Mouseguarding Dragon Age- Complications, Twists, and Conditions

The other day I mentioned that I figured out where I wanted to go as a GM and what system(s) I would be using/incorporating into my games. I also talked about what sort of conditions I would use in Dragon Age.

Two weeks ago I ran a Dragon Age game via Skype for some friends, and role-players, of mine back in Montana. The game went really well and there were very few snags with Skype (usually just the occasional disconnect).

While I am not going to do a session recap for my Skype games, I am going to give a quick summary and talk about how I used Complications, Twists, and Conditions (C/T/C) to make the adventure more reactive to the player’s choices.

Summary: Into the Fire

The adventure revolved around Nate (An Aavarian Hillsman) and Fletch (A Circle Mage) wandering the land looking for artifacts for the Circle. They came across a village at the southern tip of the Fereldan that was rumored to be near old ruins.

The town was just setting up for a celebration that signaled the end of the fall harvest and the beginning of winter. The players partook of the festivities until a woman screamed that there was a body in the street.

The players ran to investigate and found a dying Templar. He mumbled, “On mission.. all dead.. darkspawn… are coming.”

The village began to panic and the players were basically given three choices of how to proceed. A) Scouting for the Darkspawn to determine their strength and possibly engage. B) Help set up the defenses of the town. C) Help get the people who are able to fight in the village prepped and ready to go.

The players chose to go scouting.

They found the Darkspawn and saw that the force was too large for them to handle alone (20 Genlocks, 1 Genlock Emissary, and 1 Hurlock commander). They rushed back to the town, helped in the defenses as quick as they could. The Darkspawn announced their arrival by setting the small village ablaze with fire arrows.

The fight was brutal and the town lost over half of its citizens.

I also took a page out of the Amber Rage adventure here and made Nate choose between two little children, that he had previously met in the session, to rescue. Both were being chased by Genlocks. He chose the sister and watched the brother be cut in half. It went really and Nate felt the weight of his decision, not because it was children being killed, but because I had introduced him to these characters and tugged at the heart strings a bit

The session ended with the players getting ready to shift through the rubble and bodies to find survivors and put a blade in any lingering Darkspawn.

Putting Some Mouse Guard Into it All

I broke this session into the “blocks” that Dragon Age suggests. The beginning was a role-playing encounter that set the stage and let the players bond with the NPCs of this soon-to-be-doomed town.

The second chunk, depending on the player’s choice, would either be another role-playing encounter or an explorations one. In here is where I inserted Complications, Twists, and Conditions. Based on decisions there could be more mini-RP or combat encounters. More on this below.

The third encounter would be combat and the either successful defense, total razing, or somewhere in between of the village.

The second part was the part where I had to do the most planning and be ready to do the most improvising.

I broke the section into three choices, but was ready to improvise should the players present me with any additional ideas.

Like Mouse Guard each choice had an ability (with a focus) linked to it. If the players wanted to use a different ability (and focus) and could justify it to me, so be it. I had an idea of what I wanted to happen with the success, but also let the player set the stage and accomplishment of their success.

I also had an idea of what I wanted to happen should they fail by introducing a C/T/C.

Three Choices

The three choices I laid out for Nate and Fletch were; Scouting, planning defense, or planning attack.

Planning Defense– This was a cunning or communication ability test that also would allow the players to actively look for things to use in the upcoming battle. If the test was successful the townsfolk and players would have added +1 to their defense (not to mention possibly have a few tricks up their sleaves).

Failure would have resulted in a twist, the Darkspawn arrive much earlier than anticipated, before there is any defense at all really, and the group probably would have had to flee before the onslaught of the Darkspawn.

Planning the Attack– Here was another communication test where the players would rally the scared villagers and prepare for some sort of offensive. If the test was successful the villagers would have felt more confident. Everyone would feel bolstered and all would (including players) receive +1 to attack and damage.

If failed I planned to add a condition Rattled (-1 to attack, defense, and willpower) to the townsfolk and players. They all felt the overwhelming pressure and sense of hopelessness at what they were about to face.

Scouting Ahead– For this choice I also had a side quest of being asked to find six husbands who wandered off into the fields to get even drunker than at the festival itself.

This was a Perception (tracking or searching) test. If succeeded the group would find the husbands alive and passed out. Once awoken 3 would immediately flee to the village while the other 3 could be persuaded to stay and help (Nate told them to go back and protect the village). This bolstered the number of attackers in the village from 14 to 20.

If they failed the test they would have found all of them butchered and a small party of Genlocks standing over the body.

As for finding the Darkspawn it was a Perception (Tracking) test. Success allowed them to sneak up and access the size of the force as well as decide if they wanted to try and tangle with them or set traps etc.

My players decided that the force was too large and it was too risky for them to try anything. So they huffed it back to the village

If the group failed the literally would have walked into the stragglers of Darkspawn, about 5 of them. One would have started sounding an alarm that would have alerted the others. This would have led to the party having to make some decisions on how to proceed and survive.

So there it is, how I used C/T/C that made it so failure just led the adventure in a different direction rather than bringing the game to a screeching halt. For me it was much more fun to have players try what they want and them knowing that failure isn’t just “the end,” but that it leads something different and change how the adventure is going to be played out.

Author: Mike Evans

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn.

2 thoughts

  1. Sounds like it went well. I haven’t messd with Mouseguard at all but now I see why so many folks have talked about it. And sounds like a pretty method for plotting out adventures no matter the system.

  2. This was a great blow-by-blow breakdown of your game prep. Massively useful to me, thanks! I’m eagerly searching out methods for structuring challenges that remain flexible enough to stand up in-game.

    Based on reading Dragon Age stuff (and realizing I need to revisit my Mouseguard book), laying out choices for players, attaching people to the consequences, and spicing it with a sense of urgency, is the recipe for a good game.

    Taking that a step further, listening to what players become attached to in-game, and then trying to incorporate that in scenario design is added spice.

    Even players who are there “just to roll dice” seem to get into this type of scenario. Trying to put it all together without doing too much prep is a challenge though.

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