Why choose "Guardmouse"?

While making characters for my upcoming Mouse Guard campaign, one of the players (the only one who had chosen to play a guardmouse- the others were tenderpaw, patrol guard, and patrol leader) said: “It doesn’t matter much to me, but what is the advantage of playing a guardmouse?” Indeed, during character creation, it seemed that the other mice, including the “lower-ranked” tenderpaw, were getting to choose more skills and traits than the guardmouse.

Is this intentional? Should we not worry about it? Did we do something wrong? “Game balance” isn’t something we’re particularly concerned with, and I’m familiar with the power differences between characters that can come out of the lifepath system in Burning Wheel, but the Mouse Guard character creation seems far simpler and it seemed odd to me that one choice- to play the “normal” guardmouse- would result in a “weaker” character.

I hope to post about the characters and my planned mission soon, and I intend to follow up with an AP post as well.

You play a guardmouse because you want to play a guardmouse. You want to play Lieam – unproven, untested.

There ain’t no game balance in BW games character creation. You want to play a powerful character, do it. If you don’t, don’t do it.

Also, don’t overestimate the Tenderpaw. He’s quite unskilled in the ways of the Guard.


Thanks Luke! I figured it was as simple as that. Fortunately, like I said, the player (and the rest of us) aren’t really concerned with everyone being “even.”

Not to mention a Guardmouse (compared to a Tenderpaws)

  1. Have a better Will (making it easier to default mental skills which there are far more of then physical ones), an Extra Wise, 1 higher Resources, 1 higher Circles.
  2. Get to have a cloak, and thus be recognised as a member of the Guard.
  3. Don’t have another player be there mentor.
  4. Isn’t at risk of being retired from the guard within one-two years if they don’t get promoted.

The case for Guardmouse versus a Patrol Guard or higher is a little harder to make. The biggest thing is considerably more would be expected from the higher ranks: A Tenderpaw is expected to just follow orders, and a Guardmouse can fall back on that if they want, but the higher ranks are expected to go the extra mile and show some initiative. They are pretty much the speaking face of the guard (rather the the rank-and-file grunts), and that is a lot of pressure even with their handful of extra skills.

If you’re only looking at numbers (ie, how many skill “ticks”, how many trait “ticks”, etc), then the guardmouse does look rather odd having “less” than the tenderfoot.

My answer is close to what Serpine said:

… and to kinda add to that:

MouseGuard is a roleplaying game. It’s not about rolling dice and getting good results. It’s not about how good you are at fighting, or scouting, or any other skill. It’s not about all the abilities and “cool stuff” you can do.

MouseGuard is really about the story of the heroes.
Did the heroes struggle?
Did they suffer?
Did they wrestle with their identity and their beliefs?
Did they befriend the enemy?
Did they estrange their family and friends?
Did they sacrifice for the greater good?

I’ll play devil’s advocate here. I think what the OP is asking is:

Why am I struggling more for the same reward?
Why am I suffering more compared to my fellows?
(no changes for the others as they have no bearing on dice/mechanics)

While I agree that it ought to be about story and fun, a person looking at the numbers (this is not a diceless game, after all) would see that the middle rank of the Guard is somewhat mechanically marginalized. Not terribly, but enough to notice and ask about.

This could be countered (if one felt it needed to be) by giving another Trait to a Guardmouse, and perhaps 1 more check for wises. (I don’t have my book here, so I’m just tossing out ideas.)

Or this could be countered by just making a Patrol Guard.