[Dogs in the Vineyard] Point Hollow

Started by jenskot, May 16, 2009, 11:11:14 PM

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David Berg

Quote from: Paul T on May 19, 2009, 01:30:27 PMAre you saying that you hesitate to escalate yourself, because they are dice still on the table? Or because you think that your opposition might get lucky now, when they roll more dice, robbing you of victory?
Both.  Those are my points (1) and (2), though that simplifies (1) a bit (maybe too much).

Quote from: Paul T on May 19, 2009, 01:30:27 PMI DO think that the Dogs vibe is very much that it's generally the losing party that escalates
Well, "losing" in the fiction can take some time to catch up to "losing" in terms of "dice we have in front of us but haven't used yet".  The awkwardness I'm mentioning occurs during that gap.  Like, y'know, I can see John's shitty dice, but he has his NPC offer a brilliant retort with the first few, and I think, "Man, Enos would just smack her when she said that!"

Now, maybe it's a good thing that the game is challenging me to instead come up with an effective verbal response, and delay or obviate the smacking.  That sounds like the kind of challenge I could learn to enjoy.  At the moment, though, it's slowing down response time a bit more than I'd like.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Paul T


I get you now! Yeah, that's funny how the dice on the table can disconnect from how the conflict may feel at the moment.

I wonder if you're overthinking it, really, though. I think I personally would escalate either when a) I have no other recourse, and I can't bear to Give, or when b) it feels appropriate fiction-wise to do so. Whichever happens first.

Because, when you escalate even though you're in the lead dice-wise, unless you're escalating into an arena you're much weaker in than the opponent, you're not losing any ground. You're still "ahead" by just as much as you were before, although now everyone's got more dice. And your opponent could have brought those dice in at any time themselves, so you're not really making things worse for yourself in any sense.

This makes me think about two things, which may or may not be true:

1) It's interesting that escalating can have the side effect of drawing out a conflict, as opposed to ending it more quickly.

2) The Afraid escalation rules give you an advantage if you escalate first, before your opponent. That's interesting in the light of this discussion, to me!


Quote from: Paul T on May 19, 2009, 08:29:52 PM2) The Afraid escalation rules give you an advantage if you escalate first, before your opponent. That's interesting in the light of this discussion, to me!
That's the main reason why I prefer Afraid's escalation rules. Before I would escalate, then you escalate, and not much is gained and what could be a wonderful momentum shifts ends up feeling flat. Letting an escalate ignore an attacks makes escalation wonderful for defense (I can ignore an attack) and offense (I can get more dice).

Lag wise, I think we actually played the game very fast. Consider that we're mastering the game, there are a lot of distracting details (ordering and choosing dice, selecting traits), and the handling time is about what you would experience in most other social combat systems (D&D 4E skill challenges, Burning Wheel Duel of Wits)... I think we're doing pretty well and things will only improve with use.

Quote from: Jasper Flick on May 19, 2009, 02:27:53 PM
Quote from: Paul T on May 19, 2009, 01:23:38 AM
The most awkward part of resolution I find is when you're Seeing and you want to bring in a trait to use. You have to narrate something to bring in the Trait... but you can't decide fully what to narrate until you know what the dice have rolled. A couple of times I knew what I wanted to do, but when the dice rolled too low (or too high!) I had to change my idea before I could narrate. That certainly introduces a weird hiccup.

I've encountered and posted about that same issue in Seeing when everything depends on the future. What it boiled down to was that you either aren't bothered by the backtracking, or go ahead and roll dice first if you're seeing.
Thanks for the link!


Next up the finale. And yes, there will be blood... and demons, and sinning, and... you get it! 

The Dogs regroup. Enos (David Berg) looking to Cyrus (Paul T) asks, "exactly how did you get your coat back?" (assuming he slept with Annie, Steward Gerber's wife, who was lusting after Cyrus).

Enos, Cyrus, and Duty (the daughter of Crossing, the now deceased leader of the mountain people, and forcibly adopted daughter of the new Steward Gerber) visit Nathaniel's church (the old Steward).

In the church's basement Nathaniel, his wife Grace (leader of the True Faith), and Zeke (Enos former friend when they were both part of a cult) are arguing... deciding what action to take against Gerber. Grace blames the mountain people. Nathaniel wants coexistence. Zeke thinks they are all demons and should be cast out forcibly and violently.

Enos and Cyrus leave Duty and Prue (Eno's dopey sidekick) upstairs wile they go to downstairs' meeting.

Zeke explodes in fervent rapture demanding they burn the demons. Enos wants none of it. Conflict: Talking -> Physical. Once Zeke tries to out Enos as former cult member, Enos physically shuts him up... dominating him.

Cyrus and Grace argue. Cyrus askes Enos to bring Duty downstairs. He wants to use Duty as a symbol of Grace's anger towards the mountain people to draw sympathy and force Grace to realize these aren't demons but people.

Colt (the mercenary turned vigilantly, working for Gerber, who murdered Crossing, and Eno's childhood hero) ambushes Prue. Duty runs and hides. Enos finds Prue laid out with a note strapped to his forehead. "I like you boy, leave now and I won't have to put you down."

Enos searches for Colt. Conflict: Non Physical -> Physical -> Gunfighting. Colt runs. Enos smashes through a window (tearing his coat and cutting himself). Tackle's Colt. Gun shots. Colt gives and drops his weapon.

Cyrus (hearing glass shattering followed by gunshots) runs upstairs and finds Duty trembling in fear. He instructs everyone to stay in the church and join Enos.

Enos doesn't accept Colt's surrender and pulls the trigger. Colt grabs his gun. Cyrus draws his rifle. Conflict: Gunfighting (no pretense here... just gunfighting). Cyrus tries to tackle Colt and takes a bullet for his effort, Enos shoots out Colt's knee. Colt shoots Enos in the gut but hits his jar of consecrated earth as a cloud of dirt explodes engulfing them all. Enos blows off Colt's cheek and right ear. Cyrus plays dead, dropping prone. Enos hops over Cyrus' limp body shooting Colt point blank in the throat. Colt is done. Enos takes major fallout. 1 away from certain death.

As Colt lies dying before the Dogs, Enos whispers, "I wasn't trying to stop you from sinning... I wanted to see if you were stronger (than the King of Life)." Colt dies.

A crowd gathers around the blood bath.

Grace has seen enough. She wants to take action against Gerber now. Cyrus is having none of that. Conflict: Talking. Grace gives the Dogs 1 hour to deal with Gerber conclusively... otherwise she will.

The Mountain People (who gave Enos 1 day to deal with Colt and Gerber before they deal with the entire town) loom closer.

Cyrus and Enos interrupt Gerber's sermon.

Cyrus wants Gerber to confess to Crossings murder in front of his flock. Conflict: Talking -> Physical -> Weapon (Sorcery). Cyrus verbally beats Gerber down. And as Gerber is about to give... Cyrus' hand burns from Gerber touch. Cyrus calls Gerber out laying his hand on his brow... skin bursts in flame as Cyrus pulls back... codling his mangled flesh. A silver hand print is visible on Gerber's face.

"A sign... a blessing... a miracle... silver skin for pure heart... the King blessing his true followers with wealth... he blesses me with beauty... see the love I harbor for my King... I wear it on my sleeve for all to see," Gerber proclaims. He rips his skin from his face revealing a statuesc figure made of silver.

Gerber commands his followers to strip the Dogs of their weapons, carry them to the hills, and toss them down the mine. Conflict: Talking -> Physical. Enos "joins" Gerber's side, turning on Cyrus but refusing to meet his eyes. They drag Cyrus up the mountain. Cyrus gives, accepting his fate. Cyrus recites quotes from the King of Life. Gerber snatches Cyrus' bible. One of Gerber's followers, Richard, begins to doubt Gerber. Cyrus tells Richard to take his consecrated earth and sprinkle it on Gerber and see the truth for himself.

Enos rallies the Mountain People. Jezelda (Crossing wife, now leading the mountain people) wants to know where her husband's murderer is (Colt). "Where is Colt?" Enos creepily states, "I'm covered in his blood."

The Mountain People attack. Jezelda sees Enos, her abandoned son, strung up at the mouth of the mine. She calls out as she rushes to him. Cyrus is thrown down the mine as Richard splashes Gerber's face with consecrated earth. His silver skin burns, twisting his features, his mouth melting partially shut, his left eye sinking away as he stumbles backwards down the mine.

Cyrus and Gerber lay broken in the dark dank recesses of the silver mine. Cyrus curses Gerber, banishing him to haunt the mine for the remainder of his decrepit days.

Enos forces Gerber's followers to repent and pray in Nathaniel's church.

Jezelda adopts Duty. They bond as they morn Crossing's passing.

Cyrus crawls back to the town to meet Enos. Looking back at the carnage surrounding them, they nod and agree... "we'll do better next time."

Next up, GM thoughts.


I usually try to stay away from the Supernatural in Dogs. It often robs the situation of choice. It's easy to judge someone floating with glowing eyes and tentacles. Shoot it.

But after the climactic fight with Colt, it felt necessary to up the drama. Especially since they were going to come after Colt hard anyway. After he failed to justify his actions to them, going supernatural seemed safe. And it paid off drama wise.

That being said, I really enjoy playing up the demons as paranoia and justification for pride and sin. The other problem with overt demons is that if the demons are real, then so must the King of Life. Which means the Dogs doubt themselves less. It can lead to absolute thinking. Which can deaden the drama.

In the past I've only used 1 relationship per player and had them leave their remaining dice unassigned. In the last few games we've incorporated everyone's relationships, interlinking them, merging them... and although it means I need to take 30 minutes to figure it all out... it ups the investment. Well worth it.

I really enjoyed this game. And I love Dogs. Thanks Vincent!

David Berg

Enos had decided early on that Gerber was the problem.  I was pretty committed to having Enos engineer his demise, and was looking forward to finding out whether or not that was actually the right move.  When Gerber burned Cyrus's hand with his demonic touch, I got my answer.  This was a mixed bag: mild letdown because the moral suspense was over before the final conflict(s), but a particularly cool way to answer my question.  If Gerber had merely died in battle and left everything ambiguous, the game would have left a very different aftertaste.

We were running short on time, and with the scale of the turmoil being what it was, some high drama worked perfectly for a frenzied climax.  My only complaint with the rush to wrap up is that the chain of consequence and drama was a little weak between (a) Cyrus's directive to Richard to douse Gerber in consecrated earth, and my decision to have Enos muster the Mountain People against Gerber's flock, and (b) the ultimate defeat of the badguys.  Paul and I didn't really have to make any decisions during that phase, we just got to see which NPCs would beat which other NPCs. 

I assume if we'd had more time, we each would have worked in a mechanical conflict somewhere.  We wound up finding a pretty satisfying substitute, though -- Paul and I went high on the color contributions.  I even briefly grabbed some GM tasks, describing NPCs and timing of events and atmospheric stuff (though mostly I stuck to "and here's what Enos is doing at that moment!").

It was very satisfying to see how all the disparate threads resolved.  The summary/epilogue really recorded a huge upheaval in so many lives.  And, thanks to all those relationships John worked in, they all mattered to me.  I left the game with my mind still wrapped around the fiction, wanting to let it simmer for a bit before dealing with the real world again.  Good times!
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


Thanks for posting Dave!

The fiction also stuck with me after the game. Paul suggested we revisit the town years later... especially with Gerber waiting deep within the mine.

I also wanted to extend the moral suspense over Gerber's guilt but if I didn't escalate the conflict, he would have lost and been forced to confess his sins which would have ended the moral suspense either way. It's a tough spot. The pacing tends to be very player and mechanics driven. If a GM wants an NPC to get away to re-appear later for added drama, it won't happen unless the players or the mechanics let it happen. Which I like! Every choice matters. But it can be wonky pacing wise. But the results are varied and unpredictable. Which is another bonus! Sometimes the GM thinks someone getting away is more dramatic and it very well may not be.

With 10 minutes left, the end was very much say yes instead of rolling. One minor difficulty with Dogs is that any conflict, large or small, is going to take a significant amount of time (unless someone gives). I could have called a conflict with Paul when he wanted to have Cyrus banish Gerber but it was just too awesome and there was no time so I opted to say yes and wrap up. I would have loved to have had 30 more minutes!

Paul T

This was a great game, very intense and very dramatic.

And, although, due to time constraints we had to turn to something more collaborative storytelling for the final scene, it felt very appropriate. John did some skillful "say yes or roll the dice", but without letting us off too easy. And we both chipped in some nice details. It was a satisfying conclusion!

I definitely hope to revisit the town someday, as the legend that's bound to grow up over the haunted mines after the Dogs shut them down and collapsed the entrance will be interesting. All that cursed silver, inhabited by Gerber's demonic rage!

I wonder if the sequel is going to be a D&D game? Ha!

I also hope I get to play Dogs again sometime soon, although it will probably be with my card rules, unless I can somehow get my hands on that many dice. I might work in some of your rule changes, though, John--those sheets you posted are amazing.

Thanks for the great game, John and Dave.


Thank you!

I don't think anybody needs anything from me in particular - this has been a very good thread - but if you do, just ask.

Thanks for playing my game.