When I was a kid I read through the Redwall books obsessively. The peril of mice trying to defend their land against outsiders seems like it would be a silly endeavor but it’s really compelling. In the same vein, the Mouse Guard series is a knighthood of mice defending their Territories against predators but it has the advantage of being a graphic novel series as well. If you don’t know it, definitely check it out.
It also has an amazing roleplaying game that has been very well received by everyone across the internet. I love it too and have thought about playing it frequently but… Well, I don’t have anything specifically against Burning Wheel but I also don’t see the need to push a new system on players along with a setting. This is especially true for play-by-post games where it can be hard to recruit players with the high buy-in of new rules.
Lots of times I just swallow my worries and go for it anyways. This time, though, I decided to prep for this game by translating the world of Mouse Guard to a more familiar system. Below is my take on Mouse Guard for the FATE System. I haven’t tried this out yet so let me know if you have feedback.
Starting with what sort of character you are playing can help set the mood, an especially important part of character creation since the world of Mouse Guard is so much different from our own. On the other hand, it may make sense to come up with your high concept and trouble aspect first. This depends on your group’s play style and your own, though, so follow whatever sequence makes sense to you.
Make up a name for your character, preferably something that sounds vaguely Old English
Male: Alfred, Ashton, Becket, Benton, Camden, Carter, Dane, Drake, Easton, Elton, Gage, Gibson, Harlan, Holden, Jagger, Kenton, Kennard, Landon, Langston, Lyndon, Marley, Maxton, Osbert, Oswin, Reed, Riley, Royce, Ryder, Sheldon, Tanner, Tucker, Wesley, Weston, Vance, Winton.
Female: Ainsley, Ashley, Bailey, Brinley, Cyneburga, Daisy, Deana, Earline, Elfriede, Hadley, Harper, Kelsey, Kendall, Lee, Layton, Macy, Nell, Payton, Riley, Rowena, Sawyer, Scarlett, Sutton, Whitley.
Pick an age for your character. Mice can enter the Guard as early as 14 but the average age is 18. Most guardmice retire before the age of 60.
There are five fur colors prominent in the Territories: brown, blonde, gray, black, and red. Brown is the most common, followed by blonde and gray. Black is uncommon and red is rare.
What city is your character from? There are lots of cities all around the Mouse Territories but eight produce the most guardmice: Lockhaven, Sprucetuck, Barkstone, Ivydale, Copperwood, Port Sumac, Shaleburrow, and Elmoss. Feel free to look at a map for others or look through the information presented in the Mouse Guard RPG. This will be a location you have ties to and where you can draw resources from during the course of the campaign.
Guardmice don’t often get to visit home but they probably write letters to their parents often. They are also (usually) count on them for support if they are still alive and many find excuses to stop at home if their patrol is going nearby. Family also gives a mouse their craft, the job they would have gone into if they hadn’t joined the Guard. Thinking about what your character’s parents do will help you pick out Skills and Aspects later.
When a mouse applies to join the Guard during the spring or fall recruitment periods they are assigned to a tradesmouse in Lockhaven to learn their useful skills. Because the Mouse Guard has many needs, it’s important to maintain an economic base for patrols. Your character’s senior artisan determines what training they got as tenderpaws and what they do when not out on patrol. At the minimum come up with a name and trade, then use that to inform your Skills later. Write a line or two to give the GM and other players a sense of this character’s personality.
Friend or Ally
Who did you make friends with when you started at Lockhaven? This NPC will be a continuing ally through the game, someone you can count on to back you up, provide information at Lockhaven, or join you on a mission. On the other hand, this is also someone who might be in danger, used as a bargaining chip by enemies, or asking you favors that make things complicated. Sum up this character in a line or two to give the GM and other players a sense of their personality.
Enemy or Rival
Who did you piss off during your training? This is someone who will be a thorn in your side during the campaign, either as part of the main conflict or as a side threat, annoyance, or complication to mess things up. Like other NPCs in your background, write a line or two to give the GM and other players a sense of this character’s personality.
After the apprenticeship period, a guardmouse is granted the provisional rank of tenderpaw and sent out on patrol under the leadership of a more senior guardmouse. Decide who your mentor was and what your relationship is with them. Were they a tough taskmaster or a surrogate parent? Did they keep you out of harm’s way to observe or insist you get in the thick of things? Unlike the other background characters on this list, it’s entirely possible that your mentor is another PC.
There are five ranks in the Mouse Guard, not counting the Matriarch who leads the Guard. Tenderpaws are new recruits to the Guard, out on their first patrol. Guardmice have proven themselves and are regularly sent on patrol missions throughout the Territories. Patrol Guards are proven soldiers of the Mouse Guard trusted with complicated tasks or independent missions. Patrol Leaders are those who have demonstrated their ability in the field and are trusted with the command of other mice on patrol. Guard Captains are the senior office who oversee major goals of the Mouse Guard, rewarded for long careers and exemplary service, and there are typically only a half-dozen at a time. Your rank will determine your Stunts and Refresh later in the character creation process.
|Guard Rank||Typical Age||Stunts||Refresh|
It may seem superficial but the color of a guardmouse’s cloak is very important to their relationship with other guardmice. The color is chosen by their mentor after their initial placement period is over and the color is meant to reflect their personality and place in the Mouse Guard. Take a moment to think about what color sums up your character’s approach to being a guardmouse and why your mentor chose that color.
This is exactly like in the FATE Core book, the aspect that sums up what your character is all about and what their job is. Note that all PCs in the campaign will be guardmice so a high concept that only lists their job as Guardmouse isn’t particularly illuminating. Instead, think of what role they play on the patrol: Patrol Scout, Swordsmouse, Patrol Leader, or Town Negotiator, for example.
This is also like the aspect listed in the FATE Core Book, something to add a twist to your character. While the high concept is often something that you use to your advantage, the trouble concept is usually something that the GM compels to move the story along. It may be a personal struggle (such as Short Temper, Drink the Pain Away, or Nervous Tenderpaw) or a problematic relationship (such as Long-Lost Love, Blackmailed by a Traitor, or Spying for Captain Coulton).
Your character’s belief aspect is a personal ethic or moral that you live by. It’s something that rings true with you and drives all of your decisions, something personal to your experience of what it means to be a guardmouse. In the comics, Kenzie tells Lieam his belief aspect: It Matters Not What You Fight, but What You Fight For. As you can see, belief aspects are sometimes a lot longer than other aspects and that’s alright. They should be specific and give you a sense of what is at the core of your character.
This is a tricky aspect, something that represents your character’s gut reaction and go-to approach to a situation. It can be used equally well as something you invoke (to get an edge in a situation by following your instincts) and as something that the GM compels (when you follow your instincts before thinking and get into trouble). Be sure to read through the “Double-Edged” section of Making a Good Aspect on page 61 of FATE Core. Example instinct aspects include: Never Delay When on a Mission, Always Carry a Blade, and Hear Out Those in Need.
First Patrol Aspect
A guardmouse’s first patrol is a formative experience. What did you do during your first patrol and what lesson did you learn? This is like the Phase One process in FATE Core except that it doesn’t need to star the character and it doesn’t need to include the other PCs. Some first patrol stories will involve other PCs (especially if one of them is your mentor) but the majority will happen between the tenderpaw and their mentor before they are assigned to another patrol group. Whether the patrol is routine, extraordinary, surprising, or grounding the lesson is the important part of this step and that will form your aspect. Sample first patrol aspects include: Not Every Town Likes the Guard, The Scent Border Must Be Maintained, and Always Trust Your Fellow Guardsmice.
This is not an aspect you choose, but something that represents the natural abilities of creatures. It’s the same for all mice (and therefore all PCs) but other types of animals will have different nature aspects. For mice, the nature aspect is Mice Escape, Climb, Hide, and Forage. Other creatures will have a different list, given in their descriptions later.
In the next installment I’ll be looking at Skills, animals, and possibly some pregenerated characters and other conversions.