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Author Topic: Dogs - First time woes, mechanical and thematical alike (long)  (Read 7330 times)
JMendes
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« on: May 13, 2006, 12:07:00 PM »

Hi, :)

<sigh>It seems every time I try a new game, I flounder about and thrash hopelessly until I finally get it to work. (Donjon was an exception, for some reason.)

We used Williamsville as the town.

  • Rogerio played Brother Cyrus, who succeeded in avenging a kid named Billy's mom by gunning down her killer
  • Ricardo played Brother Nathaniel (who has the same name as an NPC), who succeeded in overcoming his problem with alcohol
  • Mariano played Brother Jonah, who succeeded in wining a theological debate with his instructor at the Dogs temple
  • Antonio played Brother Shawn, who didn't succeed in picking up and bedding a female Dog who was also training at the time

Right off the bat, my first problem was with Antonio's proposed initiation conflict, which simply didn't feel very Dog-like. He asked if Dogs were allowed to hope to achieve bad, sinful things during this conflict, and I was sort of confused.

I arbitrarily and randomly decided on blood relationships between the PCs and the Dogs. I made Brother Newton Brother Shawn's cousin, Sister Lavinia Brother Jonah's cousin, Brother Hamilton Brother Cyrus's cousin and Brother Phineas Brother Nathaniel's cousin.

Then, mechanical confusion started to set in very, very quickly.

Our first conflict was Brother Cyrus and Brother Nathaniel being confronted with Brother Nathaniel NPC and Brother John, who wanted to come right away to their father's house and have strong words with him on account of the son. So, this was a two-on-two conflict and I got lost very quickly on whose turn it was to raise, who had to see what, etc... I imposed some sort of arbitrary order on who had to see and who didn't, and it all seemed utterly unsatisfactory. Fortunately for me, the players ended up giving early on this conflict, in order to save a good die for the next conflict.

Our second conflict was when Brother Jonah and Brother Shawn were talking to Brother Virgil at the Inn and Sister Lavinia barges in. She starts off on the slaking kid and turns to the Dogs to let her bring the kid home with him. The Dogs sided with the kid, making for a three-on-one conflict, which provided me with a good reason to escalate with the kid and possibly have the Dogs change sides. So, here's the Sister making her first raise which everyone sees with more or less difficulty. Then, one Dog makes a raise against her and she reverses the blow. Only, there's two more people to raise against her, and I didn't know what to do with that lone die I had just used to see...

The theme of what to do with reversal dice and who has to raise when and who has to see what kept rearing their ugly heads at each and every conflict that arose that was not a straight one-on-one thing. Gah!

And then, there's this precious piece of advice: escalate, escalate, escalate. Simply put, what the hell does this mean? There was a conflict at Sister Lavinia's house where three Dogs tried to convince Sister Lavinia to lift her ban of Brother Elijah. Three on one erodes dice like mad, so very early in the conflict, I had Lavinia escalate directly to armed hand-to-hand, as she picked up the fireplace poker and tried to beat the Dogs out of her house. Uh... all the players were looking at me like, what the hell, is this woman crazy or are you? Is she actually physically assaulting three authority figures armed with guns? You know, they were saying/thinking, there's still three of us, we can still win this easy without anyone of us escalating, so what the hell are you doing? I don't know. I didn't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but yeah, it felt incredibly weird.

One other instance, which followed quickly on the heels of that first one, was when the fourth Dog, who went to Brother Newton's house instead, tried to rouse Brother Virgil off his bed and get him to go to work. When I started to run out of dice, I had Brother Virgil pull out his gun from under his pillow and take a shot at the Dog. Again, everyone was like, what the hell?!? This time, however, I was more like, yeah, this guy is indeed this far gone. You'd best act on this one way or another.

The last conflict was one where I had a spontaneous mob of married men decide to storm Sister Lavinia's farm to try to force Sister Prudence to "accept their courtship", with strong implications that something bad was bound to happen. The mob consisted of Brother Hamilton, Brother Phineas, two unnamed NPCs and the heretofore unnamed steward, which I also threw in for good measure. So, all four Dogs ride out to meet this mob and try to bring it under control. I started off the conflict in the armed hand-to-hand arena, planning to escalate to gunfighting. Instead, the Dogs quickly escalated to just talking, which used all the other traits anyway, giving everyone bucketloads of dice. Well, I went to gunfighting anyway, just to see how much fallout each of them was willing to take in order to get the situation under control, but in the end, their winning the conflict was inevitable. At the end of that conflict, everyone was looking at me and saying, you knew you were going to lose this, why didn't you give? I was like, I wanted you guys to choose between giving and taking d10 fallout. Seems to have worked. They were like, wait, you were just trying like hell to give us fallout instead of trying like hell to win the conflict? What's that all about? Again, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

We wrapped up before going into the judgement phase, because it was almost 5am at this time...

So, me Rogerio and Antonio stuck around, discussing the good and the bad in the game. It was mostly the bad. Here's a couple of points that I don't know how to address:

- The NPCs don't play by the same rules as the PCs. If the question asked of the players is how far are you willing to go, how come the NPCs seemed to be always willing to go all the way? Is everyone who wants something from a Dog a cross between a raving lunatic and an unflinching psychopath?

- What's with the escalation? There seem to be a hundred and one ways of escalating all over the arenas without ever being in danger of actually causing harm to the NPCs. The players never have to escalate to gunfighting, since they can reach for their guns and hit the NPCs with the grip, thus escalating to armed hand-to-hand, which, coming from just talking, gives them access to all their dice, anyway.

- Also, in a related point, escalating doesn't seem to have any real danger of serious consequences. If they do it early enough, when the NPC still has enough good dice to dodge or block, they can then spend the rest of the conflict talking again, with all their dice already on the table. Throughout the whole of the game, I was hard pressed to make anyone actually shoot at anyone, ever.

So, in summary, if the game tries to ask of the players how far are you willing to go, the way we played the game, it doesn't seem to support that question. Because everybody and their mother here raves on and on and on about the game and you all can't be idiots, my immediate conclusion is, we were playing the game wrong.

My question is, where were we wrong and how would it have been right?

Cheers,
J.
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ffilz
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2006, 10:06:38 PM »

That's unfortunate it didn't work out well. I'm glad you did post-process some with your players.

Vincent has pointed out that when you are dealing with more than a one-on-one conflict, if you reverse the blow, you get to re-use the die on your next raise or see, whichever comes first. If it's another see, you might be able to continue reversing the blow.

One possible problem is that the town wasn't grabby enough for your players. It's suggested new players be introduced to a town that goes all they way up the sin ladder to murder.

If your players are consistently staying on the same side in conflicts, you need to probe harder in subsequent towns. They had the same opinion in town A, well, up the stakes in town B, do they still have the same opinion?

Also one thought - is it possible your players aren't in fact up for narativist play? It sounds like they are gaming the system a bit. But that may also just be them feeling it out still, not quite sure how to get where they want to go.

One thought - if they always pull out their gun and whack people with it instead of shoot, you needn't always consider the gun worth it's full dice, perhaps a pistol is just a 1d4 club. Also look around the room, is anyone besides you looking skeptical about the players raises with their guns as clubs?

Hmm, in your second conflict, note that the kid just adds 2 dice plus a trait for the Dogs (not sure how you decide which Dog gets to use the dice). Each player (including the GM) only gets one set of dice. Or maybe the kid doesn't even contribute to the conflict at all. Going back to the first conflict, that also, with 2 NPCs should have only been one pot of dice for you.

Hmm, my first play session had more than 2-people conflicts as its first conflicts, and we struggled with them (but not so unsatisfactorily as you did). I wonder if a good suggestion for first time play is to do first conflicts as one-on-one conflicts, with aid dice as appropriate.

One thing that does help the GM if the sin ladder goes higher - when you bring in demonic possesion, you get more extra d10s.

Quote
I had Lavinia escalate directly to armed hand-to-hand, as she picked up the fireplace poker and tried to beat the Dogs out of her house. Uh... all the players were looking at me like, what the hell, is this woman crazy or are you?

While escalation is key, you need to make sure it seems reasonable given the circumstances. The above almost sounds like players being critical of your raises, and they might be right. So what do you do? You need to make sure the situation allows the NPCs to get riled up. Again, having a more developed sin ladder helps, because someone is actually crazy.

Oh, one thought, if the players are taking one shot to get their shooting dice, or hitting with a club once, and then dropping back to talking, and doing it early so you have enough dice, consider taking the blow with a bunch of your 1s and 2s if you have them...

I hope that's some helpful thoughts.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Darren Hill
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Posts: 861


« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2006, 11:46:53 PM »

Frank's advice is excellent (especially the last bit about taking the blow when they shoot), except for this bit:
One thought - if they always pull out their gun and whack people with it instead of shoot, you needn't always consider the gun worth it's full dice, perhaps a pistol is just a 1d4 club.

You get a belonging's full dice however you use it. If you brandish a gun and intimidate, without shooting or bashing, you get it's full dice. If you respectfully remove your hat in a talking conflict with a woamn, you get that hat's dice. And so on.

And then, there's this precious piece of advice: escalate, escalate, escalate. Simply put, what the hell does this mean?

This refers to the recommended style of the game: you should be constantly putting your players under pressure to make difficult choices. It expressly does not mean to escalate to lethal combat in every conflict. As Frank says, escalate whenever it seems reasonable (and be willing to push this a bit); make well-timed big raises that force players to decide whether to drop out of a conflict or take nasty fallout; and so on. But more importantly, while playing through a town, do two things: use your NPCs to force the players into difficult decisions, and observe play during the town - find what the hot buttons are in your group, then build a town design to push those buttons even harder.
"Escalate, escalate, escalate" just means pile the pressure on to the players, in as many ways as you can, while staying true to the npcs and the town you've built.

At the end of that conflict, everyone was looking at me and saying, you knew you were going to lose this, why didn't you give? I was like, I wanted you guys to choose between giving and taking d10 fallout. Seems to have worked. They were like, wait, you were just trying like hell to give us fallout instead of trying like hell to win the conflict? What's that all about? Again, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Conflicts like this are an opportunity for you, as GM, to force the players into difficulty decisions. You know you are probably going to lose - but the point is, how far are the Dogs going to go to win? When you put that raise of 17 (or better, 20) down as a barrage of gunfire against the PCs, are they going to take that fallout? Is this conflict important enough for them to risk ding to win?
An important point: it is inevitable you will reach the stage where the dogs can win most of their conflicts, just by looking at the dice. Your job is to make those victories hard-earned - be ruthless with your raises (keep those big dice for fighting and shooting raises, and make the occasional really big raise targeted at either the entire group, or the dogs who seem least committed to the conflict), and try to Take the Blow in situations where you can cause maximum guilt.

A corollary to this: it's the GM's job to try to bargain with the players to get lesser stakes: rather than, "do we defeat this mob," say, "do we get the steward's support against the rest of the mob?" This allows the players to lose the conflict and still have a chance at their ultimate goal - and this means they are more willing to give, and still allows possibility of violence within the conflict, as well as follow on conflicts- for exmaple, now we have (or haven't) the steward's support, do we disperse this mob back to their homes leaving Phineas and Hamilton without backup, and then a third conflict to bring Phineas and Hamilton to heel.

- What's with the escalation? The players never have to escalate to gunfighting, since they can reach for their guns and hit the NPCs with the grip, thus escalating to armed hand-to-hand, which, coming from just talking, gives them access to all their dice, anyway.
True, but this is okay. If they escalate to fighting, it's still perfectly possible to kill their opponent with a fallout roll. If they are in a conflict with the steward's wayward son, or their own grandmother, do they really want to pistol-whip them? And when you take the blow with nine 1's, how are they going to feel about killing their foe? One of the questions the game asks: how far are we willing to go to win?

Quote
- Also, in a related point, escalating doesn't seem to have any real danger of serious consequences. If they do it early enough, when the NPC still has enough good dice to dodge or block, they can then spend the rest of the conflict talking again, with all their dice already on the table. Throughout the whole of the game, I was hard pressed to make anyone actually shoot at anyone, ever.
If they escalate to fighting or shooting, and then go back to talking, then there's no reason you should do the same. If you have an NPC who has been shot at or pistol-whipped, let the players make talking raises, but make sure the NPC shoots at them with his raises. Or that pistol-whupped grandmother grabs a shovel and hammers them with it, while calling for help. (This is one situation where escalate, escalate, escalate to violence makes perfect sense.)  When faced with violence, you may find the dogs are naturally drawn into violent responses. When they've accidentally killed a few people, or taken some nasty fallout, they may get less eager to use their weapons in anger.

Also, look for opportunities for players to get into conflict with each other. You can encourage this easily in two ways: 1) anytime they disagree, point out they can force the other side to go along with them by using the talking conflict rules. After they've done this at least once, remind the losing side that they can escalate... (They may not need reminding.)
2) watch the players for signs of disagreement. Say, some of the Dogs have decided that some sinner needs punished, but one of the dogs isn't convinced. Have the soon-to-be-judged sinner (or someone else if appropriate) approach the doubting Dog and try to persuade them to help them convince the dogs they are right and not sinners at all. This is a conflict, and the dog might lose even with a dice advantage - remember, this dog is inlined to support the NPC. Then have the NPC and the dog go to the other dogs and start a conflict over the issue (or leyt the other dogs try to re-persuade the doubting dog). In this conflict, the doubting dog can easily give - but sometimes they won't. They can take this approach as an opportunity to break ranks - it's like they have been given permission to put their own interests before the team.

Anyway, hope this helps.
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ricmadeira
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"You can choose just who you are."


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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2006, 03:48:35 AM »

Heh, you seem to have some weird definition of "floundering about and trashing helplessly". Don't be so overcritical of yourself! Do you know half the players went home discussing all the great stuff that they thought went down at the session, and couldn't wait to hit another town, right? :)

  • Ricardo played Brother Nathaniel (who has the same name as an NPC), who succeeded in overcoming his problem with alcohol

That's me!

Right off the bat, my first problem was with Antonio's proposed initiation conflict, which simply didn't feel very Dog-like. He asked if Dogs were allowed to hope to achieve bad, sinful things during this conflict, and I was sort of confused.

Confused? No; everybody else at the table agreed with you that that conflict shouldn't come to pass... it only came into existance because we were pressed for time, wanted to move on, and the player refused to try his hand at thinking of something else.

I arbitrarily and randomly decided on blood relationships between the PCs and the Dogs. I made Brother Newton Brother Shawn's cousin, Sister Lavinia Brother Jonah's cousin, Brother Hamilton Brother Cyrus's cousin and Brother Phineas Brother Nathaniel's cousin.

This was great! It would have been better to look up a couple of the players' relationships on their sheets and have them be part of the town, but hey, next time. I think you should really play up to the power of family bonds... did you notice how the subject being a cousin of fellow Dog affected the judgement I passed on? If my cousin came to me complaing that same Dog didn't show the same courtesy to him, it could have have led to some nice dissention among the ranks.

Anyway, family bonds, or no family bonds I think this is key: players have to care about the NPCs, and that means you have to portray them with an eye out to catching the sympathy/pity/respect/admiration/whatever of the players and really color them in instead of just focussing on their faults/sins. The less detached and aloft players feel, the more intensely they'll live the situation. Yeah, that guy might be a cold murder, but he's also just a kid who had a troubled life and nobody to care for him; that mother might be wanting to squash the feelings of true love between heir daughter and that boy she thinks it's not worthy, but she's the single nice-looking hard-working mom that yesterday cooked you supper, shared plenty of memories and opened up her heart to you, etc. Don't underestimate the power of color; that's the one thing I don't find 200% exciting when I'm trying new games with you guys... with you it's always about let's catch these new mechanics/system in action and let's skip the color because that's not really what really matters, system is.

I'll comment the rest later...have to go! Thanks for a great session!
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ricmadeira
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2006, 04:26:03 AM »

Another thought...

- Also, in a related point, escalating doesn't seem to have any real danger of serious consequences. If they do it early enough, when the NPC still has enough good dice to dodge or block, they can then spend the rest of the conflict talking again, with all their dice already on the table. Throughout the whole of the game, I was hard pressed to make anyone actually shoot at anyone, ever.

A procedural question: is there anything stopping you from taking advantage of the escalating Raise of the players? They only shoot/fight one action and go back to talking for the rest of conflict? So use the system, take advantage of that one action! They pistol-whip someone with an 11? Have that someone (if you don't have bigger plans for him later) take the blow with every rotten dice they have on the table, causing them to take tons of fallout dice by spending all those no-good worthless 1s, 2s, 3s to See the player's Raise. And then, when it's your turn to raise, have the NPC escalate (he's just been severely hit by the Dog!) and do a Raise with all those big bad dice you just avoided/resisted spending to See the player's Raise on the turn before.

After the players have severely hurt someone by escalating over some little matter, they'll be more careful deciding how, when and what about they escalate over. At least if they care something about the people they might hurt, and about how the townpeople see them. Right?
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Pyromancer
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2006, 06:39:10 AM »

- Also, in a related point, escalating doesn't seem to have any real danger of serious consequences. If they do it early enough, when the NPC still has enough good dice to dodge or block, they can then spend the rest of the conflict talking again, with all their dice already on the table. Throughout the whole of the game, I was hard pressed to make anyone actually shoot at anyone, ever.

You raise: "I shoot at the little girl." 6.
I put forward a 2 and 4 ones, although I could have easliy reversed the blow with a 7 or 8: "The bullet rips her chest apart. She falls to the ground bleeding like hell."
You: "I didn't want to do this!"
I: "But you did."

That's the game.

It is always nice as GM to have a few low dice on the table, just in case.
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ricmadeira
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2006, 06:50:23 AM »

I went to gunfighting anyway, just to see how much fallout each of them was willing to take in order to get the situation under control, but in the end, their winning the conflict was inevitable. At the end of that conflict, everyone was looking at me and saying, you knew you were going to lose this, why didn't you give? I was like, I wanted you guys to choose between giving and taking d10 fallout. Seems to have worked. They were like, wait, you were just trying like hell to give us fallout instead of trying like hell to win the conflict? What's that all about? Again, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Man, you really need to review or definition of "everybody"!! :) One player said that, and maybe one other backed him up. I, like I said at the time (but, as usual, nobody cares!), was behind you all the way, didn't find the situation any bit strange, and would have done exactly the same not only in that situation but in every conflict because THAT is what the game's mechanics are all about: are you willing to risk fallout for yourself (and for the people you're supposed to be saving!) to achieve this or that? Because you can always achieve this and that if you really want to.

Questioning your reasoning is kinda like questioning a Sorcerer's GM reasoning for providing adversity to players at every turn... why does he harass the players so much when he knows that the players can win everything they set their sights on just by calling bigger demons? Duh! It's not about the challenge, it's about what you're willing to risk / not risk to win it.

So, please, just keep on doing what you were doing. You were a great DitV GM, it was a great introduction to the game, and now that we know the flow of the mechanics better and can concentrate more on doing the stuff we did only in more intense towns, with more color, with more "immersion", let's keep on playing and have even more fun! :)
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JMendes
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2006, 08:56:32 AM »

Hey, guys, :)

Wow! Lots of interesting, juicy stuff, here. Some of it I can use, some of it outright surprised me, and some of it I just don't understand.

First off, let me dismiss something right off the bat: it's my view that just because the players 'game the system', that doesn't mean they're not up to narrativist play. In Capes, for instance, 'gaming the system' is very much everything you are supposed to do in order to draw out narrativist play. It seems that Dogs supports that particular CA in a different manner, and yes, that may just be what threw us (me?) off the track, but yes, we were all at the table to play/experiment with narrativist play.

That said, let me further explore some some of the more points:

If your players are consistently staying on the same side in conflicts, you need to probe harder in subsequent towns.

Also, look for opportunities for players to get into conflict with each other.

This, I'm at odds with. In Capes, Player-vs-Player is very much the point. In PtA, it can either be the point or not, but either way, the total final consequences of a conflict are on the table, in the hands of everyone involved. In Dogs, however, consequences can get out of hand.

Here's the thing: if a Dog shoots another Dog, it's going to immediately and irredeemably ruin the whole fun of the session for me right then and there, whether I am the shooter, the target, the GM, or another Dog altogether.

Now, I realize that it's all up to the Dogs to keep the conflict civil and all. In TSoY, for instance, I find myself enjoying PvP in social conflicts, but I would never draw a weapon on another PC. Still, there is a part of me that has an deeply ingrained, instinctive knee-jerk reaction to PvP in a game, so I find myself actively trying to avoid this, rather than pursue it.

Let me ask you guys this: is pitting Dogs against each other the only way to force hard choices on a player? (I'm thinking no, it's not, but if it is, then Dogs might not be the game for me...)

While escalation is key, you need to make sure it seems reasonable given the circumstances.

As Frank says, escalate whenever it seems reasonable (and be willing to push this a bit);

Hmm. I think I may have misexplained my point. In looking back on the game, every single instance of escalation seemed reasonable in some way, although some NPCs were more exaggerated in their escalation than others. The thing is, a sum of reasonable circumstances doesn't always add up to a reasonable sequence of events. If, in every single conflict, I find a reasonable way to escalate to fighting, then at the end of the game, every single conflict went to fighting, and that is not reasonable, it's caricature.

consider taking the blow with a bunch of your 1s and 2s if you have them...

try to Take the Blow in situations where you can cause maximum guilt [...] And when you take the blow with nine 1's, how are they going to feel about killing their foe?

Have that someone (if you don't have bigger plans for him later) take the blow with every rotten dice they have on the table, causing them to take tons of fallout dice by spending all those no-good worthless 1s, 2s, 3s to See the player's Raise.

You raise: "I shoot at the little girl." 6.
I put forward a 2 and 4 ones, although I could have easily reversed the blow with a 7 or 8: "The bullet rips her chest apart. She falls to the ground bleeding like hell."

This was the one that surprised me the most. When I first read this in Frank's reply, I thought, no, wait, that's just silly. But then, everybody and their mother came out in support of this point, so I guess I'm just not seeing it.

Come to consider it, taking it to the players on guilt rather than on pressure is just another way to escalate, I suppose. I shall have to ponder this more. Thanks for the heads up and for the unanimous voices. :)

make well-timed big raises that force players to decide whether to drop out of a conflict or take nasty fallout [...] When you put that raise of 17 (or better, 20) down as a barrage of gunfire against the PCs [...] be ruthless with your raises [...] keep those big dice for fighting and shooting raises, and make the occasional really big raise

And then, when it's your turn to raise, have the NPC escalate (he's just been severely hit by the Dog!) and do a Raise with all those big bad dice

Darren, that's not always possible, given the dice on the table, and Ricardo, you're assuming the Dog is going to escalate first. In fact, both of those are going to be not the case more than half the time. Consider this: Dogs have more stat dice that NPCs (to the total tune of one die on average at conflict start, but it's there), they have more traits than NPCs, and they have belongings. This means that, on average, a Dog is going to roll more and better dice than an NPC. If I don't escalate first, I probably won't have the dice to put the Dog in any kind of pressure. At all. As for having a 20 to raise with, heh, I wish!

Other points that showed up:

Frank, your bits about aid dice and upping the sin ladder are well taken. The sin ladder part for first-time or inexperienced players, in particular, I wish that had been in the book.

Darren, I understood your explanation of what escalate, escalate, escalate means, but alas, that don't really tell me how to do it. I'm hoping it's a matter of experience. Your point about conflict scope, however, was particularly well put.

Ricardo, thanks for your support. My post was perhaps unfair to the session, in that I didn't bring out the good stuff that did happen, because I was so thoroughly focused on getting help with the stuff that didn't. I'm glad to hear you were on board. :)

I especially want to thank you for this:

I went to gunfighting anyway, just to see how much fallout each of them was willing to take in order to get the situation under control, but in the end, their winning the conflict was inevitable. At the end of that conflict, everyone was looking at me and saying, you knew you were going to lose this, why didn't you give? I was like, I wanted you guys to choose between giving and taking d10 fallout. Seems to have worked. They were like, wait, you were just trying like hell to give us fallout instead of trying like hell to win the conflict? What's that all about? Again, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Man, you really need to review or definition of "everybody"!! :) One player said that, and maybe one other backed him up. I, like I said at the time (but, as usual, nobody cares!), was behind you all the way, didn't find the situation any bit strange, and would have done exactly the same not only in that situation but in every conflict because THAT is what the game's mechanics are all about: are you willing to risk fallout for yourself (and for the people you're supposed to be saving!) to achieve this or that? Because you can always achieve this and that if you really want to.

Point well taken. You're right that, at the time, I didn't realise you were in agreement. In my defense, I tend to listen to disagreement more than to agreement, because that's where I find the most grounds for self-improvement, but that's no excuse for inadequate biasing.

In conclusion, guys, thanks for all your help, it was thoughtful and insightful, and I will go into the next session better prepared! :)

Cheers,
J.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2006, 03:20:38 PM »

I appreciate why you aren't in favour of player v player combat, in a game where it can easily lead to PC death.
Here's why it's really important for Dogs, though.

In dogs, you are going to be presenting complicated, screwed up situations, to which there is no right answer. Two reasonable people could look at that situation and come to different conclusions about what do to.
Dogs is built to generate these sorts of situations. It's also built to allow players to work out which solution to take, through the system. That is, if one player thinks "we should do this," and another thinks, "that's wrong! lets do this instead," they need to have some way to work it out.
No,w the players could do that through negotiation without resorting to the conflict system. There are at least two potential pitfalls with this:
1) you get players digging their heels in and arguing that their way is what the group should do. those sorts of discussions tend to get circular, might get heated, but takes up lots of time. Dogs conflict system allows every player to have their say, and get it done quickly so you can get more of those kind of situations in the same session.
2) You get players who won't dig their heels in - players who think their solution is better, but don't like to push it, and so kowtow to the group mentality. The dogs conflict system allows them to have their say, get the other players to listen to their point of view, while making it a character v character conflict, rather than a player v player conflict.
When players get used to using the conflict system to resolve disagreements like this, they really do start to enjoy those moments of Dog v Dog conflict. The really good thing is, if they choose to escalate to violence, I can guarentee you that if their player dies, they will not consider it cruel or unfair. This is often true even if the dice are unkind to them. The reason: You can only die in Dog v Dog conflict when you have made several decisions to put yourself in that danger - you can safely give at any point.
So, you can use non-conflict negotiation in these circumstances, or you can use the conflict system. The conflict system actually works just like structured negotiation, and players can give at any time, so by using the conflict system you don't lose the ability to negotiate - but you gain the ability for players to say, "this really matters to me, does it matter just as much to you?"

When a player chooses to say, "this matters so much, I'm willing to either kill another dog or be killed by one," that is just one of the high points of Dogs play. It's my (admittedly limited) experience that everyone who enjoys dogs play comes to enjoy that part of dogs play especially. I've had players who absolutely hate the idea of player-v-player conflict, who love the ability to do just that in DITV.

Also, one thing that can happen in other games: when you have player conflict in other games, you can have tension and hard feelings continuing for the rest of the session. This is rare in dogs, even after player v player conflict.

Let me ask you guys this: is pitting Dogs against each other the only way to force hard choices on a player? (I'm thinking no, it's not, but if it is, then Dogs might not be the game for me...)
No it's not. But, by denying the players the opportunity to engage in this kind of conflict, you're avoiding a highly charged and very enjoyable aspect of the game. It probably won't occur to the players to resolve these sort of things through conflict (not if they are new to dogs), that's why they need gentle encouragement form the GM to show that this approach is available to them. You only need to keep your eyes open for the possibility every now and then, "that sounds like a conflict, do you want to handle it that way?"
Often , if the players aren't that much in disagreement, they'll decline (or they might accept to see what it's like, and then give before any escalation happens), but when they do care, they'll appreciate being able to do it - but as I say, they might not think of it, so you have to watch out for it.

Ricardo, what do you feel about the idea of player v player conflict in Dogs? Does the above make sense to you?

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Hmm. I think I may have misexplained my point. In looking back on the game, every single instance of escalation seemed reasonable in some way, although some NPCs were more exaggerated in their escalation than others.
Didn't you ask this question because you felt that some of the moments you escalated seemed a little strained?
I know what you're feeling here. My first couple of sessions I had NPCs escalate in situations that didn't feel quite right, and regretted afterwards. (I followed that by second-guessing myself, and not escalating in places where I should.) It's something you'll get a feel for the more you play. 
It's okay to have some conflicts where escalation doesn't happen, or only happens after the players do it.
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The thing is, a sum of reasonable circumstances doesn't always add up to a reasonable sequence of events. If, in every single conflict, I find a reasonable way to escalate to fighting, then at the end of the game, every single conflict went to fighting, and that is not reasonable, it's caricature.
That's right, which is why you don't push for escalating in every situation - just escalate where it's reasonable that this person, in this situation, would escalate. Don't worry about it too much, I think it'll come naturally.

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make well-timed big raises that force players to decide whether to drop out of a conflict or take nasty fallout [...] When you put that raise of 17 (or better, 20) down as a barrage of gunfire against the PCs [...] be ruthless with your raises [...] keep those big dice for fighting and shooting raises, and make the occasional really big raise

And then, when it's your turn to raise, have the NPC escalate (he's just been severely hit by the Dog!) and do a Raise with all those big bad dice

Darren, that's not always possible, given the dice on the table

Yes, you're right. In this conflict, say, it might not be possible to do it. But over the course of a town, you'll have at least one or two conflicts where it is possible. And when you do it, that moment will be remembered.
Also, look carefully at the players dice. Some of the players may have lots of good dice, but one or two of them may be vulnerable. Check what their two biggest dice are - and see if you can make a raise that is one point bigger. (This is a really nasty - in a good way - trick that I taught my players.) So a big raise will be easily blocked by the dice-rich characters, but some of the players may be forced to give (or to suffer fallout). Having this happen a few times shows them that sometimes, the right thing to do is to give.
Also, the balance of power in a dogs conflict can change dramatically: the person who looks really strong at the start can look a lot more vulnerable later, after a few traits, relationships, belongings, and maybe demonic influence dice have been rolled.
Hitting then player with a big raise, and on your next raise, rolling the dice for demonic influence (or that 2d10 or 2d8 trait the NPC has been holding in reserve) can really heighten the tension.
(I don't always fight that ruthlessly - some conflicts I put forward raises that I know that players can block, and I do so to soak up some of their middle to high ranking dice. I'm hoping that when I roll in a big trait, I'll get a good roll and by then, maybe, only the player's most powerful dice will be able to stop it.)

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Darren, I understood your explanation of what escalate, escalate, escalate means, but alas, that don't really tell me how to do it. I'm hoping it's a matter of experience. Your point about conflict scope, however, was particularly well put.
Thanks. About the escalation: I can't give really good advice, because this is something I struggle with too (and the elements of it that I do well, I do so instinctively it's hard to consciously talk about). An important part though, is the Reflection phase at the end of the session. Find out if you can what the players enjoyed most, what were the hardest decisions, what they think their dogs did that might not have been the ideal solution, and so on. Also, watch the dogs in play - make note of who they judged and what foir, and who they didn't judge - what did they let slide? Then use that information to see: okay, in the last town, you said adultery was okay. What about in this situation? Is it still okay? (Or you dogs said adulterers should be stoned. What about this adulterer?)
Basically, get to know your players and their characters. The more information you have, the better able you'll be to build a series of towns that continues to engages them, and keeps them engaged. That's what escalate, escalate, escalate, is really about, in my view.
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ffilz
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2006, 04:39:04 PM »

Ok, I'm confused about things. A quote from p.57 of the revised rules on things:
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You roll the dice listed for your characterís Belongings, as for Traits, when you bring them into play in a See or a Raise. You only get each thingís dice only once in a conflict. If you bring something into play in a See or a Raise and itís not on your character sheet, you get its normal dice if youíre using it as it oughta be used, and a d6 or a d4 otherwise.
Hmm, that does seem to suggest that if the belonging is written on the character sheet, you always get it's listed dice no matter how you are using it. That seems odd to me.

Something to remember for NPCs, they can have excellent and/or big things also. Should be used carefully. There are a variety of ways for the GM to get more dice for NPCs. Have an NPC give on his raise and launch a followup conflict with those two extra dice. Bring in help.

It sounds like you may have been overcritical of yourself. That's not unexpected when you run a game for the first time.

Thinking back to my first run, I think I did get some looks from my players about the NPC's willingness to get violent, but I don't think it was in the sense of "what kind of ridiculous thing is the GM doing" but more of a "damn, these NPCs are wacked out." And one player noted "It's just like a soap opera!" And the other player and I both said "Yup!"

Frank
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Frank Filz
Darren Hill
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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2006, 06:17:26 PM »

Hmm, that does seem to suggest that if the belonging is written on the character sheet, you always get it's listed dice no matter how you are using it. That seems odd to me.

I think it's partly as a reward for players taking the time to create their belongings, and more importantly, because for some belongings there's really no point in taking them otherwise. If you have, say, a luck silver dollar or an indiana jones-style hat or a beat-up whiskey um, thing (what do you call those metal things they carry in breast pockets that are particularly good at attracting bullets?) - the ways you can use these things is very narrow, if you can only get the full dice just for their designed purpose. It makes things a lot more fun for everyone if players can use them more freely.
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Warren
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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2006, 01:24:02 AM »

In dogs, you are going to be presenting complicated, screwed up situations, to which there is no right answer. Two reasonable people could look at that situation and come to different conclusions about what do to.
Dogs is built to generate these sorts of situations. It's also built to allow players to work out which solution to take, through the system. That is, if one player thinks "we should do this," and another thinks, "that's wrong! lets do this instead," they need to have some way to work it out.
I agree with this entirely. In fact my recent actual play thread points out how I see this being a great advantage of the Dogs system.
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