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[DitV] First game for GM and players

Started by Jake Boone, January 20, 2006, 09:19:04 AM

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Jake Boone

So I got Dogs in the Vineyard two days ago, read it from cover to cover yesterday, and ran it this evening.  It may well be my new favorite game (especially as a GM).  My players all were completely inexperienced with DitV, though all were veteran gamers with a number of mainstream games.  So without further ado, the group and characters:

Brother Mercy (Jesse's character)
Stats: Acuity 3d6; Body 4d6; Heart 3d6; Will 3d6.
Traits: Steel-Grey Eyes 2d6; Bronzed Tan 1d6; Cowboy to the Bone 2d8; Mighty Fine Dancer 1d8; The Wilds Are My Home 1d8; Almost a Wolf, But No, He's A Dog 1d10; Yes, I Just Shot You 2d10.
Relationships: Mountain People 2d6; Dead Mother 1d4.
Belongings: Coat 2d6 (shades of green with thick black lines; bottom left is poorly patched with mismatched, bright red quilting); Sawn-Off Shotgun 1d4 2d8; Pistol 1d4 1d6; Horse 1d6; Book of Life 2d6; Jar of Consecrated Earth 1d6; Bag O' Jerky 1d4; Knife 1d8; Holdout Pistol 1d4 1d6.

Sister Temperance (Sara's character)
Stats: Acuity 3d6; Body 5d6; Heart 2d6; Will 5d6.
Traits: Very Intense Stare 1d6; Excellent Rider 1d6; Easily Unhinged 1d6; Lousy Cook 1d6; I'm a Dog 1d8; Two Guns Named Wit & Wisdom 1d8; Wild, Fiery Red Hair 1d6; Untamed 1d6.
Relationships: Wrath 2d8; The Town Drunk 1d6; Stranger 1d10.
Belongings: Coat 2d6 (crimson and black with bright yellow streaks); Hat 1d4; Two Guns 1d4 2d8 each; Horse 1d8; Book of Life 1d6; Jar of Consecrated Earth 2d6.

Brother Cain (Mike's character)
Stats: Acuity 4d6; Body 4d6; Heart 4d6; Will 5d6.
Traits: I'm a Dog 3d8; Dad Took Me Hunting 1d8; I'm Not Done Yet 1d6; North Is That Way 1d4; You Are Sick, Let Me Help You 1d8.
Relationships: Dad, Who Taught Me How To Live on the Frontier 2d6; The Mountain Men I've Lived Near All My Life 1d6.
Belongings: Coat 2d6 (sturdy leather coat that will resist the rain and cold. White stitching with grey leather like the mountain rocks); Horse (We got through lots of scrapes together) 2d6; Book of Life (Waterproofed and very well-read) 2d6; Small Jar of Consecrated Earth 1d6; Pistol 1d4 1d6; Hunting Rifle (Dad gave me when I left) 1d4 2d8; Knife (I've owned since childhood) 2d6.

Brother Asher (Steve's character)
Stats: Acuity 4d6; Body 4d6; Heart 2d6; Will 3d6.
Traits: Dad's Shootin' Iron 2d10; Mustang Breakin' 2d8; Backwoods Born 1d10; Trail's Not Cold 2d8; It's That Way 2d6; I'm a Dog 1d6.
Relationships: Council Doesn't Like Me 1d4; Dad's Dead 1d8.
Belongings: Coat 2d6 (Slate grey with black on the high spots and down the outsides of the sleeves.  Four white diamonds in a diamond on the back); Lightning-Fast Roan (hunter trained) 2d6; Book of Life (Dad's old) 1d4; Jar of Consecrated Earth 1d6; Long Rifle 1d4 1d6; Dad's LeMat Revolver 1d4 2d8; Lasso 1d6.

I had been talking up DitV for at least a week prior to the game, so Jesse, Mike, and Steve were at least a little bit braced.  I caught Sara off-guard, however; a scheduling mixup had resulted in the expected Shadowrun game being postponed, but my question "wanna play a psychotic teenage Mormon gunslinger?" was taken in stride.

Character creation ran smoothly and quickly, with the players rapidly getting into the spirit of things (though nervously fingering their dice).  As you can see from the Trait lists, they figured out the fun of making up their own descriptors pretty early in the process.  So far, so good.

I was concerned that three of my players (Jesse, Mike, and Steve) would be taken aback by the overtly Narrativist thrust of the game, as our past games together have had primarily Gamist leanings, and I often couldn't be sure if the Narrativist elements were really being placed there on purpose, or if they were, to large extent, my own wishful thinking.  However, it now seems that we were merely playing games best suited for Gamist play (Shadowrun, various White Wolf games, d20), while dragging the games in a more Narrativist direction, resulting in incoherent play.  All three seemed to enjoy DitV, so yay for that.

Sara, on the other hand, I suspected would greatly enjoy Narrativist play, since her decisions tended in that direction.  Turns out that I was right.  Four for four!  Woohoo!

After a series of slow and halting Initiations, I ran the first sample town from the rulebook; the Boxelder Canyon Branch.  Since the sample branch included relatives of the PCs, I did a simple replacement; Brother Artax was replaced with Br. Asher, Br. Cadmus was replaced with Br. Cain, and though Br. Benjamin's name, unfortunately, started with a B, I replaced him with Sr. Temperance (and recycled the name "Benjamin" to represent her burned uncle).  Other than that name-swapping, I ran everything pretty much by the book.

As the Dogs rode into town, happy townsfolk greeted them and soon, the Steward (Br. Phineas) was on the scene.  Br. Mercy conversed with him on matters of interest to the town, and soon discovered that there was a bit of a problem between Br. Phineas and Br. Benjamin (the burned uncle).  The Dogs told the Steward they had mail to distribute, and a town meeting was called for this purpose.  While Br. Asher went about the work of delivering the mail, the other Dogs circulated among the townsfolk, meeting relatives and NPCs of interest.  Almost immediately, Br. Cain began questioning his younger brother, Br. Levi the farmhand.  He quickly dragged the truth about the whiskey out of the poor lad (along with the names of the other farmhands involved), and set him to doing penance assisting the Territorial Authority census-taker (Br. Ishmael) with farmwork.  Meanwhile, Br. Ishmael's wife, Sr. Marilla (the whiskey-maker), had been chatting with her nephew, Br. Asher, and had invited him and his companions to their home for dinner (and pie!).  Sr. Temperance asked around for her uncle, Br. Benjamin, and discovered his disfiguring burns.  He wasted no time in telling Sr. Temperance about his belief that the Steward's grandmother was a witch.

Once Br. Mercy and Sr. Temperance compared notes about the Steward and Br. Benjamin, they decided to leave the meeting and check out the Steward's home.  Once there, they knocked twice, and then, upon hearing no answer, went inside and started snooping.  Upstairs, they startled the Steward's deaf old grandmother, who was nonetheless polite.  After a frustrating attempt at communication, the pair of Dogs began a ceremony to try and heal the old woman's ears, and in the process, attempted to discern whether she was really a witch.  They succeeded in healing her ears, and decided that this old woman was definitely not a witch.

Upon their return, they were informed by Br. Cain that Br. Ishmael's home was being used to distribute alcohol.  The four Dogs marched up to the home of Br. Ishmael, and Br. Mercy began interrogating the man as Br. Asher distracted Br. Ishmael's wife and daughter.  After Ishmael broke down and admitted the sin of pride, Br. Mercy continued asking him if there was "something else you want to tell us."  Poor Ishmael, having no clue about the existence of his wife's still, nearly had a nervous breakdown under the relentless questioning.  Meanwhile, Br. Cain and Br. Asher (who had just agreed to name Ishmael and Marilla's new son) noticed Sr. Marilla looking very nervous and unsettled when the topic of alcohol came up.  Quickly, she was browbeaten into confession, and led the Dogs into the root cellar, where she had hidden the still.  Almost immediately, Br. Mercy shot the still with his shotgun, letting the illicit whiskey spill out into the dirt (and nearly deafened the whole team in the enclosed space).

Returning to town, the Dogs called a meeting to expose Sr. Marilla's sin, requiring her to bring the remains of the still to town to publically admit her wrongdoing.  The farmhands who had been partaking of the forbidden beverage were also exposed, and assigned penance equivalent to Br. Levi's.  Br. Benjamin asked Br. Mercy "but what about the witch?" and, upon hearing that the Dogs had decided that she was innocent, shouted out "the Dogs are wrong!"

As it turns out, this was a mistake.

Br. Mercy immediately whipped out his shotgun and killed Br. Benjamin on the spot.  All were stunned and horrified, and even Sr. Temperance was too shocked to respond to the sudden death of her uncle.  Thus ended the adventure in Boxelder Canyon.

By the time the session ended, the players all seemed pretty comfortable with the system and with their characters, though there's a bit more work to do on that last.  Steve (Br. Asher), in particular, didn't seem to do much aside from the "gruntwork" in the session, as all the other Dogs left him to the scutwork of the duties while they dashed about investigating leads and terrorizing the innocent.  Still, Steve seemed to have fun regardless, and as everyone considered this the requisite "learning game" session, no high expectations were shattered.  In fact, Sara (Sr. Temperance) said something to the effect of "This is the most awesome game ever! I could even run this!"  Jesse and Sara had to leave directly after the town was done, so I haven't been able to get any post-game thoughts out of them yet (aside from Sara's aforementioned positive feedback).  All four, however, seemed more than willing (eager!) to play more DitV, and Mike has gone so far as to suggest replacing another ongoing game (Warhammer FRP) with DitV.  All in all, a success.  We got through character creation, the Initiations, and the town in about four hours... and it was four hours of Interesting Stuff Happening, instead of four hours of Now Roll Your Tracking Skill With a -15 Modifier.  I also had to do so little, really, to get ready for play.  Though I used a provided branch, the town rules are so very complete that I can't imagine needing more than an hour to prepare a game session.  It's like GM heaven, this game is.

My group is taking well to this overtly Narrativist game, and this pleases me.  I'll be pleased to answer any questions y'all may have about the game, the players, me... whatever.

-- Jake


Awesome, Jake! Those are especially good traits. "The trail's not cold"!

What's the supernatural like in your game? No mention of it on the character sheets, but how'd the healing ceremony go?


Jake Boone

I told the players early on that they'd be pretty much responsible for setting the supernatural dial.  The initiations were supernatural-free, and the only overtly supernatural thing that's happened so far is the witch test/healing ceremony.  Neither the players nor I were entirely sure what goes into a ceremony, so Brother Mercy decided he'd start with putting some consecrated earth on her forehead (to see if she flinched away or anything like that).  Since she seemed reasonably comfortable with that, he went on to a Laying On of Hands, to get working on the deafness.

I didn't figure the old woman would be interested in resisting his ceremonies, so I just rolled 3d10 for the town's Demonic Influence as a sort of generic oppositional force for each portion of the ritual (I'm not sure that I was right about that, but it seemed to work).  As the ceremony was described as sort of two combined rituals stuck together, I ran the second as a followup conflict.  Sister Temperance supported Brother Mercy by giving him a die as per the rules on helping, and the Dogs won handily.

I am very happy with those traits my players came up with.  "Trail's Not Cold!" is one of my favorites, along with Br. Mercy's "Bag O' Jerky 1d4" possession.  During her initiation, Sr. Temperance's goal was something like "I hope my character solves a serious problem without resorting to violence."  She was accosted by an amorous stablehand at the Dogs' Temple, and did in fact end up resorting to violence (and taking 11 points of Fallout) to deal with him.  For the Fallout, she actually decided to lower her Heart stat to 1d6 from the starting characters I posted, and added the trait "Violence = Good 1d6".  I have fun players.