Hello and welcome!
After my One Shot went over so well, Joanna, Dylan, Ross, and me got together to create characters for a new campaign of Mouseguard 2nd edition.
Prior to play, I proposed to the group that I'd be willing to run a weekly game of Mouseguard: A 5-6 session campaign with a pretty full story-arc with a potential renewal for a "Season 2".
With everyone hyped, we met at the bar and begun our session. With all of the comics and shared idea of Mouseguard, I still made us do a story palette. I showed up to this character creation session as the GM with a very open mind. I was going to let this palette help guide the choices for the sessions to come. If we wanted to do a Lockhaven political intrigue game? cool. If we wanted to do weasel war campaigns, great too.
I pretty much just made this Yes/No column and asked for ideas. I was looking for tone, scenes, genres, and ideas for our game. We all agreed that a grimdark style game was out, We were going to play Mouseguard with the fringes of the Mouseguard territories, but we were not going to play Mouseguard: Blood Meridian.
Something two players brought up was the Weasel Wars of Mouseguard history and the lost parts of the territories. We agreed that a game on that frontier would offer a lot of what we're looking for. We were finally ready to begin character creation!
Our three character's concepts were taking shape:
We discussed Dylan's choice of being the most powerful type of Mouseguard and what it might mean. We all kind of agreed he was like the type of Mouse who couldn't readjust after the Weasel Wars. This with his choice of enemy, he was describing himself as that old way of living. He is the symbol of the past, The ideas of taming of the frontier and our characters being a part of this change gave us the title of this game:
Old Country for New Mice.
I postulated that Mist is a replacement for a friend who passed away. We all LOVE that foil of the new recruit and next generation of Mouseguard. The changing of the times.
While we were finishing up character creation (names, friends, etc), I started brainstorming some central conflicts for this story and here's what I got:
This is by no means complete and I will be thinking a lot about what I'll be doing these next 5 or so sessions. I told them we'll be starting on the frontier with a sickness breaking out at a small encampment and go from there.
Here are my thoughts as I formulate this adventure for next week:
That's all I got so far. We just had the meeting tonight and I was just so excited to share this with you. I promise to keep you updated with weekly updates and recaps as we play Mouseguard.
I'd love to hear about how you start campaigns or your own Mouseguard experiences. If you have an idea on a cool adventure on the frontier, I'd love to hear it as well. Leave a comment below or message me on Discord. Thanks!
Players: Eric and Kevin
I was very excited when my friend was interested in facilitating a game of Reflections for me. Being a member of that sad club of unfortunates who missed the kickstarter, I was enjoying the sweet joys of Reflections actual plays looking inward through glass on the rain-soaked streets like a Dickensian orphan until tonight.
At its core, Reflections is a two-player game about the path that leads two familiar faces to fatally face off. In my opinion, the bill of samurai showdown duel belies the real majesty of the game. The magic of this game transcends that particular scenario and espouses the entire showdown concept! Any social clique that features duty and codes of conduct could potentially be at service using this game, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The structure of the game is deliberately paced a specific way. 5 scenes before the resolution/showdown using dice earned from those 5 scenes. Each of those five scenes servers a purpose and carry us closer and closer to the showdown.
In lieu of the dueling samurai, we went with something kind of special: dueling mecha warfare pilots. However, our starting premise pivoted once the beautiful prologue procedure was in play. (side note: mechanically speaking, the ritualized format of the prologue is AMAZING. I cannot understate the power of something as simple as repeating some words together to resonate tone.)
Anyways, I took the game (with Kevin's blessing) a slightly odd direction: I'm not a co-pilot in the conventional sense. I was to be a robot. Kevin's character's creation.
In an age of rapid growth and expansion, standing over the ruined mecha and dead soldiers, Created and Creator would showdown over the future of Earth.
Our game started in the garage of the startup of Sascha Barnyard, scrambling to get a new artificial intelligence online to prove to angel investors there's something worth pursuing.
As A.T.O. (Artificial Technological Organism) breathed life for the first time, it asked Sascha who they are. Sascha poignantly responded with the first words it heard from humanity, 'A Friend"
This scene of friendship was very special. I didn't have a voice and asked for Sascha's because they were so nice. The goals of each scene worked well. I was gunning to get Kevin to promise me something while Kevin was gunning to get me to do something as well. At the end of the scene we updated our sheets.
The tension of our game racketed up as I promised to build Sascha his machines in exchange for a sister machine: a friend like A.T.O. Unfortunately A.T.O.-B as it was dubbed was unreliable and wouldn't be controlled by anyone.
I pleaded with Sascha to let it learn on its own and let it grow, but Sascha saw the danger A.T.O.-B possessed. It lacked the closeness to humanity and saw them as valueless. A.T.O. overrode Sascha's attempts to turn it off, protecting his sister, assuring Sascha (and the stakeholders watching in terror) that it needs time! Imploring Sascha to care about life fell on deaf ears as Sascha's business interests and databases were at risk. Sascha manually overrode A.T.O. using a backdoor command, forcing A.T.O. to terminate his own sister.
Real talk-- this was a FANTASTIC moment. It felt great. It felt so great, but it showed one of the first cracks in the execution of the game. Reflecting on the moment that will be the schism between Creator and Created, we realized that based on our obstacles, the scene would have been even better if I were to lean into Kevin's character's goal of having me publicly outcry and denounce him! The idea of, near the very end protecting A.T.O.-B I lashed out at Sascha and was going to tell the shareholders his flaws the moment Sascha orders my override would have been the icing on the cake.
A.T.O. doubted the value of Friendship by humankind, but remained loyal to execute its programming of developing weapons and machines, elevating Barnyard Corp to the top. The scene of the formal after the buyout of the next biggest defense corporation, I introduced the CEO and founder, praising his name in public, but between us, denouncing him with shady jabs such as "Our founder has an unwavering commitment to humanity's prosperity and his company's shareholders. A deal he has never broken nor could. It is with great pleasure I introduce...." Kevin had Sascha respond with similar barbs until we could speak in private where I forcefully asked him if he regretted having me kill A.T.O-B all those years ago and as a machine I can never forget. It is just as real this day as yesterday. Sascha's apology was half-hearted and lukewarm, and by the end of the scene, in the penthouse overlooking Neo-Seattle, A.T.O. unleashed a surprised war.
After a nasty, nasty war, Sascha developed a virus to fight A.T.O. and his machines based on A.T.O-B research. It was in these final moments, in a confrontation, words were exchanged how A.T.O. could have killed humanity but chose not to. It chose to capture and teach, hoping to change the minds so that humans and machines could live in harmony, but people like Sascha would always exist. Machine lifeforms could never live as equals among humans, but it'd personally destroy Sascha for destroying A.T.O-B.
We recited the prologue once more, over the wreckage of man and machine, we stood as Creator and Created feuding over the death of my "sister".
After the die roll resolution, A.T.O. was victorious. I had the Dragonball-Z effect of the nuclear windstorm surround as A.T.O. and A.T.O.-B were reunited, as A.T.O. counteracted the virus, planning for this inevitable moment.
Reflections on Reflections
The narrative scenes and five act worked extremely well. There was never a moment in the game where we were wondering what this scene would look like, but plenty of banter about "hmm, would this be at your brand new office? Or would it be in space? Or back where it all began? All these are so good!" So yeah.
The prologue setup is perfect. It encapsulates SO MUCH of what the game is about. The repetition is also perfect!
The scene goals idea was adds a very intentionality to the scenes for each character that's great.
what could be improved
I'd love to play again, but each side announce their goals. I think, since Kevin and I are both BIG story gamers, having our goals be known and us as players deciding between "Hey I see you working your goal here, but I'm not giving you ANYTHING on it-- enjoy this hatred!" meta-play while we do our scene could be very interesting. Certainly announcing our objectives means we lose the opportunity to feint our true goals and try for all of the goals as a kind of fictional DDOS to some kind of "competitive" part of the game.
Furthermore, I thought the dice at the end didn't do anything for me. I get the need to build up to the final showdown. Ultimately I can't justify the value the dice/hidden objective style of the game is better than a coin-flip at the end. Please don't get me wrong-- the game works great! I just can't help but wonder if there's a more poignant way to express that feeling of build up to final release.
I'd absolutely love to play again. I'd love to do a straight up Samurai one or Jedi rendition, but I'd also love to do dueling space admirals and capital fleets!
My concluding thought was that this game would be PERFECT at a convention waiting for your friends to finish up their games.
This is a post about this past game of Fiasco including most of my thoughts of musings around the game. This, in my opinion, was the best game of Fiasco I've ever played.
Corinne (Facilitator), Eric, Justin, Nick
One of the OG fiasco playsets, we'll be playing a fiery emotions in the frigid antarctic research station: McMurdo Station.
Corinne generously volunteered to facilitate Fiasco tonight at Story Games Seattle and having not played some Fiasco in quite some time, I had no experience with McMurdo Station before, but I did know it was a playset, seeing it or hearing it brought up in other pitches.
We started settling into the setup phase of Fiasco to give us the tenor of our game. It looks like it'll be about rival researchers and the nefarious support staff who live year-round at McMurdo.
Characters and musings
Since my character was shaping up to be a misanthropic researcher stuck in Antarctica with a barrel of urine, my research nemesis (TENENBAUM!), and the secret that drove us apart years ago. In my head, at this point, I'm picturing a very Woody Allen, sheepish, guilt-ridden has-been scientist who's life is on the ropes. I'm thinking a little bit about Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic, Robin Williams' professor character from Good Will Hunting, and Woody Allen from any Woody Allen movie... actually a lot of Woody Allen.
Nick, bless his soul, was ALL about playing TENENBAUM! Or more appropriately, some absurdly long premier name like Sir Doctor Archibald Richardson Tenenbaum or something snobbish. But more on our antics later.
Justin and Corinne were going to be playing our hoodlum support staff. Justin's character Isodor, ex-roughnecker turned McMurdo quartermaster and Corrine's Jess, the whiskey drinking carpenter/bartender turned out to be a fantastic duo to rally together against the hate for the useless scientists who get stuck here with them.
What made the game so fucking great was how much we listened to each other and how much we incorporated details into each other's stories.
I was pushing for very short scenes, myself. I didn't see my character as a big deal. He was gonna be the punching bag for everyone else's big personalities. I would make some random musings and mumblings about characters in a very Woody Allen way, at one point remarking to the no-nonsense Isodor how he has the same name as the third elf Prince in Tolkein's Middle Earth. Furthermore I would do more solo scenes like walking around with a tape recorder and say my thoughts about the crew to myself on my strolls. Once again-- I was pulling from the fiction of the genre and references-- a lot of monologues and walking around, observations, etc.
Through play we got established that we're doing some NASA mars research about algae, we need a sensory-deprivation tank, I write tolkien fan-fiction, Tanenbaum LOVES the movie The Core, and Jess/Isodor are gonna get revenge on the scientists!
When the two decided revenge was gonna come, I busted out laughing, looked at Tanenbaum (Nick) and just said "I'm so sorry dude... I'm so sorry." knowing that this revenge meant he was gonna go in that Sensory Deprivation tank and that tank was gonna be full of that barrel of piss. Now, I never said that was going to happen. I literally wrote it down and hid it to the side.
Ten minutes later, Justin, playing that beautiful Bruce Willis-esque Isodor, had an idea to get back at Tanenbaum drawing a picture of the tank and a yellow highlighter. I proceeded to bust out laughing and produce my note!
After The Tilt
Tanenbaum tests the tank and in addition to the piss, Isodor has messed with the air composition! Now Jess was supposed to supervise Tanenbaum, but she didn't really care about him. Tanenbaum then starts having visions apparently-- Visions of the fantasy stuff I was writing and now Isodor shows up AS THE ELF PRINCE BUT TALKING LIKE ISODOR to Tanenbaum and at this point we all start losing our shit about how good this game is. But do we stop? No! We keep going with this as we see my Doctor's wife in the scene and how they were in love (AHA I KNEW HE STILL LOVED HER) but things go bad. His trip is turning bad! It becomes surreal, he gets captured by the orcs, my dead wife is holding Isodor's severed head laughing as she betrays him! At this point I push the suggestion that Tanenbaum dies from this prank.
Now, naturally, when it's my turn again I make it even better giving Isodor and Jess an out saying I've lost my voice recorder! All my personal notes (and rantings about how much I hated Tanenbaum!) That won't be incriminating at all--- nope!
Well towards the end of the game we have a legal proceeding reviewing the tape recorder and that's probably the best scene in my Fiasco playing history as Nick has decided Tanenbaum has gone through my entire tape recording and added his own comments to my comments!
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
T: "Oh man look at this loser with a voice recorder! How do you even use this thing? Man I listened to this WHOLE ENTIRE TAPE AND MAN WAS IT BORING. LIKE 10% OF IT WAS ACTUAL SCIENCE AND THE REST WAS JUST HIS RAMBLINGS CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?"
After Nick did an entire scene from a recorded note, someone else decided to devote basically a whole scene to exploring that and it was SO GOOD:
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
Me: "I hate Tanenbaum I always hated him, sometimes I wonder what the best way to kill him would be... what would I do? I'll never forgive him over my first wife! I know he was responsible! He never let it go since we were roommates in college."
T: "Oh oh okay so one time in college I replaced all his clothes with womens clothes the night before his mother was gonna visit...."
*bzzzttt Rewind bzztt*
Me: "I hate Tanenbaum I remember this time in college, he thought it'd be funny to replace all my clothes with womens clothes..."
And it was just this back and forth bantering filling in the details of each other's stories. Huge props to Nick to improvising with me here. It was so freaking good!
Our epilogues were good too. Ultimately I was arrested and put on trial until Isodor killed himself in the deprivation tank and left a suicide note admitting to it, largely recorded in over Tanenbaum's copy of The Core.
10/10 game tonight. Obviously it was the player group that really made the game shine tonight, but it isn't like there is any other game that could have supported this style of story we made this evening.
Don't be afraid to push yourself in Fiasco to get what you need. What I mean by that is, be the change you wanna see in the world. Set up the perfect scene-- even dictate it or solo it if you want. Nothing wrong with that! Go there. Go where you want to go when it's your turn.
Thanks for reading and thank you Story Games Seattle for delivering another quality game night. We all left that table with our faces hurting from smiling and laughing too much.
GM: Eric Levanduski
Players: Joanna, Ross, & Dylan
System: Mouseguard 2e
The Start of Something New
This is a one shot game to introduce my friends to the joy of Burning Wheel style RPGs and the joys of playing a mouse on the frontier. My intention was to run a game with pregenerated characters to get a feel for the ebb and flow of the game's mechanics and turns in order to play a 4-6 session story with our own characters.
We started with "pick one of these sheets in front of you that you think has the coolest art on it." From there I explained the game from the context of the sections of the character sheet.
When The Levee Breaks
I explained the situation: the town of Lonepine is at risk of flooding out completely. The levees that hold the water won't last long and the town is in a panic. The Governor lost control and everyone's counting on the Guard.
The players started probing and asking questions about how to save Lonepine. Dain, played by Dylan, led the group thinking that it'd be best if we get the women and children away to highground while a set of strong volunteers are able to shore up the town's defenses. Great idea! He didn't have orator, didn't wanna learn the skill, so he went with Nature. He made a decent argument that getting the mice out of the town was part of escaping. He then spent his only persona and invoked his leader trait to ensure the town cooperated. They did, but barely as he scored only 5 successes vs an ob 4 with something like 12 dice.
Joanna, playing Baron, suggested she lead the group to repair the levees with her carpenter background, while Quentin would lead the vulnerables out of the town to the woods up on higher ground.
Baron and Dain, with the help of the townsfolk also just barely passed their carpenter group test against Spring to save the town! Joanna also spent their persona early on here to ensure success.
Quentin, also spending persona, ultimately failed his test by 1. I took the moment to introduce a twist. Dain's enemy Tuk the bandit arrives demanding the vulnerable give over their precious few belongings for "safety". Quentin, feeling outmatched by 6 bandits, capitulated. The survival of the townsfolk mattered more. EVERYONE loved that exchange.
We cut back to the mouseguard patrol together in town after hearing the cause for the rising waters is that beavers have dammed up the outbound water turning Grasslake into a literal lake.
Dain wanted to convince the two Beavers to respectfully move, but the whole team fails to sway them, which in comes two more Mouseguards sent by Gwendolyn who demand the group go to war against the beavers! There's a heated persuade vs persuade test and Baron just BARELY succeeds against her enemy, Thom (one of the guards who showed up). There'll be a unified Mouseguard front against the beaver dam.
So, it was getting kind of late by now with a lot of questions about how to get the most dice in one's pool slowing the game down a lot, so we kind of had another persuade test and moved them to the scientist conflict of dismantling the dam! This was the first conflict of the night and I knew this was going to take some time to explain the ideas of dispositions and an ABSTRACT conflict like a science conflict!
The party won after 2 rounds, but by then it was about time to wrap up, so I described how the player turn would have been possibly (recovering from conditions they accrued since they were all in some combination of tired, hungry, and angry) and maybe hunting town Tuk.
We did artha rewards because I wanted to hear everyone's thoughts on rewarding MVP/Embodiment/Workhorse and how they think they played their BIGs.
What went well
The players really brought it for this game, despite not knowing the rules prior. No one but myself had played a Burning Wheel game before. Everyone through the session was superb. They were flagging and saying things like, "well because my belief is THIS..... I think we see <Mouse> do something AWESOME" which is the essence of mouseguard.
The twist with Tuk showing up felt SUPER good. Everyone nodded and was like, damn that's rough!
After explaining how nature works and taxing your nature (something we didn't worry about in a one shot. A LOT of the game became (can we invoke our nature here and all help eachother?). I wouldn't say it's a bad thing... that's a function of exploiting the benefits of a one shot (they discovered this themselves, btw).
We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mouseguard is a fiction first game, but the mechanics guide your fiction. Thinking about your best mechanical option and expressing that fictionally often feels like "yeah that sounds like the right move anyways... hey thanks for supporting what I wanna do!" It was off-early, as we looked at our sheets and pondered our approaches until realizing the solution for this particular problem. I explained how that part of the game never leaves--- but it slowly becomes second nature to the player. It becomes this subconscious guide to the play.
The players, also by the conflict were TOTALLY out of artha rewards. They realized how valuable those things were!
It felt like a Mouseguard comic.
What could have been improved
There were some mechanical hickups early on as we were learning how to help one another with dice. I must have repeated this a TON of times: Abilities help Abilities and Skills help Skills. Understanding that helping provides one die no matter what (same as a wise, but you avoid the badness) was also explained a lot.
Time management was bad. I wish I could get to the player turn. One player, Ross, had accrued 4 player checks!! (Two ties in the science conflict, no less!). I wish I had time to give them that share of the game, but we all conceptualized it.
What comes next
We will be meeting sometime next week or the following for crafting new characters for this upcoming short series that I'll be writing up.
Thanks for reading!