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[DitV] Why I like Tower Creek so much

Started by cdr, February 21, 2006, 06:55:09 PM

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Quote from: lumpley on February 21, 2006, 10:47:40 AM
Why Tower Creek? I think it's awesome that you've played the town so many times [...] what do you dig about that one in particular?

I've been a GM for 30 years (or perhaps 3 years 10 times), mostly Champions, Shadowrun, Feng Shui, D&D 3e, but a lot of other things now and then. What interests me most is illuminating character through hard moral decisions that have consequences, so Dogs is the game I've been wanting a long time, and I've run it a couple dozen times since I read it at last year's DunDraCon (February 2005).

In the mid-80's I ran the same Champions adventure ("The Last Hero") with pre-generated PCs at conventions about a dozen times, both in tournament and single-session forms.  If it's a good scenario, I like being able to run something multiple times, smoothing the rough spots, increasing my understanding of what works and doesn't work in it, and especially seeing how different people react to the same setup.

I've run Tower Creek, the example town in the DitV rulebook, six times now (sometimes with variations), and plan to run it a bunch more. I never get tired of the players' reaction when the shopkeeper's wife, Rachel, begs the Dogs to name her baby and they're all like, puzzled, sure, we name babies right, no problem and she grabs a shovel and leads them to the edge of town, and they realize what she means for them to do. "My baby wasn't meant to be born dead."

I enjoy the care a player takes in selecting a good name for her dead son, it's never been the same name twice but it's always been the perfect name.

The characters are grabby and sympathetic, the supernatural dial works whether set at zero, or at the usual "creepy and eerie" level, and I'd expect it to work all the way up at the high end if some group of players go for that.  (I always take my cue from the players for supernatural stuff.)

I like running variations on it, to explore how the parts interconnect. In Town #5 I dialed it back to see what if the Dogs got there before the false wedding (with the miscarriage as a demonic attack instead of sorcery), and it still worked very nicely.  In the first couple of runs there
was a big fun fight vs. the sorcerer at the end, with tons of fallout all around, and based on that and some other towns I hypothesized that players tend to be used to other games where there's an evil mastermind behind the problem and that once you uncover them, you kill them and that
fixes the problem. Dogs isn't that. The sorcerer's a symptom, not a cause, so I adjusted my presentation to clarify that.  Don't get me wrong, the fights with the sorcerer are always fun, but what I enjoy even more is the aftermath, where the Dogs (one of who is ALWAYS related to the
sorcerer) decide what to tell the townfolk.  In some instances her death was public and the Dogs give a mighty sermon and administer some shootings and beatings and burnings and set everything right, and in others they lie to the townfolk and say she died helping them against the demons and things are OK now, and bury her in honor next to her dead husband, and have some stern talks and maybe some banishing, and set everything right. Sometimes they think about just vanishing her, burying her out in the woods and not telling anyone anything, but so far that's never been the final outcome, because they get to thinking about what people would
say about her and how her family would feel and what that would do to the community.

After town #3 one of the players talked about how that Aunt reminded him of his own departed grandmother (not the sorcery, but rather the not taking no for an answer to make sure you're not the least bit hungry when you leave her table, and fussing after you even though you're all grown-up now, and being more like a force of nature than an elderly woman, and like that.)  That was also the game where a discussion of how belongings' dice could be determined by their emotional significance to the Dog lead to a couple of really nice stories during a break, by two of the players about their fathers, and discovering a common bond there. (That's the players' actual fathers, not the Dogs'.)

Sometimes the players focus on why the Steward didn't name the baby, and conflicts between the Dogs about whether they should name the baby right away, or first talk to the Steward and then name the baby, and Dog on Dog conflict is lightning-in-a-bottle big fun!  Sometimes the Steward tries to argue them out of naming the baby: "Naming dead things is sorcery!" (Always making it clear to the players that he may be claiming that, but it's up to THEM what their Dogs want to believe and do.)

And sometimes that turns into conflict about whether a respected elder in his 40's who's served faithfully all his life will buckle down under the authority of some teenagers with zeal and guns, or can talk them around to his side of things, or needs to have his pride beaten out of him. Players seem to love having the authority of their Dogs challenged, because they have the tools to defend it successfully.  (And sometimes it doesn't come to that at all.)

So far, the baby always gets named.

In town #4, the baby's spirit was called upon to defend a Dog from demons, leading to a followup conflict of whether the demons took the baby's soul with them (they didn't).

And then there's the uicy decision about what to do with the root cause. Does the Steward really deserve that second wife after all?  Who is at fault?  What should be done about the illicit lovers?  Sometimes the Dogs marry them, sometimes Cyrus gets banished.

(It's also lots of fun when Cyrus comes up to the Dogs going "Sorry to  bother you, but while you're in town would you mind marrying me and Edie? Sister Wilhelmina's ceremony was lovely and all, but I want to be sure I'm doing right by Edie 'cause I love her."  Sometimes I do it that way, sometimes another.)

Rachel's husband (the shopkeeper) is usually offscreen, but as a variation, in the latest game Brother Melchior took a relation to him phrased as "My sister Rachel's contemptible husband 1d6" and so he showed up to get what he had coming to him.

In game 6 the husbands of the Steward's 3 married daughters showed up near the end, with all their kinfolk, all with rifles, and things looked iffy, but Brother Zadok gave a great speech and swayed the townfolk to the side of the dogs, and defused the situation with no further bloodshed The player mentioned afterwards how much he liked doing that sort of thing, and its a glory of Dogs that it handles that kind of thing so well.

Things like Brother Obadiah believing he could live without community, but winding up putting dice in relations that showed maybe he did want community, and his player being pleased at how that kind of thing showed up.

Every time I run it's been a different kind of wonderful (and I credit the players and the system, not me).  When I run other towns those are fine too, but I enjoy thinking about the different approaches, and adjusting and polishing.  In the current version as I run it, the Steward's first
wife gave him 4 strong daughters but no sons, and its clear as anything that his second wife's desperate to give him the son he wants so bad, but maybe it's prideful to think a man deserves a son for serving the King of Life well.  Since many Dogs have father issues, there's interesting resonance there.

(And I've run it with differing offspring for the Steward, with differing results.  Earl once ran it where no one in the town had had a child born alive for a year and people were leaving and the Dogs rode in to find everyone singing in the community hall begging the King to save them.)

But I also choose it because of things it doesn't have. I mostly run it for people who've never played Dogs before and want to try it.  Some have read the rules (but not the town examples -- I bring a backup town in case someone already knows Tower Creek), some have only heard of Dogs and are intrigued enough to try it out.  While I want to run a town involving Mountain Folk someday, there's enough to do presenting the culture of the Faithful without also going into the culture of the Mountain Folk, interesting as that is.  I don't want to use child abuse, rape, abortion or racism in a town I'm running for first time players I don't know at all -- one can do powerfully strong towns with themes that strong, and people have, but I'd rather see how people walk before I lead them into a minefield.

Not that a dead baby isn't strong stuff, in it's own way.

The lazy census taker and greedy shopkeeper towns in the book are interesting too, but not as interesting to me.

Tower Creek fits on a single sheet, and more complicated towns spill onto a second sheet, which may seem silly given that I used to print dozens of pages for each session of my D&D campaign, but I like having everything there in one glance with no shuffling, and by now I don't even have to look, except maybe to remind myself which NPC is related to which Dog this time.

I want the players to have a good time, and to share my enthusiasm for Dogs, and for them to go out afterwards to buy it and talk it up and ideally run it for others, who in turn will go forth, and to spread the good word.  Pretty soon, they'll think it's a movement!  (But I'm not going door to door to run it.  Gotta draw a line somewhere.)

That was mighty long, and my thanks to anyone who got all the way down here. I'd be glad to answer any questions if anyone has some..


Wow. What an amazing post! Vincent must be proud. And it really made me want to try my hand at DitV soon.
Peter Dyring-Olsen


This is an amazing post! And I am proud.

What I like about Tower Creek is that I made it intentionally to oog out a couple of my friends, where I made the other two towns in the book just to illustrate the process. Not surprising I guess, but very satisfying, that the more personal oog = the more grippy town.

Thank you, Carl!


Eric Provost

Yeah.  Great post.  I get the feeling it'll affect how I write my future towns.



Insightfull comment from one of my players last night about Tower Creek: "It's just like a soap opera."

I definitely concur, it's an awesome town.

Frank Filz


You know, after reading this, I couldn't help but mind that thread which came to the conclusion that a town that goes all the way up to Hate & Murder works better for new DitV players than one that remains at lower levels, and thinking, "Tower Creek doesn't go all the way to Hate & Murder!"

Then I read it the text again, which of course corrected that thought. (Oh, the stillborn baby is Hate & Murder. Right.)

So, considering all the positive reviews you guys've been giving it, I've made Tower Creek up as a separate one-sheet which I'll take with me when I run Dogs for the first time (with all first-time players) this coming Saturday.
Always Plenty of Time!