Death & Taxes in Mausritter
This is a simple scheme for character age and campaign time records in Mausritter, where you play as mice.
To summarize on mouse age and campaign time:
- Mice have short lifespans, about 12-18 months.
- There are six seasons (each two months long) in the year.
- A mouse’s age is measured in seasons. Roll d6.
- One season is the duration of a downtime turn.
- The season changes between every session, if possible.
- This all has implications for long-term play, focusing on intergenerational developments in mouse families.
To summarize on township play:
- To govern mouse society even in one hex is a great feat of social organization.
- Each hex should be governed by one mouse, i.e. by one player via their character.
- Additional hexes must be ruled by family members or by subordinate governors.
- Event dice are rolled for each hex, rather than for the whole region.
- 1,000 to 6,000 mice live on each hex. They generate one tenth that many pips in taxes per season.
- Each hex can have one major structure or project which benefits the entire region.
- Price lists for hiring workers and constructing buildings in Mausritter should be rebalanced.
Although this is obviously written for little mice, it is also applicable (with some work) to typical human D&D. The economic section especially builds upon my previous work fleshing out the economic system of OD&D , and you could probably apply the rules for hex projects (and even the six season calendar) to regular D&D just as well as you can to Mausritter.
The Lifespan of a Mouse
A mouse matures at 4 months of age, and has a total lifespan of 12 to 18 months. This means that each month, or even each week, represents a significant chunk of your mouse character’s life. As we shall see, this will have interesting implications for longterm campaign play as your mice live on between sessions or as they work on large projects (the likes of which might be multi-generational). That being said, if our mice live in an organized society, they might be able to extend their lifespan to 24-30 months. We’ll think about this later.
A fair roll for a mouse’s starting age might be 2d6 months. Most mice will be 6 to 8 months old. Some mice will be approaching old age (or, maybe, middle age if they come from a civilized place). Others will be like young adults or teenagers.
You could modify ability scores by age category, saying that young mice (2-4 mo.) have an extra d6 of dexterity, mature mice (5-9 mo.) have an extra d6 of strength, and elderly mice (10+ mo.) have an extra d6 of willpower. However, that requires you to keep track of what’s your baseline for each ability score; something simple like +2 could suffice, if you really wanted something like that.
Elderly mice could roll d20 greater than or equal to their age (in mo.) in order to avoid the physical effects of age. Upon failure, the clock ticks; it might take three strikes to pass away. Those who spend their time in low-stress environments or in organized societies could halve their age-value when making the roll. The effect is that elderly mice who go out adventuring are much more likely to wear and tear themselves, and so you might be inclined to keep them at home while sending out their children on adventuring trips instead.
The Course of a Year
Following my friend Emmy Verte’s post on township turns in Mausritter , I will develop a calendar for a campaign to keep track of “longterm” time. Verte uses the week as the duration of a township turn, meaning that it takes one week for the town to undergo significant changes or execute significant projects.
However, I think that the week can be too short to act as the duration of a campaign turn (i.e. as the unit of longterm time). Although a week is much more significant for a mouse than it is for a human being, it can still feel quite granular to keep track of weeks across the whole year. We also need time to account for vast changes in Mouseland, from regime change to the structural decay of buildings.
To accelerate our experience of longterm time, and to better accommodate significant events, it will be useful to find a more apt measure of time. Throughout the previous section, I refer to months, which would probably be a fine solution to slightly expand the scope of Verte’s turn structure. It would mean you could treat seasons as changing every three months, which fits neatly with Mausritter’s motif of three-bit record keeping. That’s one idea; here is something more experimental.
There are six star signs in Mausritter, meaning that the year is divided into six parts. We can call these seasons, knowing that they’re not equivalent to our system of four seasons but they are somewhat analogous in mouse society. As our basis, we can look at some indigenous calendar systems or at scientific (non-calendar) ones. These systems tend to be regionally specific, with distinct seasons for factors like monsoons or freeze-overs (or, as for the Cree, a season between Winter and Spring where the ice melts). Below is one suggestion for mapping star signs to six seasons of the year, assuming a typical temperate climate.
Each session, i.e. each period of play punctuated by a downtime turn (representing the passage of longterm time), takes place in one season. You could roll d6 for the initial season of the campaign, or begin the campaign during the season of the Mother sign. Then, the next session occurs in the next season. Since each character has a star sign, you could decide that characters whose sign aligns with the current season could get some bonuses to rolls or to hit points. Come on, it’s their birthday and they’re just a little mouse! Come on! (Though, by six seasons, they’re already approaching elderly age…)
Recalibrating Mouse Age
If we’re going to be keeping track of seasons instead of months, we need a different way to randomize mouse age. Since it was a 2d6 roll for months, we could just divide by two and make it a d6 roll for seasons. Then we compare the result to the current season. If you were born in the same season as the current one, you are six seasons (twelve months) old. For everyone else, we count down the list of seasons (going back up the list if necessary); they will all be less than six seasons old. For example, if the current season is Storm, then someone who was born in Acorn is four seasons old, and someone who was born in Wheel is one season old.
For elderly mice, we were already dividing their age by two if they lived in well-kept societies. Now we can just roll versus their age in seasons to make an age check, or make two rolls per check if they are not in a comfortable situation (doubling the chance of failure, and the rate of age). We can then redefine an elderly mouse as one that is six or more seasons old.
One last, and maybe important, consideration. The gestation period for mice is just 20 days, after which they will give birth to litters of up to 12 baby mice (~6 on average). I think you can handle this as a downtime activity, starting a family and/or giving birth to 2d6 mouse babies. Given the fast rate at which mice mature, starting a family might be a handy way to keep a troupe of characters to play! It is also a way to start getting into a long-term campaign that goes beyond the life of any individual mouse.
World Scale & Townships
There seems to be the expectation that as mice accumulate wealth, they will also accumulate land (as in D&D). Hexes in Mausritter are one mile wide. This seems scaled down from the typical six-mile hex employed for human characters, but they are still very large even for mice. To get an idea of this, consider that (1) one mouse is ~1/3,000 the weight of a human being, (2) one mouse needs 1/10 the calories that a human being needs, and (3) there are 6,400 mice per square mile (c.f. the population density of industrial London!). Considering how large a hex already is for human characters, imagine how much larger it would be for mice. These are small creatures who do not like to travel far from home, with the notable exception of our adventurous characters. For one hex to be socially organized, then, is already a massive feat.
It would not be unfair to say that each hex requires at least one steward to operate. That is, each player can directly manage or rule over one hex if they so please. As far as logistics and leadership goes, that might be as far as any one mouse’s influence could travel (without any fancy communication technology that we have as humans). Besides facilitating decisions for high-level play, since each player only needs to worry about one hex, it also makes township rolls easier to grasp. Now each hex can be ruled for, each in the dimension of a single township. Each can experience its own encounters or events, and each tracks its own maintenance. This is instead of rolling for maintenance failure across multiple hexes, and then rolling one die per hex to see if each one fails. Why not just lead with the one roll per hex, now also one roll per player, and see what different things happen across Mouseland?
So, to reiterate, the township roll is made once for every hex. During low-level play, the referee might just roll for the status of the hex currently inhabited by the player-characters. I have reproduced Verte’s township shift table below, which I suggest using instead of the event table because of the greater amount of time that passes between turns. You can see how the effects of each roll have slightly greater impact because of them being applied to individual hexes rather than to the region.
|Population decrease (-1)
|Population increase (+1)
In order to control more hexes than there are players in your party, you might want to hire a governor or assign family members to rule. This could lead to some interesting role-play situations with political intrigue and family drama.
Income & Investments
Income levels in Mausritter by the book are very unequal. An interpreter makes thirty times as much as a torchbearer (though we might have to differentiate between consistent jobs or one-time gigs). Here is my attempt to make a 'fairer' labor cost table, for different lengths of time. One week contains five work days, and one season contains ten weeks.
You should keep in mind that you likely won’t have professionals on reserve; instead of hiring them for a season, you might just hire them for a week at 1/10 the cost (likely for situations which call for close-up play rather than abstract accounting).
Assume that the average mouse family has 10 members, the average worker makes 100p per season, and the state levies 10p from each family in taxes per season . Then we could say each hex has a population of 1,000-6,000 mice which produces 100-600p in taxes each season. This is how much each player can invest in projects across the region, such as constructing infrastructure or defending against cats. In the latter case, you might recruit a warband. Since you need 20 mice, you will have to spend at least 400p/week for a warband of the lowest quality. Finally, since population is measured in thousands, we can consider an increase or decrease in population to represent plus or minus 1,000 mice (with the associated increase or decrease in tax revenue).
Construction requires labor and materials. You will probably want to spend 1,000p on labor to construct a significant structure (representing the employment of 10 mice throughout a season). For the construction of rooms of different qualities, Mausritter suggests an increasingly expensive list of costs: 10p for a tunnel, 100p for a poor room, 500p for a standard room, and 2,000p for a grand room. I think, instead, costs of quality should be only slightly exponential. See below, where 'rooms' are for per-day construction and 'projects' are for seasonal works. Assume that the math works out so that materials are included in the total cost.
Verte's posts lists five categories of structures: educational, defensive, factional, productive, and special . She also gives each settlement a certain number of tiles or slots for buildings, depending on that settlement's size (where each settlement is located on one hex). However, with a system where the party can rule over as many hexes as there are players, I think it makes more sense here to say that each hex can have one major structure. Think of city districts in Civilization VI, where you plop down whole districts on hexes to increase a city's output for industry, commerce, science, etc. This also keeps the number of structures built relatively low.
Referring to my table above, I think this one-structure-per-hex system interfaces well with a variable number of usage points based on the quality of the structure. This means that when structural decay is triggered on the table, you need only look at the singular structure on the hex, and the impact is a function of how much was invested in the structure's construction. However, this does contradict how, in Mausritter, usage points are typically standardized to three. You could alternatively read the table, then, as the x-in-6 chance that the structure avoids decay; you could also just only use standard cost/quality, ignoring the others. Repairing a usage point could cost 1/10 of the structure's original cost.
I think this posts covers a lot of ground, from things which impact play early-on to things which really only come into play if you're very dedicated to being a little mouse queen or king. Still, I hope this is a useful treatment of the game to try to bring its various elements closer together. Treating the star signs as the basis for a campaign, building a calendar and a downtime system around them, really highlights how small the world of mice really is and just how short their lives are. The goal is to make them meaningful.
Edit: One More Hedgehog expanded upon the calendar here with six-day weeks and seasonal feast days! They also made a handy calendar worksheet. Go check it out (link)!
 Following my post on D&D economics, player-characters could purchase certificates of citizenship rather than being automatically ridden of 10p each session. This makes purchasing a certificate an active choice which may impact the course of the game (e.g. being protected by state forces, receiving a fair trial, getting access to healthcare). Read more: https://traversefantasy.blogspot.com/2022/03/coins-calendars-redeux.html
One other category could be agricultural, to provide a population boost (and increased tax revenue) to adjacent or connected hexes.