[Mouse Guard hack] Down in the Hole

9 February, 2010

I started fleshing out my Mouse Guard hack to be able to run police-crime style games inspired by the phenomenal TV series The Wire more than a year ago. I then left it for quite some time, while watching through the five seasons of The Wire twice. Amazingly it’s even better the second time.

The hack is about ready to playtest, while the skill list is still to be considered further. The basic idea behind a MG hack is to keep as much as the original mechanics and only change or rename those necessesary to fit the hack.

Please comment and suggest, thanks.

Down in the Hole draft


  1. I have much love for your design, Per. Big fan of the Wire, and had been thinking about hacking MG and BE together in a similar way for a game of Torg.

    There a thread on the BW forums about this?

  2. Hi Steve,
    Cheers. I posted to the MG hacks forum, but there’s no interest among BW fans it seems.

    After reading a lot of hack posts there, I’ve removed the BE inspired “infection”, which I had my doubts about already. I think it was Luke himself somewhere that said MG has its own built-it macromechanic with the seasons, so no need for an “Infection” mechanic on top as well. That makes sense to me now.

    Link to BW thread: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?8990-Down-in-the-Hole-%5BThe-Wire-hack%5D


  3. I’ve forwarded this to Mike, who’s also a combined MG/The Wire fan.

    In the meantime, I wonder about ’empathising’ as your 4th element of Nature. I’ve read a little bit about the logic behind hacking Nature, but this seems like a good opportunity to learn more. Because empathising seems desirable, I wondered whether something like ‘brutalising’ or ‘controlling’ or ‘manipulating’ might be more appropriate.

    So, you know, it’d be great if you wanted to talk a little about the reasons you went with ’empathising’.

    • Steve, again, thanks for the interest. My quick reply is that I originally did Nature entirely wrong. My first draft had Nature(Police), which was stuff like chasing and shadowing. I had indeed misunderstood what Nature in MG is, and only reading some Hack threads on the BW forums made me realise this.

      Nature is also the ESSENTIAL thing in a MG hack to get right. OK. So, Nature is “what you are”, what you default to instinctively when stressed, in danger fx. Your true self, perhaps. In MG that is opposed to your duty as a guard, a duty that inevitably will put you in situations where you will have to transcend (or not) you Nature.

      In Down in the Hole, characters are people, so their Nature is “Human”. So far, so good, but how do you boil down what you think being human is to four verbs? You make hard choices. Basically I think humans want to save themselves and continue the species, but at the same time people are able to show great compassion, sometimes without taking their own safety into consideration. It needs to be playtested, but I chose three self-preservation, or selfish, things and one benevolent thing. I guess it could also be half and half or even four self-preserving things, I hope time and actual play will tell. I thought “empathising” was the most interesting and complex side of being human, and hopefully it will create creative friction (and fiction!) when opposed to a policeman’s duties.

      I’m not sure I’m there with Nature yet – how do you (in play) determine when a character goes against her nature if nature is at the same time self-preserving and potentially altruistic? When are you more police than human?

      • Thanks, Per. That makes sense. I look forward to hearing how it works in play.

        I ran into similar difficulties with boiling the essence of humanity down to four verb when I was trying to define ‘Nature (Core Earth Human)’ for my Torg hack.

        … hmm. Looking at what I’d done, I can see (a) that it’s not perfect, and (b) how Nature can really reflect the different underlying themes between hacks. Here’s what I had for ‘Nature (Core Earth Human)’: Reasoning, Grieving, Civilised, and Mundane/Routines. (I was trying to go for qualities that represented ordinary people who’d lost access to their civilisation.)

      • “… how do you (in play) determine when a character goes against her nature if nature is at the same time self-preserving and potentially altruistic? When are you more police than human?”

        I’ll have a think about this, see if anything springs to mind. At the moment, the only potential conflict I can see in the qualities you’ve chosen is between ‘cheating’ and ’empathising’.

        (BTW: Say hi to Malc for me next time you see him? I was in the epic Dogs game he played while in New Zealand.)

  4. OK, last comment. I think it’d be great if you expanded on ‘The Case’ section. In particular, I’d like to see:

    a) an example of how the difficultly score (e.g. Middle: The Wire (5)’ is actually used in play. When do you roll 5 dice against the PCs?

    b) a really big-picture outline of how you see one phase of the investigation playing out. Like, a one-sentence summary of the mission that sets it up. Then a couple of sentences on the sorts of case twists you’d introduce, the follow-up missions you’d use, and maybe how you’d handle or mark the transition between one phase of the investigation to another.

    Doing that would help me visualise more clearly how to run the hack.

  5. Will do Steve – hopefully add to the document itself and post about it here.

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