Oh yes, another series
Last night my friend PM dropped by the house for an impromptu geekout. We had a great session of armchair producing of potential remakes of Star Wars over Pizza and beer. We than played a game of Carcassone (loved it) and Dominion with Nico (my son won at Dominion, again).
When the kids were put to bed, PM started telling me about a scenario he’d like to build in a RPG, some sort of classic Samurai duel where charisma would rule combat more than Strength or Dexterity. As he was sinking deeper and deeper in D&Disms to try to explain how you would play out 2 guys looking at each other for minutes (and slaying all the players around the table with abject boredom) I gently stopped him…
Chatty: Dude, stop right now, D&D is not made for this. There’s a game that does exactly that, and it’s called Burning Wheel.
PM: Of course…
So we started talking about Mouseguard again and how we would need to try it soon. Since we were kind of in a gaming lull of the evening, I suggested we take out the book (and the pre-generated Character Sheets I have printed out) and just play a bit with it.
So we each picked a sword-wielding mouseguard and we agreed to set a duel at dawn in the plaza of an undisclosed city. We started re-reading the conflict section of the rules to try to get it right. We fumbled a few things but the game’s engine is sturdy enough to withstand it.
We started by generating our Disposition, the conflict’s Hit Points so to speak, by rolling as many d6 as we had ‘Fighter’ skill ranks. Each success (a roll of 4 or more, Mouseguard is a dice pool game) gains you one Disposition point, the total of which you add to your Health score (we flubbed that, adding our fighter to Health instead, giving my PC a clear advantage).
Then, we had to pick a Goal for our conflict. What we wanted to achieve by winning the conflict. The cool thing about the game is that you don’t have to say ‘Kill the other’ unless you have a story reason to do so.
After some cogitation…
PM: I want to distract you and all the people watching the duel so that my friends can sneak behind the crowd and infiltrate the Castle unseen.
Chatty: Great Idea! Then, my PC wants to truly humiliate you in front of your loved ones.
3 minutes and an adventure was created out of nothing. This is really cool.
Next came the ‘planning’ phase of combat, we each had to chose 3 actions (from a list of 4) to plan our first 3 rounds of combat. The actions are ‘attack, Defend, Feint and Maneuver’. We then unveiled our action for first round. I Defended and PM maneuvered.
We then stepped out of the crunch and back into roleplaying (as we must roleplay our action choices)
Chatty: With my hand on my sword hilt I square my feet in the ground and observe you, ready for anything you may do.
PM: I slowly try to shift so that the morning sun gets in your eyes.
We each rolled our attacks (Defend vs Maneuver is an opposed check) and he won by a slight margin. As I look at the rules while I write this, I noticed that we flubbed the attack too as maneuver does not ‘damage’ the opponent (as we played) but rather buys the PC one or several advantages for later in the fight. Still the result was cool.
Chatty (as the GM): The Sun get’s in your opponent’s eyes, which unnerves him, making him lose his initial air of cool detachment.
In round two, I chose Feint and he chose Maneuver again.
PM: I slowly step toward you, always letting the sun behind my back
Chatty: I run toward you, but I overplay my sun-blindness and strike you at the last moment, trying to catch you by surprise!
Feint trumps maneuvers and defend actions, so I got to roll against his disposition, lowering it some…
Chatty: The duel has started and the sound of crossing steel rises over the morning bustle of the city (I may be taking some artistic license here as we were very focused on the rules, but this is totally the kind of cool descriptive crap I would say)
Round 3 saw us both attack…
Chatty: Circling each other, we both look for an opening to pounce on the other.
Attack vs Attack is an opposed check, the game’s default.
PM rolled a series of dice with a lot of 6’s in them.
Chatty: You know you can spend what’s called a fate Point and ‘explode’ your 6s. You reroll them and keep re-rolling all 6s you play, adding successes.
Bottom line, I lost half my Disposition.
End of Round 3, Total duration: 5 minutes.
The duel ended on the next round where I feinted while he defended. Defend allows you to ‘heal’ your disposition but gets totally blown out of the water by feint. PM’s PC lost its remaining disposition and he was humiliated.
However, since my PC had lost more then half it’s disposition, a compromise had to be reached (the rules explain3 kinds of compromise). We had to negotiate something where either PM’s PC obtained half of what he wanted or we took away half-of what my PC wanted.
PM: Okay, let’s say that as soon as you force me to yield in front of my loved ones, guards come into the plaza and investigate before you can bask in the glory of my defeat. That would allow me to sneak out and help my friends enter the Castle through other means.
And thus a new adventure was born… I was almost ready to pick it up from here and play the next scene.
We spent the next hour checking the other fiddly bits of the game, like traits, beliefs, advancement and using your Mousy Nature to get you out of a jam. Needless to say after this short exercise, both PM and I were very excited to try an actual adventure!
Mouseguard now sits firmly on top of my ‘next RPG to try’. I’m really glad I bought this game and was doubly lucky to get to talk to the designer a few weeks back.