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Author Topic: [DitV] First Time Dogs, First Time Dogs GM  (Read 12542 times)
Wade L
Member

Posts: 22


« on: September 18, 2005, 02:46:53 PM »

So, I've got my copy of Dogs now.  And I'm ready to give it a run through with an assortment of folks I game with on a regular basis - I sent out an e-mail to about 15 gamers, and said the first four I heard back from I'd try this new game out with.  Looks like I might have enough interest to try two sessions of it with different groups, but we'll see.

My very first game of Dogs is scheduled for this upcoming Tuesday.  I'm planning on running through it as was recommended for a con demo game - run through character creation, and then tackle Tower Creek Branch.  Hopefully that'll give people a fair feeling for the game.

A run down of the people I'll be running it for, and a bit about them as roleplayers:

A is a longtime gamer.  He usually GMs far more than he plays.  Generally very concerned with "the story" and a good plot, although when he GMs this usually means *his* story.  A bit of a ham, but generally very enthusiastic about any games he's in(if he looses enthusiasm, he'll stop playing which, IMHO, is a good thing).  His favorite systems are Palladium and Shadowrun - not necessarily because he thinks they are good systems, but because he's been running them since the 1980's, and thinks learning to GM a new system is too much of a new investment when he's already beaten those systems into shape with house rules.  He seems willing to try new stuff, though, just so long as he isn't GMing it.

O is also a longtime gamer who usually GMs far more than he plays.  Also big on "the story", although he'll generally let players do whatever they want when he's GMing, and he just throws in bizarre and wacky stuff from time to time.  When playing, he tends to play extreme characters with one or two focal obsessions(that he'll do a lot of research on).  Almost exclusively plays Call of Cthulhu or World of Darkness(especially Vampire and Demon) stuff now, although he's quite open to trying new games.

L is younger than A or O, but he works in a game store so his game-fu is strong.  Next to me, he's had more exposure to many different systems than anyone in the group - and if you count in minis, CCGs, etc, he completely trumps me.  He is the only person in the group who actively plays mini or card games.  Often plays crazy acrobatic martial artists, and his favorite games are probably Legend of the Five Rings and Feng Shui.

H is both the youngest person in the group by a five year margin(she's 22), and by far the most casual gamer.  Still, when she does game, she is *intense* about it.  Once she's in a character's head space, it's hard to knock her out of it.  For this reason, she's sometimes said that roleplaying is a potentially dangerous hobby, because of the potential for emotional or mental trauma from intense experiences therin.  Although she's only played it a couple of times, Mage: the Ascension is probably the game she talks about the most now.

An note that might influence things:  Every single one of these people I met through Vampire LARPs.  Both A and L have storytold VLARPs with me, and I met both O and H because I recruited them into the game I'm currently storytelling.  Although I've listed off their favorite tabletop games, they've also all got a lot of Vampire LARP experience, and of all of them H is the only one not playing in my current Live Action chronicle.  All of them have also been told that Dogs might break some of what they usually define as "how" roleplaying games are played, and they've all agreed to set aside personal style as much as they can to try and play Dogs on its own terms, as it were.

Why do I reveal all this?  First, to provide context for my next post - which will probably be this Wednesday - doing a post mortem on how our first try at playing Dogs went.  And secondly...if anyone has any advice on running dogs with a bunch of new players - or particular advice about problems you might see with this particular group.  I'd really like for them to think Dogs is as cool as I do!  So any advice on "selling" the game is welcome.

Hope I'm not breaking any forum rules by posting this in advance of running the game...and hope I'm not being rude by posting all this and asking for advice.  I do promise to follow up on any comments people have when I write my post about how things went.  Thanks!
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2005, 06:15:42 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, dude!

My principal advice is to play the game as written, expecially if your instincts tell you not to.  Make a town following the steps in the book, or borrow one from somebody else that went through all the steps.  Take lots of time with initiations, because they will both introduce the system beautifully and drive subsequent play.  Listen to your players and note where they set the supernatural dial.  Make sure you and your players are crystal clear on the player/GM split in responsibilities.  Say yes, or roll dice. 

Good luck and I look forward to an Actual Play post.

--Jason
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Bill Cook
Member

Posts: 501


« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2005, 07:13:56 PM »

Argue for Givable conflicts. It's a play-loving way to proceed. Get confirmation on named participants in a conflict, regardless of scene presence. Get clear on the following definitions: Best Roll (p. 35) and Fallout Sum (p. 39).

Understand that Escalation doesn't add Stat dice more than once and that the arenas of conflict (an argument, a fist fight, a shootout, a chase) have no fixed sequence. For multiple opponents, understand that the Sees invoked by a Raise are not the affected characters' Goes. (i.e. Their reaction [the See] doesn't eat up their action [the Go].)

Embrace Something's Wrong and the DitV reality that Pride subplants all other metaphysical roots. The town isn't going to hell because of the murder and lawlessness; it's because Brother Zacchariah's son is dating a woman from Back East. And until he quits her, no amount of treating the symptoms (e.g. trying the murderer in court, establishing a curfew, levying fines, prohibiting the sale of alcohol, etc.) is going to cure anything.

Understand that the procedure for multiple opponents (p. 43) allows any See to affect many; this relieves the impulse to announce a See per target. On the other hand, by being bound to a Group, understand that its members are limited to having a single Go per Round.

And welcome!
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Wade L
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2005, 10:56:52 PM »

  So, we played last Tuesday.  We got through character creation and spent about two hours in the Tower Creek Branch, but certainly didn't get through the town.  Results were mixed but positive, or at least curious, so we've decided to find a time sometime to finish the town and finish the "two-shot".

  I'm going to make two posts here.  The first - this one - will discuss our experiences in character creation, and the second will be made in the next little while describing our experiences in Tower Creek.

  Firstly - the player line-up I spelled out about changed significantly since I posted it.  O and L weren't able to play the night we'd chosen, and we introduced two new players:

  I becomes the youngest player at the table, although she's also 22.  By far the least experienced at traditional RPGs - she started really gaming(WoD tabletop and Vampire LARP) just less than two years ago.  She's by far the most experienced of the group in playing Console and other computer games, and has played for years online(mostly RP-intensive MUSHes).  She's an artist and an animator and a student in her day job.  Don't know if she has a favorite game, but she's been playing in both my Dragonlance D&D campaign and A's Shadowrun campaign, in addition to Vampire LARP.

  R replaces O as the oldest player at the table.  Very experienced gamer, although most of that I think has been with "old school" RPGs.  Also plays in the vampire LARP, my D&D Dragonlance game, and A's Shadowrun.  Seems to prefer noble warriors - paladins and samuri, although criminals who live by their own code are also a favorite, but he's demonstrated fair flexibility.  Favoirte games are likely Legend of the Five Rings(the only game I've seen him GM), and Shadowrun, although he's also been impressed by the Buffy RPG.

  Character creation took far longer than I thought it would.  A arrived a fair bit late, and due to a prior engagement we all knew about, I came in quite a bit into the character creation jam session.

  The players seemed to have a hard time grokking the Faith as anything but a charicature - they've all been used to religious organizations in games being pretty horrid things(A, when I was explaining the setting to him a few nights previous, kept on saying "So, what you're saying is that all of the characters are relgious fanatics?").  I read out large parts of the character background section, and they seemed to take it in, although only A seemed to have any luck with generating ideas for a character at first - and only because he broke the rule about coming to the table with a character concept in mind(it was, incidentally "A dirty old gunslinger/cowpoke ala Clint Eastwood, converted to the Faith late in life").  All of them complained about the setting not having much "meat" for basing a character off of or to establish a firm background in.  I tried to assure them that the best approach might just be to throw things down and let the character develop in play, but I think I ran afoul of the ingrained tradition that "Good roleplayers have a solid background before entering play, otherwise they're shallow powergamers" type of mode of thought.

  Eventually, H decided on playing a Mountain Folk convert to the Faith, and R a (IMHO, rather prideful) Dog who was something of a prodigy, who great things were expected from.

  Picking traits took a long time - two hours, at least.  In particular, A(and, to a degree, R) wasn't comfortable assigning things until he knew "what is average, what is good, what is exceptional" and that type of thing...and even when I explained that traits didn't necessarily translate to character ability, so much as how important they were to the player, it just morphed the quest for understanding into "So how many dice is an important trait?  A focal trait?  A trivial one?"  H kept almost completely silent through most of the character creation process except when asked direct "Whatchya thinking 'bout?" kinda questions, which is how she generally creates characters in my experience.

  A finished his character's basics first, largely on account of having a very focused concept.  So his Accomplishment was the first(and also our first ever, and also our first time trying out the dice system).  His accomplishment was "I hope I learn compassion in my training"(he did) - his character came across a woman who had been abused by her husband, and he succeeded in finding a more subtle way to try and change things instead of just beating down the husband.  The accomplishment was clumsy, to say the least, because we were spending a lot of time just "grokking" the dice system.

  H's Accomplishment was "I hope I learn to read during my training".  She didn't - we decided that, in order to actually pass through initiation, she had to have some literacy, but it still wasn't near enough in the end.  The lazy, uneducated Mountain folk part of her won out over her teacher essentially by out-lasting him.

  R's Accomplishment was "I hope I didn't crumble when my destiny is questioned" (he didn't).  We played out a confrontation between him and one of his teachers who was trying to take his ego down a peg.  Amusingly enough, he ended up accusing his teacher of the sin of pride in taking it upon himself to judge another's destiny, and managed to get the elder dog so infuriated he stormed off.

  I arrived almost two hours in, and so was told "Slap a character together real quick, we wanna play!"  She quickly tossed down some traits - picking on facet of her character and riffing off that.  Much was done almost at random, quick, quick, quick.  We spent more time on her accomplishment - "I hope I proved myself as worthy as my brother to be a dog"(she didn't)...but although her character was made in maybe 1/5th of the time as everyone else's, she seemed to have, by far, the most enthusiasm for her character and was the most gung-ho to play.

  Once character creation was done, we moved on to the Tower Creek Branch...but that'll be next post.  Everyone finished character creation feeling a bit bewildered, I think, and not really sure on the role these characters would take.  A, in particular, felt the need to "ground" the setting, and declared in his mind at least, this was quite firmly in just an alternate version of our Earth, and worked elements of real life locales into his mental image of the setting.  I'll finish by just posting the characters they made, for the curious.  Feel free to point out all the stuff we did horrendously wrong - much of it I've noticed already, but...

Brother William (A's character)
Background: Complicated History
Acuity: 3d6
Body: 5d6
Heart: 2d6
Will: 5d6
Traits: I grew up in the saddle, breaking trails and riding herd, the trail is in my blood(2d6); Gunfighter and sheriffin', Fist n' teeth or hoglegs at high noon, I outgunned the Kid at Tombstone(2d10), Cold-blooded, eyes and nerves of steel...don't cross me, son(4d4); I learned compassion in God's Service(1d6)
Relationships: Brother Obediah brought me into the faith (1d8), I've shot a lot of men who needed to die, and a few who didn't(1d6).
Belongings: Plain and dusty coat like a poncho(1d4), damn fine horse(2d6), Colonel Colt's Finest(2d6+1d4), Long rabbit rifle(1d6+1d4), black hat(1d6)

Sister Patience (H's character)
Background: Complicated History
Acuity: 3d6
Body: 4d6
Heart: 4d6
Will: 4d6
Traits: Survives well on her own(1d10), Am a Dog(1d6), Striking/athletic build(2d4), If I'm going to fight the blood of the sinful or my sin will actually stain my hands(1d10), Can't stand the fact she had to leave family to live the Faith(1d6), Impatient with lack of common sense(2d4), I didn't learn to read during training(1d6)
Relationships: Tribe/family(2d6), Family of Brother Abraham who brought me into the faith(1d8)
Belongings: Well made, mountain colors coat - blue grey, brown, bit of green(1d6), Horse(1d6), Rifle(1d6+1d4), Revolver(1d6+1d4)

Brother Samuel (R's character)
Background: Strong History
Acuity: 3d6
Body: 3d6
Heart: 5d6
Will: 2d6
Traits: A prodigal dog, the favored son(2d10), Uncanny sixth sense for sin(2d8), Calming influence(1d6), All the girls like me whether I'm trying or not(2d8), But not their husbands(1d6), The boy works like a mule, but he don't got the stubborness(1d8), Much is expected from this Dog prodigy(1d10), I didn't crumble when my purpose was questioned(1d6).
Relationships: Befriended mean old Crotchet(1d4), Adelaide is the girlfriend he doesn't know he was(1d6), Mother raised Samuel by herself, widow, former dog(1d8), Sister Temperance(1d6)
Belongings: blue+greens with silver embroidery, dog head from Adelaide(2d6), Revolver(1d6+1d4), Clydesdale(1d8), family heirloom book of life(1d6)

Sister Janey (I's character)
Background: Well Rounded
Acuity: 5d6
Body: 5d6
Heart: 4d6
Will: 3d6
Traits: I am easygoing and unfazed by bad situations(1d8), but I don't like being talked down to(1d4), I have five brothers(1d6), I grew up on a farm and honed my muscles doing honest work(1d8), I am a bad cook(1d6), I am a sucker for romance(2d6), I didn't prove myself better than my brother(1d6)
Relationships: I have a crush on Br. Samuel, but am too shy to tell him(2d6), My brother is a Dog(1d8), I am a Dog(1d6)
Belongings: A colorful wool longcoat with finge, made with love by her mother(2d6), her brother's rifle(1d6), Floppy Hat(1d6)
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2005, 05:28:02 AM »

  Picking traits took a long time - two hours, at least.  In particular, A(and, to a degree, R) wasn't comfortable assigning things until he knew "what is average, what is good, what is exceptional" and that type of thing...and even when I explained that traits didn't necessarily translate to character ability, so much as how important they were to the player, it just morphed the quest for understanding into "So how many dice is an important trait?  A focal trait?  A trivial one?"  H kept almost completely silent through most of the character creation process except when asked direct "Whatchya thinking 'bout?" kinda questions, which is how she generally creates characters in my experience.
That's troubling to me. I've never spent more than, oh, half an hour on traits, usually lots less.

For the future, if someone gets really stuck on "good, average, exceptional," tell 'em that no dice is average, 1d6 is competent, 2d10 is awesome, more dice is "better" than bigger dice (and more bigger dice is best of all), and d4s are disadvantages.

Later they may figure out that you lied to them, but meanwhile they'll have reasonable dice they're happy with.

Quote
  I arrived almost two hours in, and so was told "Slap a character together real quick, we wanna play!"  She quickly tossed down some traits - picking on facet of her character and riffing off that.  Much was done almost at random, quick, quick, quick.  We spent more time on her accomplishment - "I hope I proved myself as worthy as my brother to be a dog"(she didn't)...but although her character was made in maybe 1/5th of the time as everyone else's, she seemed to have, by far, the most enthusiasm for her character and was the most gung-ho to play.

If only everyone had slapped their characters together! That's how it's supposed to go.

Quote
...A, in particular, felt the need to "ground" the setting, and declared in his mind at least, this was quite firmly in just an alternate version of our Earth, and worked elements of real life locales into his mental image of the setting. 

Good! I'm glad he figured out to do that.

Anything I can help you with?

-Vincent
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Wade L
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2005, 11:16:07 AM »

Thanks for the offer of advice Vincent...I'll describe the actual play experiences and overall player feedback here first...and then if you, or anyone else, has any input on how to make our second(and likely last, since this was supposed to be a one-off game) session more successful, it would be much appreciated.  Player reactions weren't negative(or at least not entirely negative), but I still left the table feeling that I hadn't quite showed them Dogs...

So, as previously mentioned, we were going to play through Tower Creek in the book.  We got everyone gathered around the table, and I put on the soundtrack I'd made up for the game - mostly the selections from the recommended selections from the book, with some Tom Waits and some stuff from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.  I knew I'd made a good choice when the first song came up - "When the Man Comes Around" - and the players essentially went "Oh yeah, that's the stuff..."

On my end, at least, that was the highlight. ;)

I'd read over the town stuff a lot, thought about it, assigned names to those NPCs in the town write-up that didn't have any...but I had been putting off thinking about what I was actually going to *do*.  I told myself that I was going to "play the town", and as such I didn't need or desire a script or plot to follow.

This left me feeling rather dumb for the first little while.

"Okay - the players are looking at me, waiting for me to give them something...okay, briefly describe riding up to the town, what it looks like, how its geographically situated..."  So I do that.  Then I narrate them riding into the center of town, people being happy to see them, someone running to go get the Steward to greet them...  Alright, so the Steward greets them...invites them to stay at his home, of course, has his wives prepare supper...  Players are doing that sort of "Okay, we'll just wait until the GM hands us tonight's plot" type of thing...  Okay, I'd think many verteran Dogs players would know better, but these guys are green...  So reveal the town in play.  The Steward starts right in with what he wants - his second wife has yet to bear any children for him, will the Dogs give her a blessing?

The players a like "Yup, sure thing.  Got anything else for us?"  Okay...Steward also brings up that a woman in town recently miscarried.  That's gotta be a sign that something is not right in the state of Denmark, maybe the Dogs can help him find out what?  Yup, okay.  I can tell the players are still waiting for the real plot to hit them.  I don't have a plot, and am not shy about revealing that fact.  So I keep doing what I'm (not) paid to do - reveal the town in play.  All of the dogs except for Brother William decide that until they find something to investigate, they're going to pitch in on chores and such just like anyone else.  Sure, the townsfolk are honoured.  So Sister Janey manages to get both of the Steward's wives alone at various points, and I have them just up and out what they want - the 1st wife spins it that she thinks the 2nd wife is barren because it isn't a true marriage, that the 2nd wife doesn't deserve to be married to the Steward.  The 2nd wife's spin is that the reason she hasn't concieved is because she isn't getting any time or attention from her husband, on account of the 1st wife being jealous.  There, more of the "What do the townsfolk want" is outed.

I tried to push some of those scenes into becoming conflicts, but for the most part there wasn't a lot of point - the Dogs wanted to find out what the wives wanted, and the wives wanted to let the Dogs know.  I probably shouldn't have tried to push those at all - they resulted in "lame duck" conflicts - but part of my desire at this point was simply to get the players rolling dice.

At the same time, Br. William went to talk to Deputy Sheriff Cyrus to see if there are any problems that need cleaning up.  So, fighting all of my GM insticts to keep the big plot secret from the players, I force myself to out Br. Cyrus - he comes clean to Br. William about his marriage to the Steward's first wife, professes his love for her, and asks the Dogs to sanctify the marriage, since he isn't quite sure Wilhelmina is qualified to do such a thing.  Br. William replies with, essentially "Hrm, interesting.  Well, we'll check it out, and if it's a true marriage - and we decide it doesn't violate the Steward's rights - well, then we'll approve it."  No conflict here, I either...  I was going to declare a "Br. Cyrus wants you to voice approval of the marriage" conflict, but Br. William went ahead and did the next best thing anyways.

There was another brief scene where the Dogs talked to the second wife to try and figure out if the 1st wife's claim - that there was no love in the second marriage - was true.  I convinced them to launch a conflict "Does she tell us whether or not she loves the Steward?" - which they won, of course, but didn't tell them too much they couldn't have found out anyways.  Maybe I should have been pushing for *bigger* stakes!

At this point, H had been relatively uninvolved thus far.  So she while she was sitting out front the Steward's house, I had Sister Jemina - the woman who had given birth to the stillborn child - come up to her and demand the Dog name her child.  I decided to get more aggressive on this one, launching a conflict "Does Sister Patience name the stillborn baby?"  This one went alright - I even escalated
to physical, having the woman grab Sister Patience and drag her close, to force her to look at the infant's corpse.  The Dog won handily(as is often expected), but it seemed the most interesting conflict thus far, although still pretty tame.  I had Sister Jemina go on about how the baby wasn't supposed to be dead, that demons had stolen the life from it, and that convinced the Dogs to launch their first follow up conflict "Does Sister Jemina tell us what made her believe demons stole the life from her baby?"  That one went extremely fast - I rolled poorly, and I had a hard time just not having Jemina give anyways(this was clearly a "Say yes" moment, not a "roll the dice" moment but, like I said, we were trying to get a feel for the dice).  I had her make up something about feeling the demons come to her late at night, and her baby's life escape like a black cloud drifting out the window(didn't want to get too hardcore, since the players had expressed zero interest in the supernatural thus far, but the woman was obviously upset so this explaination would fly even in a no-supernatural game).

That was pretty much the game.  We called it there, and although things didn't go perfectly, people still definitely had interest in finishing off the town later(I just got informed we're supposed to play again tonight!).  I also read out some sections of the book at the end, sharing not just the mechanics of Dogs, but the GM advice on how Dogs is intended to be played.  That may have been a mistake.

I'll also share some of the player feedback here:

In general, the players liked the dice mechanic.  They thought it was an interesting change, and the players are not at all adverse to mechanics that are a bit more abstract like Dogs' is.  A, in particular, thought it'd be a very good mechanic to port over to other genres or styles of games - for some reason, everyone stuck on the idea of doing a swashbuckling pirates game with it.  Everyone seemed to think it'd be a great system for cinematic combat, despite the fact nothing like that happened in the game.

As a contrast to the group's thoughts that the system would be good for cinematic combat, there were concerns the system might be disruptive during "roleplay scenes".  I think they are used to it being a hallmark of a bad role player to resort to the mechanics for social interaction("Roleplay, don't Roll Play!!!")...  My personal interpertation of Dogs' mechanics was that they should help drive roleplay actively, not be something where you stop roleplaying while the dice are out.  My players agreed that the mechanic would likely get smoother as we got used to it.  People had a hard time figuring out just how to bring in raises and sees, as in where mechanics intercepted roleplay - not helped by the fact that I insisted(erroneously, I now believe) that raises and sees be narrated seperately.  Also a lot of pauses mid-stream as A tried to explain how he saw the dice strategy for winning conflicts working("No, no...don't do that...then he'll be able to turn the blow!", etc).

There was a general concern that the setting wasn't meaty enough.  Again, this is a group of roleplayers who often come to games with several pages of typed background for their characters before the first session - to do otherwise is to be a lazy or bad roleplayer, right?  They tend to expect that kind of detail not only from fellow players, but from the setting as well.  I explained that Dogs was very much more "Make it up as you go", both for characters and the setting...it was an explaination they accepted, but obviously weren't comfortable with.

People thought the subject matter had the potential to get old and boring very quickly.  They all agreed that sex and infidelity plots aren't interesting - that sex, frankly, isn't very interesting as a plot element.  Strangely, this isn't because they are uncomfortable with it in roleplaying games!  A couple of LARPs where I played a Follower of Set(A vampire all about corrupting other's morals and breaking down boundries) with many of these players would have dispelled that illusion if I had it.  They just didn't think it was interesting.  This may just be because they hadn't really seen the "Hate and murder" part of the town, yet.

They similarily thought the "We come in and judge" motif would get old extremely quickly.  I got flat out told at coffee afterwards that "Making moral judgements isn't interesting except maybe as a brief novelty - I could see playing Dogs be interesting for a session or two, but then you'd have exhausted it."  This was partially linked to the belief cited above about "fleshed out" characters - if you knew your character well enough, there'd be no surprises in any moral choices - you'd just know the character well enough to know what they'd think is right or wrong.  I brought up a little "Well...some moral situations are complex...aren't there situations in real life where you have a hard time making a call for yourself?" and was essentially told that trying to dig at what the /players/ thought was right or wrong as opposed to the characters was, frankly, bad roleplaying.  I said I thought what could make Dogs really interesting would be as an excuse to explore what we, the players, think is right and wrong.  Response: "Yeah, maybe, briefly.  But it also wouldn't be a roleplaying game.  It'd be like a party game like truth or dare, then.  Why bother even having characters in that case?"

A almost took actual offense at the GM advice to the effect of "Don't have a plot in mind".  He was pretty vehment that although it was good to have lots of "player plot", playing without "GM plot" was a sure way to have a really boring game.  Good adventures need villians!  He also wasn't shy at all about the game would have been better if there had been desperados robbing a train, or a masked bandit or something.  Heh...when the original setting was explained to him and how Dogs worked, one of his first remarks was "Yeah, but that's not all we do, right?  I mean, the judging thing is nice color, but the actual adventures are stopping train robberies and bringing bandits to justice, right?"  He understood when I explained to the contrary, but he still didn't think it was a good way to design a game.

The other players weren't nearly as offended at the idea of a game without GM-directed plot...  I seemed to like the idea a great deal, although wasn't too vocal about her interest on account of A's very vocal disdain.  H and R were intrigued, but not sold.  In general, I noticed a very odd trend, pretty much the opposite of my standard roleplaying experiences - the female players were far more involved and interested than the males.

So, what do I actually want advice/help with?

-How do I push this thing towards higher stakes and conflict?  Going the way we have been thus far, I could imagine the rest of the town going "So, you talk to a guy.  He spills.  So, this is your nice and friendly compromise decision?  Okay, everyone accepts it."  Obviously, this won't be what I'm trying for.  But any advice on how to push things to an interesting point is welcome.

-Along similar lines - tips to try and lure players out of "We wait for the GM to give us the plot" habits?

-Any opinions on whether my players are actually just completely uninterested in Dogs-style play?  My gut feeling is that if they could get past their old expectations, they'd love it...but that might just be because I'm so sold on Dogs.  Heh...that might be part of the problem.  I'll admit that over the past month or two I've been going "Blah blah blah Forge blah blah Ron Edwards blah blash Dogs in the Vineyard blah blah narrativism blah..." which has probably to a large degree made them very defensive about how they play already.

  I'll stop this rambling post here.  Apologies for the incoherence and seeming negativity - like I said, players seemed to enjoy themselves, they just aren't sold on the game.  And it's always easier to share and ask for help on negative opinions than on what went well.

Thanks for lending a listening ear!
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2005, 01:01:15 PM »

I tried to push some of those scenes into becoming conflicts, but for the most part there wasn't a lot of point - the Dogs wanted to find out what the wives wanted, and the wives wanted to let the Dogs know.  I probably shouldn't have tried to push those at all - they resulted in "lame duck" conflicts - but part of my desire at this point was simply to get the players rolling dice.

Oh dude, yeah, there's a problem. The wives don't want to tell the Dogs what's wrong. They want the Dogs to fix it! Make the conflict go like this:

You: What's at stake is, does Sister Bethia convince you to make the steward divorce Edie?
Your players: Buh? I wouldn't do that.
You: Show me you've got the dice to back that up. Or is it just big words?

You and I both know they've got the dice to back it up, but be prepared to remind them that touching her shoulder can be an escalation to physical, and reading from the Book of Life gives you its dice, and remind them if they're really losing that they can always assign relationship dice to her. I like to say "you can always assign relationship dice to her. Or, y'know, shoot her."

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At the same time, Br. William went to talk to Deputy Sheriff Cyrus to see if there are any problems that need cleaning up.  So, fighting all of my GM insticts to keep the big plot secret from the players, I force myself to out Br. Cyrus - he comes clean to Br. William about his marriage to the Steward's first wife, professes his love for her, and asks the Dogs to sanctify the marriage, since he isn't quite sure Wilhelmina is qualified to do such a thing.  Br. William replies with, essentially "Hrm, interesting.  Well, we'll check it out, and if it's a true marriage - and we decide it doesn't violate the Steward's rights - well, then we'll approve it."  No conflict here, I either...  I was going to declare a "Br. Cyrus wants you to voice approval of the marriage" conflict, but Br. William went ahead and did the next best thing anyways.

Same deal. What's at stake is, do you promise Br. Cyrus you'll marry him to Edie?

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...I decided to get more aggressive on this one, launching a conflict "Does Sister Patience name the stillborn baby?"  This one went alright -

See what I mean?

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...I convinced them to launch a conflict "Does she tell us whether or not she loves the Steward?"
...their first follow up conflict "Does Sister Jemina tell us what made her believe demons stole the life from her baby?"

Yeah, ouch. Of COURSE they tell. And then they ask you to do something CRAZY, and they really, really mean it.

Okay, here's my advice for the second half. These are not in order; mix and match!

Have somebody open fire on them from behind a blind when they go find Sister Wilhelmina. What's at stake is, do they get up to her house? If they lose, remind them that a followup conflict can have the same stakes again as long as the time, the place, and the participants are different - so "can we sneak up to her house?" is totally valid, and so is "can we find and take out that bastard who shot at us?"

Anyway give her an unspecified number of possessed nephews, aged 12-17, who will attack the Dogs whenever they feel like it. One by one, sometimes in a small group. Don't set "do they kill you?" stakes; set stakes like "do they drive you into the stable" and "do they drive you into the river" and "do they drive you off the bluff." Let the players set the followup stakes (probably to kill or capture, that's fine).

Have her attack them with a kitchen knife the first time she sees them. What's at stake is, does she drive them out of her house? When you put out her big ol' "I'm a sorcerer" dice, tell the players what each die is for. "These four red d8s are for her relationship with the demons. She's going to inflict fallout 1 die higher than usual, because she's possessed."

Have another unborn baby die. The father's beating on their door, the mother's wailing and tearing her face, and they both dreamed last night that Sister Bethia stabbed the mother in the belly with a knitting needle. What's at stake is, do they convince the Dogs to restore the baby to life? (Remind your players that they don't have to play out the conflict, they can just give and say yes, if it looks like they'd rather.) Possible followups: does it work? vs. does the mother throw herself into the river?

When they question Sister Bethia, if your players don't come up with "what's at stake is, does she come clean?" by themselves, then lead them around to it. It has to come out of one of your players' mouths. You're all like, "what's at stake is ... what?" and they're like "does she tell us what the hell?" As soon as they arrive at those stakes, say "awesome, yeah, good stakes. I give. She's innocent. She's all baffled and angry and she doesn't have a clue what's going on."

Have Cyrus have a realization he doesn't want to face, that Sister Wilhelmina's worse than anything. Have him come to the Dogs in a panic, insisting that they go with him RIGHT NOW to marry him to Edie. Who cares what her husband thinks!

If the steward finds out about Edie and Cyrus - which he's gonna do, nobody can keep a damn secret in this town - what's he going to do? Divorce her? Shoot Cyrus? Shoot her? See truly that Bethia's to blame and divorce HER? Choose whichever is in keeping with how you've played him so far and have him come to the Dogs, agonizing over his decision. Whether that becomes a conflict - "does he shoot cyrus?" - or not, doesn't matter. It'll be a scene.

All these things? To the people involved, they're absolutely urgent. To Cyrus, NOTHING the Dogs are doing can be more important than what he needs them to do for him. To Edie, same thing. Bethia, same thing. The Dogs are suiting up to ride in force up to Wilhelmina's house after her nephews have attacked them, and the steward interrupts them in the stable, like, "how long have you known about my wife and that BOY?"

NOW, Wade - maybe two, maybe three of these things can actually happen. Maybe most of them can. Who knows? It depends on what your players do. But if you have them all in mind, you can use whichever of them seem good at the moment.

(For those of you keeping score, those are bangs.)

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I also read out some sections of the book at the end, sharing not just the mechanics of Dogs, but the GM advice on how Dogs is intended to be played.  That may have been a mistake.

Not as far as I'm concerned.

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A almost took actual offense at the GM advice to the effect of "Don't have a plot in mind".  He was pretty vehment that although it was good to have lots of "player plot", playing without "GM plot" was a sure way to have a really boring game.  Good adventures need villians!  He also wasn't shy at all about the game would have been better if there had been desperados robbing a train, or a masked bandit or something.  Heh...when the original setting was explained to him and how Dogs worked, one of his first remarks was "Yeah, but that's not all we do, right?  I mean, the judging thing is nice color, but the actual adventures are stopping train robberies and bringing bandits to justice, right?"  He understood when I explained to the contrary, but he still didn't think it was a good way to design a game.

Give that guy what he wants. Make a town with bandits and a bank and a brothel and some hard working farmers in it, where the pride is a love triangle, the sin is a murder of passion, the false doctrine is a family feud spiralling out of control, and it goes all the way to hate and murder.

Dogs has room for villains in it.

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In general, I noticed a very odd trend, pretty much the opposite of my standard roleplaying experiences - the female players were far more involved and interested than the males.

Forgive me, but duh!

-Vincent
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John Harper
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2005, 01:11:10 PM »

I'm glad the new forum software tells you when someone has posted, because my advice was going to be very redundant next to Vincent's. Of course he's dead on, especially about setting stakes that result in ACTION. People shouldn't just change because of a conflict (though they will), the outcome should also change the overall situation, too.

Also: You have a Cyrus and a Wilhelmina in your Dogs game, and so do we. Weird, huh?
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Wade L
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2005, 10:48:01 AM »

  Well, thanks for the advice and help Vincent.  I do believe it helped, although things still weren't as amazing as I had hoped my first Dogs town would be. ;)  I'll post the actual play rundown of what happened though, and folks can pick it apart.  Apologies in advance for likely butchering your game, Vincent.

  Play started off with the Dogs going to the Steward(Br. Emmanual) and telling him about Br. Cyrus' indiscretions with his wife.  They wanted to see how Br. Emmanuel would react...I had him get mad and despondant...and since the Dogs were pretty much going "This is what's happened...what's your solution, Steward?", Br. Emmanuel went "Okay, I get it.  I've been remiss...you're right, I should have spotted the problem and fixed it before...but I won't shirk my duties any more..." and launched into the conflict "Does Br. Emmanuel shoot Br. Cyrus?"  This conflict confused the players greatly "Br. Cyrus isn't even in the room, he's across town!" they cried.  Did I launch another bad conflict?  I don't know.  I tried explaining that conflicts don't necessarily have to be unified in time and place(was I right in this?).  A in particular complained that it didn't make any sense because he could determine his character's actions only on a case by case basis, not in an overall sense like that(in a way, the players were pushing for *smaller* stakes, not bigger ones - "Does Br. Emmanuel leave the room?"  "Does Br. Emmanuel make it across town to confront Br. Cyrus?" "Does this /one shot/ from Br. Emmanuel's gun hit?").  We played through the conflict anyway, although somewhat confusedly.  With Br. Emmanuel getting one Go for every four the Dogs got(and it being very hard for me to think up Raises Br. Emmanuel could put forward that multiple Dogs couldn't ignore), unsurprisingly they were running him out of dice very quickly.  I didn't think it right to have Br. Emmanuel escalate to physical against the Dogs(if only because, looking at the dice out, escalating to physical probably wouldn't have even got Br. Emmanuel through a full round of Goes), so I had him give.  He settled down and agreed the Dogs should bring Cyrus to him, so things could get worked out.

  Two of the Dogs(Br. William and Sr. Janey) went off to go grab Br. Cyrus to drag him back to work things out with Emmanuel. I say yes - the potential for conflicts between Br. Cyrus and Br. Emmanuel when they're both in the room seemed more interesting than having Br. Cyrus dig in his heels to come along.

  The other two Dogs?  I used one of your ideas, and had someone come running for the Dogs' help with the stillborn child...  Sr. Patience and Br. Samuel go running off...  Distraught husband, wailing mother cradling a dead infant...  Some roleplay follows, and then the mother grabs Sr. Patience and demands she interceed with the King of Life to bring her baby back(starting off with non-fighting physical "Does Sr. Patience try to raise the baby from the dead?").  Br. Samuel, of course, wanted to get in on it too.  Mechanically, this was one of the more interesting conflicts, although the two Dogs still easily won - but Sr. Patience /did/ choose to take some Fallout at one point(the mother had been arguing the baby belongs with her, Sr. Patience told her in no uncertain terms that the baby belonged with the King of Life, and the mother's next raise was "She grabs the nearby knife and lunges towards you with it...pressing it into your hand and pulling it up to her throat, crying that if the baby belongs with the King of Life, at least send her on to join him").  She ended up with a new d4 relationship with the mother.  The mother went from non-fighting physical to talking to fighting(she slugged Sr. Patience)...she didn't have a gun, though. ;)  Eventually, they exhausted her pretty much and left her there after giving the baby last rites...although I did drop the "Sister Bethia stabbed her in the stomach in a dream" bit, which they made certain note of.

  Meanwhile, Br. William and Sr. Janey are back at the Steward's place, Br. Cyrus in tow.  They sit them in a room and say "Working this out is your job, not ours - find a way to resolve your differences".  We agree since they really don't want to settle things reasonably that a conflict needs to be launched...originally it was "What's at stake is: Do they resolve things peacefully?"...but I remembered the whole bit about stakes being what happens, not how...so I asked for "What's at stake is: Do they resolve things between them - one way or another?" and got it from the players.  Then confusion occurs.  First off, how do I handle conflicts with multiple "Named NPCs"?  I decide on the fly to take Br. Emmanuel's stats, add +2d6 to him, and give him the trait "Br. Cyrus who is married to his wife", tossing 4d6 of my free dice on it, as that's sorta simmilar to a group NPC.  Next problem in this conflict...A, Br. William's player, isn't sure whether he should roll into the conflict or not - "I'm not interfering at all until one of them tries to shoot the other, then I'll drop the agressor dead...how can I know whether I'll even be involved or not until we're into the conflict?  I don't care about these stakes - I care about the specifics of what happens in the sees and raises.  I don't want to alter the outcome of the conflict - I want to alter what happens on individual sees and raises."  Hrm.  I tell him to roll in for just talking for now, but most of Br. Emmanuel and Br. Cyrus' raises probably won't be need to be seen by him.  Fine.

  We roll the dice, and a couple of sees and raises go by...  At this point, all the players decide "Hey, this is a narrativist game, we've been told...so we're narrating in that Br. Samuel and Sr. Patience come back into the house now.  Let's roll them into the conflict!!!"  Err...how do you roll people into a conflict once it's started?  You can't?  Okay...I plop 4d6 down on the table, say those represent the two excellent things available to Br. William and Sr. Janey, and that Br. Samuel and Sr. Patience can roleplay all they want, but the dice are still being rolled by Br. William and Sr. Janey.  Confusing?  Yes!!  Which is probably a sign I did things horrendously wrong(Br. Samuel, for instance, wanted to pull a threatening gun on Br. Cyrus, which seemed to warrent more than just a bit of color thrown into Br. William's narration).  Sr. Janey rolled like shit and dropped out quickly, but Br. William didn't roll a single die lower than a 4, I believe.  Br. Cyrus said "Damn you all...I'm leaving!" as one of his raises, he and Br. William got into it with Br. Cyrus telling Br. William that an obvious no-good drifter convert like him obviously barely qualified as a Dog, and how he should step aside.  A fist fight ensued, with Br. Cyrus being solidly trounced, and the players winning the conflict.

  Br. Emmanuel says the Br. Cyrus has lost his place here and that he needs to leave town(have I mentioned that the Dogs are almost always pushing to be facilitators, not judges?  "You two sit here and talk, it's up to you to come up with a reasonable solution.").  Fine.  Br. Cyrus asks to be allowed to talk with Sr. Edie first...okay...  The Dogs escort him...and Br. Cyrus says "Well...I'm leaving the town...but screw it, I'm leaving the Faith, too.  I'm a deputy Sheriff by authority of the TA, not the Faith, so they can't stop me from leaving if I leave the Faith. I want you to leave the Faith too and come with me!"  So I'm thinking, okay, now I get the conflict "Does Sr. Edie leave the Faith?"  This could be interesting.  But before I phrase it even as a conflict, the players are all like "Sure, if she wants to leave, let her.  Your choice either way, Edie."  So, fine, I decide she does.  I don't think the system makes sense fro me to launch a conflict between two NPCs(Br. Cyrus and Sr. Edie) when the players don't care, so that's what I decide.

  So, Br. Emmanuel isn't going to take this lying down, is he?  Nope.  Plus, I'm panicking as a GM again, a bad habit, I know!  So he finds out what's up as Sr. Patience is escorting Sr. Edie around gathering up her things.  I roleplay a bit of Br. Emmanuel trying to talk Sr. Edie out of it - and again, the players don't want to get involved, seeing this is a matter between the two of them.  So, they're up on the second story, and eventually I just have Br. Emmanuel snap, and I launch a conflict "Does Br. Emmanuel push Sr. Edie out the second story window?"  Again, things get confusing...  Sr. Patience is the only one in the room, but the others are within earshot and are going to want to sprint up there and intervene...  I have everyone roll in...  Now, what counts as raises for Br. Emmanuel - "I raise with 'I shove Sr. Edie towards the window!'" - well, Sr. Edie can't ignore that, but I'm not rolling for her, am I?  If Sr. Patience wants to have a say in the stakes, she probably can't...but what about the guys downstairs in the living room?  Do they have to see that raise, or can they ignore it?  Erg!  For a moment I'm wishing for a hex map and movement rules, but it(and the conflict) passes quickly. ;)

  Br. William goes off an interrogates Sr. Bethia, she gives - she's innocent of witchcraft, she's just a shrew.  He says, "Oh, okay then.  No witchcraft here, the babies dying were just coinidence.  Even if it wasn't, I don't think we want to be bothered with pursuing that angle."

  We're running short on time here...and although the players are enjoying themselves it seems, they're all like "If this is a narrativist game...we're using our player empowerment to bring this to a conclusion before 11pm!"(and no, I don't think they use the term narrativist in the Forge sense, them not being familliar with the Forge mostly).  So A decides to have Br. William go off to talk to Br. Cyrus and make sure Br. Cyrus is getting packed up to go...  A then decides "I declare the Stakes *I* want, not necessarily what my character wants, right?  Conflict, what's at stake is: Does Br. William egg Br. Cyrus into shooting him?  Br. William doesn't want it to happen, but I, his player, do, and I think it's plausible."  We roll with it - it's the smoothest flowing conflict of the evening, by the way.  Cinematic action sequence after the initial draw, just the way A likes it. Br. Cyrus is possessed by this point, but since the players have reacted to any hint of the supernatural with "Bah, that's stupid!!" thus far, possession here just means he's possessed by rage and bitterness. So A wins the conflict, and I say "Follow up conflict I think would be - Does Br. William kill Br. Cyrus?  Well, I give on that one, since we've already narrated William shooting Cyrus twice - even if the Fallout won't kill him, I'll give on saying you did."  I think that's kosher?

  A then narrated an end to the town - a funeral for Br. Cyrus.  The Dogs instruct the Steward to send out a call if more babies die, but tell him "Just tell your congregation that everything was Cyrus' fault, and it's all good now."  They then all ride off into the sunset.

  Observations about gameplay on my part:
Players were still confused about where conflicts and roleplay intercepted.  Still many criticisms of the "What's at stake?" conflict resolution instead of an action-by-action resolution system disrupting roleplay by confing it and confusing it with dice.  Partially, I'm sure, caused by confusion about: a) stakes need to be negotiated, b) you can give a conflict you no longer want to win, and c) you can always launch a follow-up conflict.

We tended to abandon the initiative order of "Best roll" in group conflicts, and just go with whatever made sense for someone acting next.  Often because a couple of characters often just said "Well, I just stay silent until a chance to do something I think is appropriate occurs".  This may have been the cause behind...

Group conflicts were very confusing.  Especially since often the Dogs were pushing for conflicts between two NPCs in that "You two work out your differences.  It's your job to make a resolution happen, we're just here to keep it from becoming violent" kind of way.  Dogs entering conflicts in the middle of things also confused matters(use them as Things? roll them in at whatever level the conflict is already at?).

Players were still largely reactive, waiting for me to give them stuff.  This is a standard problem, I know, and I don't expect it to get solved now.

Related to that:  The players were far more concerned, in general, with /how/ conflicts were resolved than which direction they went.  I think part of the reason the players ended up launching very few conflicts was because what they wanted most of the time was "What's at stake is: Do I de-escalate the situation and keep things reasonable?" or "What's at stake is: Do I make them resolve things without moving beyond talking?"  We didn't actually do any conflicts like that, but mostly because I wasn't suggesting them because of advice to focus conflicts on what happens, not how it happens...but that wasn't what the players cared about.

More general complaints about it being impossible to roleplay a character without a very detailed background, and general assertion that morality - especially sexual morality which was what was coming up here - is a boring topic for a story.

Yet at the same time...everyone liked the Dogs system.  They didn't like the theme of the game.  They didn't like how towns were structured...but the liked the resolution mechanic, or at least they thought they would once they got used to it.  Strangest thing I heard at the end of the night:  "Yeah, do you know what would rock?  Running a traditional Shadowrun campaign, only using the Dogs system as the resolution mechanic!"

  In short, I see my first foray into Indie games not being unsuccessful, exactly...and more as just being utterly confusing.  Players had fun, and that's the number one thing.  They just had fun in a way that's completely not how I expected with Dogs.

  Anyway...any post play analysis help(especially with Dogs system questions) is welcomed.  I want to understand what was happening in this game, and how much of it is related to how I may have been mangling Dogs.  Especially since I've got a completely different group of three players(including one former LDS member) who also want to try Dogs, and I'd like to give them a more authentic Dogs experience if possible.

  Also...any analysis of what my group is looking for or might enjoy would also be useful.  I'm not going "Nar is the roxxor, death to sim!", so I'll make it clear that conversion to narrativist games isn't my goal.  I just want to introduce these people to NEW games - sim, nar, or gamist.  They seem the most interested in narrativist games as a concept, though, even if understanding of that concept is lacking.  The cheque for PTA is in the mail, so that's what we might try out next...several of these players LARP in Edmonton on occassion with one of the players in "The Belt" PTA series mentioned on this forum, so they've read about PTA on Dave's blog and think it sounds cool, so convincing them to try it won't be hard...  But if anyone is thinking "Oh, oh, your group should try *this* game..." feel free to shout it out.  Recommendations on how I might make a PTA game with them successful would also be welcome, but might be off-topic(I leave that to you to judge).

  Thanks for the help, guys!
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Blankshield
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2005, 11:51:26 AM »

Anyway...any post play analysis help(especially with Dogs system questions) is welcomed.  I want to understand what was happening in this game, and how much of it is related to how I may have been mangling Dogs.  Especially since I've got a completely different group of three players(including one former LDS member) who also want to try Dogs, and I'd like to give them a more authentic Dogs experience if possible.

  Also...any analysis of what my group is looking for or might enjoy would also be useful.  I'm not going "Nar is the roxxor, death to sim!", so I'll make it clear that conversion to narrativist games isn't my goal.  I just want to introduce these people to NEW games - sim, nar, or gamist.  They seem the most interested in narrativist games as a concept, though, even if understanding of that concept is lacking.  The cheque for PTA is in the mail, so that's what we might try out next...several of these players LARP in Edmonton on occassion with one of the players in "The Belt" PTA series mentioned on this forum, so they've read about PTA on Dave's blog and think it sounds cool, so convincing them to try it won't be hard...  But if anyone is thinking "Oh, oh, your group should try *this* game..." feel free to shout it out.  Recommendations on how I might make a PTA game with them successful would also be welcome, but might be off-topic(I leave that to you to judge).

  Thanks for the help, guys!

Blink blink.  Wow, hi!  Cool, more indie gamers around E-town!  Do I know you? :)  PM me, and we'll talk.  I'm in Sherwood Park, and am the guy who's abusing PTA to produce The Belt.

I think you did pretty good; at least as well as some of my stumbling first attempts at new games.  The big thing that I would note is that you should stay as far away from conflicts between NPC's as possible.  Conflicts should always focus on the Dogs. 

Frex:
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Meanwhile, Br. William and Sr. Janey are back at the Steward's place, Br. Cyrus in tow.  They sit them in a room and say "Working this out is your job, not ours - find a way to resolve your differences".  We agree since they really don't want to settle things reasonably that a conflict needs to be launched...originally it was "What's at stake is: Do they resolve things peacefully?

This should never have been a confict.  Just play it out between the two people until it hits something the Dogs don't want to see happen.  Then the conflict is launched, with "Do you let the Steward blow Br. Cyrus' head off?" (or whatever) as the stakes.  Or, you have them hit an impass, and both look to the Dogs.  "We can't get past this."

Similarly, this:
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I launch a conflict "Does Br. Emmanuel push Sr. Edie out the second story window?"
should have been "Do you let Br. Emmanuel push Sr. Edie out the second story window?".  This turns raises like 'I shove Sr. Edie towards the window!' something that none of the Dogs can ignore, or out the window she goes. 

For the Dogs coming into the middle of a conflict, that's not allowed.  If they want to come in, somebody needs to give the current stakes.  Then a followup can be launched and the new folks can kick into that one.  Although as I noted above, this wouldn't have come up if the conflicts were centered around the Dogs.

Does that help?

James

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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2005, 12:20:14 PM »

Actually, I really like "what's at stake is, do the two NPCs work things out peacefully?" Your raises can be all like, "Br. Cyrus jumps up out of his seat and dives across the table for the steward's throat!" and "the steward says 'screw this' and shoots Br. Cyrus in the face."

Funny that they just flat-out rejected any and all supernatural. Why did they, do you think?

Never, ever, ever let anybody into a conflict who's not really in it from the beginning. It's poison, as you learned. Also, if ever somebody doesn't have a raise, they can't pass or hang back, they're OUT.

There's a certain kind of conventional-RGP cause-and-effect thinking that your players are just going to have to get over if they want to play Dogs. But I'm not so sure that they do, are you? From what you've written, at least some of them have seemed pretty intent on playing some other game instead.

-Vincent
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Wade L
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2005, 01:32:14 AM »

Two replies - one for Blankshield, the next for Vincent!

Blink blink.  Wow, hi!  Cool, more indie gamers around E-town!  Do I know you? :)  PM me, and we'll talk.  I'm in Sherwood Park, and am the guy who's abusing PTA to produce The Belt.

Actually, we're in Saskatoon.  But several of us drive up relatively frequently to play in the various fallen angels Kingdom Come games.  I'll actually be down this weekend to play in Trent's Paradise Lost Kingdom Come game - I have no clue if you play in it, but I know at least on of your players for The Belt, Dave, does. :)

I think you did pretty good; at least as well as some of my stumbling first attempts at new games.  The big thing that I would note is that you should stay as far away from conflicts between NPC's as possible.  Conflicts should always focus on the Dogs. 
(examples clipped)

That does make sense, and isn't something I was entirely aware of.  I just had decided that I wanted to make sure we had conflicts, and given the choice between "having a conflict that isn't really about the Dogs" and "having no conflict", I chose the former.  Wheras maybe I shoulda just said "Okay, you guys don't want to do anything?  Fine, I'll keep going.  Things will continue as *I* want them to, until you get up the guts to try and change it..." and then proceeded to just roleplay through things without conflicts while always pushing towards more extreme things that, sooner or later, my players would have wanted to interfere in...

Harder than it looks, though, I'm finding.

For the Dogs coming into the middle of a conflict, that's not allowed.  If they want to come in, somebody needs to give the current stakes.  Then a followup can be launched and the new folks can kick into that one.  Although as I noted above, this wouldn't have come up if the conflicts were centered around the Dogs.

Does that help?

I think it does!  Now, of course, I want to go back and try it out all over again because it seems so simple now!  I can still imagine conflicts where folks get pissed that they can't decide in the middle "Hey, I had no problem with things to start with...but after that last raise, well, now goddamnit I want to get involved!!!"  Of course, I imagine this is partly because people are still thinking "What does my guy do?" instead of "What's at stake?"  My guess is that properly setting stakes would, as you suggest, eliminate that type of problem.  But, man, setting stakes is not as easy as it looked when I first read the book!  I just hope I can get the hang of it.

Thanks for the help, btw.
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Wade L
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2005, 02:11:10 AM »

Actually, I really like "what's at stake is, do the two NPCs work things out peacefully?" Your raises can be all like, "Br. Cyrus jumps up out of his seat and dives across the table for the steward's throat!" and "the steward says 'screw this' and shoots Br. Cyrus in the face."

Hrm...what is it that makes "What's at stake is: Do the two NPCs work things out peacefully?" different from "What's at stake is: Does she repent without blood being shed?"(an example I remember from a discussion about not putting up hedged stakes - I thought this was from the rulebook, but I can't find it, so it may just be from the forums), which I thought was a bad conflict because stakes should decide the what, not the how(which is what raises and sees are).  It seems that there *is* a difference, but...

Okay, I get why that'd be alright...  The stakes "Do the NPCs work things out peacefully?" just dictates the end of the conflict - it doesn't limit me from escalating - it just means that the players have to meet any of my violent raises with blocks or dodges or whatever that keep the status quo...  It just seems that the raise "Br. Cyrus shoots the Steward in the face!" answers the question posed by the stakes before the stakes are resolved - if I'm allowed to raise like that, it means that even if the Dogs win the conflict, the NPCs still haven't worked things out peacefully...  But I guess Br. Cyrus can be stopped in the attempt...

Sorry for being obtuse.  Your game looks far simpler than it is!  Or, perhaps more correctly, your game combined with my previous assumptions generates a product that is more complex than it should be!

Funny that they just flat-out rejected any and all supernatural. Why did they, do you think?

I think because they thought that overt supernatural elements would be "twinky" or "not real roleplaying".  Magic is for D&D, right, not a serious roleplaying game, right?  Yet, still, they play Shadowrun and Vampire.  Still, even in those games the supernatural either tends to be completely obscured and unaccessible to the players - ie: It's a GM plot hammer - in which case it can be scary and mysterious...but if it's in the hands of the players, it's usually a sign that we're not doing "real roleplaying" any more, and have instead entered the "game" phase.

Never, ever, ever let anybody into a conflict who's not really in it from the beginning. It's poison, as you learned. Also, if ever somebody doesn't have a raise, they can't pass or hang back, they're OUT.

As I said in response to Blankshield - I imagine we could get past the problem if stakes were set correctly.  But part of it is too a "My turn, my guy does this" thing.  And sometimes it does make sense to imagine a character to be hanging back, only to spring into action in the middle of a conflict - doesn't it?  Would a raise like "I hang back, ready and poised to intervene - here are my two dice, but the raise effects no one but me, so none of you need to see it!" work?  Probably not.  What about "I raise with - you know that I'm watching, and if you pull that gun, my gun is coming out too and I'm faster than you!"??  That'd be a kosher raise, I think?  Or do raises have to be *actions*?

I think we've been assuming the conflict system is the narrativist equivilent of a combat order - Conflict = Combat Sequence, Raises = Individual Turns, which must be actions, which occur sequentially and linearily in time!  I know this isn't the case - but there are enough simmilarities to be confusing for those used to that type of paradigm.

How do you handle conflicts where characters who want to have a say in the stakes aren't in the immediate area when the conflict begins, but who could concievably be there before the conflict ends?  Let them roll in at the start of the conflict, and maybe their first raise is "Two minutes later, I boot in the door and I'm there - there's an action you can't ignore!"?  Of course, then I know I'd get players going "Boo!  There was other stuff I wanted to do in the two minutes it'd take him to get there!!" - but do I just try and explain that in Dogs you get more narrative control, but at the same time you have to accept you don't have the control of every action your character takes, divided up into 3 second chunks?  If there's a whole bunch of stuff you wanna do, declare it all in one raise?

There's a certain kind of conventional-RGP cause-and-effect thinking that your players are just going to have to get over if they want to play Dogs. But I'm not so sure that they do, are you? From what you've written, at least some of them have seemed pretty intent on playing some other game instead.

Accurately judged, as always.  But, as I said - this was a trial run of the game to get a feel for it, primarily.  Part of the purpose was to see whether the players liked Dogs, whether I liked Dogs, and how we adapted to things.  I think a couple of the players(the two females) were seriously intrigued by how Dogs works, and I could see them enjoying it a lot if they sat down to play with likeminded people.  Their feedback was pretty positive, and most of their complaints were "I don't understand this!" complaints, instead of "I don't like this!" complaints.  Sort of overshadowing that(I'll admit, partially due to volume and verbosity) was A, who really doesn't, I don't think, want to play a game like Dogs...but because Dogs had been described as a narrativist game(a mistake, bringing in terminology I'm barely familliar with, and that they aren't at all), needed to be someone who got it...  The plot-heavy Shadowrun game he runs is already primarily a narrativist game, isn't it?  Right?

But this isn't a permenent gaming group I put together and *need* to sell Dogs to.  If some of the individual players like it, that's cool.  But there are more gamers to try this out on - as I may have previously mentioned, I've got at least three more people who want to try Dogs out sometime.  So that's the main reason I'm pushing so hard to understand things, instead of just going "Ahh, well, interesting experiment, moving on!"  Next time I run Dogs, with another group of players, I want it to a) be better! and b) better represent Dogs!  So far as I know, I'm the only guy in my city who even knew what Dogs was before I started trying to demonstrate the game - so I don't want to misrepresent it.  So I want to learn what I've been doing wrong, so I can get my part of the game straight, and present it to the players.

Heh...and to make things even better...as I may have mentioned, I've been challenged to run Dogs at a local convention coming up in a couple of weeks!  So, although I have no problems with fumbling through the game in private, and no problems with people go "Man, that Wade runs a really shitty game...", I don't want to be responsible for people going, "Man, that Vincent writes a really shitty game!"  *That*, I'd feel bad about.
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Nev the Deranged
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Posts: 741

Dave. Yeah, that Dave.


« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2005, 06:04:28 AM »

Quote
So, although I have no problems with fumbling through the game in private, and no problems with people go "Man, that Wade runs a really shitty game...", I don't want to be responsible for people going, "Man, that Vincent writes a really shitty game!"  *That*, I'd feel bad about.

 Dude. You have so touched on one of my primary fears about introducing people to indie games. Particularly veteran roleplayers, I guess, but really, anybody. I really, really want people to dig this stuff. I don't care that much if they don't like the way I personally do things, or if they think I'm a crummy GM... I would just feel really bad sending someone back out into the world with a negative impression of the whole movement, perhaps to badmouth it to their friends... *shudder*

 Way back when Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first came out, I was like "way cool! A sentai show! Now all my friends can see how cool these kinds of shows are!"  When I saw the first episode, two things happened immediately. 1) I got literally sick to my stomach. 2) I cried.  Why? Not just because the show was abysmally sucktacular, but because I knew everyone who watched it was going to think "oh, so that's that shit Dave likes? Man, how totally lame!" (if they knew me, that is), or if they didn't, "oh, so that's that Japanese style stuff I've been hearing about? Man, how totally lame! Asian entertainment sucks!"  Synechdoche rears it's ugly head once again. So, in conclusion, I would hate to be the MMPR producer of independent RPGs, if I'm making any sense at all by this point.

 Aaaanyway.

 I also wanted to say that this thread has been really helpful with stuff I didn't even know might be an issue. The many threads of "I Ran Dogs And It Went Great!" are exciting, but the few "I Ran Dogs And.. What The F*ck?" threads are way more invaluable for learning how to deal with problems that might come up, before having to actually encounter them.

 So, um, thanks! ^_^
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XAQ
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2006, 02:20:11 AM »

I think because they thought that overt supernatural elements would be "twinky" or "not real roleplaying".  Magic is for D&D, right, not a serious roleplaying game, right?  Yet, still, they play Shadowrun and Vampire.  Still, even in those games the supernatural either tends to be completely obscured and unaccessible to the players - ie: It's a GM plot hammer - in which case it can be scary and mysterious...but if it's in the hands of the players, it's usually a sign that we're not doing "real roleplaying" any more, and have instead entered the "game" phase.

I know it's been quite a while, but I only just read this.  I'm "A", one of Wade's players.  Actually, Wade, I seem to remember us as players asking about the supernatural during the character creation and game-background process... and I honestly think we got the impression from you (at least I know I did) that the game deliberately down-played the supernatural, or at least that there was no OVERT supernatural elements.  You played your cards close to your chest, as is your wont, and from "I won't confirm one way or the other if there truly is such things as possessions and black magic in the game", we got "we as players must decide for ourselves if our characters will jump to supernatural explanations for things".

It doesn't have to do with "real roleplaying"... as you pointed out, we've all played heavy-magic settings before.  It had to do with interestingly coincidental RPing choices, wherein each player decided their character wouldn't likely be too quick to accept a supernatural explanation without some degree of proof (speaking in tongues or something?  I dunno).  At least, that's my impression, upon reflection.  That's kind of an interesting result, actually... that given the choice of what our characters believed, all four players essentially chose, independently, to be somewhat cynical or at least secularist when it comes to the supernatural.
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