The Pedagogy of Playing Mouse Guard – A Crazy Circle of Life

The irony of the loop between (I hope I’m getting the order correct) Jason Godesky, Willem Larson, Zach Greenvoss, Justin Evans, and me (Sean Nittner) is just crazy.

This is really the first time when I have felt like the internet created meaningful connections between people with similar interests.

To hear the beginning of this story, and a great podcast about how teach games as you play them improves the flow of the game and reduces (or eliminates) those lulls in the game where the mechanics stop serving the fiction either because a rule is forgotten or misunderstood or because players (or GMs) don’t understand how to apply the mechanics; go listen to this: The Myth Weavers – Episode 13

Also, if you follow that link, it will give you links to all the pieces that have come so far. And now I’d like to spin the wheel a little further.

As my previous post indicated I ran my Mouse Guard game, implementing the pedagogy of play components that I had been discussing with Jason and Willem online. For the most part it was a success, but I learned two important things from it:

1. Any exercise of significant length that addresses only setting elements and not the mechanics of the game, should be revised.

Case in point. When we played Mouseball, the players tossed around a plush Liam and talked about elements of a mouse’s life. This was a lot of fun, got people thinking about what dangers a mouse would face, and took less than five minutes. No mechanics were taught here as it was meant to be a gentle introduction to the game. The second exercise, however, the “Epic Journey” also fostered creative juices without introducing mechanics, but it took a good 15-20 minutes. To the players this was a frustration. They wanted to be “playing” (i.e. acting out their character and rolling dice) sooner. When we got to the accomplishment, however, they were interested again (as it involved engaging the mechanics).

2. The rules I didn’t go over during the teaching exercises are the ones stuck out like a sore thumb.

As Willem said on one of his comments in my LJ “If ever the players look overwhelmed, overly hesitant, or unsure, you know you’ve missed a step. Don’t blame them, blame your teaching plan. You probably then need to find a game that will get them over that particular hump.” In this case I realized that when I introduced traits in the “I See” game, I didn’t talk about how they relate to “checks” and that is what fouled me up in game.

So I’ll recap the chronology as best I can:

  1. Jason and Willem talk and Willem writes this series, “The Pedagogy of Play” (parts 1, 2, 3 & 4)
  2. Willem ran a game with Zach Greenvoss as a player at Gamestorm
  3. Zach told Justin and Sean and then we did a podcast on Episode 29 of Narrative Control
  4. Jason heard the postcast and told Willem about it
  5. Willem got in touch with me over on the Narrative Control forums and told me about his process (see part 1 above)
  6. Sean comments about a pedagogy for Mouse Guard
  7. Sean’s starts cobbling things from Willem and Justin together to create his process
  8. Jason creates his own process which seems more tuned toward campaign play than one shot games.
  9. Jason runs a few sessions both over Skype and in person. He talks about them on the Burning Wheel forums and on The Myth Weaver podcast
  10. Sean has now run a play test using five exercises to teach the game and warm players up to the life of a mouse, which I reported on in my other Livejournal posts.

So, wow, it’s just cool to see all of this unintentional interaction due to a couple of strange not-quite coincidences and the internet. Neat.