Off the cuff Mission design

I’m curious if anyone has run a session of MG by only creating the two obstacles beforehand and letting everything else come out during the session including twists, npcs, and well anything one may do prep for in a more traditional rpg.

Tell us about it?

Isn’t that how you’re supposed to play it? I don’t think I’ve run a session any other way.

That’s pretty much what the book says to do.

Although it took me a while to realize that Complex Obstacles that involve many rolls count as a single Obstacle. Once I realized that my prep got even lighter because now I realized that all I needed to do was prep two problematic situations.


When coming up with a couple obstacles beforehand, I usually pick something they’re good at (to give them a chance to earn checks), something their bad at (to increase the probability of at least one twist), and a conflict (to give them one last chance to earn checks and to give the story some real meat).

The GM Sheet is your best friend. It lists all their friends, enemies, beliefs, goals, instincts, and more. When you need a twist, use this sheet as your guide. It would really piss a character off if his enemy was the one to come save his bacon. It would create real conflict in a character if the rigid following of his belief or instinct would mean that he would betray his friend or mentor. And so forth. Usually, I aim for a sort of crisis of faith, where a player must make a decision and some aspect of a character must be confronted or maybe even change.

I think that the length of the mission write-ups in the back of the book got me thinking that there was more to mission creation than simply coming up with two obstacles. I was thinking that I would have to come up with the two obstables and then figure out a bunch of twists ahead of time, like the carpenter needing the chair or Loretta in Deliver the Mail.

This IS good news for me, as I can jump into more games quicker! (I was planning to run games this way anyhow.)

Jesse, the gm sheet is heavily used in our games. It’s great.

Interesting! Well, those sample missions are as they are because I couldn’t very well write, “Two obstacles: Animals, Mice. Go!”

I figured I ought to explain it a bit more so you could get the hang of it. I guess I should have put a warning, “Don’t feel the need to write up missions!”

You should be basing your obstacles on challenges to the players’ Beliefs and Goals.

I ran a campaign for which the prep only required my opening the book to the appropriate season, picking a patrol task, and then picking 2-3 obstacles. This took roughly 5 minutes per session.

I run them on the fly as it is written in the book. I think pre-planning every single step of the way could end up pigeon holing the players. Now I have created an over-arching story but as to how it turns out is all dependent on how the players react and how the bones (dice) lay.

I usually prepare some obstacles and interesting twists/deciding if any of the obstacles at fail would lead to conditions rather than twists (for example we have recurring enemy in form of a thiefy raven that I sometimes plan beforehand as a twist). I also think about what I think the characters/players want to do and what they probably will use their checks for.

Since I haven’t really been able to go paperless I still have a Moleskine pocket plain notebook (9*14 cm) where I write some notes. Usually every meeting’s notes (2 sessions) take up one turn-up in this note book. That’s how much I do but then I also mostly do it quite close to the weekly meeting so that I donät have to remember things for day’s. Sometimes when I introduce a new character that might become more important later I do some specific notes on him or her or it and that might take up an extra page.

I prepped the first session of my newest Mouse Guard game in like 10 minutes, like this:

I came up with a mission (“it’s early Spring; go pour the scent border!”) out of the Seasons chapter based on some BIGs, mostly one guardmouse with a Scientist enemy whose Belief is about proving himself to those who say he can’t do things. So, OK, “pour the scent border” - I called it a Wilderness obstacle, although I dunno if that category is correct. Mice gotta Pathfinder their way along the border to find the right spots, and Scientist to pour the gunk, just like it reads in the Seasons chapter. One obstacle, check!

Then I checked out the other guardmice’s BIGs. What’s this? “Always help those in need?” Cool, there’s our mice obstacle, then: a mouse in need! Hmmm, the third mouse’s Belief is about exploring secret stuff…so we have a mouse yammering for help because his friend disappeared down a tunnel that leads into some underground vault, maybe part of the Darkheather (we are along the western border of the Territories, after al…). And this guy’s a Healer, so let’s have him with a broken leg.

Bam! Done. Two complex obstacles: 1) Pour the scent border (Pathfinder + Scientist), and 2) help the mice (Healer for the injured one, probably Scout for the missing one). I tend to sketch my ‘primary’ test as I come up with obstacles, but I leave room for alternate skills to test as well as additional bits for the obstacle - like maybe “help the mice” will end up with a third test or more in play, I dunno, we’ll see when we get there.

Oh, and I note “twists: animal & weather,” and I think about those real quick. Animal, that’s easy! Either something gets by the border because they failed at pouring it - hello, Mr. Fox! - or, y’know, weasels in the Darkheather vault. And weather twists are super-easy. Rain seems fun here, since it’ll mess with the scent concoction pouring efforts.

That’s it! A little while spent thinking, and I’m all ready to go!


This is really nice.

Awesome ideas and great example Odie.

Makes me realize why Dnd was so easy to prep for: everything on the char sheet helped you kill monsters. So, add monsters. Bam. Game.

I still can’t get past that idea sometimes. Glad to have BW kick me in the head saying: Look at the char sheets, dummy! There’s you’re game! Duh!