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Author Topic: Inquisitors in the Vineyard  (Read 11849 times)
clehrich
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« on: September 19, 2004, 09:12:39 PM »

As I mentioned somewhere else around here, I'm starting to collate some notes for a 16th-century Inquisitors supplement.  But already I'm running into some trouble, and I wonder if you folks have suggestions.

First, a few points about how this would work.

First of all, clearly it's important to bend history a bit, because in fact it would be fairly odd for a little team of Inquisitors to bop around like the Dogs do.  You could make one character the Inquisitor and the rest his assistants, including armed knights and clerks and whatnot, but this would really be a drastically different game because only one character would be in the Dog situation.  So I figure it's OK to have three or four Inquisitors doing all their own dirty work.  I have no problem bending history, but I want to do it when it's actually helpful and not out of laziness.

Second, Inquisitors are specifically tasked with rooting out heresy, which came to include witchcraft although that wasn't really their job.  Fine, I won't worry about the distinction.  They always get called in; they don't just show up.  This does have the advantage that when they get somewhere, you know there's a big problem.  It has the disadvantage that it's a little more complicated how ordinary folks' problems get tied into heresy.  But that's not really all that difficult, because in fact most folks didn't really know much about their faith and they weren't all that interested in fine theological distinctions, so they put everything in their lives into different baskets than the Inquisitors do.

Third, there is this nifty complication that Inquistors aren't actually supposed to punish people physically.  They can use torture, if they have to, but that's not considered punishment, oddly enough; it's only used to extract confessions from the recalcitrant.  The people who apply physical punishments are usually the local lay court, which means that every time the Inquisitors show up it's a political situation, sort of like all that stuff about Stewards in regular Dogs.  Sometimes also the higher lay courts would call in Inquisitors to oversee stuff involving the aristocracy, but they would only have advisory power unless it turned out the aristocrats were also heretics or something (like Gilles de Rais).

Now we get to the tricky stuff.

First of all: Heresy, witchcraft, apostasy, rescidivism, mortal sin, venial sin, faith and works, penance, and sacraments.

If you're going to make Inquisitors work reasonably, they really do have to have a working knowledge of these things, and it's really really not simple.  For example, a heretic must fit the following five conditions:[list=1][*]Error in reason -- he must believe something that is contrary to the faith;
[*]Gravity of error -- what he believes that is erroneous must be something that isn't debatable, i.e. something from the Creed, for example believing that Jesus was 100% God and not human at all
[*]Profession of the faith -- he has to claim to be a true Christian, and has to have been baptized, or else he's just an infidel
[*]Retention of truth -- he has to believe at least some of the true doctrines of the faith, or else he's an apostate
[*]Obstinacy -- he has to maintain his error even after the Inquisitors instruct him in where he's wrong and why, and explain what he ought to believe and profess[/list:o]And that's just for heresy!

So my first big problem is trying to do this in a sophisticated way without writing a treatise on theology.

My next problem: People don't like Inquisitors.  They are probably impressed by the majesty of the Law, but nobody really wants an Inquisitor around.  They have the authority to ask all these awful questions, and everyone thinks these guys are out to punish everyone, which they aren't.  This really changes the way the game runs, and I'm not sure how to handle it.

My third problem: I suspect that most readers are going to assume that the Inquisition was a basically bad thing, run by dogmatic bastards who liked to persecute people.  This isn't particularly true, of course, but there are a lot more preconceptions about them than about the early LDS communities in the West.  I don't want to spend a lot of time defending them, because it gets in the way, but I worry about this.

My fourth problem: Inquisitors were supposed to be bound by very strict rules of procedure and evidence.  They sometimes broke them, particularly in witch trials and particularly in Germany, but on the whole their justice system was a lot more fair and decent than the ordinary lay courts of Europe at the time.  This means that unlike the Dogs, who can sort of tool around and hand out rough-and-ready justice, things get handled in this very structured way.

That has basically three parts.  First, you investigate and find out what the hell is really going on, and you decide if there is a need for a trial, and you decide pretty much who's guilty.  At the least, you have to be sure about one or two people, and you start from there.

Second, you hold the actual trial, in which you cross-examine the accused and try to get them to confess.  See, you already know they're guilty, or are damn sure of it, so the idea is to catch them out and get them to admit their guilt.  What you hope is that they will admit their guilt fairly readily, and then you can impose some penance and get everybody in right with the Church.  And as soon as you have at least a partial confession, you try to find out who else is in on the heresy, and that leads to more trials, and so on.

Third, you impose ecclesiastical punishments on those who aren't very bad sinners, and you ask the lay court to hand out stiffer punishments for the heavy sinners, and then you call for the lay court to execute anyone who's beyond the pale.

Then you go on to the next place.

This seems to me like it's going to run really differently from DItV, and I'm not sure what the differences are likely to be, nor what would be useful to change about Inquisitorial procedure to make the game more fun.

My fifth problem: Inquisitors don't generally get into swordfights.  If some poor slob takes a big swing at an Inquisitor, he's not likely to live very long, because unless the Inquisitor pleads on his behalf, the guy is going to be accused of lese-majeste against God, which is basically like treason but worse, and he's toast.  So I'm really not sure what's going to happen in actual play, I mean not even slightly.  All the escalation of blows and such get pretty abstract.

My sixth problem: Inquisitors were usually pretty skeptical about things like actual demonic involvement in stuff, and anyway that sort of thing was usually handled by professional exorcists, who are another bunch of people entirely -- and the Inquisitors didn't usually get along with those guys at all well.  My inclination is to collapse the jobs and say that Inquisitors are the primary exorcists, because this gets the whole nice escalation from Pride to Mortal Sin to Heresy to Witchcraft to Demonic Assault going, and lets the characters be right in the thick of things.  But it has to be borne in mind that Inquisitors don't enter the picture until you're already at Stage 3 anyway.

My last problem: The Dominicans, who were the most important faction of the Inquisitors (the rest were Franciscans, and they slowly faded out over time), were often called the Domini Canes, or Hounds of God, because of this job.  This leads naturally to some kind of title like Hounds in the Vineyard, but I don't know what vineyards have to do with it particularly in this case.  I feel like there's some really cool title in the offing here, but I can't put my finger on it.

---

In any case, that's what I'm struggling with.  Any suggestions?
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Chris Lehrich
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2004, 09:27:47 PM »

Hounds of God is a good title.

So is Domine Canis: The Hounds of God.

Other than that, I would change the set-up so that it isn't quite Europe, and isn't quite the Catholics, and thus be able to change things about a bit.  One thing to do would be to make secular and eclesiastical authority even more at odds with each other, so the Hounds really are the law branch of the church, and the town guard might look the other way if someone takes a swing at them -- heck, nobles might try to execute them.

yrs--
--Ben
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2004, 09:28:12 PM »

I love historical games. I love learning about and then altering events of the past. My players don't.

Furthermore, Vincent has gone out of his way to abstract the Faith from Mormonism that it can be molded in the hands of the player-group.

This was OK for me when the native Americans became Mountain People, and became better when the Mountain People left the game world altogether. Now they're a phenomenon of our local gaming group, to be dealt with however we see fit within the story. So far, we've really balked at their being inherently evil.

In this case, you have the Inquisition in the position of the Dogs: mighty, all-wise, and the active arm of God. Historically, in the place of the Mountain People are the Jews.

Mind where you step. Dogs is ahistorical for a very good reason: the real history is horror upon horror. The Mormons weren't really that bad, as these things go; the Inquisition was. Where the Mormons killed people who invaded their territory (spiritual or physical), the Inquisition used its vast resources to literally torture a religion to death.

I don't have a problem with using a 16th c.-like environment, complete with a Church and its Knights of the Crouching Dog or what-have-you. But the Inquisition is one of the cruelest pieces of European history and you should be careful not to cast it in too positive a light, lest you alienate - or worse, anger - your audience.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2004, 04:46:27 AM »

Quote from: nikola
In this case, you have the Inquisition in the position of the Dogs: mighty, all-wise, and the active arm of God. Historically, in the place of the Mountain People are the Jews.
Actually, I was really thinking of staying VERY far away from the peculiarly Spanish persecution of the Jews.  Horrible, horrible stuff, and pretty well indefensible.  Also it would make for boring play, I suspect, since there isn't any "problem" to deal with other than that there are Jews.  Ugh.
Quote
I don't have a problem with using a 16th c.-like environment, complete with a Church and its Knights of the Crouching Dog or what-have-you. But the Inquisition is one of the cruelest pieces of European history and you should be careful not to cast it in too positive a light, lest you alienate - or worse, anger - your audience.
See, I want to make a distinction.  As I say, the Spanish Inquisition's campaign against the Jews is pretty much indefensible.  But outside of that, the odd thing is that the Inquisition really wasn't all bad by any means.

Take witch trials.  Most of the trials that ended in execution weren't run by the Inquisition.  Probably most weren't in Catholic areas either, but the ones that were mostly happened under secular authority.  That's one of the really ugly things about the Malleus Maleficarum, the great witch-hunting manual of the late 15th century, written by two German Inquisitors: it argues that the Inquisition shouldn't have the task of dealing with witches, because the Inquisition's standards of evidence are too high.  How vicious is that?  Urgh.  There's excellent evidence to suggest that witch-hunting got crazy and vicious in direct proportion as the courts set aside the Inquisitorial rules of procedure and evidence.  When you look at witch hunting in Spain and Italy, where the Inquisition was centralized and there weren't a lot of Protestants, you see that very, very few witches were executed and a lot of the accused were aquitted -- and a surprising number of accusers were punished for bearing false witness!  Meanwhile in Germany, the Inquisitors started setting aside formal procedure, and their counterparts in Protestant areas could make up the procedure as they went along, and the trials just went wild.

Basically what I want is a game where the Inquisitors are a lot like they were in the late 15th and 16th centuries in Italy, or in Spain if we're not talking about the Jews.  They genuinely want to do right, and they have this awful (in both senses) authority, and their burden is almost unbearable.

One example I love is the one Carlo Ginzburg talks about in his wonderful book The Cheese and the Worms.  You have this miller, Menocchio, who's semi-literate and middle-class and who has these wacky ideas about angels and Christ and so forth.  Definitely heresy.  The Inquisitors argue with him, and they can't convince him, so they punish him with a few months of confinement (to think about his sins) and tell him to stop spouting his ideas at everyone who has to come to his mill to get their grain ground.  Then they let him go home early because he's not young and besides his family depends on him.  So Menocchio keeps quiet for a few months, but then he's right back at it.  So a few years later, they do it all over again, and they're pretty tough with him, and they finally decide to make him wear a special apron that essentially says, "Do not listen to this man's wacky ideas."  And then a few years later, the neighbors are complaining that he's preaching heresy again and they want him stopped.  Finally, something like 15 years after this all begins, the Inquisitors are pretty much begging him to keep quiet, because otherwise they're stuck with having to execute him and they don't want to.  In the end, they execute him (as I recall it -- it's been a while), but it's pretty reluctant.

Now this isn't a nice story, but it does indicate that the Inquisitors really weren't the red-toothed monsters they're often painted as (setting aside, once again, the Spanish persecution of the Jews).  They see that Menocchio is really starved for intellectual companionship, and they want to argue with him and convince him to embrace the truth, but he's so damn stubborn that they end up having to punish him.  You get similar things with the benandanti of Friuli, which Ginzburg talks about in his book The Night Battles.

Anyway my point is that the Inquisitors should be interesting to play precisely because they're a lot like the Dogs.

---
Ben --

I totally agree that some historical stuff has to change, and I have no problem with that.  Making the Inquisitors that unpopular, though... wouldn't that make them less likely to be slow and careful and fair, because they've got to move fast?  I don't know, but I'm interested to hear why you think this might work better -- I don't quite see it.  This is what I'm seeing in Italy and Spain with witch-hunting: the more the Inquisitors aren't under a lot of threat from lay authority and the Church isn't under a lot of direct threat from zillions of Protestants, the more the Inquisitors stick by the rules and keep aquitting people or just arguing with them.

There's this great example from Spain, around 1600, where there's one of these "outbreak" cases: hundred of accused, supposedly thousands of witches in a cult, and all that.  Finally the serious Inquisitors are brought in from Italy, and the main guy -- Alonso de Salazar Frias -- concludes that there is no evidence that there are any witches, and that the judges have thrown out all the rules, and that the judges and the accusers ought to be punished pretty severely (not death, but a lot of money) and the accused paid for their troubles.  de Salazar Frias' argument is really that without decent procedure and rules of evidence, you can make anyone seem guilty of anything.  And the cool thing is that because he's a heavy-duty Inquisitor called in from HQ, they have to obey him.  Actually the Spanish King loves this, because he hates a lot of unrest (who wouldn't?), and so this is pretty much the last witch trial in Spain.

Anyway, it seems like historically, the Inquisitors were a problem the more they and their Church were under threat, so I'm not sure pitting them against lay authority is going anywhere good.

Now that I come to think of it, though, I suppose you could put them in de Salazar Frias' situation: the lay authorities call them in when they already claim to know who's guilty and they just want the Inquisitors to ratify that and have some nice burnings.  The Inquisitors' job is to sort out the truth, and that pits them against local interests.  Hmmmm....
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Chris Lehrich
beingfrank
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2004, 04:59:21 AM »

Reading over this thread, my brain is going 'Cathars! Cathars!' at me, because that might be a way to address some of the problems.  If you take some of the history from the Inquisition in Languedoc, where the Cathars were an established, community-based heresy that was helped to spread in part by problems within the Church itself, then that might make tying in the problems of the ordinary folk much easier.

But I admit I don't know a huge amount about the subject.  The whole idea is very cool, though.
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lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2004, 05:42:01 AM »

As far as game design goes, Chris, what you'll want to do is establish a sequence for social breakdown. The Pride->Sin->Heresy->Sorcery thing in Dogs isn't theology, it's civics.

My strong recommendation would be that you find two or three people a) who want to play an rpg with you and b) whom you trust ab so lutely to work with your 16th Century vision. Play Dogs with them, specifying only that you're playing Inquisitors in the 16th Century instead. You can rewrite the Elements of Ceremony and the specific cases of what's Pride, what's Sin, etc., but leave all the framework in place. Then when you GM, strictly follow the book's advice about establishing setting, establishing the supernatural, establishing the specifics of the Faith, the Faithful, and their day-to-day religion. Do a whole lot of saying yes or rolling dice; don't impose any specific piece of your particular vision on your players.

Having done that, you'll be in a good position to see just what you'll want to change.

-Vincent
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MajorKiz
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2004, 09:59:11 AM »

You could also keep the Demons from DitV... after all, if witches really DO have power and heretics really can work miracles (but only for evil causes), then the Inquisition's task becomes much harder and much, much more important.

The obvious example of this, to me, would be the like-named Inquisitors from the Warhammer 40K universe... when demonic forces that would like to obliterate or enslave humanity really ARE working to do so constantly, teams of Inquisitors are constantly rushing to and fro, rooting out evil and trying to stop it from getting out of hand. Of course, they often end up killing a load of innocents along with the guilty, but it's a very dark and nasty setting where letting one demon-worshipper live could eventually end up dooming the entire planet, so there is some justification for their actions.

One thing that I don't really see coming up in Dogs which might come up here is the possibility of arriving too late and ending up in a town where almost everyone is already a heretic and your real worry (assuming that they can't fool you by pretending to be regular worshippers) should be getting out alive and bringing in reinforcements, not cleaning up the town yourselves.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2004, 10:47:10 AM »

A completely heretical town can totally happen in Dogs. I'm workin' on one such town right now.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2004, 11:06:11 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
Ben --

I totally agree that some historical stuff has to change, and I have no problem with that.  Making the Inquisitors that unpopular, though... wouldn't that make them less likely to be slow and careful and fair, because they've got to move fast?  I don't know, but I'm interested to hear why you think this might work better -- I don't quite see it.  This is what I'm seeing in Italy and Spain with witch-hunting: the more the Inquisitors aren't under a lot of threat from lay authority and the Church isn't under a lot of direct threat from zillions of Protestants, the more the Inquisitors stick by the rules and keep aquitting people or just arguing with them.


BL>  What I was thinking was that tension with the secular authorities would do the following things:

1) Introduce an incentive to work fast and move on.
2) Make it possible that someone might physically assault them.
3) Bring them into conflict with the secular authorities.

And, generally, I think that that's more interesting.

Quote

There's this great example from Spain, around 1600, where there's one of these "outbreak" cases: hundred of accused, supposedly thousands of witches in a cult, and all that.  Finally the serious Inquisitors are brought in from Italy, and the main guy -- Alonso de Salazar Frias -- concludes that there is no evidence that there are any witches, and that the judges have thrown out all the rules, and that the judges and the accusers ought to be punished pretty severely (not death, but a lot of money) and the accused paid for their troubles.  de Salazar Frias' argument is really that without decent procedure and rules of evidence, you can make anyone seem guilty of anything.  And the cool thing is that because he's a heavy-duty Inquisitor called in from HQ, they have to obey him.  Actually the Spanish King loves this, because he hates a lot of unrest (who wouldn't?), and so this is pretty much the last witch trial in Spain.

Anyway, it seems like historically, the Inquisitors were a problem the more they and their Church were under threat, so I'm not sure pitting them against lay authority is going anywhere good.


BL>  Do you want your PCs to be non-problematic?  Really?

I would, personally, do what Vincent suggest.  Play the game you want to play.  Then figure out what the rules are.

yrs--
--Ben
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clehrich
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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2004, 11:33:07 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Quote
Anyway, it seems like historically, the Inquisitors were a problem the more they and their Church were under threat, so I'm not sure pitting them against lay authority is going anywhere good.

BL>  Do you want your PCs to be non-problematic?  Really?
No no, I'm talking "problem" in the sense nikola was discussing: as in, "screw the rules, we can do what we want, let's persecute some people."  What I want is complicated moral problems, not a lot of red-toothed monsters for PCs.
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Chris Lehrich
James Maliszewski
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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2004, 12:36:49 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Hounds of God is a good title.

So is Domine Canis: The Hounds of God.


Allow me to play the pedant and say that the correct form is Domini Canes, but, in any event, Hounds of the Lord is a good title.
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James Maliszewski,
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James Maliszewski
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« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2004, 12:54:15 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
So my first big problem is trying to do this in a sophisticated way without writing a treatise on theology.


It's a question I've struggled with for a while. My gut reaction is to ask you if you've decided the extent to which you'll stick to real world history and religion. If you're going to veer off from it, for example, you have more freedom to pare down tricky concepts and esoteric minutiae to more manageable forms. That's clearly the approach Dogs in the Vineyard takes

On the other hand, if you're doing a more straight historical game (with twists), you need to decide what themes and dramatic elements are most important to you and the kinds of stories you want to tell. Once you know that, don't sweat the complexity. Most players can and will handle them if they're important to the game.

Quote
My next problem: People don't like Inquisitors.  They are probably impressed by the majesty of the Law, but nobody really wants an Inquisitor around.  They have the authority to ask all these awful questions, and everyone thinks these guys are out to punish everyone, which they aren't.  This really changes the way the game runs, and I'm not sure how to handle it.


There are lots of ways to handle this and almost all of them have to do with presentation. If it's clear within the context of the game world as you describe it that inquisitors are on the side of right and goodness, even if they must sometimes do awful things, I don't think many players would bat an eye.

Quote
My third problem: I suspect that most readers are going to assume that the Inquisition was a basically bad thing, run by dogmatic bastards who liked to persecute people.  This isn't particularly true, of course, but there are a lot more preconceptions about them than about the early LDS communities in the West.  I don't want to spend a lot of time defending them, because it gets in the way, but I worry about this.


This sounds like a good argument in favor of "de-historicizing" the inquisition a bit and making it your own setting that draws on real world history rather than being a straight historical piece. On the other hand, you can work with these assumption and play against them. That can be a fun thing and quite dramatically interesting. If you know the players will expect the worst about the inquisitors, let them. Let them buy into the Enlightenment myth about them. Then, when they play, you can show them how wrong (or at least how exaggerated) that myth is. Turning the tables on one's players is sometimes very effective.

Quote
My fourth problem: Inquisitors were supposed to be bound by very strict rules of procedure and evidence.  They sometimes broke them, particularly in witch trials and particularly in Germany, but on the whole their justice system was a lot more fair and decent than the ordinary lay courts of Europe at the time.  This means that unlike the Dogs, who can sort of tool around and hand out rough-and-ready justice, things get handled in this very structured way.


I'm not sure why this is a problem. Having structures like this is good, particularly if the players are otherwise be unfamiliar with the setting. They provide "boundaries" for their actions and help them to get into the spirit of things. Plus, they're ready-made plot devices and complications you can use to good effect.

Quote
My fifth problem: Inquisitors don't generally get into swordfights.  If some poor slob takes a big swing at an Inquisitor, he's not likely to live very long, because unless the Inquisitor pleads on his behalf, the guy is going to be accused of lese-majeste against God, which is basically like treason but worse, and he's toast.  So I'm really not sure what's going to happen in actual play, I mean not even slightly.  All the escalation of blows and such get pretty abstract.


I suspect any game dealing with the inquisition isn't going to be heavy on combat. That's just the nature of the game. I wouldn't worry too much about this.

Quote
My sixth problem: Inquisitors were usually pretty skeptical about things like actual demonic involvement in stuff, and anyway that sort of thing was usually handled by professional exorcists, who are another bunch of people entirely -- and the Inquisitors didn't usually get along with those guys at all well.  My inclination is to collapse the jobs and say that Inquisitors are the primary exorcists, because this gets the whole nice escalation from Pride to Mortal Sin to Heresy to Witchcraft to Demonic Assault going, and lets the characters be right in the thick of things.  But it has to be borne in mind that Inquisitors don't enter the picture until you're already at Stage 3 anyway.


Sounds to me like you need to decide for yourself whether the game is intended to be primarily an inquisition game or an exorcism game. What's the focus? Of course, in a Europe-but-not setting, you can do what you want, which is great.

Quote
My last problem: The Dominicans, who were the most important faction of the Inquisitors (the rest were Franciscans, and they slowly faded out over time), were often called the Domini Canes, or Hounds of God, because of this job.  This leads naturally to some kind of title like Hounds in the Vineyard, but I don't know what vineyards have to do with it particularly in this case.  I feel like there's some really cool title in the offing here, but I can't put my finger on it.


I'll give this some thought.[/i]
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James Maliszewski,
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clehrich
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« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2004, 01:32:05 PM »

James,

Sounds like we're on the same page.  Let me walk through your responses with my own, and we'll see what happens.
Quote from: James Maliszewski
It's a question I've struggled with for a while. My gut reaction is to ask you if you've decided the extent to which you'll stick to real world history and religion. If you're going to veer off from it, for example, you have more freedom to pare down tricky concepts and esoteric minutiae to more manageable forms. That's clearly the approach Dogs in the Vineyard takes.
Well, basically I'd rather stick as close as possible to real history, because real history is always more complicated and interesting, but I don't want to go overboard.  There comes a point at which 15 pages of technical distinctions about the nature of malice in determining the vincibility of ignorance gets a little tedious -- not to me, actually, but to most readers.
Quote
On the other hand, if you're doing a more straight historical game (with twists), you need to decide what themes and dramatic elements are most important to you and the kinds of stories you want to tell.
Yup, bingo.  Same point Ben and Vincent made.  But the problem is that I'm not sure of the answers and was hoping for suggestions.  I guess one big question is whether the game is focused on big complicated towns and cities or on small backwaters.  I'm currently thinking small backwaters are more interesting, where "outbreaks" are actually pretty rare and the usual problem is that somebody is being annoying.  Suddenly someone thinks, "Hey, I bet we can get the Church to roast him, that'll solve the problem," and bing-bang the Inquisition is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, with everyone pushing and shoving to get in their digs.  Hmm, as I write that, it sounds pretty cool.

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[On ordinary people disliking inquisitors]: There are lots of ways to handle this and almost all of them have to do with presentation. If it's clear within the context of the game world as you describe it that inquisitors are on the side of right and goodness, even if they must sometimes do awful things, I don't think many players would bat an eye.
Actually, you're answering my third question.  This one was meant to be about the people in the game world.  See, as I read it, the Dogs make some people a bit skittish, but mostly they're seen as good thing and they're pretty welcome.  Nobody really welcomes Inquisitors.  See, you don't call in the Inquisition unless you think there is witchcraft or heresy going on, and that means you expect there's going to be some burnings.  You don't want them around unless you're very sure you're going to come out well.  And because an Inquisitorial tribunal is no fun for a community, and it means everyone airs their grudges and tries to get their neighbors killed, nobody looks back on it and thinks, "Gosh, I like the Inquisition."  That makes for a rather darker game, I think.
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This [that nobody NOW likes Inquisitors] sounds like a good argument in favor of "de-historicizing" the inquisition a bit and making it your own setting that draws on real world history rather than being a straight historical piece. On the other hand, you can work with these assumption and play against them. That can be a fun thing and quite dramatically interesting. If you know the players will expect the worst about the inquisitors, let them. Let them buy into the Enlightenment myth about them. Then, when they play, you can show them how wrong (or at least how exaggerated) that myth is. Turning the tables on one's players is sometimes very effective.
Yep, that was sort of what I was thinking -- recognize that players may want to buy this myth, and just let play develop so that they discover otherwise.  Besides, it occurs to me that if a player really hates the Inquisition with a blind passion, he's not going to play this anyway.

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[Inquisitors were supposed to be bound by very strict rules of procedure and evidence.]  I'm not sure why this is a problem. Having structures like this is good, particularly if the players are otherwise be unfamiliar with the setting. They provide "boundaries" for their actions and help them to get into the spirit of things. Plus, they're ready-made plot devices and complications you can use to good effect.
Well, plot-wise it can be cool, but it makes for a rather abstract game.  A lot of what happens is going to be sitting in tribunal arguing with people.  There's a less visceral effect, because guns and stuff really don't come into it.  Does that make sense?

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[swordfights]  I suspect any game dealing with the inquisition isn't going to be heavy on combat. That's just the nature of the game. I wouldn't worry too much about this.
'Kay.  I just thought Dogs is a pretty brutal game, the way Vincent and you guys talk about it, and if that's a big part of the fun I don't want to discard it from the outset.

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[demonic possession]  Sounds to me like you need to decide for yourself whether the game is intended to be primarily an inquisition game or an exorcism game. What's the focus? Of course, in a Europe-but-not setting, you can do what you want, which is great.
Yah, well, I'm more into an Inquisition game than an exorcism game, frankly.  But I have a thought about this, which I'll get back to in a sec.

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Hounds in the Vineyard, etc.
Yeah, I think Hounds of God or Hounds of the Lord is probably the way to go.  You could even call it Domini Canes: The Hounds of God.  Doesn't that just send chills?

Next post I'm going to state where I'm standing now and see what people say.  Yes, this is brainstorming, but it's really bouncing stuff off you folks who are into Dogs.
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2004, 02:04:53 PM »

Okay, hereís where I stand at the moment.

Note that this is not written in the appropriate voice.

Domini Canes: The Hounds of God

You are an Inquisitor in early 16th century Italy.  Your job is to deal with the kinds of heavy ecclesiastical crimes that local courts just arenít competent to handleóand in fact that they arenít allowed to handle.  Heresy, recidivism, sometimes apostasy, witchcraft.  Thatís about the lot.  Sometimes you get called in to deal with big stuff if it involves nobles and clergy as well as peasants, although technically that isnít your job.

Your little roving band of Inquisitorial troubleshooters are detailed by Rome to deal with things before they get messy.  Youíre also supposed to be keeping a sharp eye out for Protestants: there arenít a lot of them in Italy, thank God, but theyíre a menace.  When you go somewhere, youíve been called by the local courts, abbeys, or nobles; occasionally itís just enough wild rumors flying around that itís clear the locals are trying to cover up a seething cauldron of discontent.

Okay, so when you arrive somewhere, itís usually the backwaters.  In big places like Florence or Milan, there are sophisticated, competent courts already, and they donít like to be overreached by the Inquisition.  Besides, in theory you can only work at the pleasure of the local Bishop, and heís usually based in a city or big town, and he doesnít want you treading on his toes.  So you go to backwaters, little towns of a few hundred or so.

In these kinds of places, the local priest (unless thereís maybe an abbey or something around) is usually not what youíd call educated.  The locals probably speak some weird dialect you have to struggle with, and they sure donít know any Latin except maybe a few prayers they can recite phonetically and sort of understand.  The nobility are pretty much a law unto themselves, but they generally respect your authority and try to stay out of the way.  The peasants are probably flat-out terrified, because theyíve heard wild things about Inquisitors running around burning whole towns for not believing stuff nobody even understands.

Now the trick is that you have no idea why youíre here.  Not really.  Probably the local priest is going to tell you wild stories about crazy heretics running around, but he wouldnít know a heretic if one bit him on the ass.  Chances are heís a borderline heretic his own self, but ignorant so not completely guilty, which is nothing to worry about so long as he isnít actually preaching anything really dangerous.  Okay, so why did he call you in?  He knows heís an ignorant yokel, and that if you question him hard heís going to fry.  So why does he want the Inquisition?  I mean, really why, not what he says.

See, thereís a power struggle here, just because youíre around.  Whoís in on it?  What do they stand to gain?  Why are they willing to risk so much?  What do they hope to achieve?  Maybe a nobleman leaned on the priest, who can hardly resist, because he wants some land that a merchant owns or something.  Maybe everybody knows that Donna Anna in the village is a prostitute, but now sheís screwing the priest, and whatís going to happen to all the church plate when the theoretically impoverished priest has to pay her for her services?

Maybe, if youíre very unlucky, there really are a bunch of heretics trying to convert the populace.  The problem is that the locals probably donít even know it, because they donít really know what theyíre supposed to believe in the first place.  If they know what the Lutheran heresy is about, how do they know it?  Who taught them?

If youíre lucky, whatís happening is that somebody is doing something weird and getting folks scared and theyíve gone screaming to the priest.  He doesnít know what to do, so he asks you.  You just have to find the guy and get it sorted out, one way or another.

And youíd better hurry up, because heresy spreads like wildfire.

If youíre very, very unlucky, it isnít heresy Ė which is bad enough Ė but serious witchcraft.  You know, cults of satanic women dancing nude and having anal sex with demons and killing babies.  Thatís baaad stuff.  If you really find that, youíd better call in some troops, because these people are scary.  More likely, accusations of witchcraft are all a bunch of confusions, because not that many people are supposed to know what witchcraft really is in the first place Ė that just tempts them into sin, particularly women who are weak anyway.

Okay, so step one, you investigate by asking a lot of questions and having dinner with nobles and priests and merchants and interrogating some peasants.  Eventually, you figure out what the problem is, but youíd better work quickly.  Get a starting-point and get cracking.

Now you call a tribunal and interrogate some folks.  Make sure everyone knows youíre not fooling around, just in case they were wondering.  If people are bearing false witness, make some examples: charge Ďem huge fees and lock Ďem up, then let them go home in terror as soon as theyíve learned their lesson, so they see how merciful you can be.  Keep your eye on the evidence, the witnesses, and all that local politicking thatís really probably behind the mess.

But do not get so wrapped up in things that you miss real heresy or witchcraft.  Your job is first and foremost to stamp that out, and if you miss it, you have no excuse.  None.  God will not be pleased.

If you run across demonic possession, you can do some exorcism, which youíre pretty good at, but thatís not really your primary task.  Get it over with and find out how it happened.  Find out who caused it Ė thatís your job.

In the end, most situations come down to all sorts of hideously complicated local struggles for power and old grudges and ignorance and poverty and class-war.  The usual.  Just because you donít find heresy doesnít mean you pack up and leave, though.  As long as you have an official position to deal with it, deal with it.  Leave the town quieter than when you came.  Whatever it takes.  Because unrest breeds heresy.

Torture?  Yes, sure, if you need to.  But mostly you donít.  If you really impress people with the awful majesty of your tribunal, you wonít need much more than some shouting, clever questioning, and threats to get the confessions.  And itís much easier to give penances to people who can walk, you know.  Donít help breed the notion that the Inquisition is about torture and horror.  Impress the people with your honesty, purity, and fairness.  That helps them cleave to the Church in times of trouble, and with all these damn Lutherans running around this is sure as hell a time of trouble.

You bear one of the heaviest burdens in all the Church.  You have been selected by Christís minister on earth, his Holiness the Pope, to fight the enemies of God wherever they breed filth and lies among His flock.  Find them, and stop them, but save the innocent.  Let your purity of soul be your guide, and seek guidance always from God.
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Chris Lehrich
Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2004, 02:20:07 PM »

I'd play it.

Especially if you treat torture in the the matter of fact, necessary, part of the job manner it was rather than the squeamish horrified modern view of it.  I'd want to see rules (well, applications of the existing rules really) for the Inquisitor detecting when someone is hiding a secret (though certainly not what).  Then I'd like to see applications for revealing that secret.  I'd do it just like escalating a conflict currently only instead of words / fists / knives / guns it goes words / intimidation and majesty / imprisonment, fines, and beatings / torture.  The conflict would be getting the secret out of the peasant, and failure gives the Inquisitor the choice to escalate.  Failing to escalate (follow through) at the intimidation / majesty would cost some prestige / credibility.  

If the Inquisitor knows there is a problem, and he knows that this peasant has a secret he's not sharing, and the peasant can't be cowed any other way, than resorting to torture to get the answer should cause exactly the same hesitation as pulling a gun in Dogs (but no more than that...its just a tool.  Its the finality of the tool that causes hesitation not its nature).  

That would rock.  But for maximum effect, the player should have to describe the nature of the torture being performed.
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