Once-green land is pale and severe.
Supplies are short and night is long.
Time stands still in its bitter song.
Withered life sits frozen on the vine.
Is this the end of days for yours and mine?
‘Tis but a season and such things turn.
Lack of preparation is a cold lesson to learn.”
—Poem by the Scribe Roibin in the Winter of 1152
The Mission wiki describes how to play a session of the Mouse Guard roleplaying game. We get together, gather around a table, form a patrol, choose who will be GM, who will be players and then play out a mission like the stories depicted in the comic books.
Form Your Patrol
Once everyone’s together, you need to form a patrol. Decide who’s going to be the GM. Which player is going to challenge the mice and see if they are worthy to be called heroes? After you decide on the GM, the players need to get characters.
If you’re playing your first session, you have two options. You can pick characters from our selection of sample characters, or you can make your own.
If you want, you can tweak the character templates that are provided.
If you choose to make characters, do it as a group. Everyone who is playing this session should either make characters together or choose templates together. Do not split the group, one half making characters while the other half waits. It’s not fair to the waiting players.
Making a character is described in the Recruitment wiki.
If this isn’t your first session, you have the option of picking up where you left off. If you’re continuing, then you can use the same characters you used last session.
If you didn’t like your character from last session, you can pick a new one from the templates. You may make a new character if you want, but you have to do that in between sessions (like homework). It’s rude to make everyone wait for you while you make a new character.
If you have a new player join the group during a mission, have him pick a template and jump into play. Gwendolyn has dispatched some extra help for the patrol on this mission!
GM Notes Beliefs, Instincts, and Relationships
Once everyone has chosen a template or completed their characters, the GM notes their Beliefs, Instincts and relationships on his special mission sheet. Relationships, in this case, mean parents, mentors, senior artisans, friends and enemies.
Use the mission sheet as a quick reference for how to better engage with the players. When in doubt, look at the characters’ Beliefs, Goals, and Instincts on the sheet and play off of them.
The prologue is something that one player delivers at the start of each continuing session. If this is your first session with this patrol, you can skip the prologue.
When you sit down for a new session of a continuing game, it’s sometimes difficult for everyone to remember what happened previously. The prologue helps players get back up to speed.
When you start a session, one player may offer up the prologue. He must describe to the group what happened last session. If the group is satisfied and well-reminded, this player may alleviate one of his own conditions — Hungry and Thirsty, Angry, or Tired (but not Injured or Sick) — or he may recover a point of tax on his Nature. You don’t know what those rules are yet, but you will after you read the Resolution wiki, so don’t fret.
A player may not do a prologue for two sessions in a row. He must share the spotlight.
Assign a Mission
Once the players have their characters and the prologue has been delivered, the GM assigns a mission to the patrol. The mission can be a new one, or play can pick up right where the patrol left off last session.
In the first session of a new game, the group decides what season they want to start in. It’s traditional to start in spring, but summer and fall are acceptable as well. Do not start a new group in winter. Seasons in the Territories are discussed in detail in the Seasons wiki.
The assigned mission should be short and direct. It should include a location, a duty to perform and a time frame.
Track down the grain peddler on the route from Rootwallow to Barkstone.
Deliver the spring mail to Gilpledge.
Help Grasslake with its turtle problem.
See the Designing Missions section of this chapter for more details on what really happens on a mission.
Here’s a brief recap of typical Guard duties: patrolling, path clearing, trail blazing, carrying mail, escorting, weather watching, hunting predators, maintaining the scent border, rescuing mice in distress and mediating disputes.
If you need further inspiration, the Seasons chapter has a section on the Guard’s responsibilities listed with each season.
The patrol’s first mission should come directly from Gwendolyn, the matriarch and architect of the Mouse Guard. She directly assigns a mission to the patrol’s leader.
Gwendolyn is a character in this game. She is special: Only the GM gets to play her, and she never goes on missions. She’s too busy administering to the welfare of the Guard and the towns.
When you, the GM, issue the first mission to your patrol, do so in the voice of Gwendolyn. Pretend you’ve gathered the patrol in your map room in Lockhaven. Give the patrol their orders and offer words of encouragement. Point out where they need to go on the map of the Territories.
Once in the field, additional missions should develop organically from the situation of the patrol. If they stop in a city that trades with other cities, merchants may ask the guardmice for escorts. If they’re heading back to Lockhaven and find a group of stranded, sick mice, it’s the patrol’s duty to see them to safety. If they’ve completed a mission which has developed into a problem for a settlement—bandits, a trade dispute, a food shortage—the patrol should endeavor to address the situation. Those are all legitimate follow-up missions. Once you’re in the wild, you’re on your own recognizance.
If you’re stuck for ideas that develop from the patrol’s new situation, you can send them a mission from Lockhaven in the form of a letter or a message from another guardmouse. Or, if you have something else planned, you may inform the patrol that they return to Lockhaven between missions in order to get new orders.
The Voice of the Mice
When you assign these missions at the beginning of the session, describe the situation to the players. Set the scene for them. It’s okay to roleplay the mouse characters asking for help. Once the mission is clear, stop and move on to the Write Session Goals section.
Who Leads Missions?
While there is a definite ranking system in the Mouse Guard, independence and insight are prized over blind obedience. Senior guardmice issue commands lightly and always take advice from their subordinates. Of course, when an order is given, a senior expects it to be obeyed to the fullest.
Guard captains rarely go on missions. They stay in Lockhaven and help Gwendolyn administer the Guard and the town. Captains only undertake the most important, complicated and dangerous missions.
Patrol leaders are the field commanders of the Guard. When Gwendolyn assigns a mission, she entrusts it to a patrol leader. The patrol leader chooses the other mice to round out his patrol. (In the game, we skip this step. We assume that the patrol leader has already made his choices — and he’s chosen the other players!)
In the field, it’s the patrol leader’s job to make sure his patrol is safe and well taken care of, and that they complete the mission.
Kenzie fulfills this role for his patrol.
Sometimes, there isn’t a guard captain or patrol leader available for a mission. If that’s the case, Gwendolyn assigns temporary patrol leader status to the most senior mouse in the patrol.
Write Session Goals
Once the mission has been assigned, the players all stop for a moment and write their Goals for their characters.
Write Different Goals
It’s easy to simply write the mission as your current Goal. After a while, that’s going to get boring. Fortunately, Goals are versatile. You have a lot of leeway; you don’t have to stick strictly to the mission.
Look at your Goals as a group: One player should always have a Goal about completing the mission. You can color that with conditions or stipulations — how will he complete the Goal? When? Other players can have: a Goal about another member of your patrol, a Goal about seeing something or retrieving something from the place you’re going. If your family, mentor, friend or enemy is located near the mission objective, write a Goal about them.
Each of the three mice who are sent out to find the grain peddler have a different perspective on the mission.
Kenzie: I must find evidence that will determine if the grain peddler is a traitor or not.
Saxon: I will protect Kenzie and Lieam on this patrol.
Lieam: I will show Kenzie and Saxon that I am a valuable member of the patrol.
GM Notes Goals
Once the players have written their Goals, the GM should note them on his mission sheet.
Designing a Mission
The assignment of a mission is direct and simple. That’s how orders work, but that’s not how missions work! The actual mission will consist of a number of additional problems and complications that the guardmice must overcome.
There are four general hazards that the Mouse Guard must contend with: weather, wilderness, animals and mice. These four things represent a magic formula. If you include a combination of problems from these categories, you have a mission for the Guard — and hopefully, an adventure worthy of retelling!
Rain, snow, extreme heat, freezing cold, floods, droughts: Mice are particularly susceptible to the weather—a bad rainstorm can sweep away the unwary; floods can wipe out a whole town. Therefore, the Guard must be especially careful when out on patrol.
After handing out the mission for the session, describe the weather to the patrol. Use the Seasons wiki as a guide to help you pick something appropriate.
During the mission, the weather can change under two conditions: if a player uses his Weather Watcher skill, or if the GM imposes a weather-based twist.
Mud, undergrowth, streams, swamps, sand, fallen trees and many other hazards must be negotiated by the Guard as they perform their duties. A careless mouse can be swallowed up by sucking mud, swept away in a stream or crushed by a falling branch. The Guard must navigate these obstacles as they go about their business.
Snakes, weasels, skunks, bats, badgers, owls, crabs and many other types of animals threaten the towns and townsmice of the Territories. Predators stalk and kill the mice. Scavengers attempt to burrow into the towns and devour their supplies. Even grazers and plant-eaters can be a problem — they can eat all of the harvest and forage in the area, leaving little for the mice to live on.
It is the Guard’s duty to deal with these animals. Many of them are too big or savage to be killed, so clever ploys must be devised to drive the animals off.
Last, but certainly not least, the Guard must negotiate and treat with the other mice of the Territories — the mayors, magistrates and merchants; the lost, the found and the ne’erdo-wells. Some try to help, some need help and some actively seek to hurt the Guard. These personalities are a day-to-day reality of the job, and they will challenge the abilities of your guardmice.
When thinking of a mission concept, pick two of the four hazards to represent the known problems on the mission. Keep the other two hazards in reserve to act as surprises or in case you need to fill in an unexpected twist.
The mission to find the grain peddler uses wilderness and mice. The peddler is wandering a dangerous route from Rootwallow to Barkstone. That’s the wilderness category. But the peddler is actually a spy trying to sell secret information about Lockhaven to Barkstone. That definitely falls into the mice category of problems. Those two hazards are enough to get the mission started.
Now that you have some general problems in mind, you need to focus them so that they directly challenge your players.
The River Is Rising
It’s one thing to have a handful of hazards — starving mice, rain, and a rising river — but it’s another thing to turn those pieces into a compelling situation for the players to tackle.
Imagine this: It’s raining hard. A rivulet has formed outside Elmoss, blocking the main road. This rivulet is rising fast. A grain shipment for the town is stuck on the far side, in danger of being swept away. Your cousin, another guardmouse, is trapped on a branch in the middle of the rivulet. You only have time to save one before the other is swept away. What do you do?
That is a situation in Mouse Guard. What makes that situation compelling? Competing priorities — your cousin’s life versus the welfare of a whole town.
To Be a Hero
But there’s another level to it — it’s not just that life is hard and duty is dangerous. We play to see if our guardmice have the necessary qualities to become heroes. These challenges test their mettle; they provide a chance for the players to prove their characters are heroes.
Being a hero isn’t easy in this game. You’ve got to risk life and limb, work hard and sacrifice much. Heroes care. They want to make a difference. They want to succeed, even when all hope is lost.
How do we make sure the players care enough about the mission so they try their hardest? There’s an easy trick to it: Lean on the players’ Beliefs; interfere with their Goals, trigger their Instincts and stomp on their traits!
How Strongly Do You Believe?
Set up situations in which players have a chance to prove that their Beliefs are more than just words. Standing up for his Belief is a choice that each player has to make.
Parents, mentors, senior artisans, friends and enemies are very useful when challenging Beliefs. Use these characters to present other opinions. Let them be voices for other, opposing Beliefs. And take characters with similar outlooks and put them under threat.
How Vulnerable Is Your Instinct?
Instincts are really easy for the GM to use. Each player has written down a specific condition like danger, each morning, when threatened. All you have to do is put the patrol in danger, have something happen in the morning or threaten the character. It’s very simple. When you bring that hazard into the game, give that player a significant look: “Are you going to do anything about it?” Give them a chance to make a decision. Try to make the decision to use the Instinct a hard one. It’s more fun that way.
How Urgent Is Your Goal?
Present obstacles that don’t just “get in the way,” but threaten the achievement of the characters’ goals. Weather, wilderness, and animals are all perfect for threatening goals.
Play Goals against Beliefs. Let the players determine which is more important to them at that moment.
Sadie’s Goal conflicts with her Belief to act with her heart. She is pulled between competing priorities when Conrad is overwhelmed by a horde of hungry crabs. Does she do her duty or does she save Conrad?
In order to build tension, put the “goal” of a Goal at the end of a mission. Build up to accomplishing a Goal over the course of the session. Put obstacles in the way and make the Goal itself an obstacle. If you follow these steps, the players will get to make some real choices about their characters and get a chance to test their mettle and roll some dice!
The characters’ parents, senior artisans, mentors, friends, and enemies are a great source of adversity. Characterize them with their own Beliefs and Goals. Either use them to challenge the characters’ Beliefs directly or put these relationships in danger so the guardmice have a chance to demonstrate what they believe. You can threaten them with the magic formula: weather, wilderness, animals and mice.
Will the guardmouse save his enemy from being eaten by a fox? It’s his duty to do so. Can he overcome his own emotions and still act on that duty?
Use friends, enemies, mentors and parents to exact promises from the players.
Would you chase a weasel into the Darkheather if it was raining, you were lost, days from home and your wife made you promise to come home safely?
Send the guardmice to their hometowns. Send them to the places where their enemies lie in wait. Send them to where their friends live. Travel in the Territories is dangerous. It’s always nice to see a familiar face at the end of the road.
And when the heroes are beat up, hungry, tired and in need of solace, let their relationship characters help them. Have them come to their aid with food, shelter and comfort. How does a hero react to such charity? Does he show his vulnerability and accept? Or does he sternly shrug off such aid?
Challenge the Patrol with Weather, Wilderness, Animals and Mice
You have a mission. You have goals. You have weather, wilderness, animals, and mice at your disposal. As the GM, you need to place those hazards between the players and their Goals.
Think of three or four things that could get in the way of the patrol accomplishing its Goals. One of them should be obvious—it’s raining — while one of them should be a surprise — a snake den!
Use the weather to interfere with their travel or force the patrol to risk travel under bad conditions. The wilderness is implacable and uncaring. It threatens to swallow up the mice and their culture, and it certainly hinders patrols. Interpose unforeseen obstacles — rushing rivers, steep gullies and dangerous swamps.
Threaten towns with falling trees, heavy snows, floods, wildfire and lightning strikes.
Remember to see the world from the perspective of a mouse. Imagine how threatening and dangerous small events are. We take mud or a rain storm for granted — an inconvenience at worst. For mice, those incidents can be a matter of life and death.
Animals make excellent obstacles as well. Predators eat mice. If one got loose in a town, it’d be a disaster. On the road, the patrols need to avoid predators to complete their missions.
How We Play
Once you have characters and the GM has a mission, you’re ready to play. If this is your first session, sit down at the table, gather your dice and pencils and listen to the mission assignment from Gwendolyn.
After hearing the assignment, write your Goals for the session. Once the Goals have been written, the GM takes over.
He gets to describe where the mission begins, what the players have to do and in what order it must be done. He gets to confront the characters with weather, wilderness, animals, and mice.
In order to overcome these obstacles and complete their mission, the players must test their abilities and skills. The GM gets to say which abilities and skills are tested. This part of play is called the GM’s Turn. (We talk about tests in the Resolution wiki, so don’t worry about specifics right now.)
After he’s done beating up the guardmice, usually once they’ve completed their mission, reached the safety of a town or passed a dramatic moment in the story, the GM hands the reins over to the players.
The game then enters the Players’ Turn. During this part, the players drive! They get to try to recover from the beating they took in the GM’s Turn. They can also try to pursue some of their own personal goals and needs without the GM getting in the way.
The GM’s Turn
During the GM’s Turn, it’s the GM’s job to beat the crap out of the players’ guardmice characters. It’s his job to confront them, push them and challenge them. They can’t prove themselves to be heroes if you go easy on them. And the game is way more fun if it’s challenging. If it’s too easy, it’s boring.
The GM starts the game with his turn. He gets to set the weather and place the first obstacle in the patrol’s path. That first obstacle should be something that directly gets in the way of the patrol fulfilling its mission.
Overcoming Weather, Wilderness, Animals, and Mice
Place an obstacle in front of the player. Describe it to them:
It’s a long way between Rootwallow and Barkstone. That grain mouse could be anywhere.
The trail to Gilpledge is buried under a layer of melting snow. It’s going to be very hard to find the settlement.
A gigantic snapping turtle has lodged itself in the town square of Grasslake. You’ve got to dislodge it before it snaps up the whole town.
After you’ve made the situation clear, tell the players what ability or skill they need to use to overcome the obstacle.
You’re going to have to use your Scout skill to find that grain peddler out in the forest.
Traveling to Gilpledge requires a Pathfinding test.
You’re going to need Hunter and Loremouse to drive off that turtle.
Don’t be afraid to give the players options to overcome the obstacle:
You could also use a Trails-wise or Peddler-wise to find likely routes on which you can intercept the grain mouse.
You could try to use your Scientist skill to create a series of traps and levers to dislodge the turtle, too. However, this is going to be very hard.
The pressure is on the guardmice to complete their mission during the GM’s Turn. There’s no time to rest, no room to breathe. You must overcome the obstacles set in your path.
Very Limited Recovery
Characters get banged up a bit during the GM’s Turn. They’re made Hungry, Angry, Tired, Injured, and Sick, but hopefully not all at once.
Players cannot recover from these conditions — even if the GM tells them it’s okay — unless they spend a special resource called checks. Checks are earned from traits. We’ll talk about them in the Players’ Role in the GM’s Turn heading.
The GM places obstacles in the patrol’s path and determines what is required to bypass them. These challenges can be simple, requiring only a single test to overcome, or they can be complex, requiring a series of interlinked tests.
Obstacles are overcome with tests. A test is a roll of the dice. The rating of the ability or skill indicates the number of dice rolled. The player will either succeed or fail at the test.
The GM places specific obstacles from the general weather, wilderness, animals and mice hazards in the patrol’s way — an overgrown path, a rushing river, bothersome bees, an angry merchant. These require a single test to overcome.
Weather- and wilderness-related matters make good simple challenges, but you can resolve short encounters with other mice in one test, too.
Finding a mouse lost on a known trail is a simple obstacle overcome using the Scout skill.
Sometimes an obstacle is too big to overcome with a single test. The GM can call for multiple abilities to be tested to overcome an obstacle.
To navigate the coast, one might use Survivalist to build some oars and floats, Boatcrafter to build a leaf boat and Coast-wise to find a safe port.
Complex obstacles are best used when building something, rescuing someone, or executing a complicated plan.
There’s a level of play above complex obstacles. Sometimes, a scene needs special attention and detail — a fight, an argument, a chase, for example. These are action scenes where we zoom in on the characters and focus on the blow by blow effects of each action.
Dislodging a snapping turtle from Grasslake will require overcoming a series of obstacles and, finally, a confrontation with the turtle itself.
The exact rules of how to make tests in various situations are described in the Resolution wiki. We’re going to talk a bit about Success and Failure here before moving on.
When a player passes one of the ability or skill tests put in front of him by you, he gets what he wants and overcomes that obstacle. You and the player should both offer a little bit of cool description to celebrate the moment.
Sadie’s player decides to set out for Calogero on the water, rather than on an overland route. She must pass a Boatcrafter skill test. She succeeds and arrives at Calogero unharmed.
After that, move on to the next obstacle! The GM gets to describe what happens next. He can ask the players what they are doing, but he can also narrate the patrol’s progress to the next obstacle.
If a player fails an ability or skill test, one of two things can happen. You can decide he fails to overcome the obstacle and throw an unexpected twist into the story or you can allow the player to succeed with a condition. He passes but his character is made Hungry, Angry, Tired, Injured, or Sick in the process.
Twists usually come in the form of new obstacles to overcome, but sometimes they can just be cool moments you describe.
Kenzie instructs Lieam to climb to a higher vantage point to see if he can spot the missing grain peddler. Lieam tests his Scout skill and fails.
The GM rubs his hands together and chuckles a bit. “You failed?” he asks. “You don’t see any mice, but you do see an overturned grain cart.” As soon as that test is failed, the GM twists the story in a new direction. He decides that the patrol is too late; the grain peddler has been eaten by a snake!
If the patrol had to test Nature to escape from a snake and they failed, the GM could allow them to escape, but declare that they’re Tired and Angry from the exertion.
In either case, you get to describe the scene and what happens. You even get to describe what the character does to foul up and get tied in knots.
Moving From Obstacle to Obstacle
Whether the players passed or failed their tests to overcome the obstacles, the game must move on. It’s your job to introduce the next problem. And the next obstacle should be different than the last.
Using the twists aspect of failure, new, unforeseen obstacles will arise. This is how play happens. This is how missions go awry! Twists can bring in one of the four obstacles you haven’t used this session — weather, wilderness, animals or mice. Or twists can be used to bring in new encounters with the same obstacle. In other words, they can be used to make matters worse.
Failing to find the grain merchant doesn’t end the adventure. Instead, the failure introduces a new problem — the snake. Once the snake has been dealt with, the patrol finds the grain
mouse — in the snake’s belly.
This is a real twist because now the patrol can’ t simply question the grain mouse and find out who he was working for. Now they must take their investigation further and journey to Barkstone to do some legwork there.
Players’ Role in the GM’s Turn
During the GM’s Turn, the players must confront the obstacles placed before them by the GM. Describe your character’s reactions to the obstacles. Describe what he says and does to try to overcome.
“I climb the tree to get a better look around.”
The GM will point to certain tests to overcome obstacles. The players may suggest other tests, other ways to navigate the situation.
The players may make suggestions to one another or the GM as table chatter. Or they may even hatch plans “in character.”
“We’ve been on the road too long. Lieam, you’re a good scout. See if you can spot the grain peddler nearby.”
Plans or suggestions are offered up to the GM. The player describes what his character would like to do and what skill he’d like to use. If the GM agrees, or thinks it’s a good plan, then he may set the obstacle number for the player and have him test. If the GM thinks it’s inappropriate, then he can say no. And for certain actions — like players fighting — the GM can tell you to wait until the Players’ Turn.
Players should help one another and make suggestions about the best course of action. They must also look for opportunities to use their traits.
Traits in the GM’s Turn
Players may use their characters’ traits to aid and hinder themselves in the GM’s Turn. Incorporating a trait in a beneficial manner earns bonus dice or a reroll.
Lieam has the Defender trait. His player says, “The snake is creeping up on my friends? I must protect them. I use my Defender trait!”
Using one of your traits to get in your own way earns the player checks against that trait. These checks are spent during the Players’ Turn. So you can hurt yourself a little now for gain later. Earning and spending checks is described in the Traits wiki.
Saxon has the Fearless trait. His player says, “I’m Fearless. I want to use that trait against myself as I try to convince Kenzie and Lieam to go out and fight the snake. It’s actually a bad idea!”
Checks are very valuable and useful. It’s your job to be proactive about earning them. It’s not the GM’s job to coddle you and provide equal screen time for all players. You must be proactive. A hero risks himself to overcome his own weaknesses and improve the common good with his sacrifice.
Player Versus Player in the GM’s Turn
While the players are suggesting different solutions to one another, disagreements may arise. During the GM’s Turn, resolve disagreements with a Persuader versus Persuader test, Persuader versus Will test if one character is trying to convince another neutral character that he’s right, or even Fighter versus Fighter to settle differences that have come to blows. These are simple obstacles presented to other players. They’re not complex obstacles or conflicts.
Saxon and Kenzie argue quite a bit about the direction the patrol should take. These arguments are resolved using Kenzie’s Persuader against Saxon’s Will.
Other situations may arise as well. Resolve them with quick versus tests. Players may use their traits to help and hinder the roll, but remember that twists and conditions still apply.
Ending the GM’s Turn
The GM’s Turn ends under one of three circumstances: when the patrol has completed its mission, when the patrol reaches a safe haven or during downtime on an extended mission. At that point, the GM hands the reins over to the players.
The first mission for Kenzie, Saxon and Lieam ends after Kenzie reveals he discovered that the grain peddler was indeed a traitor. Three of the four problems were presented in the course of play: wilderness (find the mouse), animal (fight the snake who ate the mouse), and mice (the revelation that mouse was a traitor). After that, the GM turns the reins over to the players. It’s their turn now.
Note that completing a mission isn’t the same as accomplishing Goals. Sometimes, finishing your duty is going to leave your Goal unsatisfied. Use your time in the Players’ Turn to complete any unfinished Goals.
A standard session has one GM’s Turn that lasts for one to two hours, followed by a Players’ Turn that lasts for one to two hours. The switch typically happens when the players complete the mission. They are then free to go about accomplishing their Goals.
If you’re playing a session that will represent a whole season, be sure to use your twists to create long term problems — stuff that will keep for a few months, like rivalries, shortages, and epidemics.
Extended Missions and Short Turns
Occasionally, missions will extend for more than one session of play. If, for example, the mice are sent into the Darkheather or the Wild Country, there may be too many obstacles to overcome in a single session.
In this case, the GM may shorten his turns, presenting two or three obstacles, then turning over the reins to the players for a quick Players’ Turn. This process gives the game the feel of a long hike — each day can be a new obstacle to overcome, each night a chance to rest.
Once you’re comfortable with these configurations, experiment with different pacing on your own.
The Players’ Turn
It’s the GM’s job to beat the crap out of your guardmice. It’s your job to survive the beating and overcome!
During the Players’ Turn you may try to recover a bit and build up your resources in addition to taking care of other, miscellaneous business.
After traveling such a long distance and fighting with a snake, Kenzie, Lieam and Saxon are Tired and Angry. They are also far from Barkstone and the conspiracy to overthrow Lockhaven.
Checks and Tests
Tests in the Players’ Turn are limited. Each player gets one free test. You can use it for whatever you want—to recover, to find an old friend, to fashion new armor, to pick a fight, or buy a gift for your love.
After discovering the traitor, the patrol makes the journey to Barkstone. As they walk and talk, they try to recover from their fatigue and Anger.
Kenzie spends his free check to shrug off his Anger. He talks out his reasons with Saxon and Lieam.
Lieam spends his free check to recover from being Tired. The fight with the snake wore him out. On the walk, he tries to calm his nerves and relax.
Saxon wants to remain Angry — Angry at Barkstone and the traitors. He chooses to spend his check to lead the patrol to Barkstone so that he might have his revenge!
If you want more tests, you must spend the checks you earned against your traits in the GM’s Turn. We’ll talk more about the nitty-gritty of using your traits in the Resolution and Traits wikis. Right now, all you need to know is that you use traits both to help you and hinder you. When you use them to get in your way in the GM’s Turn, you get to do more stuff in the Players’ Turn. When you’ve used your free test and run out of checks to spend, you’re done for this turn.
Each time you make a test, erase one of the checks next to your traits. Go around the table (in any order you decide) and do stuff. The player starting with the most checks should probably go first.
You cannot spend a check for a test twice in a row. You get to make a test, then you have to let another player go. Sometimes this means you get stuck with extra checks. You’ve got a ton left, and nobody else has any. What do you do?
Passing the Checks
If you have checks left in the Players’ Turn, and one or more of your patrolmates has none, you can donate your checks to them. When it’s their turn, tell them you’re giving them a check and erase one from your character sheet. Then they can take a turn and make a test as normal. Once you’re out of checks, you’re done. Either the session’s over, or it’s the GM’s Turn now.
If you don’t want to donate checks to other players, you don’t have to. Just remember, you can’t make two tests in a row in the Players’ Turn. So if you have a ton of checks and nobody else has any and you don’t want to donate, you must discard your excess checks and end the Players’ Turn.
One Player and the GM
If you’re playing a game that consists of just one player and the GM, the sole player may spend all of his checks during the Players’ Turn. He is not restricted to the alternating checks/test rule. There’s no one to pass to!
During the Players’ Turn, you may try to recover from one or more of your conditions — Hungry, Angry, Tired, Injured, and Sick. Recovery usually involves a test and therefore will either eat up your free roll or cost a check.
The Players’ Turn is also an excellent time to make Resources tests for equipment, Circles tests to find help or allies and craft skill tests to create useful items.
Picking Fights and Stuff in the Players’ Turn
During the Players’ Turn, you can also get into full-blown conflicts with fellow players’ mice, your relationship characters or characters the GM has introduced. It costs one check, just like any other test, to start a conflict.
For example, if you pick a fight with your patrol leader, you must spend one of your checks.
Your victim or target doesn’t have to spend anything to fight back.
Playing Nice and Negotiating Goals
Sometimes during play, you can get wrapped up in your character. You want something so badly for him that you’re prepared to fight for it, even if that means defying your own patrolmates.
You can and should challenge your patrolmates to conflicts like arguments and fights about your Belief or your Goal, but be nice about it. Be fierce in your description of your character, but as a player, consult the other player and make sure he’s comfortable with the direction you’re taking. If he’s comfortable with it, great; go for it. If he’s uncomfortable, negotiate a bit. Explain where you’re coming from and what you want. Try to find something that he’s interested in fighting for in the conflict, not simply opposing you, but striving for his own Goal or effect. If you can’t find something that you both want to fight over, then there’s nothing to struggle over. There’s no conflict. You’re going to have to let the matter drop and move on.
Traits and Checks in the Players’ Turn
You may use your traits for benefit in the Players’ Turn (so long as it abides by the standard trait rules, of course). You may not use your traits to hinder your character and earn checks in the Players’ Turn.
Failure in the Players’ Turn
The GM can apply conditions and twists as per the normal rules in the Players’ Turn.
Twists in the Players’ Turn
Twists in the Players’ Turn are tricky. If you’re playing an extended session, and following the Players’ Turn immediately with a GM’s Turn, then use them as normal — confront the players with new obstacles to be overcome.
If you’re ending your session on the Players’ Turn, you don’t want to use twists to create immediate confrontations. The players won’t be able to handle them, and that’s not what the Players’ Turn is for. In this case, use twists to create long term problems — new enemies,
shortages, epidemics — or use them to create cliffhanger endings. A new problem crops up, but you end the session with “When next we meet, we shall confront…”
If you’re stuck for ideas for twists in the Players’ Turn, don’t hesitate to use conditions. They’re just as satisfying — especially when the patrol just recovered from being Hungry, Angry, and Tired!
GM’s Role in the Players’ Turn
The GM doesn’t get to sit around during the Players’ Turn and just watch. He has three very important duties: prompt the players with the rules, play the relationships and stay involved!
Prompt the Players with the Rules
During the Players’ Turn, the players are in control of the pacing. They get to relax and think about what they need. The GM’s job here is to prompt them and nudge them along. Suggest ways to help them use their checks. If the players are discussing something, invite them to use a conflict or at least a versus test to resolve the matter.
Play the Relationships and Characters
Friends, enemies, mentors and parents are more likely to be called on for help during the Players’ Turn. The GM must be ready to play them in a convincing and believable manner. You’ve got to step up and get into character. These characters do have their own agendas, but aside from enemies, they should all be helpful and reasonable.
Stay involved in inter-player disputes. If the players engage each other — arguing or fighting — the GM should stay involved. Use a character to play into the situation. The character can offer his perspective and help. And, as the GM, you should offer advice on the rules.
Other Players’ Roles During the Players’ Turn
The Players’ Turn starts with one player spending a check to bring his character into the spotlight. That player can work to accomplish his Goal. It’s his moment to shine. If it’s not your turn, what do you do?
Contribute to your friend’s turn. Offer to help. If he’s stuck for an idea for spending his checks, make suggestions. If he’s out of checks, pass him one of yours so he can be a part of the game.
Table chatter is strongly encouraged during the Players’ Turn. It’s okay to strategize a bit to ensure that everyone can accomplish their Goals. But overall, even if your characters are feuding in the plot of the game, strive to be a helpful, contributing player.
Perhaps you could even suggest ways for your patrolmates to get revenge on you for that failed Pathfinding test that caused them so much trouble.
End of the Session
When is a session of Mouse Guard over? Your session ends when you’ve either accomplished your mission and played out a Players’ Turn, or when the GM has passed control to the players, they’ve played out their turn, and the GM decides the mission hasn’t been completed and you’re going to finish it next session.
At the end of the session, there’s one important last step. You need to be rewarded for all your hard work!
Rewards for Goals, Beliefs, and Instincts
When play has ended, go around the table. Each player in turn reads his Belief, Goal and Instinct. Using the criteria described in the Earning Rewards section of the What We Fight For wiki, each player is awarded fate and persona points.
After that, decide who earned the MVP, workhorse, and embodiment rewards for the night. Don’t vote, decide.
Then you’re done. Go home or get some dinner or sit around and talk about how awesome mice with swords are!
Missing a Session
If your group is playing an ongoing game of Mouse Guard, and you miss a session that the group played, you get a little boost to help you catch up when you come back.
First, after the prologue, you have to tell everyone where your character has been. Make up something cool, but keep it short.
Once you’ve done that, you may do one of the following in this order: alleviate being Hungry/Thirsty, Angry, or Tired; recover a point of tax from Nature; or you may note a test for advancement — pass or fail — for one skill or ability.
You can’t get rid of being Injured or Sick by missing a session. Advancement and tax for Nature are described in the Abilities and Skills wiki.
Losing a Character
There are two instances in which you can lose a character: death and retirement.
Death is usually involuntary and it nearly always sucks. Let the player who lost his character cool off for the remainder of the session.
Retirement can be voluntary or involuntary. If a player wishes to retire his character, he may at any time. He walks off into the sunset.
If a character’s maximum Nature rating is reduced to 0 due to tax, the character must retire for the remainder of the year. He may not participate in any of the sessions until the first spring session.
In either case, the player of a retiring character is welcome to create a new guardmouse, either choosing from a template or by using the Recruitment process. Or the player may opt to take over GMing for the patrol for a while.
If he chooses to make a new patrolmouse, he should sit with the GM and make up a new guardmouse to join the patrol between this session and the next. The new mouse can either be assigned to the patrol by Gwendolyn, or the players can arrange for their patrol leader to invite him into the group.
If you retire or lose a character who still has fate or persona points left, transfer those points to your next character. Do not take the starting rewards for the new character — take your remaining rewards from last session.
Death and Checks
If your character dies during the GM’s Turn, you may distribute any checks you earned to your patrolmates in the Players’ Turn.
Losing a Player
Sometimes, a player will have to drop out of your game for good. When this happens, the leaving player retires his character. The group should make up a cool story about what happened to him and why he can’t patrol anymore. Try to make this consistent with his Belief. Perhaps he got promoted to guard captain, maybe family business pulled him away or he just plain retired. Whatever description you choose, the character is out of play. His story is ended for now.
If the leaving player was the seniormost guardmouse in your patrol, the next most senior character becomes acting patrol leader.
If the player who had to go was your GM, it’s time for a new member of your group to step up and take over and run a few missions. In this case, the new GM’s old character is temporarily retired from Guard life. He can come back, just not while his owner is the GM.