Friday, July 17, 2009

Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard is a RPG based on the comics of the same name by David Petersen.

You're playing mice. Intelligent mice with swords, but basically, still mice. They're small, furry and pretty much everything wants to eat them. Unlike other talking animal worlds there are few sapient species, just Mice, Weasels (and weasel like beasties) and hares. Owls and Bats too maybe, but again, unlike other talking animal worlds not every beastie can understand every other beastie.

Physically the book is a square full colour hardback mostly using art from the comic.

Along with Artesia and Cadwallon it's probably one of the prettiest gaming books I own.

The system used is a light version of Burning Wheel, streamlined and tuned for the setting.

Characters are created by going through a simple lifepath system that gives them their skills and traits.

The first step is to come up with a concept.

We'll go with a studious mouse who joined the Guard at the tail end of the weasel war and found that he had a natural talent for fighting.

Next you choose your rank in the guard. You can be a raw recruit (termed a tenderpaw) all the way up to a Guard Captain (but only if the rest of the group agrees).

I decide that my mouse is going to be a Patrol Guard. He's a veteran guard mouse responsible for complicated or independent missions.

Next I pick my character's age, which determines his Health and Will scores.

Patrol guards can be 21-50 years (don't think about it too much - I've just assumed that sapient beasties live human length lives) old. I decide to make my mouse quite young for his rank, so 22.

This choice gives us our first numbers:
Will: 4
Health: 5
The next step is to work out my mouse's (let's name him now - looking at the list of names, I decide that I like the sound of Jasper) nature.

Nature is a score of how mouse-like your character is. It can be used instead of your skill for Escaping, Climbing, Hiding and Foraging, and can be used to boost the dice rolled for tests. Overall it's a pretty important stat.

Characters start with a Nature of 3, which is adjusted by answering a handful of questions.

Looking at the questions, I decide that Jasper saves for winter, stands his ground and doesn't fear Owls, Weasels and Wolves.

As a result of these choices, Jasper's nature is now 4 and I can't pick the Bold or Generous traits.
Nature: 4
Can't pick Bold or Generous
Next we decide where Jasper was born. This choice gives you your first skill and your first trait.

I want to somewhere close to The Darkheather, which looking at the map gives me a choice of Sprucetuck or Barkstone. Sprucetuck was known for its scientists, which fits my concept nicely.

Picking Sprucetuck gives me a choice of Scietist or Loremouse for skills and Rational or Inquisitive for traits.

I pick Loremouse and Inquisitive
Loremouse: 1

Inquisitive: 1
Next I pick an area in which Jasper is naturally talented, as a Patrol guard he gets one pick; Tenderpaws and Guard Captains get two.

I choose Fighter.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 1
Now I choose my parent's trade, which also gives me a skill. Tenderpaws would get to make two choices; everyone else gets one.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 1
Archivist: 1
The next question asks how your mouse convinces people to do what he wants. This is interesting because it makes sure that everyone has at least one social skill at a basic level. The three options are Deceiver, Orator and Persuader. Patrol leaders and Guard Captains get two picks; all others, one.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 1
Archivist: 1
Persuader: 1
Now Jasper begins his career in the guard, starting with his apprenticeship to a senior artisan in Lockhaven.

This choice gives your character another skill. I decide that Jasper gets apprenticed to one of the Archivists, bringing his rating in that skill up to 2.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 1
Archivist: 2
Persuader: 1
Next, Jasper was assigned to a mentor - a senior guardmouse who showed him the ropes, and taught him a new skill.

I decide that Jasper's mentor stressed Pathfinding during Jasper's apprenticeship.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 1
Archivist: 2
Persuader: 1
Pathfinding: 1
Next we get eight skill picks from a short list to represent Jasper's experience in the Guard so far. (Other ranks get different numbers of picks).

As a Patrol Guard, Jasper gets to pick from Fighter, Healer, Hunter, Instructor, Pathfinder, Scout, Survivalist, Weather Watcher, Labourer, Haggler and Cook.
Loremouse: 1
Fighter: 3
Archivist: 2
Persuader: 1
Pathfinding: 3
Weather Watcher: 2
Instructor: 1
Scout: 1
Now I get to pick Jasper's speciality from the same list. If making a full patrol of mice, each person would pick a different speciality. I want Jasper to be a good fighter, so pick Fighter as his speciality.

At this stage the skill picks are all done, and it's time to get the final ratings. Basically, you add one to the existing ratings.

Jasper's final skill list looks like this:
Loremouse: 2
Fighter: 5
Archivist: 3
Persuader: 2
Pathfinding: 4
Weather Watcher: 3
Instructor: 2
Scout: 2
Next we pick Jasper's wises - specialised snippets of knowledge. They add 1d to skill checks where they apply.

As a Patrol Guard, Jasper gets 3 wises.
Next it's time Jasper's resources (his ability to get equipment) and his Circles (his ability to find people). Like Nature these start with a base rating which is then modified by questions.

Jasper starts with a base resources of 3 for being a Patrol Guard. Looking at the questions, I decide that he packs carefully for journeys, which increases resources by one, but means that he can't take Bold or Fiery as traits.

Jasper's Circles start at 3. I decide that none of the questions get a Yes answer, so leave them at 3.
Resources: 4
Circles: 3
Can't take Bold or Fiery
Now Jasper gets a second trait. Tenderpaws, Patrol Leaders and Guard Captains get a third pick from their own lists.
Inquisitive: 1
Defender: 1
We've already named Jasper, so it's time to decide what he looks like - this boils down to picking his fur colour. Red is rare, but it fits his name, so Jasper's a redfur.

The next parts are fluff. Naming Jasper's parents, the artisan he apprenticed under, his mentor, outlining a friend, an enemy and finally, deciding on his cloak colour.

Jasper's parents are Ivy and Henson, the Senior artisan he apprenticed under was called Brand and his mentor is a Patrol leader called Dalia who's normally found patrolling the scent border.

Jasper's enemy is a Guard mouse called Trevor who was part of Jasper's first patrol. He retired from the guard early due to an injury, and now spends his time at Blackrock as a Cartographer, updating maps. He blames Jasper for his injury.

Jasper's friend is Garrow, a hunter that he met whilst a tenderpaw in Dalia's patrol. Jasper helped Garrow bring down a Shrike that was attacking mice near a small settlement.

Jasper was given a pale blue cloak symbolising his inquisitive nature.

Finally I write out my character's Belief - an ethical or moral statement that describes how he views the world, and his Instinct - something that he always does. These are important both as a RPing tool and because they affect how you get some character rewards. Both can be changed between sessions if you feel your character has changed enough that the original Belief and Instinct are no longer applicable.
Belief: A guardmouse must stand their ground - it is only by facing our foes that mice can prevail.

Instinct: Always study the situation before acting.
If Jasper was going to be used in a mission I'd write a session goal for him. Mice don't need or get a lot of equipment (the amount they can carry is limited by what you can write into the equipment box on the character sheet). Jasper has his cloak, a spear and some writing tools.

And we're done. Jasper the Patrol Guard is ready to report to Lockhaven for his first mission of Spring.


Tiwa said...

I dont think I could play this RPG. I'd be devastated if I lost my mousie. Even the pictures on page 124 under injured and sick made me sad

Madcat said...

Hey, thanks for reading these entries.

Fortunately you don't have to risk losing your mouse unless that's agreed to be the stakes for conflict - no 'Rocks fall, everyone dies' for mice.