Tales of the Black Forest

I’ve started planning a Mouse Guard campaign, called “Tales of the Black Forest.” I absolutely love so much of the setting: the mouse perspective, the importance of weather and the seasons, and so much else. But I have some quibbles with some of it. I’d rather set it in a forest I know than the “Mouse Territories.” I prefer games set locally. I don’t want to change the tone, but I want the campaign to tell this sweeping epic of the unseen adventures happening in the world around me, so when we finish, that time we spent has given us a new perspective on the place we live, rather than a fantasy place.

So, I started working on the Black Forest, better known as Cook Forest. One of the few remaining old-growth forests in the eastern United States, people called it “the Black Forest” before, because the white pines blocked out the sun. I don’t really explain this to my players, except out of game if they ask about it, so that the sound of the words “the Black Forest” can ring with all the mythic, legendary overtones the words seem to connote. And if it evokes the one in Germany, with all the fairy tales associated with it, so much the better.

I’ve started with my version of Lockhaven, the Cathedral (in a part of the forest called Forest Cathedral), but I haven’t defined any other settlements yet: I’ve decided to leave that part for character creation. I plan to use the rules for developing new settlements in the books, but I want the players to each create their hometown while they create their character; I’ll just finish fleshing it out afterward. I think that will give our Black Forest a healthy dose of collaborative setting creation, too.

So, my first question: Is there any obvious folly to this that I’ve missed and should be aware of?

Another part I really love about the game is its focus on weather and the seasons. But I’d rather have each session set in the season we’re playing in. So if we play in summer, the game is set in summer; and when it turns to fall, the game turns to fall, too. When it’s snowing outside, it’s winter in the Black Forest, too. I like that consistency of player and character experience. Yes, it also bothers me to see re-runs of Christmas specials on TV in the middle of the summer. Since the rules for pacing season changes is listed as a suggestion, I thought this could work. In the rules, it says this gives the feeling of the seasons inevitably changing, which I like; but couldn’t the seasons inevitably changing capture the same effect?

So, my second question: Is setting each session in the same season we play it a foolish idea sure to bring us to destruction? Or do you think that should work out OK?

Note the text on pg 136, which recommends having three or fewer sessions per season. If you play monthly, your method will work (except in winter, where you usually only have one session), but if you play more often than that, you’ll run into some problems there.

EDIT: The consequences here aren’t dire. First off, you’ll have to be extra creative when it comes to weather complications. There are only four or five listed per season, and you’ll be having, for a weekly game, 12 whole sessions per season! The same goes for missions: There are lots of seasonal duties, but again it amounts to a handful per season.

More seriously, instead of having a Winter Session every five to nine sessions, you’ll be having one every 20-50 sessions. This means your mice will have some difficulty recovering taxed Nature dice (one prologue per session, which means that without skipping sessions only one mouse can recover a die per session…) It also means your patrol will be rather short on wises. Worst of all, you’re only adding, elevating, and removing traits once per RL year! That will cause trouble.

Now, as a hack, you could decide that your patrol returns to the Cathedral at the end of every season and has a “winter” session then, four times a game-year instead of once. That would probably work, although it strains the game fiction a little (since it’s a long trip, and it would be hard to pull every guardsmouse in every season…)

But I would suggest instead that you try to imagine that instead of watching a TV Christmas special, you are instead reading a book (or even more appropriately a comic) and this part of the book is set during winter. (If it bothers you to read books out-of-season, I can’t help. Sorry.)

As for recasting the setting, that shouldn’t cause any problems. Rename anything you want. I might suggest keeping the list of mouse settlement names at hand, though: they’re nice color if you run out of non-obvious, non-human-centric local names, and mice can and do have settlements in places that don’t have specific human names.

I didn’t necessarily intend to name the mouseholds the same things as the human names for those places; “the Cathedral” was meant as a once-off homage to a well-known point in the forest.

You make a good case for using the rules for changing seasons; I may have to stick to that.