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Author Topic: [Dogs in the Vineyard] First session; pleased, yet wondering.  (Read 3378 times)
Temple
Member

Posts: 45

Skjalg Kreutzer


« on: August 27, 2007, 04:05:54 AM »

I played my very first real session of Dogs in the Vineyard last night, and thought Id offer some Actual Play to help me deconstruct the game in my mind and learn to GM Dogs better.

The players were me (obviously), two players and buddies who were part of the original group, another original members twin brother (his "replacement" after he moved) and a gaming buddy of mine from a bit further back in time who recently moved to the city and wanted to game.

The two original players, Jan and Alex, are casual friends of mine.We dont hang out much except to game, but we grab the occasional bear or go see a concert once in a while. Gaming with them is always fun.
The twin brother, Aasmund, whom I had never met prior to last nights session, proved to be just as nice a guy as his brother. The initial meeting was a bit funky, since he looks andsounds very much like his brother and I felt like I was meeting him for the first time again, but I quickly learned to distinguish the two in my head.
The last player is a guy I met a few years back,and played some World of Darkness games with. Hes also a casual buddy whom I wouldnt mind grabbing a beer or having a cup of coffee with.

The atmosphere was relaxed, and the guys were allpretty psyched about what I had told them about the game on our groups forum.

We started character creation first, as expected. I had hoped for a little more discussion about characters out loud, and I tried to encourage it, but I guess force of habit took over as they leaned over their character sheets and either scribbled fusiourlyor stared at the blank page. I periodically started debates out loud about their characters, calling out the awesome stuff I saw on their sheets and basically going "this is awesome,guys! Your making really cool characters here!" I ment it too, they really were.

We ended up with Brother Josiah (played by Jan), who had some interesting Traits like "I was stuck behind enemy lines iduring the war" and "Mailman;" Brother James (played by Alex), and older man converted to the Faith, who used to be a general in the army and with Traits like "I was a general in the war" and "I was part of the Mountain Folk massacre" (kind of cool how these guys through creating their characters established that there had been a war recently in the setting!); Brother Edgar (played by Per), a hard, stone-faced gunslinger who hates his father and carries a hand made cavalry saber with him wherever he goes; and finally Brother Gray (Graham), played by Aasmund, who took practically all his Traits as supernatural Traits, including "Ive healed a man by laying hands on him in the Kings name" and "The King of Life gives me advice me in difficult situations." Which is awesome!

We played through initiations and got some cool scenes.

First up was Brother Edgar, whose Accomplishment was "I hope I forgive someone who really hurt me." I couldnt resist going to the core of his character, and set up a scene where his father confronted him and basically asked for forgiveness straight in his face. The scene ended with Edgar threatening to killhim if he ever saw him again, and his father being dragged out of the Temple grounds  a crying wreck by two other Dogs.

Next we ran Brother James Accomplishment. His hope was "I hope I forgive myself." Cind of cool in the wake of the previous scene. Personally I think that scene turned out sort of weak, and I really feelI need to get the hang of pushing conflicts better. We framed it as James (who is in his fifties, and thus stands out at the Temple) being asked to talk about his troubles by his teacher at a training lesson.
They sit down and begin to talk,and I Raise with a flashback from the Mountain Folk massacre he made up earlier, in which an injured pregnant woman looks him in the eyes amidsts the carnage. I raise with her smiling and him feeling like sheknows he cant stop the madness, and its ok. The scene ended with James crying on his teachers shoulder for the first time since he was a child. Powerful stuff, but it just didnt have the oomph I was looking for.

My favourite accomplishment was Brother Gray. He was pretty specific in his hope: "I hope I get my uncle to turn to the Faith without resorting to violence:"
I basically agreed to it, and we set up his uncle as a drunken sinner. Gray went to see him in a whorehouse, expecting to talk to him.I had other plans, and my very first raise was his obviously uncle screaming at him to get out and kicking the whore he was with out of the bed.
He had few dice, so he decided to get physical after exchanging a few heated words,slamming his uncle into the ground and pouring a bottle full of whiskey down his throat (!!). I Reversed the Blow on that, and had his uncle grap the bottle, roll around to come up on top and smash the bottle in Grahams face.
Thats when Gray got violent.
The scene ended with Gray beating his uncle senseless, and forcing him to read every word of the Book of Life all throught the night, holding his face over the pages so that blood dripped down on every page. It was incredible.

But Gray took an assload of Fallout from that conflict. So much that he needed medicalattnetion not to die! So after that night he went out into the street and basically collapsed.
We talked about what happened now, until Jan volunteered to have his Accomplishment be "I hope I save a life." That follow-up conflict was cool too, and ended with Brother Josiah getting the Trait "Ive healed a man by praying to the Lord." Good stuff.

We went right into the first town after that. Id decided to run Tower Creek Branch, because its been highy praised on the net and I like the set-up.
I ran into some problems though, which Id like some help sorting out.

The players had serious problems "connecting the dots" so to speak,amnd I suspect that was my fault. I dont think Ive got the hang of  sharing the towns problems with them yet. I had all the NPCs contact the Dogs with their desires fairly early, like in the first 15 minutes of play. But after that, I was stuck. How do I make them realise this woman is a Sorcerer? Am I even supposed to? What happens if they decide other people are to blame for whats happening? Do I run with it?
In this case, after all the facts were on the table, the players decided the blame was on the Stweard for Pridefully taking a second wife he didnt deserve. Ok, cool. Theyre the ultimate authority, so I let them run with that.
I soon realised that there was no way in hell they were ever going to discover who the Sorcerer was, or even witness something demonic, without me doing something. So I let another baby die, strangled by its umbilicalchord like a noose, this time taking the mother with it as well. I also had the father go hang himself. When one of the players asked me if there was any way he could sense demonic presence in the house, I told him "yeah sure, you sense a definite presense of evil; you get a chilldown your spine!" I then remembered that the demons wanted them to think Sister Bethia was the Sorcerer, so I had that player catch a glimpse of her face in the mirror.

They decided to order everyone to stay in their homes, so they could interrogate them one by one. When they got to Sister Bethia, I made some more demonic stuff happen, letting the water she poured into her glass turn to blood. They ended up pulling guns on her, but through negotiation decided to interview furtherpeople. It turned into something of a noir, with them looking for clues.I tried to prevent it by giving them everything they were looking for upfront, but some things (like the cult and the Sorcery) seemed inapropriate to reveal early on. How should I do it to make it work in the future?

The game ended with a conflict between Brother Gray, who was staking out Sister Wilhelminas house, and Sister Edie, posessed by a demon. She was ambushing him, he (the character) didnt know it, the stakes were "Do you die?" I was trying to turn the heat up, because upuntilnow things had been kind of quiet.
It was a cool conflict,that saw escalation from gunfire, down to fighting and then all the way to talking as he tried to excorcise the demon. My Raises were "Shes pregnant after your blessing" (he was the one the Steward asked to bless her to concieve) and "You can only save one of them, not both" among others. He Raised with healing her bodyand compelling the demon to leave.
It ended with her taking enough Fallout to kill her outright, even when we launched a follow-up conflict to save her life. The game ended after that, because it was 1:00 AM and some of us had to get up early the next morning to go to lectures.

I was dissatisfied with many of the conflicts of the session. I felt like I wasnt good enough at setting apropriate stakes, or helping appropriate stakes to emerge between us, and that I wasnt adept enough at pushing conflicts towards escalation.
As an example, after Sister Bethia asked Brother Josiah (whom I made his cousin btw, like in the book) to make the Stweard give up his new wife,Josiah went to the Stweard to have a talk with him. The conversation got to the point where we saw a conflict emerge, and after some back and forth we decided on "Does he doubt his rightousness in taking a second wife?" as the stakes. Should I have pushed for different stakes?
The conflict went like a conversation. I tried to push him into a corner, invoking the King of Lifes laws and pulling the age card on Josiah, and in the end he escalated to physicalby grabbing hold of the Stewards arm. But by then the conflict had grown uninteresting to me, so I just gave and let the Steward have doubts.

Does anyone have any pointers on setting appropriate stakes, revealing conflicts in the town and pushing conflicts towards escalation? Those three things seem to be my main issues.

I should add that the players were really satisfied with the session, and had nothing but praise for the game and me as a GM. With the possible exception that towards the end there was rather a lot of dice being flung around the table; though I guess thats just the way Dogs works.
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With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
JC
Member

Posts: 150


WWW
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2007, 07:46:23 AM »

I\\\'ve played  couple of games now, so I\\\'ll give it a shot...


The players had serious problems \\\"connecting the dots\\\" so to speak,amnd I suspect that was my fault. I dont think Ive got the hang of  sharing the towns problems with them yet. I had all the NPCs contact the Dogs with their desires fairly early, like in the first 15 minutes of play. But after that, I was stuck. How do I make them realise this woman is a Sorcerer?  Am I even supposed to?

my opinion is: yes you are

have the Dogs spot Sister Wilhelmina talking to Sister Edie or Brother Cyrus

then have them shut up in a suspicious manner when the Dogs walk over

you can even tell your players \\\"they cast furtive looks your way\\\"

the Dogs will know something is up

then you can have a conflict like \\\"do you get the truth from them\\\"

hell, that can be your opening scene!

another simple idea: have Sister Edie ask the dogs to bless her \\\"marriage\\\", and mention Sister Wilhelmina \\\"married\\\" them

when the Dogs talk to Wilhelmina, have her act creepy

have her tell them she thinks the town is fine, and they probably have other towns to save

do anything you have to to get her into a conflict with the Dogs

then, in conflict, have her use her demonic dice, and have something sorcerous happen (like her voice that\\\'s just too persuisive)

remember: she doesn\\\'t have to think she\\\'s doing something sorcerous for it to be sorcerous

I guess my point is that, as far as I\\\'m concerned, this game is not about the investigating

it\\\'s about the judging

the players should be asking themselves \\\"what am I going to do with this sinner\\\"

not \\\"where can I hope to find a clue about what\\\'s going on in this town\\\"

sure, you can have a little mystery

but it\\\'s just not the point of the game


What happens if they decide other people are to blame for whats happening? Do I run with it?
In this case, after all the facts were on the table, the players decided the blame was on the Stweard for Pridefully taking a second wife he didnt deserve. Ok, cool. Theyre the ultimate authority, so I let them run with that.

I\\\'d say, sure, run with it

but usually, I make sure the Dogs meet the proud person at some point, and have them act real proud

not just for the heck of it, but because they really are proud

there\\\'s something they really care about, and they\\\'re sure they\\\'re right, so they don\\\'t even think about hiding it from the Dogs


I soon realised that there was no way in hell they were ever going to discover who the Sorcerer was, or even witness something demonic, without me doing something. So I let another baby die, strangled by its umbilicalchord like a noose, this time taking the mother with it as well. I also had the father go hang himself. When one of the players asked me if there was any way he could sense demonic presence in the house, I told him \\\"yeah sure, you sense a definite presense of evil; you get a chilldown your spine!\\\" I then remembered that the demons wanted them to think Sister Bethia was the Sorcerer, so I had that player catch a glimpse of her face in the mirror.

They decided to order everyone to stay in their homes, so they could interrogate them one by one. When they got to Sister Bethia, I made some more demonic stuff happen, letting the water she poured into her glass turn to blood. They ended up pulling guns on her, but through negotiation decided to interview furtherpeople. It turned into something of a noir, with them looking for clues.I tried to prevent it by giving them everything they were looking for upfront, but some things (like the cult and the Sorcery) seemed inapropriate to reveal early on. How should I do it to make it work in the future?

the misdirection part is tricky

(that\\\'s why I think this is not such a good town to start out with)

I guess you could launch a conflict like \\\"does Sister Bethia prove to the Dogs she\\\'s not a Sorceress?\\\"

Dogs + Bethia vs. 4D6 + Demonic Influence (or vs. Wilhelmina)


I was dissatisfied with many of the conflicts of the session. I felt like I wasnt good enough at setting apropriate stakes, or helping appropriate stakes to emerge between us, and that I wasnt adept enough at pushing conflicts towards escalation.
As an example, after Sister Bethia asked Brother Josiah (whom I made his cousin btw, like in the book) to make the Stweard give up his new wife,Josiah went to the Stweard to have a talk with him. The conversation got to the point where we saw a conflict emerge, and after some back and forth we decided on \\\"Does he doubt his rightousness in taking a second wife?\\\" as the stakes. Should I have pushed for different stakes?

setting good stakes is hard

it was for me anyway when I first played DITV, with no prior experience with this type of game

I guess the advice I could give now is:

1/ have the NPCs pursue what they want intensely

the conflicts will appear automatically

they believe they are right, so they will be prepared to go pretty far to get what they want

(even Wilhelmina: \\\"Sister Edie deserves a child!\\\")

2/ go for small stakes (says so right in the book)

then go for big big raises

that way, you get interesting \\\"is it worth it?\\\" dilemmas

(see point above about the NPCs being willing to go very far to get what they want)


hope that helps...


My favourite accomplishment was Brother Gray. He was pretty specific in his hope: \\\"I hope I get my uncle to turn to the Faith without resorting to violence:\\\"

these seem like hedged stakes to me

since any conflict could potentially be violent, it also seems, I dunno, just wrong

could any of the experts help out here?
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Temple
Member

Posts: 45

Skjalg Kreutzer


« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2007, 12:23:48 PM »



I guess my point is that, as far as I\\\'m concerned, this game is not about the investigating

it\\\'s about the judging

the players should be asking themselves \\\"what am I going to do with this sinner\\\"

not \\\"where can I hope to find a clue about what\\\'s going on in this town\\\"

sure, you can have a little mystery

but it\\\'s just not the point of the game

Yeah, I know that. Thats one of the reasons I really like DitV actually. I just couldnt find a way to reveal stuff that made sense.

Quote
My favourite accomplishment was Brother Gray. He was pretty specific in his hope: \\\"I hope I get my uncle to turn to the Faith without resorting to violence:\\\"

these seem like hedged stakes to me

since any conflict could potentially be violent, it also seems, I dunno, just wrong

Well, since the resulting scene turned out so awesome I dont really think it matters. Wink
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With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
Web_Weaver
Member

Posts: 215


WWW
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2007, 09:16:50 AM »

Hi Skjalg,

I'm gonna make some assumptions based on your post, but feel free to ignore the bits that don't apply and respond only to those bits that might be helpful.

Starting out with Dogs is always interesting, because common and hard learnt player behaviours tend to go against the grain. It sounds like you were struggling with the players investigative habit and their desire to keep the town locked down smacks of wanting to keep things under control on a tactical level.

This shouldn't present too much of a problem because this game takes a while to work, and this is only session one, in this game the players haven't got a chance of maintaining a tactical grip, and what's more it doesn't matter, but it can be fun watching them try as long as you don't fall into their behaviour pattern too.

One thing I notice is you seemed to be in an exceptional hurry to get all of the NPCs expressing their wants. It is possible that this may have caused a pacing problem, with the players reeling from the information dump and then thinking to themselves "OK we need to get to the bottom of this". As you are aware investigation is not the point of the game, but this can be a hard habit to break for players and GM alike.

I would strongly suggest a better paced and more aggressive scene framing policy. I tend to take the pace a little more easy, and see how things develop, sure you want the players to meet each NPC and you want them to express their wants and lay out the towns problems, but it seems to work best if these emerge during the PCs initial "investigative phase" such that there is one, rather than providing all of the detail and then letting them move into investigative mode.

So I tend to have the PCs be greeted by one of the main NPCs as they come into town and throw the "thank goodness your here" lines out, but at the same time try and expose the NPCs flaws / duplicities / prejudices about other characters etc. and immediately provoke some kind of conflict or judgement. If the players start muttering amongst themselves about possibilities make sure you throw these issues into a conflict asap, as their ideas and judgements don't really mean anything until they put dice up.

Conflict, no matter how trivial, is your friend. It is through these that you can provoke the players into action and judgement and reveal the stuff that is really going on. It is through these that you can cast suspicions or point the finger at other NPCs and its through the resulting scenes that you can keep the pace moving and make sure that everything is investigated.

So I would see a town flowing like this:

Revelation
Conflict
Follow-on Conflict + Revelation
Revelation
Conflict
Etc

Whereas you seem to be struggling because the structure was

Revelation
Revelation
Revelation
"what do you do?"
Conflict
Conflict

It took me a while to stop resisting conflicts and just letting them happen, it can seem daunting to have conflicts about little things because the investment feels too high for them. But always remember you can always give and move straight into the meatier conflicts with follow-ons.

From your char gen conflicts you seem to have a flexible bunch of players and you had some cool conflicts there, so I am sure that a more conflict laden game would help.

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Trevis Martin
Member

Posts: 499


« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2007, 11:05:41 AM »

My favourite accomplishment was Brother Gray. He was pretty specific in his hope: "I hope I get my uncle to turn to the Faith without resorting to violence:"
I basically agreed to it, and we set up his uncle as a drunken sinner. Gray went to see him in a whorehouse, expecting to talk to him.I had other plans, and my very first raise was his obviously uncle screaming at him to get out and kicking the whore he was with out of the bed.
He had few dice, so he decided to get physical after exchanging a few heated words,slamming his uncle into the ground and pouring a bottle full of whiskey down his throat (!!). I Reversed the Blow on that, and had his uncle grap the bottle, roll around to come up on top and smash the bottle in Grahams face.
Thats when Gray got violent.
The scene ended with Gray beating his uncle senseless, and forcing him to read every word of the Book of Life all throught the night, holding his face over the pages so that blood dripped down on every page. It was incredible.

But Gray took an assload of Fallout from that conflict. So much that he needed medicalattnetion not to die! So after that night he went out into the street and basically collapsed.
We talked about what happened now, until Jan volunteered to have his Accomplishment be "I hope I save a life." That follow-up conflict was cool too, and ended with Brother Josiah getting the Trait "Ive healed a man by praying to the Lord." Good stuff.

You probably did it right, but I screwed this up a couple of times when I first played so I thought I'd mention it.  You only take the sum of the biggest two fallout dice after they are rolled as the fallout.  So did he roll double 8's on the physical?  If so, wow, tough break.

--Trevis
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Temple
Member

Posts: 45

Skjalg Kreutzer


« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2007, 12:46:36 PM »

My favourite accomplishment was Brother Gray. He was pretty specific in his hope: "I hope I get my uncle to turn to the Faith without resorting to violence:"
I basically agreed to it, and we set up his uncle as a drunken sinner. Gray went to see him in a whorehouse, expecting to talk to him.I had other plans, and my very first raise was his obviously uncle screaming at him to get out and kicking the whore he was with out of the bed.
He had few dice, so he decided to get physical after exchanging a few heated words,slamming his uncle into the ground and pouring a bottle full of whiskey down his throat (!!). I Reversed the Blow on that, and had his uncle grap the bottle, roll around to come up on top and smash the bottle in Grahams face.
Thats when Gray got violent.
The scene ended with Gray beating his uncle senseless, and forcing him to read every word of the Book of Life all throught the night, holding his face over the pages so that blood dripped down on every page. It was incredible.

But Gray took an assload of Fallout from that conflict. So much that he needed medicalattnetion not to die! So after that night he went out into the street and basically collapsed.
We talked about what happened now, until Jan volunteered to have his Accomplishment be "I hope I save a life." That follow-up conflict was cool too, and ended with Brother Josiah getting the Trait "Ive healed a man by praying to the Lord." Good stuff.

You probably did it right, but I screwed this up a couple of times when I first played so I thought I'd mention it.  You only take the sum of the biggest two fallout dice after they are rolled as the fallout.  So did he roll double 8's on the physical?  If so, wow, tough break.

--Trevis

Actually, that was due to a slight misreading of the rules which I only discovered at work today while rereading the book for the umpteenth time. Apparently, I had thought that you recieved Fallout dice equal to the sum of the two highest dice you Took the Blow with, and not the number of dice. So Fallout racked up pretty high for that session.
The results of that mistake led to some cool stories though, so no harm done.It was the first session after all.
Logged

With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2007, 11:43:41 PM »

How do I make them realise this woman is a Sorcerer? Am I even supposed to?

Sure. Have one of the NPCs tell them she's a sorcerer. I thinks its better if you find ways to get all the info out. Don't make them hunt for it.

Quote
What happens if they decide other people are to blame for whats happening? Do I run with it?
Quote
They're God's Watchdogs. They're always right.

Quote
I told him "yeah sure, you sense a definite presense of evil; you get a chilldown your spine!"
You probably could have told them that when they walked into the room and saved yourself some grief.

Quote
but some things (like the cult and the Sorcery) seemed inapropriate to reveal early on. How should I do it to make it work in the future?


Umm....reveal it early on.

Quote
I was dissatisfied with many of the conflicts of the session. I felt like I wasnt good enough at setting apropriate stakes, or helping appropriate stakes to emerge between us, and that I wasnt adept enough at pushing conflicts towards escalation.

Well, setting stakes is a group responsibility. Everyone's supposed to settle on stakes that sing before the conflict starts. Its not just on your shoulders.

Quote
we decided on "Does he doubt his rightousness in taking a second wife?" as the stakes. Should I have pushed for different stakes?

The conflict went like a conversation. I tried to push him into a corner, invoking the King of Lifes laws and pulling the age card on Josiah, and in the end he escalated to physicalby grabbing hold of the Stewards arm. But by then the conflict had grown uninteresting to me, so I just gave and let the Steward have doubts.

Sounds like maybe these stakes didn't matter to you all that much. Would "the Steward's marriage is a sin in the eyes of the Lord" have been more interesting? I'm wondering why the Dog was done with the Steward once he got him to doubt his marriage. Was that all the Dog was after?

Quote
Does anyone have any pointers on setting appropriate stakes, revealing conflicts in the town and pushing conflicts towards escalation? Those three things seem to be my main issues.

Sounds like you did a pretty good job of it actually. The conflicts seemed grabby at least. My advice would be ask for the players involvement in stakes setting and make sure both you and they like the stakes. If the stakes don't really matter to you, it ain't a conflict. Give without rolling dice and find something else to fight about. Look for ways to reveal the problems to the dogs without them needing to hunt or guess. Some conflicts are not important enough to die for. They don't all have to escalate.

Quote
I should add that the players were really satisfied with the session, and had nothing but praise for the game and me as a GM. With the possible exception that towards the end there was rather a lot of dice being flung around the table; though I guess thats just the way Dogs works.

Sounds like everyone had a great time. Give yourself some props. And yes, Dogs is all about the dice.
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James R.
Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2007, 11:45:30 PM »

Dang, can't edit posts at the moment.
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James R.
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