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Lions on the Precipice: A Mod

Started by Jonathan Walton, July 23, 2004, 10:01:34 PM

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Jonathan Walton

With Vincent's blessing, I'm working up a supplement/companion/mod for Dogs in the Vineyard (which is, in my humble opinion, the most eye-opening thing I've read since My Life With Master.  If it's not nominated for a Diana Jones Award next year, I will be incredibly disappointed.).

When I originally read the game (two weeks ago), I had mixed feelings about Vincent's portrayal of the Mountain People.  First of all, I appreciated how deftly he avoided Native American stereotypes.  No totemistic animal-based religion.  No peaceful, earth-loving spiritualists.  However, I was also unsatisfied by the Faithful's blanket dismissal of the Mountain People's culture and beliefs as "sorcery and demon-worship."  Since Doggies is written for Dogs, the Faithful's viewpoint is (rightly) the main focus.  Still, I wanted to play the Mountain People.  

I feel like I know something of what it's like to be a Dog or one of the Faithful.  I'm used to being a white male of Christian background in a position of authority, dealing with difficult personal and moral issues in a rigid social system ("Jonathan Walton, THIS is your life!").  I've spent quite a bit of my life trying to get out of doing that.  I'm chomping at the bit to play Doggies anyway, but I find myself fascinated by the natives' response to the Faithful's arrival in their homeland.  I've spent the past few months preparing for my Fulbright research in China, doing comparative reading on the impact of colonialism all over the world, including the Americas, which is partially why this is so appealing to me right now.  Also, identity studies is just the discipline that gets me going.  It's part of why I like roleplaying so much, actually.

So, I want to create a companion game to Doggies that focuses on the native complement of Dogs: champions of the people, fallible leaders, who wander from place to place, village to village, trying to halt the corruption and destruction of their people's way of life.  But it also has to gel with Vincent's vision of the Faithful and their beliefs.  You have to be able to understand why the Dogs and their flocks believe the Mountain People worship demons.  Neither side can simple be off their rockers, because that's simplistic and uninteresting.


Vincent and I have lovingly dubbed this project "Kitties."  :)

I have ten pages of notes that I'm going to try to distill into something organized and understandable.  There are aspects of my thinking that I'm fairly sure about, aspects that I'm mostly sure about, and many areas where I'm just not sure.  That's why I need your help.  What I need is in-depth, thoughtful discussion of setting and background.  The system is already in place, thanks to Vincent, and it kicks serious ass.  We can tweak it, sure, but what's more important is crafting the setting to be a fitting complement to Doggies and a believable, responsible, and complex depiction of a native culture on the brink of crisis.

Finding Protagonists

I struggled for a while, trying to decide who to make the game about.  I knew I wanted native leaders who were outside the normal relationships of family and tradition that often govern behavior in small, tight-nit communities.  I knew I wanted them to be the opposite of Dogs, not pack animals but solitary hunters, taking their inspiration from the rock lions (mountain lions) who share the peaks with them.  But Vincent made it very clear in Doggies that he didn't want totemistic animal-worship, and I strongly agreed with that decision.  If the Mountain People's elk goddess was the one who maliciously trapped the elk for the hunters to get it, how could I get the PCs to look to the rock lions for inspiration, with that kind of antagonistic relationship with animals and the rest of the world?

Then I figured out how.

Ghost Lions

You struck out one late summer morning to hunt the great rock lion, the devil beast that stands guard over the highest crags.  Most of your relatives expected you to fail.  Most young people fail, so the shame would not have been great.  Your family would have welcomed you home with knowing smiles and a ladle of cool water, for they had all failed in their youths.  To tell the truth, you'd heard that the rock lion moves like a shadow, vanishing from the tip of a hunter's spear, only to reappear behind them.  You did not expect your first blow to land.  But it did, followed by a second and a third.  Before you knew it, the rock lion was dead at your feet and your life was forfeit.  Everyone knows that it is death to kill a lion.  Instant death.

The Lion-Keeper God snuck up from behind and killed you, ripping your breath from your flesh and leaving your body an empty shell.  Then, in place of your spirit he put the soul of the dead rock lion, writhing and clawing, desperately trying to escape your flesh.  But it could not resist the harsh grip and artistry of the Lion-Keeper.

Your body still remembers what it was like to be alive, what it was like to be one of the People.  But you are neither, not anymore.  You are a Ghost Lion, no longer bound by the traditions and ties that govern the living, for you are dead.  You died and were set apart from them to be their guide and their judge.  Your authority comes from the fact that you are dead, but so does your torment.  The unlife of a Ghost Lion is not easy.  Dead men and women are no longer members of the community.  They have no family and will never call another "husband" or "wife."  The joys of the People are lost to them.  But, as the dead have nothing to gain and nothing to lose, their word is sacred.  You live a stolen life, one you ripped from the lion that you killed.  Because you owe a life-debt, you are required to expend your breath in service to the People, never yourself.

Beware the memory of life.  It will destroy you.  Eat only the plainest foods, enough to keep your body alive and strong, but no more.  Wear only the skin of the lion you killed; make the guest spirit comfortable and its drive to escape will be diminished.  Avoid the company of the opposite sex whenever possible.  Do not tally too long in the company of other Lions.  Though you are all dead and so there can be no traditions that govern your ways, the dead are not good companions for each other.  Alone, a Lion can focus on accomplishing their duties.  Gathered together, Ghost Lions cannot help but dream of life.

The Faithful and their Wolves do not understand you.  They think the Lions rebel against the King of Life because they are possessed by demons.  In truth, the King of Life offers only torment to one who is dead.  For Lions, the King of Life is the most dangerous enemy of all, for he speaks directly to the memory of their bodies and tries to separate them from the lion spirit that gives them breath.

The rock lion spirit is a potent one, much wiser, stronger, and crueler that the spirits of the People.  As a Ghost Lion, you must often struggle to control the demands of your spirit, lest it, in a fit of savage passion, fight against the unnatural unity or, even worse, abandon your body altogether.  More than a few Lions have simply dropped dead, beyond the aid of any healer save the Lion-Keeper God who bound them in the first place.  This cannot be your fate.

Major Sources of Conflict

The People (and, therefore, the Ghost Lions) are threatened both internally and externally.

The Faithful encroach on their villages, kill off the elk herds, and convert more and more of the People to the worship of the King of Life.  Yadda yadda yadda, you know this story.

Among the People themselves, especially the Lost Ones who live in the desert, there has been a recent upsurge in prophecy.  Many of the newest prophets claim their visions come not from Lion-Keeper or Weaving Woman or Elk-Giver, but from the World Spirit itself.  Never before has the World Spirit spoken directly to the People, but suddenly it seems to find new prophets every year.  New beliefs and traditions come from the World Spirit itself, sacred and unquestionable, but they are not the traditions of Lion-Keeper, Weaving Woman, and Elk-Giver.  They are not the traditions of the Ghost Lions.

Rites of Passage

Once a young man or woman kills a rock lion, their soul leaves them and their body remains empty for up to three days, animated only by the strength of the Lion-Keeper, who spends that time hunting down the lion spirit.  During this period, they are a danger to everyone around them, since a soulless body could attract someone else's soul to fill it.  The would-be Lion most often remains near the site of the killing for those three days, wandering off to gather food and water occasionally, but never straying too far.  During the period, it is the youth's responsibility to prepare their empty body for the lion spirit, creating a welcome home so that it will not struggle too much in the binding process (which could potentially be lethal).  This begins by skinning the animal's body and wearing the skin, but also involves physical and mental preparation.

On the morning of the third day, the closest Weaver Woman is dispatched to seek the youth.  Using her great wisdom and a few secret tests, she determines whether the lion's spirit has been fully bound into the young person's body.  If they find the youth dead, they know that the binding process proved ultimately fatal.  Sometimes, the Weaver Woman will determine that the process is not complete and return the next day.  Rarely, after waiting several days, a body that continues to be spiritless will have to be destroyed, since the Lion Keeper cannot afford to sustain it indefinitely.  Occasionally, the Lion Keeper returns without the lion spirit and decides instead to reinsert the youth's original spirit.  In this specific case, the youth returns to their village in the company of the Weaver Woman, to live out the rest of a normal life.  Most villages have at least one of the Returned.

If the youth has successfully passed the ordeal, the Weaver Woman spends the rest of the day instructing them in the secret stories that only the dead share.  Then, she points the new Lion in the direction of the nearest unfamiliar village and sends them on their way.

Weaver Women

When female Ghost Lions grow old, the Weaving Woman takes the burden of their lion spirit from them and weaves them new spirits made of strength and courage.  They are not, though, spirits like those of the People, but those of the gods, patient and timeless.  Finally, when a Ghost Lion becomes a Weaver Woman, she is allowed to settle and create a home.  She can never marry or have children, but she becomes the focal point of a community.  The Weaving Woman will not, however, weave new spirits for male Lions, who remain locked in their struggle until the fight ceases and the unity falls apart forever.

In this way, when a Weaver Woman instructs a youth about being a Ghost Lion, she speaks with her own body's memory and her god-spirit's patience and wisdom.  You could not ask for a better teacher.

Weaver Women are relatively rare.  Since most young women are not trained as hunters (though some are), there are fewer female Lions, and few Lions of either gender live to the age when the Weaving Woman chooses her daughters.  Each cluster of villages might share a single Weaver Woman who oversees the ritual and spiritual needs of all of the communities, traveling occasionally from one to the next and getting a chance to relive, on a smaller scale, her journeys as a Ghost Lion.  Since Weaver Women are also dead and outside of the traditions that they oversee, they can be the Ghost Lions' greatest allies or biggest challenges.  They are always more experienced, know a great deal about being a Ghost Lion, will often tell you how to handle your responsibilities, and don't appreciate brash young hearts stirring up trouble in their communities, whether it's a prophet or a newly minted Ghost Lion.

Possible Coat-Equivilent: Tattoos

This idea comes from early drawings of hunters in the eastern woodlands and also Queequeg from Moby Dick.  Not the best sources for this game, I know, but this is just one possible idea.

Aside from the lion spirit escaping the body, a Ghost Lion also has to worry about their own spirit returning and looking for its former body, which can only lead to sickness and death for the Lion and those around them.  Ritual tattoos (maybe just called "Markings" or the like) can help keep the body's spirit from haunting a Lion, scaring it away with fearsome images.  However, the Lion cannot create these illustrations themselves.  Aside from the difficulty of tattooing yourself, the body's spirit will recognize anything created by the body as familiar, not frightening.  A Ghost Lion, therefore, needs other to come up with unfamiliar images of pain and destruction, ones the body never could have created itself, to scare away a lingering spirit.  Tattoos are gifts given by the communities that the Ghost Lion travels through or, potentially, the work of other Ghost Lions or Weaver Women.

The first tattoo (assuming we go this route) is given by the first Weaver Woman, before she sends the new Ghost Lion off into the world.  It depicts the raging fury of the lion's spirit that now resides in the body, which is more than enough to make any spirit think twice about entering or causing trouble.  This initial tattoo is usually imprinted on the youth's face and forever marks them as a Ghost Lion.  Weaver Women, of course, bear this mark and are inevitably tattooed from head to foot, warded against any and all spirits that might try to mess with them.

The Faithful, of course, view the demonic-looking tattoos of the Ghost Lions and Weaver Women as yet another sign of their evil and sorcerous nature.


Even with hardcore scene framing, I'm imagining that Kitties will run pretty different from most party-based games.  Lions go solo.  They may rarely hang out with other Lions, but anything more than a temporary relationship is immediately suspect.  So, players will be tempted to have their characters dally in each other's company (as they should be, since it makes for good story), but they are not going to be hanging out with each other all the time, like Dogs might.

Each character in Kitties is basically going to be participating in their own solo game.  One of the key features of being dead is that it is very lonely.  No family, no permanent friends, no chance of love or marriage or sex, lots of travel from place to place, lots of alien communities that may be less than welcoming.  It's a hard, solitary life.

However, I want to take advantage of Vincent's encouragement of out-of-character interaction about the game.  While a scene may focus on a Ghost Lion that is hundreds of miles away from any other Lion, the rest of the players are encouraged to make comments, give advice, offer suggestions, and participate in actively imagining what's going on.  They serve, in effect, as the body's memory and the savage spirit of the rock lion: the two key facets of each character's personality.  Think of it like Wraith, except that all of the other players collective act as "Shadow Consciences," and you, the player, ultimately have to make all the hard decisions.


So that's what I've got so far.  Tear it to pieces for me, so we can rebuild it and make it better.


It strikes me that this is in ways a flip-side to Dogs. This game seems to be about how perilous it is to grow up, and how outside of everything it feels, how in the process one leaves everything of the old life behind, and how vital a mentor can be in that transition. In Dogs, it's about how one becomes a (REALLY) responsible member of society, deeply involved with one's community, and related all over the place.

Reading it over, the question asked in How WILL kitties play? about how to reconcil the lone Lion into a group of players seemed clear - one plays the Lion, one the Weaveing Woman, one a distant Lion (it'd be interesting if Lion A went to Lion B's old town), one an Elk-Giver (which is too cool a name to be a walk-on; what's their deal? Are they people? Spirits? What?), one the wild-eyed New Prophet who wants to change the old ways, one a 'retired' male Lion (which, what happens there? A logical thing would be for them to return to the tribe/pride and sire a bunch of kids *wry smile here*). The Weaving Woman sounds way cool, and if I couldn't play her, I'd be miffed.

All in all, cool. I like the tattoo thing, and how you've shown the flip-side of things presented in Dogs. I really like the bit about how Lions are made, and also that failure to become a Lion is not a huge deal, and is ok. I imagine the relief of the families welcoming back their 'failed' young ones.

Jonathan Walton

Thanks for the comments.

You're right that there are many fascinating roles that could potentially be PCs, but I'm wary of having non-Ghost Lion protagonists.  One of the things that's so great about Doggies is how focused it is on the young Dogs and their struggles.  There are plenty of other fascinating people in Doggies too (for instance, that memorable old man at the Temple, whose coat has been reduced to tatters), but they aren't PCs for some very good reasons.  Doggies isn't an "open character" RPG, where you're encouraged to take on any role in the setting that interests you.  It's specifically about the Dogs.  So I worry that, if I open up Kitties, it won't have the kind of focus that gives Doggies "that clean, fresh feeling."

As for your questions, I was imagining that Weaving Woman, Lion Keeper, and Elk Giver were the three main spiritual axiis of the People's worldview.  They are also general animists and believe that everything has a spirit, and additionally acknowledge the World Spirit as the center of everything, but these three major "gods" form the center of their rituals.  Weaving Woman is the grandmother goddess, wise and primodial, represented by the night sky.  Her daughters are the Weaver Women who are the matriarchs of the People, keepers of stories, lore, and healing.  Lion Keeper and Elk Giver are her two mischievious sons.  Elk Giver runs on the plains and pursues the elk alongside the People's hunters, hounding the herds, confusing them, and making them easy prey.  He also keeps the lore of the men, that of hunting and the rituals associated with it.  Even the women trained as hunters cannot participate in these rituals (though they can take a secondary role in the womens' rituals led by the Weaver Women).

Finally (and most importantly for this game), Lion Keeper is the wild god of the mountains, the keeper of the peace and the declarer of war.  He spends his time away from the People, up in the high reaches, hunting the demon rock lions, keeping them away from the elk herds and the People's villages.  However, sometimes he will come down, which almost always means bad things for the People.  Sometimes he brings sickness and death with him, but sometimes he comes down when the People are in terrible peril and afflicts their enemies with double the fury.  He is a fickle and turbulant god, but he is also very protective, for he loves Weaving Woman and Elk Giver and the People in the depths of his heart, though he rarely shows it.

Hmm, if I had to say what the old male Ghost Lions do, I'd say that Elk Giver, though he cannot weave them a new spirit, steals thread from his mother, Weaving Woman, and binds the lion spirit within them, so it is no longer the terror that it once was.  Once this happens, the Ghost Lion becomes a Huntmaster for a particular village, offering guidance to the men (and a few women) and training the boys (and some girls) to be hunters.

So, generally, Weaving Woman and Elk Giver are the two spiritual powers that govern most of the People's day-to-days rituals and activities.  Lion Keeper is considered outside of the traditions, like the Ghost Lions themselves.  He is dangerous, alien, and unfamiliar.  Once each young person turns 12, they send them up into the mountains with a spear, to see if Lion Keeper wants them for his own, taking them outside the traditions with him.  If so, they kill a lion and become one of the dead, never returning to their home village until they reach old age (assuming they survive that long).

Why do Weaving Woman and Elk Giver choose their respective children (the Weaver Women and Huntmasters) from Lion Keeper's chosen ones?  Some say it is their compassion that seeks to bring the old Lions home.  Some say they do it to spite Lion Keeper, making it clear that no one is outside of the traditions forever.  Some say it is because Lion Keeper discovered a secret wisdom up in the mountains, that the mountains are taller than the night sky, taller than Weaving Woman herself, and that Lion Keeper can see into the World Spirit's heart, and knows who the figures of power will be, so he steals their souls away.  His family then, just tries to steal them back, so that Lion Keeper does not grow fat with all that power and come down from the mountains to torment the people.

How's that?




 Here's what I want to know -- Dogs suggests that the People were once Faithful who fell into demon worship.  The Faithful believe this is true because of old ruins that seem to indicate Faithful modes of worship.

 I suppose it doesn't matter if the Faithful are misunderstanding the ruins, but how do the People explain them?

 Dogs suggests that corrupted worship leads to mayhem and ruin.  The short description of the People suggests that outside of Lions showing up, they seem to have a pretty good life.  Aside from the Faithful simply villifying outsiders, why does't a Mountain People village look like a Faithful settlement in the final throes of Demonic influence?

The Three Stooges ran better black ops.

Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.

Jonathan Walton

Actually, I was waiting for Vincent to comment before I went too deeply into the ruins and the Lost (the People who live in the desert).  Apparently, the section on the Mountain People is in the middle of changing, so I wanted to be sure how much of that stuff was going to end up making it in Doggies.

Still, my original thoughts went something like this...

The Prophets claim that the People have gone astray, allying themselves too strongly with Lion Keeper, who is a clearly malicious god that brings ill on the People and steals their children away for his own.  The Ghost Lions come into town and judge as they see fit, ignoring the traditions and even the decisions of the Weaver Women.

The Prophets instead speak of the World Spirit itself, great, vast, unknowable, compassionate.  The World Spirit is Lord of All, greater than the People, greater than the Faithful, greater than the entire world itself.  The Prophets point to the depictions on the ruins, proof that the People found guidance from the World Spirit in ancient times, before Weaving Woman gave birth to her two sons.  The Tradition of the Ancients, which the Prophets teach, is not something new, then, but a revitalization of the old ways.

The Lost, those who live in the desert, belong to one of the oldest bloodlines of the People, dating back to a time when there was a great kingdom where the ruins now stand.  The Lost were then the kings and queens of the People, but were overthrown by Lion Keeper and Elk Giver when the twins first descended from the mountains.  Now the Lost haunt the ruins of their former glory.  It is among the Lost that the first Prophets began to emerge from among the People, though the new faith quickly spread to the mountain villages as well.

Interestingly, the Tradition of the Ancients (in most strains) is rabidly nativist and resoundingly rejects the King of Life and his faith.  Bands of the Lost will commonly raid Faithful communities, since the World Spirit has clearly told them that the Faithful do not belong here and should return to the east or die here in the valleys.  The Faithful realize that they have the most in common with the People who follow the Tradition of the Ancients, but their strong hatred is puzzlingly, considering that most converts that come to the King of Life do not come from the desert, but from the People of the mountains.

Jonathan Walton

Forgot your second question...

I was imaging that creating communities in crisis would work very similarly in Kitties.

Pride, believing that you know better than the Traditions, manifests as injustice, dissatisfaction, and anger.
leads to -->
Abandonment of the ways, which leads to the wrath of Lion Keeper, external problems begin to plague the People.
leads to -->
New Ways, the Prophets arise and begin to draw people away from the Traditions.
leads to -->
New Authorities, as the People find leaders (the Prophets) who aren't Weaver Women, Huntmasters, or Ghost Lions.  They incite the people to rebellion and attacks on the Faithful.
leads to -->
Hate and Murder.

Make sense?  So, often times, the People's communties DO resemble Faithful towns on the brink of crisis, because they themselves are beset with internal and external problems and look pretty demonic.

Also, this process can start when the dead begin to come into conflicts among themselves about the path the People should take.  When Ghost Lions and Weaver Women draw lines in the ground and prepare to fight, the People are the ones who will ultimately suffer.  The Weaver Women are supposed to provide stability for the communities (which can lead to stagnation or corruption) and the Ghost Lions are supposed to provide dynamism (which can lead to chaos and disorder).  They're supposed to balance each other out, but that doesn't always happen.  They do usually join forces against the Prophets, however, since they need to save the Traditions from potential usurpers.


Well, yeah, I've shoved the Mountain People around a little (which we can talk about in the nearby thread except as it relates to Lions here).  But I don't think anything you've shown us yet, Jonathan, is incompatible with the new Mountain People.  I think it all rocks and it can all go forward.

...That is, I think that it's all incompatible with Dogs proper, as Tom says.  This isn't how the Mountain People "really" are in Dogs, of course. It's not like Vampire: the suck and Werewolf: the bite, where both are true.  Dogs is me taking on a particular piece of history; Lions is Jonathan taking on the same piece of history, and from the same starting point, but bringing a whole different set of interests and concerns to bear.

In other words: I endorse Lions on the Precipice as an alternative setup for Dogs, same as an Untouchables mod, a Spanish Inquisition mod or a Salem Witch Hunters mod.  That it shares color with Dogs' official setting (snerk) is just a coincidence.

The Ghost Lions really knock my socks off.

If you're asking what I'd do: the Faith is conservative, its survival depends on everybody going along and not doing unconventional things.  I'd make the People's survival depend on adaptability instead and I'd turn the what's wrong substantially inside-out.  They're nomadic hunter-gatherers with a complex and nuanced spiritual life; the pressure on them is to adopt the settled, organized, structured, regimented, non-imaginative farming lifestyle of the pioneers.

Settling down causes worship-by-rote.
Worship-by-rote is inattention to the spirit world.
Inattention to the spirit world leads to malcontent spirits.
Malcontent spirits mislead and torment you, which leads to poverty.
Poverty leads to envy and murder.

Something more like that.  The Ghost Lions would be goads to the People as much as judges.


Jonathan Walton

Quote from: lumpleyThat it shares color with Dogs' official setting (snerk) is just a coincidence.

Well, if that's the case, then there's no need for me to really make the game gel that much with Dogs' setting and background, but I think I might try to do that anyway, since that's half the reason I decided to do this in the first place.  I wanted to develop Kitties partially because I wanted to play one of the Mountain People who converted and became a Dog, but I didn't think I could do that until I knew where they came from, and Dogs doesn't tell us much (especially not anymore, with the changes).

So, how about this: Kitties is, in my mind (and in my game, once I get the chance to run it), what the Mountain People's culture is really like.  It's not approved by Vincent or whatever, but saying:

Quote from: VincentThis isn't how the Mountain People "really" are in Dogs, of course.

...isn't fair either.  This is one possible version of the Mountain People's culture and the problems facing them.  That doesn't make it definitive, but it doesn't make it not "real" either.  This is me taking Vincent's ideas and owning them, riffing off of them to make them work in my own mind.  Of course, in the end, YMMV.

QuoteThey're nomadic hunter-gatherers with a complex and nuanced spiritual life; the pressure on them is to adopt the settled, organized, structured, regimented, non-imaginative farming lifestyle of the pioneers.

See, in this version, I don't see where this pressure is coming from.  What makes them want to settle down?  What's the attraction?  High-impact agriculture is not an easy life.  It's often times much more labor-intensive than hunting and gathering, especially for a culture that's not used to heavy-duty agriculture, so I don't think that can be an incentive.  The major incentive I can see is trade, and you can certainly trade with the Faithful without settling down.

QuoteSettling down causes worship-by-rote.
Worship-by-rote is inattention to the spirit world.
Inattention to the spirit world leads to malcontent spirits.
Malcontent spirits mislead and torment you, which leads to poverty.
Poverty leads to envy and murder.

It seems like we're answering the question "what's happening to the People?" in very different ways.  Your answer is "they're settling down, losing their dynamism, becoming poor, and succumbing to violence."  My answer is "they're undergoing a spiritual crisis, where they don't know who to listen to or which traditions to uphold, which brings chaos and in-fighting."

I don't know, Vincent.  I feel like your version of the story gives the People much less agency in choosing their own paths and making actions for their own reasons.  Everything seems to be a response to things that are happening to them instead of choices that they've made.  I'd be much happier with a schema where "settling down" was much closer to the end of the process.  If you view them as a completely nomadic society, once the People settle down, I think they've almost stopped being the People.

QuoteThe Ghost Lions would be goads to the People as much as judges.

This is what I was planning too, not the "get up and be nomads" type of goad, but the "don't let yourself slip into habit and become resistant to change."


Jonathan!  Of course we have different takes!  That's why you're doing this.  I fully endorse you riffing on my ideas, in fact I dig it in a big way.  All I meant is exactly what you said: you're providing a take on the Mountain People, not "the" take on them.

Please don't regard my input wrt your take any differently than you would anybody else's.  When it comes to your People, I'm just some guy.

Are you thinking of playing a mixed game, Dogs and Ghost Lions at the same time?

The pressure I see on the Mountain People to settle down is that the Faithful have cut their range down to practically nothing.  Since they don't have access to the good foraging anymore, they're going to need to adopt more intensive food-per-acre practices or they won't be able to support their populations.  All those pioneers hogging the good land means that the Mountain People's effective population density just shot way way up.  Agriculture, while sucky, supports a higher population density, so they're faced with the unhappy choice between farming and letting their population density fall.  At least that's what Guns, Germs and Steel tells me.

Like I say, just some guy!


Jonathan Walton

Quote from: lumpleyAre you thinking of playing a mixed game, Dogs and Ghost Lions at the same time?

You found me out, you shifty guy!  Note quite sure how it would work yet, but it's definitely something I've been thinking about.

QuoteAt least that's what Guns, Germs and Steel tells me.

Just so you know, GG&S has gotten a ton of flack from people doing work in Native American and other post-Colonial studies.  There are disputes with several of its claims, but the main beef is not what it says but how it talks about it.  History becomes math, deterministic and without much human agency.  Genocide becomes unavoidable.  Nobody ends up at fault.  You can see how this might get a little touchy.

Even if it's like you say above (need to generate more food in a smaller amount of space), that's not how the People would talk or think about it.  They're not going to say "the Faithful have taken all our lands, so we must now dig in the dirt like them."  Gee, that sounds great.  No agency at all for the natives.  No, they need to come up with some internal reason for their entire culture to switch from being nomads to being settled agriculturalists.  Otherwise, the obvious solution is to kill all the Faithful and the more conservative leaders won't want to do something that'll end with the extermination of the People.

My reason was the Prophets, who are capable of inspiring those kinds of society-wide changes.  The Prophets will be able to get the People to settle down, to worship the World Spirit (who's similar enough to the King of Life that maybe the Faithful will leave them alone), and to give up the traditions of their ancestors for a new "ancient" religion.

Emily Care

This is wicked awesome.

Since the story lines would be seperate (unlike dogs) I'd think it would help to take a sorcerer-like take. Have the creation of the scenario solicit the stuff that all the players are interested in. The separate story lines could be tied in thematically, or even connect with an overall larger plot that could be set by the gm or developed by the group.  

I've been thinking about the character structure of a lion versus a dog.  Dogs have traits/relationships/possessions that make them up.  Lions would have fewer relationships and possessions (I really see them as wandering the countryside carrying nothing but a knife and their lion skin), but what they do have is lots of internal stuff going on.  The precipice is the divide between the human and lion soul and each character could get traits divied up between these parts--human soul giving pragmatic skills (hunting, tracking, fighting, weaving) and the lion soul gives extranormal skills and abilities (farsight, truthseeing, magical combat or banishing).  

All these things being of course the same kinds of traits used in ditv, and they could have dice assigned them.  Human traits being smaller dice (d6's) and lion traits having larger dice (d8,d10) to start but also requiring the taking of d4's (I'm thinking of how guns are handled here).  What this says to me is that the lion part of the person is the big guns, but also brings up more flack that will cause fallout. Though, as smaller dice can be traded in for larger, they also give the character the potential to grow in power.  Vincent, you so rock.

Anyway, there could be something about how much the character gets invested in human vs. lion traits--I'm thinking about this:

Quote from: Jonathan WaltonThe rock lion spirit is a potent one, much wiser, stronger, and crueler that the spirits of the People. As a Ghost Lion, you must often struggle to control the demands of your spirit, lest it, in a fit of savage passion, fight against the unnatural unity or, even worse, abandon your body altogether. More than a few Lions have simply dropped dead, beyond the aid of any healer save the Lion-Keeper God who bound them in the first place. This cannot be your fate.
As you grow in the lion side, you have to deal with this possible imbalance more.  Could the d4's get assigned to "side-affect" traits associated with the lion (rage, anger, cunning, silence) that grow over time.

There could be relationship traits and possession traits, but the possessions would be things like tattoos and magical items, and relationships might bring the character toward the human side.  The whole issue of having to "make your lion self comfortable" sounds rich with potential too....

Anyway, it's thoughts.  This is way inspiring.  

Emily Care
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Jonathan Walton

Quote from: Emily CareAnyway, it's thoughts.  This is way inspiring.

Very nice thoughts too.  In some ways, Kitties could end up being a kind of Vampire Heartbreaker, using Vincent's badass mechanics to model internal conflicts ("humanity vs. THE BEAST!") in a much better way than Vampire ever did.  

Also, I've been pondering things like soliloqouys, opportunities for characters to address and attempt to resolve internal disputes, perhaps with the other players or GM taking the role of their personal problems.  This would work similarly to the pre-game scenes of Doggies, where the player says "I want to calm/feed/invoke/pacify/control the Lion Spirit within me" and then the other player/GM takes on the role of the lion soul (shades of Wraith here) and tries to rage against the failures of the flesh.

Your points about a Sorcerer-style pre-game for group brainstorming are valuable as well.  In a game where the characters are likely to be scattered, getting everyone on the same page is important.  

I'm imagining something like what happens to Mormon missionaries or Peace Corps volunteers or guys like me on Fulbright Fellowships.  You get dropped in the middle of a foreign country and attempt to do something good, with your only support being your correspondence with other people in similar situations.  Or all those travel books written by white dudes exploring China or India or whatever. So, in this way, the Lions are miles and miles apart from each other, but since all the players experience what's going on in different regions of the mountains, they have this kind of Peace Corps correspondence, where shades of what happens in one Lion's life comments or reflects what happens in another's.  

And there will often be times when one Lion wanders into a town that another Lion has already been through, so you get long-term development of NPCs in a way that is probably less likely in Doggies.

In any case, I'm going to be focusing on Vespertine and its upcoming playtest (!) in the next few weeks, trying to get it finished by late Sept/early Oct, but then I plan to jump back on the Doggies bandwagon and work more on Kitties.