Fun with Sword-Carrying Mice
December 26, 2009 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Point me to resources for a beginning Game Master, Mouse Guard specific if possible.

My family got the Mouse Guard RPG for Xmas. I played D&D extensively back in the day, but have never run a game, and that will be my role. I am reading through the book and things are very clear, and yet I feel uncertain about how to translate what I'm reading into effective game play. I really want to use this game to show my kids how much fun RPGs can be, so it's important I not be too bad at this. I'd like play to proceed relatively smoothly.

Anyone have any links to resources for beginning GMs that really break it down? Links to "how to GM for Mouse Guard"? Things that really lay it out for the novice?

Your own anecdotes and tips, what-I-wish-I'd-known stories, and so on would be welcome as well.

This feels like a vague question but that just reflects my lack of clarity about how to put the theory into practice.
posted by not that girl to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Gnome Stew has a review up for Mouse Guard that made me really want to run it. While it is indeed a review and not a how to guide, it gives you some ideas and it's super long. Gnome Stew is the only gaming blog I read habitually, but I'll also look over some stuff at Robot Viking every now and then.

Good luck!
posted by clockbound at 4:22 PM on December 26, 2009

Also, you can check out the Geekdo site (also part of boardgamegeek and I have non-financial interest there as an admin) for Mouse Guard.
posted by meinvt at 5:29 PM on December 26, 2009

I'm not familiar with Mouse Guard in particular but for GMing tips, I find it useful to read other people's stories about "the worst derailing" or "the worst railroading" or other difficult moments. One of the hardest things about GMing is knowing how to react when your players go way off on some tangent or seize on an off-hand comment as Key to the Plot, and I have a lot of admiration for people who can go with it and still incorporate their planned plot points (say, instead of the evidence they need being in the house they just burned down, put it somewhere else or add in new clues so that they can still figure it out). Reading about other people's experiences is a nice way to skip some of the noob mistakes.
posted by Lady Li at 8:46 PM on December 26, 2009

Response by poster: Popping in to say that in my ongoing googling I came across this site, roleplayingtips, that has a few useful articles.
posted by not that girl at 8:52 PM on December 26, 2009

Here's some generic stuff. (I've not seen Mouse Guard, but it looks pretty cool.)

Do you as the GM have a handle on the characters. Do they have to follow someone's orders, do they have a common goal, or are they just looking for loot? The best that I've ever seen this done was when a GM sat down with us, one at a time to go character creation. He'd always ask things like, "Why do you know that?" or "How did you learn that?" By the time our characters were created he had about a dozen ways to manipulate each character and one of his cities was pretty much pre-built.

Is this something you're going to be playing regularly, or just a couple one off games? If it's going to be semi-regular, create a couple subplots. One or two that are just the stuff of life happening that there players may or may not want to get involved in, one or two that may be foreshadowing, and a handful that involve one or more of the players directly. Old friends, old enemies, old debts - that sort of thing.

Figure out what motivates your players and try to give every player a little bit of what they want every session. The list I remember (I think from The Space Gamer back in the day) was the war gamer, who wants an interesting tactical situation; the story teller, who wants to participate in an interesting plot; the role player, who wants to play at being his character and the power gamer, who knows that somewhere out there is the amazing sword of his ancestors and it will be his! (I'd add the detective to the list - a player who likes to solve puzzles and mysteries.)

Another thing, that I've never seen done in person - in part because I haven't done much gaming since I heard about it - props. Let's say it's a fantasy setting and the characters are looking for a missing person, last seen down by the river bank. When the characters go to search the area, you tell them, "You see footprints - to many to be just his. A few feet away you find - this (Thunk) and this (clink)." You drop this beat up old leather purse and a piece of jewelry on the table. Inside is an odd mixture of junk. A needle and a bit of string, a small knife, some coins. You let them rifle through that for a while and tell them "You all recognize Osric's pouch. In fact you were there (pick player at random) the day that happened (point out particular tear or blemish on beat to hell leather purse). None of you recognize that amulet though."

With a buck or two at Goodwill, a couple drops of superglue and an extended raid on the junk drawer, you've just given the missing person a strong link to the characters despite the fact that you only mentioned him once or twice before. You've shown that he didn't exactly leave willingly, that robbery isn't the motive. And what about that amulet. That must be a clue, but to what....

The article I first encountered this in included a story where, during a modern day spy type game, the players were going to search a car that their contact at the police impound lot was going to give them access to. When that time came, the GM threw them a set of car keys and said, "It's the blue Honda across the street - you have ten minutes. You don't want to go too crazy with this, but every once in a while it could be the stuff of awesome.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:10 AM on December 27, 2009

I have the game but haven't had a chance to play it yet, sadly. As no one has mentioned it yet, I'll post a link to the game's designer's forums, which seem quite active and the designer (Luke Crane) is known for getting involved as much as he can.

I'd also suggest a series of blog posts by a fellow who ran Mouse Guard for a group of students (teenagers, I think) in an after-school program. His posts give a good feel for the game in play even for people who don't want to run the game with younger people. His first post, where he introduces the group to the game and makes characters is here

I hope you have a great time.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 6:36 PM on December 27, 2009

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