Tiny Triangles

a role-playing game about the littlest soldiers

Author: Clinton R. Nixon
Version: Development, on indefinite hold
Copyright: 2007 Clinton R. Nixon
License:This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Table of Contents

Introduction

This is a very early document, detailing mostly rules. Playtesting so far has shown these work, but a major rewrite for clarity would be necessary.

This role-playing game requires 2 six-sided dice of different colors and some index cards and will take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Here's the game's goal or purpose or whatever: you play intelligent mice who are trained to be investigators/soldiers and get engaged in conspiracies and threats against mouse-kind, which you solve. The game is best expressed in one scene from the comic Mouse Guard where a huge snake threatens the Mouse Guards. One mouse expresses the sentiment that they can't beat this thing. Another says, "It's not what you fight. It's what you fight for." After that, they can beat the thing. Sacrifice will be necessary!

Characters

Characters in Tiny Triangles are made up of several bits and pieces, specifically:

Qualities and problems

Quality Problem
courageous reckless
small little
veteran injured
Quality Problem
alert nervous
trained inflexible
healthy complacent
Quality Problem
friendly gullible
commanding threatening
cautious timid

Qualities are traits that Mouse Guards have. Not every Mouse Guard has all nine, though. Each Mouse Guard embodies six of these qualities.

Problems are traits that Mouse Guards must fight against. These are the enemies of a Mouse Guard, and he or she should be vigilant against them. The nature of a mouse and the rigors of military life can lead to them, however.

Starting qualities and problems

Pick six qualities and six problems, choosing at least one from each group. Write these down in order of how important they are to you and your character.

The order of the qualities has to do with how good your character is at that quality. Imagine one of that character's friends listing what he's good at. This is the order you want them in. The first quality is called your "anchor quality" and it is the crux of what your character is known for. The rest are your "heroic qualities."

The order of the problems has to do with how often those problems flummox him. These are traits of your character, but they don't mean that your character is always that way! These are problems that your character sometimes deals with because he or she is a Mouse Guard. Heroes always have problems they must confront. The first problem is called your "anchor problem" and it is the great enemy of your character. The rest are your "heroic problems."

My character, Krista, is a young Mouse Guard, recently initiated. I imagine her as a spunky greenhorn, ready to help, but not really tested. I choose the qualities of courageous, small, alert, trained, friendly, and cautious and the problems of reckless, little, nervous, inflexible, gullible, and timid. While I picked matching groups, that's not required. I order them like so: friendly, trained, courageous, small, cautious, and alert for the qualities, and reckless, timid, gullible, little, nervous, and inflexible for the problems.

Describing the qualities and problems

Write down one to five words beside each quality and problem in order to flesh out your character.

Here's Krista after I've written down her qualities and problems.

Qualities

  1. friendly - always greets a stranger
  2. trained - graduated first in her class
  3. courageous - will always come to rescue
  4. small - she can't be caught
  5. cautious - doesn't trust city folk
  6. alert - can smell a mile away

Problems

  1. reckless - first to rescue!
  2. timid - awed by superiors
  3. gullible - everyone has good intentions
  4. little - snack-size
  5. nervous - hates loud noise
  6. inflexible - follows orders

See how that really lets you see what kind of character she is?

Using qualities and problems

When you want to do something in the game, and it's not certain you can do it, you have a conflict. You'll roll one quality die and one problem die. (White and red are good die colors to use.) You choose the quality you're using and state what will happen if you win. The GM chooses the problem you have to overcome and states what will happen if he wins. Both of you can win or lose. These two stated things should be orthogonal - that is, they should be able to happen independently of each other. Yours is a goal and the GM's is a complication. You can choose to back down after the GM chooses his complication.

You want to roll equal to or higher than your quality on the quality die and the GM wants to roll equal to or higher than your problem on the problem die.

Note that you will choose which quality to use and the GM will choose which problem to use. This means you can choose your anchor quality and always get your success. This is called an anchor conflict and is great for displaying how your character is an amazing Mouse Guard! You may often want to have heroic conflicts, though, where your character uses his heroic traits. These are the only way to get positive consequences. The same goes for the GM - you can always use the character's anchor problem and highlight how the adversity is so much that the hero must sacrifice. However, using the heroic problems are the only way to get negative consequences.

I decide Krista's going to fight a snake! It's easy to choose what quality to use - "courageous." I say, "Krista's going to try to drive off the snake." The GM thinks for a sec and says, "The snake will try to poison you, and I'll roll 'reckless.'" See how it could end up? Krista could drive off the snake safely; she could drive off the snake, but get poisoned in the process; she could fail to drive off the snake and be poisoned; or she could fail, but remain safe from the poison. Because "courageous" is my #3 quality, I'll roll a die and try to get 3 or higher. "Reckless" is my anchor problem, so the GM can't really lose - a 1 or higher wins. I'll be poisoned no matter what, but this might be ok, as we'll find out later.

Traits

Traits are resources you can use in the game to do better when in a conflict. They are also markers to see what would be fun to narrate outside of a conflict.

There are three types of traits:

  • Skills
  • Badges
  • Relationships

These are differentiated not only by their in-game representation, but mechanically along three axes.

Skills are areas in which your character has been specially trained or has innate awesome ability. You can use them in any conflict where they apply to re-roll one die, either the quality or problem die. You can only use them once per conflict. These are authored by the player.

Relationships are non-player characters that your character knows and has some connection to. You can use them in any conflict to bring them in and re-roll both dice. You can only use them once per conflict. The GM's goal in the conflict immediately affects the relationship instead of your character, and if the relationship is harmed, it cannot be used again for the rest of the adventure. While these non-player characters may be made up by the GM, the connection is authored by the player.

Badges are honors given to your character. They can be used once per adventure to re-roll both dice. These are authored by the GM.

Starting traits

You should start with three skills and two relationships for each character.

For Krista's starting skills, I choose "Diplomat," "Natural Athlete," and "Knife Fighting." When she is in a conflict, if she can figure out how to use one of these, she can get a re-roll. I also choose "My sister, Twila" and "Sergeant Rollins" as my relationships.

How to use traits

You can use these at any time during a conflict to re-roll dice. The earlier result still stands - it looked as if your character was in trouble, but then you must narrate how you used the trait to get out of trouble - or at least tried to.

If a die comes up equal to the number it must equal or beat, you cannot re-roll that die. It is considered locked.

Note that using traits should happen a lot, and results in the ebb and flow of conflict. I swing my sword and miss and the weasel gets behind me, but then I grab its tail and it tries to bite me, but then I drive the sword home as it rips away my last scrap of food! That's how a conflict should run.

Repercussions

Repercussions are rolled whenever either the quality die or the problem die gets "locked" - that is, they roll the exact number needed to win a roll - and the quality or problem was heroic, not the anchor.

You roll both the quality and problem dice if they are both locked in.

If only the quality die is locked in, the problem die counts as a 6.

If only the problem die is locked in, the quality die counts as a 1.

2 lose quality and roll again
3 lose quality
4 lose a relationship
5 lose a skill
6 switch problem
7 winner's choice
8 switch quality
9 add a skill
10 add a relationship slot
11 overcome problem
12 overcome problem and roll again

Lose quality: The quality used in the original roll cannot be used for the rest of the adventure without automatic failure.

Lose a relationship: A relationship of the GM's choice has been weakened to the point you cannot call on it any more.

Lose a skill: A skill of the GM's choice has become rusty enough that you can no longer draw on it.

Switch problem: The problem used in the original roll must swap positions with another of the GM's choice.

Winner's choice: The owner of the higher die gets to choose any of the above options. If the die was not rolled, it can't count as the "higher die."

Switch quality: The quality used in the original roll must swap positions with another of the player's choice.

Add a skill: Either a lost skill or a new skill authored by the player can be added to the character.

Add a relationship slot: The character can have a new relationship or renew a lost relationship. This relationship does not have to be filled in immediately. Instead, you can add this relationship after having a scene with a non-player character.

Overcome problem: The problem used in the original roll cannot be used for the rest of the adventure without automatic failure.

Roll again: Both dice are rolled, no matter what was rolled the first time.

How to play

Initiatory conflicts

First thing, the GM should ask each player what each of them hoped their character did before the adventure started that proved they'd be a good Mouse Guard. This should be run in one conflict for each character in order to see how the system works. At the end of it, the character should be awarded a badge by the GM apropos to how the conflict went.

I want Krista to drive away a set of squirrels that are bothering our village. In the end, I do not succeed, but the GM does with his goal of "the squirrels want your food." I get the badge "Ambassador to the Woodkind," which is a backhanded way of saying that now I'll have to deal with these jerks all the time.

Situations

Before an adventure, each player should write one situation they really want to see on an index card and put it in the middle of the table. The GM should write one to the number of players' worth of index cards. These should all have one short sentence or phrase on them, like "a weapon breaks" or "protect the crops." The GM should use these to come up with the adventure. In practice, this takes 1 minute, seriously.

At any point in the adventure, any player can grab a situation and bring it into play for one re-roll of one or both dice. The situation should be put aside afterwards, and it cannot be used for re-rolls again.

Completing an adventure

At the end of the adventure, each character should get a badge like after the initiatory conflict. The badge should be awarded in a final scene, and should be made up by the GM.