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Author Topic: Dogs Actual Play, My First Session Ever  (Read 2574 times)
Jeremiah Lahnum

Posts: 16

« on: July 23, 2006, 08:13:28 AM »

I ran my first session of Dogs in Vineyard last night, and I figured I'd write up my thoughts here about it.

My three players are Tom, Josh and Brian.  We've all been gaming together since high school, but it's been awhile since we've gamed together lately.  I've been at college and getting together to game has been a challenge.  The group by and large is used to traditional RPG's with the old school roles at the table.  They're used to one person controlling narrative and having to wade through potentially pointless plot moments, or narrative to get to things they want to do.  Throughout the session I saw where this style was causing certain things to happen, not just on their ends, but my end as well. 

Josh is my brother, and he's a good roleplayer. He likes to make guys who are a little bad ass. The only problem he has is that he gets frustrated easily, and him and I sometimes are a little bit like oil and water with each other.  This means that I cannot easily diffuse his frustration and at times can make it worse to the point where we end up in stupid arguments, like almost happened during this session.  Luckily, I knew enough to step away a moment and let things simmer down.  Despite this I like playing with my brother and he comes up with some cool stuff.

Josh is playing Brother Isaac, a dog who used to be a bandit before he converted to the faith. Isaac was shot while trying to rob a man's house. He rode off, just barely alive when he came to the next town and passed out from his wound, he was nursed back to health by the steward of the town. The steward introduced him to the King of Life, and Isaac redeemed himself, and later became a dog. He carries the bullet that he got shot with as a reminder of his past.

Tom is a friend of mine from high school, and currently my landlord. Tom has been a staple of my gaming group for a long time. Out of all my friends, I think he's changed the most when it comes to gaming. Tom used to try and beat the system and create essentially the most powerful guy he could by exploiting the rules. Lately though, he seems to have become more concerned with creating a strong character with a decent background, instead of a powerful character.

Tom is playing Brother Benedict who is an ex-Sherriff of the Territorial Authority. The Mountain people near the town he served attacked without warning one day, and killed everyone in his town, leaving him for dead with all the rest. (This definitely sets a tone for at least some of the Mountain People in my game.)  Some Dogs came through, and found him while examining the carnage. They saved his life, and he too converted to the faith while under the care of the Dogs. Given his background as a lawman, it seemed only natural that he'd eventually become a Dog. His father is also a famous lawman, and Benedict has always kind of lived in his shadow.

Brian, is another of my high school friends. Back in the high school days, he and I were the go to GM's of the group. Brian is very interested in trying out games that tend to be a bit more cooperative than what we're used to. I could tell, right from the start that he got what Dogs was trying to do. He's playing Brother Zacheriah who is an ex-conman, convert to the faith. After doing some time in jail for stealing the life savings of several families, he realized what a wicked and terrible life he was leading. He converted to the faith and eventually became a Dog in order to stop the sorts of injustice that he used to cause.

All of the players chose Complicated History as their background, and all chose to be converts to the faith. I got the impression that they felt being born into the faith would make their characters a bit boring or something. Even though the group is a little bit odd given their histories, it's what they want to play, and having troubled pasts is definitely an awesome building block for me as the GM.

My other note is that these guys made some very vanilla characters when it came to belongings and traits. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I think its born from the style of games we're used to. (Vampire, d20, etc.) So, almost all of them have "Guns 2d6, Riding 1d6, Horse 1d6, etc." As I said not terribly exciting, but not a bad thing. They each did get a personal possession of some sort that is cool. Plus, their relationships are interesting. Including Josh's character having a relationship with the sin of Wrath. Which let me tell you that's going to feature prominently in to things.

Initiatory conflicts were next. Tom went first and chose his goal as being "I hope I made my father proud of my new life." We framed the scene with him sitting on the porch and talking with his father after dinner. It was a basic discussion where his father was saying he was running away from his problems and hiding behind the King of Life. Meanwhile Benedict was trying to convince his father that this life was even better and more meaningful than his previous life as a simple sherriff.

I rolled brutally on the opening challenge dice. Benedict just couldn't keep up with his father's verbal beatdown. As Tom ran out of dice, and realized the next step would be striking his father if he wanted more dice, he chose instead to give and walked off the porch in angry silence. An awesome scene. His fallout from it is that his next conflict involving his father is at a d4 for the relationship dice. Also the trait, "I failed to make my father proud. 1d6" just seems awesome.

Josh was next, and that challenge just didn't go well at all. His goal was "I hope I kept my calm and handled a situation without giving into anger." Good enough goal, and we set the scene of him interrogating a fallen Steward who was accused of murdering a child. His instructors wanted him to get the man to confess so he could meet the King of Life with a clear conscience. So, we set the scene with Josh walking into a room to see a tired and haggard man shackled and seated in a chair.

Josh rolled decently, and so did I. However, Josh was good at calling on his traits and belongings to help him. He took to trying to intimidate the confession out of the Steward while I had the steward pushing his buttons and trying to make him lose it. It was going well, but for some reason Josh kept getting frustrated even though he was winning the challenge. A few times I reversed the blow pretty savagely, but he beat me as I started to run out of dice. As he won his stakes though, Josh's frustration seemed to hit the ceiling. For some reason when he was awarded narration rights over the stakes, he just couldn't or wouldn't do it for like 10 minutes. He just sat there looking very frustrated.

I felt bad as a GM, and just couldn't fathom the problem. He said that he didn't want to narrate something that amounted to a cop out on his character's part or something like that. I'm not sure if he didn't like the direction the scene went, or if maybe the original goal/stakes were not what he really wanted. Regardless, after about ten minutes of frustrated silence, he sort of just told me what happened. I felt like at this point he might not be enjoying the game and was worried that Dogs just wasn't what he thought it was going to be.

The situation frustrated me, and nearly led to me losing my calm like I mentioned above.  However, I let Josh have some space and after this initial challenge, he put my qualms about him liking the game to rest. 

 Josh did earn the trait "I kept my calm and got the confession 1d6"

The other thing that kept happening with him is that he would tell me and not show me what was happening. Again I think this is a throwback to the old school games we're used to. I think he was waiting for me to take what he was telling me and spin it into the narrative of the scene. Perhaps this is one of the sources of his frustration, as I wasn't doing that.

I took a moment to talk to the players about this game, and the way it worked. I stressed, that in this game the story was mine as well as theirs, and that once you won a conflict the narration was yours. I'll have more on this in the follow up post.

Finally, Brian's opening conflict was "I hope I could be forgiven by the last family I conned before my life changed." Another good goal in my opinion. Brian gave me a pretty lengthy back story on his character and what he did before getting jailed. It was cool, and I could tell he was into it. He wanted to track down a crippled boy and his mother who he had sold miracle medicine to, to cure the boy, and essentially taken their life savings by selling them watered down alcohol. He said he'd kept this money as a reminder of the man he once was and now wanted to return it to them.

At first he said he was just going to the town and looking around for the boy. I could tell he expected there to be some sort of narration in finding him (Asking around town, etc.), and I think he was surprised when I said we were going to skip that sort of thing and jump right to the conflict. Again a throwback to what we're used to. Hunting for a conflict, and spending time on narrative that isn't leading anywhere. Instead I told him we'd jump right to what was most interesting about this. We did and had another great scene where Brian's character talked with the boy who was now about 18 and on his death bed.

Again we both rolled pretty well and there were some great reversals on both sides as the boy told him things like "You say you've change mister, but you've always been a fancy talkin' man, you need to prove it to me." stuff like that. Eventually Brian won his stakes and got the boy to accept the money and forgive him for what he did before the boy himself died. Brian earned the trait "I've been forgiven 1d6."

I loved all the initiatory conflicts. They were all strong, and I think the traits they spawned are awesome.

This post is huge, and I have to go anyway. I'll finish the write up of the actual game and how that went tonight after work.
Posts: 3453

« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2006, 01:04:53 PM »

I'm looking forward to reading about it!

Jeremiah Lahnum

Posts: 16

« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2006, 06:55:00 AM »

Well, better late than never I suppose here.  I ran a branch created by a friend of mine, Cornfield Branch.  I thought it would make a good introduction to the game, and I was correct. 

I'll skip a total blow by blow of the game unless people want to see that.  If you have questions about the town or anything specific I'll be glad to answer them.

Overall Impressions:

I liked the game a lot.  Even though things were a little rough for us at first with learning the new system, after a while it started flowing pretty well.  I think the players really felt the mood of the game, and they were interested for the most part.  There was still some staring off into space and fidgeting when it wasn't someones turn in the spotlight.  This isn't a big deal though and certainly wasn't too disruptive.

I'd like to hear what my players have to say about the game.  I'll throw this link their way and see if they have anything to add about their impressions on the setting or game in general. 

Little snippets of the game that I thought were awesome:

Brother Zacheriah decided to hide out in Fonetta's root cellar in order to catch her thief.  A great and somewhat creepy challenge ensued where he was trying to stay awake and keep a light source going.  I had an invisible Dianarea sneaking around and extinguishing his light sources etc.  Just as the scene culminated in Zacheriah's hand brushing up against an invisible person, one of the creepier songs from The Ravenous Soundtrack started playing and set the tone beautifully.  It's awesome that such a frightening scene was created by an invisible little girl. 

A show down at a barn where Brother Dell who's son had been murdered by the little group of children took one of them hostage and was threatening to kill the boy.  It was up to the Dog's to diffuse the situation and save the life of a child they knew was guilty of consorting with demons.  They managed to calm down Brother Dell but then they opened fire on the kid when he tried to run.  It wasn't a fatal shot, but it managed to put him down. 

The fact that the Dogs didn't outright shoot everyone involved.  They came to the conclusion that the children had been manipulated by the demons and that they didn't deserve death as a result.  So instead they decided to pack them off to Four Bridal Falls for intensive religious re-education. 

Some general observations about the session and how things played out:

Luckily my brother's frustration dissipated.  However, through no intentional plan of my own he somehow escaped having to engage in a conflict the entire session beyond his introductory one.  I need to be more mindful of this in the future and ensure that each of my players gets a chance to shine.  He didn't complain, but he pointed it out to me after the session. 

I continuously had to stop myself from stealing narration from my players.  It's a habit that I need to break for this game.  The players were very good about stopping me when I did it, and I managed to police myself quite a bit too.

I let judgements be talked about OOC way too much.  When it came down to judgement time there was definitely not a unanimous consensus on the fate of the children.  I let the players talk about this and not the actual characters.  This I think was a mistake.  While the players managed to make an eventual compromise, the actual characters may have had a much more dramatic and interesting conflict over it.  Next time I'll have to make sure discussion of judgements is limited between the players and encourage them to make a case for it IC. 

I also felt that maybe I handed the players the culprits of the murder and the thefts too quickly.  However, I didn't want them to spend the entire game doing legwork so I took the opportunity to introduce one of the guilty parties when Zacheriah decided to stake out the root cellar.  He managed to get a hold of Dianarea and once the Dogs had her, there's not much chance of a little girl standing up to the interrogation of three full grown men with guns.  So, they pretty quickly uncovered the whole truth as she sold out her other cabal members. 

However, this didn't seem to detract from the game and in fact it may have kind of stalled out and gotten a bit slow if I hadn't done this.  So maybe I'm making too much of it and it worked out okay in the end.  I guess if any of my players post here they can touch on this point as well. 

Questions stemming from this session:

I had just a few questions about things, and I'm sure they reflect our inexperience with the game in general. 

Do d4 traits/relationships/belongings do anything special besides making you roll a low die in a conflict?  It didn't seem to, but I wanted to make sure. 

Also, can I as the GM call on a player to make a d4 roll when I feel it would be appropriate?  I'm specifically thinking of permanent d4 traits/relationships gained through fall out.  Temporary ones are obviously supposed to come into play in the very next conflict, but there's nothing saying when if ever a permanent d4 needs to be used. 

Posts: 5574

« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2006, 07:16:15 AM »

I let judgements be talked about OOC way too much.  When it came down to judgement time there was definitely not a unanimous consensus on the fate of the children.  I let the players talk about this and not the actual characters.  This I think was a mistake.  While the players managed to make an eventual compromise, the actual characters may have had a much more dramatic and interesting conflict over it.  Next time I'll have to make sure discussion of judgements is limited between the players and encourage them to make a case for it IC. 

I wouldn't worry much about whether the discussions were happening OOC or IC.  Whatever seems more natural to the players will work fine.

What I do recommend doing is not letting the players just talk until they compromise.  Instead...make a Dog v. Dog conflict out of it.

"Ok, Brother X you want to kill the Children, Brother Y you want them to live?  Great...roll your Just Talking dice -- we've got a Conflict.  The stakes are 'do you execute the children for their sins'" 

That's when you get the REALLY fun stuff...like is Brother Y willing to draw down on Brother X in order to save the children's lives.

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