WIP Industrial Mouse Guard Hack

WIP Industrial Fantasy Mouse Guard RPG Hack

It occured to me while trying to adapt the mechanics of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for use in the Iron Kingdoms setting that I’d be much better off scrapping that idea altogether and wok with something simpler. Rather than create a totally new game however; I’d much rather spend my time adding features to an existing game. What I’m going for here is an Epic Low Fantasy Roleplaying War Game. I then remembered how much I loved Mouse Guard for its simplicity in both mechanics and setting that I just thought of ways to deliver the things I liked about other games and bring them to Mouse Guard. I’m not chaning Mouse Guard per se; I’m just adding more faces on an already awesome head. I guess this is why you call this a hack or a game mod.

I have two immediate problems with this project: What to call it, something cool, catchy, attractive, and appropriate; and how to organize my ideas properly.

With the first I’ve thought of a number of things.

Mouse Guard: of Mice and Men

Mouse Guard: Fire and Earth

Mouse Guard: Songs of Iron

Mouse Guard: A Song of Smoke and Steel

With the seond, I thought of the following: First, I’ll tackle the changes I’ve made with the setting; Second, I’ll mention any of the changes I’ve made regarding player characters; Thirdly, I’ll discuss ideas on creating organizations; and fourthly, I’ll discuss the interactions between organizations.

The only things I’ve truly done to the game is add aspects or ideas from A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying apart from adding early industrial tehcnology. It’s not necessarily steampunk, almost approaching dieselpunk, but with generous amounts of clockwork embedded into the whole thing. I’m also a big fan of WH40K so expect to see that manly game rear its head here and there.

Consider the above our Foreword.

Now, on to the meat of the matter!

The Setting

In this incarnation of Mouse Guard, men exist, not as an apparent existence, but more that of a mysterious precursor race. Bits and pieces of Man’s technology and culture could be discovered here and there in the world. It’s a powerful plot hook as the secrets of men are things any ambitious mouse would pursue. Many of the questions and ideas that plague and comfort mice stem from these relics Man has left behind.

No one knows where they are, how they disappeared, why they disappeared, and why some evidence have been found to suggest that Man had a hand in Mouse intelligence.

If your players are into that, go ahead, delve deep. It’s not for you the Narrator to give the answers though, just bits and pieaces of reality. A book here, a dishwasher there, a car engine over there, a piece of art here, dead languages on crumbling paper scattered about; Mice find these things and make their own answers. You could very much say that its a test, the entire Mous experience is one big experiment asking one big questions, what is sentience?

Now that we’re through with the meta, let’s touch the immediate.

The game occurs three hundred years after Midnight’s return.

Midnight saw it a pretty good idea to raise a horde of Rats from beyond the scent borders and rampage across the Mouse Territories. The rats raped, razed, and cannibalized everything in their path. Even the wolves feared them. Some were even broken and used as terrible, slavering mounts.

The Guardmice rose, but they could not resist a horde of savages. Lockhaven fell, and the Guard retreated.

For fifteen long, brutal years, Midnight ruled from Lockhaven until his might was ended by Mice just as willing as he was to feed him his own medicine.

No mouse ever suffered a rat again.

From this fall, The Old Guard returned, but it wasn’t alone.


He was a lot like Midnight, but he hated rats and he loved mice. Eisenreich was born when he and his mice rose to resist Midnight and every Rat found. His became the second Empire of Mice to stand and the only to one still standing long after Midnight was gone.

Eisenreich now rules all of the Mouse Territories within the scent borders. It continues a campaign of expansion, often at odds with the Old Guard and its bitter rival

The Republic of Free Mice.

The Free Mice are those who refused the iron hand of Eisen but saw safety in numbers. They refused him so now they are against him. They occupy the lands beyond the scent border, free from the immediate grasp of eisenreich might yet always open to the dangers of the wilds. They are a relatively small republic, yet strong and enduring.

Only the Imperial Free Cities enjoy a degree of neutrality and liberty amidst these two warring factions. They were the only cities to successfully resist Midnight for those fifteen years, harboring both soldiers of the fledgling Eisenreich, agents of the Republic, and the aging Heroes of the Old Guard. Without them, Midnight would not have fallen, and so they are granted Master. Eisen allows them this as a gift, grateful for their role in the war. The old Guard finds fast friends among the City Mice and Republicans could always build another nest in one of them.

The Old Guard is still up and about of course. They say Eisen was once a Gaurdmouse, just driven mad until he wans’t much of a mouse anymore. They have free reign to go whereever they want, welcome everywhere and anywhere. And though Lockhaven was never returned to them, Eisen did build them a great wall that marked the scent borders. It was tall, built against trees, boulders, rocks, on hills, and dug deep into the ground. It is an epic structure with every tower a fortress, every Gate a city and Citadel.

All roads still lead to Lockhaven, but all Mice go to the Guard and the Guard serves all Mice.

Character Creation Mod to come soon…


I’ve made very little changes to the rules. Actually, I added more crunchy stuff to the game to handle the features I’d like to play around with in this setting. The problems that enter my head about this is that I realize I’m just making this more complex than it really needs to be to enjoy Mouse Guard with robots and firearms. Well, not really firearms, but Mouse Scale cannons at the very least.

To not burn myself out I thought of first focusing on the Macro scale of the crunchy bits and then work my way down. To start with, I’ll just focus on a singular aspect of these mechanics, a Guard Company.

In this expansion of the game Mouse Guard becomes not only a game of heroes but also of warring factions competing for supremacy over the Mouse Territories while ultimately tied to the two main power bases dominating the territories. instead of totally taking ideas from Song of Ice and Fire I thought of Final Fantasy Tactics instead for something simpler and at a scale which I hope will be easy to manage.

The first Faction I’ll discuss is the easiest to focus on. When I get around to testing the Alpha, this’ll be the first Faction to test.

Guard Companies!

Guard companies are the direct descendants of the Old Guard. They uphold the same principles and lead lives of service devoted to all mice. Sine the three hundred years after Midnight’s fall the Old Guard has risen large and strong, so large and strong in fact that a centralized system of management could no longer be efficient. The Guard was forced to split itself into smei-independent Guard Companies each witht their own motivations and ambitions but ultimately tied to the authority of the Old Guard and the current Matriarch. What these companies do is they compete for missions from the Matriarch and win Glory, Renown, and Spoils for themselves to advance their position in the Guard and to better serve the Mice directly under their responsibility.

To make a Guard company, we start with its resources. We roll 5 six sided die for each kind of resource and these are:

Land and Labor (LL)
Wealth and Power (WP)
Influence and Position (IP)
Law and Order (LO)
Technology and Knowledge (TK)

I imagine they’re pretty much self-explanatory so I’ll move on to what you could do with them which are quite simple really; you use them to build holdings, generate assets, bid for missions, and influence other mice. Also, the resources you start with may instantly manifest in the game world, but once the game starts you’ll have to contend with starting and completing build projects.

As a Guard Company, each prospective player may roll a six-sided die and add the result to the resource point of preference. If the game has players taking on the roles of the Factions themselves, make that 3 dice with every result permissible for every type of resource.

Now, on Holdings, you could invest on the following.

The Company Stronghold is a fortified community situated in either the Republican side of the Guardwall or the Reicher side. It essentially functions like a Large Town where the Company lives, eats, and operates from. It requires no upkeep and yet is quite expensive to establish. For starters, it has to be in a defensible position within the Company’s area of responsibility and if you plan on getting a Stronghold while playing the game–these take about ten years to complete and without it you can’t passively generate income.

And oh, before we proceed, a little word on income tests. They are not obstacle tests, just tests to see the number of cowards and successes because successes are what incomes are chiefly based on.

Our first holding is a Company Stronghold.
Guard Companies may only possess a single stronghold, but if the company has built fortresses elsewhere and would like to transfer their stornghold, they can. Transferring strongholds require half the costs of building one and would take only two seasons to complete.
Strongholds are essentially unfortified Towns; you would have to build a Citadel to protect it and the mice within it. If you would like to add other features to your Stornghold, like say making it Labyrinthine or hidden under a hill, talk with your Narrator about it and discuss the special mechanics with him. These are just basics and I’m hoping they’ll be malleable enough to accomodate our imagination.
Also, you can build special holdings in strongholds. More about those later.
The Stronghold costs 30LL and 30WP. They take 10yrs to complete if constructed after Faction Creation. Citadels cost you separately and can only be built after the community rises.
The Stronghold generates the following as seasonal income:
Land & Labor Administrator Test +3
Wealth & Power Amdinistrator Test +3
Law & Order Amdinistrator Test +3

The next holdings are fiefs.
Fiefs cost Influence and Position to maintain to reflect how the Guard Company has to maintain a desirable working relationship with this community of common mice given leave by either the Reich or the Republic to support the Company.
It costs 10IP to establish a relaitonship with a Fief and it would require an upkeep of 2IP.
Failing to maintain the upkeep merely means that your relationship with the Fief has been cut. They will no longer support you and are open to establishing relationships with other companies. You would have to build a relationship with it again the following season provided it has not already pledged its loyalty to another company or entity, or maybe even plundered and razed to the ground.
When a Fief is plundered and razed to the ground, tt’s a loss for everyone. Someone now has to go and help the mice rebuild their homes and livelihood. This counts as a mission and would earn your Company some Glory and a bit of Fame, but no Spoils. When rebuilt, you’d still have to establish a relationship.
Fiefs generate
Land and Labor Circles Test +3
Wealth and Power Circles Test +1

We then have Outposts and Roads.
These are built together as you can’t have a road without an outpost somewhere to keep watch over it. Outposts are defensive positions which keep the roads safe and well maintained. They require significant Law and Order upkeep was well as Land and Labor to keep the Road usable.
Outposts may also act as defensive positions albeit a very weak one.
When a Company fails to keep an outpost it loses all the income from the road and has to build a new outpost.
Roads without an Outpost are considered unsafe while failing to pay the Land and Labor upkeep makes it a bad road.
Outposts cost 20LL and 10WP to build for a road and takes about a full season to complete.
Upkeep costs 10LO for the Outpost and 5LL for the Road. They could be paid separately.
They generate the following income for your company:
Influence and Position Circles Test +3
Wealth and Power Pathfinder Test +2
Technology and Knowledge Circles Test

We now move on to Forts. They’re merely larger and fortified encampments meant for the smei-permanent garrison of mice within a defensible area. They are usually built in burrows, fox holes, on the canopy of trees, and etc. Discuss their mechanical behavior during conflicts with the narrator as each Fort, depending on where it’s built, has its own benefits and disdvantages.
They cost 15WP and 10LL to build and require 10WP as upkeep for as long as Guardmice are garrisoned. They could be taken though. As long as there is a garrison at the end of the season, they will not disappear and have to be rebuilt.
They generate:
Law and Order Militarist Test +5

Fortresses are permanent garrissons for mice with both significant benefits and costs for the company. It takes 4 years to build a fortress; 6 years if its a citdael for a city or town. The construction alone costs 55LL, 40WP, and 20TK. And while it’s being built, you have to pay its upkeep of 30LL and 25WP while it builds to complete it.
You should discuss the nature of your Fortresses with the Narrator.
Apart from Fortresses having space for the construction of Special Holdings and the option for moving your Stronghold they generate the following income:
Influence and Position Circles Test +20
Law and Order Militarist Test +15

And finally, Special Holdings!
Special Holdings are investments which either assist your Guardsmice or ar eintegral in the performance of their duties. They include a miscellany of things, from bakeries and apiaries to stable and cannon towers. Thus, when a skill requires certain facilities, they fall underneath this catch-all idea; enough to fill thebare needs of a Stronghold without the surplus needed for commercial endeavors.
Special Holdings cost 5LL, 5WP, 3TK a piece and could be completed within the season.
It’s Upkeep costs 1LL.
It generates income appropriate to the nature of its design and the skills of its Foremouse. Discuss the details with your Narrator.

With holdings done, a Guard Company may also invest in Assets.

Assets are Mice; loyal retainers, agents and representatives of the Guard Company. They come in many, many forms and follow the same creation rules from the Original Manual. In this expansion of Mouse Guard, you spend Influence and Position to create Guardsmice.

Guard Captains cost 10IP to create and can use Faction Resources to recruit War Parties, Labor Forces, and engage in politics.

Patrol Leaders cost 3IP to create ande they can use Faction Resources to engage in politics but can’t raise War Parties or Labor Forces. They could be leaders, but they can’t recruit them. To promote Guard Captains from Patrol Leaders during play you’ll need to spend another 3IP.

Patrol Guards cost 1IP to promote from Tenderpaws and can use Faction Resources in politics but not lead War Parties or Labor Forces. You need not pay anything to promote them to Patrol Leaders in play, just the skills.

The Other Assets are War Parties and Labor Forces. These behave much like character but at a macro scale. I’ll tackle them later as they might deserve their own section.

Oh, and some additional information.

Guard responsibilities are positions which handle the operation of your domain. These are positions only Patrol Guards and their superiors may fill, and are appointment which could be reassigned once a season as Guardsmice who fill these roles cannot lead expeditions on missions.

The Steward dictates income from the Stronghold and Fiefs.

Castellans are those who command the Garrison at Forts and Fortresses. They dictate the income from those holdings along with leading the defenses in the event of a siege.

The Chief Pathfinder dictates income coming in from Roads.

Finally, let’s discuss Gameplay! for Guard Companies.

No interest at all?

As a fellow MG hacker, I can tell you that big walls of text are hard for the outside world to consume.

I’m releasing my sci-fi superhack after 11/11 and it’s nearly 100 pages long. Without some friendly formatting, I also fear it’s going to go ignored.

Maybe break up your main ideas into smaller chunks? I don’t know where to start or what I’m looking at when I briefly scan your posts. It looks like you have enough material here that you should probably start building complete documents at this point, anyway.

Good luck!

I think I’ll just start a wiki somewhere instead. That way I could easily provide beta testers with easy to navigate rules.

it looks to me that you are placing the role of a PC as a full company of guard mice rather than a single guard mouse. Is taht a coorect understanding?

You might incorporate mechanics for troupe style play from Ars Magica. That is a system built in such a way that each player should have multiple characters which all make up part of an organized cabal. That might help to see methods of creating a group of players that each have multiple characters with unique specializations which represent their guard company PC.

Next, it looks like you are advocating a competitive game in which players are pitted against each other–or rather, a PC [guard company] must compete/coordinate/collaborate with anohter PC [guard company] through the process of the game and narrative. I am dubious of a game such as that, but you might find some tips and tricks from Risk, Twilight Imperium, Axis and Allies, and Conquest of Nerath in which the players command grand regions which are in competition against each other. You could even look at games such a Settlers of Cataan and Agricola for ideas of resource management and acquisition.

However, if all of these things are part of the premise of the game, it seems to exist on more than one scale. At a macro level, you are playing a large organization which derives its stats based on the members of the organization; at a micro level, you are playing members of an orginization that don’t always work together and possibly work consiratorily. The premise holds tales of competition between rival kingdoms as well as exploration of ancient/modern/future man.

I think what may be needed most of all is an increase in the focus at a macro or micro level and then a removal of competing elements. Telling a compelling narrative about the meaning of sentience does not need all the resource management and macro level competition. Telling the tale of rival guilds may not benefit from micro level drama of individuals. Telling the tale of micro level drama of individual lives may not benefit from the bookkeeping and reasource management of a macro level guild war game. So, existing MG does quite well as a micro level drama narrative in which the questions of sentience, heroism, purpose, community and other such topics can be played out. Maybe you should focus on developing a macro level game that uses principles of MG to illustrate topics of community, heroism, duty, responsibility, administration, resource sharing, civilization, freedom, and other large issues through a resource management guild war game in whihc players are less collaborative and more competitive. It might turn out a bit like Civilization through tabeltop gaming instead of video game.

That has been a problem I’ve wrestled with many times in my head, Kenneth, a question of scale which I can’t quite define just yet. I do know what I want though. When I went into playing around with this my thoughts were about Final Fantasy Tactics, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Iron Kingdoms franchise. This offered many questions which I continue to ask my self, “Do you want a wargame or an rpg?” “Do you want an rpg with wargame elements or a wargame with rpg elements?” and “How do you expect to marry wargaming with roleplaying properly?” I still have no answers; only jumbled ideas of what might be, what could be, or interesting distractions from the project at hand.

Your thoughts on this have led me to rethink this further. My original idea for this at a micro level was to have the players be members of a single faction while at the macro level the players could take on the roles of individual factions. A Song of Ice and Fire has similar mechanics and I took these ideas from it. Basically, these two options are available to the gaming group and the kind of campaign they want to play.

Incidentally, I intended for both a macro and a micro scale of gameplay because I envisioned a pbp morpg in the near future for my expansion on Mouse Guard. Here, players join into factions, start their own, recruit more players, and play the game as both individuals and agents of a faction.