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Author Topic: [DitV / AW] Looking at your NPCs though cross hairs  (Read 1281 times)
Narmical
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Mitch "Narmical" Morris


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« on: March 29, 2011, 09:16:28 AM »

I just started running a game of Dogs in the Vineyard last night and I wanted to share some play experience and some insights I had thats colored by my recent experience with Apocalypse World.

This is my second group that I'm running Dogs for. Dogs is one of my favorite RPGs ever. Ever. Consequently I was super excited, and fed this excitement by reading every post I could about DitV rules questions / DMing. There were two things that came up a lot in the forums and came up for me while i was running the game.

#1 Three Dogs can out dice anyone hands down
#2 "Oh really, how bout now?"

So Vincent, along with most other experienced Dogs players admitted to #1 and said, yes, thats how it works and on purpose and that #2 was the solution to it.

I think I finaly figured out how to properly do "Oh realy, how bout now?" in my dogs game, and its thanks to this little bit of rules / advice from Apocolypse World. AW says "Look at your NPCs though cross hairs", meaning think of your NPCs as props to kill for the story. Following this advice allowed me to really push the tension in my dogs game, because I was looking at the NPCs though cross hairs, but my players were not!

Heres the AP:
Br. Phineas, Sr. Adelaid, & Br. Wiley are the Dogs.
They showed up at the Town of Hopewell Cross mid morning on a Sunday ~30min after Br. Benjamin murdered the town's Steward. I decided that Br. Benjamen was Br. Wiley's uncle. After having the plot shown to them, the group decides to confront Br. Benjamin at his house.

As this is a new group, and I was the only one with Dogs experience, we had a little trouble setting the stakes at the begging of a conflict. This conflict was the 2nd in town, so when I was trying to pull out of the players what they wanted to be at stake, they didn't really get it yet. So in the confusion Br. Wiley's player takes the Initiative
"I kick open my uncles door, burst in, slam him against the wall and say 'Uncle, what do you think you've been doing??'"

At this point I just decide to go with it, to preserver flow, and also sometimes letting people fail (as in fail to set the stakes) is a wonderful way to teach. I have all the dogs roll for physical arena, as well as Br Benjamin, I don't remember the exact rolls but Br. Benjamin was the sorcerer, and he had a ton of good dice as a result. Br. Wiley made a strong raise with his dice. As I sat there with my dice, I had a bunch of 6+ dice and a bunch of 2s and 3s. At that moment I decided to put Br. Benjamin in the cross hairs, and put forward 4 of my low dice for the see. Sr. Adele went next and narrated knocking Br. Benjamin to the floor. This went back and forth a bit, but the main point is, I used my low dice to see and my high dice to raise for a round and a half.

At the critical moment of when "Oh really, How bout know?" hit my players it was Br. Phineas's go. Br. Benjamin at this point had about 8 dice of d6 fall out waiting in the wings. Before Phineas makes his raise i comment "you guys really beat up Br. Wiley's Uncle, he has a lot of fallout coming up". This gave all the Dogs pause. After a brief discussion where we firmed up the stakes, and I explained follow up conflicts. The dogs decided that Br. Benjamin's repentance, wasn't really worth beating him to death.

This was an amazing situation for me. In my previous plays of dogs, I only got them to pause to think when they were out of dice and the only way to get more dice left was shooting. That is a very clear way to force the dilemma, but by putting Br. Benjamin in the cross hairs, I was able to force the Dogs to give, while they still had the advantage of the dice.

I think this was an amazing play experience. I think in brings the theme of the game out brilliantly. I also think that this was a situation Vincent was trying to make and why the Dogs heavily out dice everyone. You don't get the dogs to give the stakes by out dicing them, but by putting them in a tough emotional & moral spot.

Without my experience with Apocalypse World, I don't think I would have got it.  Any thoughts?
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2011, 01:19:37 AM »


I have always enjoyed using this tactic in Dogs, even with more experienced players, the contrast between physical contest narrations and the stakes can cause some very abrupt rethinking. For example the classic interrogation scenes from more traditional RPGs, which often turn into an expression of the players will over the NPC/GM to provide the plot hook will suddenly be turned on it's head when the NPC is not only open and forthcoming, but frail. The realisation that standard softening up tactics become more realistic malicious and thuggish behaviour with little regards for stakes can have a profound effect on the game.

Of course this general style of narrating in Dogs is not just confined to physical confrontations, it is equally valid to have an NPC be damaged or changed for the worse by lower arenas. I often aim for negative emotional or physiological fallout consequences, again making it clear in the unfolding narration the kinds of reaction that the Dogs are eliciting from the NPC. I have often had the NPC be compliant but resentful, and the ultimate irony is when a pious dog causes an NPC to doubt their faith.

Jamie
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 01:29:09 AM »

P.S. It's worth remembering that the non NPC townsfolk can be very effective cannon fodder, if your NPCs are in the crosshairs the lesser cast can be blown away right in the middle of a contest, without having to await fallout. Both as part of an NPC action or an unintended consequence of a PCs action.

As long as the narration naturally flows from the current situation. For example I often warn players brandishing guns in the middle of a crowd that as soon as the arena hits gunfighting they are aknowleging that innocents could die, the guns in the era are not exactly stable. After-all a player can always give if things go too far.
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Narmical
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Mitch "Narmical" Morris


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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 05:31:27 AM »

That is a good point you make about out right killing regular old townsfolk during a contest. I'm going to try that out in next week's game. Unfortunately, no one escalated to guns. I don't really know if thats unfortunate, or I really seemed to hit the mark on getting the PCs to question there actions before the guns came out.
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2011, 03:25:11 AM »

I remember in one of my early games a player decided to tie up an NPC and found it a little disconcerting when I started to narrate the cracks of possibly broken limbs. My interpretation of the rules may be a little of track but I often use negative consequences to NPCs as my raise.

Player Raise: I pin him against the wall.
Narrator: He takes the blow and you easily pin him. Push forward low die. In fact he is forced back against the wall in surprise and shock and you end up slamming his head hard against the brick work fusing him to go dizzy and he looses consciousness Push forward a medium raise - especially good points to bring in demonic influence dice as they can be used to explain the bad turn of events (this would be in the context of a stake involving information which is always ironic in a game where the narrator's role is to provide the information).

Although slightly out of the ordinary for a standard raise, we have tended to go with player/GM contests, so in this case I am asking the question is it worth getting physical (ie give) or if it is how do you keep going without it turning heavy handed.

As a side note I have found Dogs to be especially illuminating over the whole principle of interrogation and torture in RPGs in general, because it very quickly removes the vaneer of in-character action and puts the conflict onto the player level. This has interesting consequences for other players, where often one player will either give or actively oppose another where in a more traditional simple roll interrogation this isn't explored and other players often watch on impotently while such morally questionable behaviour occurs. With reaction being confined to passive aggressive stances and unexplored inter-party conflict. Of course this a far wider topic. Which perhaps demands it's own thread.

             
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Narmical
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Mitch "Narmical" Morris


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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2011, 04:46:40 AM »

(this would be in the context of a stake involving information which is always ironic in a game where the narrator's role is to provide the information).

It is very ironic. Players just seem to want to interrogate people. And I don't blame them. It makes for great scene in movies and TV. What I usually do as the GM is make them change the states not to "Do you find out x" but "Does Br. Y admit what you already know to your face" or "Does Br. Z repent his sins to you and ask for forgiveness"

As a side note I have found Dogs to be especially illuminating over the whole principle of interrogation and torture in RPGs in general, because it very quickly removes the vaneer of in-character action and puts the conflict onto the player level.

I totally agree with that. Its one of the situation that dogs does very well. Any sort of morally ambiguous situation where two players might differ. I think its less the dice mechanic, but rather that stake setting that enables this. You can come into physical opposition to another player, set some non lethal stakes, and be fairly certain they will come out ok on the other side.

In other games once combat starts, the implicit sakes is "who dies". And I think thats the trouble.
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