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Author Topic: Developing Ceremonies in Alternate Settings  (Read 16427 times)
TickTock Man
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« on: September 13, 2005, 05:19:28 PM »

Greetings!

I am pretty new to DitV though I have played a little bit in the Dogs setting, and in a Lovecraftian setting I am working on.  I have a few questions regarding developing new ceremonies for an alternate world.  Does anyone have any guidance to offer on this?  Any lessons learned from experience?

I want the ceremonies to have a real impact in the feel of the game.  Any help is appreciated!

Thank you,

Angelo 
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2005, 06:45:16 AM »

What's the setting like?

-Vincent
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TickTock Man
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2005, 04:44:38 PM »

I thought I would try a setting that is based in the world of Lovecraft.  I am very familiar with it, and I am comfortable with it, so it makes it easier to GM on the fly while I am still getting accustomed to the rules.  The PCs would be part of a secret order that combats otherwordly horrors and their affects on the people in the world who use the Elder Sign as a badge of authority.  I thought it would be safer starting with something like this before tackling a world like that of Tribe 8.

I wonder if it poses a difficulty that the order is secret, rather than public.  Perhaps public figures of enforcement in the 1920's would be more appropriate to the mechanics of the game.  The Dogs are recognized authorities after all.

Thanks!

Angelo
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Blankshield
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2005, 05:12:35 PM »

Doing a Dogs varient as a secret society would be... tricky.  I think it can be done, though.

What you need to do to make it work is make sure that every single person you put in a situation has something they want from the Dogs, that not all of those wants can be met, and that the Dogs have the authority to pick one above the other in a fashion everyone involved acknowledges. 

Your NPC's need to be willing and able to spill to the Dogs, and willing to accept the authority of the Dogs without necessarily accepting what they do with that authority.

So if your secret investigators roll into town and start asking questions, your NPC's can't be all dodgy.  They have to be like, "Oh!  You're here to help me!  Mr. Tweedles across town has been summoning demons and you need to stop him!" and then if they don't, get all over them saying "Stop him!  He's a bad man, it's your job!" while Mr. Tweedles is saying "The demons are the only thing holding the cancer at bay in my wife, if I stop, she'll die!" 

All of your NPC's need to be sure the answer rests with the Dogs, and making the decision theirs, and willing to pull hard for the answer they want.

Lovecraftian fiction and gaming is often about the mystery and investigation stuff, and if you're trying to mix "find the clue" with Dogs, it's going to be a hard, hard slog to make it work well. 

James
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I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

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TickTock Man
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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2005, 08:29:40 PM »

I did have some misgvings about the setting and how it would work.  The setting itself is so great, it seemed a waste not to try, and there is a lot of talk about "Delta Green in the Vineyard", so it may not be a lost cause.  But maybe that is why standard Dogs, or maybe a Dogs Tribe 8 game would work more smoothly.  There is an established and accepted authority in those games.  It does not have to be religious, as Vincent's suggestion of Dogs "mafia" game implies, but an open authority seems to be advantageous to a good game.  And maybe the reason DG seems to work and regular CoC might not is becuase the federal government is a recognized authority, and the skulking occult investigator is not!

All the same though, the real question for me is the thought processes behind developing Ceremonies, and what makes a good Ceremony.  They strike me as a way to depict the more supernatural elements, and I think they have a lot to do with shaping and coloring the world of the PCs, and the characters themselves, so I want to do a quality job developing them.  If there is a good thought process I can develop, I think I could apply that to whatever settings might arise. 
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cdr
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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2005, 08:49:52 PM »

How about using Freemasons ("Is there no help for the widow's son")?  Or G-Men, if they exist at that point?  Or both, G-Men who use their FBI authority as a cover to do the Lodge's work protecting from Cthulhoid horror?  You've got your trowel and a badge, and you're here to help.

Or US Deputy Marshals, sworn "To carry out all lawful precepts issued under the authority of the
United States."
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2005, 06:17:38 AM »

Hey, the social authority of the Dogs is a great topic, so somebody start a new thread.

Angelo, I want to talk about ceremonies, but I'm a bit at a loss. Maybe I'll just tell you how I created what's in the book.

I was like, okay, I need about 10 ceremonial things people do. Let's see, here are some things that real Mormon folk magicians do - I'll use them, I'll fictionalize some of them to fit the fictionalized setting. So this one became anointing with sacred earth, this one became making the sign of the tree, this one became calling upon the authority of the ancients. Calling by name remained itself, and so did laying on hands, three in authority, singing praise, and reciting scripture. Are there others? I forget.

So then I was like, okay, I need to assign them their fallout dice. I looked at each one, with two things in mind: How significant do my Mormon folk magician people consider this act? And how intimate does this act require you to be with your subject? Thus anointing with sacred earth and calling by name are the big guns.

I'm not sure how much help that'll be, working out ceremony for your Lovecraft game. Maybe some?

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2005, 07:27:34 AM »

My superquickie thoughts:

1: Play the game as written. Play it two or three games in a row. See what's important in it. Then modify. Cuz otherwise, you'll wind up eliminating or changing core things and won't know why the game is more suck than everyone else said.
2: In Hellboy, the B.P.R.D. is a non-secret organization that combats supernatural horror. Everyone just knows that it's there, and Hellboy's a household name. They get missions by people calling them and saying "There's a ghost asking for marmelade! Please help!"
3: There's plenty of room for Cthulhoid horror in Dogs-as-written.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
TickTock Man
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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2005, 10:03:38 AM »

I have played the game once as written, and I will play more before I go monkeying with settings.  Good advice.

As for ceremonies, it seems they are as simple to create as I thought.  Vincent, that is a great help!  They appear to be just a mechanical codification of the supernatural elements in the game.  So I might have a ceremony like "Banish with Elder Sign", or just "Elder Sign", and apply the appropriate fallout dice. 

The trick will be coming up with ceremonies that are appropriate to the setting, with a good gauge of fallout impact.  I think I can do that, with a little experimentation.

Beyond that, I think ceremonies are fascinating.  They are a streamlined way to add a lot to the game in terms of color and feel.  What are some innovative uses of ceremony that you have seen Dogs games?
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2005, 07:54:41 PM »

I had a Watchdog who shot bullets baked of Sacred Earth so's to banish th' demons right quick.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
DamienNeil
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2005, 12:22:26 AM »

So then I was like, okay, I need to assign them their fallout dice. I looked at each one, with two things in mind: How significant do my Mormon folk magician people consider this act? And how intimate does this act require you to be with your subject? Thus anointing with sacred earth and calling by name are the big guns.

I just realized where some of my confusion about ceremony comes from.  Ceremony is the only situation where fallout varies from raise to raise without escalation of some form.

Usually, it's simple: non-physical d4s, escalate to physical and d6s, pull out a weapon (not necessarily an escalation, but you roll the weapon's dice) for d8s, escalate to gunfighting and d10s.

Ceremony jumps all over: Three in Authority tell the demon to begone for d8s.  One then recites from the Book of Life, d4s.  Another makes the Sign of the Tree, d6s.  The third invokes the Ancients, d4s.  Unless you just keep repeating the same ceremony over and over ("I make the Sign of the Tree.  Again.  Once more.  This time for sure!"), you're going to keep going back to the Ceremonial Fallout table.

When I ran an exorcism in my last game, I think my players pulled in every type of ceremony possible.  The fallout dice they were inflicting just kept bouncing all over.  In contrast, the demon escalated to a knifefight early in and stayed at d8s for the rest of the conflict.

I think it might make more sense if the type of ceremony wasn't as likely to shift over the course of the fight.  Perhaps:

- Ad-hoc ceremonies: d4s.
- Ceremony performed with deliberation: d6s.
- Ceremony performed on an immobile subject: d8s.
- Three In Authority (any ceremony with three actors): Plus one die size, max of d8s.

So seeing a demon in Sister Chastity's eyes and immediately invoking the Ancients and demanding that it leave only gives you d4s.  Go home, pray to the King of Life for a bit, clear your mind, and come back to face her with the light of God burning in your eyes, now you get d6s.  Set up some candles and prepare a ritual space (ropes may be required if the demon isn't cooperating), d8s.  And any time you've got two friends along, you can kick up the fallout dice a notch.
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lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2005, 05:45:26 AM »

I just realized where some of my confusion about ceremony comes from.  Ceremony is the only situation where fallout varies from raise to raise without escalation of some form.

Usually, it's simple: non-physical d4s, escalate to physical and d6s, pull out a weapon (not necessarily an escalation, but you roll the weapon's dice) for d8s, escalate to gunfighting and d10s.

Well, no, not really.

The fallout dice you inflict always depend on the exact specifics of this very raise. If we're in the middle of a gunfight and you raise me "I shoot the gun out of your hand" and I take the blow, I take d6 fallout. Fallout and escalation aren't locked together quite the way you seem to think.

So the elements of ceremony are like weapons, in fallout terms. Think of calling by name as saying something to someone, making the sign of the tree as grabbing 'em by the shoulders, and anointing with sacred earth as stabbing them.

edit: Oh and ha! look at that. Calling by name isn't a big gun.

As far as repetitive ceremonies go, here's some book text:
Quote
Your character can perform an entire ceremony, including many ceremonial elements, as a single See or Raise, or each See and Raise can be a single element of ceremony. Choose whichever better serves the pace of the conflict.

-Vincent
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DamienNeil
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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2005, 03:00:16 PM »

The fallout dice you inflict always depend on the exact specifics of this very raise. If we're in the middle of a gunfight and you raise me "I shoot the gun out of your hand" and I take the blow, I take d6 fallout. Fallout and escalation aren't locked together quite the way you seem to think.

I'm aware of that.  However, there's a natural progression to most fights.  The overall trend of the fallout dice matches this progression.  When the conflict is words only, d4s.  By the time the guns come out, it's d10s and will mostly stay there.  The shift from mild 4d fallout to potentially fatal d10s is a natural result of the process of escalation.

There's another tie between fallout dice and escalation: You can't move into gunfighting without someone potentially receiving d10 fallout.  You can escalate to guns and immediately back down to talking and d4 fallout, but that one gunshot is a necessity.

Or, the other way, if someone starts shooting at you, you can't escalate to talking without making at least one raise at only d4 fallout.

One of the core elements of Dogs is the tension of escalation: How far are you willing to push?  How much fallout are you willing to risk taking?  How much are you willing to risk dealing?  Will you take a chance on killing the person you're interrogating?

Ceremony seems to me to lack this tension.  You can always deal just as much fallout as you want.  (Short of d10s--and if you're trying to deal fatal d10s, you didn't want ceremony anyway; guns will work just fine on the physical bodies that take the fallout.)

Basically, what I'm saying is that the mechanical justifications for ceremony seem weak compared to every other element of conflict.  There are too many rules surrounding ceremony for it to be purely flavor, and too few for it to direct the nature of play the way the talking/physical/weapons/guns chain of fallout does.
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Ignotus
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Posts: 17


« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2005, 01:03:30 PM »

Interesting thread.  I really like the idea of using DitV for Delta Green, though it seems difficult to pull off.  I think the big difference between Cthulhu and DitV is that for the Dogs, ceremonies (which are fundamentally supernatural) are commonplace, while in Cthulhu, magic is rare, obscure, and dangerous.  Here's my attempt at cooking up a few ceremonies for a lovecraftian DitV setting.  What do people think?

-   Elder Sign.  100 billion years ago, things not quite like starfish ruled the cold parts of the world, and built great cities beneath the ice.  They drew their power from their understanding of the universe, and bowed to no gods.  Who is truly more like us?  These long-vanished crinoid hulks or a human sorcerer with madness in his eyes and a soul long lost to the Outer Gods?  The Elder Sign is known in two forms: a stylized fern with all sharp angles, and a curved pentagram drawn around an eye.  Both are products of the Elder Things’ true knowledge of the nature of reality, something that man always strives for yet cannot achieve without surrendering that which makes him human.  The Elder Sign wards against the servants of the Mythos and binds them for as long as the physical sign endures.  Fallout: d6

-   Hymn of Banishing.  Countless magicians, human and inhuman, have recorded simple spells to drive away extraplanar beings that defile our world.  When you chant a hymn of banishing, such beings must fight to maintain their presence in our dimension.  Fallout: d6 base.  If the hymn comes from a particularly powerful tome, such as the Necronomicon or Liber Ivonis, fallout is d8.  If you know the creature’s identity, and have a specific banishing, fallout is d8.  If you know the creature’s identity and have a specific spell from a particularly powerful tome, fallout is d10.

-   Calling by name.  Knowing a being’s true name gives you power.  Against a person ensnared by the Mythos, a person’s name can be used to try and help whatever humanity remains within them fight back.  Against a Mythos creature, the true name empowers magic used against it, and strikes fear into its heart.  Fallout: d4

-     Invoke the Elder Gods.  The elder gods do not love humanity; they merely feel an interest in it similar to that of a human watching an ant farm.  Still, many of them are implacable foes of the great old ones for reasons unfathomable to us.  A desparate or foolhardy investigator may invoke the names of the Elder Gods to drive creatures of the Mythos before him.  Those who call on the Elder Gods too often, however, may find themselves the object of terrible interest.  Fallout: d4.  When an investigator invokes an Elder God in a conflict and takes fallout, part of that fallout must be a new trait or relationship that represents the interest taken by the Elder God in the character.  If this happens again, he is obliged to raise the relationship/trait’s die type by one.  Each time he raises the relationship/trait, the fallout die type caused by using this ceremony is also raised by one.  Once the relationship/trait becomes a d8, the servants of the Elder God begin to seek out the investigator – perhaps shapeshifting sorcerer-priests in the service of Bast; mesmerists or somnambulists in the service of Hypnos, or nightgaunts doing the dark bidding of Nodens.  When the trait/relationship reaches d10, the servants of the elder god offer a choice: join their cult, or die.

-   Make the Voorish Sign.  A complex gesture with the hands and a few words, the Voorish Sign is a gesture of mystical potency.  Fallout: d4

-   Crux Ansata.  This ceremony requires a specially prepared bronze Ankh.  The ankh is held forth and special words are chanted.  Fallout: d8.   

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TickTock Man
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2005, 01:00:55 PM »

Hi Ignotus!

That is hardcore, nicely done.  Consider it appropriated.  Thanks for the good work!

-Angelo
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