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

Main Menu

[DitV] ... and it's about damned time!

Started by Doyce, September 25, 2006, 09:31:30 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


Okay, so... it's been two years since I got Dogs.  More than that; I had one of the first pre-Gen Con copies of DitV and I loved it.  My enthusiasm for promoting the game to the folks I play with was pretty high, and we even got some characters made, back in October of 2004, and put them through their initiations before it got too late to continue on to the first town.   The response was... mixed --

A paraphase: "Cool setting, cool characters... but man... it feels like the dice get in the way of every single line I want to say when we're RPing."

And ... after that, what happened? Nothing. 

See, November rolled around a week later -- I was GMing two 'regular' games and secretly participating in my third NaNoWriMo... I was putting down stone tiles in my kitchen and bathroom (which I'd never done before), the holidays were on the way, and on November 28th, I found out my daughter was nine short months away from needing a bedroom.  In short, we never got back to the game.

Hell, I really didn't get back to any game for well OVER a year... damn near two.

So, fast forward to a couple months ago.  Things have quieted down a bit -- a lot of different things are going on in my life now, but it feels like there's a rhythm... like I've got a system that works, and that wouldn't be shattered by some gaming, and whether or not I love gaming, I for damn sure hate sitting around with nothing to do, so...

So there's been a lot of talk about some games, and of course I start pushing all the dirty-hippie games on my shelf, start up a short-lived HQ game, and head back over to the Forge for probably the first time in six months and start reading.

... and read.

... and read.

And there's so much that's out that's new and good. And old and good... and oh my word, there so much I want to play.

And I start talking about all this on my blog, and Dave sort of picks up the vibe some and allows that yeah, he'd both like to play some of this stuff, and y'know, he'd like to GM some too, maybe.  Heck, he's always loved Dogs in the Vineyard, and we never got to play it... maybe he should run it.

And I say "You should!"

And then I say "But... y'know... before that... I could finish running the story for those guys we all made up. 

((Original Characters:

And I read the new DitV book again.

And I read the old characters again.

And I find the first town I wrote up, as an experiment of transferring a relationship map from one source into a totally different genre, and I saw how it could be better...

And I get really excited.

And Friday, 23 months after we made up the characters, we played the first town.  Virtue.

Here's what happened.


First off, it wasn't like we could just jump into the first town and hope for the best.  One of the best things about the game's design is every player gets a solo introduction to the game system during character generation, but we'd already done that with these three guys, and I didn't want to revisit that for the same characters -- seemed anticlimactic.

However, I had an out.  Jackie had played with "Kitten" when I ran The Princes' Kingdom for her, and she'd liked the system pretty well, so I asked her if she was interested in playing Dogs.  Her approach to new games has changed a lot in the last 10 years -- it used to be very much about 'I know what I like, and I don't want to play something that isn't on that list' -- and it's shifted to 'I'll pretty much try anything, if the players are cool.'

And of course the players are cool, so I set it up so that Jackie made up her character and goes through initiation while everyone's watching -- everyone thereby getting reintroduced to the methods of creation, the philosophies behind Traits vs. Relationships, and the mechanics of a conflict.  This, I think, worked very well.

Now, in case you're lazy and didn't go back and look at the characters in question, let me sum up the first three Dogs in brief:

Destiny was raised by her father.  Her mother was Faithful, he married into the Faith and they traveled back to Bridal Falls, but Mom died on the way, and Dad finished the move anyway, deciding to raise his daughter as her Mother would have wanted, despite the fact that Mom's family pretty much disapproved of him entirely and practically disowned Destiny.   Background: Complicated History

Susannah was born in a pretty rough town; a mix of Faithful and sinnin' mining folk that was nearly wiped out by bandits when Susannah was pretty young.  She was sent off to be raised by her extremely judgmental Aunt and Uncle who couldn't really wait to be rid of her... think the Dursley's, as puritans.  Again, Complicated History.

Eli was an outlaw who'd never done right.  He was shot up bad in a no-honor-among-thieves situation, and found and nursed back to health by a blind old Faithful woman.  Inspired, he rode to Bridal Falls and rashly offered to be a Dog, and was accepted.  Background: Strong History.

Right... so... no one's like... a 'normal' member of the Faith, right?  No one's coming from an actually healthy place. :)  I'm not surprised, I'm just sayin'.

So... right. Jackie's chargen goes down the path less traveled:  Abigail,/b] is from a Strong Community: big family (8 brothers), loving parents, and although she's a bit of a tomboy (with traits like "my brother's taught me to shoot" and "I was born to ride") she's also a sharp witted, traditional girl (Knows Scripture Really Well: 1d4) who wouldn't have even been a Dog if things had gone differently ("Item: My late fiancé's engagement ring: 2d6").

Her Initiation goal (which evolved from a lot of at the table kibitzing and contribution, something I was encouraging) was "I hope I made a female friend at Temple."  Awesome.  I described Jezebel, a very quiet, anti-social girl who came from a town that, 10 years ago, had been burned straight to the ground by a group of Dogs for sins utterly beyond redemption.  Jez survived was now at temple herself to become a Dog.  (And apologies: I'm almost SURE I read about the Jezebel character in someone's AP report -- a character someone made up, but damned if I can find it now -- she made a great cameo here!)   Abigail found herself instantly drawn to the girl, and wanted to make a connection with her.

How'd it go?

Opening bid: Abigail slips a note to Jez while they're in class, while one of the Boys is reading from the Book of Life.  The note is a scripture quote, intended to be funny, and is something like "The work of Men flies to the heavens like sparks..." [there was more too it, but I don't remember it -- search for 'sparks' in Proverbs and you'll find it, probably]. 

Jackie raises as well as she can, and I Turn the blow.  "Jez stands up in the middle of class, so violently that her chair tips over, then rushes out of the room in tears... you realize, too late, that a quote about the works of mean going up in sparks and flame is the wrong way to introduce yourself to the girl who saw her whole town get burned to the ground..."

And everyone at the table *groaned* in appreciation at the unexpected narration.  That's how it went. Everyone was in, right then.

The initiation went very well -- we shifted forward in time repeatedly, we showed that you could escalate from talking to physical (Jezebel shoved Abigail into a mud puddle -- Abigail got back up and gave her a hug before Jez kicked her and ran off) and then let things drop back down to talking, which was very valuable -- escalation is something that folks tend upon first read to think of as a one-way street.

Jackie pulled in just about every trait she had to win Jezebel over (Strong Community folks have a ROUGH time in initiations, because most of their dice are in Relationships), including adding Jezebel as a Relationship and pulling out her dead Fiancé's engagement ring for the final conflict-closing, 2-point raise.  Excellent start to the game.

From there we went to Virtue...

Downside was, it was almost eight PM by the time we were ready to start the Town itself, and we have kids to get to bed at a reasonable time.  Ahh well.


I start off by mentioning that the first town on the (long) ride out from Bridal Falls has kin in it -- Destiny's cousin is the Steward, the Cooper's are a good sized family that Abigail's related too, and while Susannah doesn't have any kin in town, Br. Jacob, a retired dog who lives in the area, used to ride with her Great Uncle Isaac.

Eli will probably only have Kin in town on very rare occasions, but when he does, it's going to be pretty explosive.

So... the Dogs ride into town and some young men are lounging alongside the street.  One of them greets them... then cracks the young men up by cracking wise about their coats.  Susannah was... speechless... Abigail player was already thinking "Can we... shoot them for that?"

Then there's the carpenter's business, with a nice-looking young man stretched out in a casket and the carpenter carving at the lid of the casket to get the Tree of Life off the top...

... and the Dogs are wondering just how damn long it's been since a Dog's been through town.

The sheriff comes hustling up, chuckling nervously and explaining there's been a bit of a dust-up -- that dead fella got in a disagreement with one of the Cooper men, but it was self-defense on Cyrus' part...

"Shall I take you down to the Stewards?"

"I think that'd be best."

Eli is thinking that this town looks... really damn familiar to him, in all the wrong ways.

The Dogs dismount outside the Stewards as a flustered, red-faced shopkeep is coming out the front door, still haranguing the Steward over his shoulder.

"Dammit, Virgil, you're the man in charge! Don't talk to me about any of that other nonsense!  I promised my sister I'd look after her boy when he got out here, and three days later he's in a pine box!  I mean god-dammit, Virgil!  You've got to keep those Cooper's in on a damn leash!  Do your job, man!"

And he storms off without so much as a glance at the Dogs, who are flabbergasted (several having gotten more of an education in swearing in that one sentence than they'd had in the last five years previous).

This is getting long, so I'll summarize.  The Dogs get a low down on the history of Virtue and the 'minor, entirely minor' problems going on -- girls that won't listen to viable courtships, and folks are always kind of upset with one another, but nothing too bad -- it's not like he can fix the half of town that isn't Faithful, after all...

The Dogs mmhmm and mention that since two of them will be staying with Jacob (according to Virgil -- he's made up a room for Destiny, and Abigail will probably be sleeping out at the Cooper ranch), they'd like to meet him.  Virgil and Phineas escort the Dogs out to Jacob's, encountering Thaddeus leaving the house, upset and inconsolable, presumably at the death of his cousin.  He doesn't stop to talk with the Dogs either... like father like son, I suppose.

((Nice bit here: I explain that Phineas' mom died when he was really young, and the players jump in with "have her die in childbirth -- "that way it happened during all the troubles in town, 20 years ago."   I jumped on that immediately as frickin' brilliant.))

Jacob invites them in, tells Virgil they need some time for "Dogs business" and shoos him and his son on home.  Once they're gone he relaxes and tells the Dogs they can have a seat and take a load off -- he knows how hard it can be to have everyone watching you all the time.

The Dogs get another angle on everything that's going on from Jacob, and Abigail pushes this into a conflict to get him to tell them where Virgil's failing -- they can tell he's defending him too much.  Everyone jumps in on this and I don't even get to let Jacob raise once -- I had to see four 11 or 12 point bids first, and I'm out of dice by the time it's my turn.  Jacob allows that Virgil is letting some of his duties to the community slip in order to get Phineas in Constance's good graces in the way of courtship.

It's ten by this point, because we've had lots of open RP where they ask questions I WANT them to know (and, despite that, have to fight the ingrained GMing urge to hide "or they'll find out what's going on" -- MAN that's hardwired into EVERYTHING!), and we decide to call it a night.  Everyone seems ready to play, and pretty much everyone had something they want to do or someone they know they need to talk to:

* Destiny wants to see the women's side of what's gone on.
* Abigail 'knows' "cousin Constance is going to be my problem."
* Eli walks with the tread of a doomed man, already expecting that the Stewards at Temple sent him with these young ladies because they knew they'd need a blunt instrument -- he's hearing about the Coopers and his expression just gets more and more resigned.
* Susannah... hmm... I don't know. :)

Man, working up a town and getting the NPCs down in your head is just amazing in play.  From the moment folks hit town, I never looked at my notes, not once. I kept confusing the names of the Steward and the owner of the General Store, but that's a mental flub -- I'm rubbish with names -- and only cosmetically important. I *never* confused who anyone was or what they WANTED.  All this is, really, is a soft-pitch, hand-holding version of the instructions in Sorcerer for doing relationship-maps, but you know what? Sometimes it's nice to have your hand held; it's comforting and warm and cozy and ... this is taking me to a place I don't need to be with Vincent, so I'll stop -- but I've been happy with Relationship maps in the past and this one just jumped off the page and took over.

Every second they were in a scene, no matter what any of the PCs said, or asked, or wanted out of them, or did, I knew without a pause for thought how they'd respond, how they'd angle their answers, and what they'd say to go after what they wanted.

No note-checking, just channeling the characters -- they meant I could give the players body language, tweaks of voice that gave things away... facial expressions... eye movements... they didn't miss a THING, and best of all, I was able to continually give them things to chew on.  Very very happy about that.

Dave mentioned that the town was over-jammed with stuff going on.  The funny thing is, I'm about one whole family and one major plot point short of the 'recommended starting town' that Vincent and many others have recommended in the past. 

The wording of Dave's aforementioned comment makes me think that my source of inspiration for Virtue is worn a little too openly on the sleeve.  Ahh well.


And allow me to crow for a second and say I was really happy with how the GMing went.  Basically, between character generation and that initiation I was able to introduce a lot of the nuances of basic DitV play that I'd been absorbing from the two years of posting on the Forge forums, and it emerged naturally during conversation and play -- it was *easy*, come to that, and it felt like I'd internalized everything I'd been soaking up on DitV for ages, and had explained it dozens of times before.  It was smooth.

Also, since buying DitV, I'd run two Heroquest games of varying lengths, two Sorcerer campaigns, a couple TSoY one shots, and various other bits of narr-goodness -- coming back to DitV with that experience let me emphasize the stuff that I knew the players really jonesed on in the past, and that play experience made the whole DitV system seem like a much less jarring gaming experience than it had the first time we'd tried it.

A follow up comment from Dave was the most informative, regarding play:

The dice mechanic is conflict-based, not task-based, but unlike some others we've been doing, there's plenty of RP and "posing" during the conflicts to make it not feel too dice-driven or "everything depends on this one roll" kind of thing. Good stuff.

I compare that to the first impressions from two years back and I'm really really happy.

(Aside: I think it's funny/cool that people think of Dogs as being 'less dice' than Sorcerer -- you're likely rolling about 9 dice on a conflict in Sorcerer, maybe a few more during mid-resolution.  With Dogs, you're starting off with a couple stats worth of dice to roll -- maybe about 7d6, and then move to more Traits... maybe another Stat... some items...  If you have less than about 12 dice rolled in even a pretty simple "just talking" solo-conflict in Dogs, it's unusual...  I think the different is that you're only dealing with a few of those dice at a time, and dealing with each of those discreet sets of dice is also dealing with the whole Conflict in a smaller slice, instead of all at once... almost task-resolution, dare I say.  It is, in a nutshell, a really elegant system.)
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.


Awesome stuff Doyce!  I actually grabbed Virtue and ran the town yesterday, start to finish.  Kudos to the town, it hooked my players, and it sure looked like it hooked yours. 

I'll get an AP of it posted as soon as I get full approval.  We uh... had 6 Dogs rampaging through the town.  Yeah.
Hi, my name is Jon.


Quote from: Glendower on September 25, 2006, 10:40:39 PM
I actually grabbed Virtue and ran the town yesterday, start to finish.

That's awesome.  My group's just tend to work everything slower than the Forge norm (partly due to kid-interruptions...) as one player said during the second of what looks like THREE sessions we'll need to finish one run of Shab al-Hiri Roach: "Yeah, we could go faster, but this suits us."

Really looking forward to the AP.
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.