Sword-and-Whiskers Role Playing
Welcome to the world of sword-and-whiskers roleplaying. Here you will don the adventuring regalia of a mighty mouse and venture forth into the wilds to explore a vast world and vanquish any number of adversaries that wish to cause you and yours harm or to destroy your very existence. If you’re brave enough and lucky enough, you will grow all the richer for it. Mausrítter is a game for 2-5 players wherein you will play out these types of stories with your friends.
Mausrítter was published initially as PDF and a printed zine in early 2020. The printed version is currently unavailable, but the PDF version is, as of this review, Pay What You Want through Itch.io. Within these twenty-four pages, you are getting a complete game system—an adaptation of the Into the Odd roleplaying game; both of which are Old School Renaissance (OSR) inspired.
Everything about the rules system is minimalistic, but yet it still retains functionality. It is presented in an easy to read layout, embellished with beautiful illustrations that serve to not only set the tone but also to provide visual examples in some cases. There are a plethora of tables, some of which are specific in nature, while others are meant to be rolled at random.
Mechanically, Mausrítter takes a slightly different approach than other OSR games. Challenge and conflict resolutions are resolved through Saves. Saves are called for when a mouse is attempting something risky where the outcome is uncertain. Saves are a d20 roll against a relevant attribute. The result needs to be less than or equal to the attribute value for the mouse to be successful. Otherwise, the GM narrates the consequences which should have been telegraphed in advance. In addition to narrative elements of failure, failed Saves, will typically impart Damage, but the rules are unclear as to how Dex or Wis Damages are applied. It can be inferred that when Damage is appropriate for Dex Saves, the damage is applied in the same way as combat damage (see below). For Wis Damage, it can be inferred that such damages are applied directly to the attribute itself. Lastly, In some situations, a mouse may have an advantage or disadvantage during a challenge, during these situations. The player would roll 2d20 and take the best or worst roll, as appropriate.
Combat takes a slightly different approach than other games. The underlying rule for all combats is that Attacks always hit! Players simply roll their mouse’s weapon’s appropriate damage die, subtracting from the result, the value of their opponent’s armor. The final number is the amount of damage taken by their opponent. There are situational rules (impaired or enhanced attacks) that can adjust up or down the damage die used.
Taking Damage is also different from more traditional OSR games, in that once your Hit Protection (HP) points are reduced to zero, further damage reduces your Str. Once a mouse sustains any Str Damage, they need to make a Str Save. If successful, they may continue to fight (think of it as adrenaline kicking in), but if they fail, they take Critical Damage. Taking Critical Damage means the mouse takes the “injured” condition and becomes incapacitated. They will die in 6 “exploration turns” if they are not attended to by an ally and take a “short rest.”
There are dire consequences if any of the three attributes are reduced to zero. Reducing Str to zero means a mouse is dead, Dex means a mouse is physically unable to move, and Wis means a mouse has gone mad. When the narrative permits, mice can rest to regain HP and attribute points. Each of the three types of rest (short, long, and full) provides different rates of healing.
Mausrítter employs a simple inventory system that is both practical and serves several integral game functions. Often, most OSR gamers don’t give much thought to their inventory except to say, “I have that item in my backpack.” There are three types of inventory slots – paws, body, and pack. Slots are integral to the inventory system; each type represents one or more available slots in each location. In-game effects such as conditions will occupy slots as well and may force a mouse to either become encumbered or to drop items to avoid being encumbered. Conditions are always negative effects, placed in inventory slots, and may include other in-game effects as well. Conditions can only be removed when their specific requirements are met, usually some form of rest.
There are two other mechanical considerations of the inventory system. The first is usage dots. Most items have three usage dots, and when all three are marked, the item is depleted or destroyed. Items such as weapons and armor can acquire usage marks following combat, and once it has received three marks, it’s destroyed and no longer usable. The second is encumbrance. If your mouse is carrying more items or conditions then they have slots for, they are encumbered. Once encumbered, they can no longer run, and all Saves are disadvantaged.
There are three other classic OSR elements that have found their way into Mausrítter – level advancement (up to level 6), rules for the passage of time and overland travel, and no high fantasy game is complete without magic!
I want to highlight the magic system because I feel it warrants brief coverage. Magic, while not uncommon, is not run of the mill either. Spells are living spirits trapped by runes carved onto tablets. Each tablet takes up a slot in a mouse’s inventory. To cast, a mouse must hold the tablet and read it aloud. When cast, the caster must decide on what “power [level]” they wish the spell to have (this is an investment of usage dots). Rolling a d6 for each usage dot they wish to invest. Each die value of 4-6, marks one usage dot. A spell’s effect varies depending on the number of dice invested and their sum. It is possible for spells to be miscast. A miscast results when one or more 6s is rolled. For each 6 rolled, a mouse suffers 1d6 Wil damage and then must make a Wil save. That’s a little bit of old school punishment! It is also possible to replenish spell tablets; each has clearly defined “recharge conditions.”
That is the crux of the “core” rules, but others are also provided for those that would like to seek out hirelings and build warbands. There are several pages dedicated to the GM and the rules specific to their position at the table. As with the player facing rules, these are just as streamlined and simple to understand. The zine finishes up with a short creature catalog, a hexcrawl toolbox with a myriad of accompanying tables, several tables of names, non-player mice, and non-player mice characteristics.
There is a lot of “game” beautifully packed into these twenty-four pages, but there is one glaring omission that is hard to overlook. There is no one-shot scenario provided with the zine. To be fair, there is a full-page table dedicated to “adventure seeds” with three columns: creature, problem, and complication. As this is a table, GMs can randomly roll one time or once for each column, taking the prompts and weaving them into a fun story for their players. Alternatively, GMs can purchase, Honey in the Rafters, a 2-page adventure location with everything you need for a one-shot adventure.
Taking inspiration from Into the Odd, Mausrítter can be placed into the Old School Renaissance (OSR) adjacent genre of games. Simply meaning the game has a simple mechanical design, takes traditional design elements and streamlines them, and may share some of its design elements with modern indie games.
Aside from the omission of a scenario, this is a fully evolved roleplaying game that is ready for anthropomorphic primetime. It has everything you need to hit the ground running in a condensed, easy to read format, that should provide hours of entertainment. As this is a game that appeals to me and my love of mouse adventures but does not have any of the “crunch” of similarly themed roleplaying games, Mausrítter is on my shortlist and will be hitting the table very soon.
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