Indie RPG Spotlight: ‘Mouse Guard’ is Fantasy RPG At It’s Best… and Tiniest
Are you brave, loyal, true, and very tiny? You can join the ranks of the Mouse Guard; fighters of weasels, and defenders of mouse-kind.
In 2006 the first Mouse Guard comic was published by Archaia Studios Press. Written and illustrated by David Petersen, Mouse Guard follows a community of intelligent and human-like mouse in a civilization very much like our own medieval era. Only, y’know, mousy. The eponymous Mouse Guard is a brotherhood of mice. Their calling it is to protect others, acting as escorts, bodyguards, scouts, and other adventure-adjacent jobs.
Over the next two years, the well-loved and Eisner Award-winning Mouse Guard collected enough of a following for the Mouse Guard RolePlaying Game to emerge. This spin-off takes place in the same medieval-esque world but allows players to step into the roles of the Mouse Guard.
Mouse Guard Game Play
The Mouse Guard RPG utilizes a simplified version of The Burning Wheel, a system that utilizes a dice pool mechanic consisting only of D6s. Your sill or ability will govern how many D6 you roll and your goal is to roll more successes than the difficulty level indicated by your GM. 1s, 2s, and 3s are failures while 4s, 5s, and 6s are successes. But the GM can swap one of your failures over to a success with a thematic twist for a partial success.
The system also implements fate and persona points where you are rewarded for good roleplaying and storytelling. Plus you have the ability to possibly re-roll or add dice to a roll respectively. Then there is your nature rating, representing whether you are more human-like or mouse-like. Your character’s nature is central to the game, and you will be reminded of that all of the time. The mechanic is written out on every character sheet.
Mouse Guard has a system of traits, skills, and abilities similar to any other RPG as well as “Wises” or pools of knowledge that your mouse may be able to draw from. However, the conflict system can be a little daunting. A 12-step process with 8 or 9 types of conflict which dictate skills is used. The conflict system isn’t difficult exactly, but may take a few attempts to get the hang of it.
What Makes This Game Special
Aside from beautiful art and a backbone in a critically acclaimed comic series, Mouse Guard creates an entirely unique world for you to explore. With variables related to seasons (every season brings its own twists and dangers), different areas of the world, and dozens of wild animals for you to encounter, this tiny take on the world you know has a strange sort of magic all its own. Plus there are the weasels, the sworn enemy of the mice.
The system won numerous awards in 2008 and 2009 with a second edition published in 2015. It’s a lovely reprieve from human-sized RPGs. This is a world where everything is tiny and the worst threat imaginable is a cat. But much like the comics, Mouse Guard RPG can also quickly lull you into a false sense of security. The lives of these little mice are easy to be drawn into. And when you’re that small, cats and snakes are equivalent to dragons.
If you’d like to join the Mouse Guard, you can find the rulebook and character sheets on the game’s official website as well as comics, artwork, and information regarding David Petersen’s comics. And you can learn more about the game-inspiring comic book here.
Have you played or read Mouse Guard? Have you encountered the evil and treacherous weasels? Were you a fan of the comics or the game first? Let us know in the comments!