Villainous Characters

Every time I’m not the GM I have a tendency to make less likable characters, ya know… Like a rake, or like a rich narcissist character that could care less about others, and has an instinct to hate poor mice.

The only time I’ve ever made a remotely decent hearted character, he had justice on the mind, but was obsessed like a ‘Javert’ type.

Would you say that is a negative and it disminishes the heroic feel to the game, or would you say that’s just an interesting character?

My one-liner quip is: “If the character cannot be changed through the course of gameplay, it is not an interesting PC; though it could still serve as an NPC.”

One point of creating a game in collaborative story mode is that the characters are intended to grow and change.

So your saying you don’t mind uglier characters as long as they change to “nicer” characters throughout the course of gameplay? I guess I can see that.

Characters who are ugly and make terrible decisions are terribly fun.

While I was reading the Mouse Guard rulebook from the boxed set I noticed the strong heroic theme as LordHamshire notes and thought to myself, well I guess it means that all MG characters are “good” characters. Then I noticed the premade character Sloan from the Deliver the Mail adventure and thought, well this doesn’t seem like a good character at all.

It does note in Sloan’s description “if she can overcome her secretive nature …”, it also lists her with a belief, goal and instict that are IMO not good. Does this mean that if the player of Sloan do not have her “overcome her secretive nature” she’s forced out of the guild? I would imagine this would apply for similar not good PCs.

I can understand the appeal of a reformed bad guy, a good guy temoporarily falling from grace, I’m just not sure how much leeway is given in MG.

That’s a hard question to answer in a blanket fashion. It may well be that Sloan’s player is within a group and story that it is far better to have Sloan overcome her secretive nature and perhaps find a more humble Belief. In contrassssst, Sloan’s player may be in a group and story that it would be far more enjoyable to entrench secretive habits and truly revel in the truth of her Belief–perhaps even the Guard needs Sloan around to save them from themselves.

In my first response to the thread, it maybe seemed that I suggest a mean PC must change to a nice PC, a lazy PC must change to a dutiful PC, a cowardly PC must change to a heroic PC, etc. However, I think that misses the point of a character-driven game. I think it is simply most important for the protagonist to change–even if they change not themselves, but the world around themselves (hello, Cpt America). That might be an entirely other thread topic.

While I always reveal the Oath and Duties of the Mouse Guard to players with the declaration, “Your Guard mouse knows this oath and has spoken it aloud at least once in life; these duties were understood even if not well understood at the time of volunteering for the Guard.”

I feel it helps to provide a good mindset for the campaign ahead, but I can imagine that it isn’t the only way to present MG.

Check out the rules for the winter session.

@ Kendesign: I believe that your making a great point, it’s best to be determined on a table by table basis.

@ Deliverator: I’m assuming that you are referring to the promotion section pg. 162-163 where it discusses the advancement rules from Tenderpaw to Guardmouse (correct me if I’m wrong of course). Since Sloan is a Tenderpaw she only has up to two years to make it into the Guard before they give her the boot. If she manages to fulfill her goal that wouldn’t seem to be a problem, but that seems unlikely unless Thom’s player is really good at separating player and PC knowledge. If she doesn’t change her outlook and therefore isn’t recommended by Thom, who might not recommend her based on the clause of “capable of upholding the honor of the Guard.”, then she effectively becomes an NPC, or so it would seem. Of course the character could change to conform to be “capable of upholding the honor of the Guard.”, but then again many may want to explore other types of characters.

I’m getting ready to GM a game of Guard Mouse, I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t unjustly limit potential PC creation.

I was actually speaking more broadly than just about the Sloan/Thom situation, and certainly it’s about more than just promotion. The Winter Session is where we as players get to reflect on how far the mice of the patrol have come, as individuals, in the past year of adventuring. It’s a chance to reflect on questions about their suitability to be guardmice, and about how their personalities have changed, for good or for ill.


I think that villainous characters can be a ton of fun from a roleplaying perspective, but you have to be careful it doesn’t derail your game. They have to have a compelling reason to be a part of the group and be working (at least outwardly) towards the same end. That reason could be that their cold heart is slowly warmed from the camaraderie of the patrol, but you could also have a greater threat that temporarily unites the characters in an overaching goal while still providing plenty of room to butt heads along the way–and what happens afterward is anyone’s guess. That’s probably somewhat harder to do in MG, as it assumes that all the PCs are members in the Guard.

If the character doesn’t have a compelling reason to work with the other patrol members (at least outwardly) then you’re going to end up with one guy just trolling the rest of the table until somebody gets mad and kills him outright.

Very good points Deliverator and MrKrasotkin. I’ll see what the players have in mind after we try the sample mission with the character templates to get everyone used to the game. I’ll just need to put an emphesis on the heroic nature of the game.

I think it’s important to note that there is a difference between a villainous character and one like Sloan that needs to grow through some immaturity issues. Sloans belief is not evil like “I must kill all other mice” but immature and ignorant saying “I am superior to other mice.”

The work of the Patrol is to weed out such immaturities and this makes for some awesome roleplaying. Even Saxon and Kenzie have to work out some dependence and rage issues in the main comics.

Remember, that in D&D terms most (it not all) the members of the guard are lawful/neutral good. The guard stands for order and self sacrifice. Those that turn away from those ideals end up like Midnight or Abigail.
Now there are plenty of games where a dark/evil/villainous character can be great. Where secrets kept from other party members is the law of the land. And self aggrandizement is encouraged. But Mouse Guard does not strike me as that sort of game. You can play it however you want, but for me MG is a game of (capital H) Heros. It is a game about giving up the self so the many can be served. And dramatically self serving characters just do not fit into that story. That is not to say that every character does not have their flaws, but MG is a game about overcoming flaws. Also remember that MG is designed so that all discussion happens at the table, and the GM is not supposed to privately talk with players (a staple of playing a dark/backstabbing character).

Jasper has it right.

I think it’s important to note that there is a difference between a villainous character and one like Sloan that needs to grow through some immaturity issues.

Having a character grow and overcome their failing is awesome. But I feel straight up villainous characters are out of place as PCs in MG.

If he doesn’t like poor mice then try to get him into a situation where he has to trust them and this will be great fun for the game