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4.05.2012

Gathering Stories

I wasn't sure if the Mouse Guard alternate game would be a one off, or if it might develop into a campaign.  I was hoping for the latter, but the former was a very real possibility as the game's mechanics eschew RPG traditions for some unique systems.  I suppose if everyone has a great time it will continue, so I need to consider the possibility that the first mission will be a jumping off point for a campaign.  And if not?  Well, I would at least like to present a first mission that will be more memorable than one of the pre-made scenarios from the book.

So with that I began to assemble some ideas.

I find music to be an inspiration when I am crafting RPG adventures, so I began to think about the kinds of music I'd want to use for a background soundtrack for the game.  Relaxing Sounds of Nature type pieces seemed obvious, and I already had a pretty decent selection of tracks - specifically forest sounds, evening crickets, and pond life all seemed appropriate.  But this wasn't the stuff for a soundtrack.  For that my attention turned to more soundscape type music with little if any vocals at all.

To set the mood, and as a theme for the game, I selected Jónsi's Gathering Stories - a perfect piece to kick the game off, and if it becomes a campaign?  Then it will make for a good coherent theme song to tie the sessions together.  Other music I selected:

Hammock - Chasing After Shadow's... Living With Ghosts
Celestiial - Desolate North
Russell Shaw - Fable 2 OST (specifically Bowerlake)
Asbestoscape - Asbestoscape
Sigur-Rós - Svefn-g-englar

Now that I had some suitably inspiring music, I started to consider the story.  As I'd already mentioned, I wanted something unique.  Something a little different than the standard introductory scenario fair I'd read in the book and read on various forums.  I'd been thinking about the obvious (to me) absence of rats from the official Mouse Guard setting, and how I think I'd like to portray them.  I was also thinking about the Scent Border, and exactly what it could possibly be that the mice used to ward off large predators - and it hit me:  Man.

Humans are absent from the Mouse Guard setting, and probably for the best.  They exist though, as can be inferred from by certain little details - such as Conrad's line & hook weapon.  But they are never seen, nor is their presence felt in any way really - which makes a lot of sense.  I mean, the known Territories of the mice is probably no larger than an acre or two of woodland, off the beaten path, and seldom travelled.  Especially in the medieval time frame of the official Mouse Guard setting.

So I got to thinking- what if the mice had stumbled upon an old forgotten cemetery, like the kinds I used to stumble upon as a child wandering through the woods of northern-central Maine.  In the middle of the woods, with no structures in site, there would be a small wrought iron fence with a handful of slate stoneheads.  Some had faded carvings, and others were worn smooth, or broken.  These random, anonymous grave sites always fascinated me and it seemed the perfect place for mice to gather a secret ingredient for their scent border markings.  My father - a regular hunter - always told me that animals feared, or were at least unsettled by, the smell of humans.  So an old cemetery would be a deeply disturbing place avoided by most animals; but I could see rats not being afraid of it.

Thus it all came together - I had a perfect setting for the first game that would include humans (in a round about way) and rats.

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