[DitV] Alternate setting: Dogs of the Military. A Full Metal Alchemist setting

Started by dyreno, April 12, 2008, 08:49:12 PM

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When i started to think of story ideas for DitV i kept coming back to the thought of Full Metal Alchemist. And after reading through the Alternate setting thread i thought it would be pretty cool idea to use the dice mechanic for Full Metal Alchemist. Not to mention that i don't think there is an existent rpg designed for Full Metal Alchemist. And you can't overlook the fact that in the manga and the anime, State Alchemist of Amestris are known as "Dogs of the military". For those who don't watch the show/read the manga. The people have devoted there history to alchemy and the process of taking one thing and turning it into something else using the same elements of its donor ,such as lead into gold, which gave forth the theory of equivalent exchange.  They are, to a point, magical summoners that can take their knowledge of the chemicals and elements of the world and take an object and turn it into another object (i.e. a pile of wood and metal can be transformed into a pile of guns) All this can not be done without first drawing a transmutation circle (Summoning circle or pentagram circle) and concentrating to ensure the process is a success. Not everyone can do alchemy and its take years of practice to learn how, not to mention the state only accepts the best as State Alchemist after they pass the state alchemy exam which is a written, verbal, and demonstration(and only two per year)

The State alchemist (or Dogs of the Military) are employed by the state to use their research to help the development of Amestris and protect its borders in time of war. The state commissions the rank of major to all State Alchemist for this commitment to Amestris. They are even given a pocket watch as a symbol of their rank and achievement. Engraved on the watch is a special title hand picked by the Fuhrer/King which reflects the alchemical ability or a notable trait they poses (The full Metal Alchemist, The Flame Alchemist, The Strong Arm Alchemist, The Snow Alchemist). But, with all the privileges the State alchemist must follow three rules:
1.Loyality to the military and people/land they protect. (Which is the motto "Be thou for the people" engraved on the front of the watch)
2.Not to transmute lead or anything else into gold. (Otherwise using alchemy to line your own pockets with wealth is a no no)
3.Never attempt to do perform human transmutation. (Otherwise known as trying to raise the dead or perform necromancy)

The setting in both the manga/anime is that of WWII Germany. So you have country sides and big cites and of course nervous neighboring countries (like Ishval). Like wise the weapons are from that era as well as cars and clothing. And of course the fact that you have a Fuhrer.

Most common job for a player would be that of a State Alchemist. They would decided if they were active military or just a researcher. Which could be a trait such as, "I do research for the State" or "I use my skill in alchemy to defend the land/people" or "I am a colonel in the Military". Then decide on what name was given to you by the Fuhrer/King. Which could be another trait such as, "I am the Flame Alchemist". Most of what ever that guys transmutes is fire related. The initiation would be how you passed the state alchemy exam or something proved who you were during the exam.

Of State Alchemist isn't the only thing you cool be. It would be cool if only two PCs were Alchemist straight out of the exam. The others could be enlisted men of the State Military assigned to protect the alchemist as they serve the state. There initiation would something like what happened during basic training or their first assignment. Or one of them could be a Colonel with rank over the state alchemist since they are given the rank of major out right. Then the alchemist would be assigned to him and his duties. Or the PC could be any number of different career paths in the FMA world: Automail technician if anyone has robotic limbs, Ishvalian refugee helping the state in some guide method. It's endless. Any comments.

Here's some links to the wiki files: basic(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_metal_alchemist)
state alchemy(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Alchemist)
and the state of Amestris(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amestris_%28Fullmetal_Alchemist%29)

David Artman

One question, which is generally critical to DitV play: Where's the moral ambiguity? Recall that a "vanilla" DitV Dog is granted nearly supreme authority to judge the Faithful. In practical play, this means that the players themselves can actively define the Faith as they go along (mostly); and that puts pressure on the GM to create difficult decisions for the players, based on the Faith as defined during play and "sin" as it emerges in the narrative and drilling down on the players to see just how far they will go (note: NOT the Dogs, per se) to enforce their definitions of "Faith."

Aside from being inherently opposed to any notion of fascism (i.e. every PC is a radical or revolutionary), I don't see much moral ambiguity in FMA, either in what few episodes I've watch or in your summary above. Super powers? Check. Authority figures? Check. Reasons to "patrol the territory"? Check (mostly, hand-wavy). Being put in a situation where all that power and authority is worth bupkiss, as one's gun hand wavers between the 12-year-old girl and her pregnant mother, both of whom have you in THEIR sights? Not seeing it yet....
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages


  I would like to start by saying, I am noit one of those guys taht thinks ditv works for every setting. In fact, I would go so far as to say, there are very few settings that ditv works for.
  The only way DITV works for FMA is if the players are all alchemists and the town creation system is modded to always put them in a no-win situation. In other words, the chars have to care about the Ishvallans. The problem is, the Ishvallans fill the same role that Mountain people do in the original DITV. They are a clue as to what the state is really like and a element of a larger conflict. But they are not suited as the centerpiece of most Alchemist centered conflicts. At least on the TV Anime they were just a clue as to how low the State has slid into the dark side.
  Dave has a good point, there has to be a premise that makes the chars willing to die for it. Elric had this unabiding confidence in the State, Strong Arm had a real religious bent, Al would die for his brother etc. But nothing on the DITV char sheet makes that happen. That is what the setting does for DITV, it makes the mechanics work.
  How does FMA make the mechanics work?
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo


If your looking for the moral influence that god (or the faith) puts in the mix as the players make their decision, then Traditional Dogs in the Vineyard is the game for you. When i first play-tested the DitV system it was not using the setting of mormon-ish men and women going out and holding the faith together in a west that never was. It was a firefly setting one-shot that took us to a town to do a simple job and then things got complicated. The active influence of god was not the driving primary force behind our actions, just our own scattered views of right and wrong. I fell in love with the DitV poker-style dice-mechanic and escalation system, asking yourself "what is worth fighting for?" "whats worth killing for?" "what is worth dying for?". It was only after the game that i bought the book and found out what its original setting was. You have to understand that when i say "Alternate Setting" I mean another genre that this dice-mechanic would be awesome to run with. I am not trying to say "here is another setting where i can throw in gun wielding men and women of the faith and ask them to weed through the sinful." Cause honestly that has already been done by the author and creator of Dogs in the vineyard. And its a great setting to start with and learn the system, but don't think it has to stop right there. I mean just look at: GURPS, Hero System, Savage Worlds, The Uni-system, Dungeons and Dragons, and all the other great dice-mechanics, they start off designed for one particular setting and then just blossome into great universal System that can be adapted to your hearts desire.

Andrew Barton

The FMA storyline is itself full of moral dilemmas.  At the very start of the story Eric and Alphonse have risked their lives to try to bring their mother back from the dead (going against one of the great prohibitions applied to alchemists), paid a huge price, and did not succeed.  The first story arc is concerned with their quest for the Philosopher's Stone that would enable them to succeed, but when they eventually discover the price they would have to pay to get it they choose not to do so.

Many episodes fit well into the DitV setup of a town that has something wrong with it, the alchemists visit in the course of their quest and have to decide what to do.



  You are absolutely right. At first blush, FMA seems like steampunk ditv.
  But, the closer you look, the harder it is to say that FMA fits the actual mechanics...
  For instance, look at the Flame Alchemist. What he is fighting for is totally different from what Ed and El are fighting for. You just don't have that in ditv.
  In ditv its clear that the town is being destroy from within. In other words, the people you have to stop are the people you have to save. Where as in FMA, the victims are not the villains, right?
  That is the beauty of the ditv setting, it supports the mechanics beautifully. But I don't think it supports FMA as well.
  I think you could make it work if you set up some sort of FMA sin progression where the actions in a town leads to heavy handed alchemists to make the town worse, and task the players with fixing both. But I think that might end up with one dimensional play pretty quick.
  To recap, there is overlap:
The heroes of both have something worth fighting (even dying) for
The heroes of both are trying to save the little guy
The religious themes are strong

  But there are key differences:
The victims are not in fact the villains in FMA
There is no overriding theme that is driving all of the characters (like religion is for ditv) in FMA
FMA is a dystopia, while the landscape of ditv is rotting from within

  I am not saying it can't be done or even that it won't be fun. I am just pointing out that the support for the setting that you enjoy in ditv may not be as strong for FMA...
  Good luck and good gaming!
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo


Well the driving force is what you make of it in the end. I've played about twelve sessions of Firefly using the DitV and it was a blast. There was no religious influence at work or even anyone that was religious (like shepherd book in the series). The driving force was very simple, keep the ship afloat and your belly full. Now when I played traditional DitV, the fun just wasn't there. Our views on what the faith stood for was just too spread out. We had two who wanted to help the people, one who wanted to bible Nazi, and two who wanted to shot and kill everyone in the name of the faith. So it wasn't that enjoyable in the end.

I've ran two sessions of my FMA game using the DitV dice mechanic, and i must say it made for an intense game. Just like in the books description of The Untouchables game, we replaced the faith with the law of the land and moral responsibilities of alchemy. We had two state alchemist (one ice/water proficient and the other was rock/metal proficient) placed under a Lieutenant Colonel who had an auto-mail (or mechanical) arm and heart. The Lt. Col. had no alchemical ability and was more trusting of his sidearm in the end. He was almost killed while jumping on a grenade to save some refugees. The fourth player was an auto-mail technician who not only performed the surgery that saved the Lt. Col. during his initiation scenario, but was also assigned to him to ensure his auto-mail kept working. Which was very important to both players seeing as his heart was one of things replaced. The player who built the Lt. Col. gave him a fun little trait. "A lion born to fight in the wild, but kept behind bars at the zoo like a relic" He wanted to return to the northern war zone, but was paraded around as a perfect P.R. war hero to keep spirits high with the people.

Their first assignment took them to a town to attend a diplomatic dinner with eastern kings. During which the wine was poisoned and then they were attacked by Chimeras. The group kept themselves and two of the three kings alive. They then set out to find out who wanted to kill them and the kings, and who was the alchemist that sent the Chimeras after them. It got all their hamster wheels turning, not to mention they had a nail biting stand-off with the kings guards over weather or not they were involved in the assassination attempt. Which they managed to survive.


I agree that DitV system could be used for a variety of settings which are not as bound to moral ambiguity as the DitV setting, Firefly and FMA being great examples. Both series contain a lot of difficult moral questions but trouble arises with the pure evil element present in the shows but mostly absent in DitV. In DitV there are demons and few Dogs would ever show mercy to these foul creatures. However, most Dogs would show mercy to the human the demon possesses, thus creating difficult decisions with how rough to be on the possessed in hope of not killing them but not wanting to spare punishment for the demon.

FMA and Firefly on the other hand, both have pure evil elements. In Firefly there are the reavers, and to some degree the men with hands of blue (from Blue Sun corp right?), who can be killed without a second thought. In FMA the chimeras and likely the homunculi are the pure evil force unless the "human" sides of the homunculi are revealed. In either case, I can see the DitV system working fine in these settings as long as these elements are somewhat marginalized and the issues of morality brought to the forefront. For both shows this may mean eliminating some of the themes exposed in the show but if the GM is up to the task then I hope things go well. Serenity, the Firefly roleplaying system, balances like a see-saw in a hurricane and fails to capture the essence of the show. I believe using the DitV system for these settings would be a challenge for creating plot but would actually work quite well. I'm totally going to run FMA with DitV if I get the chance. :D


Neat idea.  I think there's enough similarity to the DitV structure to make it doable -- the State Alchemists are empowered individuals sent forth by a morally ambiguous authority to both defend the state and to investigate things.  Although they aren't explicitly given portfolios by the state as far as I can tell, in practice they're an elite that hovers somewhere above the law, answerable only to their peers and the supreme leader. 

I'd like to see someone hack the town creation rules to make them more suitable -- I think that's the key to DitV hacks, switching out Traits to suit the setting is trivially easy.

Also, how would you handle Escalation?  Talk-Physical-Fighting-Alchemy?  A lot of the characters in the anime go straight from talking to glowy circles of doom.  Maybe it would be better to borrow from a superhero hack of DitV I read and distinguish levels of Alchemy (fighting) and Alchemy (lethal).
I believe in peace and science.

Marshall Burns

Nah, nah, the glowy circles of doom is just part of the color of the escalation. As they're throwing down their circles, what are they doing? Sometimes they're still just talking.

Try the escalation from Afraid: Talking, Physical, Fighting, Murder


One more thought, I think the DitV feel is a lot strong for the titular character of the Full Metal Alchemist and his brother than for just some random military alchemist -- Al and Eric have relationships to each other and back home, Eric is strongly invested in his identity as an alchemist, and both of them are literally scarred by their early experiences in a way that smacks of initiation conflict to me. 
I believe in peace and science.


I think think this is a badass idea. I would like to see more about this version.

Like how alchemy works, what traits did you change, etc.