[Tiny Triangles] The Mouse Collective

edited January 2008 in Actual Play
I bought Mouse Guard for my nephew recently, and read it from cover to cover the night before. Great comic. And I've wanted to run a game about tiny, epic adventures for years. Fortunately, my intrepid Stirling gamers, Jenny and Calum, were up for a session of Tiny Triangles.

We started character generation with qualities and problems, then skills and relationships, then names. Then we picked cloak color, sword design and fur - this isn't part of the system but added a lot.

Our PCs were Jorum, with anchor quality of Friendly and anchor problem of Gullible, In play, he became an ale-drinking, perpetually hungry, gallant and reckless mouse. (With great dialogue: "I want neither to go to heaven nor hungry!") And Esta, a one-eyed loner with anchors of Friendly and Complacent. In play, she took something of a leadership role, but also seems to have had a dark past - she knew far too much about lockpicks.

(Picking 6 traits from just 9 was hard. I like the idea of a short list of specific traits (perhaps even tweaked for the campaign?). But 6 out of 9 was difficult).

We also wrote down a total of four elements to use later on for rerolls, eg 'Something From The Sky' and 'Lurking in the Shadows'. And I wrote down a dozen names like 'Gorse' and 'Whiskernip'.

Our opening scenes were fun. Jorum chased a thief, grappled him, but was bit in the process. Esta saved a mouse from drowning by running along a trout's back and snatching the mouse away from the trout's jaws at the last moment! The repercussions led to the trout becoming a recurring problem for the town.

(Esta repercussion was a GM's choice so she lost a skill - can characters lose a skill in their opening scene? I picked her Swimming, flavoring it as 'You're scared to go back to the water' but the flavor text described losing skills due to infrequent use).

And our town was Driftwood, a small colony built into a large log that jutted out over a fast-flowing river. It was a centre for trade (mice in coracles sounded cool) and fishing (minnow farms upriver).

(A system for town-building would rock, though we did a good job at adding setting _and_ situation. Driftwood was a cool place).


  • edited January 2008
    We had a quick discussion about what the players wanted to do, then Sergeant Gorse gave the characters a simple situation - with the trout having an interest in mouseflesh, traders were avoiding the town. There would be hardship this winter. I expected them to see about the trout, then perhaps raid some squirrels. Instead our Guards went to make contact with a distant colony, Barleywall, hoping to re-establish trade.

    The next scene opens with a description of the journey to the borders of Driftwood territory, an outpost known as Rotwood, built high in a diseased tree. The mice there had gone quite mad and refused to open the gates to anymouse. We had a great bickering scene between Esta (who was happy to sleep outside) and Jorum (who saw it as uncivilised). So Esta climbed up to the battlements. And popping open the shutters while clutching a rope, rolled a new relationship and declared it was with an old academy friend inside Rotwood. The Rotwood mice described the raiders from Barleywall who took not food, but mice! Jorum made a joke about the Barleywallers being especially hungry to kidnap mice, which didn't go down well with the already terrified guards.

    Our next scene was looking for one of Esta's relationships, a hermit who lived near Barleywall. The hermit lived in hollowed, living pinecones, high in a tree on the edge of a wide field. The group were attacked by raiders. I expected a long fight, but Jorum and Esta parleyed and were led off under guard to the raiders' superiors.

    Barleywall was built into a barn - our first sense that humans might exist in the world. We deliberately left the farm undescribed. The fields around were lush and unharvested. Surrounded by endless fields of food, the mice of Barleywall had gone a little mad too. They had set themselves up as a tiny fascist colony, and enslaved mice to work the fields. No grain of wheat could go to waste, no berry unpicked.

    We had a stand-off scene with Jorum, Esta and the hermit facing the council of Barleywall and their thugs. There was a scuffle, and Jorum drew his blade and fended off a thornclub-wielding thug. Lightning flashed outside, and Esta accidentally ran a councilmouse through. We finished the game with her line 'And now shall you talk?'

    (I had a couple of queries. It wasn't clear who narrated conflicts and repercussions, or when exactly we should roll the dice. Calum, playing Jorum, was very good at adding description as he used rerolls. In Jenny's scenes, we rolled first then bundled the descriptions together. Both approaches worked, and felt organic like Contenders.

    We didn't use many of those pooled situations. It didn't feel entirely fair for me to use them to swat away a reroll a player had made.

    Swapping qualities/problems on the sheet was a little fiddly as it meant you'd have to move entire sentences on your sheet. It was easier to change the order number at the start, but then that could get confusing).
  • Very nice. Is it just me or would this also rock using the Trollbabe system? You already drifted towards this with the rerolls, didn't you?

    The bickering scene between Esta and Jorum - was it resolved using the system?

    Wonderful imagery :)

  • edited January 2008
    No drifting, no. The system has rerolls built in. Skills let you reroll either the player or GM's dice, Relationships reroll both. Badges (which I haven't mentioned) reroll both. And pooled Situations reroll both. They all have different refresh rates. And they were quite a fun choice for the players, particularly whent they saw the value in disrupting my successes.

    As the game just uses a d6, there's a good chance of failing a roll. So like Trollbabe, you're using rerolls a lot.

    The bickering didn't have conflict. Instead, Jorum went looking for secret doors (we both failed, so he didn't find anything but didn't waste a long time doing so - if he had done, I was going to throw in an owl). And Esta shimmied up a rope.

    While looking for the hermit, a pinecone fell out of a higher branch. Esta's roll was about saving Jorum, mine was about saving herself. So that was cool.

    That reminds me - one thing I'd like more of was how to GM for the game. I could see I was supposed to challenge the mice on every level, and push scenes such that certain problems would be tested. Techniques would be good.
  • Posted By: Joe MurphyNo drifting, no. The system has rerolls built in. Skills let you reroll either the player or GM's dice, Relationships reroll both. Badges (which I haven't mentioned) reroll both. And pooled Situations reroll both. They all have different refresh rates. And they were quite a fun choice for the players, particularly whent they saw the value in disrupting my successes.
    Huh, I missed that. Doh.

    What still confuses me, though, is this: "We also wrote down a total of four elements to use later on for rerolls, eg 'Something From The Sky' and 'Lurking in the Shadows'."
    Are they the adventure seeds for the GM - if so, why are they used for rerolls? Maybe I missed something :)

    I'll read the rules again.

  • Joe,

    It sounds like Tiny Triangles plays just how I thought it would. Thanks for the report. This game is very cool.
  • Hi Joe,

    Clinton ran a session of TT for me a couple years back at GenCon. I noticed that the game flew a great deal to hard scene framing, and a very simple method- threaten a town/the greater good. The Mouse Guard protects mice, you threaten mice. In our game, it was a forest fire!

    While the comics seem to escalate the threat each issue, in terms of gameplay, starting off with a big threat invests the players right away and gives them direction. Our game ended with our Mouse Guard and town of mice on rafts, heading down the river, not knowing where we're going to resettle.... It's not hard to imagine that in later play, there might be room for slower/less doomsday conflicts.
  • TT makes me so happy. Just thinking about it makes me smile. Thanks for the AP, Joe.
  • And thanks for the responses, guys.


    Yep. We hovered between scene framing, really hard scene framing and some wishy washy stuff. This became a great pacing tool (instead of just using conflicts to pace).


    I don't really know when situations should be used. For example, when framing scenes it would have been very easy to use 'A ruined building' in my description of the barn. I could then use that reroll to disrupt the players' plans a little and in doing so, ramp up the difficulty. If I waited until the conflict, then who gets the reroll first?

    (and I don't know if I should necessarily be framing scenes, anyway)
  • Joe - how did the relationship between Anchor and Heroric Qualities work - ie. did the players themselves choose to use Heroic Qualities, thus making failure possible?
  • Hey, Peter.

    This was always a negotiation, and we each kept our noses primed for detecting bullshit. The involved player and I just checked down for the most likely, applicable quality or problem. I think there were a couple of twists were we went for less likely, and more interesting problems - where an inability to jump wasnt down to skill, but was down to trepidation. That sort of thing.

    But we didn't play quite enough to see how the system really ticked. I'm hoping to run more at the end of March for a con. For kids!
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