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Author Topic: [DitV] Big Rock Fork  (Read 3856 times)
Adam Dray
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« on: February 18, 2006, 10:18:00 AM »

I ran Dogs in the Vineyard for the first time a few weekends ago with three players who don't have much indie game experience. Some really bizarre things happened and I thought I'd share. Read on and you'll see.

Town Summary

The Lord's Watchdogs hadn't been to Big Rock Fork in several years. This summer, Brother Absalom believed her should take the law into his own hands. He started solving the town's problems quietly. Sister Bethia was married to Brother Cyrus, but she thought he was weak.

Some Easterners were getting rowdy at the Trading Post one day and Br. Absalom ran them out at gunpoint. He'd forgotten his proper role. Sister Bethia pushed her husband away. She refused to let him sleep in their bed.

In the Fall, the Easterners returned. One of them, Mr. Wilhelm, threatened to bring in the Territorial Authority. He argued with Absalom. In anger, Wilhelm kicked Sister Deference's golden retriever, Jackson, who liked to sleep on the porch of the Trading Post, and broke the dog's leg. Enraged, Absalom shot Wilhelm in the head. Bethia was so impressed with Absalom's show of strength that she started sleeping with him, but they didn't tell Cyrus.

Big Rock's sins opened the town to attacks by demons. Life became very chaotic in Big Rock Fork. The granary burned down and the village panicked. Steward Elijah wanted to send someone to the Redwater Branch but Absalom insisted that he knew better and he set down a plan for rationing the food. When Hortentia discovered her food had been stolen, Absalom was able to sniff out the secret cache in Kevan's barn. Hortentia was amazed. The demons fueled Absalom's pride by creating many similar, small problems that he was able to solve easily. They made him think he had a gift for sniffing out evil, but really, they were just whispering the answers in his ear.

Brother Absalom started to believe he was the Hound of Big Rock. He believed that, when the King's Watchdogs aren't around to handle life's problems, the Faithful must protect themselves, and that he, the Hound, was selected by the King of Life to protect the town. During her daily prayers, Bethia started thanking the King of Life for blessing Absalom. The Hound started mimicking Ceremony when dealing with the town's problems.

The seeming miracles of the Hound's work in town convinced Steward Elija and his wife Elder Frances to start asking the townsfolk to start praying for Absalom. Some did; others thought it was blasphemous. Sister Bethia was also vocal in converting the town to follow the Hound and the Steward. After all, Absalom kept the town safe, didn't he?

The town's faith in Absalom gave him power. The demons possessed the dog, Jackson, who became very faithful to Absalom. They also possesed several townsfolk. Brother Gilbert is the Hound's right-hand man. Sisters Hortentia and Impertinence moved in with Absalom and Bethia, doing their housework and occasionally sharing their bed. Hortentia's husband Malachi accepted it grudgingly but he doesn't know about the sex. Absalom's power got greater as Winter approached. He was able to hold back the worst winter storms and the town thinks this is a great blessing of the King.

Impertinence's father, Elder Nathaniel, is one of the remaining Faithful. He used to speak out loudly against the Hound but every time he did so, something bad happened to one of his loved ones. The first time, the Hound killed his cousin Philomena and said that she had come at Hortentia with a knife and called her a whore and tried to kill her (it's true). The second time, Bethia and Frances claimed that Riley, the blacksmith's son (whom Nathaniel was mentoring), was kicked by a demon-possessed horse (it's true). The Hound put the horse down. Yesterday, Nathaniel's wife Sybrina fell down the stairs right in front of him and landed at the feet of their son Obediah, who believes Nathaniel pushed her (he did not).
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2006, 10:22:58 AM »

What the NPCs Want

Asalom wants the Dogs to go away. He wants to protect the town himself and enjoy the benefits thus from it (a false wife plus house servants who sleep with him). He wants several wives.

Bethia wants the Dogs to go away. If they won’t, she wants to convince them to marry her to Absalom.

Cyrus wants his wife back. He wants to kill Asalom but won’t because he knows it’s a sin.

Deference wants the Dogs to bless the Hound, because he protected her and her dog, Jackson.

Steward Elijah regrets his choice to back Asalom but he’s all the way in now. He wants to blame it all on Asalom once it comes out. He thought the Dogs were never coming.

Elder Frances wants to sleep with Absalom. She wants the Dogs to divorce her from Elijah.

Gilbert wants to convince the town that the Dogs are threats and eventually kill them.

Hortentia wants to marry Absalom. She knows he’s not married to Bethia and she’s willing to get Bethia in trouble or get her killed to get Absalom. She also wants to keep her father, Elder Nathaniel, safe and will enlist the Dogs to protect him.

Impertinence wants to sleep with one of the Dogs, since she believes that they have more power than the Hound.

Jackson wants more love and attention. Absalom and the sisters of his house neglect him.

Kevan wants out of the stocks and wants his name cleared. He didn’t steal Hortentia’s food.

Malachi doesn’t want the Dogs to find out his wife is living and sleeping with Absalom. He’ll distract the Dogs and lie if necessary.

Elder Nathaniel wants to stay alive and keep the Faith. He wants the Dogs to kill Absalom.

Obediah wants his dad brought to justice for pushing his mom down the stairs.


What the Demons Want

The demons want Big Rock Fork to convert entirely to this false worship until many of them are dead. They will convert as many as possible, have the converted kill the Faithful, then have the converted turn on themselves. They want to kill all visitors to the town and keep everyone from leaving. They cannot let anyone spread knowledge of the Hound or the town’s false worship to other towns.
   
The demons want to kill the Dogs and prevent them from leaving. They may even try to convince the Dogs that the Hound is truly blessed by the King of Life.

If the Dogs never came, the demons would kill most of the townspeople and perhaps take the remaining few to a new town to destroy them, too.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Adam Dray
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2006, 11:15:33 AM »

Players

I had three players. I spent a half hour or so explaining what Dogs was about. Because of their fantasy role-playing background, I decided to play up the supernatural elements (but made it clear that it was a dial we could set together). They were all enthusiastic about confronting demons and turning the supernatural dial way up. I encouraged them to tie their characters to the supernatural world through their traits and relationships.

Jen is my wife's sister. I don't think she gamed much (or any) before she started gaming with me. My wife and I ran a half-homebrew, half-GM-fiat game in a Bronze Age fantasy world about ten years ago and Jen was one of the players. She played in my D&D 3E games after that. She enjoys CRPGs like Torment and has played on some MUDs. She's always had a soft spot for cute, furry animals, so I was being naughty by tossing in Jackson the dog into the town.

Chris is Jen's husband. He has a fair amount of D&D experience and MUD experience. He was a "tactician" when he played a cleric in my long-running D&D campaign. He and Jen were "founding members" of my local D&D group.

Lisa is a friend. She plays and staffs on the MUSH that my wife and I run. She played in my D&D campaign, starting late in the campaign. She and I both played in another friend's Star Wars D20 game (5-6 sessions before it fizzled). She also played in my one-shot My Life with Master game, and one of my Verge playtests. She has played other games, too, like Shadowrun (occasionally GMing it for other people).


Characters

Before creating characters, I read them a bit of the intro in the Characters chapter ("You are one of God's Watchdogs...") and explained how they were picked by their town's Steward and groomed and selected and then trained for several whole months to dispense theology and justice across the land of the Faithful. I asked them to recall back to when they were in high school, how ideal they were then, and how someone that age would feel if they were told they were selected by God to pronounce judgment on the world, then given a gun. I got some "Oh God" reactions and some cynical laughter so I mixed it up a bit with a, "Well, in this game, maybe God did select you for some reason. Maybe not. That's all up to you." I got some head nods and some thoughtful looks. I made it clear that I would not be judging their actions as a GM, that only they could determine if what they did was moral and right. I assured them it would be fun in any case then walked them through creating characters.

I don't have their characters in front of me (they took them home), so this is all from memory.

Jen created Sister Agatha. She decided that Agatha had come from Big Rock Fork. She chose a Complicated History and said that Agatha was an outsider (I believe she had one parent from the Mountain People), an abused, adopted child whose parents and caretakers had burned with cigarettes and otherwise mistreated. She had a sick fascination with fire. Jen chose her initiation challenge: to walk across a bed of hot coals barefoot. Jen said that Agatha sneaked off in the night and made a bonfire out in the middle of the prairie, stared at the fire for a while, then when it had burned down to nearly nothing, she wanted to walk across the coals. We rolled dice. I raised with things like the sound of her flesh sizzling under her and painful memories of her past. She countered with willpower, hatred, and her sense of self-sufficiency. In the end, she achieved her challenge.

Lisa created Sister Patience. Her challenge was that she learned to trust. I set the scene outside the Temple. She was standing on a fort wall and dozens of fellow Dog candidates were standing below her. Her trainer asked her to face away from them and fall back into their arms, and they would catch her. One of those corny teamwork training things, but it seemed perfect. We rolled dice. I raised with memories of betrayal and because the supernatural dials were turned up, I had demons whispering in her ear, "They won't catch you. They will let you fall." I can't remember her blocks and raises. At some point, I made it physical and the invisible demon pushed her (or she lost balance, right?). She decided to Give. She fell into the arms of the people below her. Because she Gave, I should have instructed her to write an Accomplishment about not learning to trust. I was probably unclear, because she wrote "I learned to trust 1d6." She also took some long term Fallout.

Chris created Brother Trevor. He was a fascinating character. Chris wanted to play with the supernatural stuff so he decided his Dog's power came from a demon that half-possessed him but that was under his control. Trevor burned the symbol of the Tree of Life into his own flesh; the pain helped him control the demon. He made his Initiation challenge, "I come to grips with my demonic possession." I set a scene. He was in the bedroom that he shared with another NPC Dog candidate (let's call him Hiram). Trevor had confided in Hiram about his demonic possession and Hiram threatened to tell the entire Temple. We rolled dice. Chris quickly escalated to physical, smashing Hiram in the head with his Book of Life. Chris asked if he could decide that Hiram was demon-possessed, too, so that the Tree of Life would burn into Hiram's forehead. Sure! Trevor said things to Hiram about controlling his inner demon and lectured Hiram. Under control, Trevor explained, the power was a gift from God. Out of control, the power was a sin to be abolished. Chris and I exchanged some great raises and blocks. Brother Trevor took some Fallout but eventually he forced the wild-eyed demon-possessed Hiram out the bedroom window to crumple in a dead heap on the ground a story below. Chris had won the conflict, so I let him narrate. Trevor was a hero for destroying a demon in the Temple, said Chris, and a secret society within the Temple had taken him under their wing for additional demon-fighting training. All the members of the secret society had demons that they controlled in a half-possessed state. Chris was well aware of the hypocrisy of the whole thing and we all delighted in it. I think he added a relationship to the society on his sheet.

So, I had three players who had little or no experience in Narrative style gaming yet seemed to really get it, and quickly. After we finished all three Initiations, Chris said that he loved how the game focused play on the stuff that matters and the characters' issues. And what issues they have! Sister Patience doesn't trust people. Sister Agatha has a chip on her shoulder and comes from a terrible home (and is about to go back into it as a Dog). Brother Trevor harbors a demon and uses it for power while righteously exterminating other people who do the same thing. I knew we were headed somewhere really cool.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Mikael
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Posts: 206


« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2006, 02:09:38 AM »

Sounds awesome, Adam. Can´t wait to hear how the Town went.

I have this nagging impression that often the accomplishments get really up close and personal, leaving thplayers asking for more, and then the Town does not really deliver. Yes, it delivers the fun, but it is very hard to make it as personal - like, accomplishments are conflicts within, while Towns easily end up being conflicts outside the Dogs.

So, yes, I am eager to see how you managed to keep up the high expectations set by your accomplishments.

Cheers,
+ Mikael
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2006, 01:02:32 PM »

Actual Play

So it's about time I wrote up the actual play after chargen. We did manage to play through Big Rock Fork in the space of five hours or so. I apologize in advance: I have no memory for details and spent most of my time trying to run the game rather than take good notes. I have none of the details about dice and stuff and will probably get details out of order. What I can do is present the gist of the storyline and focus on some cool things players did and some troubles we had.

I jump-started the game by having the Temple sending the Dogs off to the Redwater Branch for their first assignment. Jen gave me this pointed WTF look and I quickly let her know that they would end up at Big Rock Fork, the town in which her character Agatha grew up, as we'd discussed. "Trust me." It was more than trust, though; I was doing what I'd promised but there was some story pretense interjected such that Big Rock Fork was not a "planned destination" but they'd end up there anyway. The players were comfortable with this and we moved on.

I set the scene. The Dogs had been en route to the Redwater Branch when the winter weather took a turn for the worse and they stopped in Big Rock Fork, which was only an hour out of their way. I told Agatha that her hometown of Big Rock Fork had never really raised the attention of the Temple before and that the Dogs rarely came here. As they entered town, they noticed an unnatural calmness in the storm, and the surrounding mountains and hills didn't adequately explain the relatively warm weather here. I further set the mood by saying that many of the adults in town quickly went inside, seeming to avoid contact with the Dogs.

As soon as they got to town, I reminded the players that this wasn't a mystery adventure. I was going to have the NPCs give them all the information that they wanted as fast as the Dogs wanted it, and then they'd get to make choices about how to resolve it.

Hortentia came running out of the Trading Post, acting all friendly. She welcomed them to town, offered them the run of the Post, and mentioned that the Dogs hadn't been to town in a long, long time. She added, "But we really don't need them anymore, since The Hound is watching over us all." Players raised eyebrows and there was some table banter about their right to do this. Since none of the players had read the rulebook, they wanted me to clarify thematic expectations. I assured them that Faithful didn't normally take the law into their own hands this way -- dispensing justice was the role of God's Watchdogs -- but also reminded them that the Dogs hadn't been here in a long time, and it was really up to them (the players) to decide if the town had done something wrong.

At the Post, Bethia and Impertinence happily talked about Absalom's bravery and how he shot down Mr. Wilhelm for threatening them and hurting poor Jackson, the Post's doggie. I'd been naughty. Jen has a history of playing characters who have a weakness for cute furry animals and she'd normally jump all over this. I'd set up a situation that I hoped would tug at Jen's heartstrings a bit: Wilhelm crushed Jackson's little leg and so Absalom just had to shoot the man, right? She didn't bite at all. All three players wanted to understand the entire situation and no one jumped to any conclusions based on gut instinct. No problem.

Oh, and Bethia slips in, "And will you marry me and Absalom?" Throughout play, Jen kept looking to me for cues about what Agatha would know of each NPC and I'd tell her anything I thought would help. Bethia was engaged to Cyrus, but she says it didn't work out. She's engaged to Absalom now. The players don't pursue that; I sense they want to meet Absalom who calls himself The Hound and they're not interested in little sins.

They left the Post and were heading towards Absalom's house when they stumbled across the stocks and pillory in the middle of town. Brother Gilbert was there, tormenting an imprisoned Kevan with a bowl of inedible slop. The Dogs indignantly asked by whose authority Kevan was locked up? I can't remember exactly how this played out, but here's what I think I remember. I started to go down the wrong path by making "Dogs get to the bottom of this -- is Kevan lying?" the conflict. We started to roll dice but I stopped and say, "No, wait. This is a crappy conflict. I give. You get to the bottom of it. You're positive Kevan is telling the truth that he didn't steal the food." I wanted to get all the info out and this just wasn't an interesting conflict. Gilbert basically told the Dogs everything, sneering at the group constantly, clearly hostile. In retrospect, I could have made the conflict between the Dogs and Gilbert, not the Dogs and the truthiness (ha) of Kevan's circumstances. Gilbert was, after all, the demon-possessed underling of The Hound and he had a stake in protecting Absalom's power. I think I backed off it for story pacing reasons. Was that the wrong thing to do? There was lots of "free and clear" role-playing going on during this bit.

I had more thugs drag Elder Nathaniel out to the Dogs. They and Gilbert wanted justice. They explained to the Dogs how Nathaniel had shoved his wife down the stairs. Obediah was there and he swore he saw it with his own two eyes. Lots of role-playing went on as the Dogs asked questions. The players were starting to get into their characters. Again, they asked if the accused was lying. This time I just told them they were sure he was not.

They get to Absalom's mansion. It used to be his dad's, but they find out his dad passed away a few months ago, somewhere soon after Agatha left for Dogs training. They find Hortentia here, doing housework. Hortentia had no business here; she should be home with her husband, not doing Absalom's housework. They find out Bethia lives there with Absalom. Bethia shares a bed with Absalom and they're not married. They ask about Hortentia's role there? Why is she doing their work? "Oh, Impertinence and I help out around the house. Brother Absalom is so busy protecting the town, he needs help." Where do they sleep? "We have our own bedrooms, of course!" They do, but the Dogs make her show them.

While they're talking, Elder Frances (the Steward's wife) shows up at the door all gussied up in her finest. Lisa's character has some kind of trait about having great hearing, so I tell her that she overhears Frances asking if The Hound is there (he's not). She seems nervous and she's carrying some kind of gift of food. Frances notices the Dogs inside, and runs off nervously.

This is a lot to type, but everything so far probably took thirty minutes to role-play and the players were very engaged. Information was flying freely and there was lots of back-and-forth role-playing among the players (including me). I don't think we rolled any dice, which isn't good because it meant no conflict yet. I probably should have dumped a conflict on them right away or not shirked away from the conflict with Kevan and Gilbert and Nathaniel. I'm not beating myself up too badly because the players were having fun.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2006, 02:01:24 PM »

Before they left Absalom's mansion, Impertinence started hitting on Brother Trevor (Chris). Agatha warned the women that they weren't married and that there would be "no fornicating." Jen was already talking about returning to the house and lighting it on fire with her Big Lighter 1d6. Remember her character's sick fascination with fire?

So, the Dogs head out to talk to the Steward to find out what the hell he's been doing. His wife is there and they confront her about her visit. I think there was a conflict and some dice there, and with all three pushing, they quickly get her and the Steward to spill their story. I think we decided that Steward Elijah was a mentor to Agatha though I forgot to tell the players to write down Relationships during play. Oops. They learn how the Steward and Elder Frances and Sister Bethia all supported Absalom and how they asked the townfolk to give him their support. I had explained the town creation rules (and thus the theology) to the players. Chris and Lisa had taken careful notes but Chris latched onto the progression of Injustice, Pride, Sin, and so on, and made some noise about this being a False Priesthood, but the players didn't punish Elijah or Frances, though they'd learned that it was the Steward who had suggested the name "The Hound" to Absalom and it was Frances who came up with the three-pronged Tree of Life symbol that the flock now used. The Dogs seemed to blame everything on Absalom and they didn't hold anyone else responsible yet. I didn't push them one way or the other.

When they left the Steward's house, they wanted to check the graveyard. I told Jen which headstones Agatha didn't remember and gave them some information (via discussions with NPCs) about the other deaths. They also learned that The Hound had been using a mockery of Ceremony in his own crime-solving and that he had a 3-pronged Tree of Life on the back of his own Coat.

Then I turned up the volume. Gilbert was in the middle of town and was about to hang Nathaniel for his "murder." There was some WTF table talk as we discussed that they had freed Kevan and Nathaniel and expected that those two were following them around. I said that they'd been freed and walked away while the Dogs were visiting people and they agreed, but maybe because they're used to GM fiat. I should have slowed down and asked them what they wanted, or "sold" them on the idea that a hanging scene would be fun to play out and gotten their permission. I was framing aggressively and wanted Nathaniel in the noose. Looking back, I think it could have been anyone. I should have left Nathaniel and Kevan in their ward and put some other poor NPC up there in Gilbert's rope. But the players didn't seem to mind that much that I'd stolen their wards by fiat, and we moved on.

Conflict time! Gilbert was adamant about hanging poor Elder Nathaniel. He claimed authority from The Hound. There were a lot of townspeople with him, ready to back him and riot and tear the Dogs to pieces. Gilbert was carrying a big gun. We discussed stakes and settled on something like, "The Dogs prevent the crowd from hanging Elder Nathaniel." Gilbert was demon possessed, so I brushed up on the rules, grabbed a proto-NPC and assigned stuff for Gilbert. We rolled dice. It turned into Fighting really fast and then went to Guns. There was some "reverse" escalation to Physical and Non-Physical to get more dice (not every Dog had the same traits involved due to their actions). We did three Dogs vs. Gilbert using the multiple participants rules, which worked well. Some of the Dogs just tried to shoot Gilbert. Some were trying to free Nathaniel. The players quickly caught onto cinematic narration and Chris used the "coat reflects bullets" schtick mentioned in the book (I'd told them about it when we talked about the supernatural dial). In the end, they shot Gilbert down and rescued the Elder. Some of the Dogs took Fallout but nothing too serious.

The Dogs were pretty furious by that point and they marched to Absalom's house, where the sharp ears of Sister Patience (Lisa) picked up sounds of giggling upstairs. Jen jumped on this and had Agatha kick in the house's door, stomp up the stairs and into the bedroom, and shout, "I said, NO FORNICATING!!"  This turned into the "boss" conflict. Here was Absalom, effectively a sorcerer, and three girlfriends -- Bethia, Hortentia, and Impertinence -- two of whom are possessed by demons. I unintentionally forgot about the possession of  Hortentia and Impertinence and grabbed a proto-NPC and assigned dice for Absalom, The Hound, noting his additional sorcerer powers.

I wish I could remember the stakes we set for this conflict. I'll ask the players and see if they remember. This is the big important one, in terms of discussion, because here is where some things went wrong with the game session.

Things started out with talking. The Dogs were trying to get Absalom to explain his side of the story and determine if he was lying. I told the players that Trevor definitely had that "demon-possessed" vibe from Absalom and that the other Dogs could tell, too, if they wanted. Absalom was buck naked and confidently walking around the room that way. There's a lot of tense parlay. They made him put on a robe. I don't think guns were drawn yet but if they were, we weren't rolling Guns dice yet. No one was shooting or getting physical.

Absalom tried to convince them to let him take them all down to the parlor and have a civilized discussion. That was his Raise. Chris and Lisa both Blocked and narrated something appropriate. If I remember, Jen wanted to shove him as her Block. I told her that she needed to counter his Raise first, then a shove could be part of her own Raise, or if she could See with one die, she could Reverse the Blow with a shove. Jen expressed frustration with the rules not making sense. She wanted to invalidate Absalom's Raise with her own Raise and not have to See it. I tried to make it clear that she could do everything she wanted in-character as long as she satisfied the dice requirements. That is, she wasn't that far from doing what she wanted. She just had to See, then Raise, and her narration for the See with three dice had to Take the Blow of Absalom's "Let's go downstairs and talk this over." She had even rolled in her Fighting dice (shoving him), and not gotten sufficient dice to See with less than three dice. I think Jen was balking against her character being convinced of something she-the-player didn't want, and her escalation hadn't helped either.

After a couple rounds, things went to Fighting and Guns and demon-enhanced Fallout. Jen was still annoyed, I could tell. I took a moment to discuss it with her and she admitted that she was cranky because she was hungry (we'd played for about six hours without a food break). I offered her the pick of the fridge and she made apologetic noises and we finished the conflict. The Dogs beat Absalom down without killing him.

Because we were all hungry and tired, we ended soon thereafter. The Dogs executed Absalom in front of the town. They might have punished one or two of the women (probably Bethia). They didn't even consider punishing the Steward or his wife, or any of the flock of townsfolk who followed Absalom. When I game with the group again, I should ask them what they'd do with the others. We ended the game and grabbed dinner with my wife Steph at that point. Jen, Chris, and Lisa enthusiastically recounted the story of the game to Steph over dinner.

The players did address their character issues somewhat.

Jen and I negotiated a number of little details about Agatha's first-hand knowledge of the town of Big Rock Fork and her hatred of most of its citizens. She prompted me to make Gilbert one of the evil farm hands who had treated her poorly in her past, so his death was cathartic for her. She never did get to burn anything down with her Big Lighter 1d6, though she talked about it a lot. I suspect that if the others hadn't wanted to run into the mansion and witness the orgy in the master bedroom with their own eyes, Jen would have had Agatha torch the place and burn the "fornicators" alive.

Chris used his "demon powers" a fair bit, interpreting his Raises and Sees with a supernatural flair. He lectured Absalom about being able to control the demon within him and judged that because he couldn't, he had to die for the evil things he did.

Lisa played more of a supporting role. I can't remember if she really addressed her character's trust issues. I certainly didn't do anything to push them, unfortunately.

I think the game went well, though I made some mistakes. Next time I run Dogs, I will:
  • ensure that we have healthy snacks at the table
  • make sure the players understand how to use and add Relationships
  • drop the characters into a conflict, with dice, earlier in the game
  • avoid framing scenes that ignore what the players want (re: Nathaniel being recaptured by Gilbert)
  • push the issues of the characters harder
  • write a smaller Town
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Adam Dray
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2006, 02:07:25 PM »

I have this nagging impression that often the accomplishments get really up close and personal, leaving thplayers asking for more, and then the Town does not really deliver. Yes, it delivers the fun, but it is very hard to make it as personal - like, accomplishments are conflicts within, while Towns easily end up being conflicts outside the Dogs.

So, yes, I am eager to see how you managed to keep up the high expectations set by your accomplishments.

Exactly. I think I managed to deliver for Jen's town-hating, fire-obsessed Sister Agatha. I think I delivered for Chris's hypocritical, demon-possessed Brother Trevor. I think I totally let down Lisa and her untrusting, loner Sister Patience.

Part of the problem might be that I created the Town as prep before we made characters. I wanted to run this as a one-shot so I didn't get the opportunity to really tailor the Town for the PCs.

At the same time, I think the responsibility for hitting all those personal issues is shared with the players. It's not my job to make the game fun for them -- and they did have lots of fun. If they wanted to hit on character issues, they had the power to do so, I think. They might not have had the skill to do so, though. Maybe after a few more sessions of Nar games, they will all be hitting their characters' issues all the time. Chris seemed to get it 100% though by the end of the game.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
jlarke
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Posts: 19

Grump


« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2006, 02:53:14 PM »

It seems to me that part of the difficulty in the conflict with Absalom was that "let's go downstairs and talk this out," is a weak raise. I don't see anything in there that I couldn't ignore, and it sounds like Jen sensed that.
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My real name is Jason Larke.
Adam Dray
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2006, 04:07:47 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, Jason!

When you're in a "Talking" conflict, though, can't you pretty much ignore all Raises? The part I wanted them not to ignore wasn't the "let's go downstairs" bit but the "let's be civilized and talk" part. Meaning, let him dress, let him go downstairs, let's reframe this situation in one where he has more control over his surroundings (isn't naked, isn't caught in bed, isn't in a room with blocked exits, isn't in a room where he can't get to weapons).
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
jlarke
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2006, 04:46:01 PM »

I see where you're coming from, and I agree that they can't ignore that part of it. Taking The Blow could have just been admitting to being uncivilized, right? Did Jen get that? On my first reading it sounded like she thought that Taking The Blow required her to agree to go downstairs and talk it over.

Thanks for the welcome. :)
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My real name is Jason Larke.
Adam Dray
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« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2006, 06:08:55 PM »

I'm not sure what Jen thought at that point. I didn't stop to talk about it. It's on my list of things to discuss next time we get together. =) If I'm lucky and she's not too shy, she'll post her responses here herself...
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
jlathomas
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Posts: 7


« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2006, 10:09:35 AM »

[Agatha]: It was difficult for me to give away all those dice just to counter something that my group members had already countered. It is probably the dice-hoarder in me, but using all my potential for future action in the scene just to agree with my companions that "no, we aren't going downstairs" seems like too much. The whole see and raise thing makes sense to me in most situations, but if your answer to an action is another action, you need to spend twice as many dice as it seems you should (1 set for seeing, 1 set for your action).

I also had some trouble with the concept that all actions are basically equal--1d6 to convince someone of something, or 1d6 to club them over the head. Of course, since this was my first time playing, I may be misunderstanding a lot. I am probably not understanding that you can just give as part of your overall strategy.

And yes, I get crabby when frustrated and hungry.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2006, 11:16:31 AM »

Thanks for jumping in, Jen!

In my mind, the other players hadn't dealt with Absalom entirely. The conflict wasn't over, just one "round" of it. Chris and Lisa had effectively blocked Absalom as he affected them but you still had to deal with Agatha's reaction to him. He was saying you were all acting uncivilized. Trevor and Patience waved him off but you didn't have the dice to have Agatha do the same thing.

You were still in control of Agatha's reaction to the fact that she didn't have a comeback to Abasalom's little quip, though. I don't think we'd taken things Physical at that point (meaning, he wasn't pushing past you) so there wasn't any danger of him leaving the room yet. And if he tried that, you could have pulled out your gun, rolled more dice, and shot him. But you had to deal with the fact that Agatha really couldn't block his talking.

You were concerned about wasting dice on losing? One strategy is to toss out all your lowest dice till they add up to the Raise. He Raises with 15 or something and you toss out 1+1+1+2+2+2+3+3=15 and take 8 dice Fallout. It's just talking, so the Fallout is d4's and can't kill you, and you're practically guaranteed to get some Experience out of it. You might have some higher dice sitting in your pool, waiting for next round, and you figure you'll raise the stakes to Guns and bring in some larger dice then too.

If I hadn't forgotten to remind you all that you could add Relationships to people during the game, you could have assigned a relationship to Absalom right before the encounter and brought in the dice for that. My bad.

Actions are not all basically equal. While they may be rated with the same dice for effectiveness, they have different levels of Fallout. Your 3d6 used for Talking will net you and your opponent 4-siders for Fallout and the same 3d6 used for a Gun fight will net you and your opponent 10-siders for Fallout. You can win a conflict and take way more Fallout than the other guy, and end up feeling like you lost. But you can also Give or lose the conflict but take no Fallout and feel you came out ahead.

As for spending twice as many dice to answer an action with another action... you were trying to pre-empt his action, or at the very least ignore it. If I say, "You should be ashamed! You are acting uncivilized," you could punch me in the head, but you haven't addressed how your character feels about the insult. With a 2-dice Block or Dodge, you get to brush it off. With 3 or more dice, you have to Take the Blow.

This is like a D20 Intimidate roll against your character. You might not like it that much that an NPC can make your character feel a certain way, but it can happen (assuming the players agree the rules work that way against PCs). In Dogs, the rules work that way.

I'm rambling out of order here, but I keep thinking of different things to talk about.

I don't think that "we are going downstairs" was ever at stake. If I made it seem that way, I made a mistake. I didn't think where you talked mattered that much, so I used it as color for the scene. It wasn't a tactical thing for Absalom. He didn't need his clothes and gun to be dangerous, since he had sorcerer powers and stuff.

Do you remember what the actual stakes were for that scene?

Thanks again for jumping in. I would love to understand better what happened at the end of that game. If you care to share insights into what you'd have done to the Steward and other sinners in town, like the townspeople who were supporting Absalom actively or passively, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
jlathomas
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Posts: 7


« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 11:59:45 AM »

Hrm. I don't really recall the precise stakes anymore for that scene--I recall Absalom wanting his Coat (either to wear it or protect it), wanting to go talk downstairs, and Lisa struggling with one of his women, but that's it. :(

I am unclear on rounds. I thought that all the dice a character has for various traits & relationships & items are all you have and can tap for the entire duration of the 'scene' (and by scene, I was taking that to mean everything that happened until we changed locations within the town).  I guess that what that particular dice situation meant is that Agatha is so ashamed of bursting in on Absalom naked (or traumatized by it) that she is effectively neutralized for the rest of the scene and has to take fallout for everything that she can't See.

So, when is the next round, then? Once Agatha is out of dice, when can she reuse the dice that have been cast?

I felt like I didn't have enough dice overall. By the time I was done Seeing things, I had enough dice for maybe one more action, even after bringing in all the dice for everything else I could reasonably work in. So, how do you play the scene once you are out of dice? That's why I said I couldn't *do* anything. I didn't have the dice to act, I could only react/give--which I find frustrating just because :) I get mad when I run out of fireballs, too.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2006, 12:41:59 PM »

By "rounds," I mean one complete set of Raises and Sees and Goes. This was a 3 Dogs vs. 1 Bad Dude conflict. Let's say Bad Dude "Goes" first. So when Bad Dude pushed his dice forward for a Raise, every one of the 3 Dogs had to See it. Then each of the Dogs get to Raise -- that's their "Goes" -- and Bad Dude has to See each one of those in turn. Once everyone gets a "Goes" bit, then it's a new "round."

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I thought that all the dice a character has for various traits & relationships & items are all you have and can tap for the entire duration of the 'scene' (and by scene, I was taking that to mean everything that happened until we changed locations within the town). 

Yeah, pretty much that's it.

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I guess that what that particular dice situation meant is that Agatha is so ashamed of bursting in on Absalom naked (or traumatized by it) that she is effectively neutralized for the rest of the scene and has to take fallout for everything that she can't See.

Not exactly. That dice situation was just one round within the scene. She's not "neutralized for the rest of the scene." Your See with 3+ dice just means that Agatha has to Take the Blow on that particular Raise from Absalom. You can interpret it how you like -- you get to narrate how it is you Take the Blow, and I'm sure you can think of several ways to interpret the temporary setback. She does have to take Fallout for those dice for that Raise but it doesn't mean anything about subsequent rounds at all.

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So, when is the next round, then? Once Agatha is out of dice, when can she reuse the dice that have been cast?

The next round starts when everyone has had a chance to Raise and all the Sees have been handled. You can use each trait, relationship, ability, piece of equipment, whatever... only once per conflict, yes. You can reuse the dice in the next conflict.

If it were just Agatha vs. Absalom in that conflict, you might just Give and let him win those particular stakes, then find a way to reframe a new conflict with different stakes that advanced your purposes. But there were two other Dogs involved there and they were rolling well and I assume they didn't want to stop and Give. I suppose that made you feel "deprotagonized"?

If I recall, you had tons of dice, but they were rolling for crap. Do you have a number of d8- and d10-sized traits on your sheet? Having lots of d6 traits only gets you so far when the Bad Dude is pushing 7+8 forward for you to See. When you don't have the dice to See, and you don't have other dice you can roll and bring into the conflict, you lose the conflict. Essentially, you just don't get what you wanted. You don't take Fallout just for losing though; only for Taking the Blow (and that's always your choice, since you can Give instead).

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I get mad when I run out of fireballs, too.

*laugh* That's an awesome quote.

I'm curious though. What was at stake for you, the player there? Chris and Lisa seemed to have Abasalom under control and Absalom still had to spend dice to See your Raises, even if they were small, so you were contributing to the success of the conflict. Was this a "gamey" thing where you were winning the war but losing the battle, but all you could see was battle rage?
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
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