Mouseguard the RPG

This post in no way is supposed to indicate a dissatisfaction with the current game being played Friday nights.  But I constantly read new things.

For those of you who don’t know Mouseguard is keen.  It is a comic series written and drawn by David Petersen about the adventures of mice.  The Mouseguard is an organization that protects other mice – guiding them on dangerous journeys, fending of predators and generally being knights.  Mice (and their foes weasels) are anthropomorphic.  The rest of the animals are normal.  The mice face danger on all sides as they are potential prey to almost everything else out there.  The Mouseguard wears colored cloaks and carries swords and staves.

The first series showcased the Mouseguard fighting against sakes, crabs and eventually a betrayal of one of their own and an entire army raised up against them.  They experienced loss, humiliation and fear.  But they also displayed wisdom, courage and expertise at the martial arts.  It was pretty awesome and had great, great art.

There have been three more series that follow: Winter 1152, The Black Axe and Legends of the Mouse Guard.

Mouse Guard uses five interacting mechanics:

  • target numbers from 1 to 6.  Each point in skill (1-5) allows one die roll.  1-3 is a failure, 4-6 a success.
  • roleplaying benefits: Fate points (which cause sixes to explode ala WEG Star Wars) and Persona points which allow extra dice.  They are earned by roleplaying your traits, goals, instinct and belief.  These descriptors are a lot like Fate system aspects.
  • Skills (24 skills) and abilities (3 abilities) similar to the D&D skills and attributes.
  • A streamlined combat system that mixes narrative decisions with tactical modifiers.
  • bonuses to rolls or successes from helping, gear, environmental benefits (like weather) and your traits.
  • Six wound conditions (as opposed to hit points)
  • And a different narrative framework where the first half of each session is DM driven and that second half is player driven.

The book is evenly split between establishing the setting  (territories, Mouse Guard background, roles, etc., foes and the weather and seasons) and the rules.  While not as whimsical as the Dresden rules the presentation is still very entertaining to read.

Like Dresden, Mouse guard stakes a middle ground between a tactical system like D&D and a narrative system like Esoterrorists (although Esoterrorists was still on the crunchy side of narrative games).

It seems to be a very workable and playable system.  It isn’t a perfect fit for our group – I think the setting would be a hard sell and the lack of magical elements removes a potent hook for character creation.

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