Planning Missions

I spend my office hours writing out Saturday’s next mission. I can’t bring my RPG book to work with me… That would give me away. When I need to reference the book to make notes on a game mechanic…I am SOL. (like assigning ob difficulty etc.)

So I must post and implore the community’s help to continue the mission development.

i just reread your reply and methinks you are somehow mocking me luke…

I’m not mocking you. I want to know what your planning consists of. When I plan a Mouse Guard mission, I say something like, “A shipment of medicine is stuck on a small island in a stream (wilderness). Delegations from Barkstone and Elmoss are fighting over who has rights to the shipment (mice). Both sides have hired bandits/thugs to force a solution (this last part plays into a friend relationship, an enemy and a couple of Beliefs).”

I want to know about your process.

I’m curious, too, as My plan tends to look like

Briefing: Go rescue the children held hostage by the rebels
1 - We: Fog - vs season
3 B Wi: The old oak tree - hiding place - climb up it to get in.
2 - An: Hawk - Nature 7
4 B Mi: The rebels - See book for stats, 1 per PC

Col 1 is what order… 2 is whether I brief them on it, 3 is type, 4 is specifics.

Wow maybe I am doing this wrong… I look at what everyone else has and I plan details out right down to the dialogue.

I will write dialogue and contingency plans with one basic story. Some times twists will change up HOW the characters get to the next chapter, but I weave them back to that chapter none the less. I still have to RP since conversations can’t be predicted. Also some times the other players come up with something so brilliant or do something unexpected and I have to on the fly throw away the notes and wing it until I can find a clever way to get back to the over all plot.

For example here was part of an adventure I wrote for the player’s character Dingy. I used Dingy’s friend Pip for the plot of the solo adventure:

In Lockhaven Dingy reports to Gwendolyn.

If orders were taken from before, Dingy will not be allowed to see Gwendolyn. Dingy must track down Dimitri (Dingy’s enemy) Ob2 test against circles to retrieve orders. Dimitri now has read the orders and is searching for the goal as well.

Gwendolyn meets with you and quietly dismisses her guard. Once you and her are alone, Gwen pours herself a goblet of wine and offers to pour you one.

“Dingy, I did not write the details of this mission for a reason. I’m afraid I was cloudy over Pip’s disappearance due to the very nature of it’s cause. You see, we believe that it was Pip that killed Brindle. He bested our guards and escaped his arrest.

I understand how hard on you this is seeing as how close of friends you are to Pip. But Brindle was stabbed to death by these two daggers.”

Gwendolyn places two crystal daggers covered in blood in front of you.

“Those two weapons have no match. They belong to none other than Pip. Brindle’s mother was unable to speak to us through her tears. We would like you to speak to her first then find Pip. Outside of Brindle, you know him better than anyone in Lockhaven. These are your orders Dingy. This is no simple task and I am more than aware what it is I am asking of you. I ask you to put your loyalties to the Mouse Guard ahead of your friendship to the murderer of Brindle. Find Pip and bring him to justice.”

To find Pip Dingy must roll an Ob3 against circles. Failure = Twist (a)

Twist (a) = Dimitri has found Pip. The badly wounded Pip is now incarcerated. No further help will be given by anyone in Lockhaven. They believe Pip has killed a great hero and deserves to die and Dingy can not use them for any help solving the murder.

The twist hurt Dingy since he found fur at the scene of the murder and needed a scientist to analyze it and prove it didn’t belong to Pip or Brindle. Also the witnesses that were to help Dingy get on the track of the real killer no longer were cooperative and the player had to come up with new ways to find out what happened.

So basically the entire mission was a who done it. Pip was framed and Dingy had to investigate. He argued with his enemy and raced to solve the case and he had to travel to other locations fighting weather and a toad.

I write an outline and dialogue. I will splinter it off with possibilities and spend time figuring out twists that can take the adventure in a whole new direction but still can be lead back to the main plot.

I also make props. In a different mission the roads leading to and from Sprucetuck were washed out. The guard needed to find out why all other attempts to repair the road were unsuccessful. Sprucetuck is the major hub for medicine and the Raven’s plague was hitting the mouse territories. Without open routes for medicine it was going to spread. So I printed some nonsense I made in MS paint to physically hand something to the players.

It was the plan to open the roads to be delivered to the governor of Sprucetuck. (It was sabotage and the guard had to stop the fiends that were spreading the plague and killing off the guard sent to repair the washed out roads.)

So far each adventure has been a subplot to a bigger plot. Right now I have them on a boat when a storm hit so I write out the action during the storm

It looks like this:

Just then Captain Tot comes storming out of his cabin. He is poised and calm. He immediately starts barking orders. “GET THOSE SAILS DOWN!!!”

The Captain looks at you, “Boy that means you! Get up there and free the line so we can tie down the sail!”

Ob 2 test against nature to climb up the post. Failure = Next task +1 to Ob

Player describes action they are taking

The clouds are dark gray and black and lightning falls from them pelting the ocean. The waves are high and heading straight for the ship.

Again the Captain yells above the roar of the storm, “Dingy get to the crows nest above and cut the line!!! The sails aren’t responding!!!”

Ob 2 (add 1 if last test was failed) test against nature to climb higher and cut the cord. Failure = –1s to next obstacle

You hear someone yell, “HOLD ON!!!”

The wind now rams into the ship knocking the unsteady crewmen to the ground. Rain instantly pelts the crew. The Captain remains poised and standing as if in a calm breeze.

The storm now surrounds the boat and it is now rocking violently.

Weather OB 3 against health. Failure = Tired

Dingy needs to be ordered down if he has not already done so.

As Dingy reaches the deck a wave come crashing over the deck.

Ob2 test against health. Failure = Twist a
TWIST A: Dingy is thrown over board along with several other mice. Debris is floating all around and Dingy swims to several large pieces and hangs on for dear life.

A rope is thrown to the mice by Mr. Musk.

Ob 2 against Nature to climb back aboard. Failure = Injured.

and so on and so forth. It is all colored coordinated so I can follow my method of madness without pausing and always searching through notes. Also since I wrote the basic plot I can easy weave in out out of the structure allowing the unforseen to happen. I am VERY careful not to box in or limit characters and respect that aspect of this game…I’m also just too anal to not have it all printed out for me.

I KNOW it works when after the adventure the players will non stop talk about what they just played. The reward portion and reflection time after the game is seems longer than the game at times.

So far this has been very rewarding. I am TOTALLy open to criticism and suggestions.

Wow. That’s some intense planning.

I’ve only run a scenario from the book so far, but if I was to plan for something, the only things I would actually put on paper would be something like:

Mission: Secret night-time mission to the Darkheather to rescue Gwendolyn’s brother (no one really knows that that is who he is, even the weasels who have him)

Mice obstacle: preparing for the mission and keeping it secret from everyone in Lockhaven (spies working for the weasels have infiltrated the area)

Wilderness obstacle: navigating beyond the scent border in the dark!

Possible twists:
weather twist from the result of being unprepared (no gear for rain and mud slides)
animal twist from bumping into the wrong thing in the dark (hibernating bears through a cave)
animal twists from WEASELS!

Anything beyond that I’d probably wing it as the game went on. I’d probably throw down the stats for some various mice in Lockhaven, the bears, a weasel or two, but that’s about it.

I’d definitely keep my players beliefs and instinct close at hand.

I’m not confident in my improv skill set enough to do the simple planning yet. I tried a mission in the beginning that was like the one you stated. I had a general mission in my mind and when the party tried it (there were 4 of us) it flopped. There were lulls and I was constantly checking the book etc.

I vowed to not let that happen again. So I make sure I have all ob tests and twists/conditions preplanned. I ended up enjoying doing it. While spending my week reading up aspects about towns I will be using I was able to familiarize myself with details that allowed me to pull out a twist in the spur of the moment.

Also the group likes to hear how the story WOULD have been different if they did this or that or if this test was failed etc. It is like what Luke was talking about in the book. At the end of the session talking about what just happened can be rewarding.

I just don’t have the experience with RPGs to have a basic design only and go from there. This is my first RPG and so far it has been phenomenal. Hopefully my confidence and knowledge of the game will allow me to just shoot from the hip…until then I need to stop any chance at a lull or misunderstanding so that the game doesn’t get stagnant.

I wouldn’t say you’re doing it wrong, Mootaku, but I do think you’ll find, as you become more comfortable with the game, that it wil get less and less essential to plan the contingencies.

I didn’t mean to say that you were doing it wrong in anyway. I’m just seriously in awe. That’s awesome! And the fact that you have fun doing that level of planning is such great icing on the cake.

I do find myself flipping through the book throughout the session and as I’m playing more, I’m doing it less. Still when I do, I try to keep the players engaged with the game, not necessarily the narration at the moment, but the mechanics that I’m looking for.

Example: “Hey, I think you can use one of your traits here to give yourself a check while still using that other one to help you since they both apply. Let me just check real quick.”

Anyway, keep it up Mootaku, and let us know how or if your GMing changes.

I flip through the book during the session, too. Seasons obstacles, animals, mice, skill factors are all important to look up.

How does your planning tie into the character’s Beliefs, Instincts and Goals?

I plan my sessions at work too; my trick is to save a draft in my gmail account with the players current BITs, the highest skill or 2, and the general theme of the character / story type the players have expressed interest in.

Once i have that in place, I sketch out possible events that would engage those characters, place it might be cool to have that occur in, and then i choose the 2 obstacles.

Like mootaku i’m still not confident in my ability to be inventive on the spot, especially in ways that really hook the characters in, so planning some possible twists and complications makes sense for me - im very careful to constantly remind myself that they are maybe’s or whatifs though, i dont want to get into the trap of having ‘my story’. One of my favorite thnk about plannign mouseguard sessions is how easy it is to hang a skeleton plot on the ‘pick two obstacles’ planning and if you target it at the mice’s BIGs that story just naturally falls out.

My process for coming up with my sessions are pretty much like Luke’s. I get the skeleton of what is going to be happening and between myself and the players we add the rest of the bits and tell the story as a collective.

Everyone is totally entitled to how they want to prepare for their games but I really think you can over prepare. If you plan every single thing moment to moment you begin to really pigeon hole the players into following along a predetermined path rather than letting the players and their results dictate what comes next and play it from there.

I have a static group. I have a copy of all 4 players character sheets. Goals will change and are made after the opening. Instinct and Beliefs I play on constantly. In fact I will make sure to add an element in each story to play on it.

For example Dingy’s belief is “Battles should be fought not fled.” and his Instinct is “Any fight draws my sword.”

Leaf (another player) his Belief is “Never leave a mouse in trouble.” and his Instinct is “Battles should never be between mice.”

So one is a hot head that will draw his sword even in an argument and the other believes that no two mice should ever fight. I make sure to put PLENTY of mouse against mouse quarreling and fighting. I play on those two constantly. It is always a treat to watch one mouse draw his sword and the other try to defuse the situation before blood is drawn.

I spend a great deal of time trying to make Dingy break his Belief or Instinct. Leaf has had to go against his since I put mice in danger and the only way to save them was to harm other mice… But Dingy usually finds a way to make his brash actions somehow justified…

Oh there was this one time when I sent the head of Barkstones son to find them to escort the patrol to safety and Dingy believed him to be a spy and killed him… And THAT had repercussions Dingy regretted…once he found out whose son he was. He fell for that trap, but normally his RP works for him. He now is banished from Barkstone and must stealth or disguise himself to get around that town…I make sure Barkstone is a popular hub in the missions :wink:

VERY valid point .

I do my best to make sure I am not a dictator. I have had to throw away pages of prep because the group takes it somewhere I never thought of. I refuse to make the story about what I want to see in the game (to a degree)…It’s not about what I want, it’s about what the players want. There have been sessions where I was dissapointed that they didn’t get to have this scene or that…But I am very careful not to pidgen hole them into my design.

There is one HUGE plot going on though. It is always there throughout all the smaller adventures though. Tid bits here and there are filling them in to it. I make sure to have those moments in the game since it is leading to one huge battle, but other than that…It is still pretty loose and free for them.

Here is what my planning skeleton looks like. Thoughts? I’m still new to this, and haven’t even run the game yet (but will in 2 weeks and counting).

Trouble in the North
Scene I The Call
GM’s Turn
Word comes to Bree of a new hamlet north of the Chetwood that has been raided. The Rangers must travel there to investigate and save who they may.
Travel to Chet – Pathfinder Ob 4 arrival morning of the second day
Twist – fell mists and shadows in the Chetwood hinter the path, arrival evening of the second day, Hungry, Thirsty, or Tired
Investigate Chet – Scout Ob 3 discover Uruk dagger and tracks heading north
Twist – ambushed by Orc hunting party (8 Moria Orcs with an Orc captain). If morning, Orcs get -2D to all actions. Goal: Kill the Men. Compromise with and Injury and flee. Tracks are found
Begin tracking Orcs north – Scout Ob 5 follow tracks towards Fornost
Twist – hard ground, streams and ponds make tracking difficult, Angry, Tired, or Strained
Make camp
Player’s Turn
No Resources or Circles possible in the Wilds.

I just planned (and we played) the first mission for our group so concerns of Mission building are in the front of my head.

I felt like I prepared more than the book told me to, but I still felt a little under-prepared during the game. It basically ended up being “Obstacle 1 roll, Obstacle 2 roll, Obstacle 3 conflict, Obstacle 4 roll,” etc. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t throw enough color in there? I only had 1 Mouse NPC written up.

Basically, how do I make the GM’s turn longer (in a good way–not filler, but full of cool stuff that the players will bite into)? The book says push from Obstacle to Obstacle, so I don’t want to make the players start RPing useless stuff just to get them to the Obstacle (“The Mission starts tomorrow. You’re in Lockhaven for the evening. What do you do?” “Uh, go to sleep?”) Perhaps they just weren’t super into it, since it was the first session and didn’t key off of their Beliefs and Instincts, and it was our first time meeting each other. Who knows.

My notes, verbatim [other than these parentheticals]:

  1. Gwendolyn sends the patrol off from Lockhaven with the order to “Repair and re-map the scent border around Pebblebrook. Also investigate reports of an owl showing itself around Pebblebrook.” She loads the patrol down with barrels of scent, delivered fresh from Sprucetuck this morning.

  2. 1st Ob Make your way to the broken scent border around Pebblebrook by avoiding still-dangerous patches of ice and snow and beating out a new trail from the explosive plant growth.

Pathfinder 6. [probably too high for a starting patrol, they failed miserably]

failure-- you get close, and come upon Pebblebrook itself in the middle of the night. You hear the hooting of an owl, and underneath, the screams of mice! On the edge of town, the snowmelt has caused the titular brook to overflow and create sucking mud that’s threatening the newer, non-stone settlements of the town! You have time to rush toward one part of the town–what do you do? [I was thinking this was a weather twist with the animal Obstacle thrown in early]

possible skills they could use: -survivalist, -laborer, -carpenter [ended up with one character using orator to organize people and get them out of the houses, with the Ob number improvised]

  1. 2nd Ob You find the end of the scent border and now need to convincingly lay and map the scent.

Scientist 3 + Cartographer 3 [this ended up being the very last part of the GM’s turn, as they failed the first Weather Obstacle and ended up stumbling onto a town in trouble].

  1. 3rd Ob You lay the scent border and travel to Pebblebrook to investigate. The mice are grumpy!

Conflict with Patriarch Garrow [I used the “stonemason” template in the book–shoulda given him some orator skill, since I planned a speech conflict].

Garrow’s goal: In his bitterness, rally the town behind him to throw the Guard out. “We’ll hole up in our stone towers and mourn. Leave us.”

  1. 4th Ob The Owl! In any case, probably a complex obstacle rather than a conflict [ended up being a conflict].

[Owl stats are here]

And those were my notes. They went through all of those obstacles (a lot!) and the game still seemed kinda short. There wasn’t much meat between obstacles.

Conflicts? How did any of this play into the Beliefs and Goals?

Also, what happened in the players’ turn?

Hmm…they sorta didn’t. It was the first session, and we did character creation at the table before we played, so when I planned the Obstacles I couldn’t take into account their Beliefs. I tried to push against Goals as much as I could.

I’m not sure what your question about Conflicts is. We had a conflict (fight) with an Owl, and a conflict (speech) with a mouse. Seemed too much of a big deal for both of these to reduce them to simple or complex obstacles. Though in retrospect the Owl should’ve stayed a complex obstacle.

P1: attempted to alleviate Tired. Failed.

P2: attempted to teach the mice of Pebblebrook how to better defend themselves with an Instructor test (I should’ve made him choose a skill to transmit, like Fighter, but I didn’t). He failed. I figure I can use this as a twist in the next session.

P3: attempted to alleviate Tired, and succeeded.

P1 again: attempted to create light armor, and failed, so I gave him some poorly made “Heavy” light armor.

That’s it.

After thinking about it, I’m not sure that the GM turn was too short. I think it just lacked some meatiness–it felt, again, like rushing from Ob to Ob. The player’s turn was very short, but only one player earned one check. I’m going to make it my job next session to really prompt those Traits.