all offer themselves as signals
of changes in the weather.
However, not all storms of life can be predicted.”
—Excerpt from “Weather Watcher’s Field Guide” distributed to all guardmice
The seasons are very important to mouse life. This section describes what the individual seasons are like and offers a variety of details like the weather, animals one might encounter, the state of the wilderness, Guard duties by season, important happenings in mouse life and an assortment of common problems that arise.
This chapter makes reference to a lot of animals, mice and weasels. Everything referred to here is detailed in the Denizens of the Mouse Territories chapter. This chapter focuses on a bigger picture — the climate and how it affects mouse life.
This wiki is mostly useful to the GM for setting up obstacles for the players, but everyone should read it if possible. It will make you a better guardmouse.
Each of the seasons has its own character. Spring is volatile, summer is docile, fall is unpredictable, and winter is steady, but deadly cold. In the following section, each season is described in terms of common and unseasonable weather patterns — clear skies, rain, snow, etc.
The GM sets the weather at the beginning of the session. Thereafter, the weather changes when one of two things happens: Either a player uses his Weather Watcher skill or the GM uses a weather-based twist due to a failed test from a player.
The Power of a Season
In order to represent how volatile a season is, each season is given a rating. It’s listed in parentheses next to the season’s weather heading and is also the large number at the center of each season in the chart on the next page. When testing Weather Watcher, make a versus test between this rating and the mouse’s skill. See the Weather Watcher skill for more on how that works.
There are two methods for determining when and how the seasons change. The first is very straightforward. You decide before you start playing how many missions you want to play per season. The other method uses the Seasons Scale (below).
Missions and Seasons
The simplest method for changing seasons is to play one mission per season. Play a mission in the spring, then play one in the summer, then finish out your patrol season with a mission in the fall. Play a winter session last and you’ll have played a whole year of life in the Guard in just four sessions. Winter is the season of rest. You usually don’t do a mission in winter, you recuperate.
If that’s too short, you can alter the number of missions per season. Say, two in the spring, two in the summer and one in the fall. I recommend having three or fewer missions per season.
Using the Seasons Scale method, you play out the seasons in a variable amount of time. The length of each season is represented by a number of dots: Spring three, Summer four, Fall two, Winter five.
The dots in the chart below indicate how many weather-based twists the GM can use before the season turns. If, in the event of a failure, the GM decides to bring weather into the picture — it begins to rain or snow, it gets warmer, colder or whatever — that counts as a weather-based twist. (The number is separate and different from the rating you use to roll against the Weather Watcher skill.)
For example, fall is worth 2 on this scale. In the course of play, the GM can invoke two weather-based twist before fall turns to winter.
Spring is worth 3 on this scale. After three weather-based twists, summer comes. These twists usually come about one per session, but it could happen all in one session!
Weather twists are accrued across multiple sessions of play. You can earn one this week, and another one next week. When you earn your quota for the season, the next session you play uses the weather for the next season.
If you’re in the middle of a moment-to-moment mission and the season ends, stay with your current season until the mission’s over. The next mission will start in the next season.
This rule is meant to give the feel of the seasons inevitably turning. The GM should use the number of twists on the seasons scale to judge how severe the season’s weather currently is. The closer fall gets to winter, for example, the colder and more snowy it becomes.
Spring is a busy time for the mice, and dangerous. The whole of the Territories — both animals and mice — emerge from their winter retreats and search for food and warmth.
Spring Weather (6)
Spring in the Mouse Territories is short and cool. It snows in the early spring and then rains as spring turns to summer. Wedged between the snow and rain are days of sunshine.
Clear and Warm
While the spring weather is often harsh and unpredictable, the season gently fades into a calm warmth that grows into summer’s heat. These clear, balmy days of spring are some of the most beautiful weather in the Territories.
After a month of calm, dry, cold weather at the end of winter, spring is typically ushered in with a spate of snow storms.
Snowfall can factor into any outdoor skill or ability tests.
Failed tests taken in the snow should grant the Tired, or if appropriate, Sick condition if the GM opts not to use a twist.
The GM may demand the players pass an Ob 3 Health test for spending extended time in the snow. Failure imposes the Sick condition.
As the weather warms, spring snow turns to spring rain. The rain is usually cold and heavy, but it doesn’t last for more than a day or two. Spring rain is a factor in any test involving outdoor activity.
If the patrol travels, fights or works in the rain, the GM may demand Ob 3 Health tests. Failure imposes the Tired condition.
Late in the spring, as the cool air begins to collide with warm winds moving up from the south, the Territories are rocked by volatile thunderstorms.
While the forests and fields of the Territories are still too wet with snow for lightning strikes to be a fire hazard, errant strikes can sunder trees, damaging mouse settlements.
Spring storms also carry the risk of flash flooding. The sudden influx of rain over still-frozen ground that can’t absorb the water is very dangerous to mousekind. Flash floods can damage or destroy entire towns; they wash out bridges and destroy trails. In the wake of such
flooding, there’s always work for the Guard.
Storm weather factors into any skill test made while outdoors. Injury can be imposed as the condition for failure for any skill.
Unseasonably cold temperatures keep rivers frozen and snow on the ground. Harvest and forage are all but impossible to find. Use the weather as a factor for these tests. During an unseasonably cold period, the weather conditions for winter apply instead of those for spring.
On occasion, the spring will warm early and suddenly. While it’s a welcome respite to the frigid temperatures of winter, spring rain and quickly melting snow combine to cause viscous mud, dangerously swollen rivers and widespread floods.
During such flood conditions, the mice require alternate modes of transport, such as rafts or boats, in order to traverse what they could typically walk. Crossing floodwaters is dangerous. Conditions of failure always include the possibility of drowning, Sickness, or Injury.
Springtime is a riot of activity. Animals who have been hibernating emerge from their dens with insatiable appetites. Predators who have gone hungry all winter are on the prowl. Many animals are in search of mates — and are therefore quite dangerous!
Animals who mated in the fall or winter are now tending to their young. Wolves, foxes and coyote have young to feed. This makes them territorial and defensive, as the presence of their weak and vulnerable young attracts predators as well.
Later in the spring, birds return in flocks, migrating back to their northern homes. They come in force and swarm available food sources. A flock of birds will devour all of the seeds and harvest in an area, leaving little behind for mice and other grazers.
The spring wilderness is treacherous, especially in the early part of the season. Mice must navigate the remnants of winter—ice and snow — while contending with explosive plant growth, sucking mud and swollen, frigid streams.
Plant growth destroys trails. Beating or clearing new trails requires Pathfinding.
Clearing shoots and roots from the foundations of outposts, towns and cities requires Laborer.
Traversing swollen streams requires Boatcrafter or very difficult Pathfinding tests.
Navigating half-frozen swamps can be done with Pathfinding or Nature, but the conditions of failure (if chosen by the GM) always include the risk of Injury or Sickness.
Spring Duties and Tasks
For the mice, spring is a time for maintenance of both the exterior and interior of their homes. The settlements must also resupply themselves with wood and early growth like buds and shoots. There are many more specific duties:
Over the winter, the scientists of Sprucetuck brew the next year’s batch of scent for the border. In the spring, Gwendolyn dispatches patrols to retrieve the barrels of scent and pour it at the proper locations along the border.
This is a vital mission. It must be done at the proper time during the season or large predators will invade the Territories soon after. Pouring the border requires a Pathfinder test to identify the proper locations and a Scientist test, helped with Loremouse and Hunter, to properly distribute the stinky stuff.
As the bees start a new colony, the hive needs attending by the Apiarist.
The soil of the Territories is inhospitable to crop plants. However, some settlements are home to determined mice who plant and tend crops despite the difficulty. Planting a field of seeds for later harvesting is an Ob 6 Harvester test. Scientist and Laborer may help.
Winter weather takes its toll on the mouse settlements. During the spring, the tradesmice and laborers emerge to repair the damage. Use Carpenter, Stonemason and Scientist to repair structural damage. More importantly, these work crews must be watched and protected from the hungry predators and scavengers ranging the Territories.
Those mice who aren’t repairing and rebuilding are out on a feverish hunt to scavenge all of the seeds, shoots and soft bark they can find. Once again, it is the Guard’s job to protect these mice.
If one settlement fared better than another during the winter, stocks will be traded for services and money. The Guard are often called upon to mind these caravans as they make their way through the snowy, muddy trails.
Between all the work that must be done, the volatile weather, the floods and aggressive depredation, sometimes mice simply get trapped or stranded. It’s not uncommon for a patrol on another mission to stumble upon a group of civilians stranded on a root in the middle of a rising stream, or to find a furious skunk trying to burrow its way under a fallen log to get at some trapped mice. And, of course, it’s the Guard’s duty to rescue those in need!
Over the winter, mice write letters to their loved ones in faraway cities. Businesses accrue logs of transactions that must be submitted to investors or partners. And birthday presents for nieces and nephews born over winter in far-off cities pile up. It often falls on the Guard to deliver the mail in the spring time. As Gwendolyn dispatches patrols to their spring missions, she’ll often give them a bag of mail to take to their destination.
Throughout the Territories, mice await the coming of spring. They celebrate the rebirth of the land and its promise of bounty. It is the first time since the first frost that many mice are able to travel or visit friends and family in other settlements. It’s a time of looking
forward and making resolutions. Every settlement welcomes travelers and offers open doors to mice from throughout the territories. The first fresh brews and soups are the taste of the celebration. Its coming is marked by the Vernalstar rising in the south.
After the hectic energy of spring, the summer season is when life is as normal as it can be for the mice. Days are long and warm. There’s plenty to do, but there’s also an unhurried attitude in the Territories.The official first day of summer is the summer solstice.
Summer Weather (4)
Summers are warm and short, with an intense heat spell at the very peak.
Warm and Humid
Most summer days in the Territories are warm and humid without a cloud in the sky.
You may use the warm weather to impose the Hungry and Thirsty and Tired conditions as a result of failure.
Summer rain is common in the early part of the season. It grows more sparse as summer wanes toward autumn.
Summer rain factors into Pathfinding and Scout tests, but it is otherwise mild and warm enough not to cause any other adverse effects.
Spectacular thunderstorms crash across the Territories in the late summer. They are sudden and fierce. They dissipate as quickly as they come. Lightning strikes from thunderstorms can touch off brush fires if the summer has been unseasonably dry. Thunderstorms can also cause flash floods if the conditions have been dry and the storm is sufficiently severe.
See Summer Wilderness for more on brush fires and flash floods.
Thunderstorms factor into any activity performed during the storm. They’re loud, windy and wet. Mice can literally be blown away. The conditions of failure for activity during a thunderstorm can always include Injury.
The Territories are usually hit with at least one heat wave during the summer.
If mice perform strenuous activity during the day in a heat wave, the GM may force an Ob 3 Health test. Failure imposes the Sick condition.
During the summer, the underbrush grows thick. It becomes a heavy, low-hanging canopy, impassable to larger creatures. Mice have no problem traversing it, but landmarks vanish in all the growth and it is easy to get disoriented. The GM may invoke heavy undergrowth as a factor in a Scout or Pathfinder test. On the other hand, the GM may grant bonus dice for mice using the underbrush to stay undetected for Nature, Scout and Hunter tests. This acts like the bonus dice from gear.
A summer without rain can cause droughts. The earth becomes dry and hard, and plants become brown and brittle.
Droughts are a factor in Harvester and Nature foraging tests.
Thunderstorms can bring flash floods with them. If the rain falls faster than the ground can absorb it, the runoff flows to low-lying areas. As the volume of water grows, it picks up speed and force, carrying branches and debris with it.
Flash floods are so named because of the suddenness of their onset. They usually come and go in an afternoon, with the bulk of the water sweeping through an area in a matter of minutes.
There’s no fighting a flash flood. Mice caught in one must pass an Ob 4 Nature test. Failure can impose the Tired or Injured conditions, or in a twist, the GM can sweep the patrol away.
Brush Fires and Forest Fires
Brush fires in the Territories are devastating — they can consume a whole town in a matter of minutes.
Brush fires can be set off by lightning strikes from thunderstorms, or as part of a twist from a failed Survivalist, Cook, Scientist or Militarist test involving fire in the outdoors.
Any activity spent fighting or traversing a burning area forces a Health test at Ob 4. Failure imposes the Sick or Injured condition.
The summer is an active time for animals in the Territories.
Owls and hawks are hunting for mice to eat. Coyotes and foxes are always on the prowl for easy pickings, though wolves are off after bigger game. Bears are active and causing trouble, but there is plenty of forage in the summer so they don’t specifically target mouse stores.
Flying squirrels and ground squirrels are not above stealing away a few baby mice to eat as they forage for nuts.
Wolverines and badgers are always a problem. In the summer they can be encountered prowling around looking for new hunting grounds.
And, of course, snakes and bullfrogs are always hungry and mice are at the top of their list of prey.
Summer Duties and Tasks
Mice take advantage of the warm, clear weather to travel to other settlements and visit family and friends. Caravans frequently make runs between the cities. It’s common for these civilians to be accompanied by guardmice who are en route to, or returning from, other missions.
Stone, sand, wood, clay and metal are all gathered during the summer. Carpenters, stonemasons, millers, and smiths are very busy. Town officials will request aid from visiting patrol leaders, asking them to guard their crews out in the wild.
Large-scale projects, like building bridges and outposts, and major settlement repairs are started at the beginning of the summer. Gwendolyn has been known to assign patrols to watch over certain key projects.
Trade goods are shipped between the larger settlements during the summer. Huge, tottering, overloaded caravans are easier to transport during the mild summer months, but these shipments make ripe targets for scavengers and predators alike.
Birds will descend en masse and attempt to raid grain carts. Squirrels will dash out of hiding and attempt to steal from the seed carts. Raccoons and skunks will bully their way into the lines and try to steal the whole thing. Shipments across water are at risk from otters, pike, and snapping turtles.
It is up to the Guard to protect these shipments and the mice who haul them, and to make sure everything and everyone arrives safely at their destination.
The long warm days of summer beg to be enjoyed. The mice of Copperwood, Lillygrove, and Elmwood celebrate with four day-long festivals. Merriment is the focus of the activities; with the harvest season coming, it provides a wonderful distraction.
Competitive games and tournaments for swordmouseship, archery, climbing and boating are common. The end of each day is marked with a bonfire lit outside the city’s doors, where high achievers in competitions are fêted.
Fall sweeps away summer with cold rain and gray skies that quickly turn to frost and snow. Fall is one of the busiest times in the Territories. The mice must quickly harvest all of the supplies they can and prepare for winter before the snow comes and blankets the land.
Fall Weather (5)
Fall starts off very pleasantly. The summer heat dissipates and the air turns crisp rather than cold, but this is quickly followed by tempestuous rains, frost, and snow.
Autumn storms are longer and more severe than their summer counterparts. Storm weather factors into all outdoor obstacles.
The GM may force an Ob 3 Health test on any character traveling or working outside during a storm. Failure brings on the Tired or Sick conditions.
Cold autumn rain hinders travel and generally drives mice indoors. Factor the rain into Pathfinding and Scout tests.
If the patrol travels for an extended time in the rain, the Survivalist skill must be tested to ensure the mice do not become demoralized or sick. If the Survivalist fails to provide for his patrol, the GM may force Ob 2 Health tests for all of the mice in the patrol. Failure brings on the Angry or Sick conditions.
Some years, the fall is unseasonably warm. It’s nice at first, but extended periods of unseasonable warmth increase the insect pest population and can cause sickness in whole settlements and blight harvests. During unseasonably warm fall conditions, use the weather and conditions for summer.
Sometimes winter comes early. It is devastating. Early frost and snow kills the harvest before it can be taken in. During unseasonably cold periods, autumn storms and cold rain become snow storms and snow flurries.
Fall is a dangerous and trying time for the mice. They are in competition with scavengers, like squirrels and birds, and grazers, like deer, for scarce resources. The Guard may be called in to clear an area of birds or squirrels so that harvesters and foragers may move in and gather from the area.
Clever squirrels will follow mice to their settlements and watch how they store their grain. Later, they’ll come back and try to break into the stores and steal all those delicious nuts and dried berries.
Predators are also on the prowl, looking to build up their fat stores for winter. Foxes, badgers, and wolves are all hungry and willing to eat mice! Owls and hawks still patrol the forest. Snakes, bullfrogs and snapping turtles are winding down and looking to hibernate through the cold.
As the leaves turn and fall in the autumn, the world of the mice changes. On one hand, it’s a simple matter to use the leaves as cover to get from one location to another undetected. That works for one mouse or small groups, but travel for caravans or large groups becomes very difficult. The leaves are slippery and noisy when traveled over. Mice on that surface are easy targets for predators.
Grant an advantage to mice who are using the leaf cover to their benefit. But factor the leaves into Scout or Nature tests to move undetected across the surface.
Fall brings the first frost. Mostly frost and temperature are part of the weather, but frost also affects how the mice deal with the wilderness. A sudden cold snap can be deadly. Frost can be used by the GM to invoke Survivalist tests. Failure conditions can include being Sick or Injured.
Frost can also make food and water scarce. Frozen lakes or puddles are difficult to get adequate water from. Ice has to be melted or chipped away. Survivalist covers this process, but it should be tested in these circumstances.
The duties of the Guard in the fall are focused on protecting the mice who are vital to the Territory’s winter survival—harvesters, laborers, carpenters, stonemasons — and preparing themselves for winter.
In addition to all its myriad duties, the Guard has its own business and problems. The fall is the last chance to take care of loose ends before returning to Lockhaven for the winter. Gwendolyn will often send patrols out on special, secret missions of vital importance during the fall months.
Mice are quickly harvesting, storing and curing their hauls. The Territories depend on them for the winter months!
Last-minute trade and distribution are undertaken, despite the difficulty of travel. Sometimes, due to the ground conditions, water travel will be risked — barges full of supplies sent downstream, watched over by fearless members of the Guard.
Refresh the Scent Border
Gwendolyn usually dispatches a handful of patrols to replenish and reinforce the Scent Border before winter settles in.
All mice celebrate the autumnal equinox with a large multiday festival. This is the largest and longest holiday in the Territories. The Morten-Harvest celebration focuses on the land’s offerings. Every grain store, larder, mill, stock house and cask is replenished. As a reward for their hard work, and to take joy in the bounty they collected, mice in every settlement feast on a sampling of their efforts. Thanks is given to the mice who work in the trades that make living possible.
The week-long event is named after Morten, a harvestmouse who always shared his bounty with all the mice of his village. His generosity is now linked with the gifts that grow from the land. Gifts are exchanged as tokens of friendship and generosity.
Winter is long, cold and snowy. It is the hardest season for the Mouse Territories. The towns, cities, and settlements must hold together during the cold, ice, and snow and try to persevere until spring. If a disaster strikes during winter, its effects are magnified by the cold and lack of easy access to fresh food and supplies.
Typically, Gwendolyn does not send patrols out in the winter. Most guardmice are called home to Lockhaven to rest and prepare for spring. In the game, this is represented by the Winter Session.
If need demands it, Gwendolyn will dispatch patrols for vital missions in the winter. Rather than issuing orders for a mission, she calls for volunteers. Despite the danger, there are never a lack of paws raised.
If you choose to play a winter mission, play out the season and mission as per the normal rules. Use the winter season write up to help flesh out the situation. If you decide not to play a winter mission, skip to the Winter Session section. I recommend doing a Winter Session over playing the winter season.
Winter Weather (7)
Winter is cold and snowy. It’s very harsh weather. Long trips in the winter should be undertaken using the journey conflict mechanics. The GM can set his objective to: freeze the patrol to death, get them caught in a snow drift, get them lost, or any number of evil things.
Also, Harvester tests cannot be made to acquire food from the land during the winter.
Clear and Cold
Some winter days are simply clear and cold. It’s brisk weather that makes a mouse feel alive. There’s no hazard associated with traveling when it’s clear and cold.
It snows a lot in the Territories during the winter.
Factor snow into Pathfinding, Scout, Nature, and Health tests.
Once or twice a winter, there’s a massive blizzard that blankets the Territories in a couple of feet of snow. A blizzard factors into any test made outdoors during or immediately after the storm.
Going anywhere in a blizzard requires a Pathfinder test. Failure is bad; twists should be catastrophic. The GM may also force Ob 4 Health tests on the patrol. Failure indicates the character is Sick or Injured.
It’s possible for the Territories to get wrapped up in a blast of arctic cold. This extreme cold is dangerous.
Failure conditions for any outdoor activity should be disastrous — Sick or Injured.
Use the extreme cold as a factor in any test that requires delicate use of the paws — they go numb!
Ice storms are the most deadly of all winter weather. They count as a factor for every test made while out and about. Also, if a journey conflict is undertaken during an ice storm, the GM may include the death of the patrol in his goal.
Perhaps once a winter, the Territories will experience an unseasonably warm period of weather. These warm spells are welcome breaks from the harsh winter. However, during these periods, any precipitation counts as rain rather than snow. And any rain causes flooding and thick mud.
The wilderness is deceptively peaceful in the winter. Snow cover blankets the land and makes it all seem so simple and beautiful.
Mice can walk on the surface of the snow with shoes — Celanawe uses acorn caps, for example — or burrow below the snow surface using Nature, Pathfinder and Scientist (for elaborate structures).
Tunneling makes them less visible to predators, but it is slow, tiring, dangerous work. If a tunnel collapses, mice could be trapped. Traveling on the surface makes them vulnerable to depredation.
Mice without proper snow gear — shoes, skis, cloaks, snow goggles — must count snow cover as a factor in tests surrounding travel. If you’ve got proper gear, this isn’t a factor.
Ice is generally not a hazard for mice. They are light enough that even thin ice won’t crack under their weight. Heavier predators do not have this luxury, so mice can flee across icy areas to escape capture and let the predators break through the ice.
On the other hand, a dunk in frigid water is much worse for a small mouse than it is for a hungry wolverine.
Any mouse that gets submerged in frozen water must pass an Ob 4 Health test or become Sick.
Animal encounters are more rare in winter, but also fraught with more danger. The stakes are higher. Everyone’s hungry and there’s not enough to go around.
In the Territories, if the Scent Border wasn’t properly maintained, wolves will range in looking to eat anything they can find. They prefer bigger game like moose, deer, or even foxes, but they are not above easy prey like mice. Be wary!
Foxes, badgers and wolverines also prowl the winter forests. Foxes and wolverines in particular seem to enjoy the winter months. The forest is quiet and they can be kings for a little while.
However, winter is when the scavengers like raccoons and skunks are the biggest threat. These creatures are persistent and intelligent — at least about food. They’ll stake out a mouse settlement and look for ways to break in and steal the stores. A settlement ripped open and robbed like that will not survive the winter months.
Most mice hunker down for the winter. While there’s little commerce and communication between settlements, the individual cities and towns are internally bustling with life.
Weavers, potters and glaziers ply their trade, preparing for next spring. Laborers pick up odd jobs where they can, spending their meager earnings at the local tavern. Tradesmice like smiths, stonemasons and carpenters content themselves with small jobs until the spring comes and the big work projects start up again.
Even the Guard gets a little rest, provided there’s no trouble that winter.
If a settlement is attacked by a scavenger like a raccoon or skunk, the refugees will often flee to Lockhaven for solace. If news of the disaster reaches Gwendolyn, she will dispatch patrols to aid the survivors as best they can.
On occasion, urgent business must be conducted over the winter. Patrols are dispatched to ensure these messages get to where they need to go.
Once in a while, visiting officials will find themselves trapped by early snows in a foreign city at the beginning of winter. When the weather settles into being cold and clear, these officials need to be escorted back to their home cities.
Lockhaven contains reserve stores of food and water in case of emergency. If disaster strikes another city, and it doesn’t have enough supplies to make it through the winter, Gwendolyn and her captains will negotiate a shipment to be dispatched to the ailing city. And, of course, it’s up to the Guard to get it there!
Yulefrost is a time for mouse families to gather and feast on warm foods in spite of the weather’s harsh offerings. All mice celebrate this holiday, but full-fledged festivals are held in Barkstone, Ivydale, and Burl.
The spirit of the celebration is at the heart of mouse culture: not merely surviving, but overcoming seemingly impassable obstacles.
This is also a time when mice honor their dead by sharing recollections of them in tales and songs, or in quiet reflection.
Winter is harsh, but you don’t have to go out in the cold if you don’t want to. Once winter’s come, your patrol should head back to Lockhaven to make their final reports for the season and the year.
Once your last fall mission is done and winter is on its way, your group should decide if they’re going to do a winter mission or if they’re going to rest up and stay indoors for the winter. If you rest up, you have what we call a winter session. I strongly recommend you do not go on a winter mission. The winter session is a lot of fun and really useful for the characters.
Why go on a winter mission then? Well, if your patrol is in good shape at the end of the fall missions — no tax on Nature, no outstanding conditions — then you should volunteer. You’re in good condition, you can handle it! But if you’re beat up and tired, then take the winter off.
In the winter session we go through a few bookkeeping steps, take a look at how the characters were played in the last mouse year and then take care of any unfinished business.
If you’re not going on a mission, go through the following steps in order:
Return to Lockhaven
Talk about your patrol’s return to Lockhaven from your last mission. Report in to Gwendolyn.
Rest and Recover
Guard get leave when they return to Lockhaven in the winter. The people of the city bring them gifts in the form of food and drink. Gwendolyn pays guardmice their wages. There is much eating, drinking, and sleeping.
If your Nature is taxed, you may restore it to its current maximum. If your starting maximum rating was reduced during the year’s patrol, that rating is gone. You don’t recover that. You only recover what’s currently taxed.
Not every mouse has his birthday during the winter, but this is a convenient time to remember that your character has aged. Advance his age by one year.
During the winter, Gwendolyn wants her guardmice to stay sharp. Practice is mandatory for guardmice wintering in Lockhaven.
You practice three skills. When your character practices something, note a test for advancement on his sheet. You may choose a pass or fail result as needed. If this test fills an advancement requirement, you may increase the skill to the next rating.
- Practice one patrol skill. A patrol skill includes all of the skills listed in the left-hand column of your character sheet. Not the ones you wrote in yourself, but the ones that were already there.
- Practice one non-patrol skill. The skill can be any skill that’s not from the previous list.
- Practice one skill you don’t have. It can be a completely new skill or a skill you’re currently trying to learn. Look through the skill list and choose one that interests you. It can be a patrol skill or a wise or anything.
When practicing the skill you don’t have, if the practice test fills your requirement for learning a new skill, you may learn the skill right there.
The rules for advancement and learning new skills are described in the Abilities and Skills wiki.
I practice my Hunter skill, my Carpenter skill, and Insectrist, which I don’t have.
I log a pass for Hunter, because I need two more passed tests before I advance. My Carpenter 3 only needs one more failed test to advance, therefore I use my practice to take a failed test for the skill. That means the skill advances from 3 to 4 during the winter. I may have made a mess in Lockhaven, but at least I learned from it.
For Insectrist, I just note a test next to the skill. Learning new skills is explained later.
One more thing: You must account for what your character has learned while out on patrol. Gwendolyn asks the guardmice to write reports on previously unknown elements encountered
while on patrol. For the character, this means he gets a new wise skill.
- Think about what your character has experienced during his last year of patrol. Reflect on some defining or dramatic moments of his experience. Make up your own wise to encompass that experience. The wise starts with a rating of 2.
While in Lockhaven, the guardmice reflect on the trials and triumphs of the last year. Some tell joyful recollections. Others reflect darkly on the events that befell them.
As players, this is our opportunity to look at how we played with each other over the past few sessions. And it’s a way for other players to tell you how they saw you in the game.
In game terms, three things happen during the Reflection portion of the Winter Session: You’re going to get a new trait. One of your extant traits is going to be changed or elevated. And another one of your traits is going to be removed or changed to something different.
The New Trait
To start this process, each player picks another player at the table whom they wish to represent. Each player must have a representative. No representing yourself. If you represent someone, they don’t necessarily have to represent you.
In turn, each representative then discusses how his friend played his character over the course of last year’s missions. The other players should chime in with stories, reflections and recollections.
After that discussion, the representing player chooses a new trait for his friend’s character. The trait must be based on the group’s reflections. It can come from the list in the book, or the representative can make up a new trait on the spot. Write the new trait on the character sheet. It starts at level one. Go around the table until everyone has a new trait.
Thor is representing Mayuran’s character, Robin. After much discussion with the other players, he decides to give Robin the Idealistic trait based on how he thinks Robin was played.
Change or Elevate a Trait
After everyone has earned a new trait, each player has the chance to elevate or change another one. In turn, each player nominates one of his own character’s traits to be changed or elevated.
Pick one of your traits — not the one you were just given — and talk about it with the group. Make a case for how you invested in the trait and played it into your character or how you think the trait no longer fits and how it should be changed.
If the group agrees you may elevate it one step on the trait scale or change your trait to a different one, either made up on the spot or chosen from the book.
If the group does not agree, no change or elevation is made. You only get one shot at making your case.
Mayuran wants his Fearless trait upgraded from level 1 to level 2. He talks about all the times he hurled himself into danger for the sake of the patrol. We all agree and he upgrades the trait on his character sheet.
Change or Remove a Trait
You, the GM, get to discuss each player and his character in turn. Recall specific heroic or unheroic actions the character undertook. Talk about what happened in the missions.
You may then change one trait to another trait of your choosing — either from the book or made up on the spot — or you may remove a trait from the character. A removed trait is erased, gone. You may not change or remove a new trait that was added in this session or a trait that was elevated or changed.
During the Reflection part of the session, I listen to the players as they discuss their experiences. I make notes based on what they say and I use them as the basis on whether or not to remove or change a trait.
If I were Lieam’s GM for the adventures described in the Fall 1152 series, I’d change his Defender trait to Guard’s Honor. He internalizes Kenzie’s lessons — it’s not what you fight, but what you fight for — and turns from being a selfish young mouse to being a determined member of the Guard.
After that’s all done, take a deep breath and relax for a bit. It’s an intense process!
Five Traits Max
Your character can only have five traits. If you’re playing in a long-term campaign, you might reach this limit. If you have five traits at the start of the Reflection session, you cannot earn a new trait. You may represent another player and give him a new trait, however. You may still change, elevate, and remove traits.
After the Reflection portion of the session, we move on to Promotion. Around mid- to late winter, after having the time to review all of the reports and conduct interviews, Gwendolyn gathers all of the mice of Lockhaven together and presents the year’s promotions. Occasionally, the ceremony is broken down into two days — one day for tenderpaws and guardmice, and one day for patrol guard and patrol leaders.
In the game, the patrol leader or senior member of the patrol may make recommendations to Gwendolyn. The GM, in the role of Gwendolyn, then makes promotions as he sees fit.
Promotion criteria are as follows:
Tenderpaw to Guardmouse
The tenderpaw represents a special case. His mentor may recommend him for promotion. If his mentor is not available in Lockhaven that winter, then Gwendolyn makes the call herself based on reports and recommendations.
A tenderpaw is promoted if he has shown that he is competent in the field, willing to learn and, most importantly, capable of upholding the honor of the Guard. A guardmouse must do his duty at all costs. If the tenderpaw exhibited this quality, he should be promoted.
A tenderpaw who is promoted in the game receives a cloak from his mentor at the time of his promotion. If his mentor is unavailable — due to death or a mission — the tenderpaw’s patrol leader or senior guardmouse may give him his cloak. The color of the cloak is chosen carefully. It is to represent the tenderpaw’s disposition and temperament, but also to guide him in his new role as a guardmouse.
Give three cheers to the newly promoted guardmouse!
If a tenderpaw fails to be recommended for guardmouse rank, he has two options. He may retire from the Guard. Gwendolyn and the other guardmice thank him for his service and return him to his parents. No hard feelings, no harm done. Alternately, the tenderpaw may choose to do another year of patrol with his mentor. At the end of the year, he will once again be considered for promotion. If he fails to make promotion this second time, he is quietly retired by Gwendolyn and sent home to his family.
Guardmouse to Patrol Guard
Guardmice are promoted to patrol guard when they have been in service of the Guard for a couple of years and when they have exhibited independent thinking while on a mission and clear mastery in multiple areas of the patrol’s needs.
In other words, a guardmouse can’t specialize in just one or two skills. He needs a broad base of patrol, social and craft skills. And he needs to step up and take the lead during certain dangerous segments of missions. Gwendolyn is not looking for suicidal bravery. She wants initiative and independence.
Guardmice who show insubordination, fearfulness, disloyalty, or a disregard for the values of the Guard will not be promoted to patrol guard.
Patrol Guard to Patrol Leader
Patrol guard are veteran guardmice. They have been in the service for a number of years, and they represent the pool of the next crop of leaders. Their promotion is highly situational.
In times of need, Gwendolyn is forced to trust her instincts and simply choose from the most promising candidates.
In better times, patrol guard are given the chance to prove themselves, undertaking and leading missions for Gwendolyn. This process can take a number of years. If a patrol guard can demonstrate that he can receive orders and complete his missions in an accurate and timely fashion, he’ll be considered for promotion.
If a patrol guard can demonstrate that he is adaptable, flexible and capable of handling unforeseen situations when in the field, he’s nearly guaranteed a spot as a patrol leader. A patrol guard will not be promoted if he has demonstrated recklessness while on patrol, callousness to other mice or disregard for the spirit of the Guard’s Oath.
Patrol Leader to Guard Captain
Patrol leaders may be promoted to the rank of captain after many years of service. If a patrol leader has demonstrated ability and initiative beyond the scope of simple patrols — if he has shown proficiency in matters administrative, military, political or even archival — Gwendolyn will mark him as a candidate for captain.
There are only about a half-dozen captain positions at any one time. Captains see to the defense and supply of Lockhaven proper. They also act as liaisons with other militia forces in other towns, coordinating training and supply.
Gwendolyn attempts to keep the positions staffed, allowing older captains to retire in the winter and immediately promoting patrol leaders to fill the vacancies.
If you wish to retire your character, now is a good time to do it. You may exit the Guard in your new rank if you have been promoted. Gwendolyn provides a pension and support for all who served. Experienced help is always needed, but none begrudge those who have no more to give.
You might retire your character because you can’t play with your group anymore, or simply because you want a change of pace and wish to try playing a different character.
A retired character exits play. Neither the GM or another player may take up his role. Talk about him, tell stories about him and write him letters, but try to leave him out of the game. We’ve found it awkward to include retired characters in play. However, the retired character may reenter play (and service to the Guard) if his original player returns to the table or wants to take up his mantle again. So keep those old character sheets handy.
If you retire a character and want to keep playing, either use Recruitment to create a new character with your GM before the next session, or pick a template to play in your next game.
Benefits of Promotion
Once promotions are done, increase the Resources and Circles of each promoted character by one. You get a raise and your new rank gives you more influence!
Erase any tests you had accumulated toward advancing Resources or Circles.
If your patrol lost a member due to tragedy during the last year, hold a brief memorial ceremony. Say a few words of remembrance for the departed mouse and raise a toast to him.
The last part of the winter session is called Unfinished Business. The bookkeeping, traits and promotion should not take more than 90 minutes. Unfinished Business will take another 90 minutes. Play it out if you have the time. If not, wrap up the session and get ready for next time — spring! If you have time for Unfinished Business, read on.
During this portion of the game, the players take over. Unfinished Business is like a big Players’ Turn. The players drive all the action; they don’t earn checks, but neither do they count tests. They can make as many tests and get into as many conflicts as they need to. There is one restriction: They may not make recovery tests for conditions. So be careful.
To start your Unfinished Business, each player should think for a moment about something he felt he missed out on in play. Think about your friends, enemies, senior artisans, parents and mentors. Think about things you’ve wanted to make. Think about conversations you’ve wanted to have with other members of your patrol.
Each player gets to pick one thing he wants to explore. It must be something you can accomplish from Lockhaven. No going out on patrol. Also, do not write goals for this. This part of the game is about focusing on Beliefs and Instincts.
In turn, each player announces to the GM what he wants to accomplish. Play out the scenes. Get everyone involved if you can.
Unfinished business can lead you to: get advice from friends and mentors, settle old scores with enemies, research mysteries in the archives or make yourself a needed piece of equipment for next year’s patrols.
Stretch your creative muscles and surprise the other players at the table. Remind us all of what we’ve been forgetting about your character.
The GM should use this player-driven time to take notes. What areas are the players interested in? What characters do they want to see in play that have been backgrounded or forgotten? Use those ideas to seed your missions for the coming year.
After each player has had a chance to take care of some unfinished business, the session is done. Review Beliefs and Instincts for rewards. Vote for MVP, workhorse and embodiment. Talk about your new traits and plan for your next session. Spring is coming, and with it, a whole host of new challenges and adventures.