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[DitV] "Goin' to war? On a Sunday???"

Started by hanschristianandersen, September 27, 2004, 11:46:26 PM

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DitV turns out to be quite the crowd-pleaser.

The Big Thing that everyone latched onto was the ability to win a conflict without raising a hand against your opponent.  Most systems we've played just don't provide mechanical support for that, beyond perhaps a single contested roll; here, talking someone down entails a very, very satisfying exchange.  It's the same tension as a swordfight in Riddle of Steel, but its mercifully bounded in how long it can last.  Just a great mix of granularity and speed.

Moving beyond that, watching a desperate opponent Escalate from Words to Guns, and beating him without escalating in turn, is astonishingly fulfilling.  Narratively perfect stuff.  I can't quite express this... when the players managed to pull it off, and they did at least twice in one sitting, you could just *feel* the glow around the gaming table.  It's the sort of glow that you get from cheering for the best characters in the best scenes of the best episodes of the best TV shows.  Unfrickingbelievable.

I also want to mention that we handled the rules for Relationships very differently than the book says to do so.  We had a Relationship contribute its dice to your side of a conflict whenever that Relationship has emotional resonance in the current scene.  Needless to say, this makes Relationship dice much much easier to bring into play, but it suited us well.  "As my Dad always said, " (Robert picks up dice for his Relationship With Dad), "and my Granddad before him, " (Two more dice for Relationship With Granddad)...  That sort of thing.  The player characters all had very powerful family ties that served as really fundamental defining characteristics in actual play - Jeff's character was trying to do his dad proud, Robert's character was trying get out from under his Granddad's legacy (granddad was a famous Dog in his day), and Jenn's character was an orphan.  It only seemed fitting that characters whose destinies are ruled by heritage should get to leverage their heritage for dice.

(That was the short version.  Here's the long version.)

So, the Dogs (Jeff's ambitious Brother Icarus, Robert's grim Brother Josiah, and Jenn's watchful Sister Susan) roll into Moss Canyon, and hear Wiley Jackson's tale of woe.  It seems the Mountain folk traders shot his brother "Shakey" Pete in the leg.  Wiley shot back and killed three of 'em, but let the little one go, because it ain't right to shoot a child when he ain't got a gun.  The local tribe retaliated by killing the Clement Family, the nicest, most good-hearted farmers in the local congregation.  This has the whole population shaken, and Steward Thaddeus Goodwill took the news especially hard.  Now, Brother Thaddeus has taken to preaching fire and brimstone and hatred, and exhorting his flock to take up arms against the Heathens, for there can be no reconciliation between the Faithful and those who worship falsehoods and lies.  He found a kindred spirit in Old Archibald Jackson, who lost his wife to a Mountain Folk raid 23 years ago and many miles away.

Right about then, the Dogs enter the church, and immediately try to wrest control of the rhetoric.  Brother Icarus reminds the congregation of the lessons from the Book of Caleb, whose titular figure accidently and tragically slew his own brother while rashly seeking to avenge his wife.  Yessir, the players really loved that non-violent resolution mechanic.  You've never seen such a bunch of kind-hearted and forgiving dogs, preaching compassion and mercy everywhere they went... and getting results.  It cost them, though, towards the end.

Regarding NPCs - I found characters created by the 6-at-a-time proto-NPC method to be a rather formidable lot.  Brother Thaddeus had 7d6, 2d10 to pitch in to counter the Dogs' words of mercy with his own misguided words of anger, not counting the several relationships that he called on later in the conflict.  Thaddeus was an exceptional example, but it was pretty much universally true that all the NPCs had enough dice, and enough BIG dice, to cause the Dogs fallout every time.  Not always a lot of fallout, but fallout nonetheless.  

The players all loved that they often earned "Experience" as a direct result of fallout and conflict.  After being outmaneuvered by Brother Thaddeus, Brother Josiah picked up a 1d4 trait "Can't quite follow through with my rhetoric", which Robert gleefully rolled as often as possible for the rest of the session.

Shortly thereafter, the Dogs heard Thaddeus and Archibald tell their versions of events, talked with Christopher Malachi and his son Cyrus, who had conducted trade with the Mountain Folk peaceably for years, and then peacefully dispersed Archibald's gathering posse, who were ready to go deal with the heathens once and for all.  (Quoth Brother Josiah, in dismay: "Goin' to war?  On a Sunday???")

By then, thanks to the very explicit "Thou Shalt Kibbitz At The Gaming Table" rules right there on Page 2, the players had rightly guessed the Secret, the Act of Pride that started this whole mess - Shakey Pete Jackson's gun had gone off in its holster, and shot himself in the leg.  And he was too ashamed to admit it had been an accident, especially after Wiley had already jumped to conclusions and shot the traders.  Shakey's lies to cover up the tragedy gave the demons their opening, and it was the demons who drove the Mountain Folk to attack the Clement farm.

And here, DitV inspired me to handle things a bit differently than I've ever handled such a scene.  The players asked "Where exactly was he shot in the leg?"  I responded with an exaggerated pantomine, as I leaned over, put my hand near my belt as if I were holstering a pistol, drew a straight line from there, and responded "In his right calf, just above the ankle."  The whole table cracked up; it was one of those great "gaming moments".

That little punchline did a lot to define the next scene, very much for the better.  It was now common knowledge among the players that Shakey was hiding something very important, and that regardless of what the details were, Shakey's gun had gone off accidently; and the Mountain Folk didn't shoot first.  It wasn't a Solve The Mystery thing any more.  No, now it was time to Make Things Right.  No sooner do the players start to speak, when I say "Hang on.  What's the stakes?"

Jeff and Robert shout out practically in unison:  "THE TRUTH!"

And they do indeed get the truth out of him, in short order.  Shakey Pete: "...But you ain't gonna tall my Pa, right?"

Brother Josiah:  "Naw, I ain't gonna tell him.  You are."

Needless to say, it was Follow-Up Conflict time.  Pete escalated from words, to violence (trying to shove his way past), to guns, as he drew a pistol on the Dogs and tried to shoot Brother Icarus.  All he managed to do was put a bullet through the portrait of his dear departed Ma.

While this was happening, the single most important scene in the whole game happened downstairs, sans dice, as Jenn managed to help Archibald Jackson come to terms with his wife's death, and with the grief and guilt he'd been harboring all these years.  The redemption of Archibald Jackson was NOT something I had ever envisioned when setting up the game, but Jenn was absolutely right that it's what the story demanded.  Powerful stuff.

After this wonderful cathartic healing moment, Archibald was NOT happy with his son.  "You drew a gun on the Dogs... in MY house... and all you managed to shoot was yer own Ma???"

The dogs stepped outside and gave the father a chance to have a few words with his son.  "I don't hear him saying anything," Brother Icarus wondered - "I think he's talking with his hands", said Sister Susan.

After that, they broke the news to Wiley Jackson that he'd killed an innocent family; Wiley was upset, but he took the truth well.  He gave the Dogs his gun so he wouldn't do anything rash, and went off to do some hard thinking.  Brother Josiah grabbed Cyrus Malachi, and they went out to try to make peace with the Mountain Folk off camera.  Finally, Archibald dragged his son out to the square, and Shakey Pete told the whole town the truth of the matter.

All that was left was for the Dogs to confront Brother Thaddeus, whose anger and hatred was unmoved by Pete's confession.  In short order, it became apparent that the old Steward was very much possessed; he took out a pistol and threaten to kill the Dogs as False Messengers who would suffer an evil to live.  Brother Icarus tackled Thaddeus, and Sister Susan shot the gun out of his hand, but in one last burst of demonic strength, Thaddeus retrieved his gun and shot Brother Icarus square in the chest.  (Ten and Seven on Jeff's fallout roll.) The villagers restrained Thaddeus, as Sister Susan quickly staunched Brother Icarus' wounds, anointed his head with sacred earth, and called him back to the threshold of life.

The way I see it, the Dogs were proud, and thought they could save everyone.  If Brother Icarus had shot Brother Thaddeus instead of trying to restrain him, he wouldn't have ended up face-down in the dirt, bleeding all over his beautiful, expensive Coat.  As it was, the Dogs somehow managed to keep their own hands clean even to the end - At the urging of the Dogs, ignoring the pleas of the steward's wife, and with the whole town watching mutely, Wiley Jackson took his father's rifle and put a bullet right between Steward Thaddeus Goodwill eyes.

All in all, a DAMN good session.
Hans Christian Andersen V.
Yes, that's my name.  No relation.


Sweet heavenly WOW.

Just... wow.

- Were there scenes in which the NPCs escalated and the PCs didn't and they still won?  If so, which, and how did they play out game-specific terms?

- I'd love to hear more about how the Jen/Archibald scene went down -- I know the rules are "say yes or roll some dice", and I'm wondering what brought you to the point where you said yes instead of making a conflict out of it.
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.


Wow from me too.

It sounds like you all got the rhythm of the mechanics pretty quick?

(I predict that having a Relationship contribute its dice to conflicts with emotional resonance is going to be the game's most common house rule.)



Hey Doyce,

happy to oblige.


The stakes were "Can we talk down Archibald Jackson, and by extension stop the revenge posse he's forming?"  Everyone's standing in the square, three Dogs versus one large, angry Archibald.  All the participants had had a few opportunities to Go, and now it was Archibald's turn again.  He had only two dice left, and he pushed them forward, continuing the verbal arguments.

Trouble was, the Dogs had lots of dice left, and they all managed to See.

Now it was Brother Icarus' turn, and he pushed forward two more dice.  Archibald foolishly escalated to fistfighting so he could get more dice, and he countered Icarus' words with glowers and raised fists.  He couldn't actually try to throw a punch until his next Go, but in the meantime, escalating gave him dice to defend with.

But before his next Go, Brother Josiah and Sister Susan still had dice left without needing to escalate.  Archibald endured a withering hail of scripture and homily, only to find that by the time he got his next Go, he was once again out of dice.  At the gaming table, you could just feel Archibald deflate as his momentum, earned through threats and escalation, were just stripped away two dice at a time by gentle words.

And seeing as how he was unwilling to escalate to Guns, he just stood there mutely, sputtering, unable to counter as Brother Icarus pushed forward his last two dice, crappy rolls though they were, and told the crowd "I reckon' you'd better go on home to your families.  It's Sunday, after all."


The follow-up confrontation with Shakey Pete was similar; The stakes were "Shakey is gonna tell Archibald the truth", and he sure as hell didn't want that.  Pete escalated to Fighting almost immediately as he tried to push his way past the Dogs, who escalated in turn and shoved him back.  When that didn't work, and he found himself outmatched in terms of dice, he pulled a gun from under his pillow and took a shot at Brother Icarus.

Trouble was, when he escalated from Fists to Guns, the dice he rolled all came up crap, and Jeff had a big fat Eight or Nine in reserve that he used to Turn The Blow.  His "Turning the Blow" narration involved him stepping aside so that the shot missed him and hit the portrait of his dear dead Ma hanging on the wall.

And that was that; Shakey Pete was out of dice, and the Dogs never had to draw their guns.


And lastly, the Jenn/Archibald scene.  This scene happened immediately after the Dogs dispersed his posse and deflated his anger; while Icarus and Josiah were upstairs talking to Shakey Pete, Jenn had Sister Susan stay downstairs, making smalltalk with Archibald.

Right at the outset, I asked her if she had any particular stakes in mind, and she said "Not really, I just want to talk with him."  So, the dice stayed out of it.

After one or two exchanged of smalltalk, Jenn suddenly launched into a monologue that went something like this: "It's not really the Mountain Folk you blame; you blame yourself because you weren't there to save your wife when she needed you.  Twenty three years, Archibald, you've been harboring this guilt.  Twenty three years.  And then the same thing happens to the Clements, and you weren't there to protect them either.  You need to forgive yourself, Archibald.  Forgive yourself and move on."

I certainly hadn't thought of it that way, but it was too perfect for words.  Archibald hadn't sinned, not like Pete had, so I didn't think the Dogs would be quite so interested in him.  However, I had already established (and declared) that it was Archibald's deep-seated mistrust of the Mountain Folk that had prompted him to tell his sons Pete and Wiley to go "keep an eye" on the Mountain Folk who came to trade.  And if Pete and Wiley hadn't been there, none of this would ever have happened.

Jenn's monologue had just cut to the heart of the town's problem, to the foundation of my R-Map.  I had been basing Archibald's character loosely after Burl Ives' character Rufus Hannassey, from the 1958 western The Big Country, one of my favorite movies.  I had a lot of fun playing him as an NPC.  But in a way, Archibald and I shared the same blindness - Archibald's problems were the root of the whole damn town's problems, and neither he nor I could see it.

Jenn saw it.  And by extension, Sister Susan saw it.

There was this moment of silence at the gaming table.  The book says "say yes or roll some dice", and where I was sitting, that little monologue hit harder than a double-ten.

So I said yes.
Hans Christian Andersen V.
Yes, that's my name.  No relation.


Hey, Vincent,

Might fine game you've got here.

Robert and Jeff and myself caught on to the rhythm pretty quickly, in no small part due to all the examples that you provide in the book.  Jenn took a bit longer to figure out how to most efficiently handle Sees; it seems worthwhile to See with the smallest dice that let you do so safely, and save your big dice for your own raises.

Most of our conflicts were many-vs.-one, as the Dogs ganged up on their opponents; I suppose the technical term would be "Dogpiling".  These were tricky; in one-on-one conflicts, you can segue from your See directly into your counter-Raise in the same sentence; where in a round-robin arrangement, you've got to decouple them, because you narrate your See right away, but you have to wait your turn to narrate your Raise.  It took us a while, but by the end, we got that pretty much nailed down, with the following twist:  If I Raise, and you Turn The Blow, we tried to tweak the go-around order to make the Turn The Blow follow-up Raise happen as soon as possible.  Things just seemed to flow better that way.

What was most interesting was that when the dice hit the table, you can check out what everyones' rolls were, and barring unforseen escalations, you can get a general sense of what the pacing's going to be.  Fast or slow, evenly matched or a turkey shoot.  Deeper than that, even; if I've got some really high dice and some really low dice, and you've got lots and lots of medium dice, then I'm going to take an early lead, only to see things start to crumble under the force of your argument as things go on.

This in turn informed our roleplaying, because we then had a sense of what kind of pacing the scene demanded.
Hans Christian Andersen V.
Yes, that's my name.  No relation.



This is one of those AP posts that makes me want to play.  (I rarely play; I usually GM.)  Anyone running this game in IRC?
"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker

Jonathan Walton

Quote from: VaxalonAnyone running this game in IRC?

I've been wanting to for weeks.  Ya just gotta ask.