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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 34 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [DitV] GM determined Sin  (Read 3213 times)
lachek
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« on: March 11, 2008, 06:11:20 AM »

<background>
In Indy Pete's posts here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25901.0

and here:
http://www.ukroleplayers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3343

he uses an example of a town preacher declaring the Apocalypse is coming and the sign will be the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Adversary. Naturally, the four Dogs ride in shortly thereafter. In the posts, he's also stating that he, the GM, will have predetermined the Truth of this statement: the preacher is, or is not, prideful; is, or is not, a sinner; is, or is not, a sorcerer.

It was mentioned that if the GM decides that the statement about the Dogs being the Four Horsemen is true, he is breaking one of the most basic rules of Dogs - laying judgment on the PCs. This is important.

An underlying fact of DitV is that the Dogs are given ultimate authority to interpret the Book of Life. In the fiction, their word is law in the eyes of the King. It is possible for the Dogs to be punished by the Faith Elders, but the GM is kind of discouraged from doing this - the players should be encouraged to make their own judgments, not figure out what judgments are the correct judgments according to the GM's plan.
</background>

Here's the important bit, and my question. By going through town creation and establishing demons and sorcerers, the GM is establishing the Truth about what is and what is not a Sin in the eyes of the King of Life. The Dogs could work against the sorcerer, and they would be right to do so - or the Dogs might be misled by the sorcerer and work with hir, and they would be wrong.

As far as I can see, this is non-negotiable fact - as non-negotiable as a Detect Evil spell in D&D. Does he have sorcerous powers? If so, he's a sorcerer, and thereby an agent of the Adversary. There is a moral choice inherent in what method to deal with the sorcerer, but the trail he leaves through Sin and Pride is still a moral judgment imposed by the GM. That preloaded judgment can in essence be an endorsement or a denouncement of the players' choices, when they get around to dealing with the sins.

Is this the way DitV is intended? It seems that by being flexible with Truth is a method of ensuring that the players always make choices that are sound in the eyes of the King of Life, and therefore they truly are His agents. On the other hand, that's a little like playing D&D with infinite hit points. It seems to me that if all choices you make turns out for the best, it won't make for any better play experience than if the GM maneuvers to have all your choices turn out for the worst.

Can someone clarify this for me, and how it [is supposed to] work?
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2008, 06:46:25 AM »

What makes a sorcerer a sorcerer is the fact that he's promoting his own agenda against the survival of his community. What gives him sorcerous powers is that he's a villain, not that he's an agent of the demons. The demons follow him, remember; he doesn't adopt their agenda, they adopt his.

The Dogs don't always make choices that are sound in the eyes of the King of Life, because there is no King of Life. The GM is obligated to play the game as though there were no God (that's what "don't play God as an NPC" means). Accordingly, always, maybe working with the sorcerer is the right thing to do. Yes, he's objectively a villain, promoting his own agenda against the survival of the town. Maybe working with him is the right thing to do anyway! I don't know, and the game mechanics will never decide that for you, and in fact you will never know either. Nobody decides what's right and wrong. Instead, the Dogs do what they do, and we all get to have our own non-binding opinions about how it turned out.

So now. Once play starts and the Dogs arrive in town, all bets are off. The GM can't decide that the Dogs are the Four Horsemen - there are no Four Horsemen any more than there's a King of Life. What the GM can do is reveal the town in play, play the NPCs with passion, and drive toward conflict.

With that correctly in place, a town where the steward has been preaching that the Dogs are the bringers of apocalypse? Awesome.

-Vincent
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oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2008, 07:40:33 AM »

I'll write up that town.
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lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2008, 07:57:54 AM »

Somebody do one where the steward's a sorcerer, and somebody do one where he isn't?

-Vincent
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John Adams
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2008, 10:04:01 AM »


Here's the important bit, and my question. By going through town creation and establishing demons and sorcerers, the GM is establishing the Truth about what is and what is not a Sin in the eyes of the King of Life. The Dogs could work against the sorcerer, and they would be right to do so - or the Dogs might be misled by the sorcerer and work with hir, and they would be wrong.


Vincent already answered this, but I think it's a deep and fascinating topic so here's my two cents.

You are a free moral agent. You decide what is right and what is wrong. You cannot escape this, you MUST choose. You can say "God said X, Y and Z are wrong" as a (debatable) fact, but you still must choose to accept God's values as your own and that is a moral choice.

In DitV, the book lays out a moral code and the GM creates a town full of people in conflict with that moral code. The Dogs show up and judge the moral code by interacting with these people and situations. Dogs live where the rubber meets the road: where the Truth Immortal gets applied to real people in complex real life dilemmas. That's where the judgment lies. The GM doesn't judge, he just sets up the board.
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lachek
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2008, 01:17:43 PM »

What makes a sorcerer a sorcerer is the fact that he's promoting his own agenda against the survival of his community. What gives him sorcerous powers is that he's a villain, not that he's an agent of the demons. The demons follow him, remember; he doesn't adopt their agenda, they adopt his.

That nearly almost clears up all my confusion, Vincent. Only one tiny nagging hint of a question remains.

DitV has a Progression of Sin which starts with pride and culminates in murder. A sorcerer appears somewhere towards the end and incites the progression onwards. Are you saying that the demons ally themselves with the sorcerer regardless of some nebulous idea of "sin", simply because the sorcerer is a bad guy? In that case, what prevents Joe Random Outlaw from walking into town and shooting the place up with demonic support? What actually empowers the demons to affect the state of the town? I was under the impression there was a trigger in the Progression that allowed this to happen. If so, couldn't you argue that the event which caused that trigger to flip is created under a GM-imposed judgment of morality, and if the players choose to ignore and support the action causing the flip they are judged by proxy?

It seems to me that the reality of demonic powers and their connection to the moral code pre-determines what an optimal choice would be. I know I'm wrong, but I don't know exactly where I'm wrong. Please bear with me; I'm just trying to get all the little dominoes perfectly lined up in my head.
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Slow Dog
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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2008, 03:35:24 PM »

Not much to do with the actual question.

<background>

he uses an example of a town preacher declaring the Apocalypse is coming and the sign will be the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Adversary. Naturally, the four Dogs ride in shortly thereafter.



That's a great plot point. The preacher's follower's will believe that that the Dog's are the Horsemen.


Real Life version (some details possibly misremembered): The Aztecs believed the God Quetzalcoatl would return from the East at the end of their current year cycle, and end the world. So, close to the end the year cycle Cortez and the Spaniards arrive in the East in floating "Palaces", with six-legged, four armed metal-clad demons (men on horseback) employing fire-breathing weapons. The confusion  over their status was part of the reason for inadequate military response until it was too late.


I'm not sure how such a confusion could be represented. It feels exactly the opposite of Demonic Influence, removing effectiveness rather than aiding it. Maybe somehow giving the Dogs dice for "The people of [town] know I'm an Agent of the Apocalypse". Could that be acquired while it's still useful?

I guess a later, more always useful version would be "I am an agent of the Apocalypse"...
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2008, 03:58:39 PM »

lachek, you should know that I'm having a hard time figuring out what you're asking!

The GM is the sole and absolute judge of the town, right up until the moment the Dogs arrive. The GM's like, "this is a pride, this is a bad sin, this is a worse sin, and then oh crap the worst possible thing happens, and then this ASSHOLE jumps in to exploit the town because of it, and the demons are all like woohoo! And now they're murdering each other and I have a stomach ache." But then the moment the Dogs arrive, there is no longer any judge of what's sin and what isn't. That's why sin and false doctrine appear only in the town creation rules, not anywhere else in the game rules. Once the Dogs show up, there's no more sin, no more false doctrine, only people in conflict. In play, you'll notice, the demons are a mechanical benefit to people in conflict, or an extension of people in conflict, they aren't people themselves.

If the Dogs side with the sorcerer, well, I guess the Dogs side with the sorcerer. This doesn't mean that the Dogs are now wrong or that the sorcerer is made right retroactively - ALL IT MEANS is that the Dogs side with him. Once play starts, all bets are off.

Make sense? The GM judges the town, harshly and absolutely, during town creation, until the Dogs show up. When the Dogs show up the GM plays the town. There is no underlying God, demons, theology or truth, no absolutes of right or wrong. What's sin in town creation is just a fact of history in play.

-Vincent
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2008, 06:40:26 PM »

Hi Lachek!

I think I have understood what is causing your confusion (please correct me if I am wrong): you see the demon helping the Sorcerer as a concrete, real, measurable "proof" that he is "bad", so it's like he is already judged in God's eyes (or in the GM's eyes), so how can the dogs judge him (and all his demons) like the wronged party, even allying with him?

Because "play like God doesn't exist" is rather easy because Gods don't have a mechanical "weight" in the game, isn't like there are "god's dice" given by the GM to good people. But the game has "demonic influence" used to help the sorcerer, so even if God doesn't exist, the Devil is there and he is helping sin, right?

Well, not: if God doesn't exist, how can exist something that is a "sin" every time, everywhere, as if written in a tablet of cosmic law? If there is no God, how can exist the Devil?

The key to understanding the game from this point of view, in my opinion, is simply in applying the "what is right and wrong, right now, here and with these people, for we people?" in every aspect of the game. Even demons. So, don't think about them like cosmic demons that follow a rigid definition of sin attracted by everyone who sin. They are personal demons, they are here, right now, with these people, only. They are THEIR personal demons, born from them and will stay only with them forever. The Sorcerer didn't attract demons from hell, he has simply found the way to give power to his own personal demons, that were always with him for years, now fueled and strengthened by his own sins against the community.

If you play with the supernatural dial set very low, they don't even exist, they are only misfortune, consequences of acts, mistrust, etc. But even if you play a game full of demonic special effects, they still are something created by the sorcerer. Everything they do, is really done by the sorcerer.

And if the Dogs say to the Sorcerer "you did the right thing, now forgive yourself"...  I would count that as a full exorcism. With the demon forced to flee NOT to hell, but to the place where they always were hidden and imprisoned until something went wrong that freed them: inside the sorcerer's soul.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Alan
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2008, 07:35:41 PM »

Aren't the Dogs the mechanical manifestation of God in the game?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
oliof
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Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2008, 09:07:47 PM »

My humble opinrion:

The game text does not discuss the existence of the King of Life in the game world. The Faith postulates the King of Life, and within the context of that faith, the dogs exist, and gives them a mission and the authority to fulfill it. Do they have the ability to succeed? That question  is part of the core this game is built upon.

The Dogs are agents of the Faith, and the faithful believe their judgement brings salvation. The thing is, that a lot of town people have their own idea of the kind of salvation they get from the dogs, and if that does not line up with what the dogs do, faith can well be shattered and questioning of the dogs' authority might become part of the game.

The rules of the faith look like hard, clear guidelines. During play, you will realize that they don't work out that way when reality provides a suboptimal framework. What this does say about religion in general is up to every single person playing that game.

So, we have three core beliefs: In the Faith's authority, and in extension to the Dogs' authority (for certain stuff); the towns people's beliefs; the Dogs' beliefs. The provable existence of the King of Life is not part of these three core beliefs. There might be a King of Life, or there might not but that doesn't change people's beliefs.
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lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2008, 05:11:06 AM »

I'm with Harald 100%.

-Vincent
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lachek
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2008, 06:49:38 AM »

Guys, this has been a fantastic eye-opener - probably the third or fourth I've had since I convinced myself I could competently "run Dogs". Vincent, that's both praise and critique. As many others, I find the text extremely welcoming and friendly, perhaps misleadingly so. The underlying concepts which - I can only presume - are meant to be discovered through play rather than inferred through reading the text, are pretty damn high-brow and far-reaching in their simplicity, like most well-designed philosophical statements. The gap between the accessible text and the inaccessible statement is relatively large, which I think is confusing to some people. On the other hand, the potential effect of discovering the statement would be rather cheapened by having it spelled out for you. Maybe it's one of those "easy to learn, hard to master" kind of games.

In addition to the many excellent replies in this thread, the recent interview with Clyde L. Rhoer on the Theory From the Closet podcast was also very helpful and helped me tie the last remaining threads together. Vincent, you're dead-on with the comment about people naturally gravitating towards making rules for these completely illogical supernatural things that should be governed only by the needs of the fiction. Maybe I'm just one of those "stupid fans" you speak of. :)
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