So, that game I said I wasn’t going to order (but obviously did) arrived today. So there’s that.
Also, Monday marked my first venture into GMing Mouse Guard. I was a little fussbudgety going in because I wasn’t sure if I could keep my wits about me as much as Mouse Guard requires. I generally allay my fears by prepping copiously, but found that my trusty technique didn’t really fly for MG. With only a couple of plot points written ahead of time because the game aims to be so responsive to player innovation, the prewritten material didn’t lend itself to needing a whole host of cardboard buildings or excessive highlighting/notetaking. Even my plan to pull pictures for my iPad failed, largely because I couldn’t find naturescapes with tiny mouse buildings in them. Go figure. I pulled a couple of atmospheric pictures, but they seemed so irrelevant to the feel of the game that I ultimately gave up that approach.
After a half hour of wandering around disconsolately with the rule book, I decided to make some player kits.
We are as enthusiastic about our board games as we are about our RPGs–and just as obsessive about the stuff that comes in them. As you can imagine, our place has a whole drawer full of multi-sized baggies to help organize all of the bits from each game. We separate what each player needs at the game’s start out into player kits, which speed up the beginning of the game. (This is totally normal where we come from. Believe me.) Here, for instance, is the player kit for my team in the new Blood Bowl card game:
There’s everything you need to crush the opposing teams in one handy baggie!
With idle hands and nervous energy, I decided apply the same principle to my Guardmice. I went onto the excellent Burning Wiki section dedicated to MG and downloaded the character sheets for the premade characters, deleting the prewritten Session Goals because I wanted my players to create their own. Then I either downloaded or typed up descriptions of each mouse’s starting city so that my players had a better sense of where their mice originated so their backgrounds could inform their RP.
Finally, I made copies of those awesome flow charts, too, just in case, although we didn’t find ourselves using them. I packed all of that into a clear plastic page protector, and, of course, pulled out my bag o’ mechanical pencils.
It’s not the kind of prep I’m used to, but I finally felt like I’d done my “homework,” so I could relax a bit and feel ready to go.
As for the actual game play, it seemed to go well. We had quite a bit of party tension; one mouse wanted to slip away from the party to go get revenge against a former friend who had wronged her, but her Patrol Leader wouldn’t let her out of his sight because he wanted to keep her safe. It led to some interesting tension, especially when the other two mice decided to let them fight it out and deal with the main mission head-on with rope. (When it comes right down to it, most things in RPGs can be tackled with rope.) It does seem easier in MG to split the party than in other games, because so much relies on the players just talking out their decisions; while the GM resolves one set of checks, the other team can be talking out what they want to do. Our group really enjoyed the social combat rules, having a really great time thinking up direct points, rebuttals, and confusing errata to represent their Attacks, Defends, and Feints. I let them down on combat a bit; it was our first major conflict, so I focused too much on the rules, leaving them feeling like there was no RP to combat, when in fact, I was just trying to make sure everyone knew how the order of events went. Sill, you live and learn. They seemed to enjoy learning that they had far more power to negotiate about what the world was like, but were, as I predicted, a bit nonplussed by the fact that there wasn’t as deep of a prewritten story to follow or as many premeditated puzzles/challenges to “get right.” I suppose that ultimately, I could remedy either of these in subsequent sessions, should they choose to give it another go.
Given that we’ve played WFRP for so long, they were right at home with the cards in the MG Box Set, and remarked several times on the charming illustrations and the high production value. It seemed completely worth it to have the additional pieces since it gave this far more abstract game a bit of an anchor for my players.
Overall, it was fun for me to see the group work together in a different way, and I enjoyed the experience of more free-form GMing. I may try to GM a Mouse Guard game at a convention at some point. After all, there are so many possible ways I could make newbie-friendly player kits for a convention!