We met up for our first session of Mouseguard after chargen. We were all excited to get into the frontier aspect of our game and explore our characters.
Before coming to the table, I did some prep for today's mission. For inspiration, I looked to our palette from chargen and the character sheets themselves. The goals were formed after my prep at the table, per the rules.
Luke Noblepaw, Patrol Guard
b to serve mice, the guard must also serve other animals as well -- especially the smallest and weakest
i When in doubt, refer to notes
g Discover the source of the Sickness
t inquisitive, fearless, wolf's snout
Garrow Gurney, Patrol Captain
b the Border must be maintained
i always use my discretion when given an order
g halt the infection in Sunbreak
t tough, fearless, fat, clever
b The Guard must prove to the frontiersmice that we are trustworthy and honorable
i When traveling, always look for places to hide and shelter.
g Apprehend and execute Folker, the traitor.
t independent, impetuous, nimble
Flashing back in time to the days leading up to the game, I knew I wanted to do something with a sickness in a town being caused by bugs for Luke to step up to help. The next order of business was to make it complicated to challenge Mist and Garrow's beliefs.
I came up with the idea of capturing a traitor. A real question of the Mouseguard and what it means to carry out an order that is messy and has lasting effects. I knew I wanted to have them capture a traitor mouse who has killed a Guardsmouse back in the territories. I originally had it so that Garrow has this mission, but after thinking about it some more, I gave it to Mist.
I overprepped and ended up with a few ideas for twists OR conditions I could choose on the fly based on the pace of the game.
Mission #1: Sickness at Sun Break
Arrive at Sunbreak
How it Went
We started by giving the mission to Mist from Gwendolyn to carry out. They knew Gospel would be in Sunbreak, but our session started with the description of Sun Break: a small town built inside a fallen log in a field. I described it still very much under construction and being built... or at least it was if it weren't for the town getting sick.
The met Vidarr who walked them through town to where the sick were being kept. Luke failed a Healer test to treat some mice, so he got Angry. He was able to stabilize most with everything he had in his bags, but it's upsetting that beetles are causing this town such grief. I played it up that there's bombardier beetles and the water is tainted with some concoction of their chemicals. I played up the "poison" part rather than let them know it was natural bugs. We thought it might have been our traitor or even weasels!
Mist started asking around town looking to see if anyone matches Gospel's description, and they find him as the town Armorer. We spent a good deal of time in this part of the game discussing if we could get him to confess, if we should execute him and leave Sun Break without an Armorer. It was exactly what I was going for. Garrow ended up confronting Gospel in his store, telling him we know who he is but make a racket and sneak out the back and try and be more stealthy -- Garrow wanted to try to keep the rest of the group out of his plans, thinking he's trying to do what's best here.
Well, Mist spots Gospel sneaking out the back and her scout test catches her up to him and forcing his surrender. He confesses and knows what he did and how it was an accident (he was killed in his Dad's old shop). He knew what he did was wrong but was trying to make it right out in the frontier. Mist wasn't sure what to do, so Garrow ended up killing him, shaking his head muttering "you couldn't even run outta here right."
The party gets back to finding the source of the water problem in the Darkheather and arrive at an old winter den of some large creature that is now home to a BUNCH of bombardier beetles. A failed insectrist test later and the bugs began to skitter away up the walls, as a massive Star Nosed Mole burrows into this place trying to slurp up as many beetles as it can, knocking over the den and the mice! Garrow and Luke get injured escaping. This was the end of the GM turn.
The player turn opened up with Garrow with the most checks spending his first one to return underground and secure the water. The remainder checks were spent on recovery except for Mist who spent their check on stepping in for the Armorer, to help out the town.
What went well
We all liked this session and it went by FAST. I think total playtime was about 2.5 hours? The appreciated the flexibility of helping the town, offering them after speaking to some other mice of the town about how they needed help repairing their own self-made scent border recipe or how to neutralize the poison using violet pedals.
What could have been improved
Players mentioned how it didn't feel very Mouseguard-y in town. I could have done more with pretty mouth pictures to describe this giant, fallen log and their small town they're building inside of it. They mentioned the mole escape had elements of being a small mouse they enjoyed.
This isn't a necessarily bad thing, but the players realized how important earning checks are. Combined with my propensity to not offer a lot of tests, and kind of set everything up to be one big test, I informed my group going forward to try and push yourself to fictionally call for other tests if you want to get your checks.
Additionally, we didn't have any formal conflicts and expect some of those next session.
My players elected to keep their beliefs and instincts together for now, but I did tell my players we'd be spending next session in the frontier away from town for most of it. I have yet to decide on the mission, but I do know I wanna play up the vast distances and dangers of the wild frontier.