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Author Topic: [DitV] Authority  (Read 8029 times)
ctrail
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« on: July 25, 2005, 02:37:26 PM »

(This topic has been addressed several times on this forum, but I still don't feel like I understand it fully. I apologize if this feels like we're beating a dead horse.)

I want to make sure I understand how the GM is supposed to approach player and character morality in the game, and what kind of moral and religious authority the characters are supposed to have.

If I understand correctly, when GMing DitV I'm not supposed to morally judge the character's actions, at least in my capacity as a GM. I doubt I could refrain from having an opinion on whether something is right or wrong, but this shouldn't influence how I run the game. More concretely, this means that I shouldn't ever play God as an NPC. If the players want to know what the King of Life thinks, they should either make up their own mind as a player, or have a conflict over it. "Do I find out what God thinks?" is an unacceptable stake, and I should just tell the player that is for them to decide, unless another player thinks that the character recieves a different message from God, and then they can have a conflict over the stakes "Does God send me this sign, or that one?".

As a consequence, the Dogs can never be morally wrong, unless their players decide that they are. If so, I can't say that they are always right, either. It is up to the players whether or not the Dogs have sinned. Since the players will usually have their characters do the things they think are right, this usually means that the Dogs never do wrong, but it is also possible that the player has his character do something he thinks is wrong, or decides is wrong later, in which case it is possible for the Dog to sin in the eyes of God.

Likewise, I should avoid deciding what the right way to do things is ahead of time, and steering them towards one decision or another, or using my influence to reward or punish them for the choices they make.

However, my personal sense of how the world works is going to inform both my own morality, and how I play NPC's. Thus, I don't think how I run things can ever be completely value neutral- I believe people behave in certain ways, which suggests certain thinks about them. This is probably unavoidable, as no portrayal of a person is completely neutral, and I need to play them as seems realistic to me in order to have any weight. I believe this is fine, as long as I don't try to push a moral lesson on the players in the ways described above.

As far as the authority the Dogs have in the game, it is incredibly powerful. Dogs can kill people and assign punishments as they desire, all within the bounds of their job description. However, the game describes the Dogs as under the stewardship of the masters who initiated them, so presumably, in incredible cases, they could send other Dogs to punish a wayward group. For example, a group of Dogs that killed an entire town with little to no justification, or that encouraged the spread of a demon-worshipping cult. This rings true to me, but it seems that by having the Stewards back at Bridal Falls reprimand the characters, I risk using my GM powers to push my own moral agenda on them. I wouldn't intend to do this, but my own sense of right and wrong will inform what I think would result in a response from the authorities over the Dogs, and since they are in a position of authority, this seems like it would come across as a commandment from on high. Hopefully this will never come up, but how can I avoid passing judgement on the character's actions without sacrificing the integrity of the setting in situations like this?
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Judd
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2005, 03:19:42 PM »

As a Dogs GM, I would never judge the Dogs but to say that the King of Life supports them in whatever they do.

Be that healing the weak and sick.

Killing each other.

Hanging a leper.

Whatever.

Brothers and Sisters, the King of Life supports you.

Here's your Book of Life.

Here's your gun.

Use each when you see fit.

Put down your coat and your guns in order to enter the community when you see fit.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2005, 03:37:49 PM »

Hopefully this will never come up, but how can I avoid passing judgement on the character's actions without sacrificing the integrity of the setting in situations like this?
If someone were playing their character, and they did something unexpected, would you have any trouble adapting to that without (as GM) violating the "integrity of the character"?

No.  Of course not.  The integrity of their character is their problem, not yours.

Likewise, the integrity of the setting, as regards what moral principles are right and proper, is none of your business.  It is entirely outside of the GMs authority.  When you are GMing, you are a spectator as regards the moral development of the game.  Can you have your NPCs horrified by (say) Dogs who kill casually?  Of course.  But those NPCs are wrong.  The Dogs are right.  End of discussion.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2005, 03:58:28 PM »

You don't have to judge the Dogs, in fact you shouldn't, but you can show them the consequences of their actions.

A Dog tries to stop a man from beating his pregnant wife. Another Dog prevents the first Dog from doing this, it's the man's right as her steward. So the wife taunts the man as a coward and he kicks her in the belly.

The Dogs lynch a man for stealing, and so his children die when his house is attacked by bandits.

That's Dogs.

At least that's how I run it. No free lunches.
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ctrail
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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2005, 04:11:34 PM »

Thank all of you for your replies.
Judd, I think your reply gives me a good sense of the attitude I should have towards this, which is helpful. (Do you prefer to be called Paka?)
You mention that the King of Life supports them. Would you agree that the player has the right to decide that their character has transgressed against their God, or is it really always true that they are right, even when their player disagrees?

Tony, I was really confused by your post the first couple of times I read it.

If someone were playing their character, and they did something unexpected, would you have any trouble adapting to that without (as GM) violating the "integrity of the character"?

No.  Of course not.  The integrity of their character is their problem, not yours.
I don't understand what you are indicating here. Yes, the integrity of their character is their business. Since I'm playing the setting (which I'm using here to include the NPCs, so maybe that is confusing) isn't that my business, since I'm the one running the setting, in just the same way that the character is the player's business?

Likewise, the integrity of the setting, as regards what moral principles are right and proper, is none of your business.  It is entirely outside of the GMs authority.  When you are GMing, you are a spectator as regards the moral development of the game.
The way you emphasize "as regards the moral principles" and "as regards the moral development" here makes me think we are not on the same page here.
Let me give an example of what I mean. This is an extreme case, but I think it will show what I mean most clearly.
Suppose one of the Dogs went and killed one of the Ancients, and dragged his body through the street screaming heresies. If the authorities in the faith, such as the Stewards at the Dog's Temple, didn't do anything, such as sending other Dog's to have that Dog killed, or at least taken back to the Temple for a stern lecture, I think my players would have difficulty taking the game seriously any more. I could imagine one particular player saying "They aren't doing anything? You've got to be kidding me!" This is what I mean when I say violating the integrity of the setting. I suspect that you thought I was saying something else, because if you are saying that having the NPCs react in a believable manner isn't my business, then I really don't understand you. However, I don't understand what else you think I might be saying.

Can you have your NPCs horrified by (say) Dogs who kill casually?  Of course.  But those NPCs are wrong.  The Dogs are right.  End of discussion.
Here we seem to agree that I should play the NPC as being morally outraged. But my concern is this- if an NPC in a position of authority is horrified by the Dogs, how is this different from having the King of Life be horrified, except in degree?

You say that the NPCs are always wrong, and the Dogs are always right, when their morality conflicts. Is this true even when the player of the Dog disagrees? Or do you think this should be accepted as universally true, even when the players disapprove of the Dog's behavior? Do the NPCs with Stewardship over the Dogs always feel this way?

Steve, would you agree that their is a fine line between showing consequences and passing judgement? That is what I am concerned about. In your first example, saying the man kicks his wife in the belly is, in my mind, very close to saying that the second Dog was wrong to stop the first Dog. Not the same, but I'm trying to figure out where that line is and how not to cross it. I'm especially concerned about authority figures, since it seems like they have the same problems as God, on a smaller scale.

Thank you all again for replying. I don't think I understand you all fully yet, but hopefully I'll get there.

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Judd
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« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2005, 05:12:18 PM »

Thank all of you for your replies.
Judd, I think your reply gives me a good sense of the attitude I should have towards this, which is helpful. (Do you prefer to be called Paka?)
You mention that the King of Life supports them. Would you agree that the player has the right to decide that their character has transgressed against their God, or is it really always true that they are right, even when their player disagrees?

Please call me Judd.

If a Dog things that he has broken faith with the King of Life, no doubt the Watchdog is correct.  NO DOUBT.

Your players have a mandate from on high.  ON HIGH.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2005, 06:29:21 PM »

I think it may be more clearly put like so:

Your players, collectively, ARE the King of Life. Their Dogs are trying to interpret the will of the King (the players) and may do so incorrectly, if the King (the players) feels that their actions are morally wrong.

So basically, if your Dog shoots a man in the street, and you as a player feel it was morally wrong, then it is morally wrong. If you think it was morally justified, then it was. Where it gets interesting is when the players disagree, at which point the rules allow you to decide which player was right in those particular circumstances. The judgement that is true now may not hold true later; That's the essence of the "And now? How about now?" line, which is all about pushing the envelop.

Also, I find it perfectly acceptable that you have the Ancients of the Faith disapprove of the Dogs actions, but you should be sure that your players understand that where any character, including their own, disagrees with the players' collective decisions, then that NPC is wrong, whether they be a kid with stewardship over his puppy and nothing else, or the most revered of the Ancients, or even the entire Faith..

Personally, I feel it would be an intense and probably enjoyable campaign arc that the Dogs make increasingly more unusual judgements, the Ancients send Dogs to correct them, and the end result has the Dogs declaring the entire structure of the Faith to be corrupt.. Whether the players decide that their Dogs are morally right or wrong, and whether or not the Dogs survive to build a new Faith from the ashes of the old are all details that would have to be determined in play, and would be very entertaining to see.

Any time where you feel that you're allowing your personal judgements to affect play, look through the book, and think back through established play; Does what you want to do fall in line with the established norms of the Faith? In that case, you're totally justified. Just be prepared to be wrong within the context of your particular campaign, and make sure that your play and goals are not to shape the direction of play, but to give detail and definition to how the players shape the direction of play.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2005, 07:11:00 PM »

Yeah, what Wolfen said.  Or, to paraphrase in short:  If the Ancients disagree with something a player Dog does (like killing them while shouting heresies), one must wonder, "What great failing of the Faith has caused the Ancients to defy the will of the King of Life?"
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GB Steve
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2005, 12:02:59 AM »

Steve, would you agree that their is a fine line between showing consequences and passing judgement? That is what I am concerned about. In your first example, saying the man kicks his wife in the belly is, in my mind, very close to saying that the second Dog was wrong to stop the first Dog. Not the same, but I'm trying to figure out where that line is and how not to cross it. I'm especially concerned about authority figures, since it seems like they have the same problems as God, on a smaller scale.
I think you've got to understand that their would have still been consequences even if they had stopped the man. Perhaps he would have been so incensed as to draw his gun on a dog leading to his death, or maybe he would have accused his wife of witchcraft and being possessed by demons, or maybe the wife would have attacked the dogs given her love for her husband because she felt she deserved to be punished.

For me it's not about being an authority figure, it's about agressive framing of situations that force the Dogs to make some kind of moral judgement, and then seeing what effect that has on the situation.
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2005, 05:13:45 AM »

Ctrail, welcome! I'm glad you're here. It's Colin, right?

Tack 1: When you GM Dogs, you're not the judge, you're the prosecutor. The players are, for their own individual characters, judge, jury and executioner.

As GM, you should prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, but leave the judging to the judge.

Tack 2: There is no God.

When you play Dogs in the Vineyard, you're playing in a fictional world in which God doesn't exist.

Thus, God can't judge the PCs. NPCs can - absolutely. NPCs can do whatever they want. The Ancients and Prophets can. Local stewards can. False prophets can. The law of the Territorial Authority can. Furthermore, the PCs' actions and judgements have consequences in the fictional lives of everysinglebody around them, and sometimes those consequences will come back on the Dogs but hard.

When that kind of thing happens, your role as GM is clear: set the stakes, stat the NPCs from your proto-NPCs, roll the dice, play the conflicts out to their ends. Same as always.

Now, in your Dogs game, God might exist, that's okay too. But as GM you're obligated to act as though He did not.

Tack 3: What the game text specifically says is that each Dog's conscience is up to the player and the player alone. The only thing you really truly aren't allowed to say - or assume, or imply, or suppose, or enact, or even hint at - is "you feel guilty about that."

Do any of those work for you?

-Vincent
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ctrail
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Posts: 19


« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2005, 12:08:59 PM »

Hi Vincent. Yes, this is Collin (two l's). I'm really enjoying your game, by the way, and I appreciate the fact that you take the time to reply on this forum.

Thanks for the replies again, everyone. I think I understand what you are saying a lot better this time.

One thing I was curious about was whether or not the Dogs could be wrong, if all of the players agreed that they were. The consensus seems to be that the players are always correct. Although this usually means that the Dogs are always right, it doesn't have to. I might still want to impress upon the players that the default assumption is that they are correct and are doing God's will, although they are free to deviate from this assumption if they think it would make a better game. The idea that the players collectively are God makes a lot of sense to me, and might be a good way to explain it.

I'm also afraid that if I the NPCs in positions of authority pass judgement on the characters, the players will assume that they are correct. Likewise, I'm afraid that showing consequences of actions which make the players question their rightness, may make them think I am telling them it is wrong. But I feel like if I don't play the authorities as I feel they would act, or don't show negative consequences, it will hurt the game. Especially since it is emphasized that I should aggressively push conflicts which will call the judgements into question- I'm thinking of the "and now?" passage.
It seems that the best solution is to emphasize to them that the players are always right, and that the authorities are only correct in their judgements if the players agree with them. Furthermore, that by default the authorities are wrong and the Dogs are right.

Vincent, I found what you said about the difference between being a judge and a prosecutor useful in this regard. That gives me a sense of how to aggressively call their judgements into question, without actually judging them, which is part of what I'm trying to figure out.

Two things I'm still not solid on.
1. If the Dogs are always right, except for the rare occasion when a player decides his Dogs have fallen, and people who judge them are always wrong, what does it mean to say that the Stewards at the Dogs Temple have Stewardship over them?
2. How do you resolve it when the players disagree about what is right or wrong? I know their are conflicts about what happens, and that this will imply things about ethics, but could that stakes actual be "is it wrong to kill this person"?
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lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2005, 12:40:49 PM »

Collin, very cool! I'm glad to hear you're liking it.

Quote
1. If the Dogs are always right, except for the rare occasion when a player decides his Dogs have fallen, and people who judge them are always wrong, what does it mean to say that the Stewards at the Dogs Temple have Stewardship over them?

Well ... all it means is that the Dogs have to answer to them and they have to answer for the Dogs to the Prophets and Ancients.

If old Brother Bull, a steward at Dogs' temple, comes to you and says, "boy, God tells me you're doin' wrong," what do you do? You set stakes, roll dice, take fallout. Maybe you lose the conflict and fall on your knees and repent! That's fine.

The only limit to how it can go is, only the player can decide the character's conscience.

Quote
2. How do you resolve it when the players disagree about what is right or wrong? I know their are conflicts about what happens, and that this will imply things about ethics, but could that stakes actual be "is it wrong to kill this person"?

"Is it wrong" or "is it right" or "is it God's will" are never at stake - how could they be? Something's wrong or right or God's will all by its own nature, the dice can't sway that.

"Do I convince him it's wrong," now there's a conflict to play out.

-Vincent
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ctrail
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« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2005, 12:48:08 PM »

I'm not sure I see that saying that a character falls to his knees and repents is different from saying the state of their conscience. I guess they could say they didn't mean it, but it certainly seems like I'm having an influence upon their freedom to decide their conscience if the stakes can be "do you repent" or "do you confess". I can see that they aren't technically the same, but I'm not sure that the difference matters, if they keep losing conflicts that make them act as if they were guilty.
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lumpley
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2005, 12:57:12 PM »

I'm not sure I see that saying that a character falls to his knees and repents is different from saying the state of their conscience. I guess they could say they didn't mean it, but it certainly seems like I'm having an influence upon their freedom to decide their conscience if the stakes can be "do you repent" or "do you confess". I can see that they aren't technically the same, but I'm not sure that the difference matters, if they keep losing conflicts that make them act as if they were guilty.
"Not technically the same," in matters of conscience, makes all the difference.

If you're really worried about it, try it. Make sure that your players know the rules and can see that you aren't cheating, and then go house. You'll see.

-Vincent
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ctrail
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« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2005, 01:06:21 PM »

Was "go house" a typo, or just a phrase I'm not familiar with?

You know what I think is much of my motivation is asking this?
I feel like I'm going to be able to run the best possible game if I'm free to give the players heartwrenching decisions, and show consequences which make it difficult to be happy with any judgement. I'd really like to be able to use my imagination to come up with the most difficult moral questions possible.
But I do know that the game imposes boundaries on what exactly I am free to do. So I want to know very clearly what those boundaries are, because then I can go nuts within those boundaries.
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