[DitV] Some questions after first session

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[DitV] Some questions after first session
« on: January 29, 2015, 04:31:44 PM »
I just GM'd a first half-session - first time playing this game for everyone at the table. I had a little difficulty in my game.

I think while creating my town I kind of set up some of the wonkiness that came out in play. My town had a lot of NPCs with dirty little embarrassing secrets they didn't want to admit to, each telling their own side of the story and lying to hide their secrets. The players pretty quickly began going around to everyone involved in the town's problems and asking them about what was up. One player in particular jumped on any signs of doubt or inconsistency between NPC's stories and interrogated people, intent on finding the lies and cracking some sort of mystery puzzle. He was getting really worked up and wild-eyed (the player, not the character)!

So it kind of devolved into a lot of conflicts trying to wring the truth out of people, for so long we couldn't finish our session. Which was fine, but not super driving, and not play as intended - I should be actively revealing the town in play and driving towards conflict. But how do I do that when it seems natural and correct for the characters to act this way?

I think maybe I misunderstood the spirit of town creation and buried problems too deep. The problems didn't spill out much into the community as a whole. Injustice was interpersonal and subtle, mostly hushed scandal. Demonic attacks were subtle - an empty bottle of whiskey showing up the in the Steward's daughter's bedroom, and a farm belonging to a sinner's family going barren. There is a sorcerer leading his daughters (false priesthood) in private services at home instead of attending the temple, with a fresh body buried under their barren field. I went all the way to hate and murder but everything still feels safely tucked under the rug.

Am I on the right track with my thinking here? Is my problem in town creation, or play as a GM, or both? Did we just have a slow start? How can I get my player characters to really ACT next session when we finish this town, get situations to start exploding?

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lumpley

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Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2015, 07:27:59 PM »
It's the steward's job to bring those daughters back into the fold. Has he given up on it?

Whose body? Did they leave family behind, or what? It's the steward's job to wonder where that person has gone.

What would have happened if the Dogs never came?

-Vincent

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2015, 07:51:30 PM »
Wow, thanks for the reply, Vincent! This isn't exactly short and sweet, but if anybody's willing to look it over and give any thoughts, it would be greatly appreciated!


Now that I have the town sheet on me I can offer detail:

Pride: Br. Elias pursues Sr. Bedelia, the daughter of Br. Abel, the steward. He doesn't love her; he just thinks he can schmooze Abel and get special treatment.

Injustice: Bedelia really likes the good hearted Br. Archibald more, but Abel doesn't think he's good enough. Elias is a smooth-talker and Abel's fallen for it. Meanwhile, Elias's family's farm is struggling without his help.

Sin: Archibald starts drinking whiskey bought from an out-of-town trader out of despair. Elias, emboldened by his success having the steward tricked, starts going to a nearby town to see women. They run into eachother one night, and Archibald drunkenly shoots Elias.

Demonic Attacks: Elias stays on the edge for weeks. His father Br. Obediah and sisters Sr. Constance and Sr. Ruth are tortured with worry. Meanwhile their farm dries up.   A half-empty bottle of whiskey appears in Bedelia's bedroom.

False Doctrine: Br. Obediah believes that Br. Abel is an unfit steward, barely caring about his branch, not even truly Faithful. The famine is punishment for following him and for Elias getting involved with him.

Corrupt Worship: Br. Obediah stops taking his family to temple, instead leading family services at home. Demons start whispering things in his ear, telling him he's doing the right thing.

False Priesthood: Br. Obediah, Sr. Constance and Sr. Ruth. Constance has roped in her husband Wiley but Ruth's husband Zachary is freaked.

Sorcery: They start performing rituals to restore health to Elias and to their farm.

Hate & Murder: They murder Zachary to shut him up - plus they need an offering for their rituals. Ruth is basically a hostage.



I think when I wrote up the town I didn't really have a feel for the way a town functions or understand the role of a steward. It's snapped into focus a little bit now how important that is to the game's structure.

If the Dogs never came the demons would let Obediah's farm grow and Elias recover. Obediah and his cult would grow in power with the help of the demons and take the branch from Abel by force.

Maybe I just made this too complicated. I'm a brand new GM and my head's spinning!


In play, the Dogs went around, questioned Abel, questioned Bedelia, questioned Elias and Archibald,  finally made their way to the cult's farm, where they pretty quickly uncovered a possessed Obediah and beat him into submission. They managed to save his life after injuring him and when we come back for the next session they'll be standing over him, deciding what to do with him. Ruth is standing in the corner of the room panicking and Constance and Wiley are on their way back from some errands in town.

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2015, 09:02:23 AM »
So, yes! I think you've figured it out. It's a pretty inward-turning town, with quiet and secret evil, so naturally that's what you get in play.

For your next town, try having a sorcerer who's started executing the steward and his best people in order to seize power.

-Vincent

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2015, 02:24:24 PM »
Cool!

If the steward knows there's a sorcerer in the town, is it still the steward's job to try to bring them back to the Faith?

Someone openly and obviously acting against doctrine is going to try to get the Dogs on their side, right? Because they're assured in their false doctrine, right? And because it gives the players a moral judgement to make, instead of someone easy to blame because they're trying to hide their own guilt.
So when an argument starts about it, how does that work? They can't convince the Dogs that they're right in a conflict, right? Because the players have control over their characters' beliefs.

Say Abigail is an NPC who's been smoking tobacco and the Dogs are up in her face about it. Am I right in thinking it's bogus to have a conflict where the stakes are, "Is smoking tobacco a sin?"
What about "Does Abigail become convinced that smoking tobacco is a sin?"
Or as GM do I push for "Does Abigail put out her cigarette," because in the end Abigail's going to believe what she believes and dice don't have power over that?
What if Abigail is a Dog, how does that change things?

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2015, 08:53:20 PM »
My take (usually best consumed with a pinch of salt)


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If the steward knows there's a sorcerer in the town, is it still the steward's job to try to bring them back to the Faith?

A sorcerer within the town's population is still a person put under spiritual care of the steward by The King.  The Dogs worry about the town's salvation, but the steward is worried about each individual person, largely exclusive of the town.  No one is an "acceptable loss"... assuming the steward holds to classical (DITV sourcebook) methodologies.

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Someone openly and obviously acting against doctrine is going to try to get the Dogs on their side, right? Because they're assured in their false doctrine, right? And because it gives the players a moral judgement to make, instead of someone easy to blame because they're trying to hide their own guilt.

Usually.  Not always.  The Dogs are a *threat* since they're walking, gunslinging representations of the status-quo.  Endorsement would be great, but maybe hiding or murdering them with a pre-emptive strike is the more reasonable solution to that person's understanding.

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So when an argument starts about it, how does that work? They can't convince the Dogs that they're right in a conflict, right? Because the players have control over their characters' beliefs.

Say Abigail is an NPC who's been smoking tobacco and the Dogs are up in her face about it. Am I right in thinking it's bogus to have a conflict where the stakes are, "Is smoking tobacco a sin?"
What about "Does Abigail become convinced that smoking tobacco is a sin?"
Or as GM do I push for "Does Abigail put out her cigarette," because in the end Abigail's going to believe what she believes and dice don't have power over that?
What if Abigail is a Dog, how does that change things?

What is or isn't a sin is part of the Faith - either decided by the MC or the table or the source material.  There's no 'conflict' in the roll-the-dice-to-force-your-will-into-action sense. 
"Does Abigail become convinced that smoking tobacco is a sin?" sounds okay, but I'd push for something more like "Do I (slash my character) convince Abigail to stop smoking" since it allows for more ways to get there during the see-raise dance.  "Do I get Abigail to put out *this* cigarette" may be better, since it's a more give-able conflict, if that level of play doesn't make your towns into mandatory-multi-session affairs. 

I leave beliefs on the table as a thing a conflict can change.  It isn't easy : the 'defender' has a lot of options which protect their world view by distancing themselves from the incoming arguments and involve escalation (walking away, knocking out or shooting the talker) that the 'aggressor' would have a hard time meeting.  You can follow them, or return fire, but if it doesn't advance your argument or stand a chance of convincing the 'defender' then it's not a legit raise.  If you stay true to the idea that a raise has to actually put the other party in the position of having to address it or surrender the conflict, I don't see why world-views or beliefs are safe.  People do get convinced to change their minds about things, after all. 

I allow it against PC Dogs too.  The player doesn't lose agency of their character as a consequence of losing a debate any more than they would lose agency if their Dog's arm is broken in a fall.  It may be a bit of a challenge to roleplay, but that's no reason to avoid it.  If they feel that it is unacceptable they can draw their piece during the discussion anyway and protect themselves at the potential expense of dying / killing.   It would take a HECK of an argument to force a Dog to lose a discussion they didn't feel like having.

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2015, 02:24:23 PM »
Okay... so, to use the same example, if the stakes are, "Does I convince Abigail to stop smoking," and it comes to you sticking a gun in her face, that's a legitimate raise because she'll do what you want rather than get shot.
But if the stakes are, "Does Abigail become convinced smoking tobacco is a sin," and you pull a gun out to make your point, you've obviously lost the argument and what you're really doing is giving, and probably starting a follow-up conflict.

Speaking of which, does pulling your gun out without the intention to shoot immediately escalate to gunfighting, or is it just physical until bullets fly?

And one more: In the book's example of a sleeping Dog being ambushed it says she rolls Acuity only because she's asleep but that kind of thing isn't mentioned anywhere else as far as I can tell. How does that work, is that the only case where only one stat is rolled?

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Munin

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Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2015, 05:11:02 PM »
I allow it against PC Dogs too.  The player doesn't lose agency of their character as a consequence of losing a debate any more than they would lose agency if their Dog's arm is broken in a fall.  It may be a bit of a challenge to roleplay, but that's no reason to avoid it.  If they feel that it is unacceptable they can draw their piece during the discussion anyway and protect themselves at the potential expense of dying / killing.   It would take a HECK of an argument to force a Dog to lose a discussion they didn't feel like having.
There's a little bit of a sticky wicket here, and it's one that bears some frank discussion with your players. Sean's point about player agency is a valid one, but it is not one that a lot of players are familiar or comfortable with. While I too think that it can be an interesting role-playing challenge to have a character's perceptions or beliefs changed as a result of in-game conflict resolution, it has ramifications to player agency in that it removes (or modifies) some aspect of decision-making about the character from the player who created that character.

The "broken arm" aspect is similar only insofar as it might cause the GM to say flat out, "no, you can't do that because your arm is broken." But if the GM is simply applying some situational modification to the fiction or conflict-resolution based on the broken arm, the analogy breaks down. I can try to shoot you with a broken arm - I'm just likely to fail. But if I have been fooled into believing that the Steward is telling the truth, I have no plausible reason to then try to shoot him.

One of the concepts at issue here is in deciding just what "tracks" or "pools" or "resources" are valid for delimiting character "damage," and what effect that "damage" has on the mechanics of the game (or its unfolding fiction). Most people are totally cool with a physical damage "track." Whether you term it Harm or Hit Points or Wounds or whatever, most people have this intuitive understanding that the body can be incrementally damaged, and even that that damage can have ramifications on future attempts to perform some action (i.e. trying to climb a rope with the aforementioned broken arm).

Where people are less cool is when the character resource being degraded is something other than physical, e.g. mental or emotional or social. Or foundational. MonsterHearts is aces at bringing some of these other kinds of damage "tracks" front-and-center, but it is highly unusual in that regard. A Dirty World is another pretty good example, because your character's relative levels of Purity/Corruption (for instance) are subject to change or "damage." To some extent, this is a foundational change to your character - changes or "damage" to it affect not just what you can do but who you are as a person. Though it should be pointed out that even in A Dirty World, having been "damaged" into being more Corrupt doesn't mean you can't attempt something that is fueled by Purity - it's just going to be harder to accomplish. Hence, even though your character's core beliefs may have been altered by events, you are still possessed of free will. More on this in a sec.

The problem in an RPG context is that many players come from play-experiences where these other types of damage aren't a thing. People get the concept of a broken arm. People are less clear on the concept of crippling depression, or abject-phobia-inducing shame. And they're super fuzzy on letting the dice dictate a response to temptation. Or altered sexuality. In these cases the oft-heard phrase, "but my character would never do that!" starts to come into the discussion.

In some sense it's a case of different creative agendas at work. Is the player the sole author over the character's thoughts and beliefs? Does the GM have any input? Do the other players? And if so, through what mechanism are these conflicts resolved? Many games have a character attribute that is some sort of intelligence or perceptive acuity stat - does having a low one of these mean I'm ditzy or gullible? Many games have a character attribute that is some sort of willpower stat - does having a low one of these mean I'm easily swayed or weak-willed? How does (or should) that play out in the context of the game? I as a player might be smart as shit and know the NPC is lying - but if my character has INT and WILL as dump stats, he's probably screwed. Is it "right" that I as a player should be able to avoid being penalized for making the decision to play a dumb, wishy-washy character just because I say "my character would never do/believe/fall for that"? Is that equally true if doing so let me place finite character creation resources elsewhere in places that I perceive to be more broadly "useful" (like strength or skill with a gun or just generic bad-assitude)?

The key element here is one of intent versus consequence, and I'm afraid to say there's no "right" way to do it. It all boils down to what your system supports and what your players are comfortable with, and the only way to know that is to discuss it openly. "Can I make you believe/hate/trust/like/fuck me just by rolling dice?" Or "Can I make you believe/hate/like/trust/fuck yourself just by rolling dice?" Or can I just make it so hard for you to do anything else (i.e. by applying so much "damage") that you'll eventually either give up or die trying?

This is where the concept of free will comes back in. I think it's perfectly OK to say, "Dude, you got hammered in an emotional conflict with the Steward. Any further action you take against him until you get your mojo back is going to be penalized because you have this nagging doubt - by the King, he's so well versed in the Scriptures that he might just be right!" This stops short of saying, "Dude, you can't take any action against the Steward because you believe he's right." This difference is subtle but important - one way preserves sole player authorship over the character's beliefs (though subject to "damage") and the other does not.

In the context of DitV, what you're talking about is setting the stakes. As the player or as the GM, I think it's totally cool to take a stake right off the table if it crosses that line of player (or GM in the case of NPCs) agency. So it's totally okay for the GM to respond to "I want to convince Sister Abigail that smoking is a sin and make her give it up forever!" with, "Nope, not a valid stake. You can convince her to stop smoking right now, maybe even make her question her beliefs, but she is who she is." Similarly, it's totally cool for a player to respond to the GM's "If you fail/give, you blow your vows and totally have kinky, nasty sex with Sister Abigail the Smoker" with, "Nope, not a valid stake. But I will be all hot and bothered and distracted and inwardly shameful about it."

Setting the stakes is a two way street. It all comes down to what you and your players are comfortable with.

In the case of DitV in particular, I think a lot of times people (players and GMs alike) leap way too far with the stakes right off the bat. They see a problem (Sister Abigail is smoking, which is a sin) and want to jump immediately to the "solution" (convince Sister Abigail not to sin). I also think a good rule of thumb is that you can stop or change what someone is doing but not who they are. So you can stick your gun in Sister Abigail's face and threaten to blow her brains out unless she stubs out that blunt pronto. But as soon as you're out of sight, she's gonna blaze up again if it suits her fancy.

Does this help?

P.S. - none of this deals with the really interesting question - why is Sister Abigail smoking in the first place? Is it just because she's a libertine with no regard for the King's moral authority? Or is smoking ditch-weed the only thing that relieves the chronic pain of the hard labor forced upon her by the wicked, greedy Steward?

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2015, 12:17:35 AM »
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Okay... so, to use the same example, if the stakes are, "Does I convince Abigail to stop smoking," and it comes to you sticking a gun in her face, that's a legitimate raise because she'll do what you want rather than get shot.
But if the stakes are, "Does Abigail become convinced smoking tobacco is a sin," and you pull a gun out to make your point, you've obviously lost the argument and what you're really doing is giving, and probably starting a follow-up conflict.
As I see it.
 

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Speaking of which, does pulling your gun out without the intention to shoot immediately escalate to gunfighting, or is it just physical until bullets fly?
I cannot recall where I read it, but I believe I've seen Vincent mention using a gun's dice during a conversation while threatening someone without going to Gunfighting?  Many of the people Dogs'll draw down on will escalate of their own initiative if leather starts getting slapped.

I don't know about the sleeping thing : whether that's a legacy example, or an encouragement for MC applying flexibility to the mechanics, or (?).   It'd be interesting to find out.



I second Munin.  Know your players and their willingness to accept 'brainwashing' before using it.  But I'm confident DitV is particularly suited towards protecting my players from enjoyment-crippling character brainwashing, because :
* Specific to us, they know (because I give a 'hard stop, fade out' speech roughly once a month) if the game is moving in a direction they find unfulfilling or offensive to go OOC and we'll find a way to redirect play accordingly.  In this case, that would probably be forgoing the conflict.
* The Dogs, as the protagonists, instigate like 80+% of the conflicts.  This means they are rarely the targets of the stakes. 
* If the proposed stakes, regardless of source, compel a Dog to do something and the player finds it interesting and/or the risk of losing acceptable then there's no conflict (except the one in the game of course).  If they don't they can renegotiate stakes before the rolling starts into something they find acceptable.
* The Dog is mechanically an all-defeating beast anyway, and will win against almost any odds if willing to tough out the conflict.  Dog - on - Dog philosophical conflicts are the exception.  ('Divine' justice, decided by caucus?)
* Raises involving walking away or violently dispatching the debater are much, much, much easier to justify than non-talk raises that push someone towards believing something else.  The listener who doesn't want to hear has a lot of die-providing tools at their disposal.

So - in a loss, the Dog's player still chose what the 'losing' condition looks like (retaining control over their character).  They're not likely to lose anyway, since the dice and fiction are stacked in their odds.  And unless the Dogs are gunning for each other regularly it should rarely come up.  Meanwhile, it offers a tool to consenting players in the form of the previously-mentioned caucus (Dog-on-Dog conflict to decide who/what to back in the town) and another thing they might be willing to give up on in order to get those delicious folding die for a follow-up conflict.

It works for me, but my way is not The One True Way.

Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2015, 07:24:43 PM »
Don't have a lot more to say but this is all really helpful! I feel way more fit to run this second session.

Thanks thanks thanks!

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2015, 07:36:55 AM »
Great!

-Vincent

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noclue

  • 609
Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2015, 10:31:39 PM »
If the steward knows there's a sorcerer in the town, is it still the steward's job to try to bring them back to the Faith?
This is such a profound question. You don't need to answer it. You can just let the Steward decide the King has turned his back on the Sorcerer and leave the Dogs free to disagree--Conflict.

Also, there's this:

Injustice: Steward Absalom has turned his back on Br. Zebedia for his heathen ways. Declaring him lost beyond saving. Hearing the Steward's proclamation against her father, Sr. Maria, attempted to drown herself in the river and has been in a coma for two weeks.

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] Some questions after first session
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2015, 03:26:52 PM »
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This is such a profound question. You don't need to answer it. You can just let the Steward decide the King has turned his back on the Sorcerer and leave the Dogs free to disagree--Conflict.

Also, there's this:

Injustice: Steward Absalom has turned his back on Br. Zebedia for his heathen ways. Declaring him lost beyond saving. Hearing the Steward's proclamation against her father, Sr. Maria, attempted to drown herself in the river and has been in a coma for two weeks.

Whoah... Okay. Yes.

I've also been thinking about this a lot:

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This is where the concept of free will comes back in. I think it's perfectly OK to say, "Dude, you got hammered in an emotional conflict with the Steward. Any further action you take against him until you get your mojo back is going to be penalized because you have this nagging doubt - by the King, he's so well versed in the Scriptures that he might just be right!" This stops short of saying, "Dude, you can't take any action against the Steward because you believe he's right." This difference is subtle but important - one way preserves sole player authorship over the character's beliefs (though subject to "damage") and the other does not.

This immediately lit my brain up, but it took a little for what's happening here to really hit me. It gives the player a choice to make about their character. As is, it leaves us with a conflicted Dog whose beliefs have been called into doubt - a juicy place for a character to be! Or, with the same exact same stakes and outcome, there's nothing stopping the player from then deciding, "Actually, I think Br. Jedediah has never heard anybody put it that way before - he's having an epiphany and realizes he's been wrong this whole time," or a number of other places. Nifty.

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Munin

  • 415
Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2015, 06:42:32 PM »
Exactly.

For what it's worth, Apocalypse World has a mechanic that works really well for these kinds of situations. If a PC becomes the victim of a seduce or manipulate roll (either because another PC has put the whammy on them or they have missed a roll and the MC deems this kind of "flipped move" appropriate), the player is usually given a choice - you can either go along with whatever the other person wants (in which case you get XP), or you can flatly deny them, in which case you are acting under fire (which mechanically just means you're immediately exposing yourself to some level of risk).

This "carrot or stick" approach is fantastic, and produces some really interesting results. It's more nuanced than simply applying some sort of social or mental or emotional "damage," and actually gives players an incentive for going along with it. Hilarity almost always ensues.

I'm not sure how exactly this sort of thing would best apply to the mechanics in DitV, but I suspect the magic is in the stakes. In some sense a certain level of reward is already built-in in the form of delicious delicious dice for folding. So if someone is looking to rook you and it's not looking like you're going to be able to resist (or if the stakes don't bother you so much), just fold.

This puts the controls squarely in the players' hands, but allows the GM to push the bounds on the question "how far are you willing to go for X?" or "how important is Y to your character?" I think that's a fantastic question, from both the carrot perspective and the stick perspective. Are you willing to turn down the carrot? Are you willing to take the stick? Even if the carrot is awesome and the stick is lethal? From the perspective of character development, these kinds of situations are aces.

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noclue

  • 609
Re: [DitV] Some questions after first session
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2015, 04:53:38 AM »
This immediately lit my brain up, but it took a little for what's happening here to really hit me. It gives the player a choice to make about their character. As is, it leaves us with a conflicted Dog whose beliefs have been called into doubt - a juicy place for a character to be! Or, with the same exact same stakes and outcome, there's nothing stopping the player from then deciding, "Actually, I think Br. Jedediah has never heard anybody put it that way before - he's having an epiphany and realizes he's been wrong this whole time," or a number of other places. Nifty.
Cool. But I wouldn't be afraid to throw out "Does Br. Jedediah remain strong in his faith" as possible stakes, or any other "mind controlly" thing. Players have to agree to stakes, after all. It's not like the GM can just impose them. I'd agree to stakes that changed my Dog's beliefs. Why not?
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