I'm going to be running some Dogs at an upcoming con, and since the slots are 4 hours I am naturally a bit concerned about time management. I ran the game under very similar circumstances this weekend, and I would say that being generous to myself there was still 90 minutes or so of town left over, after: setting spiel, character generation, initiations, and the town itself. There were five players and myself as GM.
Now this was my first time running Dogs, but I felt like I was fairly on the ball as far as keeping things moving, etc. So while I'm sure I could shave as much as half an hour off the whole intro + chargen part, it seems like I might be better off changing the structure as well. I already plan on reducing the maximum number of players to 4 for the con slot, but I was also thinking about using pregenerated characters.
So mostly I am wondering, for those of you who have run Dogs in a time-sensitive scenario (with players who probably don't know anything about the game) -- did you use pregens? If so, how did it go? If not, why not?
I have some thoughts, both pro and con, but I'd like to hear from others first. I know I've seen AP reports where people managed chargen, initiations and a town (or at least enough of a town to be satisfying) in similar time slots. I'd also appreciate any advice on the whole thing -- are there any tricks that have worked well for getting players through chargen quickly? Keeping initiations short?
I'm also open to recommendations for towns that you've found particularly good for that sort of scenario.
I've run Tower Creek at a con last summer. It was technically a 4-hour slot (I think we overran by about 30 mins, however). I had three players who I went through character creation with, and then another player turned up a bit later who got a one of the pregens I had prepared for just that eventuality (This late player had also played Dogs once before, which was a help).
I had a one-sheet handout prepared, that described the general setting and so forth, and blank character sheets ready. I decided that coming up with the characters could be fairly quick if all three did it step by step; so I walked them through it quickly. Choosing traits started off a bit slowly (analysis paralysis, I think), but with a bit of prompting, and encouragement from me that they as long as they picked traits that they thought were cool, they wouldn't have any problems in play. (Interestingly, one of the players looked down at his character sheet when he was done and said something like "wow, the character's just right in front of you, isn't he?")
Accomplishments were the slowest part, as it was three one-on-one conflicts, but I sped through them with just a couple of Raises and Sees, with everybody watching, so by the end of the last one, the basic principles of conflicts were understood. One was simple, yet awesome: "I hope my sister accepts my calling". All in all, this took between 60-90 minutes from the players sitting down to starting Tower Creek.
I shot into Tower Creek (and took on the forth player), going at a breakneck pace. I said "yes" to most things, to keep the game going. There were only two big conflicts rolled out. One was entirely Dog vs. Dog, when they were working out what to do, and was one of the best conflicts I've had the pleasure to watch.
Recommendations. Hmmm, A few things off the top of my head: Have a big pot of dice in the middle of the table. Have a couple of pregens ready if you do get late players. Reassure the players that you can't really "mess up" character creation. Throw the situation at the players. Say "Yes" as much as possible. Give as early as possible (this is something I'm not as good at as I would like to be.)
I've run Dogs in a 3-hour con slot, without using pre-gens. You can read about it here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=21725.0
I decided not to use pre-gens because (a) I became convinced that I didn't need to for time reasons, from reading AP posts, and (b) in my limited experience with Dogs I'd found character generation, especially accomplishments, to be some of the best parts of play and useful for learning the system.
I did go the extra mile in preparing: I had multiple copies of the rules, multiple copies of various cheat-sheets, and I made sure that I designed a town that would not leave the players wandering around wondering what to do (something of a problem the 1st time I ran Dogs).
As it turned out, time wasn't a huge problem. I was even running with enough free time to have a 10-minute coffee break in the middle. There were at least half-a-dozen conflicts in the town, so it's not like I scaled the town back a lot either.
Hope this helps,
Some opinions, based on my own con play:
Quote from: Ice Cream Emperor on February 12, 2007, 05:34:59 AMI already plan on reducing the maximum number of players to 4 for the con slot, but I was also thinking about using pregenerated characters.
Reducing the number of players is probably a good thing--more spotlight time for everyone--but using pregens is a bad idea, in my mind. The way a player makes his or her character is your Big Red Honking Flag as to what sorts of conflicts will interest him or her. Give them a pregen, and their investment is lost, I'd bet (I know I don't much give a fig about pregen characters--I tend to get them killed in spectacular ways).
QuoteI'd also appreciate any advice on the whole thing -- are there any tricks that have worked well for getting players through chargen quickly?
Ask them direct, leading questions like "what's the most important thing to this Dog?" or "what are his or her most important possessions and why?" or "what's one word that would summarize him or her?"
QuoteKeeping initiations short?
Set stakes quickly and clearly, and escalate early to get dice. Basically, the initiation should be a full conflict, but somewhat accelerated (i.e. less "strategic" or calculating than an important in-game conflict). You don't want a lot of thought and manipulation--bid big or go home.
As for towns that "play fast" just dial down all your mystery meters: put the core situation right in front of the players, as soon as possible, and feel free to provide full disclosure, even if it's info the Dog's technically "wouldn't know yet."
And, in general, try to set up a scene for each and every player as early as possible. For newer players in particular, you have to really get them involved fast, or passive play can crop up.
Also... have you given thought to doing a non-vanilla game, like Banthas in the Vineyard (Star Wars variant)? I know that it took me a bit of work to get into the whole Mormon thing... but a Jedi, now.... I can do Jedi. :) Perhaps a less religiously oriented variant would help your players engage the town faster and cut to the quick when necessary (i.e. rather than perhaps being hamstrung by a sense of piety or restraint)?
Good luck and have fun!
QuoteReducing the number of players is probably a good thing--more spotlight time for everyone--but using pregens is a bad idea, in my mind. The way a player makes his or her character is your Big Red Honking Flag as to what sorts of conflicts will interest him or her. Give them a pregen, and their investment is lost, I'd bet (I know I don't much give a fig about pregen characters--I tend to get them killed in spectacular ways).
Not necessarily. If the pregens are designed to be generic one size fits all pregens then you're absolutely right. But if the pregens are catchy and tied directly into the existing situation in grabby ways, then they can be pretty powerful.
At Dreamation I played in a space opera variant of WGP with Michael Miller and the pregens were beyond kewl (I'm given to understand largely designed by Kat). Lets see we had:
The King who'd been assassinated but not really, who had now assumed the identity of the bounty hunter who failed to kill him
The Queen who'd been assassinated but not really, whose mental faculties had been downloaded into the planetwide computer network
The Prince who'd fled into exile and was now leading the planetary resistance against the occuping oppressors
The Princess who'd had a mind control device implanted in her cybernetting arm and was now ruling the planet as puppet of the oppressors
And a Duke from an important galactic family who's well placed mother had arranged a marriage for him with the Princess.
All wound up and ready to go.
Point being, that if you're going to go with pregens: 1) don't make them generic, and 2) don't make them compelling but not linked into the situation. If you can make them compelling and tie them into the situation with an agenda then you can have success with pregens even in Dogs)
For a Dogs pregen you need to design them after the town, and you need to make sure that they all find at least some of the town's issues aimed right at them.
For instance if the town includes a boy who desperately wants to be a Dog but his father forbids, try including a Dog who had no desire to be a Dog but whose father forced him. If the town includes a female character being oppressed (more than usual for the setting), try including a female Dog who became a Dog to escape such oppression. Or even better, try something less literal...like a Dog who came from a woman abusing background himself but whose initial trial was "I hope I learn to respect women". Throw a couple of easy blood relatives into the mix (without overdoing it...one is usually enough, two at most) and you can have characters that are every bit as grabby as those designed by players.
The next key is in the presentation. Its entirely insufficient to write up character sheets and pass them around. Nope...not going to get anyone fired up. Minimum you need a 15-20 second "elevator" pitch on who the character is...not stats and such, of course, but "why you should be excited to play this character" type stuff. Practice it enough so that when you deliver it at the table you aren't just reading it, but really selling it. Finding some character concepts on the internet to visually match the character and include those with the character sheet can add to the impact.
So there is a way to do pregens...but it takes a bit of work to do them right,
I have done chargen for Dogs and a town in around three hours and it wasn't a strain.
This is keeping in mind that I haul ass when I play Dogs, drop the mystery in the players' lap right away and then start throwing rocks and shooting.
And I'll take one or two existing towns, look at the characters that were made and choose the town to fit the characters, tweaking it here and there to fit even better.
Thanks a lot for the advice everyone! I have no idea how anyone could run chargen, initiations, and a town in 3 hours, but apparently it's happened more than once, so perhaps 4 hours won't be so bad. (I am curious, for those who have done so, whether your players were new to the game or not?) I definitely agree that generic pregens are out, and my thought is that if I do pregens I will probably leave some trait dice unassigned even so. It doesn't seem troublesome at all to let players assign trait dice during the game, much as they do relationship dice. The advice on questions to move players through chargen looks particularly helpful. I'm definitely going to write up a cheat sheet for the setting, maybe some of the 'theology' from the book -- I feel like it's easy for discussion of setting to balloon out of control, time-wise, as players get hung-up on fiddly details about sin and the like.
If I do decide to run chargen, I plan on taking a player's advice and skipping past the 'background' stage, so I can write the unassigned dice on the sheets. I feel like the whole strong/complicated history/community step is the most likely to trip up new players, since at that point they don't even know how the game works.
Perhaps it is just my initiation-fu which is slow, though there weren't any obvious slowdowns that I was aware of while I was running them. I'm definitely going to have to bring a watch, that's for sure. Does anyone know if there are any audio recordings up anywhere of people running Dogs, at a con or otherwise?
Quote from: Ice Cream Emperor on February 14, 2007, 05:10:38 AMI'm definitely going to write up a cheat sheet for the setting, maybe some of the 'theology' from the book -- I feel like it's easy for discussion of setting to balloon out of control, time-wise, as players get hung-up on fiddly details about sin and the like.
This (http://wmerrifield.googlepages.com/DogsOneSheet.pdf) is a PDF I created (basically cutting & pasting bits of the rulebook together) as my one-sheet handout of the setting, if that helps.
I'd never use Pregen characters for Dogs, although I'm nowhere as fast as Judd (3 hours, wow!). The best part of Dogs is how your
PC renders judgement, not how the GM's Dog would do it. By making the PCs himself, the GM risks the players looking to him for whether they're playing them right, when they should be looking inside themselves. Even when we fall short of completing the town we get far enough into things that players can see what Dogs is offering and get excited about it.
Stuff to help speed things along: Martin Higham did a wonderful one-page summary of character generation (http://www.flick.com/~cdr/rpg/dogs/ditv-chargen.pdf) and I give every player a copy of that and a character sheet (on antique paperstock, cheap but visually appealing), and make sure I have extra pencils for everyone. I provide all the dice, separated out in 4 nesting plastic bowls so that people don't have to fish around, index cards that people can fold over and write their Dogs' name on so everyone can remember who everyone is (and don't forget the Brother or Sister), and always
a copy of Jason Morningstar's Names of the Faithful
(http://www.meekmok.com/sassy/dogs/tools.html). His Wisdom from the Book of Life
is handy but optional. Lastly, I have my town notes (with names in ALL CAPS) and a sheet of proto-NPCs pre-rolled but not assigned with this very helpful reminder at the top in case I get stuck for traits:
Quote from: Doug Ruff on January 13, 2006, 08:47:27 AM
What function does this person serve in the community?
Who does this person actively like or dislike? Why?
Is there anything about this person that other people remark on?
What do they want from the Dogs?
When the players get to Relationships, I help them link each Dog to at least one of the people that'll be in the town I'm using. They're gonna find out who everyone is in the opening minutes anyway, so no harm in looking ahead a bit. The topic of scorched earth Dogs
probably deserves its own thread so I won't talk about that here.
Don't pull your punches on Accomplishments, the Dog can't die but you can sure leave a mark. It can be very effective to use one of the other PCs (with the player's permission) rather than a generic fellow student. One uppity Dog trainee hoped he'd learned humility, and I raised with "A fellow student gets fed up with your airs and lassos your leg and drags you through a cactus patch" and one of the other players said "Oh! Could that be my
Dog?" and both players' eyes lit up. That was fun, and led to more fun in play. But only
if it's OK with both players, and never in a deprotagonizing way.
Once you get to town, spill everything as fast as you can (this is where Judd still beats me cold) and get to the juicy judgement stage. Say Yes or roll dice, escalate, and if a conflict is dragging remember it ain't a sin to Give. I also like to write out the names of the folks they meet in a relationship map, and I should start adding to my prep materials a sheet with the names already on there, so all I have to add in play is lines to the Dogs and links as they're discovered.
I like to have several towns handy in case the Dogs' issues fit one town better than another, but by default my favorite for demos remains Tower Creek (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18826.0) from the book. (Hey, it's the one year anniversary of that post!)
I'm also very fond of Judd's New Gidea (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=2847507#post2847507) as a first town.