Go Play – Mouse Guard RPG playtest

So, I will be running some Mouse Guard quick shot (90 minute) sessions at the Go Play Brisbane 2018 gaming convention in September this year.

To test out the system I ran a bunch of young (pre-teen) children through it: my daughter and the kids of a few friends. I figured if it can survive them, then it will survive any players.

I played the introductory scenario “Find the Grain Peddler”.

Here are their character sheets; I let the players pick their own cloak colour:

mouse-guard-playtest-sheets


Timing

The game turned out okay. I was able to fit it into the 90 minute window, although I didn’t use a full on conflict, only some simple / complex challenges.

In 90 minutes I am only going to be able to fit in a very brief introduction to the system. I’d like to squeeze in one simple challenge roll, then one conflict is possible, so will need to be very tight on the timing.

Game structure

I liked the structure of play for Mouse Guard, especially with the younger players. One player was keen on chasing down an enemy, but the structure of play says they need to pick a goal, and then complete the game master obstacles before they get a turn. But I could promise they would get a chance.

Once the GM turn was over, in the player’s turn, having explicit checks also helped (I ended up grabbing some tokens to represent the total as they get what they have earned from traits plus one extra, in total).

It meant the keen player could jump in and make their check to find their enemy (Tuk the Bandit), but after that it had to be someone else’s turn (and they hadn’t earned any more checks). The vary game-ish structure worked well.

No dead ends

I also really appreciated the “no dead ends” structure of Mouse Guard. If you fail a test, it doesn’t mean you fail your objective — it means either there is a twist (and if you beat the twist you achieve your original objective), or you succeed at your objective but at a cost, and gain a condition.

This means you can’t really ever fail; well, I suppose it could escalate to a killing conflict, which would be an end; but the more likely scenario is that you run out of checks, which means resolution will happen in a future session.

This is a very narrative approach, where the GM (in the GM’s turn) or the player (in the Player’s turn) decide on a bit of narrative they want to happen, like ‘find the grain peddler’, and then the tests decide what path is taken and compromises are made along the way.

Scenario selection

One of the players was familiar with the Mouse Guard comics, so they knew what was coming up in the scenario and recreated some of the scenes, such as climbing a tree to know where to scout.

They also chose the pre-generated character closest to the main character in the comics (youngest mouse, with scouting specialisation).

As this sample scenario is so close to the comics, or one that players interested in MG may have already done, I am thinking of swapping it out for one from the ‘New Missions’ book that came with the 2nd edition box set, maybe Dam Beavers (although that is very similar to Trouble in Grasslake).

But for a demonstration game, I’d like the characters to fit well with the scenario, so the abilities they have match the options available, and at least some of their locations, friends, and enemies fit with the scenario, so I will probably tweak the characters a little.

 

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