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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Nathaniel on January 09, 2008, 08:54:11 AM

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Nathaniel on January 09, 2008, 08:54:11 AM
I've been thinking about this for a while, but I think the best reading for Dogs is actually the Talmud. The trappings may be quasi-Mormon, but to me Dogs don't argue like Mormons at all. They argue like Talmudic scholars in a Yeshiva, or like the Baal Shem Tov or the Vilna Gaon wandering among the shtetls, only with guns.

I think you're on to something in this in that many religions are about taking a revelation from God and adding their own traditions as authoritative.  It's what the Talmud is.  It's what the Book of Mormon is.  It's what the teachings of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church is (as found in the Catechism).  It's God's revelation + our tradition as authoritative = our religion.

But I do find one statement you made a bit strange "Dogs don't argue like Mormons at all."  What are you basing this on?  Isn't every group of players going to do it slightly differently?  Also I don't necessarily see a Dog's authority from the Prophets and Ancients to make pronouncements and judgements equal to Rabbis arguing about what past Rabbis taught or didn't teach.  I agree with your point in that I see the similarities in the adding of human tradition to the revelation of God is present both in the Talmud and in Mormonism (and every religion to some extent or another, but it is a defining feature in many).  I would like to hear what you'd back up that statement with.  Please do back up the statement that "Dogs don't argue like Mormons at all."

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Noclue on January 10, 2008, 12:43:05 AM
Hi Nathaniel. Well, to some extent it was me being didactic and over-generalizing from my own experiences. But, here's the back up (Warning LONG and SPRAWLING MESS OF A POST). The Talmudic tradition is based on over a thousand years of textual and oral analysis. For talmudic scholars, the guiding premise is essentially that the Torah came from on high in its existing form and every word is there for a reason. The torah is essentially a road map to the universe and to God's inner workings. Therefore, inconsistencies must be rooted in misunderstanding of the text and apparent redundancies must be there for a reason. The book is highly inter-referential too. For example, in the story of moses breaking the first stone tablets after seeing the Jews worshiping idols the word choices are obviously referencing the story of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden. You're supposed to read one story while thinking about the other.

The Talmud is generations of rabbis arguing with each other in text and challenging each others legal and ethical problem solving all of which is ultimately based in the Book. So, let's say you're trying to determine the ownership of a mule that was bequeathed in the will of a man to his cousin, but who was in debt at the time of his death. Ultimate authority rests first in the original text, the Torah. So if you can derive your ruling directly from a verse in the Torah, you're golden. If the Torah doesn't address the question adequately, there's a whole bunch of oral teaching about the Torah passed on through the generations and compiled and codified in 200 AD. So, if you can quote a great brain in the Mishnah, you're pretty close to golden but someone can trump you with a nice juicy quote for a bigger brain or the good book itself. Then there's the marginalia and discussions over the next 300 years which is codified in the Gemara. You quote those guys, you're generally still good to go. After that, you get to relying on tradition and lastly just using common sense. So the arguments are basically about text and the meaning of text. There's an old saying that if you have two Jews in a room, they have three opinions. Imagine how many opinions you have to wade through in Talmud. Let's say you want to understand the first word of the Torah. That's easy right? Repeat after me "In the beginning God created..." That first word there. In. Seems so simple, but the Hebrew also means "with." So, now we have two readings (and we know from what we talked about redundancies that meanings aren't trivial in analyzing this book). In the beginning and with the beginning (to make the English more palatable that could be read "During the beginning time"). Even that first word is problematic!

OK, back to Dogs and Mormons. In Dogs you get to make up your own book and then argue with it. Your book can be a detailed and rich as you want. It can be crafted to support just about any argument, including arguments that seemingly contradict each other. You can postulate how those arguments are reconciled by additional readings. Talmudic textual analysis and legal argument is great for this stuff.

OK Mormons. They have a book too. But from my admittedly limited reading they interface with it differently. The book says stuff that happened. God did this and God said that. The two brothers fought, one killed the other. Etc. The prophets and elders tell you how to behave in accordance with His wishes. Lessons are drawn from the narrative sure, but not really the syntax and vocabulary. If the old testament says God is my rock and my shield, you don't then ask "why does it use both the word rock and the word shield? What's the difference between the two? Where else does the text refer to God as a shield? Does it use the same word for shield? Are there multiple meanings for the word shield here? What do the rabbis say in the Mishnah about how we should be thinking about God as a shield? etc.

Does any of that help make sense out of my earlier comment or did I just make things worse?

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Noclue on January 10, 2008, 12:51:01 AM
Oh, and the Baal Shem Tov and his Rabbi disciples travel from town to town fixing ethical problems, marrying people, blessing children and banishing demons.

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: lumpley on January 10, 2008, 06:51:59 AM
James, there are subcultures within Mormonism that have relationships with the text of the scriptures just like you describe. A casual reading of the religion might very well miss them, but they're there.

Nathaniel, are you LDS?


Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Nathaniel on January 10, 2008, 07:36:05 AM
No, I'm not LDS.  My theological leanings are probably best described as Early Anabaptist.  I don't think there is a restored Priesthood that can speak authoritatively neither do I believe there's any value in adding our traditions to God's revelation.  The approach to the Bible that I take is one of interpreting in a hermeneutics community that is constantly engaging with the text itself and which is very skeptical of any position that is either backed up by tradition or a claim to prophetic authority.  The reason I play Dogs in the Vineyard is that I find the idea of teenage virgins with guns making pronouncements and judgements on the lives of others because of the authority given to them by self styled prophets to be utterly reprehensible and I want to explore the themes of whether or not anything noble or good will be produced by such a structure.  I also enjoy tying that in with modern notions of individualism and individual moral sovereignty.  As well as the juicy themes related to the fact that my own leanings are incredibly community based but at the same time have no patience for imposition on others that are not voluntarily part of the consensus.

My point in asking for Noclue to back up his statements about the Talmudic approach is that my readings of Mormonism lead me to believe there is a synthesis of such an approach to the text with that of the authority of a prophetic Restoration.

As for source material and background reading for Dogs in the Vineyard, I think the way to go is to read about the LDS idea of Restoration:
(wikipedia is a place to start to get a general idea, but there's obviously primary sources that one can refer to as well).

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Noclue on January 10, 2008, 10:13:37 PM
Vincent, that's cool. I had no idea there were mormon subcultures that engaged with text in that way. I would note a slight difference in that Talmudic exegesis was mainstream Jewish practice for centuries (so much so that it gave birth to many counter movements, like the Hassids who basically argued that god was found in the joys of family life, in dance and song, as much as in old dusty legal tractates).

Nathaniel, I too will official place myself on the side of all those against teenage virgin gunslingers going from town to town dispensing justice. Nor do I condone any religion that promotes this particular form of law enforcement. Pheh on them I say! Pheh!

Also, I feel it incumbent upon me to clarify that my previous post about the Baal Shem Tov was in no way meant to imply that the Baal Shem Tov or any of his rabbinical followers were teenage gunslingers. To my knowledge no member of that esteemed group of mendicant scholars ever carried a firearm of any sort and since studies in esoteric Jewish mystical practices require the student to be married, I assume that they had at least a perfunctory acquaintance with the carnal pursuits.

I am struggling to find the connection you're drawing between the Prophetic Restoration and Talmudic practice after reading that article. I actually think this is a pretty good example of what was meant by my glib and hopefully humorous (and inoffensive) remark about arguing like Mormons. The Prophetic Restoration idea does not strike me as anything Talmudic. The Talmud would look at his list of restored authorities and start arguing about whether his power to gather the tribes excluded converts or the children of rape, or children who's mother was in a tribe, but who's father was not. And the whole notion that there actually are twelve tribes of Israel is not without controversy that could be examined. And the whole when of gathering...should you gather immediately, or is it acceptable for your descendants to gather for you when the world is perfected? And can you have someone gather in your place or must you actually participate in the gathering.? In the end it would probably rule something like: To be counted as a gathering it must last from sundown to sundown of one day. And that individual families may gather together in their homes since the destruction of the temple, and thus any gathering required by this Prophetically Restored power to gather the tribes is fully satisfied on one's first sabbath after their bar or bat mitvah. Thanks, next.

And now I've strayed pretty far afield of anything related to gaming and Dogs and the Vineyard. So I apologize to everyone and now return you to your regularly scheduled forum.

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Nathaniel on January 11, 2008, 09:19:10 AM
The Prophetic Restoration idea does not strike me as anything Talmudic.

Exactly.  I see now I wasn't being clear.  I was trying to say that the Dogs acting in their authority given by the Ancients and Prophets, in keeping with the idea of Prophetic Restoration, has the Dogs behaving and arguing very much like Mormons and not Talmudic scholars.  The players on the other hand, may engage with play as if it is a religious text and carry out such scholarship.

Given that this thread is about "Appropriate Reading" I was trying to make the case that the best source material for understanding The Faith and how the Dogs operate is the LDS teachings on the nature of Restoration and the impact of such a claim of divine authority.

Sorry for the confusion getting to that point.

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: lumpley on January 11, 2008, 09:48:23 AM
I think what we're seeing here is a Rorschach blot thing. You both identify the Dogs' approach to text and argument as more similar to the one you're more familiar with. I did that on purpose. You're supposed to bring your own experiences of religion to the game; I left space for them intentionally. Neither of you is more right than the other; I think you'll find that the game text has very little to say on the subject.

I, also, am against religions enforcing their values via virgin teenage death squads.

It's possible, but disputable, that Brigham Young employed a death squad. If he did, a) it was made up of very serious adult men, not virgin teenagers; b) it was Brigham Young's own, not an official organ of the church; c) it was more concerned with the people who threatened Mormonism from outside, especially Back East, not so much with policing the church in Utah, and d) I don't imagine it had much judgment of its own, instead acting more or less purely according to Brigham Young's direction.


Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: David Artman on January 11, 2008, 10:37:19 AM
I, also, am against religions enforcing their values via virgin teenage death squads.
(Off Topic Idea)
Hitler-Jugend ( in Der Judengasse (

Talk about taking ANY notion that "my PC is doing Good" and tossing it screaming out the window!
(OK, back to reading suggestions....)

Title: Re: [DitV] Appropriate reading?
Post by: Nathaniel on January 11, 2008, 04:42:31 PM
Actually, the use of youth in reporting on their elders in 20th century totalitarian regimes might be a very appropriate subject for reading when it comes to DitV.