[Session 9] To Wildseed and home again

The final session.  

The Patrol is making haste back to Lockhaven with news of Weasel marauders within the Territories.  But there is one last stop to deliver the mail, and that is at Wildseed.
Weather Watcher
Millicent's Player again ops not to check the weather.  It is a hot midsummer day.

GM Turn

The first thing the Patrol notices as they make their way along the path that winds its way around hardwood trees and forest floors thick with dried needles, is the constant knocking of a woodpecker.  After some time, the Patrol eventually comes to a cleaning full with wildflowers.  The air is abuzz with bees and butterflies of all kinds, insects darting and fluttering about.  Foxglove and coriander dominate, interspaced with purple anemone, yellow arnica, and patches of pink babystars and red poppies.  In the center of the field, dominating the area is a massive apple tree.  Nestled at the base amongst the root system is the town of Wildseed.

Wildseed is known for its honey during the Summer, its dried apple slices in early Autumn and for its hard cider during the late Autumn.  There is a regular trade with Lockhaven since it is so close, though Gwendalyn does attempt to mitigate some of their frequent requests and only respond to those that are urgent enough to warrant the Guard.  There are two Apiarists here in Wildseed – one with Honeybees and one with Bumblebees.  Harvesters, Millers, and Brewers are common as well. 

Obstacle 1 (Animal)
The knocking grows increasingly louder with each step they take towards Wildseed. In fact the redheaded crest of the woodpecker can be spotted up in the Apple Tree, situated upon a thick branch that appears to be less than healthy when compared to the rest.

As they arrive within the town proper, the knocking of the woodpecker is almost unbearable, vibrating right through the tree with every strike like a massive drum.

The Patrol heads to the Guardhouse to unload the mail.  A small gathering of townsmice appears, each with poofy tufts of down stuffed into their ears.  

“Guard!”  One of the mice yells out in relief, “Guard come to save us!”
“The woodpecker has been at it for hours now.  He leaves at night and is back again early in the morning.  This is day three!  And we can take no more!” 

The small pitiful gathering supplicates the Patrol, “We’ve sent a request for aid to Lockhaven just this morning, but since you are here we’ll ask you to rid us of the bird, please!”

Millicent, still angry, rolls her eyes and looks to Finn.  "Is this necessary?  We need to get back to Lockhaven to deliver our news."  

"Of course it is necessary."  replies Finn, "We are Guard.  Assisting those in need is our duty."  He looks at each mouse one by one, "It's what we do."

Each of the Patrol - tired, annoyed, and frustrated to one degree or another - is revitalized by Finn's simple speech.  Even Millicent acquiesces and agrees.  

The Patrol assures the gathering that they will see to the woodpecker, but they must take the wagon off their hands and make sure it gets to the proper place.  Leaving Olivander in the Guardhouse, the Patrol heads off to deal with the woodpecker. 

Remembering the devastating beak of the raven, Finn has Walter fashion a shield from the crab shells they gathered from Calogero.  They also take with them long seeding hooks (used by the mice of Wildseed to poke the seeds from tall flowers) to use as make-shift spears.  Though the woodpecker isn't a predator, it could still be dangerous, so Finn wants to take no chances.  The plan will be for the Patrol to get as close as they can, and hide behind the shell with the seeding hooks at the ready.  Rona will speak with the woodpecker and attempt to coax it to leave.  What can go wrong?

The woodpecker eyes the mice suspiciously as it continues to peck at the tree. Rona steps cautiously out from behind the shield and begins speaking to the bird (she passes an Ob2 Loremouse test). She asks the woodpecker if it wouldn't mind finding another tree in which to hunt for food.  The woodpecker refuses, stating that this tree - this branch at least for now - is thoroughly infested with termites, a delicacy.  Why should it leave when food is so plentiful?

Rona relates what the bird said to the Patrol and they begin to discuss the benefits of the woodpecker removing a termite problem versus the annoyance of the incessant hammering.  Finally, after some time, the Patrol agrees that the removal of the termites far outweighs any annoyance.  And as they prepare to climb back down and let the town know, the woodpecker flies off.

Obstacle 2 (Mice)
Chagrined, the Patrol decides that they will still inform the town that the woodpecker, while annoying, is a benefit and that they should just deal.  While up in the tree so high, the Patrol notices the amazing view they have.  Far below, the field of flowers is an amazing tapestry of colors.  As they gaze about, one of the Patrol notices a pair of young mice running across the field in a panic, the yells and screams of their tiny voices carrying up into the branches.  Quickly the Patrol makes their way back down the tree to see what the commotion is.

A crowd has gathered around the two frightened, small mice, and when they see the Patrol they immediately push their way over to them.  "Please help!" they squeak, and cry.  One of their number, a young mouse named Bran, has fallen into a hole and seems to be hurt.  They go in to explain that the three of them had been playing Mouse Guard out at the edge of the Wildseed field.  They’d found an old spider carcass and it looked like there might be a Spider Wasp cocoon attached to it.  They were going to poke it with some sticks (their make believe swords) when Bran let out a squeek and vanished.  They heard him crying deep into the darkness below.  They told him to hold on and they ran back to get help.

Walter is a little taken aback that the mouse in trouble is named Bran (his own younger brother being named Brand).  The similarity is unsettling.

The young mice lead the Patrol and a small rescue party from the town out to the edge of the field.  They point out the spider carcass and cocoon, to which Millicent (after succeeding an Ob1 Apiarist test) notes is in fact a Spider Wasp.  She cautions everyone that the sting of a Spider Wasp is extremely painful and very dangerous.  It should still be a few weeks before it hatches, but still to be wary.

Nearby is a small tangled thatch of bittersweet flowers which seems to have overgrown and concealed an irregular stone circle.  Within the center of the circle is a rotted wooden cover, that has broken though, exposing a gaping maw leading into darkness below.  And from deep within, the Patrol can hear the soft whimpers of the fallen mouse.

Finn asks the assembled town's mice if any of them knew this was here, or if they know what it is.  All scratch their heads in confusion and have no idea.  Millicent and Rona carefully remove the wooden cover, revealing a hole that is not natural.  Sunk into the side of the hole wall is a rusted metal rung, and over two mouse-lengths below the first rung is a second, and below that a third.  Around the edge of the hole are carvings.

Millicent calls Finn over.  (I call for Finn to make an Ob1 Militarist test and Rona to make an Ob3 Loremouse test.  Each pass!)  The carvings appear to be of weasel origin, and seem to be marking this area as a supply area and prime target of opportunity.  Though the weasel war ended five years ago and to the best of anyone's recollection, no weasel invader made it this deep into the Territories, it seems perhaps at one time they had!  Or at least scouts had reconnoitered this deep in.

The Patrol makes their way into the hole.  All pass an Ob2 Climbing test as they drop from rung to rung and descend over 5 fargles into the ground.  At the bottom is a small staging area covered in mushrooms, upon which young Bran broke his fall.  In spite of the mushrooms, Bran did injure his leg.  Walter sets the broken bone (taking an Ob3 Healer test and succeeding) as Finn calls for a rope to be lowered down.  Once stabilized, the Patrol bundles Bran up safe and he is raised up to the rescue party above.  Finn lets the town's mice know that they will be exploring below and to mark this area off as dangerous.

With Bran safe, the Patrol explores the staging area.  A slow moving river winds through the cavern, a wharf has been constructed and a boat, not of mouse manufacture, is moored to it.  They find more weasel carvings on the wall of the cavern (these indicate Lockhaven to the South and Thistledown to the East), and a rack with an assortment of weasel-sized weapons.  Finn dumps the weapons into the black depths of the river.  The boat appears to have been moored to the wharf for at least 5 years.  Curiously, the oars seem to be able to double as spears, which is a chilling thought.

Their minds made up, the Patrol decides to take the boat and follow the river towards Lockhaven.  Being constructed for weasels and not mice, the boat is a bear to steer, but at least the current is gentle and it only bumps the cavern sides half a dozen times or so during their day and a half journey.

Along the way they encounter more carvings, and at each one Finn pauses to chip them away.  At one point, they encounter one more cache of stored weapons, which Finn dumps into the river before they continue on.  Finally the river empties into a large underground lake.

It takes the Patrol a bit of time to explore the edges of the lake, and to eventually discover the massive rock stalactite and stalagmite that have formed a column in the center of the lake.  A wharf has been built on a small staging area by the column, and they mice can see where the weasels have broken through the column itself into a hollow center.  Peering into the hollow center the Patrol sees light way up at the top and a bucket on a rope drops down!

"Are we under Lockhaven?" the Patrol asks one another.  Millicent decides to climb the rope up.  At the top, she surprises a young Tenderpaw collecting water in the well room, a task she herself did many times as a Tenderpaw.  Leaping into the room, she tells the surprised mouse that she is Guard and to summon help which he does (later, Millicent will chastise the Tenderpaw for not sounding an alarm).

The rest of the Patrol make their way up the well, and they request audience with Gwendolyn. 

End GM turn

Begin Player turn

After freshening up and taking a meal, the Patrol meets with their leader Gwendolyn.  To their surprise, Gwendolyn knows each of the Patrol by name.  Before her, laid out on a massive table is a huge map of the Territories.  Upon the map are tiny colored pawns, each representing a member of the Guard going about their duties.  She takes the pawn from Frostic and joins it with the pawns representing Finn's Patrol and places the lot of them upon Lockhaven.

The Patrol goes on to explain what they discovered - they tell of their ordeal with the weasel marauders, the weasel tunnels and weapons, and of the markings that clearly indicate that at some point during the war, the weasels made it much farther into the Territories than anyone ever dreamed.

Walter, unable to contain himself any longer, places his own carefully drawn map in front of Gwendolyn and explains how traps and portcullises can be set up to prohibit the tunnels from being used in the future.  Impressed, Gwendolyn tasks Walter with not only leading in the construction of these defenses, but in their design as well.  A task that suits Walter perfectly.

As to Finn, Millicent, and Rona, she gives each a promotion and asks what they would like to do now.  All agree to spend the winter in Lockhaven and go out on Patrol again come Spring.

And it is here that we ended the game.  Since Walter's Player would be moving out of the country, it made sense to give Walter a promotion and job that would keep him from going out on Patrol ever again.  As for Finn, Millicent, and Rona... we may join up with them again come Spring.

Instead of a normal end session, we did a Winter Session (p.158) at this point.  Each mouse aged 12 months, and each increased three skills.  As a group we reflected upon the past sessions and each mouse gained a new trait, changed or elevated a trait, and received their Rank promotions.  

Upon reflection, Mouse Guard is an amazing game.  I think it suffers a little from the formulaic GM turn/Player turn dynamic, and definitely suffers from the GM turn must be go-go-go adversity formula.  But as we as a group discovered, we can sprinkle in some more traditional approaches to a session's construction and still pull off a successful Mouse Guard game.

As a GM, it is quite possibly the easiest game I've ever run.  Preparing for each session was really simple - just get a couple of ideas, make sure I had any NPCs ready to go, and have some ideas in place for any Twists that might come up, and the Players do the rest.  As a group we all loved the lack of XP system for increasing skills and traits.  That system may find its way into other games I run.


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