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Author Topic: Inquisitors in the Vineyard  (Read 11848 times)
James Maliszewski
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Posts: 5


« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2004, 03:33:41 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
James,

Sounds like we're on the same page.  Let me walk through your responses with my own, and we'll see what happens.


Sounds good to me.

Quote
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.


It certainly would be cool -- and very different from the popular conception of an inquisition game (not that that's bad). The issue, of course, is determining if that's the kind of game you want to run. If someone came to me and asked if I wanted to play in a game in which I get to be an inquisitor, my first expectation would be that I'd be battling genuine heretics or maybe even supernatural menaces rather than some wacky old guy the villagers want to get rid of.

That's not to say I wouldn't enjoy the game you're outlining here. It's just runs counter to expectations and you have to be aware of that (and use it to your advantage).

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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.


Sure enough. On the other hand, this isn't much different than the way a lot of communities look at law enforcement in general. Many places only turn to the cops when they have no other choice. They don't like dealing with them, if they can avoid it. Use that.

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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.


True enough. You've also probably lost Jonathan Tweet's interest too, but hey.

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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?


In that case, you need to consider making that abstract stuff more concrete and exciting. The back and forth of theological debate, the clash of wills in interrogation, the slow, methodical gathering of information -- these are all dramatically interesting things. I suspect you'll need to find/create game systems that make these events at least as exciting as combat is in other settings.

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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.


Combat is always fun, but, as I say above, "combat" need not be swordfights. Debate can be combat, for example.

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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.


Keep it coming. This is right up my alley. Mind you, I'm also working on a similar concept for a game, although it's a fair bit broader and more fantastical in its conception.
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James Maliszewski,
Sleep Deprived Dad and Frustrated Writer
maliszew@gmail.com
http://members.rogers.com/maliszew
clehrich
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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2004, 06:31:06 PM »

Ralph,

Quote from: Valamir
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.  
You clever dog.  Er, Dog.  That's exactly what I was thinking about doing with torture, was dealing with it as escalating Blows and such.  And the cool thing is that actually there's a lot of nice (well, too strong a word maybe) Inquisitorial manuals around that tell you exactly how the escalation is supposed to work, so I can just build that in.

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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).  
Got it in one, noting the boldface clause above.  You've got to get a confession of the truth, you see, and if there is no other way, you go to torture.  But you can't just do it on a whim: you need to know.  I don't want to overemphasize torture, because there are lots of other things they did first, but you're totally right about how to handle it.  The other neat thing is that this handily solves the problem of the game being too abstract, just back and forth discussion: it's got heft, because when the peasant simply refuses, you know where escalation is going.  Taking the Blow, well, that I have to think about, but I have some ideas.

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That would rock.  But for maximum effect, the player should have to describe the nature of the torture being performed.
Ouch.  Well, we're not trying to please everyone, now are we?  Yeah, you're right again.  I'll have to provide some sample lists -- strappado, thumbscrews, showing the instruments, etc.  Urgh.  I think this balances niftily against the Inquisitors in backwaters of Italy dealing with usually not all that huge problems.  If you were also dealing with enormous outbreak witchcraft cases all the time, it would get very ugly indeed.  I will certainly have to write up that possibility, but point out that it's a game-breaker: once you get into that sort of thing, it never really ends, and eventually the players and PCs are going to want to bail.

Cool!
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Chris Lehrich
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2004, 06:50:21 PM »

I always thought that torture was, in real practice, a very inaccurate way to get information.  Since, when you torture people, they tend to say just about anything to get the pain to stop.  That would definitely complicate matters.  Then the question becomes: how does the Inquisitor recognize truth from lie and how many people do you have to intimidate/torture/etc. in order for the REAL truth to finally come out?  That would definitely bring in a lot of the at what cost? stuff from Dogs.
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James Maliszewski
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Posts: 5


« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2004, 06:54:43 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
I always thought that torture was, in real practice, a very inaccurate way to get information.  Since, when you torture people, they tend to say just about anything to get the pain to stop.  That would definitely complicate matters.  Then the question becomes: how does the Inquisitor recognize truth from lie and how many people do you have to intimidate/torture/etc. in order for the REAL truth to finally come out?  That would definitely bring in a lot of the at what cost? stuff from Dogs.


That's a fair point. Of course, to what extent will the inquisitors game be "realistic." To the medieval mind, torture not only did pose many moral questions, it was also generally deemed reliable. So, which do you want to work with in your game? Is it more interesting to have torture lead reliably to the truth or does its inherent unreliability add further drama to your stories?
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James Maliszewski,
Sleep Deprived Dad and Frustrated Writer
maliszew@gmail.com
http://members.rogers.com/maliszew
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2004, 07:18:45 PM »

I suspect that a more modern view of torture would lead to a) interesting moral questions and b) a game that was less morally suspect to modern players.  Do you really want to teach a pre-modern view of torture?  Is that going to be acceptable to the types of audiences you want to attract to the game?  If the answer is "yes," you're going to get a more historically-accurate game, but players will have to be comfortable acting in ways that we generally think of as "cruel and unusual."
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clehrich
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« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2004, 08:06:46 PM »

No, well, hang on a sec.  I can quote you from inquisitorial manuals of the 15th and 16th centuries that are very clear on the point that people will say all sorts of things to make the pain stop.  They're not dumb.  This is the point about all those strict rules of evidence: you can't just torture people and expect all the answers to be legitimate.  So you can't just torture people, period.  There are rules.

Not that these rules weren't broken.  They were, constantly.  And the Continental Protestants generally didn't even have the rules!  But one thing we see over the late 15th century and into the early 17th is the Inquisitorial HQ in Rome getting increasingly upset about the wanton use of torture.  The German Inquisitors were really bad about this; a lot of them figured that heretics lie no matter what, so you might as well whip a little torture on them just to make sure they know you mean business.  This is totally against the rules, but they did it anyway.  This is one of the reasons for setting the game in Italy: mostly, the Italian Inquisition didn't do this sort of thing, partly because of centralized control and partly because, as I said before, there weren't a lot of Lutherans around so they could take a more relaxed attitude.

One of the big points is that you have to report home when you're through, and if you say, "We got there, and didn't know anything, and we tortured some guys, and they said they were heretics, so we burned 'em," you're not going to get any pats on the head, you know?

Did Inquisitors worry about the moral problems of torture?  You betcha.  I don't know much about the "medieval mind," and I know for sure there was no such thing as a Renaissance Mind or the like.  But I do know that a lot of Renaissance Inquisitors worried.  The lay courts?  Well, maybe not quite so much, which was part of the problem.  But the Inquisition sometimes got very nasty about lay courts doing this stuff without Inquisitorial authority.
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Chris Lehrich
James Maliszewski
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2004, 08:44:12 PM »

Quote from: clehrich
Did Inquisitors worry about the moral problems of torture?  You betcha.  I don't know much about the "medieval mind," and I know for sure there was no such thing as a Renaissance Mind or the like.  But I do know that a lot of Renaissance Inquisitors worried.  The lay courts?  Well, maybe not quite so much, which was part of the problem.  But the Inquisition sometimes got very nasty about lay courts doing this stuff without Inquisitorial authority.


In referring to the "medieval mind," I am speaking of the prevailing common opinion. Torture was not universally condemned in civil proceedings during the Middle Ages and this lack of condemnation carried over into the early modern period. While the inquisition in some areas was rightly concerned about it, a lot of that concern stems from canon law against the shedding of blood (or inflicting harm generally) by clerics. That's why civil authorities worked hand in glove with inquisitors when it came to these matters in some areas.
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James Maliszewski,
Sleep Deprived Dad and Frustrated Writer
maliszew@gmail.com
http://members.rogers.com/maliszew
Valamir
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« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2004, 09:10:58 PM »

A torture session was very much like an interrogation scene you see from a modern cop drama.  The cops have a bunch of evidence.  They ask you questions without telling you what evidence they have and they see if your story jives with what they know.

The key difference is that there is no Right to not Incrimenate yourself or right to legal counsel.  You WILL answer their questions.  If you answer them when they ask they can judge based on the evidence whether you're lying or telling the truth.  If you refuse to answer, or refuse to tell the truth once you've been caught in a lie...that's when torture is used.  You will talk...you will talk until you say something that is consistant with the evidence that the Inquisitor will accept as truth.  That's why there was the emphasis on collecting evidence first.

Its no difference really than old school police beating a confession out of people...just gorier...and subject to the same abuse.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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the glyphpress


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« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2004, 06:24:37 AM »

This all gets a lot easier if you make a game world with your players, rather than inflicting historical accuracy on them. Just like Dogs, you can use interesting pieces of history as inspiration, even lifting characters from history. The real world is so much uglier, though, without so much as a single protagonist to set it right.

History is told from the perspective of the winners. Stories are told from the perspective of those who are right.
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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.
DannyK
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« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2004, 10:01:59 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
Not that these rules weren't broken.  They were, constantly.  And the Continental Protestants generally didn't even have the rules!  But one thing we see over the late 15th century and into the early 17th is the Inquisitorial HQ in Rome getting increasingly upset about the wanton use of torture.  The German Inquisitors were really bad about this; a lot of them figured that heretics lie no matter what, so you might as well whip a little torture on them just to make sure they know you mean business.  This is totally against the rules, but they did it anyway.  This is one of the reasons for setting the game in Italy: mostly, the Italian Inquisition didn't do this sort of thing, partly because of centralized control and partly because, as I said before, there weren't a lot of Lutherans around so they could take a more relaxed attitude.


Well, this is getting at an important point: the Inquisition was a pretty political institution, it seems to me.  At least in some cases, the threat of Inquisition and judicial torture was used in a way very similar to how modern dictatorships use torture -- to punish and suppress dissent.  I'm thinking here of Galileo, who decided to shut up about his heliocentric model after the Inquisition gave him a guided tour of the torture suite.  So that seems likely to be a political enforcement element in such a game, just as there is in Dogs.
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