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Author Topic: [DitV] Sins of BoxElder Canyon  (Read 7971 times)
Michael S. Miller
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« on: September 07, 2004, 08:41:48 AM »

It was Labor Day, and a gamer friend of ours had come over for the afternoon. We were discussing the merits of Puerto RIco versus Cities & Knights of Catan when my wife, Kat (who knew I had read through Dogs in the Vineyard the day before), says "Mike, can you run Dogs?"

"I only just read it through once," says I.

"I know. But can you run it?" says she.

It's real clear and straightforward, I think. How often do I get a chance like this. "Sure," says I. "Let me copy the character sheets.

I do so and run them through character creation. Kat makes Sister Jezebel Jesse Jameson, with a 1d4 Dancin' and a 2d8 Shootin' She hopes she exorcised a demon during initiation. We play out the conflict, a little shaky, and indeed she does exorcize it.

Michele makes Sister Bernadine--overcompensating daughter of an alcoholic. She's got a whole mess of traits at one die a piece. She hopes she found the strength to resist the temptations of alcohol. So we set the scene with her having gotten a tooth broken during training and the dentist's assistant offering her a drink for the pain. The dentist/barber is one of the instructors, and manages to take it from her. The conflict system's running a bit smoother.

So, while I'm running them through character creation, I'm looking at the sample towns provided. I go with Box Elder Canyon, with the lazy Territorial Authority bureaucrat (Thurston), his bootleggin' wife (Constance), and the wounded uncle (Virgil) who's a bigot against mountain folk and believes the Steward (Obediah) to be false.

The ladies show up in town, the Steward tells them all his problems from his point of view. Since the troublesome Brother Virgil is Sister Jezzie's uncle, they decide to talk to him first. I whip up Malachi, one of Virgil's farmhands who's in town on an errand to guide them back to Virgil's place.

On the way, he fills them in on Uncle Virgil's point of view. They pass Constance on the road. She's Sister Bernadine's cousin, dirt poor since she married an UnFaithful. As they part, Malachi hollers out "I'll see you later, Sister Constance. I'ma gettin' paid to-night."

Kat & Michele look at each other and chat OOC, but still in the western drawl. Kat: "Your cousin's a whore!" {she pronounced the word "whore" with something like seven syllables}
Michele: "No, she ain't. If she gets paid for it, she's a prostitute."

Anyway, they go talk with Uncle Virgil, and he and Sister Jezzie have a full-blown, get-the-dice-out argument. What's at stake: Does he realize he's outta line in deciding that the Steward is false. I rolled awfully. Sister Jezzie shows him the light.

As it turns out, Virgil's son Seth was in the Meeting House with him when the fire started, so Sister Bernadine wants to find out what happened that night. He says there were Mountain Folk-like war-whoops, then a bottle of burning water came crashing through the window. Seth ran to ring the fire bell, and thought he saw someone in a long coat runnin' off.

At that point, after supper, Malachi stashes something in his saddlebags and rides off. He's wearing a long coat. Our Dogs follow. The dice come out, with Sister Bernadine tracking him. He has to Take the Blow, so I figure he lets her track his horse, and he goes a different way on foot. Sister Jezzie follows him. He ambushes her from a tree. They fight. He goes down, knocked out. Sister Jezzie ties him to his saddle. Sister Bernadine finds a bunch of empty whisky bottles in his saddlebags. The two Dogs figure the horse probably knows the way even without a rider, so they follow it.

Since I don't want to roll the dice, I say yes. The horse leads them to a pair of ramshackle sheds. Out in front of the smaller shed is a flagpole flying the Stars 'n' Stripes. It's nearly sunset and the TA census taker, Thurston, is taking down the flag. He says he can only offer the ladies hospitality in the barn. Constance comes out to insist that her cousin Bernadine & her fellow Dog Jezzie take her and Thurston's bed. As good hosts, they'll sleep in the barn.

As Bernadine faces down Constance about getting into the barn, Sister Jezzie takes Thurston well aside and tells him that the Steward ain't gonna grant him no money so long as he ain't yet converted. He thinks she might be onto something.

Bernadine and Constance escalate to Fightin', but Bernadine manages to slip past her into the Barn. Sure 'nuff, there's a still bubblin' away. Constance hides her head and goes back into the house with Thurston. Jezzie and Bernadine begin to dismantle the still and confer on their next course of action. Then there's a CLICK.

Constance has cut Malachi loose, and he's aiming a pistol at the Dogs. Constance is behind him with a rifle. Gunfightin' ensues, in which Malachi is shot just plain dead, Constance goes down for a few last words: "I done it to feed my babies. Bernadine, you take care of my babies." Thurston comes out to find his dead wife. Sister Jezzie launches into a speech on how she found comfort in the end through her Faith. "She's with the King of Life, now. The question is if you'll be with her when your time comes." Kat rolls amazingly well. I roll crap. He converts on the spot, welcomed to the Faith by the Dogs. He goes off to bury his wife.

At that point, Real Life interrupted, and we couldn't do much follow-up. Both Kat and Michele enjoyed the game and said they'd like to play again. They suggested that a GM screen might be helpful, so that they wouldn't know how many dice the GM had in reserve.

For my part, I thought it went really well for a "pick it up and run it" game. The conflict system is written so clearly, step by step, that we were flying with it after only a few conflicts. I realize now that I screwed up my NPC stats making them too weak. I had only skimmed the proto-NPC section, intending to give it a thorough reading before I ran the game.

I also shyed away from demons, being as I hadn't read them too closely either. Next time will take care of that, as well. This is a very cool game, Vincent. It was lots of fun.
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2004, 09:23:55 AM »

This is really interesting. I also ran Boxelder Canyon for my first session, and what I find so fascinating is how differently everything can go with even the same scenario. I visualized the town a little differently, with TA guy living on the edge of town along the road, but his house still in plain sight from the center of town. My two Dogs (also women) went up to deal with him right away, but I also had him Faithful rather than an outsider. He had just been given TA duties.

When I ran it, one of the Dogs made Constance (I had different names for a lot of these characters, but I'll use Michael's for ease of reference) break down just in conversation, while the other was browbeating her husband in the other room.

It was only after this that they went and saw the Steward, and got into a big theological debate about whether or not the Steward's mother was sinning by smoking tobacco.

What really strikes me is how dynamic these scenarios are. Everything is really dependent on how the Dogs react to the situations and what solution they want to reach for these things.

I underpowered my NPCs as well. I think next time I run it I will make them a bit more challenging. The Dogs shouldn't be able to easily win every conflict.
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2004, 09:25:14 AM »

Michael! Thank you!

Tell me about the hitches and irritants in the game. Especially about not rolling enough dice for the NPCs.

(A couple of people have suggested rolling in secret, but my impression is that it's because the GM wasn't rolling enough dice. When everybody's rolling enough dice, the fights are plenty suspenseful.)

That's a perfect "say yes" application of roll dice or say yes, by the way. Thank you.

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2004, 09:45:51 AM »

Brennan: yeah. I'd like to do like Ron has with his In Utero scenario, play the same town a million times and see the variety up close.

-Vincent
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Judd
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2004, 11:00:40 AM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller


They suggested that a GM screen might be helpful, so that they wouldn't know how many dice the GM had in reserve.


I found it helped rolling everything right in front of the players.  Heck, I encourage them to check it out and figure out their strategies.  It also helps so that when they know they are going to go down it is really their choice to go down swingin' or run to fight another day.  

In this game, like in Sorcerer, I find it really makes it more dramatic to roll everything right in front of the players.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2004, 11:51:29 AM »

Quote from: Paka
I found it helped rolling everything right in front of the players.  Heck, I encourage them to check it out and figure out their strategies.  It also helps so that when they know they are going to go down it is really their choice to go down swingin' or run to fight another day.  


As a player, I've found it to be the same. At first I thought "oh, I'm thinking about the dice too much". But then I realized that it didn't matter a whit to my enjoyment or sense of suspence.  Instead it made me prioritize how I wanted to handle things, and set my own pace.  

Pragmatically, also, you always have the chance to back down. escalate or call in help from another dog. If you don't know what the gm's resources are, you would have to make those decisions blind.

Great game, Michael!

yrs,
Em
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Judd
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2004, 11:57:21 AM »

Quote from: Emily Care

As a player, I've found it to be the same. At first I thought "oh, I'm thinking about the dice too much". But then I realized that it didn't matter a whit to my enjoyment or sense of suspence.  Instead it made me prioritize how I wanted to handle things, and set my own pace.  


As someone who has GMed this game twice, it is nice to hear a player's perspective.  Thanks.

It is also interesting how the dice and the role-playing compliment each other in this game, with the player choosing their actions based on their dice, rather than attempting something, failing and the dice short-changing the player.  When Vincent ran me on the demo, I began role-playing before I rolled the dice and he gently stopped me.

Then I'd role-play with the dice.  It is an interesting symbiotic relationship.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2004, 05:07:52 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
Tell me about the hitches and irritants in the game. Especially about not rolling enough dice for the NPCs.


Well, I didn't see any irritants that won't go away with a good, solid re-reading of the rules and preparing my own Quick Rules Summary (I always do that--it really helps cement the game rules in my head).

As for the NPCs, here are the stats I used. I forgot that I was supposed to have Free Dice, so I didn't use any a'tall.

UNCLE VIRGIL
Acuity: 3
Heart: 4
Body: 2 (he's burned and all)
Will: 4

Bigot 1d4
Solid as a Fireplug 1d8

SETH, Virgil's son
Acuity: 3
Heart: 5
Body: 5
Will: 2

Obedient 1d6

MALACHI, the whisky-lovin' farmhand
Acuity: 4
Heart: 4
Body: 4
Will: 3

Ridin' 1d6
Roughousin' 1d10 (never rolled higher than a 4, though)

CONSTANCE, seller of homemade whisky
Acuity: 3
Heart: 5
Body: 2
Will: 5

Distillin' 1d6
Relationship with the Still 2d6

THURSTON, the census taker
Acuity: 3
Heart: 4
Body: 5
Will: 4

Self-Important 1d4
Forceful, loud voice 1d10
Convert 1d6 (this was his Fallout due to the last conflict with Sister Jezzie)

One of the things I like about the Town Creation System is that it not only creates a Relationship Map, but it also creates the history of what's been happening. Often, when I play Sorcerer, I can write the map easily enough, but then forget how things got that way. The corruption of a Town is a dynamic, living process. I like it.
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