I’ve already talked about my current enjoyment of the Mouse Guard RPG, or at least the game-in-concept, as I hadn’t a chance to play it yet. I thought that might change last week, thanks to Skype and a nascent game forming up on the Burning Wheel forums, but unfortunately I just couldn’t pull it off.
Then I got an email from Dave, mentioning in more-than-passing that… hey… he and Margie were at loose ends and Katherine-free for the coming couple weekends… and how are things? How’s the wife? How’s that gaming table?
Whattaya know, that gave me an idea.
So on Saturday, Dave and Margie came around and, with Kate, we set about making up characters for a Mouse Guard game.
Now, the book has a perfectly fine character creation process, but since neither Margie or Kate had read much or any of the comics that the game is based on, I wanted to get everyone into the same basic headspace, which lead to a few introduction exercises borrowed from an article I read a few weeks ago on the pedagogy of playing Mouse Guard, but with a bit of the high-energy fluff discarded, because we had a sick player involved. Here’s how that went.
1. Mouse Ball. The idea of this little game is to start seeing the world from a mouse’s perspective. I started by saying something that would threaten a mouse, and maybe a little color around it, like “Racoons will destroy a town just to get to the winter stores.” Then I’ll throw the ball. The person who catches it has to repeat what I said, and add something else that would threaten a mouse, like, “… and the towns must be built high to avoid floods.” Then that person throws the ball to someone else, who has to repeat the last threat that person said, and add a new one.
2. So how does the Mouse Guard manage it? I pick one of the dangers we named in Mouse Ball, and talk briefly about how the Mouse Guard deals with that problem. Then someone else picks another problem and talks about how it might be handled.
3. Forming the Patrol. I started this off by simply saying “We need to form a patrol, what should that patrol include?” The others took over while I messed with getting dinner ready to cook. I had envisioned this as everyone coming up with many ideas, then cherry-picking the most appealing for their actual characters, but in practice everyone just proposed a single character and tweaked the concepts a bit until everyone basically meshed.
4. See Me. We finally got started on the character Worksheet: Name, Age, Home and Fur Color. Once those things were done, I asked the “Mouse Nature” questions from the book (p. 299), to determine what each individual character’s Nature score was. Then we went around, with each player telling us about their character (Name, Age, et cetera) and how they answered the Nature questions. We got:
- Kate: Rosamund is a 26 year old from the city of Copperwood. Her fur is a sleek gray, and her Nature was a fairly un-mouselike 3, because she doesn’t suffer privations to save up for later, doesn’t fear weasels or other predators, and doesn’t run from a fight. (In fact, she rather enjoys fights, though as an urban mouse, she grew up far more used to dueling without consequences than battles for her life.)
- Margie: Lucia Singleton is a 25 year old mouse from Sprucetuck. Her fur is a buff color, and her Nature is a slightly more mouse-like 4 – she has a (quite reasonable) fear of weasels and such. She’s an almost archetypical resident of Sprucetuck: shy, bookish, with a thirst for knowledge that leads her into adventures she might otherwise avoid.
- Dave: Aelwyn is a 28 year old mouse from Ivydale. His fur is a lustrous blonde and, although he comes from a long line of Harvester mice, he is meant for different things: His Nature, like Rosamund’s, is 3. In fact at first glance he and Rosamund have quite a bit in common, but their motivations are subtlely but significantly different — Aelwyn believes wholeheartedly in the power of Heroes.
Now, somewhere around here, I almost burned down the house and/or killed us all, thanks to a Grill Malfunction, but we got that settled down and decided to finish up supper prep inside. Once we got that cooked and eaten, we returned to the characters and proceeded pretty much in the order presented in the book.
5. Skills and Life experience. This was fairly straightforward – everyone made up Patrol Guards, so they all had the same number of skill. They can be summarized like so.
- Rosamund (whose longer character concept was later summarized by Kate simply as “D’Artagnan”) grew up with her parents (Benedict and Portia) and learned the smithing trade – very common in that city. She had a natural talent as a fighter, however, and although she is quite short, she was also very independent, and persuaded her parents to let her apply to the Guard. In Lockhaven, she was apprenticed to Richard the armorer for two seasons, and was then assigned to Warwick, a senior patrol leader who chose to focus on Rosa’s abilities as a fighter, and how they applied to the real world, as opposed to duels. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, she trained as a fighter, healer, weather watcher and, given her natural gifts with a blade, as an instructor — though her specialty (and first love) was always fighting. She is wise in the ways of armor, Copperwood, and dueling.
- Lucia grew up with her parents (Gwen and Cadfil) and, always inquisitive and clever, learned about Science as a young mouse, for which she has a natural talent as well. Her Instinct to “Discover and Document” led her to the Guard – one of the best ways to see and learn new things. In Lockhaven, she was apprenticed to Mariell the Archivist for two seasons, and was then assigned to Mary the Older, a senior patrol leader who chose to focus on her natural inquisitiveness toward work as a pathfinder. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, she specialized as a pathfinder, but assembled a truly eclectic set skills as a healer, fighter, hunter, cook, and weather watcher. She is wise in the ways of medicine, paths, and widgets.
- Aelwyn grew up in Ivydale with his harvester parents (Liam and Elana) and although he was a hard worker, his brave nature and natural talent as a hunter called him to greater things. Though it left him quits with his brother, he set out for Lockhaven, where he was apprenticed to Gailyn the Brewer (disappointingly unheroic, but still very popular with his peers). Following his apprenticeship, he was assigned to the patrol of Captain Dunlevy, who chose to ‘sell’ his heroic young hunter on the value of good scouting. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, he specialized as a scout, and eagerly focused his training on precisely the sorts of things he thought any good adventurer should know: fighting, hunting, and surviving. He is wise in the ways of predators, tall grass, and bards. (He is, in fact, a skilled orator.)
… that’s the first part — tomorrow, I’ll talk about running some independent and versus tests with each player as part of character generation, and wrapping up with a quick Conflict.