I recently bought this RPG. At first, it was the cuteness that brought me in. You play these fluffy hamster-looking creatures that want to protect their kingdom from human activity. Being a fan of Mouse Guard (both the comics and RPG) I already enjoy stories about little creatures going on adventures set in a world so much bigger than them.

But, the cuteness doesn’t end there. The actual game text is laid out in a clean and attractive fashion with pretty little icons representing each different chapter and an ideal book format for the subject matter : it reminds me of children story book.

Then, when I got the rulebook and started reading it I discovered a system that was both easy to learn and allowed lots of mechanical twists and character customization. Better yet, the game is designed so that you’re invited to come up with new content and rules during play. Let me explain by discussing the rules a bit.

Basic mechanics :

Characters are defined by 5 emotions (Joy, Love, Grief, Fear and Anger). They range from 1 to 4 and this rating represents how many d6s your roll when you’re attempting an action relevant to that emotion.

In order to succeed when attempting an action, you roll a couple of d6s and add the pips, hoping to get 7 or better. That’s a hit. Since it’s easy to get 7 on 2d6, extra dice can be set aside to become additional hits in case of success. This means that in order to get better results on your actions, you have to take risks.

Also, when dice show up as 6s, you earn Mood markers attached to your emotion. These Mood markers give you a +1 bonus each on the result of future rolls with that emotion. But there’s a catch : each emotion is also opposing two others so that when you have these markers on Joy, for example, actions accomplished with Grief or Fear incur a corresponding penalty. You also have a cap of 3 Mood markers, total. If you want to get rid of that penalty, you’ll have to make a related action and trade them for additional dice or maybe spend them on a Calling ability.

Here, I noticed something with cool implications : If you spend Mood markers to get more dice, you actually augment your chance to roll 6s, meaning you risk regaining those markers. This actually supports the fact that your character is inspired by an emotional state and keeps his mood, changing how you can act and giving you pointers on how to portray him in the scene.

Callings : Classes without really being classes

I briefly mentioned Callings and now I’d like to detail them a bit. They correspond to archetypes known in Michtim society that each add a twist on the basic mechanics. The Adventurer, for example, lets you accumulate up to 7 Mood markers (but with the bonus still capped at +3) and also flip a coin when facing danger (so that you either avoid the threat or it doubles its effect.)

It gets even better when you spend experience to gain Calling talents from other Callings. In a sense, each Michtim will “multiclass”, combining his different Calling talents into Synergies (it is up to the group to find out how they work, but it is easy to come up with these combos.) That’s where you, as a player or GM, get to design new content and rules. There’s a lot of fun to be had on a purely tactical level and it’s a great way to make sure your Michtim is special in how he “works” at the table, creating a niche for your character.

This is further expanded with the concept of Ultimates which are somewhat unique abilities your Michtim will gain with experience. They offer a boost to an emotion and a secondary conditional effect. Once again, this is something that the player and GM will come up with together.

Transparency and open design : Turning participants into co-designers

In a nutshell, what I discovered with Michtim is that beyond all the cuteness, there was a game that had a great level of complexity without being hard to learn and manipulate. It’s also a game that empowers the users and gives them all they need to make this little universe into something special and unique for each gaming group.

Each group gets to detail the setting and decide for themselves the balance between Nature, Magic and Technology. They can create or reskin Callings, design Gear, explore the possible Synergies and Utlimates.

This is all possible because of the transparency of the design. The game is simple enough and explained in a way where you can see all the gears in action and know how to effect changes without breaking the game. But it’s also an open design by which I mean that there are spaces, openings, left in the rules so that you have to complete them by yourself. Not that there are holes to fix, but rather occasions to make the Michtim RPG truly yours.

This is why I’ve spent the entire week always going : “How would I use this ? What would I like to try?” and ending up making surprising discoveries about the game and what it could do.

I just can’t wait to see what Georg Mir still has in store for this game ! (Here’s currently working on a set of cards looking to both aid learning and expanding the options with Special Actions.)

Go check it out :

http://bit.ly/michtimrpg

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