[DitV] Blind leading the blind...

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[DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« on: June 08, 2011, 11:32:11 AM »
I had the honor, despite having never played it before, of running my first Dogs game last night to a group of newbies.  If I had to sum it up in one sentence I suppose it would be : "The game went like an old bowl of mixed nuts, mostly cashews and pecans with the odd dead roach floating around."

The faults we discovered were largely our own - we only agreed to play about two hours before go-time when our usual DM (d&d Eberron campaign) left town and our backup game would have gone from eight players down to four for various reasons.  I was stoked to finally get to play this, but it didn't leave a lot of time to explain the finer points of the game and the theologicial premises.  I figured those could come out in play - largely they did, but by the end I discovered one huge glaring flaw in my preperatory explainations.

Right off the bat the system intrigued the players - they loved how traits were defined.  "I can't possibly imagine what your character knows our has done better than you can - why don't you tell US about it, and we'll come up with a short discription together?"  Men in their twenties trying to talk over each other to explain why they're, say, good with horses - and more importantly figure out the nuances of the OTHER player's characters.  Nice.  I wish I could take credit for that, but it's clearly part of the suspiciously-well designed system that only becomes obvious through play.  

We ended up with :
Brother Johnston, who was abandoned at the Dog's Temple as an infant.  I drew a parrallel between a kung-fu movie Budist Temple and the Dog's Temple ....and it stuck.  The teachers became masters, they once refered to B. Ezekial the head teacher as "sen-sai", etc.  Well, the teachers took him to the family that ran one of the local lumbermills but kept their eyes on him....  The character was obsessed with sorcerers, as he thought they were responsible for killing his folks.  During his introductory trial to "not be so obsessed" B Ezekial removed his copy of The Book of Life while he was at a public-speaking demonstration and replaced it with a copy with all of the passages even referring in passing to demonicy removed.  The following debate (I rolled pretty badly) ended with the head of the Dog's Temple taking fallout and B Johnston getting his old Book back.  A pretty funny moment when I described how, through the mechanics, his character had (during his first conflict!) caused a small crisis-of-faith in one of the head's of the order. (I'm saying the Headmaster of the Dog's Temple is also one of the Ancients\Elders of The Faith)

Brother Nelson : B Nelson's intial conflict was "I want to learn to not yell as much during confrontations."  He explained how he might lose his cool with, say, a drunkard in the street or someone who wasn't living up-to-snuff by his standards.  B Ezekial called him out on a specific instance of it, he claimed that it was his duty to let it be known in no subtle fashion when other's were out of bounds... and B Ezekial agreed.  I used the tactic of the example in the book - three days later B Nelson has failed in a firearms drill and his instructor tears into him.  The player, still sticking to his guns on the conflict and not being lead into any kind of double standard took the beration... and gained "I yell alot" as a d6 trait.  I think his final raise, which was a "3" (I didn't have any dice left), was a sheepish "Thank you for correcting me, sir.  You are right to do so, and I deserve it."

Brother Sergeant : His father is a general out East - he wanted to attend seminary but couldn't get in and felt drawn west.  He (rather audaciously) showed up at the Dog's Temple, asking to be trained, and the teachers came to the conclusion that he was probably sent by The King - stranger things have happened.  Notice at this point how his background involves trusting that The King plays loose-and-fast with dogma and standards when it's suiting to the wellbeing of the faith.  His conflict involved studying the Book to the point that he could quote it - which naturally drew him away from other duties, which is where the conflict sprouted.  He got away with skipping a few classes, though, and gained "I can quote the Book 1d6".


Town synopsis : As they rode into town they noticed a big crowd standing around a gallows, B Joseph in a noose, and B Solomon (town Steward) proclaiming judgement - adultry, fornication.  The Dogs rejected B Solomon's request for them to stand beside him and lend their authority to the execution.  As he tried to finish the deed they stopped him, rescuing B Joseph and humiliating B Solomon in front of the town.  It soon became clear ("don't hide information") that B Joseph and B Solomon's wife S Margrett had been sleeping around, but with a twist.  B Solomon was sterile, and S Margrett felt entitled (Pride) to a child.  Since the out-of-wedlock pregnancy a lot of children had been stillborn - it would slowly come to light that only those pregnancies started in sin were 'taking root.'  The Dogs were very quick to pronounce that the 'couple' needed judgement, although deciding what was proper took a while. ("Stoning" was a favorite choice, despite her currently being with child.)  It surprised me how quickly they sided with B Solomon, since S Margrett's position was so understandable, but that was explained pretty well in the wrap-up.  Eventually they opted to take the pair back to Bridal Falls for judgement by a committy selected by the Ancients of The Faith, but not until they had made a public proclimation against the couple.  She ran off when she realised Solomon had unfettered access to thier 3-year old daughter, and the Dogs, rather than stopping her, followed.  The daughter was safe in her house - a few minutes later B Solomon came back with a posse and demanded his daughter be turned over to him.  He won the following debate, which was interesting as *his* daughter was clearly not from his seed, quoting ' "The grain which groweth from the shaft belongeth to the shaft til it strikes the soil!" Are you to tell me, Watchdogs, that the daughter I raised is no part mine?!'  They took the blow from that and countered with 'This is our duty, so see justice enacted' which he countered with 'She is doubly my ward, as daughter and member of my flock.  Your duty lies in the welfare of the community, not in my home - and if you want to take it up with The Ancients, I'd be GLAD to!'  They backed off at that point, agreeing that he should come with them to Bridal Falls for a ruling... but they didn't make that stick when he later decided to just up and leave with his daughter in tow.  
The whole congregation was gathered at the church and the Dogs started a fire-and-brimstone speech - "Who amongst you has fallen by the wayside and followed her example?", which she countered with "Yes, who here loved their families enough to risk sin in order to preserve them?", initiating the big conflict.  

I want to pause here - I realise that small, givable conflicts are the bread-and-butter of the game and the Dogs are now in a situation where giving means not taking her back to Bridal Falls.  It was about eleven at night at this point, and we had maybe an hour to wrap things up.  The Dogs were pretty much just shouting down everyone who tried to stand in their way - it seemed proper to give them a big shout-off to end things.

It didn't end in a shout-off.  S Margrett had convinced enough of her sisters that "if adultry is the only way to concieve it CAN'T be against The King's plan" to be supported by the demonic influences in the town.  She was "cunning", gaining her 2d8 for the public debate, and 4d6 for her sewing circle cheering her on, 4d10 for the demonic influence, etc.  And the Dogs, each of them, rolled pretty poorly.  Probably the worst rolls of the night, individually and collectively.  The moment "eyes literally start glow as she denounces your authority" all three Dogs launched into fighting.  Well, two into fighting, one into shooting.  

It's worth noting that the Dogs would have won in a purely verbal exchange, but they would have had to take fallout.  Enough to make "one long-term" very likely.

I was playing on the philosophy that you don't have to personally escalate into a field of conflict to remain in the conflict - a scary enough orator could yell down his opponent, distracting him enough that his shots go awry.  Next time we'll play that in order to remain in the conflict you must escalate in accordance with the most violent actor in the scene.  I know this has been a topic of debate lately, and I'm interested in seeing which works best with my group.

At this point, S Margrett was protecting herself (rolled her physical dice) by blocking B Sergeant's cutlass and B Johnston's small axe\large hatchet with the huge Book of Life from the church's podium.  Both Dogs had put forward 2d6s with 6's showing - 24 points spent blocking! - and B Nelson's gunshot was a six and a seven, which she took with the smallest dice possible.  The Dogs had just fatally wounded a pregnant woman, on the elevated preaching platform by the altar in the church, in front of the whole congregation.  Within a turn the cutlass had cut her open from shoulder to hip.  It gets gruesome here, with me trying to make clear just how vicious they're acting, and I won't go into particular... but even if she survived the conflict, her baby wouldn't.  Her last two dice, a one and a two, were spent cowering in the corner holding up the book as a shield, muttering "please".  Didn't save her from B Johnston's axe.

Now, I know as the gamemaster we're not supposed to make moral choices concerning the Dogs, but I had to take a moment her to clarify with them.  "You realise you just shot/stabbed/chopped down a pregnant woman who posed no physical threat to you?"  They brushed it off - "she was a witch.  Possessed.  A sorcerer.  Don't suffer a witch to live, you know?"

B Solomon showed up with his posse, and figuring the killing was on took B Joseph "outside".   B Sergeant followed and TRIED TO STOP HIM FROM HANGING B JOSEPH, leaving the other two inside to keep yelling at the congregation and attempting damage control.  B Sergeant tried to talk down B Joseph, but B Joseph, feeling doubly entitled to see this man dead as the leader of the community and the wronged party, escalated to physical, using his posse to block B Sergeant's access to the gallows.  B Sergeant gave, muttering a prayer as B Joseph fell through the trap.

Ultimately B Solomon left town with his daughter, telling the Dogs they had stripped him of authority and left the town a unrepairable mess.  His second in command took over, and the Dogs advised him for the next couple of days as the town was torn down, the older buildings burnt to the ground and sorted through for nails and such, and a giant communial building errected for everyone to live in.  No risk of them sleeping around if it'll have to be in front of everyone else, right?  It would, theoretically, turn the personal sins into community sins, which are less likely to take off in the same way.  I'm converting this town into another system at some point and playing it with another group - the social dynamics are so screwed up by now it'd be a pretty interesting pitstop for a D&D or Enoch party.

By this point I am grateful to be sitting in the chair closest to the front door, as my friends have me entirely petrified.  I've done some bad things, but finding no moral qualms with killing a pregnant woman?  In front of all of her family and friends?  Stripping the personal freedoms from a community "for their own good"?  

Well, in the post-game wrapup the only two complaints were "we didn't really GET all of the subtle bits of the faith.  How our responsibilities differ from the Steward's, that kind of thing" and (this is the important one) "it was fun to play as RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS but we probably couldn't play this all the time."

My players thought they were supposed to be hardass gunslinging take-no-prisoners Spanish-inqusitionish antiheros.  I probably shouldn't have breezed over the elements of the faith quite so much, trusting it to come out in play.

We tend to play once a week.  Next week our full-time DM is going to be out-of-town again.  The highest compliment was, on discussing what to play next time and agreeing that DitV probably isn't workable with more than four people, the suggestion that "we don't have to let the rest of the group know we're getting together."

So, the things I obviously need to run different next time :
Escalation - if one party escalates, every party must escalate or back off.  I don't know if that's better suited for my group, but it's worth experimenting with.
Morality - the characters are not the players, obviously, but I need to place an emphasis on their moralities being similar.  "It's *you*, excepting that you believe this religion.  Would YOU, thinking that a pregnant woman might the channeling evil spirits, be willing to cut her open with a sword?"
Background - I'm intent on ordering a hardcopy of the rules manual, but I just got my printer working again.  Maybe a brief summation of the area and the responsibilities of the Dogs, in print, would be a handy playing aid.
Dice - I need more d6s.  This game uses A LOT of them, doesn't it?
Sorcerer - I think my next town might fall short of sorcery, to make them deal with PEOPLE instead of CREATURES, which is what they mentally reduced S Margrett into when they saw her eyes glowing.  But, in future, is there a trick to making the sorcerer(s) more sympathetic?  A woman who wanted to be a mom and was willing to violate religious tenants to do it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

Any other suggestions?  Notice anything I did wrong?  Any comments are more-than welcome.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 11:36:29 AM by Sean F »

Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2011, 02:55:50 PM »
Wow. That's a pretty intense way to start off a game of Dogs, but wow. I see by the dates that I'm probably replying after your regular Wednesday game - did you play DiV again? If so, how did it go?

Ideas:
 -take some time to get everyone a bit more solid with what the role of the Dog is.
 -make the next town about a different issue.
 -give them time to talk about what happened, in character, before hitting them with the next town.
 -set your dials - if there's demonic stuff going on, figure out how far gone the townsfolk are, and let the Dogs loose accordingly.

I've found, when playing Dogs, that the choices players make will almost always surprise me.

Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2011, 04:04:09 PM »
Now, I know as the gamemaster we're not supposed to make moral choices concerning the Dogs, but I had to take a moment her to clarify with them.  "You realise you just shot/stabbed/chopped down a pregnant woman who posed no physical threat to you?"  They brushed it off - "she was a witch.  Possessed.  A sorcerer.  Don't suffer a witch to live, you know?"
[..]
My players thought they were supposed to be hardass gunslinging take-no-prisoners Spanish-inqusitionish antiheros.
Someone, somewhere (via Vincent, probably), described the Faith as being enforced by Virgin Teenage Death-Squads. I've read other player reports where the characters behave much as yours did. It's not wrong.

And you don't make moral judgements in the game; you can't tell them they're wrong, nor should you any any way punish them by showing the consequences of (what you think were) their terrible decisions. Whatever they do fixes the town.

What you can, and absolutely should do, is to use later towns to explore where they draw the line; to find out where they think a sin becomes deserving of death. Do they kill sinners who aren't possessed? Do the kill vulnerable, "harmless" sinners? Children? Their own cousins, sisters, lovers? Do they kill murders, adulterers, liars, drunks, smokers?

And aim to find that sweet spot where your player disagree with each other...

Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2011, 05:14:50 PM »
Margolotte,
We did play again this week.  The next town was in a state of martial law under the army of the Territorial Authority, as they had been attacked repeatedly by the local Mountain People tribe.  The tribe had burnt down the grain silo, and it was almost harvest time.  The Faithful had turned away the MP during the last winter when they came down, asking for help making it through the especially harsh February month when game was scarce.  The Faithful were unsure if they could spare the food and sent them packing (unknownst to the Steward of the town), and the MP had, a few months later, started pulling in allied tribes to raid the town.  The Army just wanted to get the mission over with, and split into two parts - a raiding party to preempt the MP assault by wiping out their encampments, and a defensive force which had repurposed the church into a mini-fort.  ("It's the only non-wooden building in town - any other structure would put us all at the risk of being burned alive!")  The Steward wanted the Dogs to chastise the Faithful for turning away the needy and do something to avoid bloodshed, the Captain wanted them to aid in the assault, his Lt wanted them to aid in the defense, and the townfolk wanted them to support the town grocer in a coup against the Steward.  To summarize : they ultimately avoided the conflict by convincing both sides to hold off for a little while and sending delegates to a meeting. 

If I get a chance to GM another session I'll take your advice and work out the specifics of the Faith, the Faithful, and the nature of demonic intervention before the next town.

Slow Dog,

Thanks for re-enforcing my suspicion that I should let "this kind of thing slide."  If I'm trying to make towns that have complex characters, why be upset if the Dogs are complex too?

I'm thinking, for the next town (granted another chance to play) to have a town where several of the members were secret drinkers.  The demonic attacks took the form of unnaturally fermenting food almost as soon as it's harvested.  The local Steward figures, and preaches, "if The King controls nature, and booze is the natural state of things now, it must be his will that we be allowed to imbibe."  No hate/murder, yet, or even a hinting at it, but everyone's more or less permi-drunk.  Twist : the locals who started the brewing will want the Dogs to do what's necessary to fix the issue, and will assist them if possible.  After all, free booze eliminates their business...

So do the Dogs turn down the assistance of the sinners?  Do they kill drunkards?  Even if they show signs of possession? (The whole town is under sway, so if I understand the rules correctly, they can get demonic dice for protecting the Steward's interpretation AND possession for being in the false priesthood's cult.)  And since it's the whole town we've got the elderly and children in the mix...

Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2011, 06:40:51 PM »
That's a fine idea for a Town. Making sure you've got various characters with conflicting demands of the Dogs is the key.

It's occurred to me the major rules thing you players could be missing is nature of ceremony, particularly as a means of combating sorcerers or the possessed, though it might be you just haven't mentioned it, or they knew and didn't bother. It doesn't necessarily change the end result, mind; my players somehow conceived the notion that killing a possessed person was wrong, and used ceremony to exorcise the demon from a possessed murderer, then shot him.

*

noclue

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Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2011, 02:23:15 AM »
Do the PCs have any relationships with the NPCs in your towns? If not, I would think about grabbing some of the people in the PCs' backstories and sprinkling a couple in the next town. Or take someone from a prior town that a PC put relationship dice into and have them show up in the next town. Anything to foster a sense of attachment with one of the Dogs.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Re: [DitV] Blind leading the blind...
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2011, 07:02:32 PM »
Oh! Yes, great point Noclue. Connect your Dogs to the town, for sure. Check their character sheets for relationships that might be brought into play. Especially if you've gone a few town without connections, it's time for something like:

Br. Sam, your favorite cousin, George, is a farmer here. He and his wife have asked to house you and your fellow Dogs when you come to town. Br. Gabe, you've got a cousin here too, but you and Henry haven't seen each other since your uncle Joseph died 8 years back. Sr. Caroline, there's a letter waiting at the post office from your mother. She's asked you to look up an old school friend of hers who she fears is not doing well.