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Thread: Mouse Guard?

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    Default Mouse Guard?

    Anyone ever played this game? Anyway, I have a question for you guys. I'm not a crunch person and all the details and consequences of a system are usually lost on me. I honestly won't notice/care/know about the difference if say, I'm playing vampire the masquerade with wod or playing a vampire in a masquerade-ish setting in d20 modern. Or , say, playing Shadowrun or playing in a cyberpunk setting in Mutant and Mastermind.

    I've read the book, and it's really awesomecute. And I really want to play it. But, my friend makes me wonder something.

    Why should I play mouse guard rather than, say playing MnM in redwall setting or refluffed DnD?

    Any help would be very appreciated.
    Last edited by Fri; 2010-10-10 at 01:11 AM.
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    Burning Wheel works much better than D&D for anything that has any grit to it, at all, and Mouse Guard is based off Burning Wheel. While a great many of its design choices contradict my preferences, I would still recommend it over D&D, as it works fairly well at conveying the setting and style of the stories it is built to emulate, where D&D is built for something completely different.

    To use one example, Mouse Guard has long term consequences for failure built into the rules, wounds might take a long time to heal, esteem takes a long time to recover, long term psychological damage can emerge from such a hostile environment, and all of this can be fought off by bravery. That changes the mood of the story immensely.

    Furthermore, Mouse Guard, and Burning Wheel, are systems built for inter character dramas with consistent characters having only gradual evolution. D&D is fundamentally built to be about power, direct resistance between characters where one is right and one is wrong, a story of simple black and white morality where power reigns supreme. The difference is one of genre, D&D is epic, traditional fantasy, Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel modern dramas.
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    No one else played mouse guard? But thanks knaight, you answered my question perfectly. I'd never noticed those by myself. Now I just need to find some people to play mouse guard with....
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    I haven't played it, but read through it, and my impression was: It is the game for parent gamers who want to set up a game for their kids, something like "my first RPG". The drawings are nice, the whole concept of anthropomorphic mice is certainly appealing to kids, the rules are quite simple, and it has a certain children's book charm to it. This is by no means meant to be derogative to the game - the game has a certain simple elegance which actually is very hard to achieve.

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    As Knaight put it, the rules express Mouse Guard's theme of inter-character struggle. Character creation gives you a bunch of tools for roleplaying including parents, close friends, and enemies as well as your position in the Mouse Guard ranks.

    Understand that Mouse Guard isn't Redwall. It's about loosely banded mouse territories cordoned off from the rest of the world as a conservative, self imposing power (the Guard) watches over the territory. Some mice see the Guard as tyrants and sure enough they won't hesitate to kill mice who harbor dissent. It's a very conservative minded world where most mice agree that the Guard has to exist because mutual protection is better than individual liberty. That's not to say the Guard are oppressors, but they do have authority in their respective fields such as settling disputes and handling mail. Think of them as Jedi-like arbiters with all the good and bad that comes with being Lawful Neutral.

    As for the game itself, some people don't like the way how conflicts are handled. Basically each adventure is the referee presenting a challenge to the players followed by the players writing the adventure (through the use of their skills). It's a collaborative effort so if you have players that prefer to sit on their butts and wait for the GM to hand them an adventure the entire gaming table is going to be sorely disappointed
    Last edited by jmbrown; 2010-10-11 at 04:32 AM.

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    I have played a few sessions of Mouse Guard.
    It is a tenser game in my mind, than D&D, WoD-games or Dark Heresy (yes really).
    Often it is a scary game, I think this has to be because of the grit and the mechanics knaight described.
    The rules are simple but have significant depth and they reinforce the mood that permeates the book.
    Which more often than not, is pretty grim.
    You could refluff but it would not be the same without the framework. I think the setting would feel hollow without the mechanics that reinforce it.


    Edit: The way rules are explained and the general "intro to pen and papper rpgs"-style the book rolls out is almost a bit disingenuous.
    I am all for treating kids like they have brains. But the image of wholesome family fun does not mesh with seeing your best friend being eaten by crabs.
    Last edited by mint; 2010-10-11 at 04:43 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fri View Post
    Why should I play mouse guard rather than, say playing MnM in redwall setting or refluffed DnD?
    Well, I can't say much for MnM, but as it's another d20 system, I'll assume it's similar in D&D.

    So, to answer your question, you should play Mouse Guard instead because it's both a better game and a better roleplaying game. I'll throw out a few examples.

    Say you have a Farmer in D&D. He spends all day every day for 10 years farming. His entire (quite interesting) story is told within this time period, where he makes friends, makes enemies, experiences love and hate, and his beliefs and philosophies of life are challenged on a daily basis so that he must develop as a person.

    He will never get another rank in Profession (Farmer). Not unless he murders a few hobos for XP, so that he can level up, and then put skill points in Profession (Farmer), even though he doesn't have to, even though he's spent the last 10 years farming.

    In Mouse Guard, if you farm, you get better at farming. Automatically. The more you farm, the better a farmer you are. Same goes with every skill. If you fight, you get better at fighting. If you sneak, you get better at sneaking.

    Another example. In D&D, say you have a door. There's an adventure on the other side that you want to get to.

    So, you try a Strength check to break down the door. The roll fails. You try to cut it down, but its hardness is too high. You try to pick the lock. The roll fails. You try every roll you can think of, but you just happen to roll badly on each one. Well, the plot has stalled every single time you failed a roll and now the plot is completely stalled until you find another pointless way to try to get around the door.

    In Mouse Guard, you roll whatever check to try to get around the door. Lets say Fighter - you just try to bash it down. You fail. Well, instead of the plot stalling, the door *does* get bashed down, because it has to for the plot to continue. However, you failed a check, so that means something in the plot has to change that is counter to the goals of your character as a result of your failure. Maybe you made such a ruckus breaking down the door that the goblins on the other side started executing hostages, which conflicts with your Instinct of "Always protect innocent life, no matter the consequences".

    Sure, in D&D, the DM could fiat away the door somehow. He could slip in a scroll to deal with it, or have an NPC come along and solve the problem, but over on the Mouse Guard table, the whole deal was resolved in 10 seconds with no random fiat *and* good roleplaying material was generated as a result.

    Last example for tonight. In D&D, there's a party. The fighter wants to go kill the Duke of Innsmouth. The barbarian doesn't give a crap about the duke and wants to go participate in a Colosseum tournament so he can show off and get lots of hot chicks to sleep with him. The two characters argue, but both of them are just as stubborn. Eventually, the two players are arguing. Neither can really convince the other, so the plot stalls until one person gets tired and gives in, usually with hurt feelings.

    In Mouse Guard, same conflict. However, the GM just calls for an Argument conflict. The fighter and barbarian fight with their words, and one of them eventually wins out. Say the Fighter has Persuader 3, and the Barbarian has Persuader 2.

    In circumstance one, we'll say the Fighter wins, so the Barbarian agrees to go help kill the Duke of Innsmouth. However, the Barbarian was no slouch and got a few good hits in. So, he gets a compromise. The Fighter agrees to, after they have dealt with the Duke, use his newfound fame of usurping such a tyrant to get the Barbarian some hot lady friends.

    Not to mention, because the Barbarian lost, he gets a Failed Check on his Persuader skill, which is something you need for advancement (you actually have to fail a few times to level up a skill). So, odds are, at a level of 2, his Persuader probably just got knocked up to 3. Even though he lost, he's ready for next time.

    In circumstance two, the Barbarian wins. The Fighter has to go help the Barbarian in this tournament for fame and glory. However, he got a few hits in and didn't lose by too embarrassing a margin. So, the Barbarian agrees to at least be on the look out for anything useful to the Fighter's quest. The DM throws in a nice hook - one of the chicks the Barbarian meets as a result of winning the tournament happens to work in the Duke's household, and is unsatisfied with her job. This now segways into the next adventure.

    Either way, the game mechanics resolve intra-party conflict while supplying easy ways for both people to get what they want via compromises.

    Sure, you can do this in D&D, but it's not part of the game. Mouse Guard has this sort of resolution built in, and doesn't rely on DM fiat for everything to function in a fun way.

    I could go on and on about social skills, and roleplaying mechanics, and fate/persona, etc. but it's 5am and this post is getting kind of long.

    EDIT: I forgot the most important thing. One of the tenets of Mouse Guard/Burning Wheel is "Losing should be fun". It's probably the thing that grates hardest against someone who is only used to D&D.

    Basically, in D&D, you want to be good at everything you attempt. Your Fighter doesn't try to disable a trap because you know he'll just fail and set off the trap and hurt the party. You want to optimize to at least a small degree so you don't die. I hear the phrase "Well, I don't want to be useless to the party" a lot. If your character sucks, you bring down the party, and everyone dies, and the plot stalls.

    In Mouse Guard, this is not the case. If you make a character designed to fail at absolutely everything they do, the game is designed to still make the game fun for you. If you have no fighting ability, and you get into a fight and lose, you don't die; the plot doesn't stall - instead, the plot goes in a new way that is counter to what your character wants (but is still fun). Not only that, but you gain a Failed Check to your Fighter ability anyway, putting you one step closer to not sucking.

    Once players realize this, I've noticed, they start worrying less about the stats. D&D forces you to worry about stats so you don't stall the plot with failure. When a player's mind opens to Mouse Guard/Burning Wheel style play, they just see failure as another way the plot may turn. They attempt badass things they wouldn't normally, even if the chance of failure is high - even if only because you have to fail occasionally to advance. Why not make that failure be while you're doing something spectacular?
    Last edited by Xefas; 2010-10-11 at 05:11 AM.

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    Mouse miniatures.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leon View Post
    Mouse miniatures.
    I like the Gandalf mouse.

    However, if you want to save 24 bucks, know that Mouse Guard has no for maps or miniatures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmbrown View Post
    I like the Gandalf mouse.

    However, if you want to save 24 bucks, know that Mouse Guard has no for maps or miniatures.
    Im aware that miniatures are not needed (in most RPGs you dont need them anyway but they are good for Character Representation)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xefas View Post
    If you have no fighting ability, and you get into a fight and lose, you don't die; the plot doesn't stall - instead, the plot goes in a new way that is counter to what your character wants (but is still fun).
    Unless, of course, you get eaten by a crab, snake, owl, fox, cat, etc., or if a weasel kills you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xefas View Post
    EDIT: I forgot the most important thing. One of the tenets of Mouse Guard/Burning Wheel is "Losing should be fun".
    Ah. Does it help that this is also the tenet of Dwarf Fortress?

    At any rate, this sounds like a game I should check out some time soon.
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    Mouse Guard and it's parent system Burning Wheel have a very different fundamental assumption about games than DnD. I have heard Luke Crane, the man who wrote both games, describe the essential nature of Burning Wheel as "Make the characters fight for what they believe." The corollary to that is "Beat up on the characters so they have to make hard choices in order to fight for what they believe." It took me a long time to get past my "traditional RPG" programing and really get what MG and BW are about, and the process is still ongoing.

    I recommend people check out the games, because even if you don't like the actual systems, the insight into different base assumptions about gaming is worth the price of admission. I think Mouse Guard is a good intro into that style and method of play.

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    You can die. You are a mouse. There are many predators and fierce enemies there. The hazards are far greater than you. You have to use your skills and wits to survive. You cannot brute force your way through all challenges.

    I have played Mouse Guard over mIRC. We had two short game sessions before we had to end the game and the DM didn't have too hard consequences to encounters, even though the game encourages that greatly.

    If you have a team battle and you lose half of your defense, one of the mice may die. That's how harsh it is.

    The game is pretty rules light, in that after the players make their characters, they don't need to know too much rules to play the game. They need to know a chart that comes with the character sheets and a bit of how turns work and what they can do in the players' phase.

    I liked this system and it's very gritty if you use all the rules. Characters improve over time and not in a linear fashion because they have to use the skills they want to improve, and it's very fitting to a setting where you play a mouse that can easily die.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghost_warlock View Post
    Unless, of course, you get eaten by a crab, snake, owl, fox, cat, etc., or if a weasel kills you.
    The game actually has several rules about death and killing. For one, no one can ever die as a result of a single test, it has to be a full-blown conflict. Two, if one of the participants' goals is to kill the other, they have to explicitly state it as so. This allows the other party to prepare for that. If someone knows their life is on the line, they'll probably not only play more defensively, but also spend all of those Trait activations and fate/persona points they have stocked up. And three, even if your goal is to kill the other participant, you have to win while you still have >50% of your Disposition remaining, otherwise they get a moderate compromise from you, which is sufficient to include "You win, but I don't die, you ass."

    And, keep in mind, fighting is not nearly as ubiquitous as in D&D. In D&D, 99% of all mechanics deal with combat. Non-combat things are resolved with a single d20 roll with a static modifier. Combat is where you use all those feats, spells, magic items, and class features. That's where the actual gaming is.

    In Mouse Guard, all conflicts use the same resolution method. If you fight a snake, you can use the full blown conflict rules, if you're crossing a treacherous river, you can use the exact same conflict rules, and if you're trying to epically farm some corn to keep your town from starving, you can use the same conflict rules. The game is not focused on combat in any way, and it's entirely possible to go through many adventures without ever fighting, yet you're using the full system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    Ah. Does it help that this is also the tenet of Dwarf Fortress?
    And, coincidentally, they're both awesome games. I wonder if there's a connection.

    At any rate, this sounds like a game I should check out some time soon.
    From what I've read of your commentary on D&D, I'd say that'd be a good idea. Be warned, however, that Mouse Guard doesn't have a huge pile of rules to it. If you enjoy wading into something a bit more mechanically dense, then get Burning Wheel Revised instead. Not only are its core mechanics more complex, but it has splatbooks and everything (which isn't something you typically see from an indie RPG).

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    Thank you. You guys have convinced me to really try this game now. Hm, I wonder whether this game works in pbp...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leon View Post
    Mouse miniatures.
    Friggin' awesome. Do want. (Plan to buy, since my birthday is Saturday, and my wife will probably give me about $100 to spend on minis.)

    I don't care if I ever play this game, which does sound fun, though. These would be awesome in my collection.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fri View Post
    Thank you. You guys have convinced me to really try this game now. Hm, I wonder whether this game works in pbp...
    There is no tactical combat or high level number crunching. You can play online very easily while using a simple post to contain everything on your character sheet.

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    The crew that runs the Brilliant Gameologists site have come across as very staunch proponents of Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard; one of them even started to recruit to run a Burning Wheel game on their forum. I seem to recall at least a couple of discussions about these games and their system on the Brilliant Gameologists podcasts. It might be worth your while to dig those up. They podcasts aren't always SFW, just so you know.
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    I played in a session of Mouse Guard this weekend and there was one brilliant moment when I as the patrol leader had to choose whether to let the brainy mouse of the patrol to parlay with the villain. I knew I'd say "No, forget it!" I'd decided.

    But the I thought I'd gain myself a fate point by playing my instinct. "Always ask questions before making a difficult decision".

    So I asked the brainy mouse some questions:
    Are you sure you know what you're doing?
    Yes.
    Are you confident?
    Yes.
    Do you understand what's at stake?
    Yes.

    And so I said, "Sure, go ahead." And then there was the moment of magic when I realised that by being encourage to roleplay in that way it had improved the way the game played. The brainy mouse had a great scene in the spotlight and all kinds of fun spiralled out from there for all of us.

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    By the way, if you like the Mouse Guard system, but fancy playing something other than mice, a fan has hacked together Realm Guard on the Burning Wheel forums, available as a pdf. It's a Middle Earth setting instead, and replaces the Mouse Guard with the Dunedain as the organization the players work for.

    Also, here are some interviews with Luke Crane about Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard, featured on the Geeknights podcast (the second one also has Jared Sorenson, another tiny god of indie RPGs, and the two of them talk about "What makes a good RPG?" which is fascinating).
    Last edited by Xefas; 2010-10-12 at 01:52 PM.

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    I haven't played but have owned the book for a while now and have been dying to try it out. I think the thing that is most exciting for me is that it is benificial to use your traits against yourself - such as you have the oldfur trait, so you would give yourself a penalty to recover from sickness as you are an older mouse. Doing this would earn you a personal check for the players turn, which you can use to try and heal yourself (boring!) or advance your own personal plot or basically try and do whatever you want! Really boosts the roleplaying potential of the game...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fri View Post
    Thank you. You guys have convinced me to really try this game now. Hm, I wonder whether this game works in pbp...
    I'd totally be down for playing this in pbp form...
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmbrown View Post
    As Knaight put it, the rules express Mouse Guard's theme of inter-character struggle. Character creation gives you a bunch of tools for roleplaying including parents, close friends, and enemies as well as your position in the Mouse Guard ranks.

    Understand that Mouse Guard isn't Redwall. It's about loosely banded mouse territories cordoned off from the rest of the world as a conservative, self imposing power (the Guard) watches over the territory. Some mice see the Guard as tyrants and sure enough they won't hesitate to kill mice who harbor dissent. It's a very conservative minded world where most mice agree that the Guard has to exist because mutual protection is better than individual liberty. That's not to say the Guard are oppressors, but they do have authority in their respective fields such as settling disputes and handling mail. Think of them as Jedi-like arbiters with all the good and bad that comes with being Lawful Neutral.

    As for the game itself, some people don't like the way how conflicts are handled. Basically each adventure is the referee presenting a challenge to the players followed by the players writing the adventure (through the use of their skills). It's a collaborative effort so if you have players that prefer to sit on their butts and wait for the GM to hand them an adventure the entire gaming table is going to be sorely disappointed
    I wouldn't typify them as conservative and self-imposed. Well, conservative, perhaps, but their social values are never really discussed, so we'll never know. They're certainly not self-imposed; they leave the towns and villages autonomous and aid them, only taking authority over wild country and responsibility for guarding the territories. They also host conferences and keep a grain store for famines.


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    It seems like it would work very well in pbp because of the storytelling emphasis and the simple combat. You don't need to keep track of combat positions the way you do in other games. It's mostly role-playing, and that allows people like me, who are much more verbose storytellers in writing than in the spoken word, to contribute more. You can really write good characters and settings. This would be something I would enjoy playing by post.

    I'm thinking of running this game for a group of my friends, and homebrewing some fluff to add more interaction between mouse society and other sentient creatures, like shrews and moles (though I'm trying to design the moles in such a way that avoids the Redwall stereotype). I've added moderately friendly chipmunk burrows in open country, a few blind but highly intelligent shrews at the edge of Mouse society, offering various artisan services, and beavers demanding tolls on certain rivers. All while still retaining the mouse-centric focus of the setting, of course.


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