She is a really interesting NPC and I’ve seen different sides of her in the two different games I have run.
In one game, one of the players suggested that there should be guards-mice in every city and I thought that might make a neat Belief or Goal for his character. The game hasn’t yet dictated if she is biding her time to do just this and put garrisons in every town or if she sees that as too many steps towards a dictatorship. They players haven’t headed back to Lockhaven yet and are still hunting down a cult that worships owls as harbingers of death incarnate.
I am curious to see what her reaction will be, depending on their success in getting the mice of the Territories to back this plan.
In another game, the first mission was to check on Sprucetuck and safeguard the scent guard’s potion. It turned out that the governor of Sprucetuck had been a guards-mouse in the same patrol was Gwendolyn and didn’t trust her, not a bit. It was kind of neat, with the players trying to figure out if Gwendolyn was a tyrant who wanted to set herself up as empress of the Territories or not.
This game had a neat post-mission interview with each of the guards-mice and I really liked playing Gwendolyn for that, asking the mice questions about each other’s performance during the mission. Neat stuff.
The players saved Sprucetuck from a flood and a beaver whose dam had caused the flood. They relocated the people of Sprucetuck and brought back one of the scientist who made the scent. Gwendolyn asked very pointed questions about why they bothered to save the people when the scent was their primary mission.
I can’t wait until I get to use her stats from the back of the book.
Anyone else, player or GM, have any experiences with Gwendolyn?
One of our playtest patrols had a great clash with Gwendolyn. They discovered that the weasels farmed mice for food – and that Gwendolyn knew, but downplayed the practice to maintain order in the Territories.
They got into a blow out DoW with her that ended with something like, “Fine, you’re right. It’s wrong and mice should know, but we will never speak of this again!”
I was just going to write a blog post about this, based on an online chat I had with Judd. Our game’s just starting, so we haven’t featured Gwen yet, but I’ve been thinking a bunch about how to handle her.
My sense from the comics is that things are kinda falling apart under Gwen’s watch but it’s not entirely clear why. But the Territories are barely held together if a rebellion can form and March on Lockhaven fairly openly. But I’m not sure I want to blame Gwen for that in my campaign, so I’ve been thinking about other options.
One I’m kinda leaning towards is that Gwen’s predecessor was a well known hero in the Guard and held on to the office of Matriarch a bit too long, well into her later years when she wasn’t really capable of having a strong hand in day-to-day operations and long-term planning. So by the time Gwen came into office, it had already been a number of years since the Guard had strong leadership. Additionally, the upper-level administrative and coordinating positions were still filled with old warhorses installed by Gwen’s predecessor, and it’s taken a few more years for Gwen to get them to retire or maneuver them out of office.
So I’m thinking, in my campaign, that’s its just recently become Gwen’s Guard in practice as well as in name, but there are many challenges as a result of the long intermediary period. The Guard is mostly full of older mice who don’t have quite the pep of their youth and then a bunch of tenderpaws and young guardmice brought in since Gwen took over. It’ll take some time before things are really back up to strength and the battles with Midnight and the weasels certainly haven’t helped things. In the meantime, many settlements in the territories have come up with their own alternatives to the Guard, for basic needs like delivering mail, so Gwen is really going to have to find ways for the Guard to remain relevant and important, carving out a niche for them and competing with some of these other groups for the best new recruits.
The two things which stuck out to me were the fact that several of the mouse settlements have vastly different governing systems and inter-town conflicts, and the fact that it’s only been 3 years since the Weasel War, and it was a costly affair.
Seems likely Gwen was probably struggling to get folks to unite to even get a unified front on the Weasel War, by the time it kicked off, you see the mousey killing fields of the most recent issue, and the fact that three towns are crossed off on the map, and at the end of it, a hell of a lot dead, including a lot of Guard Mice. It’s one of those things even if you did better than amazing, you’d probably catch a lot of blame for.
With all that, probably a lot of mice recognize what they need is a united front, but going for the classic dictator who promises to keep you safe is where we get Midnight.
I’m wondering if this powerplay was in the making before or during the War itself?
It’ll be fun to run and see how my Gwen turns out…
As GM, I’m having fun with Gwendolyn in our game, too.
One of the PCs is a spy-mouse who is undercover in a cult (the same Owl cult from Judd’s game). Last session, we found out that his mission was given to him by one of the old Guard Captains back in Lockhaven, and not from Gwendolyn. It was strongly implied that she doesn’t know anything about the mission, in fact.
We’re beginning to paint a picture of the Guard as a bunch of connected factions (the scholars and scientists at Lockhaven being another key group) rather than a totally unified organization. Of course, one of the PC mice (the Patrol Leader) believes totally in Gwendolyn and thinks she is perfect, wise, and completely in control (a Belief that we are having a lot of fun hitting with hammers).
I’m really looking forward to the scenes with Gwendolyn after this mission and the business with the owl cult is dealt with. I like the debriefing idea, Judd. I’ll definitely be doing that.
My players haven’t hit Lockhaven in over a season… their orders are coming from Captain Ron (in Barkstone, Standard Guard Captain, plus large 2, Fat 2, Guild-wise 5 and a california surfer attitude towards life, modeled after the former manager of the local Taco Hell), and Lieutenant Tancred (Sprucetuck, standard Lt plus Mellow 1, and Wolfsnout 2, and Sprucetuck Wise 4, dark heather wise 3). The two, unbeknownst to the players, have been shuffled back and forth between the two at Gwendolyn’s orders.
If she doesn’t have to deal with them, they can’t dissapoint her again.
I think this is both a motherlode of story ideas and true to the tone of David Petersen’s stories. It’s worth noting, for example, that we don’t know the exact role of the Gaurd in the Winter War. Were they the officers of that war? Or are/were there actually enough Guardmice to fill out the ranks of an army? (If so, is the Guard now massively under staffed? And if so, is this partly because of popular dissatisfaction–the same that leads to the Midnight movement–with the Guard’s performance during the war?)
You can apply this point more specifically to Gwendolyn herself. Someone correct me if this is glaringly inaccurate, but it is not yet certain that Gwendolyn was the matriarch during the Winter War. She seems to be relatively young. (The RPG does not mention her age but her Health is a 4, I believe, putting her in Sadie’s age bracket.) Granted the war wasn’t too long ago. It’s just worth noting that (so far as I remember) we don’t really know if she led the Guard through that conflict. Playing her as very new to the role of matriarch would create a lot of interesting hooks. For example, is she trying to consolidate power among the factions John was talking about, by cultivating the PCs’ patrol as close allies?
The point stands whether or not Gwendolyn is a newer or older leader. She certainly seems committed in the comics to a Guard that does its duty without asking for anything in return–especially political authority. (Is it just me, or are the Guard reminiscent of KotOR Jedi?)
Based on this, she was the Matriarch during the Winter War (same as the war with the Weasels, no?). It also says “mice” not “guardmice,” so I’m thinking the Mouse Guard played more of a leadership role. Maybe?
I’m honestly not too sure on the timeline and sequence of events.
This page helps clarify the current role of guardmice. Of course, nothing’s to stop you from making things more grim or less so.
It is not clarification so much that I am looking for, Patrick.
Honestly, I am going to alter her a little, around a basic framework, for every game I GM. Gwendolyn, to me, is a powerful and wonderful tool with which the MG GM can ping on the players’ goals and beliefs.
I’ve found it quite fun having Captain Ron and Lieutenant Tancred giving the briefings… in very different styles. Ron’s this california surfer turned store manager, in a town that’s friendly to the Guard. Tancred is unsupported by the local town, and is more of a “Higgens” (from Magnum, P.I.) type.
It’s going to be fun when they hit the end of the year, and face Gwendolyn again…
Thanks for the clarification, Rafe. Since posting I found a description of the Winter War in the Territories section of the RPG. It not only confirms that Gwendolyn led the mice of the Territories through the War but also that it was fought by soldiers levied from all the settlements while the Guard served as her “elite soldiers.” Even so, I prefer to the think of the ante bellum Guard as a larger organization whittled away by the fighting–not only by outright casualties but also by popular dissatisfaction. Fewer families are encouraging their children to join up these days because they feel the Guard is not truly effective. In the crisis, after all, everyone had to fight–so why bother with a Guard? This jives with some of the ideas mentioned here about Gwendolyn struggling to hold together her own power base both inside and out of the Guard. (Midnight and his Axe movement are thus the “perfect storm” of tensions in the ranks and in the settlements combining.) Gwendolyn’s enemies may have disparate goals but they all share at least one thing in common: they are all right under her nose at some point or another.
I know when our game(s) were going I treated Gwendolyn as the no nonsense Matriarch she is. The players never questioned they just do. That is not to say she would not hear out the Guard’s suggestions. I think she rules fair and just and cares deeply about those under her. However she still has to keep a level of professionalism as the top brass of the Guard.
That’s about how I’ve interpretated it too. One possibility can be that the Guard, larger during the war than after, served as the better trained and central troops as the first professional legionaries around Caesar’s Rome and a little later aided by at least as many auxilary troops. In the case of Rome the auxilary troops came from the provinces while the legionaries was roman citizens (i e from Italia) and got a uniformed training. In the case of Mouse Guard, the Guard could be like the legionaires and the other mice like the auxilary troops. It’s a little hard to explain but it’s not exactly like the Mouse Guard being the elite troops among other troops even if there are similarities.