So... Magic in Mouse Guard...

I know magic was not meant to be in MG, and I really like that; I especially like WHY that was, too.

BUT, if you did want magic in it, how would you go about doing it? I am new to the game (and the system) and am not sure how I would approach it yet.

Mainly just for conversation’s sake…

Okay, just for the sake of playing around…
Here is what came to mind:

Magic could be a paired ranking with Nature. So that combined they add up to 7. So if Magic Nature was ranked at a 3, Mouse Nature would be a 4.

NOTE: they are not required to add up to 7 (ie. one could have a Nature of 5 and no ranking in Magic). This is just a limit on the pairing.

This would serve two purposes - Magic forces Nature down, while having a high Nature forces Magic down. Suggesting that Magic is not… natural. Plus the use of Persona is weakened with a high Magic ranking.

A Trait called “Magically Gifted” (or somesuch) could/should be the requisite to get a Magic ranking of 1.
Actually now I’m thinking more focus should also be used here such as a Trait like “Order of Flame” would be a magician of Pyromancy - in order to limit what can be done with the magic.

Not very organized as I just pulled this out.
Also - if you happen to have the Burning Wheel Magic Burner I think that some of the ideas used there can be ported over (with varying levels of difficulty).

EDIT: thinking more on this - I left out any way of actually using this idea in play.

Magic “Nature” is limited by the Magical Trait chosen (ie. Pyromancer) - and then that Trait provides a narrow selection of actions that one can take with Magic (to make it similar to Mouse Nature).

I’m not sure where I’m going with this though… Ultimately I don’t want magic in my Mouse Guard (you got magic in my Mouse Guard! You got Mouse Guard in my Magic!) - so I think I’m having a conception block.

Thats very clever Irminsul, I especially like the link between low Nature and high magical ability.

I was asked recently to incorporate Magic into our MG campaign. I took a few ideas from Irminsul there. Here’s what I came up with:


Players may choose one of the following three skills instead of the one for which their mouse is naturally talented (tenderpaws can still take this and 1 other):

Fire Starter

Shadow Walker

Leaf Weaver

Note, that if you take one of these skills, your Mentor MUST be a magic user of the same skill. You may additionally choose to have your mentor stress this still in addition to the two counts of it you have already taken. For each level of this skill, the player gets +1 to their Magic Stat (see below)

Players who take Shadow Walker MUST take Deceiver.

In addition, if a player chose one of these skills, they MUST take the corresponding wise as one of their wise choices:




Players who choose one of these skills have -1 to Circles as magic users are generally distrusted.

Players who picked one of the above skills must take Magic User as one of their Traits.

Magic and Your Stats
Magic is a stat like Nature, Health and Will, however, a player’s Magic stat can never be more than 7 - Max Nature. (ie. if a mouse has 3 Nature, then the most Magic they can have is 4). Each time a player uses a Magic spell (described below) they temporarily dock their Magic by 1 (even if the spell fails).

Magic can be replenished by resting for the night. Players may not replenish magic if they have any status ailments.

When testing for magic spells, always use the player’s skill (plus wises) not the magic stat.

Magic Spells and Abilities
Each of the three magic skills come with their own set of spells. Depending on how much magic you have left, you can cast different levels of spells. If the player runs out of magic, even their passive ability stops working. These spells are out-of combat spells only. (Combat spells will follow).

To cast a spell, test your skill (plus any wises) against the level of the spell.

Fire Starter

Level 1 - Small Fire - The size of a medium to large camp-fire., can be thrown about as far as you could throw a rock.
Level 2 - Flame Wall - A barrier of flames, can keep something out or keep something in. Generally lasts a handful of minutes
Level 3 - Fire Tempest - it’s a big fire, ok? What do you want?
Passive - Plays with Fire - The user is always counts as having a torch out because they can’t stop playing with their magical fire.

Shadow Walker

Level 1 - Sneak Past - Momentarily vanish, use this at your discretion.
Level 2 - Temporary Shift - user can blend in so well, they can literally jump out of anywhere. (can’t be used to transport people.)
Level 3 - Total Darkness - Make everything dark as the darkest night, last up to 20 minutes
Passive - Naturally Sneaky - Players always get +1D when sneaking or deceiving.

Leaf Weaver

Level 1 - Nature Senses - Re roll any failed Scout, Pathfinder, or Loremouse check you’ve just made.
Level 2 - Magical Resources - Summon up natural resources, must be natural to the environment.
Level 3 - Call of the Wild - Summon forth an animal no more than two animal sizes higher than you to do your bidding, at least for about 20 minutes.
Passive - Players can always add their full skill’s worth of dice in Leaf Weaver to any player’s check to remove a status ailment.

Magic in Combat

Not all magic can be used while in the heat of battle, magic takes preparation and focus, as such each magic skill comes with a passive bonus they receive during combat and one spell they can cast. Casting in combat, docks your magic, just like everything else. If players have no more magic, their passive ability goes away.

Fire Starter
Passive: +1D to Attack in addition to your weapon.
Spell: Fireball: Can be used instead of your normal attack as an Attack action. Test Fire Starter instead of Fighter, Independant Obstacle 0. If it succeeds, roll an additional 3D6 and add any successes to your margin of success.

Shadow Walker
Passive: +1D to Feint in addition to your weapon.
Spell: Shadow Strike: Can be used instead of your normal attack as a Feint action. Test Shadow Walker instead of Fighter, Independant Obstacle 2. If it succeeds, the enemy counts as having Defended this turn.

Leaf Weaver
Passive: +1D to Defend in addition to your weapon.
Spell: Game of Thorns: Can be used instead of your normal attack as a Defend action. Test Leaf Weaver instead of Nature, Independant Obstacle 0. If it succeeds, the enemy loses disposition equal to your margin of success.

I’ve got a response brewing in my head.

i’d say that in the case of MG, the system is more friendly and more easily balanced through the use of magic as a Trait.

Were I looking for a plug-in, I’d create a few homebrew traits that denote magical talent:

Mancer [pyro-, aqua-, necro-, aero-, etc.]: mice who have attuned themselves to forces of nature are mages of great magical talent, but limited breadth of application. They can summon, control, and/or manipulate the force to which they have attuned, but cannot easily extend beyond such strictures into other forces nor other forms of magic. The mice known amongst the mages to not have a perfect control over their mancery; often such powerful forces seem autonomous in behavior.

Mysterio: mice who have a prescient mannerism are mystics of esoteric knowledge, though it is not easily noticed. They often can predict the future, reveal the hidden past, and describe the unknown present. The seeming omniscience of such mice create a stir in the communities where they ply such a talent. Notwithstanding, they are often welcomed as far as their soothsaying does not disturb the peace.

Sorcerer: mice who have a uncanny arcane power from within are sages wielding magical power; they are rarely trained to access this source, but instead acquire control through their very nature. These mice seem to enthrall the senses through both illusion and charisma. Sometimes their very touch has power to extend their own senses into areas beyond their own bodies. Without care, they might become lost and disconnected from themselves and others. Yet, they also have a great power to empathize and garner empathy.

Of course these Traits might not be named in a way that all agree. Some other considerations might include Druid, Witch, Wizard, Psychic, Shaman, or others. Each may have a unique range of applications and limitations.

The key is this idea is a plug-in. The Trait functions exactly as other traits–players choose to call upon these forms of magic, describe how it applies to a test, and choose when it hinders their own mouse. It is rated as level 1, 2, 3 just as other traits. It is gained or lost in the same manner as other traits.

It plugs-in to the existing system with little more than a change of canon.

Were I looking for an add-on, I’d create a few homebrew skills that define magical factors:

Spellcaster: those mice who have acquired an understanding of arcane magic through runes, chants, components, and reagents. The spells may be learned or improvised, but each has a unique combination that evokes a repeatable effect. Because the recipe of a spell is so precise, small imperfections can produce strangely unexpected results.

-Factors: etc. (pretty similar to Weather Watcher)

Enchanter: while the mice may be involved in many crafts which create tools, weapons, baskets, buildings, and more, those mice who are truly schooled in enchantments can bind to an object or place such magical effects of great power that it seems to transcend natural capabilities. To imbue such enchantments of great power is a difficult skill to be sure, but even small effects can be developed with limited skills.

-Factors: etc. (pretty similar to Armorer)

Of course these Skills might not field enough scope for some gamers seeking to add magic. Some other considerations might include Ritualist, Miracle Worker, Illusionist, or others. Each may have a unique factoring with a specified scope and duration.

The key is this is an add-on. The Skill functions exactly as other skills–both player and GM can use the same factoring and scope as well as describe the results intended compared to actual results. It is rated just as a skill and learned in the same ways. But, it cannot be taken away as easily as traits. Also, practicing the use of the skill determines expected results.

In keeping with Kendesign’s ‘plug-in’ approach, I’ve copy/pasted the Magic system I’ve come up with. Note that this idea stems from a Fantasy Adventure Hack I attempted, which can be found here.

Magic is a skill that can be selected using Guard Experience ranks from the recruitment section. A character with the Magic skill can spend a Fate point to substitute a Magic skill test in place of any other skill for a given test (assuming, of course, appropriate narrative description). Also, a character may use Magic to help with any test (again, assuming appropriate narrative description. Helping does not require expenditure of Fate, which is only for testing).

Magic skill also works a bit like Nature in a few ways: a failed Magic test taxes Magic by the margin of failure and a Magic ranking of 1 or 7 is detrimental.

A Magic of 1 means that a character has overdrawn his connection to the magical weave and can no longer use Fate to substitute Magic for another test until the rank becomes 2 (which can be recovered like Nature: after delivering a prologue, returning from absence, or reducing maximum Magic rating). Until then, the character takes a trait like Jaded or Bitter (magic has failed the character). A Magic rank of 7 means the character is saturated with magic and cannot stem the flow of the energy from the weave; this is much more detrimental than a ranking of 1. With a rank of 7, the character becomes almost supernatural or an outsider and is shunned by almost everyone (the rest of the party included). If a character ends a session with a Magic rank of 7, the character must retire until at least the next spring.


Cool stuff, I liked how light your plug-in concept was. I think my group is looking for higher customization in their Mouse Guard, which is why I went the route I did. One place where our Add-on designs differ is that I give the players “spells” to cast, and you do not, you just allow them to test their skill.

I was wondering if we could reconcile the two systems some way. Yours is much more open-ended, but mine is much more tactical/strategic. One of the reasons I opted for spells was to give players a real tangible sense of how much magic they could do, but I purposely left the spells rather vague to let them experiment with it. Combat was another reason I opted for Spells. Obviously the players could opt to test their Magic skill instead of Fighter skill, but that doesn’t really change anything but the number of dice you roll. I wanted magic to be a weapon that you wielded differently from other weapons.

My group has also asked for Magical items, and while I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to make, I think it’s going to be along the lines of very specific artifact weapons and items. I don’t want to turn this into D&D, but I do want to give my group the customization and strategy they want from their Mouse Guard.

@Badasterysk: I really like that! I’d just change one thing: why not make Magic an attribute like Nature? You then raise it through questions, like other attributes, and give it a set of actions to judge it by (communing, investigating, placating?)…or even just have it subsume Nature altogether (magic mice are alien in a way). When you reach Magic 0, your character could be “severed”–cut off from magic, with a sort of “dead inside” reaction that leads them to isolate themselves for a time.

If Magic is done this way, everyone will get it (at varying levels), and, for my group at least, this is not what we’re looking for (high-magic, as it were). If Magic is treated like a skill, there is at least some trade-off/compromise/moderation for gaining the Magic ability.

I don’t see why not; whatever works for your group.