Scale and the maps

Hi folks,

I’ve been quite happily playing mouse guard with my kids for a few months now, but I still slam into this problem every once and a while. I can’t get my head around the scale of the maps compared to the mice.

I slip into human sized thinking, and then back into mouse sized and things get all messed up.

The biggest problem I have is the map. It has large lakes and an ocean and very large-scale-looking topography. If it was to the scale that it looks, it would take months for tiny mice to travel even part of it. If it was to that scale that I think its more relevant (a few days tops for tiny mice to travel between adjacent towns, etc) then the entire map is only a mile or two across and the topography makes no sense.

It might sound silly, but this is a big deal to me. I just can’t get a proper visualization of scales and I keep tying it back to the map being the problem.

Anyone else have this issue? Can anyone else offer advice?

Previous discussion linked below.


So, if 1" is one day, how far is one days travel for a mouse? That’s what I’m trying to work out, so I can see the real scale of the map and figure out landforms and stuff that are properly sized.

A person can hike at roughly 2 miles an hour for 8 hours. According to google, that’s a reasonable day, not pushing too hard and on flat terrain. For ease, make it 15 miles a day.

How do you GMs translate that for a mouse?

Good question. My group has been playing with these assumptions:

  • The map is drawn to mouse-scale. Therefore, that ‘ocean’ isn’t nearly as large as it looks to us and may in fact be just a smallish lake to a human. However, you’re a mouse and the distinction hardly matters.
  • We focus on time rather than specific distance. We take Lockhaven to Ivydale as a base unit equaling one day of travel and scale up everything else from there. Time also becomes less predictable the farther you go. So: Lockhaven to Shaleburrow = 2 days, to Barkstone 5 or 6 days, and to Pebblebrook 8 to 10 days.

My group plays it as 1" = one day… for a mouse on foot. If they need to expedite their travel, they have to make alternate arrangements, such as boats, riding hares or birds. It’s great to try to make it so that this happens in the Player’s Turn so that they have to burn a check to make the alternate travel arrangements (arguing with stuck-up hares is fun) as well as potentially also a check to get to their destination on time and/or safely.

You might want to look at the travel data for lemmings. They leapt to mind (or maybe they scurried, but I digress) as an example of a rodent that does some travelling and that we might have measured their speed.

“Their speed on land has been measured to be from about 3.6 km/h (autumn) to about 5 km/h (spring) moving 15 km per day. Water speed has been measured to be about 1 km/h crossing a 200 m wide lake” quoted from this site:

So you can all relax, the map is ok. Mice travel almost as fast as we do. It seems particualry fast when they have somewhere to go to, as in spring time.

Just one last thing from me (at least for the moment): I think it’s important not to mess with the scale in MG too much. “Scale” is one of the really cool things about Mouse Guard. Scaling down distances just makes the world feel a little small and “easy” to me. Since the characters are mice, the world should seem exceptionally huge to them. Crossing a lake might be a monumental effort – crossing an ocean… that’s the stuff of legends!

Everything should be huge to the mouse’s point of veiw like you said. Traveling across the territories should be dangerous and be something other mice look at with awe.

Now I will say the main travel restriction mice have is due to their size. They are small and vulnerable so any other animal is a life threatening experience. Mice hate open ground and can be considered agoraphobic so they take travel routes through brush, undergrowth and dense tree growth all of which causes uneven ground.

Also the main reason the mice have not explored outside of the territories is becuase beyond the scent boarders it is more open country with larger predators and fewer places for mice to hide. So who knows what lies out there beyond the open country. Maybe other civilizations, other than the Weasals, waiting to be discovered.

Travel across the ocean would be impossible for a mouse due to the rough waters (The Northern Sea must be a Sound or Bay that prevents large waves and tames the tide.) and supply limits. Heck during the Human Medieval Ages travel was limited and crossing the Atlantic could not happen, outside of island hoping the Northern Atlantic, and most people didn’t know of anything outside of their own local area.

Also remember the Mouse Guard territories are based on Michigan, where I am from, and its lakes. They don’t have tides and the waves wouldn’t threaten seaside communities. But the Great Lakes do not have Crabs so it must be salt water in the Northern Sea.

It’s the thing I find the most difficult, actually. I slip back and forth between human scale and mouse scale, and it confuses me and my players. In the same game where they had to run from a hawk and hide in a stand of bullrushes, a player got stuck in a fallen log (that would actually be 50 times taller than he is).

It’s all about getting the scale in your head and being consistent.

Thanks for all the great answers, folks.

Might have a solution here. A large mouse is about 3", though some can be bigger, so if you compare that to humans where 6’ would be comparable to 3" then a 1/2" is equal to a foot.

So a 3’ hollow log would be like 72’ to a mouse. Though a fall from that height wouldn’t kill a mouse. They can fall up to 4’ feet before being stunned. But they do hate heights over their own height.

Had pets in the past.

On the topic of getting stuck, remember that a space has to be extremely small for a mouse to be caught in it. Basically, if the mouse can fit it’s head through, it’s body will follow. I think rodents have a way of actually rolling their skeletal structure around in order to fit into tight spots. Of course, your shield and pack may not make it…

Back to the question of maps, I have just never imagined Petersen’s map of the Territories to be precisely measured or measurable. I have a sense that crossing the Territories from one end to the other would take an entire Season, while traveling from Lockhaven to Ivydale takes a day or two. That’s it, really. The patrol extrapolates between those extremes, with the understanding that the farther you’re going at once, the less predictable your travel-time is going to be.

I found this really useful. I’m going to combine this with other peoples’ suggestion to keep things imprecise the further from Lockhaven you get.

found a scholarly article on rodent running speeds…

It doesn’t include any of genus Mus, but most are ranging from 10 to 18 KPH (6-11 MPH), running speed and Mus musculus (house mouse) is known to do 8.5 MPH (13.6 kph) running; migratory speed should be about 1/4 that or less.