Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game, by Luke Crane & David Petersen
I must admit that I’m not familiar with the cartoon that this game is based on, but the concept itself is easy enough to understand. If you like your role playing games involving talking animals who happen to be spunky mouses seeking to keep safe their own community from hazards like snakes and crabs while keeping trade and communications networks open and investigating matters of crime and politics, then this is a game that would be of interest to you. I must admit that I do not find mice to be the most sympathetic of figures but all the same I did find this book to be fascinating in its picture of a small society of small beings that was brave and plucky and that had a thoughtful bit of worldbuilding involved in its efforts to create a manageable game with a strong local flavor to it and the possibility of adventures outside of that world, even if it is dangerous for small animals. I could see this game being a fun one to explore for those who enjoyed beast fables and didn’t want to get too heavy into some of the higher fantasy elements of many role playing games.
This book is about 300 gorgeously illustrated pages long and it is divided into various sections. The book begins with a foreword, some basic rules for players and gamemasters, as well as the nature of the Mouse Guard and its ranks. After that there is a discussion of the mission that is involved, with usually one mission per game session, as well as the need to overcome obstacles and deal successfully with conflict. There is a discussion about conditions (like being hungry, thirsty, angry, or tired), and how one can recover from them. The book discusses the seasons that the game is involved in, with group campaigns in Spring, Summer, and Fall with different conditions in each season and personal campaigns and advancement in the Winter. There is a look at the denizens of the Mouse territories (including dangerous and threatening animals that have to be dealt with), abilities and skills, traits, various -wises that characters can have, and sample missions that can be used to keep a game going in an exciting fashion. There are also discussions about recruitment before the book ends with an index and some reference notes.
If you are looking for a game that allows for roleplaying in such a way that it would be compelling for children without exposing them to the magical elements that many people find objectionable and that encourage the player to deal with the process of aging and maturing as well as wrestling with one’s goals and principles, this game is one that sounds like it would be very entertaining to young people by taking advantage of the fondness that the young commonly have for beast fables. If you are a fan of the Mouse Guard comics as a whole, the game includes several of the characters from that fable, including a brave and plucky young mouse who wants to prove himself. The book does not skimp on the peril that requires quick thinking from characters in order to deal with threats and concerns as well as the way that brute force alone will be insufficient to handle all threats because of the fact that no matter how mighty a mouse is, it is only a small creature in a large and dangerous world. This is a lesson that young people would do well to learn in the least traumatic way possible.