Setting the Obstacle pg 86

Hey Burners, Guardsmice et al,

Clarification- When exactly is the obstacle set?

But it does not appear that the obstacle is set at this point; there remains the possibility of…

So my interpretation is the following sequence:
[li]The GM presents a problem, skill or ability to be tested, and Ob.
[/li][li]The players have an opportunity to suggest an alternative skill or ability to test towards overcoming that same problem.
[/li][li]The GM either accepts the patrol’s proposal and sets an Ob, or rejects their proposal and lets stand his original skill or ability and Ob.
[/li][li]The obstacle is now set and the players test.
Why is this important? Because (see “No Weasels”) once the obstacle is set the players must test-- suggesting that before the obstacle is set the patrol could still reject the problem: decide to back down, try something different or go another way.

What is meant by “alternate obstacle”? Does that mean rather than fording the river, making a leaf boat? Does that mean rather than fording the stream, tying a message to a beetle’s leg? Or can it mean forgetting about Ivydale and going to Shaleburrow instead?

What are the conditions referred to in “alternate conditions”?

You have correctly read the rules. There’s nothing more to it than what you’ve stated.

Yeah Exle. If you play strictly by the book it goes pretty much like the following (based on my reading):

  1. GM says what the problem is (“You must get the shiny apple by crossing the river”), what skill to use (“Health to swim across”), and the difficulty (“ob 3”). At this point the problem is locked down. You can’t go home, or suggest using a different apple, or hire somebody else to get the apple (that’s pretty much No Weasels: You are crossing that river somehow and getting that apple, or you are failing your attempt to do so, period).

  2. If a player now blurts out that its doable in character (“Yeah, we can swim that easy.”) that player is now stuck with making the roll, regardless of how bad his skill is). And that method is now locked on, so make the roll and suffer the consequences.

  3. Or if a player now blurts out in character “Maybe we can chop down a tree to use as a bridge across.” and the GM thinks its possible (“Sure, Carpentry ob … 6”) that player now has just locked down the alternate method and will have to make the roll (regardless of how bad his skill is) unless the Patrol opts for the original obstacle ("… or you can stick with Health ob 3") in which case the first player to volunteer has to make the roll.

  4. If the players are wise enough to not blurt anything out and instead huddle out of character and discuss an alternate proposal, the patrol leader may present a formal suggestion (“After Cross Talk discussion, we propose that Maggie could rig a swing across the low-hanging branches”)… Okay, maybe not that formal… Anyway, if the GM thinks its reasonable, he can assign difficulty (“Okay, Survivalist ob 5”) at which point the alternate method is locked down and the Patrol can select from the original proposal or this alternate. First person to volunteer for either of the two methods makes the roll on that method.

  5. If the players suggested nothing via blurting or cross talk proposal, or all their ideas were to stupid to accept as an alternate (“I can scurry so fast I can walk on water!” … “No… you can’t.”) The GM can elect to propose his own alternate (“But since you all look so ashen at the notion of a little swim, you could try cobbling some bark scraps together for a raft. That would be a Boatcrafter ob 3 test.”). First person to volunteer for either of the two (original or this GM alternate) methods makes the roll on that method.

Today’s lessons kids: You can’t walk away from your problems, and be carefull what you blurt out or you’ll get yourself in trouble.

Thanks you two!

Your post might have been in jest, Serpine, but I’d like to formally state that I take great exception to the notion that the “Who Makes the Test?” rule has the intention or effect of punishing players for blurting things out. It’s there for pacing (cuts right to the chase, past all the hemming and hawing and scheming and plotting, the “how can we assemble the maximum possible dice for this test?”), for getting players to pipe up even if they normally tend to stay quiet and go along with the group, for keeping the scene exciting (nothing kills a buzz like stopping to discuss a plan in committee), and for fun, by getting all those hare-brained schemes into play that would normally be shot down because they aren’t mechanically optimal.

Mouse Guard requires you to shut off the part of your brain that says you must be averse to risk and failing tests (and the other Burning games do too). That includes the part that tells you, “That plan won’t possibly work, or even if it did, there has to be a way to do it better and get more dice, if you stop and think about it for 10 minutes.” There’s a time and a place for that, those big tests you absolutely do not want to fail (which is why there’s the option to discuss as a group and have the patrol leader assign the test), but it should not be every single test. It should be reserved for the occasions which the patrol deems dramatically appropriate.

Just getting that out there for the record.


Excellent point Odie. I was just reading a blurb in Things We Think about Games and while I can’t quote it verbatim, this gist is: “We highly overestimate the satisfaction we’ll receive from analyzing every decision we make in a game.” The author is talking about board games (I think) but it applies equally, if not more so, to RPGs. One thing I love about Mouse Guard is the encouragement to act rather than deliberate.

After the dice hit the table, win or fail, we’ll all have more fun if you just try something heroic rather than spend 10 minutes figuring out a plan that is safe.