This last Saturday I had to drive about four hours due to my daughter’s gymnastics meet. Work is making me return on Monday, but the wife gets Monday off, so we ended up driving in separate cars and I got the little one with me. Now, my nine year old daughter is very creative, loves to read and tell stories (she wrote a play for her friends to act out over recess a few weeks back) and has shown an interest in games, one in particular: Mouse Guard. She has never played a RPG, and so I think jumping into MG might be a little over her head, but while we were driving I suggested we play it, only I was going to supplant the existing system with the Risus system. As we left Nashville I went through the basic character creation and decided to throw in a bit of Awesome Adventures! character creation as well.
First I had her come up with a name. Then we went through the first three phases of the AA! creation, just modeled more for Mouse Guard: upbringing, parents, and why she joined the Guard. I figured this would help her with creating clichés later, which it did perfectly. We worked through the creation process, probably in about 15 minutes, longer than normal, but then again I was teaching a nine year old something I have been doing for 30 years while driving down the road!
This is what we ended up with:
White fur with green eyes. Her cloak is green with a ‘H” on it.
Born with poor parents, because of that she learned many skills. Her dad was a thief then what he stole he sold in his yard. In school kids teased her because she was poor and she had to learn how to protect herself. Joined mouse guard to escape her mean parents.
Young Jack of all trades (4)
Tuff Mouse Guard apprentice (3)
Tiniest thief in the Mouse Guard (3)
Overall I think she did very well, it was neat watching her look back through her background to try to come up with another cliché and then watch how easy it was to do it when you had the background to refer back to. I think this is something I will continue in any future Risus game. Funny how playing with a nine year old can add to your normal game. To explain how to use the Risus mechanics and how clichés work, I came up with a short scenario using her favorite cartoon: Phineas and Ferb, hey you got to go with what the kids know. Perry the Platypus helped me explain clichés (Secret Agent Platypus, Amazingly skilled at escaping all of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s traps). It worked perfectly and she seemed to really grasp the mechanics quick.
So we jumped right into the game. I gave a few details, trying to keep it few enough that I could remember it while driving, but interesting enough that she would like it. We began in the city of Stonecrest, a fortified city inside of a tree in the forest. I started with her working the garden when she was approached by a mouse named Tuck and told to report to Gwendolyn, a mission was afoot! Gwendolyn is the head of the Mouse Guard in Stonecrest and wants Humphris to deliver a letter to Friar Patterson in Willowbrook, Tuck would accompany her and there were a few dangers on the way there: foxes, the great white owl, and the blue river. Humphris and Tuck would have to overcome these to reach Willowbrook. I took this time to describe Tuck (blue cape, long staff, and a blue pointed wizard style hat with a large brim) and then to let her take a turn in describing Humphris. At this point she opted to change her green cape with a H on it to a green cape with marking like a leaf and a much smaller H, this she thought might help her escape the dangers of the forest. When I mentioned the foxes and owl, I think she was actually scared for her mouse and began to think of actual dangers a mouse might face….this would come up later in the game, and not in a good way.
So Humphris and Tuck headed out and I wanted to throw something in to teach her the system without stressing her with this new thing called game. I came up the idea of a gorge that no longer had a bridge, causing her to have to figure out what to do within the confines of the system. With a little prodding she came up with the idea of having Tuck cross the gorge with rope by climbing down then up the other side, allowing them to establish a rope bridge “for other mice that pass by”, quite in line with the Mouse Guard philosophy…I was impressed.
They continued on and as we came across a large cross on the side of the road, she suggested that farther up the trail there was a cross that she and Tuck could stay after I said that the sun’s light was beginning to fade. As she was trying to ‘state a fact’ for the narration, I suggested that she needed to use her Tuff Mouse Guard apprentice cliché to determine if she could remember the path to the cross, and it’s hidden chamber. She succeeded and I let her tell of how they came across another mouse named Cristus, another explorer guarding the paths of the wilds. They wandered together to the cross and Tuck succeeded in cooking up a swell stew, then they settled in for the night. Eating, and learning about each other over a warm fire.
We picked up with Tuck waking Humphris with a shush and we learned that Cristus was trapped across the way with a fox between him and the pair. At this point, my daughter was a bit flustered at how to save their friend so i interjected with a plan of using the embers, a leaf and some fur (items we had discussed previously as the mice settled in for the night) to create a sort of grenade that they could hit the fox in the eyes with and then escape to freedom. She rolled to succeed and failed, I related a tale that Tuck was too afraid and dropped his grenades, and her grenade failed to hit…striking the fox’s head. Losing a die made my daughter very nervous and as I described how she could try again, I set the target at 15, a number she thought too high. I decided to explain to her that she could pump a cliché in hopes that she would take this step to easily defeat the fox. I think she did not fully understand that the mission was nearly done, and instead focused that she was about to ‘lose the game’. I attempted to explain to her that it wasn’t a game of winning or losing to no avail. After a bit of discussion, we ended up pumping two dice and defeating the fox, with her adding that the fox ran off and told his friends to stay clear of the mouse in the green cloak.
(we broke here as we stopped for dinner along the road)
Overall, it was a decent attempt at a game, very loose and freeform. A solid test of Risus on the road. However, I think my daughter may have been too young for the game as she was extremely concerned that she might lose the game and maybe even die…and this really agitated her to the point that she got angry with me for making the game too hard. It was certainly interesting.