Preplanning ?

Hi Folks,

I’m an experienced gamer, new to Mouse Guard. I grew up with AD&D 2ed (and every TSR game made in the 80s and early 90s) and then moved on to FUDGE and eventually to a diceless dramatic gaming group. I stopped playing for 15 years or so when I got married, but I want to pick it up again and get my kids involved. Mouse Guard came highly recommended.

I’m going through the book and I truly love how it forces real character work. I do have a few questions, though. If no one minds, I’ll ask each in a seperate thread to limit confusion.

For this thread, my question is this:

The GM manual stresses playing people’s goals and beliefs off against each other, and trying to make situations that push this. I love that idea, but the part that I wanted to ask about is: how you do any sort of preplanning when you don’t see a character’s goals and beliefs until a few minutes before the session starts?

If I had the beliefs and goals in advance, creating and planning conflicts and twists that push the characters would be much easier. Having to develop them on the fly, altering what I have planned to fit, seems a little strange given the emphasis the book places on this kind of thing. I just have a hard time planning some twists and such in advance when so much depends on my players goals and beliefs. So much would seem to end up being last minute.

Does anyone else feel this? Is it just part of the fun of GMing Mouse Guard?

I’m still wrapping my head around the whole Mouse Guard “thing”, so excuse me if there’s a fundamental issue I’m not getting.

Thanks, and thanks for all the awesome discussion in this forum. I’vve had so many of my questions answered, and my concept of the game molded just by reading here.


Hi Kirby,

Welcome to Mouse Guard. For your first session, play one of the missions provided in the book, or at the very least, use the characters provided for a mission of your own devising. This will give you a leg up on challenging the characters’ Beliefs, Instincts, and Goals (aka BIGs).

When your group has some familiarity with the system and is ready to make their own patrol, set aside a session when you all are able to recruit characters together and flesh out their BIGs and relationships in person. The game will be better for it.

That being said, challenging BIGs in play is a skill that’s part of game mastering Mouse Guard well. You’ll become more comfortable with it in time. When in doubt, I like to ask the players what they think would be interesting challenges and situations for their characters; mine often are more devious than I ever would be.

Mouse Guard can be run with a minimum of preparation. As Luke says here, a fine mission is “Beavers have damned the river above Grasslake, go figure it out.” It’s intended that things about the characters and the situation are discovered through play.

Good luck! Be sure to let us know how your first sessions go.

I struggle with this myself, but I have some tools that I use. I keep some scratch paper to keep notes and jot down ideas when they come to me, mid-session. I also make sure to heavily use the GM sheet. It’s useful for the names. I even have the players fill it out sometime. This way if I’ve got a preplanned mission idea, I can pop in one of their contacts, family members, or enemies’ names into the NPC and go from there.

Most importantly, I try not to stress about trying to get everything from every character sheet into every session. If I get one thing from each character into the game, I feel pretty good. There’s a ton of info there, and you don’t have to use it all. You shouldn’t really. So, let’s say I’ve got three mice in a patrol? I just try to cherry pick one thing from each character sheet to plop into the mission. I’ve got a mouse who is a good boatcrafter, so I’ll make sure the route goes over water. I’ve got a mouse who’s belief entails helping the least among us, so I put a villain into a destitute spot to challenge him. And a mouse who’s got a family member near by? Well, I’ll make it the villain’s Girlfriend. There! ready to go.

Two more things to help you out:
-For twists, just come up with something obvious or even just something that you want to see happen. “I’d love for them to get stuck in the mud.” “I want to roleplay a crazy shopkeeper.”, etc. It doesn’t even have to really be all that connected to the failure, as we all naturally will find the connection in the story later. It doesn’t have to connect to the failure, it can simply interrupt it! And when all else fails, simply assign a condition to them and get on with the game. Conditions are gems when it comes to story that may take sessions to resolve.

-The reward system, well rewards the players to push against their beliefs themselves, so don’t be surprised if they provide some of their own challenges during the player’s turn, or even during the gm’s turn. You may not see this until the 2nd or 3rd session, but once it clicks in the player’s heads, you’ll barely have to nudge them to see it.

Just keep reminding them about their beliefs and instincts and goals, even during the smallest of tests (like conflict actions) and you’ll be fine. And if they end up not caring about them, ask them to change them to something they do care about!

Note that players write Goals after they’re assigned the mission. So challenging Goals is easy. You get to essentially say, “Write a Goal about this!”

As for Beliefs, the actual content of the mission should provide hooks into Beliefs. So using the “Beavers have damned the river above Grasslake, go figure it out.” mission – the action on the ground there should incorporate elements of Beliefs. And since Beliefs don’t often change, it’s fairly easy to plan these scenarios. If you have a “The Guard’s place is in the wild” type Belief, then you balance the beavers with problems in Grasslake. If you have a “I will prove the Guard…” type Belief, you only need to set up two competing priorities – which is better for the Guard, to destroy the dam or set up an agreement with the beavers? Which will bring a better life for Grasslake?

Burning * games definitely exercise slightly different muscles than AD&D 2e, but you have the same core strengths – dramatic action, daring feats, heroes in the thick; towns, wilderness, monsters – so I’m certain you’ll get the hang of it right quick.

Jesse, Daniel, thanks. Those are helpful points.

Luke, that was THE point that I wasn’t quite getting: “Beliefs don’t often change”. I had in my head the very first session where characters write beliefs and such all at once at the beginning of a session. Of course they don’t need to do that every session. It all makes much more sense now.

I knew it had to be some basic misunderstanding on my part. Thanks.

You know ferrets, curious small animals :slight_smile:
When you say ‘‘the GM sheet’’ what document are you referring to, one of the community made session planning sheets or something else? I’m interested in all kind om gaming aids.


GM and Character Sheets

I just recently ran my first two missions and what I would suggest doing is

  1. Make a simple outline of your mission or of the sample mission in the book to use as a quick reference.
  2. Have your players try out an example conflict and an example test.
  3. Have a sheet ready to bookmark the pages that you seem to be referencing a lot.
  4. Take it slow and make sure everyone has a good idea of what’s going on and why.
  5. If you mess something up, no worries, keep going and remember what you were mistaken about.

The first mission I did “Find the Grain Peddler” was straight forward but we had a few ties and other surprises. I’d also recommend trying out each of the different twists so that you and your players get familiar with the mechanics and what can happen to their characters. I thought that the mechanics are easy to understand and we only made a few easily correctable mistakes.