Playing Mouse Guard with FU - Part 1: Characters & Descriptors

The Mouse Guard RPG has a relatively complicated ruleset that can be a bit too much for people prefering lighter systems. If you still want to play in this world and get some use of the Mouse Guard RPG book you bought, why not try to play it with an alternative universal ruleset?

This is how I adapted the pregenerated Mouse Guard charaters from the MG RPG book to FU, a freeform, rules-light universal RPG system. To play, you should have both the Mouse Guard RPG book (from the bookstore or there’s also a PDF at DrivethroughRPG) and the FU rules, which are pay what you want at DrivethroughRPG.

In this first part of a series, I will explain the reasoning behind my adaptations and present one finished character (Kenzie). The other 3 characters (Saxon, Sadie, and Lieam) from the MG book’s introductory adventure will follow in a later post, as will a printable character sheet for each of them. I will probably also write another post on how to prepare and GM the game in FU. First, take a look at my conversion of Kenzie. Then I’ll explain what it all means.

Example Character: Kenzie

Description:

For background story, see book (p. 276). Other facts:

ConceptReasonable Leader
Age31
RankPatrol leader (4 of 5)
HomeWillowroot (metal processing)
ParentsAilfrid (Smith) & Laurel
SeniorFabron, Lockhaven’s assistant weaponsmith
MentorOdell (dead)
EnemyKatlynn (Archivist)
FriendJasper (Storyteller)

Descriptors

  • Body: tall
  • Mind: calm
  • Edge tags (You start with the first one and can buy more to broaden your Edge for the noted amount of FU points. Only use one of the tags per roll.)
    • Persuader
    • Survivalist (3 P)
    • Pathfinder (3 P)
    • Escort-wise (3 P)
    • Duck-wise (3 P)
    • Fighter (3 + 3 P)
    • Hunter (3 + 3 P)
    • Scout (3 + 3 P)
    • Weatherwatcher (3 + 3 P)
    • Smith (3 + 3 P)
    • Instructor (3 + 3 + 3 P)
    • Loremouse (3 + 3 + 3 P)
  • Flaw: ponderous
  • Gear 1: well-balanced staff
  • Gear 2: detailed map
  • Belief: “It’s not what you fight, but what you fight for!” (Acting with or against belief: plus one bonus or penalty die, respectively)
  • Goal: “I must find out whether the grain peddler is a traitor.” (One bonus die per scene/game for actions toward this goal)
  • Instinct: “Always consult Saxon when there’s trouble.” (Earn a FU point when acting according to your instinct although it may hurt you/will get you a penalty die)

What I wanted to include and what I changed

  • MG has several Guard-specific skills for each Guard mouse that defines it very clearly. FU only has the Edge descriptor for this kind of thing, so just one skill you’re good at. I wanted to carry over the diverse skills of the Guard mice into FU, so I made the Edge descriptor into a collection of tags containing one or more Mouse Guard skill, but you can use only one of these as a bonus per die roll. At the beginning of the first session, each mouse has only one Edge tag, the one skill I judged to be their strongest and/or most unique. E.g. Sadie begins the first session with the Edge tag “Survivalist”, while Saxon has “Fighter”.

  • Earning Advancements: There is a list of several more tags (your “potential”) under each mouse’s Edge that they can learn/earn with FU points. Here I added most of the Skills the pregen characters have, but are less good at. For every further skill/Edge tag they can earn, I added a price that is progressively higher the lower their skill level was in MG. E.g. Sadie can earn, pretty quickly, the tags Hunter or Weatherwatcher, since they each cost only 3 FP. Later, she could add Pathfinder, Scout, Healer, etc., but these are things MG Sadie is pretty weak at, so they are expensive and will probably be bought later on: 9 FU point (you can pay in rates of 3).

  • Also: before you can pay for advancement tags, you need to be able to explain why and how you can do this now. Was there a previous situation in which you tried something related to this tag and succeeded (or failed)?

  • The things listed under your Edge tag, even those you haven’t bought yet, are things the character is not completely incompetent at (otherwise it wouldn’t be a, albeit, weak, skill in the original MG character). They are your “potential”. That means that you can and should try things that are related to them anyway. You won’t get a bonus die for them, but you won’t have to take a penalty die for not knowing them, either.

  • I added the Wises as cheap Edge tags (cost: 3 FP). This results in around 60 FP that most mice must spend to fully “level up”, that is, learn everything they have on their list of potentials - except Saxon, who is a very specialized and strong fighter (he has several descriptors that can gain him bonus points for fighting in the same roll: bold, fearless, and his sword). Learning every item from his list of potentials is a little more expensive (90 FP) because there are lots of ones he’s barely competent at, but allows a bigger range of future directions to develop the character.

  • I generated the Body, Mind and Flaw descriptors from their traits, if applicable, and if not, from their background stories.

  • Gear was mostly taken straight from Mouse Guard

  • Belief, Goal and Instinct replace FU’s drives. They are used and rewarded by the GM to challenge your mouse (beliefs), by the players to push the story forward (goal), and to encourage players to inject some personality and complications into the game (instinct).

    • Acting according to your belief gains you a bonus die, acting against it a penalty die.
    • The first action you take toward your goal per scene gets a bonus die.
    • Acting according to your instinct when it will likely hurt you (is inappropriate and will probably give a penalty die on your roll) earns you a FU point.
  • Mouse Guard has Nature, Will, Health, Resouces, and Circles ratings for each mouse. I didn’t make detailed rules for these for now. You can still use some of them indirectly:

    • Younger mice are generally more healthy and thus may heal faster (healing is more hand-wavy in FU anyway and is decided on a case by case basis).
    • Older mice generally have more will, so in actions where they need to convince someone or are in an argument, they may get a bonus die if the other character is significantly younger.
    • Mice of a higher Guard rank generally have more resources and circles. When they try to find or buy something, or find a person, they may get a bonus die on that action.
  • People are pretty handwavy, too: Your parents, Senior, Mentor can help you if you meet them. You can sleep and eat at their place without paying (or having to roll), they can give you free supplies, and they may help you (and even give you a bonus die) to do or find things. If your parents or senior practice(d) a profession you don’t already have as a descriptor, you may even gain a bonus die, because you’ve absorbed some knowledge about that profession by spending time with them.

  • Your hometown can give you a bonus die if you’re doing an action that needs knowledge about it, like finding somebody in town, or looking for a certain store or house, or doing something related to the important trades in this town. Copperwood is a coin foundry, for example, and Barkstone has lots of glass and pottery.

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