When running convention games, I often prepare a 1-2 page rules summary for players, particularly for those unfamiliar with the game. There are also usually a bunch of pre-generated characters for the game.
This was given to players for reference during the game. It summarises the overall session structure, with Game Master’s turn and Player’s turn, highlighting the importance of earning checks.
Next it goes through the process of making a skill check, which actually has a large number of steps. In a Mouse Guard game you might only ever make a few rolls, but each is very important. This is quite different from other roleplaying games, where the process of building the pool also builds narrative, as the players choose whether to involve traits and how they provide help.
The summary rules highlight where you need to mark gained checks, used traits, and passes and fails.
The Conflict rules are provided in a similar fashion; for the example convention scenario I included a few basic checks, and then one full conflict.
The last section has the advancement rules, but only in brief as they aren’t normally used during a one-shot game. For the convention, I actually allowed players to get Fate and Persona as they earned it during the session.
Mouse Guard alternative character sheet
I also made character sheets for four pre-generated characters. Rather than use the official sheet, which is rather dense with information (and uses small writing), I created an Mouse Guard alternative character sheet (form fillable) that is organised for new players.
It has important information in an order useful for new players:
- First up, after basic information (name, rank, etc), it has Nature (mouse), which is highlighted as the key attribute. It can substitute for any skill, plus defines what a mouse is, along with boxes to mark for pass and fail (referenced in the summary rules).
- Next are traits, which are used to earn checks during the GM’s turn, to spend during the Character’s turn. Players unfamiliar with the game need to know how important earning checks is, to be able to play the second half, so this information has a prominent position.
- Next is Beliefs / Instincts / Goals, important for earning Fate and Persona. For the convention game, I allowed characters to earn as we went.
- Wises were listed next, with the rules for allowing re-rolls (to remind new players), and also to structure them as the best way to help (rather than skills). Again, for new players they may not realise the importance of helping in Mouse Guard, or the benefits of using Wises to help rather than Skills.
- Abilities and Skills are last, although they are what you are going to roll, they don’t have the special rules or impact on the game that other characteristics do. If you listed skills first, then new players may just roll them directly without considering Traits, Beliefs, and Wises.
Dam Beaver scenario notes
For the introductory convention game, I ran the session in 1 hour 45 minutes, so trimmed down a lot of things. I prepared a four page (printed 2-up) Dam Beaver convention notes with a tight script to introduce and highlight the key rules, such as the importance of using Traits against yourself to earn checks.
The notes included specific notes for whether to apply a twist or success with consequences, some prepared twists, and selected consequences. For the main conflict, it even included notes on the specific sequence of action cards for the beavers, the various conflicts, and levels of compromise.
I also had printed out a small set of pre-written scenario goals for players to pick from, rather than make them up from scratch.
Rather than make all these choices during the game, preparing them ahead of time made the games run much smoother, and I could always go off script as needed.
These are based on sample characters from the books with slightly modified relationships and goals. Rather than the usual patrol structure, I wanted a flatter distribution of more equal characters.
These days I also generally use gender-neutral names for pre-generated characters, to give players more flexibility, which works particularly well for mice.