My group and I played our first game of Mouse Guard this past week. We had a blast, but we had some questions about team disposition in conflicts.
A careful rereading of the book seems to indicate that disposition for a team is created by one mouse and one mouse only–the one who initiates the conflict. We had Saxon and Kenzie versus the milk snake. Saxon rolled his Fighter 6, got three successes, and added those to his base Health 4. Kenzie added one die, as he’s helping in the conflict. The team started with an 8 disposition.
The snake, meanwhile, rolled seven dice (using its base 7 Nature) and came up with four successes. That gave it an eleven disposition, and a clear advantage in the coming battle.
But why shouldn’t Kenzie’s full, individual disposition be added to his team’s overall disposition? He’s doing more than just helping by handing another character a resource–he’s fully engaged in the conflict. If the team loses, HE loses, and in this case he could lose his life. This is what we don’t understand. The hit points (disposition) for the entire team seem to be based around one individual, while everyone suffers consequences. And basing things around one individual seems to give no significant bonus to teamwork. Why shouldn’t both mice attack individually, thus, cumulatively, earning more disposition points between them?
Thanks in advance for answering a newbie’s questions.
The short answer is “game balance.”
It seems like you’re asking, “why isn’t this more realistic?”
If you want to refactor things to allow for realism and teams of one – and this will still be unbalanced in favor of the mice – give each mouse character a base dispo of 1. Add 1 to that if the character has the appropriate dispo generating ability for the conflict. So, if it’s a fight, a mouse is worth 1. If he has Fighter, he’s worth 2. Do not roll for dispo or otherwise modify it. Mouse armor? Come on.
Factor weasel and animal dispos as normal – Nature + roll.
Even that still skews things heavily in favor of the mice, but at least it’s a little more realistic – a mouse can be taken out in a single blow.
As it stands now, the system encourages teamwork and generates a range of reasonable numbers appropriate to the use of four to ten die die pools.
Sorry - I didn’t mean to imply that we thought things unrealistic, or that we were looking for ways to modify the game to tilt things in favor of the mice. One of the things we love about the game is that the mice are really mice–even with their modest weapons and training, they can’t be expected to take down something far stronger than them in the wild.
We were just sitting at the table, preparing for our first conflict, and it seemed natural to add the health of each character in the pot to create team disposition. We weren’t thinking out how that would affect game balance, or make them far stronger than the snake. It was merely a logic thing in the moment.
As it turns out, defeating the snake was a significant challenge for Saxon and Kenzie alone. Unless we were doing something wrong. They defeated the snake with only one point of their own disposition left. Part of the problem, I think, is that Kenzie’s fighter skill is pretty low, and Saxon has to be relied upon in that duo to do most of the hack-work. That the two of them would have trouble defeating the snake makes sense though–in the book example, Lieam’s defeat of the snake proves, statistically at least, to be a minor miracle. (As it would be!)
We’ll continue to play the game as designed and watch for things to balance out.
Thanks again. It’s great having this forum to turn to with questions…
The snake is supposed to be a difficult opponent. But I do think you’re missing some of the deeper strategies in the conflict game (and maybe even the game at large). It’s not just about setting up the big attacks. Look at how the weapons and Nature (and alternate skills) play into conflicts. And look at how tapping your Nature can produce unexpected results!