Mouse Guard one-shot (USC crew)

Mouse Guard is a role-playing game based on the comics of the same name, about brave mice who patrol the territories and keep settlements safe from everything that threatens good, honest mice (which is basically everything: weather, terrain weasels, predators, even other mice).

The characters:

Saxon: A veteran of the Winter War with the weasels. He’s always ready to fight!

Kenzie: The patrol leader. A generalist who is good at talking to people.

Kenzie and Saxon are summoned by Gwendolyn, matriarch of the Mouse Guard. A grain peddler who travelers between Barkstone and Rootwallow has gone missing.  Make sure he’s OK.  Gwendolyn pulls Kenzie aside for special instructions. The grain peddler is suspected of spying on Lockhaven for parties unknown. Kenzie must find out if he is really a spy.

Kenzie immediately shares this secret instruction with Saxon as they set out on their mission.  Rootwallow and Barkstone are far apart, and the patrol doesn’t want to narrow their search area, so they go to the towns along the route and ask around, trying to find the leg of the route that the grain peddler didn’t complete.  He made a delivery in Elmoss, but not in Copperwood, so he must be lost between those towns. The patrol searches the path and finds the grain peddler far off the normal path.  His name is Otis, and he pulls a handcart with a few bags of grain.  Kenzie interrogates him, and he confesses. He started taking jobs he found on a notice board in Barkstone to supplement his meager income from grain peddling. He just had to deliver some stuff. He didn’t much care what it was. None of it seemed illegal or dangerous, although the pay was high, so maybe he should have suspected.  He had gone off the trail to see a signal that would tell him which drop point to use.  The package he was carrying is a detailed map of Lockhaven, certainly useful to enemies who wish to infiltrate the fortress-city of the Mouse Guard.

The patrol takes the Otis back to Lockhaven and show their evidence to Gwendolyn. Kenzie thinks Otis is a sucker caught up in things he doesn’t understand, not a threat to the guard.  She wants to deliver a false map and see who picks it up. Gwendolyn agrees, but Otis will remain in custody until the mission is complete so he does not warn his employers.  Saxon enlists the help of his friend Samuel the Printer to make a new, inaccurate map of Lockhaven and with this bait the patrol sets out for Copperwood. They remove their guard cloaks before entering the city so they can move unnoticed. Mice are good at hiding naturally, so that helps.  Kenzie takes up a look-out post overlooking the drop point, and Saxon deposits the fake map under the loose flagstone, as Otis instructed.  Saxon moves on while Kenzie waits to see who picks up the map.  Two burly mice arrive somewhat later, look around, then lift the flagstone and take the map.  Kenzie sneaks after them, and they deposit money where Otis said he expected his payment. Then they go into a shop called “Merida’s Remedies”

Meanwhile, Saxon has gone to a gym to work out and try to find rumors.  He bench presses apple slices and takes a bite after each rep.

Kenzie enters Merida’s Remedies, a shop built into the front of a two-storey house.  Merida is there, a polite old lady.  Her shop has various oils and tinctures that heal, improve, or just smell nice.  While scoping the place out and getting a feel for Merida, Kenzie orders some Essence of Dandelion, famous for settling upset stomachs. Merida needs help with something or other and calls her son out from the back room. It’s one of the mice who picked up the fake map!

Kenzie regroups with Saxon to consider their next move. Those two mice: Sean and Ewan, are definitely involved in the plot against Lockhaven. Kenzie doesn’t want to burst into Merida’s house because she thinks the old lady might not know of her sons’ trechery, and she doesn’t want an innocent, vulnerable mouse present if a fight breaks out.  They decide to sleep on it.

The next morning, the guard-mice return to Merida’s Remedies, but the shop is closed. A regular customer is standing around, confused because Merida is usually so consistent. The guard-mice look around and find Ewan and Sean pulling a cart out the front gate of Copperwood.  Merida is sitting on top of the cart. They see the guard-mice coming and bolt! The heavy cart slows them down and the guard-mice catch them not far from the city limits.  They fight!  Ewan, Sean, and Merida want to escape, and the guard-mice want to capture the conspirators.  The guard-mice overpower the conspirators, but Merida is able to force a compromise. She’s the ringleader and will surrender in exchange for mercy for her sons. The guard-mice let Ewan go, but Sean and Merida are prisoners.  Merida explains that the income from her shop is dwindling, and she worried about having enough to live on when she was too old to brew the remedies. She was sure that Lockhaven kept high-quality supplies for the guard, and that if she could make one big score, she’d be set.

Kenzie’s player says: “So this is all because mouse society doesn’t have good social security?”  In mouse-kind’s defense, they have medieval technology and are constantly beset by giant monsters. There’s no chance of a post-scarcity society. Kenzie & Saxon consider what to do. Since Merida’s crimes are against Lockhaven, not Copperwood, they can’t turn her over to Copperwood’s authorities. So they take her to Lockhaven, which is part one of her plan. The guard-mice present their findings to Gwendolyn and recommend a sentence: since Merida is a skilled scientist and chemist, and not a violent traitor, she could pay her debt to the Mouse Guard by passing on her skills to guards in training. This would give her access to Lockhaven’s supplies, which is part two of her plan.  This would also give her an income & pension, which is part three of her plan.  Gwendolyn marvels at how they have given Merida everything she wants, but also put the Guard in a better position than if this plot had never happened.