Assumptions in my Mouse Guard game, revised

Assumption #1:  Mice age is counted in months and not years. 

This makes a lot more sense to me.  While I can appreciate the complete anthropomorphizing of the mice, it still bothers me that they live so long.  But counting a month for a year, their lifespan becomes a lot more believable.  Also, this allows me to incorporate the mythology of Meerclar; with a spin on it - after all, the mythology was created by Tad Williams for his novel Tailchaser's Song - the protagonist being a Tom cat.

I tweak the myth some: Meerclar Allmother is the night sky, and the moon is her eye; and each month, she opens and closes her eye.  This mythology seems especially appropriate for counting one's age monthly. 

In addition, mice count their age by the number of Winters they have seen as well.  So a mouse could be said to be 24 or 2 depending upon how they felt like answering.  Or, a mouse could be 1 and 3 - meaning they have seen 1 Winter and 3 months besides.

Assumption #2:  Magic exists.

Yes, magic exists in my Mouse Guard.  Not the fireball wielding wizard kind of magic, but magic none the less.  The kind of magic that exists is more subtle.  It is closely tied to the skill of Science and can make for some amazing creations.  The Scent Border Marking is an example.  It is not simply science that has created it - but a touch of magic as well.  I have not come right out and explicitly told my Players that magic exists, its just kind of implied. Of course, I just said it now - but still. 

There is no Magic skill.  Most magic that will be seen in the game will come in the form of potions, elixirs, and charms. Or spells that may allow things to happen that could not otherwise happen - such as changing the weather, or speaking with an animal that no one can understand.  If a mouse wants to take a Wise for this kind of subtle magic, then they can take Wyrd-wise. 

Assumption # 3: Mice have a belief in the supernatural.

Winter 1152, Chapter Six - Gwendolyn says the following over a fallen mouse:

"In this pyre we return one of our own to the soil. The same soil that fed the plants that nourished the mother who bore him, and the father who sired him."
"Rising flame, carry his body to the edges of our borders, that it may nourish the soil for the parents of our future sons and daughters."
"That who was Celanawe, his thoughts, his heroism, his selflessness, is bound to his soul which surely already has started his journey."
"Past the peninsula of the ashen trees to Seyan, where he will join the guardians of us who have fallen before him."
"Our songs carried on the rising smoke and ash will herald his coming."

It has a Norse myth vibe to it, this place called Seyan.  I like that there is a definite pragmatic element there too; a recognition of the body returning to the soil to nourish future generations. That combined with a supernatural belief that those intangible aspects that make up the individual will continue on to a reward. It is interesting too that this place of reward - Seyan - is called the Hall of Guardians, placing a lot of importance on the concept of the Guard. While this might be a result of the stories being centered around the Mouse Guard, I like to think it is more meaningful than that. Mice, being prey by their nature, would place a lot of importance on those willing to act against their nature to protect others, thus the honor given to those who would be guardians. It seems only right that they would have a special place to rest once they have passed on.

I imagine that mice whose lives are fraught with so much danger might find a great deal of solace in supernatural appeals in general.

With so many mice simply disappearing inexplicably, assumed dead no doubt, this has lead to the idea of the Unseen.  No mouse is assumed to be dead until the body is found, which in so many cases will most likely never happen.  So any mouse that has disappeared is assumed to be Unseen: neither here nor there, but somewhere warm and safe under the Allmother's watchful gaze.  When a mouse is Unseen, their family will place a marker for them - reminiscent of a grave-marker - which will tell a little about the mouse who is missed.

This has lead some mice to the carrying of small tokens or talisman, as protection against going missing.  And many settlements in the Territories conclude their week of Morten-Harvest celebrations with the chirping of three score crickets, symbolically calling home that year's Unseen before Winter makes their return impossible.

Mice occasionally honour one another by inviting them to be 'seen as' a cherished Unseen relative. At family functions like weddings or in times of calamity it can be necessary for stand-ins to represent whole households.

The whole phenomenon of the Unseen is made more excruciating by the fact that some Unseen do return - weeks or months later. Seldom are the Unseen markers ever taken down, but they are always updated: "Once was Tuck the Lucky, thrice Unseen and come home to me. No more."


Martin said...

I like these assumptions of yours. I've so far seen the Mouse Guard world as fairly naturalistic (if that's the right world) with the mice themselves as the only magical element, for us humans anyway. But I might reevaluate this after mulling this post over a bit. I especially like the mice believing in the supernatural and the concept of the Unseen. Hmm..

Also, excellent blog! I see there's a "Followers" widget on the right hand side but I couldn't see a way of actually following the blog. I ended up just adding the RRS to my feed reader but I'd like to be a public follower as well.


Komorigumo said...

Hey Martin!

I agree Petersen's Mouse Guard is very magic-free. Which has an appeal all its own, and definitely works. Myself personally, I like to see a bit of magic in my games, and the setting lends itself to subtle magic very well. I also like the idea of beliefs touched with a bit of the superstitious, rather than outright religion - and the concept of the unseen fits my vision of Mouse Guard perfectly.

As far as following, I believe you would need to go to your Blogspot Dashboard and Add the blog (that is how I do it). I know there used to be a 'Follow' button, but I think with the last Blogger update it went away.

Regardless, thanks for the kind words!

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