Teaching Mouse Guard at a Con

I’ve got a six hour slot to run Mouse Guard at Good Omens Con in July and I’m feeling inspired to use some of that time (6 hours is a long slot for MG) to work in ice breakers, skill builders and the feeling of the game into my intro to the game.

Development so far (with thanks to many sources) is here: http://wildljduck.livejournal.com/64567.html.

I really like what you came up with, Sean. I took a stab of my own at “The Pedagogy of Playing Mouse Guard.” I start off that article with the summation of the involved little tale that led to it, including where my friend Willem got started with this “Pedagogy of Play” idea, of teaching a game’s rules in play, and accomplishing the goal of warming up to play at the same time.

I haven’t tried out my method yet, but I look forward to doing so soon.

I tried this (or at least, got started with it) with my Skype storyjamming group. We didn’t finish my process because people had to go. Our plans to finish today fell through, and tomorrow I’ll try it with my face-to-face group.

Here’s the recording of the first part of our attempt on Skype. I’ll reply here again when we finish, record & post part 2, and after that, we’ll have a discussion up on how it worked out, both in the recordings, and with my face-to-face group (we’re trying it out tomorrow).

Having now done this 1.5 times (we’ll wrap up that “0.5” on Thursday), I have my doubts about how well it teaches the game. It seems to make character creation pretty fun, and helps teach the setting, but I wonder if the game has too many options available for this kind of approach, introducing one element at a time, to work?

Sorry it didn’t work out as well as you hoped. The question I’ve got (at least for a con game) is that if it can’t be taught in the time you had, is there too much to the game? Or more significantly, are there parts that should be left out for sake of faster game play.

It looks like I’ll be doing my play test on 6/25 so I’ll give it my own shot then and let you know how it goes.

I’m far from objective, but I’ve run MG as written at a con and had ample time in a four hour slot.

I handed out characters, even made up Saxon’s sister on the fly using the template tweaking rules because we had an extra player. Then we played through a whole mission.

In fact, the game is designed precisely for this kind of play. Whether or not it succeeds at that goal is ultimately up to you. But I do think it’s worth noting.


I ran into difficulty teaching players the options they had: between gear, wises, help, traits, and then using traits against yourself to get checks, and what you would want checks for. Until we’d finished one whole game, they didn’t seem to understand the GM’s Turn/Player’s Turn structure. Since they didn’t understand that they’d need this currency of checks to do stuff in the second half, they didn’t build it up in the first half. Any hints or tips on how you teach all those options?

Part of this is the idea that you should learn a game by playing it. With all those options, I’m not sure you can really do that; it seems like you just have to sit down and give the lecture, and just try to deliver it quickly enough, before you lose everyone’s attention.

No. No lecture. Explain as you go in the context of actual play.

“You want to help her? Let me show you how.”

“Now would be a good time to use that trait to help yourself. Here’s how.”

“This is super important. You don’t want to fail. Let me show you how to use your Nature here.”

It’s a demo. Guide the players through it. It’s not about teaching the game, it’s about demonstrating.

It’s an art, and it’s one that Luke is very good at. I think (from my experience as someone who is naturally quite poor at demos, but has attained some modest skill*) that a lot of it has to do with knowing the difference between an option, a recommendation, and a real dilemma. There’s a sort of due-diligence feeling that I have and I think a lot of experienced gamers have that any time a new player has a choice, you should explain to them the full ramifications of both alternatives. Down that road lies only lecturing. Instead, try to divide choices into options (where you could do something different from what you know, but you probably shouldn’t), recommendations (where you probably need to take a different path than what you’re on, but you don’t have to) and dilemmas (where there are important pros and cons for both).

Generally I don’t mention options, certainly not until the players all have a good handle on things. Recommendations I try to handle as Luke has put it above (“you don’t want to fail” or “now would be a good time”). The only time I stop the action to explain is for dilemmas.

*This ain’t false modesty: I’m just barely okay at it, certainly not good.

I agree that you can’t teach everything, it needs to be shown through play, but that also means things will get cut out. I guarantee anyone who played in my games of “The Gift” don’t understand the advancement or artha awards systems, simply because they never came up in a convention setting.

So my earlier question shouldn’t have been “are there parts that should be left out for sake of faster game play”, but when you play the game, what parts do you find must be demonstrated, and what parts get ignored? I can see traits being an example of this. Yes, they add to the game, but if you played without them and just gave each character one check during the player’s turn, a player would never notice.

I guess I’ll find out for myself when I run it at a con, if everything can be brought into the game or if some parts fall by the wayside.

Only the stuff that effects the immediate situation stuff that could have an effect later in the session. Players often feel cheated if something comes up that you should have warned them about but didn’t. These are largely predictable elements. Nothing’s going to advance in a session, but players will need checks in the Players Turn. Thus I tell them about how to tweak their rolls using traits.


I’ve used this process twice now, once with my face-to-face group, and once with my Skype group. Our chargen took two sessions, and afterward I recorded a discussion about how it went with Giuli & Willem.