News:

Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Harnies play Dogs in the Vineyard

Started by John Kim, July 07, 2005, 09:48:22 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

John Kim

(Note: I don't have a big question here with this play report, but since a lot of people around here are interested in DitV, I thought I'd post it.  I'm putting this and other play reports on my livejournal, http://www.livejournal.com/users/jhkimrpg/">jhkimrpg.)

I gamemastered Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard for my more grognardy group on Saturday -- the group I'd played H&acirc;rnMaster, Lord of the Rings, and James Bond 007 with.  We had four players (Jim, Bill, Dennis, David).  <ul> <li> Bill as August Derabold Jackson, former runaway-slave hunter in the territories </li> <li> Dennis as Killian Smith, devout rifleman </li> <li> Jim as Joshua Mortimer Smith, barely-converted hustler from New York </li> <li> David as Eldridge C. Book, escaped slave </li> </ul>  I have posted a http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/dogsinthevineyard/pcs.html">webpage with the complete PC sheets.  

Overall, everything went fairly smoothly.  As background on the players -- this was done as an interim game.  After my JB007 campaign ended in the winter, Jim was going to GM H&acirc;rnMaster again -- but in the spring he flaked and said he didn't have to time to run it.  Then David said he would run a different HM campaign instead.  So we started making up PCs for the campaign, and ran two one-shots: David ran a one-shot HM adventure , and then we did Dogs in the Vineyard.  I've played with Jim and Bill in other games, including my RuneQuest game with Whimsy Cards, a one-session playtest of Shadows in the Fog, and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer campaign.  Dennis and David had more traditional gaming experience.  

It being July 3, we had a cookout first, then did character creation (about an hour and a half) including initiations, took a break for dessert, then did the adventure (maybe two and a half hours).  I had prepared a town of my own for a previous adventure which I was going to use -- the Dugway Canyon branch.  However, I discovered that while I had the prepared NPC stats sheet, I had lost my notes on the town that I had previously prepared.  I looked over the PCs, and rather than trying to recreate the notes, I decided to use my existing stats but improvise based on the first sample scenario -- the Boxelder Canyon branch.  I had tension over Eldridge (an escaped slave) and August (a former runaway slave hunter).  The first sample scenario involved racism and the Territorial Authority (one of August's relationships).  So I substituted an old black grandmother for a Mountain Person grandmother -- and I made the Steward Killian's uncle.  

Jim was the most skeptical about the game, and openly had some difficulty with character creation -- which was curious since he had played previously in games with more meta-game mechanics, such as Shadows in the Fog, which he didn't complain about.  Bill was enthusiastic about the game from the start, having been previously sold on it.  David and Dennis both took to it fairly easily.  

After talking through all the concepts, we did initiations -- which was in part the introduction to the mechanics.  Bill's PC Brother August first decided his goal was to help someone through a crisis of faith.  We played out the contest of his dice versus fixed die roll of 4d6 + 4d10 (as I recall).  He specified that he was talking to someone who didn't want to beat a child.  So he at first talked to him, then when dice turned against him he escalated to physical.  Since this wasn't an NPC per se, I didn't have any dice to match his escalation, so the initiation seemed like a nearly guaranteed success if you escalated.  On the other hand, this was itself interesting as he beat up his friend to successfully help him through his crisis of faith.  

Dennis' PC Brother Killian decided he wanted to exorcise a demon, which went fairly simply.  He succeeded without escalating, I think.  Jim's PC wanted to have a vision of himself as a Dog, a true change of faith, whereas he had initially picture his character as a faker.  I had him wander through the desert until, delirious at a spring, he encountered (or hallucinated?) an angel sitting on a rock.  Again, he escalated to fighting and wrestled it, and consequently won.  Lastly, David's PC Eldridge overcame racism, and succeeded without escalating.  During conflicts, I made a point to be tough -- always leading with my highest, which given 4d10 meant I immediately forced most of them to take fallout.

So they went ahead to the town.  Short list of people: the Steward was Killian's uncle Samuel, his grandmother-in-law was an old negro woman named Virginia, Elijah was a man burned in the church fire who blamed the negro's influence, Cyrus was the lazy Territorial Authority, his wife Adelia ran the still, and Elijah's son Virgil nd his friend Josiah were her customers.  

Basically, they went around interrogating different people, with a handful of conflicts until they found what they wanted.  They first spied on Virgil and saw him drinking at night (no conflict), and the next day they confronted him and he revealed his source as his friend Josiah (no conflict), who had broken his leg in an accident.  Interrogating Josiah, he first tried to lie to them (conflict) but they got out his source.  They then went, found the still and confronted Cyrus.  After some interaction, eventually they brought him around front and dumped the still out in front of him -- his wife Adelia then tried to force them off with a shotgun.  This was a pretty interesting conflict.  She took several d10 fallout, but didn't die.  

They then presented their plan as to how to expose and deal with Cyrus and Adelia to the town.  But I had a secret card, which was that they happened on Elijah who had beaten his son within an inch of his life for drinking, and was praying by torchlight for vengeance against the devilish negro Virginia.  They confronted him and put a stop to the false faith.  They were a little disappointed that there wasn't a neat explanation for the church burning down -- other than "demonically-inspired accident", but accepted it.  

The only significant mechanical trouble we had was with handling how multiple characters help each other, which came up a couple times.  An example would definitely have been helpful there.  

Overall, I think it went pretty well.  It moved quickly and had some good character interaction and imagery.  I guess downside would be that we didn't really hit the issue of race very hard, which was my original target based on the players' choices.  We'll be moving on to a H&acirc;rnMaster campaign, but the players agreed that they might try DitV again with these same characters in the mid-to-near future.
- John

Ian Charvill

John

I'm thinking of getting Dogs and you're as good a person to ask as any: the thing that people seem to say is that the Dogs can pretty much beat any NPC they want to, as long as they're willing to escalate.  If that's true, does it have the effect of making the PCs the only fit antagonists for one another: that unless they're in conflict with one another the heat isn't on?

Because you say that the racial tensions angle didn't really play and I'm wondering if that means that tension didn't really arise between the escaped slave Dog and the ex slave-catcher Dog.
Ian Charvill

Albert of Feh

Even if the Dogs can always win by escalating, why isn't that tense in and of itself? Farmer Josiah is being stubborn, you're not going to convince him with rhetoric... Are you really willing to slap him around just to get what you want out of him? How about Sister Mary? Brother Joseph? Anyone and everyone who doesn't agree with you? Interesting...

I don't know about you, but I find that the moments when a Dog is required to be the first to escalate the conflict to stay in are probably some of the most tense and dramatic in the entire game. You just need to drive the point that yes, the Dogs are now resorting to violence to get what they want, potentially against an opponent that hasn't lifted a hand against them.

Rereading John's post, I see what you're actually talking about, Ian.

QuoteSince this wasn't an NPC per se, I didn't have any dice to match his escalation, so the initiation seemed like a nearly guaranteed success if you escalated.
The "the PCs can always win through escalation" is in reference to a character's initial accomplishments. As part of chargen, each Dog plays out a conflict that represents one of the defining moments of his training. The opposition in that conflict gets a fixed amount of dice, and so can't escalate.

Normal NPCs in a town are perfectly capable of matching violence and maybe even gunfire. How fit they are as antagonists is simply a matter of how many trait dice they are given.

Paul Czege

Hey John,

We had four players (Jim, Bill, Dennis, David). <ul> <li> Bill as August Derabold Jackson, former runaway-slave hunter in the territories </li> <li> Dennis as Killian Smith, devout rifleman </li> <li> Jim as Joshua Mortimer Smith, barely-converted hustler from New York </li> <li> David as Eldridge C. Book, escaped slave </li> </ul>

Interesting. Your characters are marginals and hustlers riding the coattails of the faith in pursuit of their own personal ambitions. It's a totally different vision of the faith, suggesting that power structures become populated with folks who most determinedly seek power and status.

On first blush, I'd suggest the characters you guys made are an artifact of gamer jockeying for dramatic differentiation within the context of an adventuring party (i.e. "My character isn't just a thief, he's the eldest prince of Drasnia, but with a wanderlust.") The dogs are basically an adventuring party, so maybe that triggers an equivalent of the desire to play a Bastet in a Vampire game.

But for DitV, dang if it doesn't make for a nice coloring of the power premise :)

Jim's PC wanted to have a vision of himself as a Dog, a true change of faith, whereas he had initially picture his character as a faker. I had him wander through the desert until, delirious at a spring, he encountered (or hallucinated?) an angel sitting on a rock. Again, he escalated to fighting and wrestled it, and consequently won.

Again, interesting. (And very dramatic, in a way that quite appeals to me.) When Sean ran us through initiations, Danielle said Philomena wanted to learn to stand up for herself. Sean framed a scene with a younger, non-dog lecturing Philomena on a woman's place being in the home, and suggesting she go home and learn cookin' and quiltin' and that maybe someday he would take her for his wife. Dice were thrown and ultimately, by escalating to physical, she was able to get the "I stood up for myself" trait.

For my character's initiation, I stated that Absalom wanted to learn to forgive his family. Sean framed a scene where an elder was lecturing Absalom on the virtues of family and forgiveness, and produced a rule that said that in this case I should roll on behalf of a "still don't forgive them" trait, and that he'd be rolling on behalf of me starting to forgive them. It's not a rule I recall from reading the game, but it made complete sense at the time. In Danielle's case, she really wanted Philomena to get that "I stood up for myself trait," and in my case, I really wanted Absalom to end up with a "I don't forgive my family" trait.

Are you familiar with the rule? Did you consider using it for Joshua Mortimer Smith's conflict with the angel? Like I said, the rule made complete sense at the time. But now I'm confused in retrospect about when it should be used.

Paul
My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

Sean

Dogs in the Vineyard, pg. 16, wrote:

QuoteIf, on the other hand, your accomplishment for your character is growth, learning, or a change of habits, then we play a little trick: you take the part of your character AS HE OR SHE IS, and I take the part of whatever forces or pressures are on your character to change. "I hope that my character overcame his fear of blood," for instance: you take the side of your character in fear, and I take the side of your character's teachers, who see his weakness and want to help him overcome it...

I think the idea is that sometimes players know what they want their conflict to be about, but don't know what it is. The reversal makes it clearer by making your conflict against the outside forces that are changing you. I suspect there can be a little bit of an 'Elfs moment' here in that the player may then wish to lose the conflict, which they can easily do in Dogs by refusing to escalate in most cases. It's a cool rule though - as we saw in play, Paul, we instantly got clear on your conflict once we reversed sides of it.

John, sorry if this is a tangent or uninteresting relative to your game.

Ian, they actually can't beat any NPC they want to through escalation, though I'd say often they can. First of all, escalation is not always plausible; one of my players had an initiatory conflict over learning to read. Who was he going to beat up or shoot to fix this? Not saying it's impossible, but narrative logic plays its role in keeping down a lot of escalations.

Second, a lot of the NPCs you'll roll up are more than a match for any beginning Dog. So it's not like the conflict resolution system is just some kind of pacing/emotional investment mechanism, though it does that extremely well.

John Kim

Quote from: SeanDogs in the Vineyard, pg. 16, wrote:
QuoteIf, on the other hand, your accomplishment for your character is growth, learning, or a change of habits, then we play a little trick: you take the part of your character AS HE OR SHE IS, and I take the part of whatever forces or pressures are on your character to change. "I hope that my character overcame his fear of blood," for instance: you take the side of your character in fear, and I take the side of your character's teachers, who see his weakness and want to help him overcome it...
I think the idea is that sometimes players know what they want their conflict to be about, but don't know what it is. The reversal makes it clearer by making your conflict against the outside forces that are changing you.
Yes, I remember considering that passage during these.  Based on the way that Jim phrased the goal in play, though, I didn't think this option was called for.  Essentially, Jim said he was deliberately seeking a vision that would affirm what Joshua was already doing (i.e. becoming a Dog).  So at the time, I ran it as him against an unwilling environment.
- John