Things That Go Squeak in the Night
A Heroic Role-Playing Game of Cute Horror
I have never been able to nail down where my fascination with mice-centric roleplaying games comes from. Perhaps something about playing heroic mice appeals to the inner child in me. There, I said it! Anyways, another new game has come to my attention; this time, it is Things That Go Squeak in the Night, written by Jim Davies and published by Gallant Knight Games.
Things That Go Squeak in the Night is a game about heroic mice, members of the Micean Council, which protects human children and their families from supernatural beings and other horrors that go bump in the night. This urban fantasy features a world filled with sentient creatures, supernatural horrors, and mysteries, packaged in an easy-to-learn game with intuitive rules and a story-forward focus.
“Squeak” has been influenced by films like The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under, and The Secret of NIMH, mixed with urban fantasy like The Dresden Files and the World of Darkness. As such, it has been designed to tell short, evocative stories for up to four players. It can be played out in just a couple of hours, typically two to three, and needs thirty minutes or less prep time by the Grand Mouser or GM for short.
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The game mechanics are inspired by Gallant Knight Game’s Tiny D6 game engine and D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. In Jim Davies’s own words, it is, therefore, “loosely Powered by the Apocalypse.” This makes the game’s mechanics simple and easily approachable. Furthermore, the game operates on player-facing rolls, powered by a small number of Moves that trigger the conflict resolution system.
The conflict resolution system is the mechanical heart of the game. Simply put, non-daring tasks require no roll at all and simply happen. However, when success is not assured or something happens to a mouse, the conflict resolution system kicks in. When this happens, Moves are triggered, and dice are rolled. All conflicts are resolved by rolling a pool of four or more six-sided dice; only those with a 5 or 6 are successes, and each generates a Point. Points are spent on the Move’s Perks, elements that narratively determine the situation’s outcome. Each Move has four Perks; the player is free to choose how their points are spent. The GM can flip any unused Perks to impact the outcome negatively. The author asserts there is an 80% chance each roll yields at least one Point; therefore, the engine more than supports “yes, but…” responses.
Other mechanical simplicities are built into the design. For example, the conflict resolution dice pool starts are 4D6 and may be increased based on the mouse’s class or through help from others. There are no health or hit points to track; instead, mice suffer a Cost, whether mental distress or physical damage. Costs are narrative consequences used by the GM and the player to tailor future decisions during gameplay. Thus, heroic mice do not die. Conversely, enemies can die due to the “My Opponent is Defeated” Perk of the Combat Move. Finally, if you forget your dice, located at the bottom of every page spread is a set of ten random D6s; players can randomly turn to a page, reading from left to right, review the number of dice in their dice pool and count up the 5s and 6s to determine their points.
That is the mechanical heart of Things That Go Squeak in the Night. It is most assuredly story forward, simply in its design, and should be easy enough for youngsters and veterans alike to understand.
The mice of the Micean Council are no ordinary mice—they are heroic, and stories will be written about them. There are four character classes to choose from, Warrior, Scout, Diplomat, or Shaman. Warriors are trained soldiers, enforcers, and bodyguards of the Micean Council
;. Scouts are the spies and detectives of the Micean Council ;. Diplomats are the leaders, arbitrators, negotiators, and infiltrators of the Micean Council ;. Shamans specialize in understanding the magical world in which they live. Each player must choose a different class. Each class has a class-specific ability that grants bonus dice to the dice pool under certain situations and has a class-specific Move. Everything a player needs to know about the game is found on the character sheet. This includes all Moves, Perks, Classes, Class abilities, consequences, Gear, and more.
The game’s setting is an interesting world that is both mundane and fantastical. It all happens in a larger fictional universe called the Quaddarc World. An urban fantasy that appears to human beings as a fairly normal world, but with hidden, competing forces of dark magic. All animals are sentient and can talk to each other; however, humans are generally unaware of their intelligence and cannot understand their language. Some animal species have allied with humans, such as mice and pigeons, while others are enemies of humanity. Moreover, individual members of all species might have allied themselves with evil entities, such as demons or faeries. In the Quaddarc World, there is much to explore and defend!
Every good core book should include a Gamemaster’s section, and Things That Go Squeak in the Night provides Grand Mousers a robust chapter full of resources. The tool kit provided for the Grand Mouser gives them a slightly deeper look at the Quaddarc World. It explores the four realms, one of which being the mundane realm, and what happens when adult humans witness supernatural events or creatures (sentient animals are not considered supernatural in the Quaddarc World) in the Mundane World—the universe then creates a Mundane backlash. A not-so-subtle situation that can have wide-reaching effects. All animals and sentient supernatural beings know about Mundane backlash. This chapter also includes rules for making evil characters such as demons and faeries, a short but adequate bestiary, advice for creating your own adventures, and four “sample” adventures.
Everything provided for the Grand Mouser is well written and provides the right level of detail to help bring the Quaddarc World alive. The arrangement of the contents of the chapter is odd in that it starts with the four sample adventures before delving into the descriptions of the four realms.
Although I was not provided the physical book from Gallant Knight Games, I did get the opportunity to flip through it at GenCon 2022. It comes in a digest-sized hardcover, sporting an evocative full-color cover. The black and white interior is sparsely populated with art, emphasizing all the right areas to good effect. The digital version has the same quality and layout. The layout is simple, open, and clean. The table of contents makes finding things quick and easy. Including the dice at the lower margin on every other page is an excellent design and layout choice.
Not everyone likes anthropomorphic games, and that is okay. If anthropomorphic games are your jam, and if you like Tiny D6 or Power by the Apocalypse games, you may find Things That Go Squeak in the Night to your liking. It offers a simple set of rules designed for both young and old alike. The simple mechanics focus on heroic derring-do, and the interesting world makes it a game worth looking at.
I can see Things That Go Squeak in the Night doing well as a convention game for its ability to be scalable in terms of game length and its potential broad appeal across various demographic groups.
Another solid release from Gallant Knight Games and winner for Jim Davies!
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