I consume a lot of media. I’ve also been trained by my liberal arts education (whoopee) to connect things and cross-pollenate them to make them awesome. It’s a bad habit.
Anyways, I’ve already connected games like Maze Rats and Hot Springs Island with an integrated ruleset, so doing this for other modules and rulesets is no big leap.
The title gives away which products I’m connecting with this post, but allow me to start at the beginning.
Two months ago Mausritter by Isaac Williams came to the stage. It combines the rules of Into the Odd with mouse-centric favorites like Mouse Guard, Mice and Mystics, and Redwall. Great idea, excellent execution. It includes things like:
- Two page character creation
- A tactile inventory slot system. You actually place paper items over the slots they take up. Delicious.
- The light armor gives your mouse a button as a shield. Rad.
- The heavy armor gives your mouse a thimble as a helmet. Adorable.
- A genius magic system that echoes GLOG. If you reworked the spells, Knave could use this.
- Ten pages (almost half) dedicated to GM help, material, and random tables.
- IT’S FREE.
Then yesterday, I read Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess. What an interesting deal. I was always aware of the product but some talk on Discord got me interested enough to grab it. It is a dark cavern crawl through the weird. It’s Into the Odd. It features many interesting monsters, a helpful cavern generation system, and many good rules about light, scaling the walls, and getting lost. To be honest, my absolute favorite part of this book is the 20 bizarre sources of light they list. It’s interesting and evocative and weird… which pretty much describes the whole book.
Combining the two, I couldn’t help but think of Hollow Knight, a Metroidvania in which you play as a strange bug-like creature that plumbs the depths and clears it of horrid monsters. You also uncover the unsettling and mysterious background of the world at large and what’s all going on in the deep places of the world. As you can imagine, light is also a valuable part of play although it is not treated as a resource in the game. Light can indicate where enemies are, if something is explosive (red), plagued (orange), or poisonous/acidic (green). A lack of light can shield enemies so that all you hear is the clickity-clackity of their spider-legs. Yuckie. (Side note, Veins of the Earth also includes the sounds of each monster so you can describe them in the dark, but also the smell, which is something you can’t easily convey in a video game.) Each of the monsters in Hollow Knight is some twisted mutation of an insect we might recognize. Some are beetles, some are spiders, some are mantises and the like.
Moving on to a mouse-centric cavern crawl rather than a bug-centric one, there would be snakes, moles, rats (of course) and more. But all would be slightly altered by magic or science. As a fun bonus there might be man-made sewers, fallen into decay. Or a buried office building from long ago. Perhaps there is a larger mystery about what apocalypse has befallen the human race. Maybe it connects to the fact that there are sentient mice? Only time will tell…
Integrating the Two
For XP, Mausritter runs on a gold-for-XP system and caps out at level 5. Were I to change it to End of Session Questions (like from Dungeon World), it’d probably look like this:
- Did we learn something new about a faction?
- Did we loot a memorable treasure?
- Did we overcome a notable foe?
- Did we explore a new area of the depths?
- Did we work together as a team?
It would take 3, 9, 18, and 30 XP to level up.
I always want the big game. Many people, stable of characters. Interesting developments between sessions that leave players asking one another about what’s all happened, what treasures where missed, and what new hooks have been dropped. So what would an open table game for something like this look like?
It would probably look like some variant of the “Deep Delve” I’ve outlined before.
Team goal: The players are adventurer mice hired by a Baron-mouse to stop monsters from emerging from the deep and killing their citizens over the course of several weeks. There is no single faction responsible for these killings as it appears that a massive war is raging below that threatens to rope the mouse barony in all of this mess.
What’s the rush: The players can only carry a limited amount of light via torches, oil, lanterns, etc. Each session, they have X minutes (in real time) before their lights go out. X is based on how many light sources the party carries. These rules would really need to be hammered out to make it all work out mathematically.
Reason they can’t stick around: Their light will run out and many of the monsters can see in the dark…
Impending Doom: There is a prophesy that…
- 1) A great weapon of fire will wipe out the world.
- 2) A mouse will take on the mantle of a mouse champion from long ago and slay the snakes.
- 3) The fate of the world rests with a dragon egg deep in the catacombs.
- 4) The next ruler of the mouse barony will be a tyrannical cat.
- 5) The adventurers will unite the lost mouse tribes.
- 6) A plague will wipe out the barony and cause a great famine among all factions.