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Author Topic: [Mouse Guard] Sadie's Bridge  (Read 1937 times)
Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« on: March 26, 2011, 09:28:30 PM »

We just finished our second session of Mouse Guard, which has been a ton of fun.  We initially planned on doing a one-shot, but we're going to extend for a 3-5 session run.

The group is myself, Jono, & Sushu (we've been playing for about a year now, through 2 Primetime Adventures campaigns) and my friend Ken, who has never roleplayed before.   Jono wanted to do some GMing, and Mouse Guard got him excited.   None of us have played MG before, but everyone got a chance to read the comics before the game.

Getting Started

Provided you have one or two people who know the rules, MG is really quick and easy to get started.  We were up and running in 10 minutes with the pregen characters.  (I'm coming more to the idea that roleplaying, as a hobby, might do better if pregens were the norm for play...).

We picked Kenzie, Sadie, and Lieam.   The default assumption seems to be Kenzie-Saxon-Lieam, so we had to adjust a couple of Instincts on the character sheets that tied into Saxon, specifically.  This was effortless and worked fine.

Having a clear mission structure, and the simplicity of the Belief, Instinct, and Goals for the game meant we were never at a loss as to what we were trying to do next (HOW to do it, but not in goals or direction).

Events

Our patrol was tasked with getting to Shaleburrow, helping build a bridge and deliver mail.  We were warned that relations there were strained, from a previous failed Guard mission.   We managed to get to the stream where a team of mice were trying to build a bridge and discovered some hostility and managed to help them out and earn their respect - including an inspired water rescue by Lieam for one of the workers being washed away.

Before the bridge could be finished, we ended up rescuing an injured mouse and his son, and then the rains just wouldn't stop, threatening to cause the stream to flood.   It was a desperate scramble into a tree, and fending off a "playful" fox cub.

By the second session, the cub's mother had come around to find out who injured her child.  It was a mad dash to try to cross the stream in makeshift boats before she found us, and it turned into a brutal losing fight before one of the Guard, Sadie, sacrificed herself to save the rest.  The fox, happy with her meal, trotted off with Sadie's little leg still dangling from her mouth.

It was a grim trip back to Shaleburrow, and a lot of shady politicking between the mice there.  Kenzie cut a lot of backroom deals to try to get things to move along, while the Council of Shaleburrow is divided into the rationing of food for the year... with Kenzie backing a rationing plan that later, turns out, might not be necessary for survival, but rather keeping a surplus for trade...

The big concern being brought up for next time is the fact that the scent border wasn't holding and that it needed to be restored ASAP.

Strengths and Speedbumps

A small speedbump in the game is that there's a lot of skills which overlap and aren't clear by the title which one applies-  "Is this a Survivalist, Pathfinder, or Scout roll?" came up a couple of times.  I expect with more familiarity, it'll be easier to figure these out, and, basically minor things.

One of the strengths of the skills is that they become somewhat of a toolbox the player uses to think about how the character can solve problems.  You're stuck, you look down the list, and you get ideas of how to use it to your advantage.

I made sure to help nudge folks to declare exactly what they were doing in the fiction, to help or aid or use their skill.   This wasn't any effort at all, but it was an important step that really made a lot of fun for play.

The Conflict system feels "just right".  We've gotten into a fight once a session, and it's been just right in terms of tension, entertainment and challenge.  Splitting up the actions across the team sets up a neat turn-taking system that works well.   It's also interesting to note despite the simple combat options (Attack, Defend, Maneuver, Feint), we managed to build up a lot of fiction between Helping each other and the results of each roll.

Rewards and Hard Choices

There's an elegant trick to the Belief, Instinct and Goal system- you can only get rewarded once for each of these, a given session, so you find that you're pushed to show off each of these once a session, but not go overboard in hammering them over and over.   Because of that, you also can have two players with opposing BIGs, and instead of it taking up the whole game, it becomes a back and forth- one character shows off their Belief, Instinct or Goal, and then the other one does as well.

It pushes you to play with all sides of your character AND also pass the spotlight when you're done.

We didn't fully click with the "Checks" system until this second session.  It's pretty interesting because you end up picking which conflicts you can live with failing and which ones you absolutely do not want to risk.  We built up a surplus pretty easily this time, and the option to share Checks between the team is pretty brilliant and a smart bit of spotlight sharing.

Skills and stats seem to grow really slowly in this game.  I expect we might see a skill or two jump a single point by the end of 4-5 sessions.  Whether this is about the pacing of our group, or us spreading out the stat rolls, I'm not sure.

The big thing which hit us hard this session was paying closer attention to the Nature stat.  When you spend a Persona point, you have two choices- you can get a single die added to your roll, OR you can get as many dice as your Nature (3-5).   When you use your Nature, if it's the kind of stuff that's in a mouse's nature (hiding, foraging, etc.) then you just get the dice, no problem.  If it's the kind of stuff that's against a mouse's nature (like, fighting a fox) then it gets temporarily reduced.

Problem is, "Temporary" is a very long time.   Basically, one player can get back one point of Nature a session.

We had 2 players who had reduced our Natures down to 3 each, which made life very, very hard when it came time to defending and avoiding a hungry fox.

Needless to say, we're going to be pretty damn careful about when and where we spend Persona points for future rolls.

Overall, we're having a good time.

Chris
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Narmical
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Posts: 40

Mitch "Narmical" Morris


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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2011, 04:58:46 AM »

(I'm coming more to the idea that roleplaying, as a hobby, might do better if pregens were the norm for play...).

Thats an interesting point. A lot of time and effort can go into character creation, usually a whole session's worth. I think combining pregens with a system to modify, rather than advance your character over time would be awesome. It will fix this huge effort to get started issues.

Also Id like to see more games that were designed for one shots. Its hard to keep a group together.
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2011, 07:24:39 AM »

Hi,

Aside from speed to play, there's a bigger issue that's pushing me towards pregens as a norm.

That is, for most games, you're making mechanical decisions about your character - stats, points, skills, powers, etc. - but if you haven't played the game yet, you're basically guessing blind.  You're being forced to make system-mastery decisions when you have no system mastery.

Then add in the fact that you're probably going to play the character for a significant amount of time- which means poor choices stick with you.  And since those choices can shape so much of your game, as a player, you're being asked to be a co-designer of your experience before you even start.

Chris
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Narmical
Member

Posts: 40

Mitch "Narmical" Morris


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2011, 07:53:35 AM »

That is, for most games, you're making mechanical decisions about your character - stats, points, skills, powers, etc. - but if you haven't played the game yet, you're basically guessing blind.  You're being forced to make system-mastery decisions when you have no system mastery.

Chris,
I also know that this issue with char creation also comes up in computer games that have char gen. Its even worse there. At least in a table top game, we can decide as a group to bend the rules of advancement/char gen to allow for redos.

I totally agree with your reasoning.

My suggestion is every char starts out as a base char, maybe there are 2 or 3 templates. And the advancement rules allow moving your traits around a lot at the start, so that you can get a handle on the game, move things around and only get lock into stuff around session 5 or so.

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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 726


« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2011, 06:26:14 PM »

We're playing some Mouse Guard as well, and very similar experiences with the overall play of the game.  Figuring out the "earning checks" economy is a little tricky, since it's the one point where your interests as a player diverse from your interests as an imaginary mouse.  This makes it feel somewhat unnatural, but it's vital to the flow of the game. 

My problem with Mouse Guard isn't remembering how Nature works: rather, it's remembering all the crazy things you can do to boost your odds of success.  Like, I could...
* Use a Fate point to explode any 6's I roll
* Spend X Persona points to get X more dice
* Spend 1 Persona point to add my Nature # of dice (may bite me in the ass)
* Don't spend anything and just use my Nature directly (may bite me in the ass)
* Whore for helping dice
* Use some equipment
* Traits
* More stuff that I may be forgetting
* But actually I might want to fail this test for various reasons, which opens up all kinds of ways to hurt my chances too

That's a lot of stuff floating around, and most missions seem to be pretty grueling so you don't want to overlook anything.

We created characters during the first session and it took ninety fucking minutes.  Granted, some of that was getting-to-know-you chit-chat and ordering food, but I was about to go out of my mind toward the end.  (The GM did a very good job overall, though.)

I found, when running Mouse Guard on other occasions, that the book's Pre-Gens generally left me cold, so I wanted to make my own.  But the really hard thing is crafting a nice set of interlocking Beliefs and Instincts for a patrol so that there's both camaraderie and tension.  (I ended up adapting Marvel Comics's Silver Age Avengers characters, some a better fit than others.) 
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2011, 05:17:06 PM »

Hi James,

Figuring out the "earning checks" economy is a little tricky, since it's the one point where your interests as a player diverse from your interests as an imaginary mouse.  This makes it feel somewhat unnatural, but it's vital to the flow of the game. 

For me, at least, in the first session, it was telling myself I'd have a better opportunity later to take the penalty, and, not realizing how tight scenes and conflicts are in MG.  In the second session, it wasn't a problem at all.

We've also figured out something which might be somewhat skeevy in terms of what it does to the game economy: the most efficient way to earn checks is to do a conflict against another player character - like an argument about what to do next, and then put your Traits against yourself and give the other player a 2D bonus.  If the other player does the same, you both just got 2 checks each for relatively little risk.

A useful general strategy is accepting the fact that no matter what you do, your guard mouse is going to go through hell, and the only question is whether you're aiming yourself for problems you are equipped to handle or problems you aren't.   For example- I've just set my character up to have to pull ton of Persuader conflicts in the next couple of sessions through risky political maneuvers - which happens to be my highest skill.

Chris
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