Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hack and Squeek!

I have come into possession of a copy of the Mouse Guard rpg. This game is based on the Mouse Guard comics and runs using a simplified version of The Burning Wheel system. Now, members of my playgroup may well be shuddering when they hear that as our experiences of Burning Wheel have been less than stellar but I am happy to report that Mouse Guard seems to have done a good job of boiling down the essence of BW whilst stripping away a lot of the dire crunch which has always been a hiccup.

In the game you play mice who have taken up arms to protect their society against the threats flung against it by other mice, animals and Mother Nature itself. The setting has a sort of post-medieval feeling to it without feeling fantastical and the premise is very strong for group play. Its a little Redwall, a touch Robin Hood, a little Tales of Desperaux - you get the idea. Now just because the PCs are mice does not mean that they are quiet little dudes. No, these can be bad ass mice with swords and axes who are warred upon by Weasels and fight snakes and crabs (which are naturally giant crabs) and have all the drama and impact of any other game.

The scene economy in Mouse Guard has tweaked my interest as well, if only because it offers something new and yet familiar. The GM sets a mission for the players and as part of that mission the players have to overcome obstacles - challenges, if you will - before they can succeed. If you 'fail' a test on an obstacle, the game takes a 'twist' and a new obstacle is formed. This is ran very much in the tried and tested GM-authors, Player-plays model of gaming. However, when the obstacles have been overcome (or not) the GM takes a back seat and there is a 'player turn' where the players can pursue their own goals etc. They each get one scene plus extra scenes if they did interesting stuff during the GM's turn. Thats simplifying it a lot, but it sits as a nice half-way house between the 'trad' method of delivery and the player-authored stuff that is around a lot nowadays. It would be interesting to see how it played out or whether it was too procedural.

All in all, it looks like a good game. Whether it is my understanding of BW that has increased or the simplification of the rules, but even the conflict system seems more understandable this time. Goals, beliefs and instincts make sense. There is no 'artha' word, but the points are still there. It looks promising and moreover (or worryingly) the girls have noticed it and want to play.


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