Friday, August 21, 2009

RPG review: Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game by Luke Crane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I was a fan of the comic (I've never seen it), I might give this five stars. I didn't really buy this rpg for the game world, I bought it because I had read that it was a simple introduction to Luke Crane's game design. He has rabid fans, and many people consider his Burning Wheel game the best roleplaying game ever designed. Mouse Guard is a simpler version of the Burning Wheel system.

So, as long as I was at Guardian Games, shelling out the big bucks to get on the waiting list for Space Hulk, I picked up a copy of Mouse Guard.

Wow. I can see what makes people crazy for this.

The mechanics of the game demand real roleplaying on the part of the players. They encourage things like using your character's trait, such as Fearless, *against* yourself. As in I'm so fearless, I'm going to race across the raging river, not even trying to keep myself from being swept away. Which gives you a bigger chance of being swept away. And that's a good thing in this game. You get rewarded for making things harder on yourself by playing true to your character's persona.

To really stand things on their head, the Games Master (GM) only runs the adventure for the first half of the game session. Then he turns it over to the Player Characters (PCs) who get to drive the story, repair the damage done to them by the GM, pick fights, and finish player goals they didn't complete during the GM's turn. The more times you used your own personality traits to hurt yourself during the GM turn, the more things you get to do in the Player's Turn.

You also get rewarded for roleplaying your characters core beliefs and instincts. Cool stuff.

There is a lot of player involvement in the action and story telling. This is as a far cry from a game focused only on combat min/maxing as I've ever seen in playable game.

Mouse Guard won't be for everyone. If you want hard and fast non-negotiable rules to test yourself against, this is not your game. Often table discussion is required. Does everyone agree that my mouse's use of fearless really can harm my chances of crossing the river safely?

If games like Nobilis are based on GM-Fiat, Mouse Guard has a lot of Group-Fiat. The GM can lay the law down now and again, but for the most part, everyone gets a say.

Oh, and you're a mouse with a sword. Not everyone will like that. I read a bunch of the Redwall books when my son was a lad, and it reminds me of that world. You are a tiny mouse, not a man sized mouse. Tree roots are big obstacles. Owls are ten times your size. You grab your sword, and defend the mouse territories. It's not what you fight. It's what you fight for.

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