my newbies. Given that I don’t know much about the game, what if I just dumped the entire concept of limiting checks and simply apply a time factor like I do with literally every other game? I.e. If they want extra checks, they just might fail to get to the target city in time or perhaps they won’t catch the enemy they tracking… I really see this as unnecessary, but I’m open to counter-position.

It kind of sounds like failure is not an option and that everything is very linear… I.e. You don’t fail, you just introduce a twist. Not really liking that.

I think for the initial adventure, I’ll just stick with the rules, but in the future I was thinking that perhaps I’ll allow a player (for example) to become angry and spend a fate point to do something like a “battle squeak”. Or I could even give names to the things that are already built into the game. I remember reading that you could use a fate point to add your nature to an attack. Why couldn’t that be customized for the player and/or called “battle squeak”? There might be even more customization/powers that are enabled with fate points. Anyway, thanks for getting my brain juices flowing.

It sounds like you’re looking at 1st edition teamwork rules from your description.

Perhaps so… Looks like it’s time to buy the 2nd edition pdf file. Could be why I’ve had such a tough go at this.

But also, if you intend for a player group of 3 w/ GM, then it is less likely you need to have teams in a Conflict. Simply have a Player Side and a GM Side in any given Conflict. If you had a larger group then understanding and using teams would be more useful overall and would be improved by having 2e rules. For the small-size group, 1e rules about Conflicts will do more than enough.

I would suggest that’s not a fair assessment of the game as-is. The design is really quite good as it stands, but rejecting the mechanics and spirit of the game before having played through really means you shouldn’t. You should choose something else instead. Use the right tool for the story you want to tell.

Take a look at this review for more details about why the mechanical and narrative structure of the game as-designed works so well: http://islaythedragon.com/featured/its-what-you-fight-for-a-review-of-mouse-guard-roleplaying-game/

It is a bit of a lengthy read, but well worthy of the tidbits you need to understand why fans on the forum speak to the value of using the game as-designed.

Blows dust off if some old GURPS books. Just kidding

So far I’m not rejecting anything - I just find the rules confusing and (at this time) kind of rigid when it comes to player decision making. Though I’m a storyteller by Robin Laws’ definition, I like the players to tell the story a little more than the GM. I think I can work with the system - there are some interesting things about it. I just don’t understand the reasons behind the rigidity. What does it solve?

Also, are the accessories from the first edition box set still useful for 2nd edition?

snark snipped.

It’s a really cool game and that’s coming from a player who’s been playing RPGs since 1980. It’s really not just a game for newbies. I’d recommend giving it a shot before you decide its railroady, but it’s up to you.

It’s not trying to solve anything. It’s fun. It’s definitely it’s own thing, but i like games to do different things. That’s why I keep buying so many of them. If they all did the same thing, life would be so much easier.

I was thinking the opposite. I.e. It provides the structure needed for newbies. That’s why I considered a new system - GURPS is way too complicated for a newbie and DnD is so tied to its genre. The reason I bought the box set was my gf pointing and saying “OMG! I love Mouse Guard. Will you run a game?” So like it or not I’m committed. Don’t get me wrong there are things I like about the system. Reminds me of Fudge a little, but Im Stubborn you see. :slight_smile:

I’ll run one game as is and report back. Stay tuned.

Cool. I can tell you that I’ve been in a game run with a more describe situation, wait to see what the players do, mode. It completely sucks the wind out of the game. The GM had learned on Torchbearer, where that works just fine.

There’s rigidity in the structure of “obstacles, then player turn”, but that’s part of the economy of checks, tests and conditions. There isn’t any narrative rigidity. It’s perfectly OK, even thematic to have the players set their own missions. After all, the Mouse Guard would be ineffective if Lockhaven micromanaged everything. All the GM has to do is set dramatic situations that bite into the Characters belief.

The best thing about the Burning Wheel family of games is that the players are immediately invested in their characters’ motivations. When that happens, you don’t need to railroad anyone.

Great answer… On a side note I bought the 2nd edition rules. Holy moly! SOO much better. 1st edition was super confusing.

I said I would reply and tell you how things went after the game so here it is. The game was a smashing success. The grizzled veteran gamers had a great time and the newbies were thrilled at the idea of role-playing. I was wrong about the system in many ways. I thought it might be too much nose-ringing, but when I stopped and thought about it, I remembered playing many GURPS games where the fate of the party hung on one roll. You really needed them to move to the next chapter and you didn’t want that roll to stop them. So, I like the idea of pass with a condition/twist. Works nicely…

A few observations & questions to share with you experts.

  • They almost never failed a non-combat role. It was kind of funny because I had a lot of twists prepared but they blew past everything. Part of it was that there were 4 players, but we had someone that got to 6 pathfinder (the patrol leader) and someone else got Scout to 5… I probably need to check their character creation process. I also noticed that the patrol leader’s Fighter is only 3 which seems low. My issue with this is that the veterans are going to dominate Scout/Pathfinder and will probably only rarely fail. While this is ok, it just seems off. One thing I’m planning on doing in the next game is have “G” order the patrol leader to make sure his team keeps learning so he will let them lead the roll.

  • The next adventure is going to require a lot of scientist roles and even though I hinted that they should have someone with some skill in that or engineering, none of them took it. That’s not a problem per se, but it makes me wish I wouldn’t have rushed through character creation so fast. One of the players could only stay for 2 hours, so that’s why I felt rushed. Any recommendations?

  • I put a weather obstacle up against them (Ob 2 Health to keep going or a Ob 2 Survivalist to look for a place to hold up). They chose to keep going so I made them all roll Health. Those who failed got the Tired condition. After doing this, I started thinking that most of the rolls are centered around a single character and others offer help, but for this particular instance, it made so much more sense for all of them to roll. Do you see any issues with the way I handled this.

  • The second edition rules are SOO much better than 1e. Not only do they describe the system much better, they conveys a far more flexible feel. I didn’t even talk to my players about the GM turn and Player turn. I just sprinkled in a couple Player turns and told them “now that you have the townsfolk all working on their tasks, you have a couple days to do something you want to do.” Worked well.

  • I ran into a bit of confusion about taxed Nature. A character tapped his Nature and it dropped by one. Then he tapped it again later… Does he get 4 dice (i.e. his full nature) or 3 (his current taxed nature) on the next tap of his Nature? He also asked how he recovers his Nature. Besides waiting until Winter or permanently dropping Nature, is there another way to recover taxed Nature?

Sounds like you had a great time. So, good onya!

Yeah, I would check the maths on those starting characters. Seems high.

Tapping nature gives you the current nature in dice. I’ll let someone else comment on recovering nature in case it’s different in 2e, but I expect there’s a section devoted to it.

Hoorah that everyone had a great time!

Mouse Guard is a little different to other games, but it sounds like you are hitting the groove. Sometimes the players will blow past the obstacles with ease, other times what you thought would be simple will leave them battered and beaten. It tends to ballance out in the end.

The Mice not having Scientist to help them means lots of twists and also a good chance to use the Begginer’s Luck rules on Page 95.

I agree Second Edition is a definite improvement on first.