Questions on travel time, challenging beliefs, and player's turn

I’ve run a couple of the sample missions with my group (my two kids, ages 9 and 11), and they’ve created their own characters with some good background that I’m going to take advantage of. I have several questions, which might warrant splitting into different threads.

First, how far can mice travel in an uneventful day? For example, is the trip from Lockhaven to Darkwater a day, half a day? The reason I ask is that my plan is to kick off a mission but make it last multiple sessions. (They have to escort a new teacher to a far away town, but when they stop at a town, I have a chance to create a second mission there, such as “Help Darkwater to repair their docks.”)

Second, the players have written good beliefs, especially because they are contradictory instincts: My daughter’s instinct is “Always observe and then act or defend,” and my son’s instinct is “Act first, think later.” An obvious situation is where they see another animal that could be taken as a threat (e.g., a bullfrog). Does anyone see a problem with a scenario where maybe they hear a noise or see tall grass rustle, and they’re presented with an opportunity to investigate. I could make it a test to investigate, but I also want to leave it up to them what to do–to investigate or not, or to even rush in and attack. I want them to choose the action, hopefully prompting something of a debate between them. I could then make a test based on their decision. (We have a bit of these situations in the D&D campaign I’m playing, where something is meant to attract our attention, and we choose how to approach.)

Third, is it a good idea to have a tease to lead in to the player’s turn, so they have a choice of perhaps initiating a conflict? For example, I was thinking that, when they arrive at Darkwater at the end of the GM’s turn, I would mention that they see the boatmaker and town captain engaged in a heated discussion. That gives the choice of investigating rather than overcoming a condition or restocking their supplies. I could see adding something like this where a conflict isn’t necessary, but it’s an opportunity to talk for roleplaying purposes and to provide background. (Again, I’m drawing on D&D sessions where we might interact with NPCs to gather information and roleplay.)


(I read the subject as “time travel” and I was really curious to see how that fit into Mouse Guard. Oh well.)

Generally, mice move at the speed of plot. So if you want them to take a while to get somewhere, they will do so. If it’s the destination that’s important, make a test or even just skip right to it.

Not sure about the second two bits. I know one of the missions in the book has a lead in to the players turn, so it can’t be all bad.


  1. I think David said the map was 1" to 1 day. But as Victor said, it’s more about what presents an interesting challenge. Check out the Pathfinder factors to get an idea of how we judge travel times.

  2. “A noise in the bushes! What do you do?!” That’s a decent hook, but it’s not a great obstacle. What self-respecting guardmouse wouldn’t investigate? Why not set up a strong situation for them that they can really sink their teeth into. “You hear a noise in the bushes. When you investigate, you see a fox intently stalking its prey. And its preys seems to be a mouseboat floating merrily down a stream. This is a tricky situation. What do you do?!”

  3. You’ve described precisely how I run my player’s turns. I try to set up the action so the players have meaningful decisions about whether to rest up or complete the mission. I feel that it gives the guardmice a great sense of responsibility and gravity. Choosing work over sleep is something we can all relate to!


Thanks for the responses, Luke and Victor.

  1. I figured that I could move the squad as fast or slow as needed, but I like the idea of creating a sense of distance. If the escort would “normally” be 4 days of travel, I’d like to keep that.

  2. True, the noise in the bushes is not a good obstacle. I was thinking that I could present the real obstacle once they made their choice. I could take an obstacle, particularly with Mice and Animals, to create a situation that isn’t what it seems. In the fox stalking obstacle, which seems like an obvious threat to a mouse, I could flip it so that there’s a greater danger in stopping the fox. Likewise, I could present an obstacle where caution would SEEM the right approach, but a quick sword is what’s really needed. The main point is finding ways to let the characters play their instincts (cautious action vs. rush to action) and then challenge the players on those.

  3. Thanks, Luke. That’s good to know. I have in mind a couple of different situations, where I can set up some expectations about a certain NPC to create suspicion and where the players’ turn could set up the next mission.

One of the things I really like about this game is how much it’s like writing fiction in that, if you put an emphasis on creating good, interesting characters, you can throw them into a situation, and a good story will unfold: Character comes first. I originally had a campaign idea that involved a mouse with ambiguous intentions, but because my players wrote good characters and backgrounds (parents who are missing and an enemy guardmouse who’s interested in rising fast politically and gaining power), I’m focusing on those, maybe developing a connection between the two players through these other characters and situations the players have created.

Here’s a twist that I planned and should probably make into an obstacle since it could challenge the players’ instincts, but I think it provides a situation where the observe instinct of one mouse and the act first instinct of the other could both be legitimate responses.

The players stumble almost face-to-face upon a bullfrog that croaks wildly when it sees them and tries to jump at them but falls short.

I could see the players trying any of the following:

  • Try to escape (Simple test: Nature Ob 4).
  • Attack (a conflict).
  • Back off and see if the bullfrog is really attacking (Complex test: Loremouse Ob 4). In truth, the bullfrog is trapped as one of its back legs is caught and can be freed (Hunter Ob 3).

If they escape or attack, revealing the truth seems a good way to challenge their beliefs (especially since I have an escorted NPC with them that could directly comment on it).

If the bullfrog is trapped, is there really an obstacle to escaping?

Yeah, I debated that when I listed escape as an option. But I thought if they were right up on the bullfrog, and it’s jumping around, they could still risk injury. Now, that I think about it, though, they probably wouldn’t be that close.

My thinking is that they couldn’t simply walk away from an obstacle and that there needs to be some kind of test or conflict for any action they take. But running away would be a likely option.