Testing Nature for mousy things

Hi Mouse Guard community! :wave:

Not new to RPGs (been playing D&D for about 3 years now), but completely new to Mouse Guard :mouse: and the Burning Wheel, and trying to understand how things work, as I am going to try GMing for my group for the first time in a couple of weeks! No one else in my group has ever played MG, so it will be up to me to help everyone else learn it.

I had a question regarding Nature tests. Are Nature tests meant to be taken individually, if every patrol member is involved (for example - in the situation of the patrol climbing up a cliff, would they all need to pass the Nature Ob), or whether this is still an action that can be led by a single mouse and assisted by others (like in the various skill tests).

To me it makes more sense if every single mouse tests Nature individually for trying to climb up the cliff, and conditions to be handed out accordingly, to those that failed the roll.

If anyone could clarify this for me, I would really appreciate it!

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You’re asking about Nature tests, but the answer applies to all tests. The key is what the manual calls Complex Obstacles (p.92), but I’ll go into more detail because you’re learning the game.

The usual way of doing things is that the GM presents the problem and includes the GM’s way of looking at it. So, for example, the GM says: “there’s a river you need to cross, building a bridge requires an Ob 3 Carpenter test, or you can just swim across, and that’d be an Ob 4 Health test”. The patrol can then present and argue for their own alternatives (like building the bridge using Stonemason instead).

The first option is likely a simple obstacle, with one mouse (probably the most skilled Carpenter) taking on the bulk of task with help from the patrol. If they succeed in building the bridge, the patrol can then cross the river together, problem solved. However, you could also resolve it as a complex obstacle if you want more narrative detail (and more chances for Advancement), testing in sequence: one test for gathering materials, another test to drawing plans, and finally a test to build the thing.

The second option should definitely be resolved as a Complex Obstacle in my opinion, with each mouse making the Health test to try and swim across the river. I’d consider those tests simultaneous instead of a sequence, and would therefore put some limits on Helper dice.

Now, you have to be careful with the consequences of these tests. It’s one thing if everyone makes it across because the failed tests passed with a Condition, and another if a failed test got a Twist and a member of the patrol went downstream and is now separated from the rest. If you’re not going to consider individual consequences (in this example, you might not want to risk splitting the party), you might aswell had resolved the problem as a simple obstacle, since the result was basically the same as with Helpers getting Conditions.

So, going back to your Nature example, if the patrol is trying to climb up a cliff, you could do something similar and test each mouse, but remember to carefully consider the possible consequences. If they are all tethered by a rope, one of them falling has groupwide consequences, so maybe consider making it a simple obstacle and have the tester be the lead mouse at the top.

On the other hand, if you were testing Nature to sneak past some soldiers instead, having each mouse test individually makes it more tense (and fun!). If one of them fails, maybe only he gets the attention of the guards, or maybe the alarm is raised and the whole patrol is discovered. It’s up to you.

Hope that helps.

Hi Martin, thank you very much for the detailed reply and apologies for responding late.
For our first session we actually followed your suggestion and one mouse did the Nature test for climbing, but then he used a rope for the other mice to climb on and we decided that they wouldn’t roll for Nature individually, as it was meant to be a simple obstacle and thus only that first mouse led the group by making the roll.
Later on, we introduced more complex obstacles by combining a series of tests, such as harvesting for medicinal herbs and then healing an injured hermit mouse they encountered in their journey.
I really liked what you said about having each mouse testing individually for when an activity is meant to be more tense and to have some suspense and I will try to include it later on.
Thanks again, everything was very helpful!

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