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Saturday 18 November 2023

The Other OSR: 10 Downing

Mausritter – Sword-and-Whiskers roleplaying is a rules-light fantasy adventure microclone in which the very big and very dangerous world is explored from a mouse eye’s point of view. It encompasses not only the world of nature, but also the world that the players themselves live in. This is our world, but one in which the mice are anthropomorphic and can talk, as can other species. Beyond the walls of their home, the world is one of opportunity and adventure, fraught with hazards natural and unnatural, those untouched by mankind and those imposed by mankind. Using the base mechanics from Into the Odd, mice in Mausritter need to be brave, resourceful and clever, as well as lucky if they are to survive. Scenarios for Mausritter tend to be location based. Either the mice having to explore a single location, which could actually be a tree stump, a human-sized suit of armour, a grandfather clock, or an abandoned human-made shack, as in Mausritter: Honey in the Rafters or a sandbox setting containing numerous locations, such as Mausritter: The Estate Adventure Collection or Mayfield. In being real places—or places inspired by the real world—there is definitely a sense of wonder about these locations because we are seeing and exploring them from a very different angle. Would this sense of wonder be invoked if the setting were real, and not only real, incredibly familiar to almost everyone in the world, let alone the country? What if a Mausritter campaign took place in a seat of power? What if a Mausritter campaign took place in 10 Downing Street, one of the most famous addresses in the world?

10 Downing: A Mausritter Campaign is set inside the cramped splendour of the Georgian townhouse that is 10 Downing Street, home to the Prime Minster of Great Britain and the seat of the government in office. In recent decades, it has been home to some colossal figures of British politics, including Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and Boris Johnson. It is also notoriously infested with mice and other rodents and for several centuries there has been a cat in residence at 10 Downing Street, appointed as ‘Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office’. The current holder of the title—and the first to do so officially, is Larry. Having served through five premierships to date, Larry is the lord of all he surveys. His reputation as a mouser has varied over the years, but Larry is no fool. He knows that his presence is enough to instil fear in the mice also resident in 10 Downing Street and so in order to avoid undue chasing and catching of mice, he has come to an agreement with the mice. If they avoid making trouble and certainly avoid coming to the notice of the building’s many human inhabitants, he will leave them be. This leaves him with a mice retinue of servants and time to focus—at least occasionally—upon a more pressing problem: rats! This then, is the basics of the situation as describing in 10 Downing, which also presents the complete floorplans for all three floors of the house and numerous storylines and five ready-to-play quests and adventures involving six rival factions, eight new hirelings, new creatures, new treasures, and new spells. 10 Downing: A Mausritter Campaign includes everything a Mouse Master and her micey medley need to play through a mini-campaign of multiple mouse sessions.

10 Downing presents an overview of the house combined with the floorplans. These have been marked with the important locations, such as the Cocked Hat Rats stronghold, tunnels through the wall, and the Chief Mouser’s domain. These are briefly described as are the locations throughout the building, adding in details such as available quests to be started there and treasures to be found there. Some of these are thematically fun, such as the Flaming Churchill, a cigar which belonged to Winston Churchill and whose odour keeps cats away. The various factions, such as The House of Lordly Mice, the original mice in the house, or the Cocked Hats Rats, a gang of cockney rats, which are interlopers in the house. This sets up a social divide in 10 Downing Street over which Larry the cat lords it all. 10 Downing includes six quests, such as scavenging for food during a feast held in the dinning room, fomenting rebellion against Lord Mouse and his cabinet.

The quests and the adventure locations are given more detail. These include breaking into a bust in search of a powerful spell tablet or rescuing the nephew of the Lord Mouse after the Cocked Hat Rats have kidnaped him. Some of the quests have random elements and some also have the potential to change the balance of power in 10 Downing Street. All six quests are solid affairs, and supported for stats of the major NPCs and creatures. In addition, there new items in the forms of traps (to ensnare the corgis), new stealth spells, and treasures such as razor blade or teacup handle weapons and even Paddington’s Coat as armour.

What 10 Downing cannot really do is bring the human element into play. Of course, the many human locations that are the setting for other Mausritter campaigns and scenarios are busy places with many humans moving about, living and working, but in 10 Downing Street, the footfall is incredibly high. There are politicians, ministers, government officials, Downing Street staff, security, and even the Prime Minister’s family all moving about, and doing so through much of the day. Only once do the humans appear in the Encounters table, and even then, they are the cleaners, there after everyone else has gone—for the day, or to bed. That said, one of the quests does involve the Queen coming to tea—which of course, dates 10 Downing—and the Player Characters setting traps to prevent the corgis from causing any trouble. It gives the quest a delightful personal presence that everyone will enjoy. Yet it is disappointing that the personal presence comes from a visitor rather than anyone who is expected to be in 10 Downing Street. More so because we all have good idea who would be in the house, depending, of course, upon which Premiership the Game Master decides to set her 10 Downing campaign during. Now of course, the author cannot account for the five (actually, three if we want to be historically accurate since the Queen could really only have visited three of them for tea) Prime Ministers, the members of their cabinets, staff, or family. This is something that the Game Master will have to work into her campaign herself. Which will require some research upon the part of the Game Master.

Physically, 10 Downing is breezily presented. The self-penned artwork is cartoony, but the author mixes in a lot of public domain art too. The floorplans are a little small, but the PDF comes with larger maps that a little clearer.

10 Downing: A Mausritter Campaign has everything that the Game Master needs to run a campaign set in 10 Downing Street. However, it requires some research and development upon the part of the Game Master to fully bring out its political nuances and influences, but for a certain audience, 10 Downing: A Mausritter Campaign will give a chance for their mice to play when the Prime Minister is away.

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