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Author Topic: [DitV] How to play NPCs who wants "to keep Dogs away"  (Read 8843 times)
Arturo G.
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Posts: 333


« on: January 04, 2006, 05:04:49 PM »

I have noticed that most towns have some characters involved with sins or sorcery who want the same thing: "to keep the Dogs away" (or something equivalent).

Examples from the towns I have played:
  • Boxelder Canyon (from the DitV rules book). Brother Artax's aunt, sinner, "wants the Dogs to stay out of her business."
  • Whitechurch (from the DitV rules book). The shopkeeper, sinner, "wants the Dogs to keep their noses out".
  • Cornfield Branch (see this thread town description). Dianarea, sinner and sorcerer, "wants the Dogs to go away"

I always have troubles to play these characters. More specifically, I don't know what may those NPCs do to achieve what they want. To keep the dogs away.

I think I have a terrible burden due to playing classical "investigation" games (Call of Cthulu and so). Thus, I'm making the mistake of "overprotecting" those NPCs. Sometimes avoiding them to appear too early, or diverting the attention from them. Sometimes making them look very normal normal, or lying very well, confunding the dogs. Of course these kind of actions work against the enjoyment. The players get distracted from which is important, leading to some dull play before they come back to that NPCs.

I know that I should proactively show the town troubles to the Dogs, but I don't have the feeling that sorcerers should be discovered as soon as approached. As soon as the Dogs begin to ask them questions they will notice something strange and immediately it goes to a conflict where everything is revealed.
Specifically in the case of sorcery, if that sorcery is the main focus of the town (as in the third example), the play may easily end with some quick killings, with the players not understanding too much about the original situation except that they have killed some sorcerers and the town is clean.

Please, some advice?
Arturo
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2006, 07:39:01 PM »

You can:

a) have the character employ misdirection, making the Dogs think that the problem is over there, not with them.
b) have the character send some one else to keep the Dogs away from the first character.
c) have the character run and hide.
d) have the character walk right up to the Dogs, the first person they meet in the town, and give them just enough dirt on the other people that the Dogs run off to "investigate" the leads.

But no, nothing keeps the Dogs away from the truth for long.  It does require you to rethink the structuring of your game and how you present the situation.
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cjr533
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Posts: 25


« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2006, 08:31:49 PM »

I have noticed that most towns have some characters involved with sins or sorcery who want the same thing: "to keep the Dogs away" (or something equivalent).
 
 
I think I have a terrible burden due to playing classical "investigation" games (Call of Cthulhu and so). Thus, I'm making the mistake of "overprotecting" those NPCs. Sometimes avoiding them to appear too early, or diverting the attention from them. Sometimes making them look very normal normal, or lying very well, confunding the dogs. Of course these kind of actions work against the enjoyment. The players get distracted from which is important, leading to some dull play before they come back to that NPCs.

I know that I should proactively show the town troubles to the Dogs, but I don't have the feeling that sorcerers should be discovered as soon as approached. As soon as the Dogs begin to ask them questions they will notice something strange and immediately it goes to a conflict where everything is revealed.
Specifically in the case of sorcery, if that sorcery is the main focus of the town (as in the third example), the play may easily end with some quick killings, with the players not understanding too much about the original situation except that they have killed some sorcerers and the town is clean.

Please, some advice?
Arturo


Very interesting post.  I am a very irregular poster on these forums, with really limited experience of DitV, (played once, run once), but the question you asks is one that occurred to me in my play.  I too come from a Call of Cthulhu background. I thought about That while going for a walk, as Ron tells me to think more, post less, :), and my thoughts are as follows...

We are both used to running games about Investigation.  Here the issue is choice.  So my feeling would be that if the players short circuit things by killing the Sorcerers let them.  Most towns I have read have so much going on that moving the root of the problem does not end the repercussions of their actions - the moral issues remain. Each town strikes me as having a multi-layered series of conflict potentials, an resolving the demonic source will not put things in order, which strikes me personally as an important part of the Dogs job.

Now here I have a question - I see DitV as about player choice, and those moral choices drive the story.  Yes the bad guys try to hide, and yes they use all kinds of subterfuge, but don't make them too successful at it, or as you rightly suggest the players get stymied an go off chasing red herrings.  Make them see that killing the Sorcerers will have repercussions, and will not solve the bigger picture maybe, by your description? Or let them feel clever and blow them away.  Its not an elegant solution, and will leave much left to do, or undo.  Finding the big bad guy is NOT the aim of the game as I read it, so I'd go with it, and just step back.  The session is far from over when the bodies hit the dust.

Now comes an interesting thought to me; in most of my games, the emphasis is on consequences of moral choice,an repercussion, and not facilitating free player choice.  There is something quite didactic, almost preachy about how everytime they slay someone a grieving widow appears, or the police, or the death can worsen the situation, and lead to futher complexity.  Such sermonising works well in Cthulhu, where one wishes to make the characters feel part of a larger universe, and that their acts take part in society.  I'm not sure it is appropriate to DitV, where player choice is the story, and such heavy handed attempts to railroad the players in to feeling something is anathema.  Yes of course their actions have consequences but make them explicit before the gunplay, and make the players choose in possession of those facts.

So my feeling in short is - letthem slay the Sorcerers, and telegraph the fact the character is hiding something, so they stay interested  in that NPC, rather than heading off on a wild goose chase.  I have very little experience as I say, so I bow to wiser heads, and other opinions, but that is my instinct.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2006, 09:24:26 PM »

Quote
The session is far from over when the bodies hit the dust.

Indeed.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it's just getting started.

Another option is to give the players a town that doesn't have a big bad.  Quoting myself from this thread:

I ran a town a little while back that went from Pride all the way up to sin.  I can't remember the exact details, but it was something to do with corn liquor.  I think the pride was "I deserve a little relaxin' after a long day's work" or something similar.

Most of the conflicts were pretty low key stakes, but they were fought hard.  The "what the demons want" was for the Dogs to go overboard and shoot someboy, and they damn near got it.  In the end, it was one of the most satisfying towns for our group because they had to work hard not to pull those guns, and it came to the wire more than once.

James
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Warren
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2006, 02:36:32 AM »

Also, for those NPCs have it so that when the Dogs question or otherwise interact with them, throw up a conflict at them with some Stakes like "Do the Dogs leave the NPC alone?" or something similar ("Do I convince the Dogs that Br.Jacob is a Sinner?", maybe).

Now this conflict should tag to the players that this NPC is interesting, but the character has done their damnest (as shown by the Conflict) to keep the Dogs away, and hence follow their motivations. I've only tried this once in Actual Play (a cult prostitute and sorcerer wanted the Dogs out of town) and it worked well - the players won and then looked harder, but I didn't feel that I had betrayed my NPCs or stonewalled the players.

Warren
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Arturo G.
Member

Posts: 333


« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2006, 04:50:47 AM »


Thanks for your answers.

Joshua:
Quote
a) have the character employ misdirection, making the Dogs think that the problem is over there, not with them.
b) have the character send some one else to keep the Dogs away from the first character.
c) have the character run and hide.
d) have the character walk right up to the Dogs, the first person they meet in the town, and give them just enough dirt on the other people that the Dogs run off to "investigate" the leads.

I was trying to do things similar to your a), b), and c), but I think I was overacting them. I need to brush some more rust from my GM'ing. Your d) is great. Now I'm thinking I instinctively tried it once during my second play, and it was working well.

cj:
Quote
Now here I have a question - I see DitV as about player choice, and those moral choices drive the story.  Yes the bad guys try to hide, and yes they use all kinds of subterfuge, but don't make them too successful at it, or as you rightly suggest the players get stymied an go off chasing red herrings.  Make them see that killing the Sorcerers will have repercussions, and will not solve the bigger picture maybe, by your description? Or let them feel clever and blow them away.  Its not an elegant solution, and will leave much left to do, or undo.  Finding the big bad guy is NOT the aim of the game as I read it, so I'd go with it, and just step back.  The session is far from over when the bodies hit the dust.

I strongly agree with you. I think that one of my problems is that I was trying to play demo-like sessions in few hours. Then, I was losing some time because of the red-herring chasing,  and finally not having time to develop enough the other details. Indeed, my most successful play is nowadays my second try. We have only played half of the town. The second part coming soon. Not having the time pressure I did it better on pressing them with the possible consequences and the hard decisions.

Blankshield:
Quote
Another option is to give the players a town that doesn't have a big bad.  Quoting myself from this thread:

I ran a town a little while back that went from Pride all the way up to sin.  I can't remember the exact details, but it was something to do with corn liquor.  I think the pride was "I deserve a little relaxing after a long day's work" or something similar.

I think you are talking about "Boxelder Canyon". Indeed, the second town I begin to play, the most successful nowadays, is similar to this one. In my third try, I wanted something more direct because I was introducing new players to the game, but I finished doing it less subtle and less interesting instead of more direct. Anyway the players enjoyed a lot. But I felt like it could be much more interesting. At the end I noticed I was making the same mistakes as in the first try, hiding too much the town secrets. Thus, delaying play for no good.

Warren:
Quote
Also, for those NPCs have it so that when the Dogs question or otherwise interact with them, throw up a conflict at them with some Stakes like "Do the Dogs leave the NPC alone?" or something similar ("Do I convince the Dogs that Br.Jacob is a Sinner?", maybe).

I also tried this. But most of the times the Dogs are too powerfull (especially when they join the conflict as a team) and everything is spilled over. But I like the second part of your post:
Quote
Now this conflict should tag to the players that this NPC is interesting, but the character has done their damnest (as shown by the Conflict) to keep the Dogs away, and hence follow their motivations.

It's ok if they discover the problem. What I should do is to make the decision of what to do with her/him more intense, showing collateral consequences and pressing on the probably reasonable motivations of the sinner.
And keeping and eye on the decisions of the players to press them more in the next situation (it is commented in the rules book, I think). If they show mercy, the next sin should be more hideous. If they quickly execute the sinner, the next sin should be more subtle, less clear,  with stronger motivations.

Cheers,
Arturo
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2006, 11:53:57 AM »

Hey Arturo,

More specifically, I don't know what may those NPCs do to achieve what they want. To keep the dogs away.

First off, the NPC whose sole objective is to eject the protagonists from the relationship map is a problematic NPC, with one foot in a not-so-narrativist "prove to me you're a protagonist" GM mindset, rather than a presumption of protagonism mindset. They're characters with triggers, vague and unengaging until the trigger is found, forcing players into blind hunt-for-the-trigger play, and if/when they're found out they explode like cornered rats. There isn't a lot of watchability to that story, so personally I no longer create these kinds of NPCs. What you want are NPCs who can interact with the protagonists and be unfolded to the interest of the audience of players by those interactions.

But if you gotta play the cards you're dealt, figure out how the NPC can engage with the player characters, rather than avoid or repel them. Perhaps a particular NPC is so determined to prove she's not sinning that she insists the dogs stay at her home. Maybe she even publicly argues with the branch steward for the honor. Your job as GM isn't to protect and withold the town's secrets. It's to reveal those secrets to the players at the first dramatic opportunity that becomes available.

Paul
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2006, 12:15:11 PM »

Yeah.

How do you play an NPC who wants to keep the Dogs away? You play her as someone who is absolutely bound to fail. You show a cold authorial disregard for her wants and needs. You launch conflicts that she'd really, really wish you wouldn't even launch. You say "there's nobody interesting at all in the meetinghouse, just a bunch of praying Faithful. One of them is Sister Maybeth, she looks just like all the others in every way, but man ALIVE does she hope you don't notice her." You say "you walk into the circle of people standing around the gallows. Conflict! What's at stake is, does Brother Ephraim accidently catch your notice, like he's trying so hard not to?"

Then you have them scream at the Dogs to go away and mind their own business, shoot at the Dogs, lie to the Dogs, and just generally put themselves squarely in the Dogs' field of vision.

-Vincent
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jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2006, 01:31:15 PM »

Heh.  Déjà vu.  I played one of those NPC's in our group's Dogs game.  In the town write up, under Brother Hiram I had, "He wants the Dogs to leave him and his family alone."  And one of the early conflicts with Brother Hiram resulted in him being shot to death by one of the Dogs.  See my Actual Play post:  [DitV]The Death of Brother Hiram.  That first paragraph depicts how I played Brother Hiram.  His death had two huge effects on the game:  Brother Hiram could not be the source of information about the town's sin, and Brother Hiram's wife.  His wife was originally set-up as someone who would seek the Dogs help, but after her husband's death she was against the Dogs and played a major role in two later town conflicts.

Julie
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JC
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2006, 03:57:20 AM »

Yeah.

How do you play an NPC who wants to keep the Dogs away? You play her as someone who is absolutely bound to fail. You show a cold authorial disregard for her wants and needs. You launch conflicts that she'd really, really wish you wouldn't even launch. You say "there's nobody interesting at all in the meetinghouse, just a bunch of praying Faithful. One of them is Sister Maybeth, she looks just like all the others in every way, but man ALIVE does she hope you don't notice her." You say "you walk into the circle of people standing around the gallows. Conflict! What's at stake is, does Brother Ephraim accidently catch your notice, like he's trying so hard not to?"

Then you have them scream at the Dogs to go away and mind their own business, shoot at the Dogs, lie to the Dogs, and just generally put themselves squarely in the Dogs' field of vision.

-Vincent

brilliant !
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Arturo G.
Member

Posts: 333


« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2006, 07:38:05 PM »


Nice advise from everyone. I would say that Vincent knows his game in actual play quite a lot. I'm feeling more confident to face my future sessions of DitV.

Paul said:
 
Quote
First off, the NPC whose sole objective is to eject the protagonists from the relationship map is a problematic NPC, with one foot in a not-so-narrativist "prove to me you're a protagonist" GM mindset, rather than a presumption of protagonism mindset. They're characters with triggers, vague and unengaging until the trigger is found, forcing players into blind hunt-for-the-trigger play, and if/when they're found out they explode like cornered rats. There isn't a lot of watchability to that story, so personally I no longer create these kinds of NPCs. What you want are NPCs who can interact with the protagonists and be unfolded to the interest of the audience of players by those interactions.

Interesting comment. I never thought about it in that way. I would try to digest it carefully, as I'm not yet so sure it can be generalize so easily. May someone point me to other actual play threads which show or in your opinion negate this idea?

Thanks again,
Arturo
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