setting obstacles

One of the topics I’d like some input from other gamers is about setting obstacles. I’ve noticed a few times taht players will retreat from obstacles too high for them to acheive.

While in Grasslake against the turle, the single mouse with Loremouse 2 was interested in using that skill to better understand the threat. From what I could tell, that would be a Ob 8 Loremouse test; because the nature of the turtle is 8. When faced with that degree of challenge, he backed down completley in stead of attempting.

another player was a bit concerned that none of the skills which his mouse had would ever succeed against most obstacles–they were simply too low to ever meet the needs of obstacles.

In addition to this, I’ve had a few players decide to create their own characters after running sample characters through all four seasons. They made a point of placing lots of ranks into Fighter. I don’t plan to make Fighter a frequent theme, althoguh it will be useful occassionally. So, they seem to be setting themselves up to use Beginner’s Luck often, employ Nature, or simply be without a method to face obstacles.

I’m just going to watch these new characters and hope they start to expand their skill list during next winter session. Howevedr, in respect to the Loremouse and skills with low ranks I’m thinking of falsly lowering obstacles to place them within reach more frequently to permit for occasional successes as well as failures.

We’re still learning. Some of the ways I try to help is by suggesting equipment before missions, encouraging teamwork, and being watchful for wises.

These are all good solutions. I tend to stress teamwork as an important component of success.

Any ideas why they the group is adverse to failure? They need failed tests to advance their skills, and at worse they’ll always get what they’re after either with a condition or following a twist. Also, they shouldn’t back out once they know the obstacle—cite the “No Weasels” rule on page 87 if necessary.

If they’re putting ranks in Fighter, it means fights are something in which they’re interested, right? So it’s lousy game mastering to deny them the opportunity to use their favored skills. There doesn’t have to be a fight conflict every session, but between two mission obstacles and a couple twists each GM’s Turn, it shouldn’t be difficult to have something prepared for them. Even better, put them in situations where escalating to violence is one path to victory, and let them decide—through the lens of their Beliefs, Instincts, and Goals—if that’s the approach they want to take.

Don’t falsely lower obstacles. The players have plenty of tools (e.g. fate and persona points, traits, tapping nature) at their disposal to succeed at what’s important to them.

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Those high Ob tests are the perfect opportunity to earn Checks…

I’m not certain what makes them averse to failure, but I suspect that it is due to just beginning. We are all more accustomed to D&D right now whereing success and failure are separated by a softline. In Mouse Guard success and failure are not much separated; in fact, failure provides a more exciting story than success. So, I suspect that is a hard shift for all of us to make as we learn.

It is true that they need failures for advancement, but they also need successes. We are getting few successes; the skills have not been increasing much at all. We’ve had a few Beginner’s Luck attempts also.

I may need some more guidance on the ‘no weasels’ rule. The case I mentioned was concise, but I’d like to make sure I know when and where it applies. In the above case, he simply decided not to make the test. I didn’t think that was an error. I kinda assumed that a player could back-up if the obstacle seemed out of reach in order to consider alternatives, but would eventually have to find a way to overcome an obstacle. I assumed that ‘no weasels’ meant that the obstacle wouldn’t be reduced when they looked at it a second time–it would remain where it was declared. So, they could look for tools to approach the obstacle with bonus dice, but the obstacle was still the same.

In the case of Loremouse, I also was having trouble improvising what sort of condition or twist could be given in respect to his attempt to recall information he ‘might’ have learned. That is if he had made the test and failed.

I feel they are coming at the game with lots of ranks in fighter because we play a session of D&D Encounters before our Mouse Guard session. D&D seems to be heavily weighted toward combat; I want to make sure that doesn’t fully permeate our MG campaign. We’ve certainly had some fights (which might give the appearrance that it is a key theme) in the sample missions, but I’d like to make sure that other skills are also utilized in and out of conflicts to generate more variety in our game.

We did have an interesting moment during Fall mission as one player chose Saxon and another had written his belief as, “Not every problem can be solved through aggression.” Those two tried an undercover infiltration, but were found out and got jumped. Saxon, as we would all expect, drew his sword at the first sign of danger; the other mouse had wanted to surrender to talk it out. Instead, he took to defending Saxon during the fight according to his mission goal and instinct.

I know those overly high Ob tests are great times to earn checks. That is something we’ll be reviewing again during our Spring mission next wednesday. I try to pick one item each week to review as we learn. My goal is to create a solid group of experienced players before the boxed set comes. So, we’ll be talking about using traits for and agaisnt as well as the importance of having checks.

Having checks to work with has been a topic in another week also. One mouse even came into Winter session with conditions he couldn’t overcome during the Fall player’s turn due to a lack of checks for recovery.

I totally agree with Wanderer.

As far as what twist you may make due to a failed lore check, why not have the mouse do something the animal in question obviously detests or arouses to anger?

“So from my understanding of the badger, I have deduced they in fact are quite slow, non-aggressive, and timid creatures, so let’s attempt to jump on it’s back and make it our new patrol-mobile!”

Did this take place during the Players’ Turn or the GM’s Turn? What happened after the player declined to make the Loremouse test?

this took place during the GM’s turn. The patrtol had just received the mission for the sample Trouble in Grasslake. I had described their rush to grasslake where they saw the turtle wedged between the brewery and bakery. I told them the mayor approached to report that already a few mice had been mortally wounded trying to fight the beast; he discouraged them from open combat.

The patrol leader has Loremouse 2, but didn’t quite understand what Loremouse was useful for. I pulled out the skill in the skills chapter and described the two major uses for it. I reminded him that Nature (Mouse) includes escaping, hiding, foraging, climbing; however, Nature (Turtle) may include different actions. I told him it may be good to learn what the nature of the turtle might be in order to make decisions about how to face it effectively. So, after reading we both saw that he was faced with a Loremouse 2 vs Nature (Turtle) 8. He simply declined and stated, “There’s no way I could muster those dice to a success, and it’s probably not well worth it.”

I figured that the risk of failure should be for those things that really matter to the mice. To him, risking failure trying to recall the nature of turtles wasn’t worthwhile. In my understanding, it would be cruel to force him to fail at a task he didn’t want to engage in.

After he declined, we continued. The patrol talked together about how they might face the problem. Each time one of the patrol voiced another machination of hwo to deal with a turtle, I added some description of the turtle damaging something else (typically the brewery or bakery). As they realized their arguing was costing time, the patrol leader ordered everyone to stop discussing and get behind an idea. A patrol guard had a suggestion to build a large wheeled truck which they could get the turtle onto in order to roll it out of town while the patrol leader was more set on brewing some sort of intoxicating poison. The patrol guard wanted to convince the patrol leader his idea was best; the patrol leader used a trait aginst himself to break the tie in the guard’s favor.

The patrol guard got Lester and the mayor on their side to ask the town to gather the needed supplies; he asked the patrol leader to take a few patrol mates in an effort to snuff out the bakery oven. I’d made it fairly clear the turtle was enjoying the warmth of the bakery even though they didn’t know much about turtles. The patrol leader took two mice an began an animal fight conflict as the patrol guard and another guardmouse initiated a speech conflict to rally the people to their call; the mayor and Lester helped in this cause.

I played out the speech first against a disposition 8 crowd. No one openly disagreed, but there were two reasons I formed a resistant crowd–we were learning about using conflicts in play and I wanted the dice to help determine how effect their speech turned out. It went well and they had lots of helpers for their resources test to gather the needs of building a rolling barge.

Next, I played out the fight with the animal. I distinctly told them that while the turtle did not have a goal of killing the mice, it is a foe of such danger that injury and death could be the result of severe failure. The turtle’s goal was, “I will hold off these mice and protect my nesting location from their intrusion,” as the mice set a goal, “We will safely bypass the turtle to snuff out the baker’s oven and get free alive.” The turle began with dispo 12 and the patrol mates with dispo 11. The fight resulted in turtle 8 and mice 0. They did receive a compromise, but not much. Of the three mice, one was badly injured, all three were tired, and the patrol leader was angry that this plan had gone so poorly. They asked for a compromise in which they learned a valuable secret about the turtle.

I gave them their conditions and told them that the tenderpaw of their group had taken full notice of the nest and eggs–he knew that the turtle was defending a nest. I also gave them the knowledge that the bakery oven would burn out in due time, but they had not been close enough to douse the fire.

After the setback, the supplies were coming in from the patrol guard and townies helping. The patrol leader had no interest in making another face to face attempt at the turtle. Miss Flower became smitten with the injured mouse and invited the patrol to her home for food and rest. But, the patrol didn’t feel they had finished things right. The patrol guard wanted to make a new speech to encourage them to evacuate from the town until the turtle left.

In this I did bring a merchant to argue against them and formed an arguement conflict which the town could listen in on. Although the merchant didn’t really have great skills for it, he won over the patrol and discouraged residents from leaving. The patrol guard was angry; he was also tired from gathering all the supplies.

The supply pile was left in the town center and the brewery and bakery were left to their fate. The patrol went with Miss Flower for food and rest, feeling defeated, insulted, and disgraced.

Miss Flower got the injured mouse interested in marriage and really set it in with a persuader 3 vs will 2. It came to 3 successes against snake eyes; everyone had a great laugh.

Then I turned it over to the player’s turn. Only the patrol leader and patrol guard had gained checks. The patrol guard attempted to recover from anger, but failed (tired being covered by Miss Flower providing a place to rest). He then took aside the injured mouse and tried to talk him out of getting tied down while he was still so young in the guard. He pulled a persuader 4 vs will 2 and strongly won over the mouse. No one went on to speak with Miss Flower about it, so I used her in a future complication. In fact, the mouse and Miss Flower are set to marry during the first thaw of spring; her father and she came to Lockhaven during the winter. The two mice spent time getting to know each other better and he reversed again in the decision to marry her. Gwendolyn even encouraged him to marry and start a family while young.

Others tried to recover. The patrol leader had checks and decided he would try to brew a concoction on his own using his checks, but didn’t have a check left over to initiate a conflict that might result in using the concoction against the turtle.

and that’s everything from that session.