Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[DitV] Actual Play: Little Bison Lake @ Vorpalcon

Started by Chris Crouch, October 05, 2006, 01:10:16 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Chris Crouch

An Actual Play report for Dogs in the Vineyard at Vorpalcon 2006 (October 2006) (

This was my second time GMing DitV (never been a player), and my first time GMing at a convention. I was a little worried about fitting a session of DitV into the con's 3-hour sessions, so I limited the game to 3 players. That plan got abandoned before play started when a friend had his session cancelled, so I made room for him. As it turned out, 3 hours was plenty of time.

Present were:

  • Me (Chris) - GM
  • Charles (Brother Caleb). Charles has more experience with DitV than I have, not that that's saying much :-)
  • Brett (Brother Clay). New to DitV, although he brought a copy of the Book of Mormon with him as a prop.
  • Warwick (Brother Asher). Another DitV newbie.
  • Mik (Brother Jebediah). A player in my only previous session of DitV.

Character Creation
I let the players take their character sheets with them, so I'll only be mentioning what stuck with me about each character. If the players want to add anything, feel free to chime in (please do so, if I got anything wrong or left out important details).

Brother Clay (Brett). What I remember most about Br Clay is that most of his traits were snippets of scripture, which was cool and seemed to work fine in actual play. His accomplishment "I hope I give up booze" (or words to that effect), with Brett playing the not changing side. He framed that he came back to his room to find Brother Malachi (an elder Brother at the temple who he'd taken a relationship to) holding his bottle of whisky. Brett won this conflict - and so didn't give up the booze - and took the accomplishment trait "deceitful".

Brother Jebediah (Mik). Br Jeb was an orphan who wanted to find out what had happened to his family. Mik decided to re-use Br Malachi as the antagonist, deciding that Malachi knew what had happened to his family but wasn't telling him. To add some oomph, he decided that stakes were "Do I betray the trust of Malachi" - he started the scene furtively searching Malachi's room for documents. There was some confusion surrounding the stakes & what Mik was driving his side of the contest to; Mik ended up giving and gained the trait "I'll never betray a trust".

Brother Asher (Warwick). The accomplishment had to do with Asher discovering that his cousin Elizabeth had a book of sorcery (Malleus Maleficarum). I think his stated aim was something like "Get her to admit her sins". He succeeded in this and took the trait "a brush with sorcery" (despite my suggestion of "responsible for the hanging of my cousin" - he let her off with a warning).

Brother Caleb (Charles). Brother Malachi made a third appearance: Caleb felt that he wasn't cut out to be a Dog, and brought his coat, neatly folded up, to Malachi and announced his intention to leave the temple. The stakes were something like "Do I become convinced that I should be a dog", with Charles playing the other side. This was a fun conflict - the initial framing was strong, and because we'd been making small jokes about escalating to fighting in previous conflicts with Malachi I took the initiative and had Malachi respond at the start of the scene by escalating to fighting himself (of course I didn't get any more dice) and backhanded Caleb to the ground. Caleb took a bit of fallout in this conflict but won in the end, so he didn't become convinced that he should be a Dog. I can't remember the trait he got from this, although I remember that he got both long-term fallout and experience fallout - he raised his "I'm a Dog" from 1d4 to 2d4, and raised his Body by one (pushing himself harder physically). He'd described his coat as being too big for him - one of the reasons he felt like he shouldn't be a Dog - and so after his experiences he didn't feel that it has as much too big.

All of the players took "I'm a dog" as a trait, and I don't remember any of them taking more than one relationship during character creation, leaving them with plenty of free relationship dice.

The town of Little Bison Lake
This is the town that I had prepared:

Because I was worried about about time - 3 hour session including character creation - I made sure that this town was extra-grabby. There's something big happening right away, plenty of people who want to Dogs to fix it right now, and plenty of people who'll tell the Dogs what's wrong - or their own spin on it anyway; all while leaving the Dogs plenty of judging to do.

In play, I forgot to do a few things:

  • I never really got round to showing the demonic attacks or false doctrine.
  • I forgot to give myself demonic influence dice for a while, then later overly-generously gave myself 2d10 (see my previous point - I only qualified for 1d10)
  • I neglected to push Sister Miriam's agenda - so the Steward's part in everything only got mentioned in passing.

How it played out

I'm going to be fairly brief here - my recollection is a bit hazy.

The players arrived in town with Brother Tabor's family, led by his father Brother Jasper, laying siege to the house of the family of Brother Zedekiah. They quickly get apprised of the situation by those present, and in a short contest with Brother Jasper they convince him to stand down while they go in to sort things out.

I think there was another short contest to get Zedekiah to let them in. They hear the other side of the story. They talk to Miriam & her mother alone, and in a more interesting contest (a) get the truth from Miriam - that she was raped, and (b) the other truth from Miriam - that she has been sleeping with Brother Luke (who through a slip of the tongue became Br Lukas, and for some reason Charles kept mis-calling him Brother Justin, to the extent that we started making jokes that the Dogs should make him leave town and change his name to Justin).

The characters retired to an empty corner of the house to discuss what they thought should happen to everyone for while. I let this run its course - it was just talking, but everyone seemed reasonably involved - and then at the end of this little scene I had the posse from outside (Br Jasper, his 2 sons & Br Silas the Steward) burst in with guns saying something like "good, you've talked him down, we'll take it from here". Of course the Dogs were having none of this, and for the first time a full-on contest broke out. It started at just talking, but quickly escalated to physical non-fighting (just crossing the room to take Zedekiah) - Caleb took quite a few d6s in fallout taking that blow, and a couple of shots were fired at the end, hurting no-one, and the Dogs prevailed.

Charles rolled badly on Br Caleb's fallout - rolled badly with those d6s, was injured (12) then rolled only 11 on his body roll, so we got a healing scene. I'm pretty sure that the healer (Br Jeb?) took a relationship to Caleb, and healed him reasonably easily in the end. We narrated that in trying to block Br Jasper, Caleb had been pushed to the ground and had hit his head hard on something, which started to bleed heavily.

The players took Miriam around to Lukas's house. They got the truth from Lukas, including what was soon to become critical: Miriam loved Lukas, but Lukas didn't love Miriam, at least not in a "get married to her" kind of way. The players became divided as to what to do now: Clay & Jeb thought that they should make Miriam & Lukas get married; Caleb & Asher thought that they shouldn't because Lukas didn't love Miriam (of course, I might have this completely backwards :-)

At this point the players had a conflict, and it was probably the most interesting conflict of the game. I don't remember many of the specifics - the one that springs to mind is when Charles escalated to physical non-fighting and brought in his book of life belonging dice by having Caleb get his book of life out and rip it in two, which Mik blocked & brought in his belonging dice by having Jeb give Caleb his book of life.

In the end, the "not marry them" side won. The party decided that:

  • Lukas was to be shamed in front of the town.
  • Miriam would be sent to the Dog's temple to become a Dog.
  • Zedekiah would be sent away to jail. (I know that jails might not be historically accurate for the period, but we hand-waved that a little.)
  • Because the pride of Brother Jasper's family was a large part of the problem, Brother Jasper would have to provide for Miriam's family.

We finished with a few minutes to spare.

I certainly had a lot of fun playing, and it was the highlight of the con for me.

Hopefully, some of the players can step in and fill in some of the blanks.


Charles Nicholls

I played Brother Caleb.  This was the forth DitV session I was part of but the first in which I've had a chance to play. I ran DitV at the same con in 2005.

Prior to the session, I'd played in a dud session at the con and encountered some wankers, so I was a little nervous about how this session would go.  It turned out I didn't need to worry at all.  Chris did all the right things to make the session a blast.

An example of this was the fact Brother Lukas didn't love Brother Miriam.  This was not decided beforehand (as far as I can tell from the notes) but its inclusion led to a very satisfying, "hit me with your best shot" conflict as the climax of the session.

Overall, I think the group was very strong.  The newbies stayed open to the different style of RPG that DitV presents, and Mik played his supportive character very well.

I think the session was the highlight of con for all of that played.  It certainly was for me. 



This was the second time I've played DitV. As you would expect, being more familiar with the mechanics meant it was smoother run. I also had a better feeling for the style of the game, which in turn helped me use the rules to support my play. As with my previous DitV I struggled to come up with clear accomplishment stakes; this time was better but still more confused than I would like.

I enjoyed the other players' character creations. Brother Clay's scripture based traits inspired me to take a d4 in "even the devil can quote scripture", though this never came into play. My favourite accomplishment was Brother Caleb's: He entered Brother Malachi's office, carrying his neatly folded coat with his Book of Life and gun sitting on top. He placed them on table, he said that he did not deserve to be a Dog, that he was too small - even his coat did not fit - and he was not good enough, and that so he was leaving. As players we all knew that he was going to stay a Dog, so Charles had the stakes as being whether Caleb changed how he felt about himself, i.e. if he was convinced by Malachi that he was capable of being a Dog. A well described scene with great stakes.

The game fitted well in the limited time. By opening with action - the Dogs arriving while a gunfight / siege was underway - we were immediately drawn into the crisis at Little Bison Lake. The first contest was to get Brother Jasper and his family to stop firing into the house. We argued with them, then escalated to physical - by saying that they had better to stop or risk shooting us, then slowly walking into the field of fire, towards the house.

It was however the final conflict, over the solution we were going to impose on the sinners of Little Bison Lake, that really made the session for me. So I am going to expand a little on Chris's description. It was the first conflict between the Dogs and was two on two. We had agreed on the fate of everyone else apart from Sister Miriam and Brother Lukas. My apologies to the other players if I have gotten people's arguments confused.

I believe Brother Asher put forward that it was Brother Lukas's deceit - he had falsely told Miriam that he loved her in order to seduce her - had been the root cause of the town's troubles. Despite that, Asher supported Brother Caleb's point, in that marriage must have a firm foundation, and that foundation is love. Without love the marriage would be wrong. As Brother Jebediah I argued that Miriam's unrequited love for Lukas might be enough for the marriage to survive, and that in time he may in turn grow to love her.

Brother Clay's stance was as Miriam and Lukas had lain together as man and wife there was no choice left by the Book of Life but to make them marry, that love did not enter into it. This is what prompted Caleb to escalate to physical, claiming that if there was no room for love in the book then it was worthless, and he dramatically tore his book in half. For me that tied in quite nicely with Caleb's earlier doubts about being a dog. Jebediah's response was to push his old, large copy of the book into Caleb's hands, saying something like 'but there is love in this book'. My last argument was asking how Miriam could stay in this town, unwed. How would she live?

Caleb's answer was that we would take her with us, to the temple, and make her a Dog. Again that worked well, given his earlier self-doubts about being a Dog, and how he had felt out of place there. I looked at Brett, playing Brother Clay, and we both gave. I took Jebediah's experience fallout as the trait 'Marriage is built on love'.

I found, at least in this case, that the raise/see mechanic gave us the time and pacing to develop our differing arguments, and let them run their course. It had a quite natural feel about it, which I enjoyed.

I agree with Charles, given none of the players had ever met before the group dynamic worked very well. That is one of the pleasant surprises that you hope to get when you play at a con. Of the three sessions I played (DitV, Feng Shui, CoC), it was easily the standout.

Well played guys, good work Chris.




I played brother Asher and it also was the highlight of the con for me but I had hoped it would be; afterall a game of dogs played just when I would normally be in church. How can you get more appropriate?

My highlight was not the major decisions, or even the shocking and outright disarming final response by the team about Miriam or even Ashers shaken faith in his ability to "see the truth" for supporting his team member who ripped the book of life, but instead the groups willingness to actually participate as fully as they did.

From the descriptions of the dogs coats with their oversized or threadbare versions, to the fact that only one of our group wanted a gun in our possessions to the fact that "love" for the whole community not the "love" of the individual was the final differentiator in our decisions, it was a wild ride. However my favorite bit was when the group was in a group think about the initial problem and then broke into factions when the simple problem was seen as something far more complex. that moment of it all breaking appart and falling when the group think became an individual team member decision was fabulous not the conflict that began after and the continuing escalation but because it was the moment of expectation and the breath before the dive that made the final member to member conflict so damn good.

None the less chis did a great job but the addage that players are the story well proved itself here.