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Author Topic: [FitV] First impressions using the Dogs in the Vineyard System  (Read 3754 times)
Altaem
Member

Posts: 64


« on: May 24, 2011, 05:19:05 AM »

I'm GMing a session of FitV (Dogs in the Vineyard, Firefly Verse) and things aren't going that great.  My story is hanging together quite well, but the DotV engine is slowing the action to a crawl.
This is our 2nd session in this campaign.  Total play time up to this point maybe 5 hours.  At this point we're all feeling underwhelmed by DitV .
The players are restless and really want a gun fight.  Cue the final scene.  This the decider, do we ever play DitV again?

Player Characters:
Captain Gabriel
Sniper Donnie
“Steampunk Samurai” Koji

NPC crew:
Medic Leon
Pilot Duke
Tech May

Ship:
Hearts and Clubs, firefly class transport.

Background Summary:
The PCs are trying to evac refugees from Lilac between reaver attacks.  Hearts and Clubs has life support for maybe 30 people.  They're looking for any means necessary to increase this number.  A little PC brainstorming reveals that spaceship fuel cells are fundamentally oxygen tanks.  I'd already described a crashed transport they'd flow over on the way in, so they set to work retrieving fuel cells from the wreckage.  It's a brilliant idea.  So brilliant I conclude that the locals had beaten them to it and removed 3 of 4 cells already.

They fly over the wreckage and quickly resolve a talking conflict to scare off the scavengers.

They'd barely started cutting the remaining cell free when they see a ship flying low, coming towards them.  It's a mercenary firefly, bristling with fire power.  Gabe gives the order to stage a retreat.  Hearts and Clubs flees, but practically the entire crew hides among the wreckage.  The mercenary firefly lands next to the wreckage and the cargo ramp opens.  Four mercs come down the ramp and start scanning the wreckage for stragglers.

Conflict:
Stakes: Do we take the merc firefly vs Are we captured? 

We roll a bucket load of dice and then some.
We have 3 PCs, supported by 6 NPCs.
There are 4 Opposing NPCs on the ramp + an unknown number still on the ship.

Koji opens with a large raise and I rule he and Donnie make it successfully into the cargo bay undetected in place of taking fallout.   There's a lone gunman on the gantry who Donnie drops with a single well placed shot.  Hearing the gunfire the mercs spin and fire at the pair of them.  It's a reasonably high rasie but Donnie dodges behind cover, while Koji's armoured jacket takes the hit.  Gabe follows up igniting a merc's grenade belt with pinpoint accuracy.  The resulting blast floors the mercs, but their armour absorbed the blow.
(That's a lot of action for a single round of raises and sees!)

Koji's turn and he wants to use a grapple gun to advance deeper into the firefly.  But a raise should do something to the opposition, just moving around doesn't count.  We rule that he lays claim to the gantry securing the mid section of the ship.  I block this by introducing a 5th merc to the fight, emerging from one of the shuttle bays.
Donnie is asking “Can he shoot this guy?  Does he have line of sight?”  I say it doesn't work like that.  It's your turn to raise, if you use big number then you must have been able to take the shot.
He pulls a 14, I take the blow with 6 dice, that's one very dead NPC.
My turn, and I have 4 mercs lying on the ground.  So much for shooting all the PCs. 
I reveal my ace in the hole.  The merc firefly opens up with nose mounted machine guns.  Gabe is pinned down in the wreckage.

Koji races to eliminate the new threat.  A single raise covers sprinting half the length of the firefly and hurling himself into the cockpit and at the pilot manning the gun.

The fire fight continues between Gabe, Donnie and the mercs.  It's going to get really messy soon, everyone is running low on dice.  A highlight includes a grenade I lob at Gabe which he easily dodges.  (Thanks to Gabe for introducing grenades to the narration, I didn't plan the mercs to have those.)

Final round.  I prepare my last raise, I've got a pair of eight's and I'm planning on using them to gun down Donnie.  Looking across the table I see Koji also has a pair of eights.  So who has initiative?  We compare our next highest die.  My 5 to Koji's 6.

Koji turns the machine gun on the merc.  His aim is just of and the merc dodges into the cargo bay with the ground exploding just behind him.  Out of large rolls the merc fires inaccurately at Donnie before being blown away by Donnie's return fire.

Gabe wins the conflict by bringing in Hearts and Clubs directly over the merc ship preventing it from going anywhere.  With no dice left to see I have the few remaining mercs throw down arms and surrender.


Impressions:
DotV conflict resolution feels very slow.  It takes forever to resolve the smallest of conflicts.
We had a lot of fun with the final gunfight, but lesser conflicts are painful.

I suppose with practice we could judge both parties rolls and have the weaker side just give without the sequence of raises and sees.  But that seems like not really playing.
I'm left feeling I need to house rule something in.  A quick conflict using only 1 stat and 1-2 traits.

It could be I'm missing the point of “Say yes or roll” and I just need to say yes more often.
However often I want that yes to come at a price, and I'd like a faster way to determine that price.

One thing I found really interesting about the poker style aspect was the desire to win.  Usually as a GM I'm content to let the players win every adventure.  In DotV I find myself trying to beat them down in every conflict.


We've decided it was fun enough to persevere with.  Hopefully it all speeds up with practice.
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"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2011, 04:51:12 PM »

DitV isn't supposed to have small conflicts. If it's not worth throwing down say Yes And move on. Also, why aren't you Giving?
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James R.
Noclue
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Posts: 351


« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2011, 04:54:45 PM »

DitV's GM advice encourages the GM to look for givable stakes. You don't need to beat them down in every conflict. Just make sure those conflicts are about the things they hold most dear.
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James R.
Altaem
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2011, 07:29:23 PM »

I read the GM advice that conflicts should have stakes that balance giving, escalation and taking fallout.
In practice I'm finding the system a little slow if the stakes are that small.
As a result conflicts are being saved for when it's really important but it's not supplying those opportunities to give.

My report doesn't cover nearly the whole session.  We had many smaller talking conflicts to gather information.  Invariably I gave on those pretty quickly.
I could have skipped them altogether but I needed some early safe conflicts to ensure all players understood the rules.

We had one scene where the players were exploring a drifting transport ship.  The ship was trapped, rigged to blow if the distress signal was switched off.
Sure enough, Koji's 1st action is to turn of the distress signal.
All my GM background is screaming for an awareness or mechanical knowledge check to spot the bomb.
I had to just go with "say yes or roll".
"Gabe enters the cockpit taking in the scene with a single glance; Koji reaching for the distress signal switch, the wires somehow out of place.  No time to explain. Gabe pushes Koji flying across the cockpit screaming bomb over the coms."

We're continuing this Friday.  It'll be interesting to see if I can scale the conflicts correctly this time. 
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"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 11:28:43 PM »

Well at least you learned one kind of conflict that Dog's resolution mechanic is not built to resolve. Really, I think you'll find your biggest problem is that you want action and Dogs is built for moral dilemmas. Dogs is about giving a group of teenagers absolute authority, total responsibility, and guns. And then confronting them with problems where guns are the wrong tool for the job. The mechanic basically mirrors Vincent's idea that when your losing a fist fight you're more likely to pull a gun.
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James R.
Altaem
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2011, 04:01:21 AM »

That critical element of total authority is something that simply doesn't carry over into the Firefly conversion.

The whole escalation thing feels.  Just about every conflict in Firefly starts with heated conversation before progressing to fist fighting or a shoot out.
It's why I chose this world/system combination in the first place.

For the moral dilemmas I'm working the angle where they're among the few who have a space faring vessel.
With Lilac under imminent reaver attack there's no shortage of high value cargo.

Gabe turned the money down, instead choosing to ferry out refugees.
To my surprise this decision was backed by the rest of the crew.  I had been looking forward to a PvP conflict to resolve that decision.

Quote
Really, I think you'll find your biggest problem is that you want action and Dogs is built for moral dilemmas.
That's likely spot on.  It'll be interesting to see how that pans out.
Gabe's player is seriously into the moral dilemmas and more importantly story telling.
Donnie's player tends to get bored if he doesn't get to shoot something every other scene.
I haven't figured out Koji's player yet.  Always good to have a wildcard.

Oddly enough we found Dogs to work best in the action scene.  Maybe that was blind chance.
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"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2011, 09:08:51 AM »

If you can work out the Firefly equivalent to having to shoot your brother to stop his drinking, everything should work fine ;)
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James R.
Altaem
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2011, 05:45:25 PM »

Thanks, I'll try to work in opportunities to do just that.
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"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Web_Weaver
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Posts: 251


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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 11:35:59 PM »

The part of Dogs that seems missing from this discussion is the town creation system. It seems to me that that is a vital part of the mechanics of dogs, not just a prep aid.
The moral decisions need to be baked into the scenario. You may need to adapt the system but I recommend you have a close look at how that works, and how it integrates into the rest of the game.

Jamie
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 11:07:23 AM »

At the risk of kneeing a sacred cow in the ribs, I have never quite understood why people think Dogs in the Vineyard is a good template/system for Firefly-inspired play. The key point to me is the mechanics, which don't match: the Dogs system promotes or even demands radical changes in characters, which is important in the context of the Dogs PCs beginning quite young and naive. Whereas the Firefly characters are more back-story heavy and they don't change as much as they are revealed.

Maybe there's an even more sacred cow, the idea that "comin' into town" and "fixin' things" is central to Firefly, whereas I think it's not. Granted, there are a couple really good episodes with some element of that (Jaynestown and that one with the whorehouse) but also some which are frankly stupid (The Train Job, and that one where Mal is stuck in a swordfighting LARP), and the conversation kind of has to get past the Firefly fan's notion that every single episode is every single kind of awesome.

Anyway, I can see that I'm practically spoiling for a geek-fight in a very geeky way, so I'll stop with that and try to place my above points into your specific situation: what about Firefly, to you, is really what you want to shine forth in play? There's got to be more to it than the fact that characters in the game and in the show wear dusters.

I do agree with you about the escalation issue, and I think that's why your action-y stuff is working out OK. I'm more interested in the larger-scale issues like scenarios and consequential decisions.

Best, Ron
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Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2011, 02:24:02 PM »

Conflict:
Stakes: Do we take the merc firefly vs Are we captured? 

We roll a bucket load of dice and then some.
We have 3 PCs, supported by 6 NPCs.
There are 4 Opposing NPCs on the ramp + an unknown number still on the ship.
In addition to the stuff other people have already mentioned, I have a purely mechanical question: how many entities are getting "turns" in your conflicts? Are you making each NPC an independent entity, or treating them as a group as the rules suggest? Are you playing all of your conflicts as an entire party of PCs against the GM or are you sometimes splitting the PCs up for smaller conflicts? In my experience the DITV conflict system is fun when it's constrained but gets cumbersome with a lot of participants. Trying to "go big" can have the paradoxical effect of making things grind to an unexciting crawl and I'm wondering if that's what you're experiencing.
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Altaem
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2011, 12:42:24 AM »

Every "player" got one raise per turn.  That is each of the 3 PCs, and a single raise for me.
I was playing the Mercenaries mechanically as a single (vastly powerful) NPC character.

The supporting NPCs were covered as a single use 2d8 trait which could be brought in once during the conflict.

On each of my turns I would raise against any/all PCs I had line of sight to.  With Donnie making short work of the mercs inside the ship Gabe suffered the worst of it.

Quote
At the risk of kneeing a sacred cow in the ribs, I have never quite understood why people think Dogs in the Vineyard is a good template/system for Firefly-inspired play.
I'm thinking it looked better on paper.  The western theme and escalating conflicts fit perfectly.
Very little of the DitV how to play the GM apply to Firefly.  It's not like the townsfolk come running up to the crew with every little problem.

I've got round that by placing the entire game world under imminent reaver threat.
By making the ship a highly valuable asset I'm able to have NPCs swarm the players with requests and job offers.

At this point I'm stumped at how to keep the interactions high when they come to a comparatively peaceful world.   
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"Damn! I should have turned invisible." - Stephen Moore aka Altaem
"…there are more watermelon-sized potholes nowadays than ever." - another Stephen Moore
"Passion Fruit: Alchemy of the Egg" - yet another Stephen Moore
Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2011, 06:56:01 AM »

The problem is that Mal should fly off and get paid, but his conscience makes him stop and help people. Whereas, the Dogs are obligated to help, but their conscience may very well be telling them the best thing to do is to drop their gun and flee.
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James R.
Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2011, 03:13:04 PM »

From a distance, dogs in the vineyard moral vector seems to be culture Vs culture/religion Vs religion. Ie, do you think your culture/religion is so great your willing to pull a gun and blow someones head off for not following yours? While here, the mercs in the other ship have no competing cultural agenda, nor do the PC's seem to have a cultural agenda to clash against even if the NPC's did.

Speaking of that, the players seem to basically be playing in a gamist like mode. I mean the stakes are if they take the ship or are captured? They have no issue with murdering the mercs to obtain material goods? They are morally empty (or atleast the conflict "Do we take the merc firefly vs Are we captured?" is) - it reminds me of an account of tunnels and trolls, where a player said 'is everyone alright with slavery?', simply because the plan was to use a slave to deactivate a trap. Ie, there is no moral vector - the only vector is the, basically sociopathic one of 'Will I win?'. Which isn't to knock gamism, but simply describe the situation as it is.

I mean, murder is like a base currency of narrativism. Once the idea of murder has no particular value, the only thing left is to win.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2011, 06:03:02 PM »

Callan: Well said.

Best, Ron
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