Stinky Trouble - Need some help with a custom mission

Hello everyone! I’m GM’ing my first Mouse Guard game this Saturday and I wanted to run something of my own creation. I’ve created a mission outline called “Stinky Trouble” and I’m in need of some feedback. Read on if I’ve piqued your interest.

Stinky Trouble
The mission begins in early Spring with the patrol being called in to see Gwendolyn. She is in the room with an old fur Guard Captain finishing up a discussion. “Yari was such a calm and collected guard mouse. It’s sad to see him reduced to this.” Gwendolyn says. “Yes, I agree. Perhaps its time we start looking for a new scent-master,” the Guard Captain replies. She nods and he leaves. Gwendolyn then turns here attention to the patrol. She says that she has a new mission for them. Officially, they are to deliver accumulated mail to Lonepine and then Wolfpointe. Unofficially, they are to investigate rumors of strange happenings at Wolfpointe. Rumors include cult-like activity of its residence. Their mission is to check out the situation and determine if the situation requires any intervention from the Guard. “Wolfpointe is known for its more wild and isolationist nature. Perhaps this is just a misunderstanding,” she says.

(If one of the players is from Wolfpointe, he will be sent with the patrol because of his familiarity with the area and its inhabitants.)

So given this is the first Mouse Guard game for all the players (first RPG ever for two of them), I want to introduce them to a very low risk conflict. I was thinking an animal conflict. Could definitely use some advice. I just borrowed this from one of the sample missions.

Animal obstacle: During one of the mornings the patrol realizes they are not alone. A couple of crows have located the patrol sleeping in a hollowed out stump. Their goal is to steal their stuff - weapons, mail, etc.

Wilderness twist: The rising temperatures melted much of the Winter snow and have led to a flash flood. They are trapped on a small elevated area and surrounded by rising waters. There’s a small branch above them. They can either attempt to climb to safety (Ob 3 Nature roll) or attempt to swim to safety (Ob 3 Health roll). Failure on either of these rolls results in one of the mice being swept downstream and gaining the Tired or Sick condition. It will require an Ob 4 Scout roll to find him.

When the patrol reaches Lonepine, which I’m envisioning as a small village consisting of homes built right on the side of the tree trunk. When they arrive, the town is very excited. This is the first patrol to visit them since the break of Winter. They all gather around the mice excited for their name to be called as they receive their mail.

At this point, I think I’ll let the players have a small player turn. I’m also thinking there might be something at Lonepine that interests the characters. Perhaps one of the residents went missing a few weeks prior and they are asking for help from the guard. Any thoughts?

Eventually the patrol reaches Wolfpointe one evening. In stark contrast to Lonepine, the residents are not so happy to see them. Instead, very few mice are seen in the town. If they make enough noise, several mice will come out and stand around them staring queerly. If the patrol starts reading names to distribute the mail, the mice won’t respond. This kind of disinterest / distrust of the guard continues, but the no one will attack them unless provoked. The tavern keeper, an old fur named Kip, will talk to them but not give them any information. If they as what is going on in the town, he will simply act like he doesn’t understand the question. If they ask for lodging, he will offer them stinky, ill kept rooms.

At night is when it gets interesting. They are awoken to sounds of howling that should like a high pitched wolf. When they investigate (Ob 2 Hunter/Scout), they find a large group of townsmice howling at the moon and generally acting crazy. They wont attack the characters because they are mice but they immediately head across the scent border and start hunting other animals… maybe they even drink their blood or something. If the patrol interferes, the mice will enter a conflict, but only until the patrol submits. The next morning, all the crazy mice will be asleep - they are now nocturnal. They may also notice that only the young mice are in the hunting party. Old furs are still awake in the town but act very oddly and antisocial.

If they successfully search the town (Ob 3 Nature or Scout), they locate very stinky utility barn. Inside is a broken barrel. It’s nearly empty, a thick green substance is all over the ground. A successful Ob 2 Scientist roll will reveal this as a recent scent border barrel. (The scent border was just refreshed.) At this point they may realize that the scent may be causing the mice to change their nature. Cleaning up the mess will require another Scientist roll at Ob 3.

At this point, I’m not sure where to go. The players should remember the conversation with Gwendolyn where she mentioned that something went wrong with the scent master. The mystery is solved when they find out that the scent master has the same condition, but he is old so it affected him differently. If they travel to Sprucetuck, possibly at the urging of Gwendolyn, a search of his workshop will show that the recipe changed. He was experimenting with some kind of new preservative - some mushroom or something. Long term exposure to this ingredient causes this reaction. What do you all think? BTW, my inspiration for this mission was from grasshopper mice in the Senora desert. They actually howl at the moon and hunt at night. :slight_smile:

well, I think the meat of the interest in this mission lies in Wolfepointe, so I’d push more events of the obstacles closer to that location. Otherwise, the players may not have checks enough to investigate; this may lead to players feeling confused about whether they’ve really done anything or whether they’ve stepped into a deadly situation in WP.

Rather than try to make multiple revisions, Here’s my interpretation on your mission design: (It will attempt to keep up the spirit of things, but will stray from your descriptions)

Session: Stinkin’ Bilge Rats
Intro (foreshadow): G wants to understand what the reports of Wolfepointe indicate which have been received from mice in Grasslake and from patrols moving mail among the northeast region. The reports speak to odd behavior and hint that the scent border may not be serving the purpose this year. Visitors in Wolfepointe report there are excessive numbers of crows and ravens–birds often affiliated with wolves–as well as howlings in the night–which are frighteningly similar to wolves, but not quite right.

The patrol is sent to assist in running mail, but they will quickly delve into the secrets of Wolfepointe’s nocturnal society before returning to Lockhaven. The far away town exposes the patrol to dangerous wilderness and weather, so they must take great effort to travel cautiously.

Assign the Mission: The patrol will make routine mail stops between Lockhaven and Lonepine, then circulate mail of the lake towns for much of Spring before heading into Wolfepointe to prepare for a summer in the northeast town. Discover anything possible about the reports and send a confirmation or a denunciation to Lockhaven from Grasslake. (this mission is kinda low-drama, but with the foreshadow, players should be writing complex goals.)

GM Turn: Springtime Follies
The patrol leaves Lockhaven fairly late, knowing that thaw run-off in nearby wilderness dissipates quickly and allows travel to commence, yet thaw run-off around the lake towns is slower. The late start permits the patrol to investigate and prepare some matters in towns and villages of the Lockhaven circuit (those settlements surrounding Lockhaven). There is a weather tower near Blackrock which might give advice of upcoming weather, and a library in Ivydale which might give clues about the behavior described and the animals mentioned. Also, considering such a long distance, having a little extra time in Lockhaven to gather gear is a good choice.

[allow players a little free preparation and investigation–they can choose 1 of the 3 options, but there really isn’t time for everything; staying in Lockhaven allows a Resources test for worthwhile travel gear such as rations, picks or ice cleats, etc.; visiting Ivydale allows a Loremouse test to learn more about the crows and/or ravens, wolves, or mice which might indicate patterns for investigation later; visiting Blackrock allows a Weather Watcher test to predict any upcoming weather pattern around the lake towns, but can’t predict beyond those mid-range areas.]

Wilderness Hazard: trekking to the lake towns
The patrol must move overland trekking with mail bags filled by winter mail toward the lake towns of Lonepine, Grasslake and Burl. While there, they find the mice are eager to exchange mail, and contribute to the burden by requesting the patrol circulate mail among the lake towns and please to include Sandmason and Darkwater to permit their mail to move outside the lake circuit.

Obstacle: the wilderness is a challenging terrain particularly in the mid-spring when so much is starting to grow; obstacles might be, finding food, cutting paths, reburrowing shelters, watching animal movements

[the most likely test is Pathfinder vs Spring, or Pathfinder Ob x, in order to face off against the wilderness trekking to reach Lonepine; I suggest a twist of Everything Gets Worse by allowing the patrol to arrive at Lonepine, then increasing the hazard of running mail in the circuit along the edges of the lake; this might be a different Vs or Independent test, and probably not best as a conflict yet]

Animal Hazard: understanding the Wolfepointe claims
The lake towns are hosts to the patrol, and mostly grateful, but no one makes special effort to resupply the patrol, offer safe and dry shelter, or relent in the desire to have their mail delivered. Nonetheless, another patrol arrives in Grasslake reporting they will handle mail runs for the remaining weeks (now that the spring has dried somewhat) to allow the patrol to complete other needs.

The patrol rushes northeast toward WP and finds the nightly chorus of howling–it is odd, and somewhat wolflike, but not quite wolflike–as well as the flocking numbers of ravens and crows. In fact, the birds are a serious threat right now; they attack the mice of the town, agitate each other, and produce seemingly endless damage. The patrol can’t spend long talking to anyone before having calls for help from another crow or raven bother.

These birds will eat mice, and the ravens can cause fatal injury even when playful, so this is a serious matter and occupies the minds of all residents to the exclusion of details regarding the nightly howls. No one can think about it! They aren’t sleeping well and aren’t getting anything done during day time hours. The town is messy, overrun by corvids, and most notably: sticking like a cesspool. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention that when you got near? Yeah, this town stinks! It’s everywhere and it burns the nostrils and throat. It waters the eyes and makes outdoor and indoor spaces a terrible patch of settled life. How are the Wolfepointers even living with this?!

Obstacle: the birds are a threat to life and limb, even when trying to prank or tinker; the patrol must consider this first before other affairs; obstacles could include tracking the movements for a harassment plan, making an example by assaulting one or more dominant birds, or trapping them for killing/eating (or resettling, but really, they can fly, so what’s keeping them from returning)

[the most likely test is probably making an example by assault, and this is probably an effective plan especially for developing a Fight Animal conflict; other ideas could be folded into the conflict effort, goal, or dispo actions, for example, tracking movements and planning harassment could be part of dispo narrative while trapping might be included in the goal]

Special Note: The scent border patrol did make their effort, but were plagued by freezing temperatures and heavy weather patterns. During their work to move scent border barrels through WP, several burst in the frosty Spring, one burst in the storage warehouse, and the patrol spread one barrel too close to town. The result is the overwhelming smell of wolf piss everywhere. As crows and ravens appreciate the remains of wolf kills, they are following the scent with high hopes of finding a huge pack of successful wolves. So, getting rid of the birds will require some extra effort to clean up the smell or move the town.

Twists: Weather, Mice
In case of a failure in the test(s) of the Wilderness Obstacle, use a change of weather to make the work in Wolfepointe go worse. This doesn’t have to be a change while near the lake towns; it could occur as they move northward. I suggest moving toward Unseasonably Cold which could be partly responsible for other food sources not developing quite yet for the corvids to seek–causing them to be desperate for mouse storehouses of food. Probably a shift of weather needs no testing, but should impact any further factored tests and may call for a Health test to resist becoming Sick.

In the case of a poor result with the birds, this is a great spot to add another Mice-related hazard, and it is the second Special Note! Hooray!

Mice Hazard: Wolfy-Weasels Wassailing Yodels
Without knowing about the scent border accidents, a group of cunning and devious weasels set up small camps in highlands near Wolfepointe and have practiced yodeling wolf-like howls as a means of communication between camps and as an attempt to terrorize mice in Wolfepointe. The intent of the weasels is to make a nice hunting ground of frazzled, sleep-deprived mice, but having the nightly wolf-howls also motivates the crows and ravens to keep searching the nearby area for wolf kill remains–after all, if the wolves are somewhere nearby, and coming to the town to piss, then surely they are eating something that crows and ravens would love.

[in this case, the patrol might not need to solve the problem immediately, but if they discover the truth about the howls, they should at least make an attempt to warn the town; this might be met by skepticism, fear, war-mongering, or any array of emotions; I’d say there is a good root for a conflict, and the GM can decide if that is a conflict among mice or a conflict against weasels]

Player Turn: Clean Up on Aisle W
The patrol should have some good indication of how to finalize help for Wolfepointe and probably have some Conditions to manage. Let them use checks in that way, and discourage them leaving the town during the Player Turn. Otherwise, respond to their Checks as needed.

In my interpretation I did not make a change to the behavior or nature of the mice; I’ll elaborate on why I chose to direct that in another way.

What you’ve described seems a bit like magi-tech–as though the scientifically distilled substance creates a mutation of behavior and causes an unexpected effect. While I don’t disagree that hormonal, biological impacts are factual occurrences, and I totally forgive any sort of faulty science in the name of fiction ('cause I do that often in my games), I don’t like the mood it creates for the setting. It kinda provides a magical feel about the setting in which the scent border substance has a kinda magical influence, and I feel that redefines the setting from non-magical and non-religious.

So, I chose more mundane explanations to bring the crows and ravens expecting remains of wolf-kills, and the yodel-howl of weasels rather than hunting mice, blood-drinking mice, or crazed mice. Those don’t really maintain the mood of the setting in the way I present it for players.

Now, I have to admit to a contrasting knowledge that cricket mice are nocturnal hunters which howl to one another similar to wolves. That would be a fun inclusion and I tried to personify that in the weasels rather than in mice. But, I could accept and embrace Wolfepointe mice being influenced by cricket mice and doing nocturnal hunts for scorpions, centipedes, and spiders and using howls to communicate. Only, in that case, the howling would be common knowledge I suspect, and if not common knowledge, at least known lore about Wolfepointe mice among the Guard and some other towns that interact with them, such as Grasslake.

Speaking of a conflict with the Wolfepointe mice, I do like that idea of, “if the patrol interferes with something (like a glory hunt, sport hunt, or rite of passage hunt), they’ll fight back,” and I’d use that in some cases. I’d make sure players recognize that their own PC mice probably understand that local traditions are not the jurisdiction of the Guard, so unless it involved something really dire, maybe they should stand aside and allow the locals to have their traditions. This isn’t universally applied, and the Guard should assume a little bit of space to influence traditions when those traditions lead to murder, poison, molestation, slavery, and other negative outcomes.

I’m reminded of a quote from a British officer in India long ago. While locals were explaining that the death of a great man required the wife be burned alongside his corpse, the response (in summary) was, ‘I see that this is your tradition, and in my culture we have a tradition of hanging men who burn women. Thus, you may prepare your bonfire, and I with my officers and soldiers shall prepare a gallows nearby where we may participate in our tradition afterward.’

I apologize that I don’t have the exact details, but the spirit of the quote is to say: sometimes the patrol will come face-to-face with odd cultural traditions among mice that must be stamped out in favor of a greater goodness among mice, pursuit of domestic tranquility, and promotion of health and welfare.

Wow, KMc, thanks for the effort you put into your response! I really appreciate it.

I’ve been thinking about this adventure pretty much all day… tying off lose ends and what-not. I really liked how cohesive you made the adventure. My only criticism is the weasels. Though I like how this shows that the weasels can be devious, the crow attack doesn’t tie well to their efforts and the stink seems like a red hearing - especially in that it seems to be oddly attracting the crows. I understand what you mean about there being a creepy, almost magical aspect to my concept… Perhaps I’ve played too many Call of Cthulhu sessions, but it’s what I was going for – except that I wanted a plausible explanation at the end. My recent thinking was that perhaps the scent leaked near Wolfpointe’s water supply and it’s causing the nature of the mice to change due to some new untested ingredient such as peyote or some other mushroom/herb/venom.

Two of my players are completely new to RPG’s (my girlfriend and a female friend). Her boyfriend and my other friend are both seasoned gamers. One of them is a Robin’s Laws Tactician and loves to solve mysteries. Since this is the first Mouse Guard game for all of them, I really want to deliver something unforgettable… something that draws them in.

What inspired this particular adventure was a video of a grasshopper mouse I found on Youtube… Though perhaps the idea may not deliver verisimilitude, it’s draw is the inversion of the common troupe of mice as a prey species. Can you think of any way to make this concept more believable?


YES! Grasshopper mice, not cricket mice. Sorry, I was totally thinking of the same thing and there are loads of cool vids with grasshopper mice howling, fighting centipedes and scorpions. Yeah, really good stuff.

And I think that’s a challenge for the sense of setting. So, if those mice are the common stock of Wolfepointe, shouldn’t that be fairly common knowledge? So, the mystery would be two-fold: both “why didn’t we already know this?” and “why would a scent border fluid cause this?”

However, I kinda agree about the inclusion of weasels. It is a tough spot to place players. If they already have to face off against the crows or ravens in some way, then it feels overwhelming to also face off against weasels. That’s a touchy thing about settling matters of a Twist. Possibly a better twist if the mice heading out for something traditionally normal for WP mice, and this kinda gets the Guard patrol worried and thinking of stepping forward to take action.

Oooo! This is evolving. TBH, I didn’t fully appreciate your second response. I do like the idea that the Wolfpointe mice simply do this sort of thing, but I want to maintain that “There’s something odd going on here!” flavor. Perhaps the Wolfpointe mice have a history of doing hunts like this and even howling and yelling… but their current activities are out of season and more aggressive. One of the scent barrels was spilled and seeped into the well and it is causing a kind of hallucinogenic effect. Now the mice actually think they are predators…

The scent mixture doesn’t necessarily need to be the cause. I was chatting with a Dr friend of mine who recommended a disease as the culprit to their activities, but he did say that most diseases that cause this kind of reaction usually result in death. (Leaches were part of this discussion btw - imagine leaches the size of your leg for blood letting… lol!)

Hmm… On thing to note is that this may be the only Mouse Guard game they ever play so I want it to be really memorable.

I like the creepy vibe you are going for here.

I do think crows, and ravens, and weasels, and crazed mice all at once is a bit much.

I like the idea of Wolfpointe mice being a bit “off”, howling at the moon and such is a fun bit of color. It also plays nicely into setting a horror movie mood, the locals are always strange.

Could be a fungus like ergot in the grain supply that is making them go crazy.

Let your patrol worry about whether it is catching…