Medieval Mice

At HelgaCon someone mentioned an interesting idea to me that’s stuck in my head.  So much so that I find I have to post about it before I can post about other HelgaCon stuff.  The idea was simply this: run a D&D game where the players are anthropomorphic mice.  It’s not the originality of the idea, but the simplicity of that’s really grabbed me.

The idea started when discussing Reaper’s excellent set of mousling miniatures.  When Reaper first introduced it’s Legion of Justice and Caeke line, I bought the first one for Jenn as something interesting for her to paint.  This led to picking up the second one in the line at GenCon, and then discovering the mouselings and purchasing those as well. Not only did she buy the full set, but I also ended up with an extra wizard-mouse when it turned out to be the model used during my round at speed-painting.  You can see my entry here.

Well it’s hard for me to be around miniatures without trying to find an actual gaming use for them.  Thus, I bought Jenn a copy of the Mouse Guard RPG, which I had heard of in passing but knew little about except that it’s apparently based on Burning Wheel.  It’s a beautiful book, and I’m sure Jenn read through the entire thing, but that’s pretty much where that ended.  I haven’t had a chance to really read through it, and given the heft of the book and Burning Wheel’s reputation as a “crunchy” game, I knew it would be a stretch for me to get around to running it.

The idea of just playing standard D&D with mice for characters for whatever reason never struck me until someone (was it BigFella?) mentioned it at HelgaCon.  It’s so simple and obvious I can’t get it out of my head.  The only real difficulties with the idea is the question of how much to warp D&D to make it feel more mousey.  Unfortunately there’s not a lot of inspiration to draw from.  Basically there are two:

I’ve read a couple of the RedWall series, but haven’t read any Mouse Guard yet.  I understand though that both ultimately completely eliminate the presence of humans.  I’m not crazy about that, I think a Borrowers-esque kind of setting would be far more amusing.  If I included humans, I’d love to have the “dungeons” actually be the inside of the walls of a normal human castle or similar.  That begs the question of how to orient the map though, it almost cries out for side-view instead of top-down, though that may push my map making abilities.

RedWall also introduces other anthropomorphic creature types.  Would I want to include that?  It might make an interesting way of handling demi-humans (demi-mice?)  I’d also probably have to come up with some other creature to use for the evil humanoids (no orcs, goblins, kobolds, gnolls, etc. in this game).  Monsters are easy – just use regular creatures.  Bigger lizards would make great dragons.  Would I want to push more fantasy elements?  Maybe, certainly there should be spell casters given the first mini painted was a wizard.

If anyone has any other ideas for inspiration I’m all ears.  Especially art that might depict labyrinthine mouse corridors behind normal human walls.  I don’t think I could seriously consider such a game without at least some ideas for a few dungeons.

5 thoughts on “Medieval Mice

  1. How might the mice think of humans? Would the humans seem to be gods to the mice? They leave food out where the mice can get it, they also constructed the larger structure that the mice built their homes in. On the other hand they also set traps and bing in cats. They give and take away. The humans motivations are unknowable to the mice.

    Or can some of the mice actually communicate with the humans and just see them as giants? Perhaps the mice could actually work with the humans from time to time when a large evil tries to get a foothold on a smaller scale…

  2. @rmckee78:
    I think the treasure in a “mice in human walls” game should be food and should be rated either in weight or deliciousness. You could have dungeons like, “The Pantry”, “The Undercroft”, “The Granery”, “The Smokehouse”, “The Bakehouse”, “The Buttery”, etc.

    You could have an items list like:
    Torch: 1 crumb
    Sword: 1 strip bacon
    Armor: aged cheese

    Or perhaps that’s a little too silly…

  3. There’s a bunch of stuff you can tap for inspiration.

    The Rescuers series (the books, not the movies, although those work too)
    A Cricket in Times Square
    Stuart Little
    Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH

    Maybe if you knew someone with connections to a library of some sort… hmmmm.

  4. I was definitely thinking that treasure would be food. In fact, it would be pretty easy to say:

    sp = seed piece
    gp = grain piece
    cp = cheese piece

    Only odditiy there is the idea that cp is clearly the most valuable instead of the least as in traditional D&D.

    As for the nature of humans, I was thinking I’d just stat them out as cloud giants. Whether the mice perceive them as gods or as monsters I suppose is up to the players.

    Thanks for the list BigFella. Funny thing is I think I’ve probably seen a lot of these as cartoon adaptations, when really I should be reading the original books. Will have to look those up.

  5. One interesting thing about houses as dungeons is you can think of the walls as traditional tunnels, and the rooms as quasi-wilderness areas, with the outside as wilderness as well.

    I think skaven minis would make good heavies for this, if you wanted a dichotomy between lawful mice and chaotic rats.

    Ferrets and weasels would make good ogre size foes. Cockroaches could be goblins or kobolds…

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