Archive for the 'Mouse Guard' Category

Unit Badge

2009 Aug 26


I wanted something that looked German military and dieselpunk without it evoking Nazis. Inspired by this crest of a Franco-German joint military unit, this is what I came up with.


2009 Aug 25


“Für Wotan und Walhall!”

Kirby’s Asgard/Valhalla

2009 Aug 11

The classic Kirby illustrations of Asgard have the rainbow bridge and everything, basically merging Asgard and Valhalla together into a single sci-fi Kirbytech city.



Broken Rainbow

2009 Aug 11

I think this is the campaign I wanna run next, now that I’m in Seattle: The Ring Cycle + Last Exile, run using Mouse Guard but borrowing some color from Bliss Stage.

200 years into the retro-future, Götterdämmerung (the twilight of the gods) has arrived. The Bifröst Bridge that connects Valhalla to the mortal world has been shattered, draining all color from the world, causing it to resemble a post-apocalyptic, black-and-white war film circa 1920. The majority of Europe lies either in ruins or underwater, with the remnants divided between a number of competing warlords and their military forces.

A sizable human city has also been erected in the shadow of the floating city of Valhalla, near the shattered remnants of the rainbow bridge. After decades of praying to the Aesir for protection, young women with miraculous strength, speed, and resilience began emerging among the rag-tag mortal inhabitants — in reality, the bastard daughters of Wotan, the rakish, conniving king of the gods, conceived by a dozen different mothers. These new valkyries, the Broken Rainbow Squadron, have rollergirl attitudes, fly on hovercycles, and battle warlord jetfighters, monstrous wolves, and armies of giants in order to protect their home city (and, more importantly as far as Wotan is concerned, Valhalla).

Oh, and they also still capture the souls of the valiant dead and bring them home to Valhalla. But it’s not clear why, exactly. What could Wotan want with all those souls? And will the color ever be brought back into the world?

So, yeah, a wild, dangerous world + suspicious missions sent down from on high + unclear mortality + wandering heroes = Mouse Guard, I think. We’ll see if I can get anyone interested. I’m thinking all-female characters, but there might be a token valiant dead, perhaps.

MG/Continuum Play Sheets Done

2009 Mar 30

I just finished hacking MG to run Continuum in a way that I think is going to be really cool. The character and combat sheets I made for the game are posted up here (PDF). I’m only having a problem trying to figure out what the “Cobweb” stratagem should do, aside from serving as a Feint. If anyone else out there is familiar with both Continuum and Mouse Guard, I would definitely appreciate some help.

Otherwise, I think most people with knowledge of both games should be able to run this pretty easily, just from the character sheets. Once I actually get around to playtesting this hack, I’ll try to write up a one-sheet of guidelines for making it work well.

P.S. Thanks to Willow for some early suggestions.

Burning Yet

2009 Mar 28

Why is that a character sheet I see?


Now I just need a second sheet with a conflict / time combat summary.

P.S. Yes, your Nature is now defined by the Instincts you choose. Acting along with your Instincts is acting with your Nature. Acting against your Instincts or outside of your Instincts is acting against your Nature. I think that rocks on toast, as long as the players aren’t fools. But then, I pity the fool who chooses “I’m like Wolverine” as an Instinct.

Your Yet is Burning

2009 Mar 27

Last night, we finished the Mouse Guard campaign I’ve been running, after 7 sessions. It was, without a doubt, one of the best roleplaying experiences I’ve had in the past couple years and several other players said something similar. Overall, I thought the system supported us pretty well, though we didn’t really use Traits very much and, by the end, I was using the simplified NPC rules they use for animals for mice as well (it was just way easier, like using the simplified “2d4+3d6+2d8 Raise 4d6” NPC rules for Dogs in the Vineyard).

I’m going to take a week off and think of what I want to run next, potentially as my last game in Boston, what with getting into UW and moving to Seattle near the end of the summer. My current instinct is to run Continuum using a slightly hacked version of the Mouse Guard rules. Something like:

The feeling that you’re having, that tell-tale mixture of panic and nausea? Some narcissist has Fragged you good and the future is crying out in pain: your Yet is burning. Now, you can stay Level here feeling sorry for yourself, or… we can find the little bastard that did this, Frag his sorry ass until he doesn’t know Up from Down, and then fix whatever he’s done to you. What d’ya say?

Time Combat

  • RENDEZVOUS (New Scripted Action): You meet with allied characters and share information.
  • FRUNE / ORACLE / MEASURE / IRON MAN / REVERSE ENGINEER (Maneuver): You gather information on your target, using Circles, research skills, or your own personal observation.
  • HIT & RUN / FLUSH / ISOLATE / STATUE OF LIBERTY (Attack): You Frag or hurt your target in various ways. You can only do this once you have a target, after a successful Maneuver/Feint or after a Rendezvous where you were given information from a successful Maneuver/Feint.
  • PATCH / HIDE (Defend): You either attempt to temporarily fix whatever Frag your target has done to you or attempt to mask your own whereabouts.
  • COBWEB / HARBINGER / SURRENDER (Feint): All three of these involve traps or attempting to demoralize your target.

Mouse Guard: Lessons for 4E

2009 Mar 7

We’re four sessions into our Mouse Guard game and I’ve begun pondering what I want to play next. I’ve been thinking about running 4E in a GM-less (or DM-less, I guess) fashion, set in the Nine Suns Must Fall setting that I’ve been fiddling with, which is a mythic fantasy version of primordial (barely historic) China.

One thing I’ve realized playing Mouse Guard is that it’s much better designed and more clearly written than 4E, in the sense that the 4E material I’ve seen doesn’t really give you a sense of how to easily switch gears between the four different levels of challenges: free play, single rolls, skill challenges, and combat. Neither does it really have guidelines for taking one of these things and ramping it up or down, allowing a single roll to become a fight if need be. Mouse Guard, on the other hand, is really, really good at scaling up or down, and switches pretty seamlessly between different challenge types and different challenge scopes. To put it simple, Mouse Guard seems much easier to GM than 4E, not just in prep and structure, but during play itself, when all GMs make dynamic adjustments in reaction to player choices. The different types of challenges in 4E don’t flow seemlessly into each other the way they do in Mouse Guard.

However, while Mouse Guard is really great and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s been on the fence about it, it’s not quite the right fit for Nine Suns Must Fall, so I want to take what I’ve learned from indie games like Mouse Guard, Agon, Dogs in the Vineyard, and The Shadow of Yesterday and see if I can get 4E to do what I want. Here are some initial thoughts:

Bringing Down the Skill Challenge / Combat Pain

I would very much like both skill challenges and combats to be things invoked by either the characters or their opposition when a single opposed or unopposed roll doesn’t go their way. Because, if nobody’s interested in having a skill challenge or a fight, why the fuck are you having one? Roll a d20 and move on with your lives. In Mouse Guard, this is handled by the GM basically deciding when to Bring Down The Pain and invoke the Conflict mechanics, but in GM-less play, it needs to be more player-determined, as in TSOY.

Skirmish-Sized Fights

I’m really excited by fights that are about the size of Agon battles or the encounters recently released in the Dungeon Delve supplement for 4E. They’re the size of a room or two, with enough space to maneuver without them being those huge maps that the Keep on the Shadowfell encounters were. There’s only so many monsters and PCs that you can fit in a space that size, so positioning is important and, also, the fights are over relatively quickly. Even better, the Dungeon Delve encounters can be built quickly from sets of tiles and could probably be improvised with some clearer guidelines on how to quickly whip one up that was reasonably challenging.

Skill Challenges Currently Blow

I really want them to be more like the give-and-take of conflicts in Dogs in the Vineyard, since they often take the form of negotiations, arguments, or a series of exchanges with traps or other obstacles. The Conflict mechanics in Mouse Guard (a distant descendant of Burning Wheel’s combat/battle of wits) are interesting and operate in a similar space, so there are things to be learned there as well. In fact, the X successes before X failures in 4E is not too dissimilar from subtracting hits from Disposition in Mouse Guard.

The Tragic Tale of Caroline

2009 Jan 30

From the campaign we started planning last night:

There’s a song that’s spreading throughout the eastern settlements closest to the Darkheather (the lands controlled by weasels). Gwendolyn, the leader of the Mouse Guard, is worried, both because the events it describes might be true and because it’s causing mice to lose confidence in Lockhaven or even openly mock guardmice. Your patrol has been assigned to discover the true origins of the song.

The Tragic Tale of Caroline
(to a tune somewhere between “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and “How Can I Keep from Singing?”)

Far down the road
in Woodruff’s Grove
Beneath a rosy pine
Was born a childe
Both brave and mild
They call’d her Caroline

She grew up strong
With will of iron
And when it fell her time
She gave her heart
Full to the Guard
For such was Caroline

Silent they stole
to Woodruff’s Grove
With intents serpentine
Those wicked stoats
Cut all their throats
Except for Caroline

“You vicious knaves
Shall meet your graves!
By all means take your time,
For soon the Guard
Will hit you hard!”
Or so said Caroline

They took her then
Back to their den
And gave their dark decree
“There’s no patrol
That’s quite so bold
As to return for thee”

The days they pass’d
First slow, then fast
The snow fell all around
But none there came
And so the flame
Of Caroline burn’d out

Now there’s no road
to Woodruff’s Grove
And weasels roam the pines
For still the Guard
With hearts so hard
Comes not for Caroline