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Independent Game Forums => lumpley games => Topic started by: Paul T on May 14, 2009, 11:55:51 AM



Title: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Paul T on May 14, 2009, 11:55:51 AM
I have this intuition, and it's really just a guess, that the game plays better when the players are naming the "What's at Stake" in a conflict. Like, "Does the Steward agree to give up his second bride?"

It seems that the game would be a bit awkward if all the conflicts were initiated and pressed by the GM: as though the Dogs were being pushed this way and that.

How do you name What's at Stake? Together? Whoever does it first?

If my intuition is right, how can a GM encourage the Dogs to initiate those conflicts?

Or does this always tend to emerge happily in play, no special techniques required?


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 14, 2009, 02:41:59 PM
Interesting. I've just opened my book to search for the piece of advice on asking the players to reduce the scope of too broad stakes. I'm sure it was there, but can't find it now. Instead, what I've suddenly bumped into is the "Drive play toward conflict" section (p. 138) which, as I'm reading it now, seems to say it's the GM's job to launch a conflict. Given that the "How To GM" chapter appears to address the GM specifically, I guess the players are not the ones to invoke the conflict procedure.

Which is totally not how we used to play it. The way we used to play it, anybody could initiate a conflict.

Stakes, however, are another thing. Most often it was not as much about deciding what's at stake as identifying that thing, and it generally emerged naturally from the already established circumstances. So, it didn't really matter who named it, as most of the time it was rather obvious.

(Oh, I've found the rule I've been looking for, right in the conflict procedure itself - oddly, where I expected it the least. P. 54, "The Simple Case", the first point, and the "GMing Conflicts", p. 76-77. The way I read it, it seems the players can suggest the stakes, but in the end, the GM has a final word. Also, now I can see some examples where it seems like it's the player who launches a conflict. Still, I fail to locate an explicit instruction for that in the procedure, other than that p. 138 rule.)


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: lumpley on May 14, 2009, 04:30:44 PM
The game plays best if anybody and everybody launches conflicts and names the stakes, whenever they want, all willy nilly with no set procedures. Sometimes the GM should absolutely set stakes, but sometimes every player absolutely should.

Everybody has to agree to the stakes before you roll dice, that's the only rule about it.

By the time you're actually playing, you've been through 3 or 4 initiations, so everybody's perfectly accustomed to collaborating on launching conflicts.

-Vincent


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 15, 2009, 05:10:43 AM
So, if I understand you right, the correct procedure that should be in the game text is "anybody is allowed to launch a conflict, anytime?"

Great.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: lumpley on May 15, 2009, 05:55:29 AM
Nope. The rule is on page 54, first full paragraph, first sentence. No individual player launches conflicts, the group does.

Who should set stakes is also on page 54, point 1 of the simple case.

-Vincent


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 15, 2009, 07:45:04 AM
Then, I'm either confused by your previous clarification or I fail to see how the correct procedure differs.

On p. 54 I see no explicit rule for the transition from "out-of-conflict phase" to "conflict phase", as the text jumps right into establishing stakes. Sure, it is implicit, but based on that part of the text alone it is in no way clear whether the conflict is actually initiated by any single player, by the GM or by the whole group (though it's difficult for me to imagine "the group" doing it in a precise step by step procedure, unless it's some sort of hive mind group - obviously, a single person at the table will have to take initiative at some point and say it out loud that he or she wants a conflict started). However, later in the text, p. 138 supplements the procedure with the rule for "out-of-conflict" -> "conflict" transition (i.e. "say yes or roll the dice"), though the text remains ambiguous regarding who can invoke the rule (i.e. the section might be seen as addressing the GM, while the book includes examples of a single player launching a conflict). Finally, pages 76-77 expand the procedure for establishing stakes, clearly pointing at the GM as the person responsible for accepting the stakes proposed (and provide the GM with instructions on how to establish standards for that, i.e. "follow the group's lead", which in turn translates to "follow the single most critical player's lead").

This rulebook is starting to drive me crazy.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: lumpley on May 15, 2009, 08:36:14 AM
Hey Paul, if you have any more questions, shout out, I'm happy to answer them. Filip's kind of taking the thread over, but don't let him do it if you have more to ask.

Filip, the explicit rule for the transition from "out-of-conflict phase" to "conflict phase" follows. Page 53, first sentence of the overview: "We'll [meaning the group will, of course] use dice to resolve the conflicts the characters get into." Then page 54, first full paragraph, first sentence: "to launch a conflict, we [meaning the group, of course] begin by establishing what's at stake, setting the stage, and figuring out who's participating."

Is a character in conflict? Cool, we'll use dice to resolve it. We begin by establishing as a group what's at stake, setting as a group the stage, and figuring out as a group who's participating. Later text goes into those in more detail, but there's the rule, plain as can be.

If nobody in your group can tell whether one character's in conflict with another, page 138 has some good advice, and there's more throughout the book, plus you've got the model of the initiation conflicts. But if you seriously STILL can't tell whether one character's in conflict with another, I despair, and please play a different game.

-Vincent


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 15, 2009, 10:10:53 AM
Vincent,

It's not like I can't produce a rule myself or hack the rules presented or whatever should I need it - however, that's totally not why I'm asking my questions. I'm asking because I want to know what the precise rule is in the game, and the rulebook frequently appears to be saying something entirely different than your reformulation here on the forum. Oddly, the longer I play this game, the more difficult it is for me to say whether I'm following correct procedures or not. Also, due to the way information in the rulebook is structured (and often implied rather than presented explicitly) locating answers in the text immediately is less than easy (in the middle of the session, consulting the book becomes essentialy impossible).

Now, I can see which of the rules on p. 54 you meant in your previous post. While I find it somewhat strange that a rule mentioned in the overview didn't make it's way to the detailed point by point procedure, I still fail to understand how it is different from "anybody is allowed to launch a conflict, anytime", in practice.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: lumpley on May 15, 2009, 10:24:14 AM
It's not "anybody is allowed to launch a conflict, anytime" because nobody's allowed to call for the dice if there aren't characters in conflict.

-Vincent


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Moreno R. on May 15, 2009, 10:31:38 AM
Filip,

I didn't notice that rule, too, but thinking about it, I always played DitV using it. Why? Because of the effect of the "most critical player" and "veto" rules: the stakes have to be discussed with the GM who has to adhere to the most strict standard at the table, with full veto power to everybody else: it's obvious that everybody has to agree to the stakes. That rule only make it explicit.

What would happen if anybody could declare conflict and stakes by himself, without everybody at the table agreeing? Using this rule in DitV would mean that, for example, if the GM is fast enough he could declare a conflict before you do and turn a possible gunfight in a dance match (the example is silly, but it's to exaggerate the difference that you failed to understand).


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 15, 2009, 10:52:11 AM
Vincent,

This is difficult. It's a matter of rules wording. "Nobody is allowed to call for the dice if there aren't any characters in a conflict" would contradict, wording considered, your clarification from your first post in this thread, i.e. "The game plays best if anybody and everybody launches conflicts and names the stakes, whenever they want." I fail to see how "whenever they want" is different from my "anytime" reformulation. However, you say it's incorrect, which I find strange - it seems to me that we are trying to communicate the same thing effectively, while you insist those are two different things. Specifically, it seems to me that when you said "whenever they want" you wanted to imply "provided there are characters in conflict in the first place", which is effectively the same I'm assuming in my "anytime" reformulation. We're talking conflicts the whole time, how would you have a conflict with nobody in it, for the love of God.

So I guess we are either both incorrect, both correct, or we're experiencing some sort of quantum anomaly.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on May 15, 2009, 11:13:14 AM
Moreno,

Yes, I think that's how we've played it normally, though now Vincent is sort of confusing me.

Second by second, I see it like this:

1. Somebody (anybody) processes the information and notices a conflict.
2. Somebody (anybody) who did the above announces that.
3. Say yes or roll the dice is applied.
4. Nobody announces "yes".
5. Somebody (the way we played it, anybody, though p.138 suggests the GM) announces "roll the dice". No "veto" possible regarding that at this point (I think).
6. Somebody (anybody) announces stakes.
7. The GM checks whether "the most critical player" rule applies.
8. If not, the stakes are set.
9. Otherwise, go to 6.

(With some space for suggestions and discussion between steps.)

Which amounts to "the group does it", though only in simplification, as obviously at any given moment only a single infividual player is actually doing something.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Paul T on May 15, 2009, 02:23:31 PM
Vincent,

I think this makes sense to me. You're describing a pretty collaborative process, with the group applying the mechanics together as they best see fit, as opposed to a strict by-rules approach.

However (and this question goes for anyone), as a GM, should I be looking out for how often I (or others) call for conflicts and name what's at stake? Because I feel that if I, as GM, start initiating a lot of conflicts and naming those stakes, it'd be a bit like rolling over the players, leaving them on their heels, defensive-like.

Is this something I just shouldn't worry about? If I SHOULD worry about it, what are some good guidelines? What seems to work best in play?


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: lumpley on May 15, 2009, 02:39:09 PM
I wouldn't worry about it. Ask me again after your second or third session if your worries come true in actual play.

-Vincent


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Paul T on May 15, 2009, 07:07:40 PM
Cool! Will do.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Noclue on May 15, 2009, 07:27:28 PM
Because I feel that if I, as GM, start initiating a lot of conflicts and naming those stakes, it'd be a bit like rolling over the players, leaving them on their heels, defensive-like.

This works best for me as a conversation. I'll say "This feels like a conflict to me. What are you trying to achieve here? What's at stake." Or I'll say "Let's make this a conflict where what's at stake is X...What do you guys think?"  Or my favorite, "Is this a conflict?" The group generally agrees to stakes without much fuss, maybe a clarification like "No, I'm trying to get them to do X, not Y"


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Paul T on May 17, 2009, 01:15:37 PM
We played a session yesterday (although I was playing, not GMing), and the way it went down was, roughly:

GM was initiating a lot of conflicts. But all it meant was it made us, the players, want to initiate some so we weren't back-pedaling the whole time. So, no worries so far!

[There's an AP report in Actual Play, where I've copied the following:]

I did find myself kind of unsure of how much I could define the Stake(s) when I was initiating a conflict, though. Because sometimes the implications of the conflict kind of changed between the opening of the conflict and its resolution. For instance, if I have a conflict with Sister Annie where she's trying to get me to take her daughter to the town square (say), but my last two or three Raises are all something like "Get ye back home to your husband!", it seems that, when she loses or Gives, what really should happen is that she should agree to go back home to her husband, not just give up on trying to get her way.

Does that make sense? I felt a little uncertain in play as to how this was supposed to pan out.


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Supplanter on May 17, 2009, 03:38:58 PM
Hi Paul: My experience, for what it's worth, is that Dogs is a game where it's best to keep "pre-play" of stakes to the absolute minimum. In particular, I avoid "two-sided stakes" (e.g. establishing beforehand that if I win you help dig the dinosaur bones while if you win I accompany you back to town.) I don't mean tables should go into conflicts with stakes that aren't "fair and clear," but I like it best when stakes are focused and monopolar. As you say, the outcome of a conflict is heavily dependent on what the contestants do in the conflict. Elaborate pre-setting limits the generative possibilities of the resolution system.

I think I'm just echoing the book's injunction to the GM to "push for small stakes" here, actually.

So, "Sister Annie tries to get you to take your daughter to the town square" is perfectly good stakes for DITV. "Sister Annie tries to get you to take your daughter to the town square. - Oh yeah? Well if I win, she goes back home!" is bad stakes, because for all we know, Sister Annie or you or her daughter could be dead by the time this argument is over.

So, when you win the conflict in the course of Raising that Annie should "get back home to her husband," should she in fact go back home to her husband? Maybe! Maybe not! By that point the GM may feel the narrative force of your orders to her, and decide that Annie will indeed git on home. Heck, maybe you escalated to physical and DRAGGED her there. That settles that! Or Annie had to take the blow on one of your "Get home, lady" Raises and she's already back home.

OR, he may have developed a sense of Annie, and her relationship to you, that convinces him that Annie retains some measure of defiance. Maybe she HATES you for not taking her daughter to the town square. Maybe she's too ashamed to face her husband after failing. In which case, if it's really important for you to make her do what you said, you need to launch a new conflict with the stakes, "Annie gets her ass back to her husband." And remember, at the end of that conflict you or Annie or her husband or all of you together could be dead.

The bottom line is, getting Annie home isn't necessarily free. You may have to mark your character as the guy who will drag a woman through the street to get your way. That's up to you. But the GM isn't obligated to spare you that.

Best,


Jim


Title: Re: What's at Stake in Dogs -- who leads?
Post by: Paul T on May 17, 2009, 04:13:06 PM
Nice!

I'm down with that. When I played yesterday, it almost felt like we didn't need to vocalize what's at stake at all, just leave it up to what happens in the process of the conflict. But you need a little bit, just enough to let people know what Giving would cost them.

I think I get it now.