Mouse Guard advancement and Dungeon World, aka overhauling XP (hopefully without having to overhaul the whole game).

Mouse Guard advancement and Dungeon World, aka overhauling XP (hopefully without having to overhaul the whole game).

Mouse Guard advancement and Dungeon World, aka overhauling XP (hopefully without having to overhaul the whole game).

Kicking around an idea here, thought I’d get some feedback. In Mouse Guard, one of my favorite elements, and one which feels very PbtA in its fiction-first lean, is the way you advance. You level up skills organically, as you use them — it takes X successes when rolling a skill, and X-n failures, to advance it. This means you have to use skills to make them better — the things you neglect aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, you have to screw up a little, too, which is a neat touch — you learn from your mistakes, as it were.

Additionally, at the end of a session you choose a skill you used and advance it. Then you choose one you didn’t use — and decrease it. It really keeps things lively, and it’s always been a fun system to me.

What if we tried something like that in DW, I wonder? First of all, what if instead of XP for misses, it just took, say, 5 10+ rolls on a stat and 3 6- rolls to then increase that stat mod by 1 (max +3, as always).

Then, what if at the end of every session we chose a stat we’d used and increased it by one, and a stat we did not use and decreased it by one? (my instinct is the actual stat, not the mod, though… the mod could work too)

We’d need to rewrite some moves to not bother with marking XP anymore, but that’s a small matter. The remaining big question, then, is how we handle taking advanced moves, and max level. Without a universal XP and level up, we have no way of tracking our level and, thereby controlling what moves we can unlock, and when.

I’ll admit that this is the only part that has me stymied. I can’t think of a way of doing it without tracking level. It could be per-session, maybe. At the end of session, you pick a new move from the 2-5 list. At the end of the fifth session, pick any advanced move.

At the end of 10th session, you can’t pick moves anymore, but you can retire and all the normal stuff. You could even keep playing and growing your stats with rolls — though if that was the case, I do think the losing a modifier each session is vital, to curb the ability to get +3’s in all stats. In theory I suppose it would be possible to max everything out, but you’d have to be doing a lot of rolling in every session.

Thoughts? Is this possible without obliterating the entire game?

12 thoughts on “Mouse Guard advancement and Dungeon World, aka overhauling XP (hopefully without having to overhaul the whole game).”

  1. I like it. The specifics might need polish, but I like the idea of using a stat to bump it.

    You could copy what Macchiato Monsters does for new moves/levels – the party has a list of goals (save the princess, raid the goblin lair, etc) and you get 1xp for each one completed. When you have xp equal to your next level, you advance.

  2. My past notes on this, in the form of two moves…


    When you have enough XP to level up, you can attempt making an advanced move that you could gain, if it follows the fiction, and increase your level by 1.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    When you fail a roll, mark XP for the stat you rolled. When you have XP equal to your score in that stat, increase that stat by 1.

  3. Though looking at it now, Epiphany isn’t actually doing anything new except that the fiction should be right for you to gain the move. Perhaps you can’t actually level until it is, and you have to succeed at the move.

  4. Very cool idea.


    With this method, would you not roll plus a Mod? But instead roll+MoveLevel? With the max being level 3? Leaving Modifiers only for basic moves.

  5. Aaron Griffin sure, it’d work… though it seems at odds with the “use to improve it” concept that’s at the core.

    Like, I’d imagine something more like:

    1) Assign a stat to each advanced move

    2) When you “fill up” the marks on a stat (X hits, Y misses), you get to pick a move associated with that stat, OR increase the modifier by +1. 

    3) Have a threshold, after which you can start unlocking level 6+ moves. E.g. “Once you’ve gained 4 Advanced moves, Master moves become available to you.”

    4) Get rid of base stats. Make HP something like 12 + 2x(CON).

  6. Here’s what I’m thinking, for the sake of simplicity, and minimal hacking.

    Each stat on the character sheet has (let’s just go with — somebody better at math can weigh in with averages and hard number data) 5 and 3 boxes, labeled 10+ and 6-. Once those are filled, the full stat (Constitution, not CON) goes up by one, and you start again.

    You could make each modifier rating higher via a formula, but that just feels messy to track, and I like the “at a glance” feel of (the way Mouse Guard does) just seeing how close you are. The modifier adjusts like it normally does, maxing at +3.

    At the end of the session, you choose the stat you rolled the most this session — it goes up by 2. Then you choose the stat you rolled the least — it goes down by 2.

    Additionally, there’d be a couple lists of achievements to deal with at the end of session, just like there already are. If you did X notable things, mark an advance. If you accomplished a goal, mark an advance. If you resolved a bond, mark an advance, etc.

    When you have a number of advances equal to your next level, go up one level.

    Bam. Moves don’t need to be changed, levels still exist, there’s still a cap, and you earn advances (basically, XP) at a rate of about 2-4 a session. The more powerful an adventurer you become, with more “wins” and accomplishments under your belt, the more it’ll take to level up.

    But the stats are much more tied to the fiction — they’ll take longer to increase, because you need 8 rolls in a single stat just to increase the stat by one, let alone the modifier — but for my money the modifiers aren’t the big deals, not nearly as important as the moves you can make. And anyway there’s always your +1 forwards to help boost rolls, which now become far more valuable when you’re looking at seeing a stat mod suddenly go down at the end of a session — and in order to get hold and +1’s forward, you’ve got to be engaging more with the fiction, right?

    Yes, I’m starting to very much like this idea.

  7. So the problem with this is that mouse guard is a fundementally different game with fundementally different reward system that pushes a different play type then dungeon world. I don’t feel you can just hack it to the same thing and feel your getting the same result.

    Here is a fundemental problem with this. In mouse guard difficulty is the obstacle you can push youself to get failure so even if you have 6 dice you can try and do something that is ob 6 and you can fail probably at it.

    With dungeon world you have fixe rrsults so when your at +2 you fail a lot less which means you won’t be able to push yourself to get an advance at all…its a fixed number you can’t do anything about

  8. This is not in the rules for 2nd edition Mouse Guard: “at the end of a session you choose a skill you used and advance it. Then you choose one you didn’t use — and decrease it.”

    And I’ve not heard of this rule for 1st edition either. I’ve even just double checked the rule book right now. Is this a rule you invented? Or did you see it mentioned somewhere?

  9. Aaron Steed So, I asked on the MG+ page, and even glanced through myself, and it looks like you’re right — that rule doesn’t exist. Which means I am a crazy person, because I remember being really enamored with the idea. So I have no idea what I misinterpreted to think that rule even came from (I’ll try to do a more thorough look later to see what I must have been thinking).

    But regardless, it’s a neat mechanic and I think I’ll give it a try, just for funsies.

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