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On p249 of the Mouse Guard rules PDF (build date 2008-11-28), the Laborer skill says "Laborers need tools from a smith". I can read this two ways:

• Smiths can provide tools as supplies to Laborers, and thus grant +1D to checks.

• Tools provided by Smiths are required Laborer tests, they don't grant +1D.

If the latter interpretation is the one intended, what happens if someone needs to make a Laborer test in the absence of Smith-provided tools? Hand-crafted tools only (i.e mattock made out of a twig)? No real tools at all (i.e. that pebble over there I just brought over)?

It would seem to me easier to assume that "scratchy materials at hand" like the twig or pebble is the "default case" represented by the skill level (which maybe includes notions of jury-rigging to make up for lack of proper tools in its level), and that having the right tool adds a "supplies" die. But it might not be the right interpretation.

Can anyone clarify?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Let's see... Going to the book...

Page 93 provides a general rule:

Gear Against Obstacles
If a character has a piece of gear that’s appropriate to a particular obstacle—a map, a sword, a bit of damning evidence—the GM may grant the character a +1D advantage to overcome the obstacle.

Add the extra die to the ability or skill rating and roll all of the dice together.

The entry for Laborer (p.249) specifies what kind of tools are needed, with:

Laborers are the bulk of the workforce for the mouse towns and cities. They gather wood for the carpenters, stone for the masons and metal for the smiths. They dig ditches, carry stuff and generally just do what they are told.

Laborers need tools from a smith.

Note the wording "They gather wood for the carpenters, stone for the masons and metal for the smiths." This implies mostly find, pick up, carry back. Not the kind of thing tools are essential for.

And gives the following factor list:

Labor: Gathering wood, cutting stone, mining metal

Since those items can all be done WITHOUT tools, then the tools would logically be a bonus die.

Gathering wood: tools from a smith would make it much easier... +1D vs Ob 1.

Cutting Stone: I've cut stone by use of hammering with other stones. Slow, but doable. Water and wood can also work. So again, Tools from a smith would be a bonus die... Taking a low chance better, +1D vs Ob 2

Mining Metal: most ores can be obtained without metal tools... horn picks are in fact known to have been used. But only metal tools for a bonus works here, too. +1D vs Ob3.

But note: all those obs are also assuming plenty of time, good weather, and small amounts gained.

Also note: Armorer doesn't list a tools requirement, and it's one that clearly does require some tools. Smith also doesn't list a tools requirement, and again, obviously does.

I'm inclined to the tests being, as noted, for gathering... and the tools would be helping by making it actual mining or cutting, not just gathering and breaking.

Bottom Line: IMO, The line about tools specifies what kind of tools get the bonus, not that they are required for all tests.

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