08 February 2009

Books Catch-up Post

I've got behind on book reviews, so here are brief notes on the ones that I have read but not reviewed.

Trading In Danger by Elizabeth Moon. Superior space opera, good characters. Will look up rest of series.

Miles, Mystery & Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold. #3 of Vorkosigan omnibus editions. Patchy but overall good. Some of these stories written much earlier in her career, others much later, and you can tell. Later stories are very good, although the contiunity is somewhat stretched (not quite broken, though).

The Alchemist's Code by Dave Duncan. Follow up to previously reviewed story about seer's apprentice in Venice who solves mysteries. More of the same. Good, fun.

Mouse Guard: Actual play with family

Yesterday and today we played a couple of sessions of the Mouse Guard RPG as a family - me GMing, my five year old daughter and somewhat reluctant wife playing a two-mouse patrol.

I decided that I'd take them through full character generation, as my daughter is still learning to read, so going through a template would probably be more hard work for her than thinking up answers to the character generation questions. Being impressed by Saxon in the comics, she made up Autumn, a tenderpaw who wants to be the bravest mouse in the guard. The patrol is filled out by Trevor, a middle-aged slacker of a patrol leader, who basically wants to hang around the pub drinking at every opportunity.

Their first mission was the deliver the mail episode from the book. We moved through it fairly quickly to account for a five-year old attention span, but managed to hit all the main points. They failed the pathfinding test and encountered the raven - as a twist on an attempt to use Birds-wise to help on the path-finding check (she wanted to get a bird to give her a ride to see the way!) So the raven decided to try and steal the mail instead, and was persuaded not to via a very definite Loremouse check from Trevor.

They continued to Gilpledge and sorted out Martin, and then had a brief player turn. My daughter had a lot of fun and quickly requested a second game (which had to be put off until the next day). She did sit down later on to draw a picture of her guardmouse.

Today, she insisted we play another game and once we had all the chores done we made time for it. We decided that Autumn convinced Trevor that they should go and get Martin's chair from weasel- territory after all (to play up her desire to be the bravest mouse), so that was their mission for today.

Their first obstacle was to get across a flooding stream, which they did by building a bridge (with two carpenters along, an obvious choice!) However, the roll was failed, so that made all the mice tired.

Next, when they got to Walnutpeck, they found a weasel watching the road for anyone coming along. They tried to sneak past it but failed, and had to run away from it. We decided to use a simple versus test as neither daughter nor wife felt like learning the full conflict mechanics just yet (today's elaboration was the use of traits on top of the basic roll mechanic). Autumn made this roll, eluding the weasel spy and leading the patrol and Martin back to Walnutpeck to pick up his heirloom chair before heading back into the mouse territories.

Another quick player turn followed with Autumn successfully testing to remove her tired condition and Trevor failing (I suspect a late night drinking was to blame!)

Overall, a great success. I've played a few roleplaying games with my daughter previously but this is the first one that really seemed to grab her. This might be partly the age she's at, and I think Chris Petersen's art plays a huge part. Plus, in play, the fact that the mechanics are fairly easy to grasp even for a kid who is just beginning to read (lots of "can you think of a way that you can help the other mouse do such and such?" and things like that). The fact that there's no plain old failure is also helpful, as I feel like rolling and being told "your mouse didn't do what you wanted" would be a buzzkill for her, but being told "well, you built the bridge but now you are all tired out" was okay.

Looking forward to more stories about Autumn and Trevor the brave and lazy (respectively)!