Mouse Guard Chronicles, Session 1, Part 1: Char Gen.

A few months ago, I played a one-shot demo game of Mouse Guard with some of my gamer friends and the experience had been very interesting.  (See parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this long-winded game review/report). Enough for us to agree to play again and possibly start a short campaign of it.  After playing it at a local convention 2 weeks ago, I wanted to GM it again… NOW!

On Canada Day, a small group of my gaming friends convened for an all day gaming geekout to create characters and, time permitting, play a session with the intent to have a extend it into a short campaign if it struck the group’s fancy, made of Yan, PM, Maze and Alex (one of our Pax East mates) and myself.

Mouse Cake recipe in 22 easy steps!

Making a character really is a simple (if multi-stepped) affair of answering a series of questions that shape each PC’s ability scores and skill levels. No points are spent nor are dice rolled. I have yet to read the actual Burning Wheel rules on which Mouse Guard is based but I assume this is what “Burning characters” is about.

From core concept (a one sentence genesis of the PC) to place of birth, family craft, apprenticeship and Guard training, character generation culminates with the the beliefs and instincts roleplaying catalysts. It took us 2 hours to generate a group of 4 PCs using only one physical copy of the book. (The GM drives the show by asking the 22 or so questions).

We all found that it was a very well invested 2 hours as each player had a good grasp of their PCs and a summary idea of each other.

The Summer 2010 graduates of Lockhaven!

In the end, the following PCs were created:

Malcolm (Alex): 51 year-old Patrol Leader, former criminal who found himself forced in the Guard many years ago.

  • Belief: If we were all a little more cunning, there would be a whole lot less fighting.
  • Instinct: Find all escape routes
  • Feature: Jack of all Trades but lacking the fighting skill.

Jasper (Maze): 17 year-old Tenderpaw, Desperately wants to be useful, all the time.

  • Belief: Help others so that they, one day, help you
  • Instinct: Escape at the first sign of danger and assess the situation
  • Feature: Owns a towel

Edgar (PM): 22 year-old guard mouse, reluctantly upholding the family’s honour as an exemplary guard.

  • Belief: Everyone can choose their own path
  • Instinct: Go with the first proposed idea
  • Feature: Best fighter, very rich background (son of legendary Guard Captain)

Finn (Yan): 35 year-old Patrol Guard, Insubordinate, grizzled war hero

  • Belief: Overcoming hardships makes you stronger
  • Instinct: Fight first, sort it out later
  • Feature: Dedicated combatant, wielding a halberd

Makeup! We film in 5!

See how just 3 simple elements (design concept, belief and instinct) can create such rich and diverse characters? I’m already looking forward to creating adventures based on these beliefs, hang story hooks to challenge instincts and bite in the implied setting that the players have given me.

For example:

  • What forced Malcom out of the crime biz and into the guard?  Are the reasons related?
  • What will Jasper evolve into once he realizes that pleasing everyone is impossible or when he’s forced to fight people he’d rather help?
  • Why is Edgar reluctant about his job in the guard yet does such a great job doing it? Is he covering a family secret? If he believes in choosing one’s path, why does he do something he has no wish of doing?
  • How many enemies has Finn really made among the mice territories and how will they feature in the tribulations of the upcoming  campaign?

My head is fizzing with possibilities… and I’ll likely have to do close to no work to get things moving!

I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

Up next: Creating an adventure in 5 minutes… and playing it for 3 hours.


  1. Fun character creation. I think that any RPG benefit from creating your party character together.

  2. I really am looking forward to your session recaps from this. I am going to purchase the Burning Wheel books. As I mentioned to you the other day of using Mouseguarding in my Pathfinder game, it worked WONDERFULLY. Hopefully Thursday I’ll have the behind the scences post explaining the twist/complication/condition and goal mechanic.

    Hope your vacation is kicking butt!

  3. This sounds like a ton of fun.
    The characters ARE very diverse, even with a quick generation system. The character hooks you left us with all sound really groeat and really involving.
    This will be a good read for all of us.

  4. Awesome! What I also really like is how Beliefs and Instincts and Goals can lead to conflict. For example, look at Malcolm and Jasper, with their Instincts. They’re going to be frequently conflicting, as Jasper bolts quickly, Malcolm corralling him in so that they don’t lose out on other escape routes. Or Finn’s instinct. Or…yeah, you get the idea.

    Loving the group set-up!

  5. kingsley_zissou says:

    awesome. I am gearing up to run a Mouse Guard campaign on Wave, and this will be a great help for getting ready. thanks a bunch.

  6. Quick friendly editor’s note: Phil is currently on vacation in the woods, and I posted this in his absence, so he may be slow to respond to comments (at least, slower than his usual chatty speed.) Part 2 will be up later this week.

  7. I loved the character generation session and I dream of applying the idea to D&D and feasting on the player’s beliefs and instincts to generate compelling games!

  8. I think Mouse Guard is going to be the next game I pick up. I sounds so good, and I love the artwork. Can’t wait to give it a shot.

  9. Just a heads up, but I used some Mouse Guard Mechanics in my current Pathfinder game to really good success. These were things that I had yaked to Chatty about. Feel free to pop to my blog and comment if so desired.

    The Mouse Guard Mechanics work really well to generate player thought/reaction and in many ways generate stories all on their own.


  1. […] other day Chatty DM posted about his role-playing groups Mouse Guard Chargen session. Reading through it made me take […]

  2. […] After character creation and playing through the first (failed) obstacle of the evening, we started our first Mouse Guard conflict. […]