[DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?

  • 5 Replies
This example on Page 118 of Dogs in the Vineyard intrigued me:
"— They want the Dogs to buy stuff, so they’ll try
to break their stuff too. They don’t want the Dogs to
pronounce that it’s okay for the town to rob the store —
because if the Dogs say it, it’s probably not false doctrine.
That’s what Dogs do, after all.
" (emphasis mine)

The question -- Can the Dogs change doctrine, both pragmatically and theologically?

Here's an example so I can ask what I mean more directly:

Pride: Brother Lemuel has romantic interest in his neighbor, Brother Nephi, and the feelings are mutual. Brother Lemuel believes that their sex is transcending God's law.
Injustice: This sinful love is putting the town's Steward, Brother Lehi, in an awfully difficult position. He has to choose whether to uphold the King of Life's laws and the law of the Territorial Authority. Nephi's mother Sariah knows about their love and has to make the same choice between righteousness and comfort with sin.

Sin: Brother Lemuel and Brother Nephi have sex in the church for extra blasphemy points. Sister Sariah lies to cover up the sins of her sons. Brother Lehi commits the sin of worldliness by displaying comfort with the sin, refusing to force them to stop or intervene, remembering his own past with the Dogs and his interactions with his partner. He thinks it's just a stage the two will grow out of.
Demonic attacks: The demons are causing tools to break on Brother Lemuel's farm more often, driving him to visit Brother Nephi more often for replacements (Nephi's really handy with repairing broken shit!). An out-of-town trader who just happens to carry giant supplies of whiskey is passing through, and Sariah's water well mysteriously dried up, resulting in her having to go to town for water and be tempted by the sweet release of alcohol. Brother Lehi's church has started falling apart, requiring two strapping young men to fix up the place (Nephi and Lemuel) pretty much weekly, if not more often with all the mysterious damage. Meanwhile, dark clouds are gathering outside town -- the storm is big enough that, if it comes through, all the crops will be wiped out.

False Doctrine: False Tenet 1: Gay sex is inherently supported by the King of Life and is a way of glorifying His name. Believed by Brother Nephi and less so by Brother Lehi.
False Tenet 2: There is no God. Believed by Brother Lemuel and Sister Sariah.
Corrupt Worship: Nephi talks Lehi into helping him with a ritual involving slicing up a pig, Old Testament style, in worship of the King of Life, to consecrate his holy bond with Brother Lemuel.

False Priesthood: Brother Lehi, our poor Steward, unwittingly becomes the head of a cult by deciding to preach that love of all kinds is perfectly acceptable with the proper respect for the King of Life. He introduces the pig-slaying ritual to his congregation. Lemuel and Sariah are totally into that and some of the other members of the congregation are starting to let their eyes wander. Soon we're gonna have all kinds of sex problems if this doesn't stop.
Sorcery: Since the demons are totally down with a sinful orgy of sexual sin, they decide to make the Church especially windy, cool, and refreshing on days when Brother Lehi is giving his false worship speeches. They're also amplifying any sexual desires in the population. They're still doing all their other shit though and going to use that massive storm to wipe out the crops.

Hate and Murder: Brother Laman is sick of this shit and beats up Nephi for his choice of sexual company. In return, Lehi subtly encourages Lemuel to murder that asshole. Accordingly, Brother Lemuel burns down Brother Laman's house with Laman inside.

Laman's cousin Sam wants the Dogs to end this shit immediately and have all the sinners murdered.
Sariah wants the Dogs to go away and leave her child and priest alone. She'd also appreciate if they got rid of the whiskey merchant.
Ishmael, the whiskey merchant, wants the Dogs to try some of his delicious liquor and not interfere with his peddling.
Nephi wants the Dogs to participate in a Greek-style sexual orgy in praise of the King of Life.
Lemuel knows how the Dogs work and wants them dead.
Lehi wants the Dogs to toss out the whiskey merchant and also to definitely not find out that he supported murder of one of his Faithful.

The Demons want the Dogs to get the fuck out of town. They want Zion to turn into an orgy of sex and murder. If the Dogs are going to stop that, they're going to speed up their storm and hope the storm wipes out the town's crops before the Dogs can stop all the sin, making it a race against the clock.

If the Dogs never came, the town would definitely become an orgy of sex and murder, with the Faithful murdering other Faithful with different believes, and all the townsfolk cheating on each other because of a lack of official intervention from the Steward. The storm would pass over in order to allow this place to continue existing and become even more of a nuisance and eventually a blight upon all of Zion.

With all that done...
Brother Harwell, Dog's Watchdog, arrives in town with his spunky junior sidekick Sister Lewiston. And here the question arises:

Pragmatically, can Lewiston and Harwell toss out the demons, beat up Lemuel for murder, declare gay sex to be totally okay in God's eyes, and move on? Would the townsfolk buy it, since a Dog said it? Can the Dogs simply say 'yup this is not a sin' and in town law, at least, gayness is no longer a sin?
Theologically, can Lewiston and Harwell do this? Will the demons actually stop recognizing gay sex as a sin and melt at the power of the Dogs to change doctrine? Will the Stewards at the Dog's Temple be pissed at their representatives for twisting the doctrine that severely? Will the King of Life simply shrug and say 'yeah that's alright now'?

I hope this explains my question well! This question comes from a queer Ex-Mormon, so I apologize in advance if that scenario sounds homophobic or otherwise prejudiced -- definitely not intended that way!



  • 1293
Re: [DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2015, 11:19:43 AM »

1) The Dogs can't simply declare that gay sex is cool and the town will accept it. They can, however, if they can manage it, make it the stakes of a conflict. "If we win, the town accepts that gay sex is cool." They'd most likely have to work up to that, resolve the outstanding problems, and establish a new and legit order in the town first.

2) They can say whatever they like, but until they win it with stakes and dice, they haven't changed what the demons want, and they have definitely not changed anything in the town creation rules. Meaning that gay sex is still a sin, as far as town creation is concerned. In fact, if anything, the town creation rules suggest that you create a new town where the gay sex is even more obviously a sin.

Theology flows from the Prophets and Ancients through the Dogs to the Faithful. To change the Faith's theology, they'd have to take it up - and I mean, again, as always, with stakes and dice - with the Prophets and the Ancients.

Does this answer the question?


Re: [DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2015, 01:21:35 PM »
I think so. Just to make sure I understand, what I'm hearing (implied or explicit) is:

Any aspect of the Faith can be changed, but only with stakes and the conflict resolution. In fact, some of the ideas about 'sin' are in the game not just as flavor and as an implied critique of the Mormon faith, but also to give players with contemporary sensibilities something inherent to buck against. The book repeatedly encourages the GM to present this game world's ideas on sex as conflicts because it's "rare bloody story meat", and that story meat is giving players something to feel deeply uncomfortable or morally challenged about, not just because sex sells. Challenging aspects of the Faith, the way people believe, is something the players can do, especially as Watchdogs of the Faith, as compared to just enforcing its tenets.

That leads to three other questions, though...
1. Should GMs avoid scenarios with a side they find obviously morally right?
Like in this scenario I described, all the cards seem basically stacked on one side of the moral issue, especially if the demons go away. Does that lead to bad play? Obviously if I PUSH my moral standpoint on the players, that'll be bad play, but I'm wondering if a stacked situation alone can also be bad prep work for this kind of game.

2. You mentioned "chang[ing] what the demons want". Can demons be used on the Dog's side of things? Can they be negotiated with? Or are they meant to be a constant, persistent nuisance for the Dogs? (maybe all three?) This seems like the situation could get weird if the Dogs have powers invested in them through the King of Life AND have a demon buddy or two.

3. This is page 90 of DitV:
"And the Prophets and Ancients of the Faith have
their own internal structure, but it’s not relevant. They
speak and act as one, from our point of view here." (emphasis added)
This kind of intrigued me, since we're talking about theological authority. Why did you, as a game designer, try to steer people away from the head honchos of the Faith? Was this a decision made before or after playtesting?

By the way, in the next town, if my players did side with the gay couple, if I was to make gay sex even more a sin... I would have Brother Ezekiel abandoning his wife, Jane, and his children to live with his gay lover, and his children are starving. His lover Brian would be a devoted Catholic Territorial Authority outwardly challenging the Steward's authority and murdering anyone who finds out about his torrid romance, or who gets in his way generally.



  • 1293
Re: [DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2015, 10:01:44 AM »
Sure! More good questions.

1) Some towns are, like, sharper than others; they cut more cleanly, deeper, and are reliably fun and gut-punching in play. Others are muddier, more rambling, more boring or frustrating in play. As the GM creating the towns, this is the danger you face, as in any undertaking of art or design.

The only strong statements I'd make is that (a) a town should always go to hate and murder, and (b) a town is more likely to be better if the original sinner isn't also the sorcerer. Beyond that, who knows! Should GMs avoid scenarios with a side they find obviously right? Who knows! Give it a try and see how it goes.

2) All three.

There's a rule for when a PC can bring demonic influence dice in on their side of a conflict, I believe, although I don't just now remember it. The situation can definitely get weird.

3) Before playtesting, from the beginning of the game's conception. It's because the game isn't about how the PCs change the Faith, it's about how service in the field changes the PCs.


Re: [DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2015, 02:06:27 PM »
Thank you for your great, detailed answers! I'll add my experiences creating towns with an 'obviously' right side once I've tried that a few times.

The rule you're thinking of is on page 69 in the Relationships section. I completely forgot about it! Basically, if you have a Relationship with a demon, you can call on that demon for help at any time. This makes you technically a Sorcerer and lets you roll with Demonic Influence on your side. So... yeah, complicated!



  • 415
Re: [DitV] What authority do the Dogs have on theological issues?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2015, 03:50:48 PM »
If I were a demon, you can bet I'd be doing everything I could to turn the Dogs into sorcerers. Then they could spread their False Doctrine far and wide!