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

Main Menu

[DitV] Cedar Hollow - What can't you set stakes on?

Started by Rustin, October 04, 2005, 12:42:31 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


First time playing. I tried to keep this town simple with only three instances of sinful progression. 

I had the ethical dilemmas revolve around --not conflicting NPC agendas exactly, though there was some of that-- but how far one can go to dealt with a disease of the livestock in the town.

The ethical problems were: Do you allow the local veterinarian to use theological (self-revelation) rationale to treat the disease, (By declaring pigs unclean and slaughtering all the pigs in the valley) even though by declaring he knows what the King of Life told him he has gone beyond his authority?

Do you allow the Wife of the Veterinarian to also help treat the livestock of the disease even though that is not the proper role of a woman?

The stage was (and here's where I got in a bit of trouble) the disease was not linked to sin.  It was just part of the environment, something that brought consequence that could not be ignored.

I didn't say yes, and I reluctantly went to the dice
The adventure went like a charm.  I really enjoyed the mechanics, the narration, watching the players think through ethical problems. 

They convinced the veterinarian that he didn't really get revelation from the King of Life.  They convinced him that his method of treating the disease would have to be shown through normal scientific ways. 

They convinced the wife of the veterinarian that her place was the house and that the family was her first priority, the town would have to take care of itself some other way.

All fine and good.  Then the twist....

One of the players set the stakes:  Do I learn how to cure the disease afflicting the live stock?"

I balked.  I felt as though this was the same as saying:  Do I learn how to make Gravity not affect us?  or Can I bring the guy I just shot back to life?  I really didn't want the players to have their cake and eat it too... if that makes sense.  Ethically speaking, for these characters, keeping the family unit in place, and keeping the religions institutional hierarchy intact was more important than treating the disease.

As I wrote the town, in my mind, the disease was just a property of the town that wouldn't go away....  But, from the players perspective this was a perfectly reasonable stake to set.  So we talked it over.  I first said---well you could do this but the narration would have to take into account years and years of research.  But that didn't sit right.  So I just grabbed a bunch of dice--- a bunch of d10s--and he grabbed his dice and we did it.  He narrated his attempts to isolate the disease, consult his mountain people lore etc... I narrated the unexpected logistical problems of doing a massive scientific experiment.  Because I picked an arbitrary number of dice I won.

What should I have done?

For those interested Here's
Cedar Hollow

A wide convoluted valley just high enough to avoid the harsh desert heat.  Nooks of the valley offer cool, humid regions where livestock and crops thrive.  Though the environment also allows a particularly vicious fungus, Dusking Thrush, to infect livestock.  It develops usually during sundown.  Animals rarely live to see the next morning.  The Thrush has recently worsened as more people have moved to the Hollows.

Pigs thrive in the valley. 

Br. Vernen Morgan is the towns veterinarian.   He and his wife, Sis. Candice Morgan have developed a method to treat the Dusking Thrush. Though people don't generally know that Sis. Candice is trained.

Brother Vernen.
Begins to Feel he knows more than the Stewart.  He has a personal revelation that pigs are the cause of Dusk Thrush. 

Br. Vernen refuses to treat family farms that have pigs. 

Br. Vernen secretly teaches his Boys to kill pigs throughout the valley.

Demon Attacks:  Boys are sickly but might have some supernatural traits.

False Doctrine: 
Vernen has begun to teach to his sons that Swine are unclean and offensive in the eyes of the King of Life.

What Brother V. Wants the Dogs to do: Validate his revelation, declare that Pigs are bad and should be slaughtered.

Sis. Candice Morgan thinks she is special because she also knows how to treat the Thrush. 

  She has begun to neglect her family and womanly duties (leaving her twins to the eldest daughter's care) and disobeying her husband, by going out and treating the Dusking Thrush late at night, even for families who have pigs.

Demon Attacks: Attacking her family. The children see things in the shadows when they are alone.

She lies to her husband when she goes out to treat the farms that he will not.

S. Candice Morgan wants the Dogs to agree she can shirk her responsibilities as Mother and continue treating the Thrush in the valley, teach her daughters the skills and allow women a bigger role in the town.

Br. Darren Larsen is a local carpenter.  Brother Vernen saved his daughter in the floods three years back and has always felt a debt of honor to him.  Now that there is accusations against Vernen, Darren-- in his pride that he knows proper justice, and stepped up to defend Vernen against the pig farmers. 

*Time was running out, so I didn't really use this NPC. Note that by convincing Vernen, this NPC's behavior became moot anyhow.

  With his great oratory skills he has managed to confuse the Steward.  The steward can't seem to pass judgment on Vernen to recompense the farmers. 

He wants the Dogs to allow Vernen to teach his new doctrine to see if it is true. He's not sure, but he feels that Vernen is a good man and deserves every benefit of the doubt.

Br. John Berdell.  Rather congenial and passive.  Thinks Vernen may not be actually getting personal revelation, but thinks the pigs could be the cause of the Thrush so he's wiling to wait and see what happens.

He wants the Dogs to validate his choice to let Vernen slide on the revelation part and wait it out-- see if the Thrush goes away.

Pig Farmers. The Cloy Brothers.
They want compensation for the damage Vernen's sons have done to their pigs.  They also want Vernen to treat their livestock free of charge from now on for his punishment.


Thanks for GMing Rustin, it was a lot of fun.  I liked the game mechanics even better in play than when I read about them in the book.  There was a player who was role-playing for the first time who had no problem following along and playing the game, I think that speaks well for the system.

My intention was not to try and "eat my cake," I knew the possibility of success was slim to none.  What was important for me was that I try to take care of the temporal needs of the branch as well as the spiritual needs.  Obviously we did better on the spiritual side than the temporal side, but I still felt like I needed to try.  I look forward to the next town.


Rustin! Porter!

Everybody, this is Porter, he was my best friend in junior high.

Rustin, mechanically speaking, there's nothing wrong with the stakes. What you should roll is 4d6 + Demonic Influence. Probably that's a giveaway conflict; short of false doctrine, most Demonic Influence conflicts are.

So here are some things you can do if a conflict throws you like that.

Thing one, my preference: argue for lesser stakes. "Oog, that's an undertaking," you might say. "How about, what's at stake is, you're confident that Br. Vernon and Sis Candice will find a cure soon?" Figure out what Porter wants - to make sure the townspeople aren't doomed - and see if you can find a way to give it to him.

Thing two, dirty: raise mean. Arrange your dice so that poor Porter's going to have to take the blow, and say something like "I raise: in working with the disease, you catch it bad (and I should point out that this'll be d8 fallout)," or (meaner still) "I raise: four years come and go before you make any progress." Then he has to decide if he's going to give the stakes in order to avoid your raise coming true, or if he's going to suck it up.

Thing three, also dirty: find some real opposition. Say something like "Br. Vernon and Sis Candice are your opponents here, as you curing the pigs will make them look bad..." That'll give you some real dice, but then your raises all have to be like them sabotaging the Dog's work and stuff.

Maybe those'll be helpful for the future.



To be clear, I set the stakes (i think) as "I try to use my knowledge as a Mountain Person to see if I can identify local plants, or maybe poor farming practices, that are causing the thrush."  In that light it seems like I'm rolling not against by ability to cure the thrush, but the possibility that I have a deeper knowledge of the local flora and fauna than the local farmers due to my background.  Thinking about it, if the roles were reversed and I was GM, I would have decided on the number of dice Br Morgan has as a veterinarian and added on some to represent the fact that he hadn't figured it out yet.  The number added on would reflect how likely i (as GM) felt it was that the Mountain People possessed such knowledge. 


I think I goofed the system a bit in two instances.  The rules tell us not to say How we resolve what is at stake, but just to state what is at stake.  "Do I find the cure for the thrush?" would have been a better stakes.  Then you would narrate your trait methods with the dice. 

The second goof was, as Vincent says in the rules, argue for lesser stakes.  I think I could have done that.

My main concern is, lets say the ethical choice was do you save the child rushing toward the cliff, or do you continue to help the old man who has just slipped off the cliff and is holding your hand for dear life.
If the character decides to drop the old man to save the child, It seems as if the GM must say No when the stakes are "Can I bring the old man back to life after I let him fall to his death."

Or, lets say someone writes a town where the steward has just died, and now the political infighting has lead to numerous sins.   A dog could say "do I bring the Steward back to life?" thinking that they can return the status quo.  As a GM, I guess I could narrow the stakes and whip out lots of demonic dice.. but It may just be easier to say "do you really want to play in that level of supernaturalism?" or just say "no."

All in all, I think I strayed too far from what Dogs is about by bringing in this type of setting specific ethical problems.   Next time I'll keep it geared to sin.