Aside: I’m gonna take a moment to state that the Mouse Guard RPG is a great book to own. Even for just these little tidbits of info and inspiration. The book is gorgeous, with great artwork, and a fantastic layout. It is worth the Dead Tree or PDF price.
Today I’m going to talk about adding more role-playing mechanics from Mouse Guard to Pathfinder/DnD/or any other RPG that really doesn’t have its own “role-playing” mechanic.
The other day Chatty DM posted about his role-playing groups Mouse Guard Chargen session. Reading through it made me take another gander at the Mouse Guard book, more specifically Beliefs and Instincts.
Giving the Players More
Now as with the Goals Mechanic (which I posted here and here) Beliefs and Instinct has no “crunch” or hard rule. It is all abstract and all about giving the players some major control when it comes to their character.
The great thing about these beliefs and instincts is that it gives the player a jumping off point. Beliefs give the player a strong sense of direction and how they want that character to progress (and possibly change).
When I told one of my players about adopting this the other day, he stated he didn’t get beliefs because if you have a well developed character there isn’t a need for it. Aside: I am not picking on him. He is a good role-player, clever, and comes up with good characters- so this is no slight at him. It just works as a good example.
While I see his point, and can agree with it, I think that too much of what we envision for a character gets lost in all the data. Think of 3.x and 4e char sheets. There is a lot of info on there. Plus people have notes page, back story, ticks, habits, etc on their own char info pages.
So having a few paragraphs of description of a character, their life, family history, their personality, and why they believe that their kingdom is the most wonderful place to be and how they are going to convert everyone to this line of thinking is great and rich, I think that the belief of “My kingdom of Hynthral is a just and fair place, and I will not rest till the barbarians of the outlands see the light” gets lost in everything else.
Having that little bit right on the character sheet, and eloquently put allows it to always be in the players mind. Any time a situation comes up where a NPC, or a PC for that matter, makes a slight on the player’s homeland, BOOM there it is! It is in the PC’s mind and now he must react accordingly.
The other great thing about this clear and concise piece is that it allows the GM to SEE what the player is thinking and a great tool for adventures, confrontations, and other role-playing tidbits.
Again using the above example of a belief- what if I as the GM make that kingdom a fascist dictatorship that is oppressing the lower class or a certain race of people. How does this affect the PC when he makes this discovery? Will this revelation shake the foundation of his character?
Ok.. On to Instincts
Instincts give a character habit or reaction that oozes role-playing opportunities.
Having the player come up with an instinct, a gut reaction to a given situation, allows them to have that in the forefront and puts role-playing to the forefront.
Here are two examples using the character with the above mentioned belief:
#1) Instinct- Stutter and becomes flustered when confronted.
This is great because here is a person who believes that they are going to change people’s minds about his kingdom, but whenever he gets confronted about it, he stammers like an idiot, making his job so much harder.
#2) Instinct- Becomes overeager in combat and charges in.
Now this one does have two implications. One the player knows that their character is going to rush in before a plan is formed or before it is even fully understood what the party is facing (which could have the potential of frustrating players- more on this in a moment). If the character survives, in comes the second implication: Player Conflict.
So now the fight is over and the baddie is dead on the floor. The party is licking their wounds, which are more severe than if they had a plan. So now there is an argument between the character with this instinct and his party members. Beautiful.
Ok.. So the player conflict part… Eventually your group is going to get tired of you charging into every battle and ruining any chance of a plan. That is why instincts and believes can be changed. They should be changed when there is growth.
You should play as your character realizes the danger they put themselves and the party in and changes themselves. You could even have, after the altercation with the other party members the character goes to the other extreme.
Instinct- When in combat the character waits one round, observing, before acting.
There is so much potential for the Beliefs and Instincts Mechanic for role-playing purposes.
This is something I can’t wait to try in my Pathfinder game on Sunday 7/25!
Let me know if you’ve had any good experiences with these kind of mechanics!
Next Week– I’m hoping to do a full review of the Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide!