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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 78 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [DitV] Red Horse Pass  (Read 4480 times)
Neal
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« on: December 01, 2005, 09:21:06 AM »

This past Tuesday, I ran my players (Dave and Mike) through Red Horse Pass.  The town is described in its own posting in lumpley's forum.  The Dogs were Brothers Thomas (Mike) and Jebediah (Dave).  I won't give a blow-by-blow, like I did last time, but instead, I'll cut to the bits where things worked well or poorly.

First off, I wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders, and I probably should have taken another week away from gaming before attempting a town with this many NPCs.  I had just spent a week in New Orleans, gathering up my belongings, and then four days crossing the continent in a Budget rental truck, the last day spent creeping along in post-holiday traffic west of Las Vegas.  I wasn't exactly up to playing every NPC to the hilt.  That aside...

The relationships between Brother Martin, Maria, and Ferghus MacAloon worked out quite well, despite the fact that Maria was confined to the pesthouse with cholera during the whole session.  Martin wanted Maria to convert to the faith; Ferghus wanted Martin to leave his sister alone; and Maria wanted Martin to accept her as she was.  There was some nice conflict there, and this little triangle actually gave way, over four separate conflicts, to a deadly shootout between the Dogs and Ferghus.

During that shootout, I found out how well the Group mechanics can work in DitV.  Ferghus had confronted the PCs twice already, and he'd been forced to give on each occasion: first, he'd agreed reluctantly to let Doc Pettibone close the town to travelers; and second, he'd agreed even more reluctantly to let the Dogs try to nurse Maria back to health.  But when the Dogs stopped treating Maria (nonFaithful) because Doc Pettibone (Faithful) needed help, Ferghus seized this as proof that his sister didn't matter as much as the Dogs' coreligionist.  This time, there was no talking him down.  He came with a gang of miners, laborers, and veterans of the recent Indian war, and they got down to business.

I was worried that Ferghus would be a pushover, that the Group NPC mechanic would water down the odds.  I needn't have worried.  Each member of Ferghus's gang added 2d6 to Stats and a Trait (I rolled the values randomly).  When the conflict ensued, and the players saw me pick up 16d6 for Stats and 2d10 for Relationships (Ferghus's with his sister), their jaws dropped.  I had portrayed Ferghus as a tough, angry veteran, a man of proven courage, deep devotion to family, and the kind of patriotism that makes martyrs.  In this conflict, he lived up to that portrayal.  The Dogs put seven bullets in him before the fight was over, and they both needed medical care afterwards.

I liked using Ferghus's cronies as raises, and I liked even more that I could discard them for visual effect at a whim, once they'd been brought into play.  By the time the fight ended, seven corpses lay in the streets, bleeding red blossoms into the freshly fallen snow.  The air was thick with gunsmoke.

Another conflict that went particularly well was between the Dogs and Brother Francis, who had given free lodging to a gang of disreputable peddlars on his property outside the town.  By the time the Dogs got to him, Francis was so afraid of being discovered that he had taken up a perch in an upstairs window of his property.  His peddlars were on the grounds, tending their animals and sorting through their belongings.  The first indication the PCs had that the property was tenanted was when Francis fired his rifle at them.  Again, I had the pleasure of seeing shocked reactions as I opened the conflict: "There's a sniper at the house, but you don't see him yet.  The stakes are pretty simple.  Does the sniper gun you down before you can get to him or get away?  I'm the sniper, so I'll go first."  Again, I picked up a wad of dice (Francis was to be backed up by the peddlars on his property, coming in from the PCs' flank), and again, the players' eyes went wide.

I opened with a Raise of 17, rolling randomly to determine which Dog Francis would shoot first.  It was Brother Thomas, and he couldn't see the Raise without Taking the Blow.  The shot struck him in the shoulder and spun him out of his saddle.  Brother Jeb dismounted and hopped over a low fieldstone wall, running in a crouch toward the house while firing in the direction of the open upstairs window.  Brother Thomas ran off into the trees for cover, likewise taking shots at the upstairs window. 

Then the peddlars joined in, some of whom were cattle rustlers and other ne'er-do-wells.  Things worked out quite well.  Thomas was forced to pay attention to the peddlars, who came at him through the trees (as Raises), while Jeb found himself pinned down behind his garden wall.  All the while, Francis was in the upper window, re-charging his piece and firing off shot after shot.

Once the peddlars were mostly dealt with (and Francis was running out of dice), Thomas brought his office as a Dog in as a Raise, standing up and walking across an open yard, as clear a target as he could be, then firing off a single rifle shot.  He put up a Raise of 12, and the highest pair I had left was 4 and 4.  I wanted something dramatic, so I Took the Blow with five 1's, two 2's, and a 3 -- 8 dice, for 8d10 Fallout.  "Through the smoke from your muzzle, you see a bloom of red suddenly splash across the wall of the upper room.  Brother Francis vanishes instantly, as though yanked out of existence by the hand of God."

These were satisfying conflicts, but others were less so.

I found, for instance, that my strategy of building a low-DI town (stopping at Sin, for 2d10) didn't work well in at least one respect: curing the sickness.  I wanted it to be a struggle, something worth noting.  Instead, with the players bringing Stats and Traits to bear, and Corporal Forbes (the cholera) limited to 4d6 and 2d10, the disease became something of a joke when treated patient-by-patient.

Just to up the ante, I told one the players, "A man at the far end of the pesthouse has begun to wail over the body of his wife.  At the other end, a young girl is clutching her sick mother's hand and calling out the woman's name in a panicked and quivering voice.  What do you do?"  The idea was to force a choice, but it fell flat.  The players split up, and we ran two separate conflicts.  After that, I didn't feel it would be wise to try such a thing again.  When the players declared they were trying to make someone well, I just said "Okay, it takes some time, but you can get the patient on the road to recovery."

The cholera wasn't entirely a useless idea, though.  Because the players had more chance helping the Faithful than the Nonfaithful (because their ceremonies are useless on the souls of nonbelievers), they tended to try to get the most bang for their buck, and that fueled the resentment of the Nonfaithful.  Likewise, the cholera gave the players an opportunity to push their authority on the nonbelievers by ordering them to stop arguing and boil water, and other such things.

My favorite little flourish, though, was when the players were informed that "Corporal Forbes" was on the west side of town.  Now, they knew (and their characters knew as well) that Corporal Forbes was merely a nickname for cholera.  But when I mentioned that "he" was on the west side, the players exchanged a look of worry, and I knew I had something.  "Yeah," I said, "a couple folks claim to have seen him leaving a clapboard house, but they can't seem to agree on how tall he was, or whether or not he had a beard."

The players never met Corporal Forbes, but they decided between themselves that he was real, that he was some kind of manifestation of the town's Demonic Influence.  I gave them a present at the end of the session, as they were lying in the pesthouse themselves (for gunshot wounds, not cholera).  They had helped the town to fight off the cholera, they had exposed its sinners and killed four named NPCs and about ten cronies.  As they lay there, healing up in the care of Doc Pettibone (whom they had helped to regain his faith just before they shot him), one of the townsfolk came in and announced that several people had seen "that army fella" leaving town.  Yep, he wore a federal soldier's uniform, held the rank of corporal, was somewhere between five-foot-eight and six-foot-three, had reddish-blondish-darkish hair of indisctinct length, and may or may not have had a goattee or muttonchops.

One thing that came through rather clearly in this session was that the players do not always agree with their characters.  For instance, they both felt that Ferghus was in the right.  He had sacrificed for his country, and he was a man of honor; he should not have had to put up with the treatment he and his sister were receiving at the hands of religious separatists.

They still gunned him down in the street, of course. 

Another fun moment was when the Dogs discovered that Brother Joseph, the shopkeeper, was at the root of this whole mess.  Rather than killing Joseph, they marched him out into the town square and made him confess his sins and his motives to the faithful and nonfaithful alike.  Then they sentenced him to try to make a living as a shopkeeper in a town that knew him for the spiteful, covetous, lying cheat he was.  If he lived, or if he died, it was the will of the King of Life, but he would live out the rest of his days (however many or however few they were) in the town he had wronged.

The session played well, all things considered, but the number of NPCs did turn out to be a hindrance to smooth play.  For one thing, I had to reveal the town's hardships in stages, and I think the unity of the town suffered for that.  My next session, I've decided will be handled as two normal-sized town.  I think that will give me a chance to play each NPC more deeply.  Also, I'll be able to try my hand at "bookending" the session, designing two towns, days or weeks apart from one another, that play like variations on a theme.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2005, 09:43:15 AM »

My favorite little flourish, though, was when the players were informed that "Corporal Forbes" was on the west side of town.  Now, they knew (and their characters knew as well) that Corporal Forbes was merely a nickname for cholera.  But when I mentioned that "he" was on the west side, the players exchanged a look of worry, and I knew I had something.

This is really, really nice.  I love it when people come up with fantastic, unexpected stuff that ratchets the game up a notch.  That must have been a cool moment. 
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2005, 08:28:06 AM »

Yeah.

Cool stuff. Anything I can do for you?

-Vincent
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Neal
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2005, 09:14:26 AM »

Cool stuff. Anything I can do for you?

Sure, Vincent, you and anyone else reading this...  You can give me some clue how you and others have made something substantial out of conflicts not involving living, breathing opponents.  I had expected the cholera to be a big deal, but it ended up sidelined as something of a nuissance.  While I could have used it more strongly as a wedge between the believers and nonbelievers, I didn't think I really needed to bring that level of manipulation into play, and so I just did a lot of "yes"-saying.  Normally, I wouldn't mind that: I like the fact that DitV frees me from the obligation of arming the furniture for battle.  But in this case, I felt the mechanic (4d6+Demonic Influence) backfired on me.  I suppose I could have brought in Extra Dice, but I wanted to reserve those for my NPC opponents.

Perhaps I'm making too much of this.  In fact, I suspect I am.  My players really did have more fun confronting Doc Pettibone over his lost faith (and being forced to shoot him before he shot them), and they loved the showdown with Ferghus (with whom both players sympathized).  It's not like they said "Damn, I wanted cholera to play more of a role here."  So perhaps this is a non-issue, at least for this session.  Still, I'd love to hear what others have done with the 4d6+DI mechanic.  Does it always create such anticlimactic conflicts?
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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2005, 09:35:57 AM »

Anticlimactic? Only if you expect 'em to be near a climax.

At 4d6+2d10, Demonic Influence is only useful to you as GM if you've got a character totally blindsided, no applicable traits - and then, because you can't escalate - only useful for inflicting fallout, not for actually winning.

At 4d6+4d10, you can take on a Dog with a trait or two, but still of course only to inflict a little fallout, not to win.

That's on purpose. Those conflicts are meant to contribute to buildup, only.

So here's a little trick you can stash away in the back of your head though. What if someone were benefiting from the cholera, and wanted the sick people to stay sick? Couldn't you then, maybe, roll that person as the other side of the conflict, even if she weren't there in the room? I believe that you could.

-Vincent
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2005, 12:15:08 PM »

Couldn't Corporal Forbes have been given the stats of one of the proto-NPCs?  Whether or not he was visibly present in a scene, you could have rolled trait dice for his "Hope Killer 2d6," "Things Left Unsaid 3d4," and "Depressed Economy 1d10."  Mind, I think you probably came away with a good play experience and didn't need to do such things, but by my reading, you could have.
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Neal
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2005, 02:28:30 PM »

Vincent, Joshua, those are both good ideas.  I'm still learning how to open my play style up to the opportunities this game offers.

Vincent -- There really wasn't anyone in the town benefitting from the cholera.  There should have been.  The tinkers would have been the obvious choice, but I didn't capitalize on that.  [Note to myself: it's an ill wind that blows someone good.]  And thanks for the clear advice about 4d6+DI; I'll keep that in mind for the future.

Joshua -- Frankly, I was waiting for an unmistakable clue from my players that they wanted to treat Corporal Forbes as a Person (rather than a creepy bit of Furniture).  I shouldn't have waited.  I should have seized that first clue and brought him in somehow, even if only non-physically.  [You know, I really like the idea of the Dogs engaging in conflict with the idea of a person, with a notional phantom made up of rumors and misinterpretations; what a fine way for a demon to manifest.  I'll have to see if I can recycle that for later.]

Thanks again, folks.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2005, 02:36:20 PM »

You know, I really like the idea of the Dogs engaging in conflict with the idea of a person, with a notional phantom made up of rumors and misinterpretations; what a fine way for a demon to manifest.

Reminds me of the last quarter of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, all of which is conjecture by two boys of what might have happened fifty years ago.  They create a number of characters and expand on the characteristics of an established character.  But the thing of it is, it's really hard to notice that the story is pure conjecture and no longer objective fact.  The fabricated characters have exactly the same weight as "real" characters do.
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2005, 04:06:50 PM »

Even without the Corporal as a kinda-sorta person, I still think you'd be entirely within the spirit of the game to stat up "The Cholera" or "The Famine" or "The Sandstorm" as a character.   I wouldn't do that for "The Fence that my horse is about to jump over" or trivial obstacles like that, but any devastating force of nature that can be tied to demonic influence I'd say sure.  And I'd do it in addition to using stats from some benefiting party (which is a pretty keen idea), mainly because Dogs working together (especially experienced ones) can plow through just about anything so I would rarely ever worry about throwing too many dice at em.
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Neal
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2005, 07:00:57 AM »

Even without the Corporal as a kinda-sorta person, I still think you'd be entirely within the spirit of the game to stat up "The Cholera" or "The Famine" or "The Sandstorm" as a character.   I wouldn't do that for "The Fence that my horse is about to jump over" or trivial obstacles like that, but any devastating force of nature that can be tied to demonic influence I'd say sure.  And I'd do it in addition to using stats from some benefiting party (which is a pretty keen idea), mainly because Dogs working together (especially experienced ones) can plow through just about anything so I would rarely ever worry about throwing too many dice at em.

Ralph, good point.  This is another thing I've learned about DitV after only three (admittedly marathon) sessions: advancement comes quickly.  There's none of this Runequest stuff, where the "fighter" gets beat up by the milkmaid for a few months, then graduates to having a good deal of troulbe with the greengrocer.  Even the drawbacks in DitV are advantages if played well enough (well, unless you remove dice from something).  On the other hand, there's no real graduation for the opposition, so the GM has to become craftier and craftier in how he sets up conflicts.  Or perhaps more to the point, he has to serve up conflicts where the cost of winning is harder to bear.  Because you're right, a ready group of Dogs will rip the hell out of almost anything rather quickly.  I need to learn how to engineer/spot/serve-up conflicts which play to the PCs' weak spots now and then, those non-Traited squishy spots in their lives.  Hmmm...

Yeah, in hindsight, I should definitely have statted-up Corporal Forbes, made "him" a notional NPC, if only to give the disease a fighting chance.  As things worked out, I simply narrated deaths from illness whenever PCs were away handling other business.

Ah well, I'll look on the bright side.  First, while this wasn't the best of the three sessions we've run, it didn't suck, either; the gunfight with Ferghus and his cronies was probably the most exciting conflict we've had so far.  And second, the denouement sets things up for a rematch between the Dogs and Corporal Forbes somewhere down the line, as well as a rematch with Doc Pettibone, who at story's end decided once more to take up his Calling as a Dog at the age of fifty-something.

Doc Pettibone also let me foreshadow the coming of a group of renegade former Dogs I'm holding in reserve for a future town.

But I digress.  Thanks for the input, folks, and I'm going to put some of this to use... right now, in fact, as I get started on my next brace of towns.
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