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[Actual Play] Haunting of Lockhaven Library
grandexperiment
So me and Sam (my wife) played MG last night. This is a relatively detailed AP with the main mechanical points in bold.



IMO no RPG is at its best when in a 1 on 1 situation. MG in particular has a strong focus on teamwork that is lost with just one player. However, it fares better than most as the various mechanics provide a lot of structure to play to allow momentum to be added with ease to ensure that there aren't any awkward silent moments. We did have 3 conflicts which is probably on the high side but with just one player, conflicts helped provide the kind of structure I am referring to.

Heather
Heather is a Patrol Guard who specialises in exploring for new natural resources and the subsequent estblaishment of new settlements or relocation of existing ones to match. She works alone. She is relatively progressive in her thinking and considered a bit odd by many other of the Guard who don't really get what she does.

Belief: Over every new horizon is an opportunity to be explored.
Instinct: Never run from fear alone.
Friend: Bridgette the Archivist. Bridgette helps Heather record her findings each year, which is a job that Heather finds tedious. Bridgette loves books and the Lockhaven library is her paradise.

Mission
Weather: Spring Rain
The session started in early Spring when most other members of the Mouse Guard had already left Lockhaven on the year's first missions. Heather tends to leave later in Spring once the weather settles down as she tends to go farther afield. As a result, she is always restless at this time of year.

Heather was invited to see Gwendolyn who asked her to investigate strange noises reported in the Lockhaven Library. The report came from Bridgette. Gwendolyn recounted the fact that many thought the Library to be haunted and that it had been built close to one of Lockhaven's oldest graveyards. However, she clearly didn't believe the stories and neither did Heather. Heather was just keen to do something and to see her friend.

Goal - Discover the source of the noises to help my friend Gwendolyn

GM's Turn
Following the briefing, we established a little mood of Lockhaven at it most sleepiest time of year. It wasn't deserted but there weren't many mice about. The persistent rain was helped reinforce a sense of isolation and gave the start of the session an appropriate horror atmosphere.

Arriving at the Library, Heather asked where she could find Bridgette. She was given some complex directions to the philosophy section on the far side of the tree (where it was dark and damp).

Pathfinder Test - Success

Heather had no problems finding the right section using an advanced form of code she had developed on the job using her fingers and toes to record directions. Upon arriving, she couldn't find Bridgette but she could hear disturbing noises seemingly coming from all around from the dark parts of the Library. She tried to track them down.

Scout Test - Fail. Condition - Angry

Heather got more and more nervous with the noises, eventually pulling out her sword for reassurance. When a dark shaped seemed to lunge at her, she almost struck at it but saw in time that it was Bridgette. Given her Instinct, Heather was Angry at herself for acting out of fear.

Bridgette was scared and glad to see Heather, but before they could say much more a large shape knocked over a table in the adjoining room. Heather pushed Bridgette behind her to investigate. She could barely make out a shape behind the table. However, Anger at herself for being scared before, she boldly stepped forward to confront it. It leapt at her with surprising speed. It was a Frog!

Conflict - Fight Animal. Goals - Kill each other

The fight went through about 5 phases. Sam won but had to agree to a compromise. The compromise was that the fighting had tipped over an oil lamp, setting fire to some books just as Conn the Senior Archivist happened to wander in.

Conn started to berate Heather immediately, threaten to have Bridgette expelled. Conn showed a dislike for the Mouse Guard. Heather tried to convince Conn it wasn't so bad.

Persuader Test - Fail: Twist

Just in the middle of her discussion, Heather saw a mysterious robed figure speed across a doorway carrying a book. She had the choice of staying or giving chase and she chose the later. This infuriated Conn even more (who hadn't seen the figure) and proved to him the ireesponsible nature of the Mouse Guard.

Conflict - Chase. Goals - Beside the chase, the Goals including revealing or hiding the identity of the fleeing mouse.

The chase lasted some time and involved a number of daring plans. Of note was one where the mouse being chased but his hat on a librarian's head as a diversion and Heather tried to apprehend the innocent librarian. Her Stubborness worked against her as she wasted several moments arguing with that mouse before being convinced to carry on.

Heather lost the chase but earned a compromise. Though he escaped, she saw the mouse had a open ear of corn tattoo on his shoulder. She also suspected that he might be a Guard Mouse given his skills. Finally, she saw the title of the book - "A Treatise on Expansion of the Mouse Territories".

The GM Turn ended here.

Player's Turn
Sam had earned 4 checks (plus a free 1) during the GM's turn. She had a number of things she wanted to do but not enough checks to do it all.

Check 1 - Recovery: Angry - Success

On her way back to Bridgette, Heather took a moment to calm down. She had shown the truth behind the mysterious noises but had proven that her caution earlier was well founded.

Upon arriving back to Bridgette, she found out that Conn had already gone to speak to Gwendolyn about the incident. Heather pushed this aside to ask Bridgette about the book she saw. Bridgette revealed that the book was a restricted one that was locked in the reserve room. It was written by Seyth, one of the original founders of the Mouse Guard. However, history says that he retired into obscruity, possibly due to his unorthodox views that the Mouse Guard should be used to expand the Mouse Territories.

Heather decided to complete her mission be seeing if there was a link between the theif and the frog.

Check 2 - Scout Test - Success

Heather found that the frog had been lured into the library by the use of crickets. The frog's noises hide the noise that was needed to use a bow driven drill, used to drill out the lock of the reserve room door.

As an aside, Sam actually invented to plan herself, though it was similar to my own. She was able to steer the investigation toward skills she wanted to use as a result.

Check 3 - Insectrist - Fail: Twist (crickets all gone)

Heather examined the crickets trying to find if she could identify which Wrangler in Lockhaven they came from. This would given her evidence to pursue an investigation against that Wrangler. She identified them as Daffydd's crickets but when she went to confront him, she heard that all the crickets in Lockhaven had been released last night making any proof of his involvement impossible.

Frustrated at this, Heather decided to talk to a local stable boy, who was always impressed by her tales of adventure, as to whether he saw anyone entering Daffydd's yard the previous night.

Check 4 - Circles - Fail: Twist (Conflict)

Arriving atthe stables, the boy wasn't there. However, she did find herself cornered by Daffydd himself who seemed angry at the loss of his Crickets. He accused the Mouse Guard of arriving too late and failing to help people like him (everyday people), preferring to meddle in the affairs of others. He impressed on her the fact that if all the crickets had been released then this could spell disaster for Lockhaven.

Conflict - Argument. Goals: Sam wanted to find the idnetity of the theif and I wanted to convince Sam that she was obliged to go get the crickets back. Though it is unusual to use a Twist Conflict in the Player's Turn, I liked the idea of this heated debate essentially deciding what the next Mission would be.

Neither Heather or Daffydd were a master of words. Daffydd reverted to threats, which Heather countered by her knowledge of resource shortages (who would have thought that Famine-wise would turn up :) ) and recounting the Mouse Guard code. She eventually made her own threats by making it clear that anyone who harboured or helped the theif was a criminal themself. Daffydd gave in revealing that he had given the crickets to Darrick, a junior Guard Mouse.

I had earned a minor compromise as a result of Daffydd's arguments and decided to give Heather Angry (again). This time at plebs who took Lockhaven's protection for granted.

Check 5 - Persuader - Fail: Twist

Heather caught back up with Bridgitte who revealed that Gwendolyn had agreed with Conn to have her suspended from duty for a season. Sad, Bridgitte offered to accompany Heather for the season and Heather agreed.

Finally, Heather went to see the adminsitrator of Mouse Guard missions to find where Darrick was meant to be. She was told that Darrick was meant to be with his team establishing the scent boundaries near Pebblebrook. Wanting to avoid Gwendolyn's wrath and not having enough evidence of what was going on yet, Heather set off to find them with Bridgitte in tow.

Rewards
Not much to report her. Sam was awarded 1 Fate and 3 Persona for the session.

Thoughts
It was a fun and action packed 2 hours. The whole thing took about 30 minutes of prep on my part to get the basic structure. A lot fo the detail in play arose from Sam's decision as to Heather's Beliefs, Goals and Instincts. For example, I had no idea what book was being stolen before the session started but chose the subject based on Heather's belief.

Also, I really liked how the session could have ended up in all kinds of different ways depending on the action. For example, if Heather had won the chase, then the session would have been drastically different. As a GM, I could really let go of any preconceived idea of what would happen and let the game flow, knowing that it would be interesting either way.

The session had given me a number of ongoing hooks outside the main one for later missions including the impact of the cricket shortage (ties nicely in with Heather's specialty) and Conn's ongoing antagonism.

Finally, I really liked how all dice rolls moved the story forward. A fail was as good as a success in many occassions. This took some getting used to by Sam who recoiled from rolls where failure was likely initially. However, by the session end she was happy to accept the risk failure to help her advance the skills used and direct the story in the direction she wanted.

Overall, it was a success. It really makes me want to play out a full year with 3 players :)

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Great stuff. Although, as you know, I'm more into interactive roleplaying, this creativity sounds really good!

Marcus

That reminds me of another point that I was going to make for Mash. As with the Kapcon game the IC/OOC proportions were about 50/50, more than a traditional RPG. Having 1 player reduced the OOC moments in most places but these increased with the greater number of conflicts. Despite the OOC proportion, there was a strong focus on the story and PC that was evolving for the entire 2 hours of play.

Re-reading your comment, are you suggesting that the session or the RPG somehow aren't "interactive roleplaying"?

If so, please expand and prepare for boarders :)

Rightho - it was a general comment about my impressions on Mouse Guard and the other Luke Crane games (although I only own Burning Empires).

I find lots of "so-called" Indy games are very mechanically based - in other words they have integrated mechanics in a attempt - sometimes successfully, sometimes not IMO - to reflect the style or the feel of the game they are trying to achieve. This doesn't 'click my buttons', so to say, as I find that my enjoyment in gaming comes from the interaction between the characters and the players and GM.

In other words, I see mechanics as a unfortunate but necessary by-product of gaming (to resolve conflicts, etc.) rather than driving the gaming itself (which I equate more to boardgames or war games - both of which I have a lot of time for - but are NOT what I want from an RPG).

Hope that makes sense...

I have some other comments about the paramount importance of plot in RPGs, rather than direct player focused games, but that can wait :P

Marcus

I understand the distinction you are making, though I don't think the term interactive is accurate. FWIW there was as much interaction between me and Sam last night as there would have been if we played a traditional RPG.

Admittedly, the interaction was often framed or prompted by the mechanics, rather than a simple implicit agreement between me and Sam as to what would happen and when, which is perhaps where I think you are heading.

Thought I would add my 2 cents as well. :)

Here is some background.
Luke and I have tried on numerous occasions to do 1 on 1 roleplaying. In our past experiences I have struggled to be the only player. I think Luke also found in difficult as he was constantly being both the GM and at times playing my PC for me when I got stuck (which was more often that not). I have discovered through these failed attempts that I am a player that needs others to bounce ideas off - constantly.

Last nights experience
So you can imagine that I was a little worried about the game last night. However I found the experience to be highly rewarding. I played my PC! I didn't feel that I was letting Luke down by being slow or coming up with dumb ideas. Admittedly it took me a little bit to get into the groove of the rules, but I didn't feel that I was held back by that.

I know that there has been some discussion about the OOC talk but I found that during the game last night there was fluid movement between IC and OOC talk (all discussing the options of the PC), so much so, that I couldn't tell you how much time was spent OOC. It all felt IC.

All in all, I look forward to the further adventures of Heather the Patrol Mouse and her faithful friend Bridgette :)

Sam

That has to be the best recommendation for the game so far! It is rare to find a RPG that suits 1-on-1 play, so this delights me - I might have to try Emma out on the concept!

Marcus

As a matter of interest, I also have Beasthunters which is specifically designed for 1 on 1 play, but we never tried it out. I think I prefer MG better but if it goes well, it might be something else to try.

To be honest it's probably the theme that appeals to me, rather than the design strengths. I had read the first two issues back in 07(?), and that was pretty much the reason I grabbed the preorder last year!

Also I'm not sure if it played like this, but OOC mechanic/conversations between player and GM where both can say - I would like to see the story/scene go like this, or I think you have this option or I can see a bunch of ways out of this what do we both like for the story - and for it all to feel like the player is considering the options in character is really good.

Often I have grand ideas in games about what the players should or could do in a given challenge. I don't mind if the players solve it differently to what I envisage, but sometimes they just aren't on, and can't think of any way for it to work themselves, or can't see how their idea might be good or bad for the story. I often don't want to suggest my ideas for fear that I am taking away control of story direction from the players. Having a way to discuss OOC situations that still feels IC is great. Sometimes you can do it with an NPC, but if you have an NPC present then the problem doesn't usually occur.

So like I said I'm not sure that Mouse Guard does this, and really in the end it is just a good GM tool to add to ones toolbox regardless of what you are playing (but I know it is something I struggle with from time to time).

Also Mouse Guard sounds fun. I haven't read everything you have written yet Luke because I'm meant to be editing, but I liked the sound of Burning Empires and I like the sound of this.

Also I'm not sure if it played like this, but OOC mechanic/conversations between player and GM where both can say - I would like to see the story/scene go like this, or I think you have this option or I can see a bunch of ways out of this what do we both like for the story - and for it all to feel like the player is considering the options in character is really good.

The main reason it feels IC IMO is that though there is some discussion of the kind you mention here, it is generally much less than in an RPG where the narrative authority is more fully shared like PTA.

Instead, MG distributes narrative authority to either the GM or player at different points. The result is less direct negotiation, which I tend to find takes me too far OOC, and more each side adding to the story in blocks to form the final result. This is something which I did like about BE and it shines even more so in MG.

There are also a lot of ways to communicate to each other these kinds of ideas through the game, such as through Beliefs and Instincts.

Often I have grand ideas in games about what the players should or could do in a given challenge. I don't mind if the players solve it differently to what I envisage, but sometimes they just aren't on, and can't think of any way for it to work themselves, or can't see how their idea might be good or bad for the story. I often don't want to suggest my ideas for fear that I am taking away control of story direction from the players. Having a way to discuss OOC situations that still feels IC is great. Sometimes you can do it with an NPC, but if you have an NPC present then the problem doesn't usually occur.

Yeah, I understand this. When one is the GM, you can be too strong or too timid and it is hard to strike a balance. Whether or not you use your preconceived ideas, the preconception itself can be limiting.

As with above, one thing I like about MG is that it works much like a tree diagram. You tend to focus on the path you are on and the immediate junction coming up. As a GM, you don't think too far ahead, allowing you to roll with the twists and turns much more readily.

Some benefit of long term planning is lost but a not as much as you would think.

Also Mouse Guard sounds fun. I haven't read everything you have written yet Luke because I'm meant to be editing, but I liked the sound of Burning Empires and I like the sound of this.

MG satisfies alot of BE itches. However, it wins out by a long way because:

1. It looses the direct competition reverting back to a more traditional set up, though there is still some level of using conflict to build a story.

2. The rules are leagues easier to use and understand. As I have said before, I could run MG after watching it for 2 hours. I couldn't really get my head around BE after running it for 20 hours.

So you can imagine that I was a little worried about the game last night. However I found the experience to be highly rewarding. I played my PC! I didn't feel that I was letting Luke down by being slow or coming up with dumb ideas. Admittedly it took me a little bit to get into the groove of the rules, but I didn't feel that I was held back by that.

Don't be hard on yourself. You are a great RPGer. 1 on 1 is pretty tough for anyone.

I know that there has been some discussion about the OOC talk but I found that during the game last night there was fluid movement between IC and OOC talk (all discussing the options of the PC), so much so, that I couldn't tell you how much time was spent OOC. It all felt IC.

Well said. This is what I should have said to Mash :)


Wow, I think your post made me realize how strong the twist mechanic really is. Just by having a good set up and then adding complications along the way you guys had a whole evening's worth of play.
Had an epiphany on today's Burning Empires game after reading the conflict system in Mouse Guard. We're trying to learn the rules as we play and Mouse Guard's clarity really made the conflict system easier to understand.

Cheers. We tried to play BE about 2 years ago (look back through this LJ for detailed actual plays and analysis). The complexity killed the game unfortunately. In comparison, we are loving MG for many of the same reasons without that complexity.

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