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Medical attention, GM throws the conflict

Started by John Harper, September 07, 2005, 04:06:22 AM

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John Harper

So, tonight we finished up the second session of our Dogs game. Something came up that isn't mentioned in the rules.

I'm running the game. After a very nasty conflict against a Sorcerer, I have two dogs with 16+ Fallout totals. I roll my 4d10 demonic influence plus the 7d10 for the first Dog's Fallout and I roll great. The Dog rolls Body plus the healer's dice, and gets a really crappy result. Looks like the Dog is doomed.

Except... I don't want the Dog to die. Sure, I was playing my NPC to the hilt, and he tried like hell to kill 'im. But now, this is just me sitting here with this great roll, and if I play my dice right, there's no way for the Dog to beat me. And I don't want to kill him. So I play my dice poorly. I take a blow I don't have to and eat up a bunch of low dice, and then raise with a total I know he can reverse. And whaddya know? I lose. The Dog doesn't die.

The player was a little annoyed when I did this. He was like, "I don't know... seems kind of cheap that I live because you played your dice badly." So I told him he could just give and die if that's what he wanted, but he didn't take that option. I could have given, too, I suppose, but I wanted to give the healer a little fallout for his trouble.

So... my question is: is this just wrong? Is this by design? The game tells me to play my NPCs to the hilt. Which I do. But then, when it comes to the "do you die?" conflict, it's just me, the GM, in the conflict. I'm not "playing" anyone. And me, John, didn't want to see this Dog die tonight. So, I threw the conflict.

What do you think? Acceptable behavior for a Dogs GM, or should I always go for the kill to keep the sting in the Fallout system? And what about just giving? Am I allowed to give in that conflict? Seems that way to me. And I like it this way. But I'm curious to hear what Vincent and others have to say.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!

Kerstin Schmidt

Quote from: John Harper on September 07, 2005, 04:06:22 AMSure, I was playing my NPC to the hilt, and he tried like hell to kill 'im.

I'm nowhere near an expert on Dogs, but my impression (from several readings and from play reports, I haven't played yet) is that the rewards a player gets for losing a character and making a new one are in the game for a reason - unlike lots of other games, dice-inflicted character death is a part of the game by design.

On a more general note, why did you think that it was your prerogative to decide that the doomed PC should live? If anyone makes that sort of decision about a PC, shouldn't it be the player rather than the GM?  I can feel your pain on seeing a cool character fall to a couple of die rolls, but it doesn't look like your turf to me.


GB Steve

Quote from: John Harper on September 07, 2005, 04:06:22 AMThe player was a little annoyed when I did this. He was like, "I don't know... seems kind of cheap that I live because you played your dice badly." So I told him he could just give and die if that's what he wanted, but he didn't take that option. I could have given, too, I suppose, but I wanted to give the healer a little fallout for his trouble.
It's a tough call. There's no requirement for the GM to kill players nor necessarily to win any conflict. Escalation's called for but not victory.

I think that if you're not going to kill a Dog when you plainly can, that the conflict needs to reflect this. More than just healing the Dog, it need to give him or her a reason to live. Is it permissible for the GM to say that the "King of Life thinks your job ain't done"? I don't know.

On the other hand, the Dying Dog didn't have the option to give because the conflict is the healers, although I can see that he could always ask. I've only seen one healer give and that was last week. I rolled a whole bunch of 9's and 7's so he saw that the injury was too much and didn't even see my first raise. A bit of a sad end. I guess I could have drawn him in with a low raise at the start, to make the conflict more interesting but it seemed fitting at the end of a one-shot to have a death.

So, in my meandering way, I'm saying it probably depends on circumstances. I'd be much less worried about killing a dog in a one-shot, but I wouldn't want one to go at the start of a campaign, or at least not until his death might mean something.

As an aside, I'm also wondering whether the demons could ever help a character to live, if they sense he's doing "What the Demons Want". The way things are written, they always stack up on the side of the injury.


  I could see giving or throwing the conflict if everyone in the group thought it was a really uncool way for the character to die, I guess.  The game takes a lot of power away from what a "traditional" GM would have, but this goes both ways.  It's hard for the GM to arbitrarily railroad a character to hurt them, but also in any way that would help them.  Even if the scene wasn't set up to be the end of a character, there are rules to allow for final dying speeches and the like that can make it a cool enough death.
  Mechanically, Dogs is driven towards conflict and the choices therein.  There's a temptation to escalate in the form of extra dice, but a risk for doing so, in the form of fallout.  This seems to breakdown a bit if the player can think, even in the back of his head "Well, this isn't that big a scene, the GM'll just Give if I get hurt."
  This reminds me of one of the things about setting stakes that always gets me thinking.  Potential stakes include "Does X die?" but I don't think this should ever be used in a fight, at least not against a player.  A stake of "does the sorceror die?" means that the player still has difficult choices.  He obviously wants the stakes quite badly, but if things go wrong, he can give and start a followup conflict of, like, "do I escape?" or something (especially if I save a high die for cutting my losses).  If the initial conflict is "Which of us dies?" or "Does the sorceror die, or does he kill me?" than the choice is removed.  I keep going regardless of fallout, because I die either way.  If I don't necesarily die for giving, I'm much more likely to give, but it also makes it that much cooler when I don't.  That's saying "I know I could get out of here, but what's at stake is too important."  It's more of a choice, and a tough choice, which is what mechanically and thematically Dogs is always pushing for.
  Now, I don't know the specific stakes of this conflict, so unless the character would die for Giving, he must have known what he was doing.  7d10 fallout is a lot.  I think at that point all you can do is point out how much it is, and perhaps remind the player of how high the demonic influence is and its effect on medical rolls.  It's easy in a fast and intense conflict for the GM to go "okay, that's three fallout dice, I'll note them here and we'll get to it at the end of the fight" and then the same again for the next four.  I think it helps to actually set the fallout dice on the table as it's accrued.  Gives a much more tangible sense of where things have escalated to.  Now if it's an intense conflict, the player might be so into it that they keep going regardless, but that's a good thing at that point.  I figure if the player's so intent on victory that he's not concerned with his character's life, the character is probably equally intent on victory regardless of personal cost.  This seems to fit a big gunfight/showdown quite nicely.

I guess, concluding, I'd say that if a player gets 7d10 fallout, and knew they were getting 7d10 fallout (and what that means), then I wouldn't pull any punches.  Again, this is not knowing what the stakes are.  When it comes down to it, the fact that the player was disappointed should be a good indicator.  Sure, he'll accept that you let his character live, but he might feel guilty about making that choice, which is why shouldn't be offered.
-Adam Fox
"I've never been good with words, which is why I'm in such a delicate conundrum."

Eric Provost

My players and I have been over this once or twice and we've discovered something about healing recently.  It's more fun for us when the GM does his very best to kill off the PCs.  Lemmie explain.

When we first started playing I took on the defensive GMing position that I didn't want the responsibility for finishing off a character so I declared that I was going to play Death's side of any of those healing conflicts in a kind of 'robotic' manner.  I had a pattern and I would not deviate from it.  And that worked ok at first.

But then we got bored with it.  And we discussed it.  See that?  We discussed it.  That was the important part I think.  We decided to go with the idea that the GM should do their best to kill off the players when death was on the line.  Suddenly we had twice as much fun.  Not just in the healing conflicts but also in the conflicts that lead up to the healing conflicts.

The lesson we learned was a basic DitV lesson:  No matter how mean & nasty the GM is, the death of the PCs is still in the hands of the player.  If you don't want to risk those d10s of Fallout from being shot at then you really need to consider if these Stakes are really worth the death of your character.  If they're not then you'll avoid the damage.  You can fold anytime you like.

It could also be argued that a GM who pulls their punches when a character's life is on the line is deprotagonizing the player.  After all, it was the player's choice to make the statement that those stakes were worth their character's life.



Ron Edwards


In case anyone is missing the key concept of what Eric, Vincent, John, and Steve are saying ...

If you don't want X to happen, then don't define the stakes with X as one of the outcomes.

It's very easy ... but it flies in the face of in-game-cause thinking, which says, "Well, if the Dog is bleeding and dying, and the healer's trying to heal him, doesn't failure equal the risk of death?"

Take that thinking and shoot it in the back of the neck. Wait until it stops twitching, then shoot it again.



I do my damnedest to kill the Dog.

Lately, when the medic is elbow deep in blood and guts, trying to save 'em, I'll have the Angel of Death show up to take them.  The medicine rolls end up being a debate between the character and the Angel of Death.

It always ends the same with the Angel tipping his black hat, saying, "See you soon, Watchdog."

John Harper

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

In this particular case, with this particular Dog, I had a reason to throw the conflict. But as a practice as a Dogs GM, I'm not going to be fickle about death again. The stakes were "you get medical aid, or you die." It was my duty to abide by those stakes, try hard to win them, or set new ones.

And in this case, I should have just given and called a follow-up conflict that was better suited to the situation for this Dog. Death wasn't the issue. It was damnation. The right stakes would have made this last conflict sizzle like the rest.

Love the bit about the Angel, Judd. I have to use that.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!

Eric Provost

I'd like to second the coolness of your angel of death, Judd.  Consider it multi-stolen.



This reminds me of something which came up for us the other night: The Dogs have just finished casting the demon out of a sorcerer.  Two Dogs are still standing, one Dog and the sorcerer are injured and in need of aid.  At this point, should I be adding demonic influence dice into the medical attention conflicts?  I decided not to, on the grounds that they'd just kicked the demon out of town, but that did make the conflicts pretty trivial for them.

Can two Dogs join forces in giving someone medical aid?  The rules seem to imply that it's always one healer and one patient, but aren't really explicit on that.


Quote from: DamienNeil on September 07, 2005, 03:56:53 PM
Can two Dogs join forces in giving someone medical aid?  The rules seem to imply that it's always one healer and one patient, but aren't really explicit on that.

I always figured laying on hands + 3 in Authority was the perfect way for the Dogs to call back the spirits of their injured brethren before serving the King in the next life.



I suspected that this was the case.  But then again, 3 dead dogs and a victorious Sorceror would have an inauspicious end for our first Dogs session.

Quick question:  What dice does the Healer take for fallout?



d4 fallout under normal circumstances for the healer, I'm pretty certain.  And not much in the way of opportunities to escalate out of non-physical combat.  Although if you're playing the healing as a battle between the healer and evil spirits, an escalation to the physical with associated increase in fallout might be right on.

"The stairs seem endless.  From behind you, absolute silence.  There is nobody there.  Raise 6 plus 4."

"Damn.  I can't see that.  I give."

"You've got 4d10 fallout.  Roll it."

"Aw, shit.  Two tens. ...  After unmeasurable time, there is light above.  And, on the last step, just before I step through the door and into safety, I look back."


But once you make a battle with evil spirits, you may as well start invoking ceremony to drive out the demon taint that is coursing through the dieing mans veins (especially if he took these wounds fighting a Sorcerer.)