[Dogs in the Vineyard] Girls can be cruel

Started by GreatWolf, January 02, 2008, 02:19:34 PM

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The New Year holiday was good for roleplaying.  On New Year's Eve, we played Primetime Adventures with James and Theresa, which I will write up in due course.  Then, on New Year's Day, we played some more Dogs in the Vineyard.  Yeah, that was a good couple of days.

Those of you who read my previous Dogs in the Vineyard report know that Gabrielle got her character killed.  So, she would need a new one to be able to play.  Also, Raquel wanted to give Dogs in the Vineyard a try.  Thus, my brilliant idea.  I'd quickly whip up a town, we'd do chargen, and then we'd play.  After this town, Gabrielle's Dog would part ways with Raquel's and meet up with Crystal's Dog.  We get our one-shot, Gabrielle gets her character, and all would be well with the world.

Let me pause here to sing the praises of the Dogs in the Vineyard prep tools.  Over the course of about an hour, I was able to instruct Raquel in making her character, keep Gabrielle on track, and prep a town, all at the same time.  Having that names list was helpful for this, I admit, but mostly it was the quality of the prep tools.  I don't really like prep, which is why I tend to design prep-free games.  However, if I have to do prep, I want the game to have the built-in prep tools that Dogs in the Vineyard has.  Thank you, Vincent!

I laid out the vision for Dogs in the Vineyard that I expressed in my previous write-up, about how the game is actually about a faith like ours.  I also expressed the "young people in over their heads" angle on the game, and I explained how I thought the best sort of character is an untested idealist who needs to have his absolutes tested by the messiness of "real life".  Gabrielle and Raquel both rose to the occasion.

Sister Charity Hall (Gabrielle)

Acuity:  3d6
Body: 2d6
Heart: 5d6
Will: 3d6

I'm a Dog 1d8
I am warm and caring 3d6
I am confident 3d8
I have a way with people 2d10
I like shooting 1d10
I think people are the most important thing 1d6

My blind brother Hiram 1d8
My best friend Delilah 1d6

Sister Fortitude Smith (Raquel)

Acuity:  3d6
Body: 3d6
Heart: 2d6
Will: 5d6

"My father always said so" 1d8
Fierce loyalty 3d6
I don't give up 1d4
I am a Dog 1d8
Duty first 1d6

My father 1d8
My little sister Dee 1d6

We also established that Fortitude was from a poor town.  Good family background and all that, but poor.  Thus, her coat was only at 1d6.  In contrast, Charity's father owned the general store in a town populated by both Faithful and unbelievers.  So she has a very different view of the world.

What Happened in Woodpecker Farm

We're not finished, so I'm not going to write up the town at this point.  Don't want to give everything away yet.  I will discuss some of my preparatory thinking, however.

Since this was a one-shot, I wanted a town that had gone horribly wrong.  I wanted to drive things all the way down to Hate and Murder .  So I hacked something together, spinning out the situation further and further until I got my murder.  At the same time, I wanted a town that would arise from my understanding of the problems of my particular subculture, just writ large.

So, we ended up with a clique of the richer girls who have been pestering and ostracizing the poorer girls of the Branch.  The victims have joined ranks and are fighting back.  Things just went from bad to worse, though, because one of the "rich" girls was just shot and killed.

And then, to really kick things off with a bang, I figured that we'd start right there.  The Dogs are coming into town when they hear a shot.  Then, Patience Lane staggers out of the orchard and collapses in the road, dead.

I thought that it was a nice kickoff.  Set the stakes pretty high.

Fortitude took off into the orchard and tried to chase the murderer.  However, when they exchanged gunfire, Fortitude had to take cover and lost track of the person she was chasing.

By this point, the townspeople have come rushing out and find the Dogs with the body of Patience.  So, tragedy strikes the town.

The Stewart, Ethan Turner, sits down with the Dogs and explains the ongoing problem with the hellions from the "bad part of town".  So the Dogs traipse on down the street to have a chat with Bathsheba, the girl at the center of all the trouble.

Bathsheba is, how shall we say this, less than cooperative.  We go to dice when Bathsheba clams up and wants them to leave.  Bathsheba pwns both Fortitude and Charity.  Fortitude gets the hint early and goes, while Charity finally leaves when Bathsheba pulls a gun on her.

Something is nagging at Fortitude.  Bathsheba was angry that they assumed that she was the source of the trouble.  "Did you talk to the Steward's daughter?" she demanded.  So now Fortitude is upset that, maybe, she overlooked something.  But Charity blows the idea off.  That couldn't possibly be true.  I mean, Rachel is a Steward's daughter.  "And, anyways, you know how these people are," she says.

Remember, Charity is coming from a reasonably comfortable middle-class existence, while Fortitude's entire town is fairly poor.  So this off-hand dismissal stung Fortitude into replying.

PC vs. PC conflict.  One of my favorite situations.

Fortitude assigned some of her free Relationship dice to things like "Charity" and "My hometown", which gave her an edge in this conflict.  The crowning moment was her final reply to Charity, who has just finished saying, "This people can't take care of their houses, their clothes, or themselves."  So Fortitude takes off her threadbare coat and holds it out for Charity to see.  "You mean, like my coat?" she asks.

Charity can only splutter impotently.  In anger and hurt, Fortitude puts the coat on and stalks away, leaving Charity confused and guilty.

At this point, Charity is approached by Marilla Lane, the sister of the murdered girl.  She is guilt-ridden, because she sees the murder as being the fault of her and her friends.  She tells Charity about the club that Rachel started; how they had left some of the girls out, like Bathsheba; and how Bathsheba had vowed revenge.  Marilla wants to go apologize to Bathsheba, hoping that this will stop Bathsheba from doing anything worse.  Charity refuses to let Marilla go alone.  We go to dice, and Charity eventually wins by leaning on her authority as a Dog.

So back they go to Bathsheba's house.  She isn't happy to see Charity, but she listens to Marilla's apology.  But, when Marilla says her bit about not wanting anyone else to be killed, Bathsheba is shocked.  Marilla scurries off, but Charity sees the confusion cross Bathsheba's face.  Apparently, she didn't know that Patience had been killed.  Then she yells at Charity to get off her porch and then slams the door.

And that's where we ended for the night.

Rules question

Got a rules question.  During the conflict between the Dogs and Bathsheba, I escalated to gunfighting when Bathsheba pulled the gun and pointed it at Charity.  Is that actually correct?  Or should I have waited to escalate until she actually started firing?

Post game thoughts

Raquel is still learning the nuances of the conflict system, so I was helping her along the way.  One thing that I noted to her is that, in order to grab those 5d6 in her Will, she was going to have to fight someone.  I said that this made for an interesting character, because there's a sizeable amount of Effectiveness for Fortitude on the other side of the Violence line.  As long as the conflicts stay social, Charity will win the day, with her high Heart and social Traits.  So, I encouraged Raquel to start collecting Fallout and using it on violent Traits.  Then, when someone finally pushes Fortitude too hard, she can bust out all over them.

I'll wait for a full-blown post-game reflection until we're done with the town.

Final words

We should be playing tonight, and I'm greatly looking forward to it.  And, beyond that, I'm really curious to see how bubbly, arrogant Charity interacts with the emotionally scarred Content.  That should be some intense stuff right there.  I can hardly wait.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


What were the stakes for the PC v. PC conflict?
What fallout was taken?


Quote from: Valamir on January 02, 2008, 05:23:41 PM
What were the stakes for the PC v. PC conflict?
What fallout was taken?

The stakes were that Charity would back off her comment, which she did.

For Fallout, let me see....

Fortitude ended up with Short Term and Experience Fallout.  She took the "spend some time alone" for Short Term Fallout (my suggestion, and it made sense to her), and she increased her relationship with Charity to 2d6 for her Experience Fallout.

Charity ended up with Long Term and Experience Fallout.  For her Long Term Fallout, she took the Trait "I know the way the world works 1d4", which shows that, while Charity backed off her statement, she still has a lot to learn about the world outside her immediate experience.  For Experience Fallout, she took a 1d6 Relationship with "her partner Fortitude".

In other words, this was a defining moment in their relationship.  Whether or not that will be a good thing or not remains to be seen.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


I too am eagerly waiting to see Content have to deal with Charity. If Content can refrain from punching Charity in the face on a regular basis she could be the one who makes Charity grow up.

When we played DitV before is was fun, but that was because it was a distant sort of enjoyment. It didn't touch me. It didn't even come close. But this time through I am playing characters based on people I know in messy problems based on problems I see. Actually, my characters so far have both been partly based on myself. Not necessarily how I am now, but certainly how I used to be. I knew everything there was to know about how the world works and what makes people tick. I knew what was right and I would politely, kindly bludgeon you over the head with it if you gave me half a chance. I watched Daniel make his decisions based on faulty assumptions and he got killed for it. And now Charity is blundering around these messy problems that are far too big for her and I'm really nervous she's going to break something big.

Also, this time through it finally sunk in that the Dogs are all about twenty. I just turned twenty-two last week. I have way more life experience than the average Dog does and sometimes I have trouble mediating between Seth's children. I can't imagine trying to deal with bigger issues with a gun and all the authority of the King of Life behind me. Seth said in his post that it gave me the willies. I think more accurately it startled me and shook me to my core. Which is no bad thing really.


We finished up in Woodpecker Farm tonight, as I was hoping.  Let's just jump in, shall we?

Judgment in Woodpecker Farm

Charity and Fortitude separately made their way back to the Steward's house to try to gather more information from him.  He was fairly resistant, though, saying that he was busy preparing for the funeral.  Charity wanted to keep pushing, but Fortitude talked her into leaving.

Instead, they went into the other room to confront Rachel.  She was sitting, doing embroidery on one of her dresses.  The Dogs started leaning on her, trying to get her to admit fault in her treatment of Bathsheba.  She wasn't having any of it, though.  Instead, she demanded that the Dogs evict Bathsheba's people from the village.  She claimed that Bathsheba and her friends were vandalizing houses and doing stuff like that.  When the Dogs didn't listen to her, she jumped to her feet to yell at them.

That's when three bullets took her from behind, exploding her chest in a mass of gore.  Blood spattered all over Charity's face.

Fortitude raced outside.  After a moment, Charity followed.

Both of them saw the dark figure running toward the orchard across the street.  Fortitude fired but missed.  The figure returned fire, forcing Fortitude to dive out of the way.  Then Charity fired.

At this point, I could have Blocked this particular blow with the dice that I had.  But, this was so much better.  I Took the Blow, narrating how the figure lurched to the side and then staggered into the orchard.

Yep, sweet little Charity shot someone.

Fortitude ran into the orchard where the assassin was waiting.  With a shriek, the assassin hurled herself at Fortitude, hands clawing for her eyes.  Fortitude grappled with her and threw her back.  Hissing, the assassin drew a knife and buried it in Fortitude's arm.  Then both of them grabbed each other's throats and began to choke each other.

Then Charity came up behind the assassin and clubbed her with the butt of her gun.

Fallout.  Both Fortitude and the assassin needed medical attention.

At this point, we had a bit of a hiccup in play.  I wanted to level the whole "you can only save one" thing at Charity.  At the same time, I didn't want to take away the possibility of her being able to try to help both and succeed.  We tried a couple of rules configurations, but they weren't satisfying.  Eventually, Gabrielle said that Charity was just going to choose to help Fortitude, and the other girl could die.

So, yeah, it was an important choice, but it ended up being obscured by the rules confusion.

Charity ended up saving Fortitude, but not before the young girl who was the assassin feebly clutched her ankle, begging for help.

Next day, there were three bodies at the funeral.

The Dogs confronted Bathsheba, who denied responsibility for the murders.  It wasn't her idea, although she wasn't really sad to see Patience or Rachel go.

The mood in the town was getting ugly.  The divisions formed by the girls was spreading to the adults.  Charity knew that something needed to be done.  So she called a meeting at the meeting house to end the feud once and for all.

Somehow, Charity managed to dominate the meeting, insisting on an end of hostilities, but not before someone from the "rich" side of town noted the disparity in casualties.  Two of "our" girls dead; only one of theirs.  "How about evening up the score, Dog?"

Charity was having none of it and re-established control.

And that's when Bathsheba showed up with a gun.  She claimed that she knew the score.  Peace for the town would be bought with her blood.

Fortitude tried to talk to her, to earn her trust.  But Bathsheba was the sorcerer for the town, and 5d10 Demonic Influence is mighty powerful.  And that's when Bathsheba leveled her accusation.  The Steward already had a grave dug for Bathsheba.  Fortitude faltered.  Was this true?  But she fell back on her basic principles.  "This town belongs to the King of Life, not the Steward."

"I believe in the King of Life," Bathsheba said.  "And that's why I'm doing this."  And she leveled the gun at the Steward.

Conflict in slo-mo.  Does Fortitude stop Bathsheba from killing the Steward?

Bathsheba's gun comes up.

Fortitude steps towards her, raising her shotgun.

Bathsheba's finger tightens on the trigger.

Fortitude fires.

And Bathsheba smiles at Fortitude, like Fortitude was doing her a favor.

Raquel had to Give.

Bathsheba's shot blew apart the Steward's head a split second before the shotgun blast hurled her in a heap at the back of the meeting hall.

In the stunned silence, Charity said, "Bury the Steward in the grave he had dug for Bathsheba, and make sure that she gets a proper burial."

Then, as quickly as possible, they rode out of town.

Rules questions

Does the Vicious possessed Trait apply to talking?  I was going to apply it to a talking conflict, but when the fallout was rolled and was taking us into a medical conflict to save the PC's life, I overruled myself and said that it only applied to Fallout taken from a physical attack.  I mean, I've heard of being talked to death, but this was a bit ridiculous.  Anyways, is this the proper understanding of Vicious?

What if there are two characters who need medical attention and the GM wants to do the whole "You must choose one of them" thing?  How would you do that?

Post-game reflection

This town felt a little more exaggerated than Snowy Canyon.  The violence level was definitely much higher, too.  But, underneath it all was a simple problem:  unjust exclusion.  This pattern happens everywhere, and it can lead to violence, so I didn't feel like this was unreasonable somehow.

My respect for the design of Dogs in the Vineyard continues to grow.  Today, I want to mention that coats are the awesome.  By establishing the Dog's coat as a symbol of both his community and his service, the game encourages the players to use the coat as a history of the game.  Quite literally, the Dog wears his history as he roams.  So, for example, in this session, Charity's coat became blood-stained in a couple places.  Rachel's blood spattered across the chest, and Fortitude's blood stained the lower portion of it as Charity knelt to try to save her in the orchard.  Those bloodstains serve as a reminder of that event and, possibly, of how the character grew as a result.

This is very cool. 

Another thought.  I propose that Dogs in the Vineyard is a game that works best at producing coming of age stories.  Maybe that's just the use that we're putting it to, but the system does seem to encourage this sort of story.  Traits and Relationships are constantly mutating and morphing as the character's convictions are put through one fiery trial after another.  Eventually, the rough edges begin to be worn off...or not.  I suppose that the idealism of youth could harden into a rigid fanaticism that lacks wisdom.

Yeah, that's the word I'm looking for.  At least from my current play experience, Dogs in the Vineyard is about characters who are being forced to learn wisdom.  But there's no guarantee that they will actually succeed.

Finally, both Gabrielle and Raquel said that they found Bathsheba to be a sympathetic character.  She was obviously the underdog and therefore needed protection and sympathy.  Of course, her "side" started the shooting, but they didn't start the fight.  I think that I might have to place some stress on this idea in future towns.

Or, to quote Vincent, "mmmHmm".

In conclusion

We agreed that Charity and Fortitude rode back to Dog's Temple, where Fortitude will spend some time recuperating from her injuries.  We also established that Charity was then assigned to head out and meet Content along her route.  So the stage is set for the next session.

We're going to hang on to Fortitude, though.  Maybe she will ride again in a future session.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


Rules questions!

Vicious applies fully to just talking. The medical care you require might be psychological; dying might mean just abandoning your coat and wandering off into the mountains. (I think Ben Lehman plays with two medical care arenas: physical = patient's body + caregiver's acuity; psychological = patient's will + caregiver's heart. I like that.)

"What's at stake is, do you get to help both of them?" Then as GM you have the choice whether to roll through the conflict, to force the choice, or to give upfront if that's what you prefer.



 Let me just say for the record that a conflict involving Charity's heart plus Fortitude's will would be totally awesome!


Quote from: lumpley on January 04, 2008, 09:09:08 AM
Rules questions!

Vicious applies fully to just talking. The medical care you require might be psychological; dying might mean just abandoning your coat and wandering off into the mountains. (I think Ben Lehman plays with two medical care arenas: physical = patient's body + caregiver's acuity; psychological = patient's will + caregiver's heart. I like that.)

Yikes!  Sorcerers really are that nasty, then.

And I like the idea of physical damage vs. psychological damage.  I could totally see how Fortitude could have been dealt serious psychological trauma from that confrontation.  I'll have to steal that idea for the future.

"What's at stake is, do you get to help both of them?" Then as GM you have the choice whether to roll through the conflict, to force the choice, or to give upfront if that's what you prefer.

Okay.  Follow-up question.  Let's say that the player can help both of them.  Is each medical conflict handled separately?  Or are they rolled together somehow?
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


Quote from: Raquel on January 04, 2008, 11:17:01 AM
Let me just say for the record that a conflict involving Charity's heart plus Fortitude's will would be totally awesome!

Heh.  You're just saying that because you'd roll over the opposition without a bump.

It would be the ultimate power-up, though.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown


...Oh now THAT's interesting.

First, yeah, you'd handle each medical conflict separately. That'd be fine. That's what I was thinking.

But check this out. You could also skip the "can you help both" conflict and instead do the two medical conflicts together, as a 3-way. You'd maintain two pools of dice for the two patients, making separate raises and sees for each.

I'm not sure what you'd do for the healer's dice. Acuity + both Bodies? That might be too high, might be perfect. Acuity + the higher Body? That seems eh. Acuity + the average of the two Bodies? That'd make sense but involve averaging, which, well, is probably fine.

Anyway that'd make every raise a little instance of "which do you REALLY help?"



Hey, Vincent.  That's what we were going to do, although the healer seemed really outmatched, especially with the 5d10 Demonic Influence that was getting rolled in at that point.  At that point, it was Charity's Acuity plus Fortitude's Body.  Adding Jael's Body makes sense to me.

At the time, it was getting a little complicated, so we decided to simplify.  However, if we end up there again, that's probably how I'll do it.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown