[Dogs in the Vineyard] I broke the rules ... twice

Started by 5niper9, February 12, 2008, 12:40:19 PM

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last saturday we played Dogs in the Vineyard and it finally gave me what I expected from play.

"We" that is Anna, Edwin, Carina, Felix and me.
Carina and Felix have both played rpgs before, but not with me.
Anna and Edwin have played several Indie games with me.

The characters:
Edwin decided to play someone who got visions from above. A kind of prophet named Br. Aaron.
This idea immedeatly inspired Carina and Anna to play followers of him converted by his words. Both chose to start with complicated lifes and so we got a stealing dog (Sr. Electa) and a nearly sociopathic one (Sr. April).
Felix was absolutely inspired by one of his traits about animals and decided to start with several of them. He was called Br. Oliver.

The town we played was the Tower Creek Branch right out of the book. I only slightly changed the number of relationships:
Bethia is the cousin of Oliver, Cyrus the Brother of April and Wilhelmina the aunt of Electa. Aaron would get in trouble by himself.

So the dogs ride into town and start investigating. They know that something isn't right in the household of the steward and certainly noticed the pride of Bethia, but they decided not yet to act. Instead Sr. April decided to visit her brother and the Dogs follow.

They saw immedeatly that he wasn't comfortable and asked about it. So he told them about their marriage, that he fears his soul is on the line and that the love between Edie and him would have been ordained in heaven. He pulled his sister apart and tried to convince her to marry them now, so his soul could find peace. But she did not.

[Now something in me clicked as I saw how Anna tried to play it safe (while reducing her relationship with Cyrus to d4) and I decided that Cyrus would not forget that she let him down in this hour of need.]

Certainly they had to talk to Wilhelmina, but on the way to her house someone started shooting.

[Nobody wanted to take fallout so they all gave right away.]

The next conflict was about finding out who shot at them, which they won: It was Artax - nephew of Wilhemina - cousin of Electa. But he got away because Aaron was wounded in this conflict and his wounds needed some care.
So after this they decided to calm down and have dinner with the steward.

Missing on the table was Sister Edie and nobody of them could say where she was. Then it got tense again as someone said "Probably she is with Cyrus.". The steward wanted to know what was going on and as the dogs told him he grabbed his rifle and stormed of to Cyrus house, but four dogs were in his way and he knew that he couldn't pass.

Later that evening they noticed Sr. Edie sneaking into the house of Br. Cyrus. Such a situation couldn't pass without the dogs storming in the house, capturing Sr. Edie and driving the demon out of her, while Cyrus is locked in his room. They suceeded and asked which one of the two men she would love. She verbally dodged away and lamented about how mean Bethia could be. No clear solution here. So the Dogs turned to more pressing things and chose to get into the house of Wilhelmina.

[They were surprised that they could get therewithout a conflict, but I had an idea for another scene so I didn't start a conflict.]

In the house they were attacked immedeatly by Wilhelmina and Oliver and Electa were driven out of the house, while Aaron and April got seriously wounded.

[While this conflict was going on after Oliver and Electa were driven ou,I asked myself what this was good for, but at the end of the conflict Artax came to my mind.]

So as the two of them take a deep breath and think they are safe, they hear a weapon readying and instantly grap their revolvers. This conflict was about the safety of the two people inside. When Oliver and Electa would lose Artax would help Wilhelmina kill the two Dogs inside, which would end in a terrible mess. So they fight tooth and nail and suceed, but not without taking deep wounds.

Inside Aaron and April are now fighting for the soul of Wilhelmina. After hurting her and getting terribly wounded they knowher soul will reach heaven.

And we roll fallout.

Electa, Aaron and April were badly wounded, they wouldn't come through without medical treatment.
Aditionally to that Felix rolled three 10 on four d10. His character was dying.

And I broke rules. We agreed that the steward would care for the three wounded people. Additionally after that the player pressed me to allow a conflict about resurrecting Oliver. On the one hand this robs the game of consequence, since he choose to take that fallout. But on the other hand there were at least 30 minutes left to play in which Felix could have done nothing but watch and everybode else but me seemed fine with the resurrection.

So after that the really interesting things happened.
Oliver had a great conflict with Bethia about her pride. Which I gave in the first volley.
They divorced Edie and the steward. And April visited her brother.
But Cyrus, informed by his sister that he was not allowed to marry Edie (because she wouldn't love him), went wild denying his position in the faith and his relationship to her. This on the other hand wasn't acceptable for April and she violently drag him to the church. Here she retreated and Aaron looked for him. He gave him his spirit back and calmed the fire inside Cyrus heart.
So the final scene was Cyrus walking to April, giving her a hug while tears pour down his eyes.


All in all this is what I want from these games I play.
We all had fun. We cheered as the dice fell lucky, mocked the villains and the decisions made got emotional feedback.
The tower creek branch is gold.



IMHO, Resurrection might well be in the realm of a dogs game without breaking the rules. It just should be a very hard conflict with interesting repercussions and fallout (the GM would probably get about 4d10 of demonic influence to work against it to start with). Just make sure that you'll eventually get to a town where resurrecting people is the problem.

"I live ... again!" is quite a Dog's aspect.

David Artman

Harald is a heretic, for is it not written that "When The King calleth you from the Earth, get yer ass up there pronto"?

Seriously, though... I'd give some hard thought before I let this resurrection thing become the norm. On the one hand, Taking the Blow in a d10-Fallout conflict is supposed to be a HARD decision--you could DIE! If it becomes "just" another healing conflict--albeit tougher than a normal one (yeah, whatever)--then I think you lose a lot of the inherent, systemic checks on escalation. Further, you've set a precedent that, now, not only will a 20 on Fallout not likely kill you (you'd have to be alone or your healer under duress/distracted/using dice for a parallel conflict) but failed healing of 12+/16+ Fallout just means another, new conflict... hey, why not just invoke and roll a boat-ton of Traits on the healing conflict, and then Give immediately to get a "free" 8 or 10 or whatever for the follow-up "resurrection" conflict?

Plus, you've done a subtle disservice to your player: you've taken away his death scene. This is supposed to be The Good Shit: emotional, passing on cherished Ol' Bess and asking for one's Coat to be returned to one's Mum. Heavy. Resurrection is the stuff of Disney and Safe Play, a crutch to accommodate player-investment of a ton of OOC time on a crunchy system (or, worse, players who take character removal personally and, thus, hard). Sure, if it took the better part of four hours to complete a DitV character, you'd want a few more checks than "normal" on removal of it from play. But a DitV character--once conceived--takes all of ten to fifteen minutes to fully write-up. Let it be at risk, I say.

After all, it's not like a group of Dogs is ever really at risk of failing a healing conflict, if together and having time and space enough to do it--it's only those (rare) healing scenes where the wounded Dog is solo or the whole party is down or the healer is an NPC mook, that the Dog's life is really hanging in the balance.

Anyhow, I felt I had to offer an alternate perspective to Harald above, for your consideration. Such a rule drift--in a tightly tuned system like DitV--has repercussions that may not be obvious or desirable in the long run;
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages


Hey René - give these guys' arguments whatever weight makes sense to you, but for the record you didn't break any rules. Dogs doesn't have any rules about NPC healers and I can't begrudge you making some up, and resurrection is specifically, if not explicitly, within the rules as written.



Not everyone is into highly emotional death scenes as much as highly emotional resurrection scenes. That said, David is obviously a heretic since "Where the King's Call leads, the Faithful shall follow."

David Artman

Nay, for it is also written "Demons sound like The King, once you're dead." Prophet Meccarat's Apology of 1812, further, makes it clear that "necromancy opens the heart to possession." QED, if you think you hear The King of Life "calling" you back to Earth after your life has fled your body (duh!) then be wary of False Doctrine and Demonic Seduction.

(Seriously, though--whatever floats your boat. I, personally, wouldn't use that dodge as a PC; and as a GM, I would quiz my players heavily on whether they think there's any tension left in escalation, once death is all-but-impossible.)
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages


My intention was neither to proclaim that our drifting on that part was good nor that it was bad.
It just happened and produced a nice outcome of a story.
I think that we will discuss the resurrection issue the next time we play, I'll try to make clear that I think that this should be handled as a unique situation and we shall see what comes of it.



No! Never discuss anything!

Let it stand. Go forward. If it comes up again, it comes up again, no big deal.

Swear to God, no big deal. David wouldn't want it in his game, but his game is way over there, your game is your own. It was the right thing to do once, no reason to think it won't be the right thing to do again.



vincent was just faster than me! "The devils words are sweetest when the King's wisdom is turned backwards". And we know that the book of death and renewal also ends with "As the voice of the king of life speaks of forgiveness, death will be undone for the just."

In other words: As lumpley said. One of the strongest experiences I had as a Dogs GM was a resurrection where one dog got the dog back to life that resurrected her in the first place – all framed within the healing conflicts, but nonetheless. Both dogs took d4 relationships to each other as part of fallout, which told us this would have gotten veeery interesting if this hadn't been a convention oneshot.


Oh!? I didn't expect such a strong reaction.

So I conclude that discussions are death for the experience were aiming for.
We'll just carry on. Probably on saturday.