Brian Jacques, a British born author went a different way. Showing propensity as a writer at the age of ten with a story even his teachers didn’t believe he could have written, he created a world set in medieval times of a mouse named Matthias and his quest for a sword.
Redwall was published in 1986, and was born from stories Jacques would spin for children at Royal Wavertree School for the Blind when doing milk deliveries. Each species of animal has different accents, which when read gives distinction of the characters. Hares (don’t call them rabbits) have a militaristic British accent, hedgehogs sound Scottish and Mole Australian. It can make for difficult reading at first, but once you get into the swing of things, the characters roll around your head easily.
Redwall is an abbey inhabited by all manner of animals, though most are mice. It’s a peace loving group of farmers and tenders, hippies, really, but I don’t think you had a choice before the advent of computers and guns. In comes Cluny the Scourge, a long tailed rat with an army of weasels, stoats and all manner of bad animals ready to take over the entire place with violence and general asshattery.
The abbey was founded by the legendary Martin the Warrior, a mouse that took out a wild cat back in the day by hitting it with his sword and enormous brass balls, and the book’s main character Matthias must run around the abbey finding clues and solving riddles to find the sword and fight Cluny while a battle rages on. How he gets there, the ones he befriends and the sacrifices made, however, are a story of their own.
Each animal is richly developed, even secondary characters, the backdrop is beautifully described and the stories are excellent. My own copy comes in at just over three hundred pages, and you’ll love each and every one. Imagine a Steven king novel without the descriptions of sex or brutal violence unleashed by a terrifying computer that rapes you or whatever the hell the next one is about.
I was given this novel at a bookstore and have since read most of the other titles. Ever since hearing about the Mouse Guard RPG, I can’t imagine a better setting, or better characters. Even without reading the books, your players can find themselves easily immersed in the world, fighting back and making allies. Just watch out for the shrews.
In keeping with the theme this week, I wanted to tell you about it because as RPG settings go, this is taken care of for you. Maps have been drawn, each book doesn’t follow a linear pattern, they jump back and forth, giving you the opportunity to use many different settings, time periods and characters, each well rounded and easy to pick up and draw stats on. To date, there are twenty-one books in the series, many of them hardly involving mice. There is the badger lords of Salamandstron who keeps the shores free of pirates with their Hare brigade, there is the time before the abbey, time while it’s being built, north lands, south lands and everything in between.
When I think of mice, I will always think of this book. I’ve turned plenty of friends on to them, been caught in school reading them instead of studying math, and imagined myself brandishing sword and bow to fight alongside my favorite characters. If you pick up the Mouse Guard RPG, pick up Redwall at minimum.
You’ll thank me, I promise.