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Harnies play Dogs in the Vineyard

Started by John Kim, July 07, 2005, 09:46:22 PM

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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