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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 72 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Dogs as Angels [Braindump]  (Read 4166 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: September 29, 2004, 01:38:09 AM »

So, I was thinking about Dogs when I was supposed to be thinking about my Fulbright research today, when I suddenly realized that I like Dogs for the exact same reasons that once led me to be a drooling In Nomine fanboy.  I mean, here you are, God's representatives on Earth, fighting the nastiest of nastiness, and people don't even necessarily appreciate you or like you for it. You are, in effect, angels in disguise, a little bit of grace covered in a lot of grime.  You are working all on faith, working for a seemingly distant and removed God that you never (?) communicate with directly.  And sometimes you have to do bad things in the service of good, hoping that God will or has already forgiven you, but in your heart suspecting that He hasn't and that you owe Him better, that you in effect owe Him everything.  And the best part is that you don't really know.  I mean you KNOW subjectively and based on what your friends and teachers tell you, but you don't KNOW know.  It's not like you're going to hear the voice in your head telling you that "in you I am well pleased."  No, at most what you'll fear is a leap in your breast when you see people laughing and smiling when they were previously scowling and crying.  This is exactly what drove In Nomine (the Steve Jackson version, not the French one, which had more sarcasm) and made it one of the most powerful roleplaying settings on the market.  It dove directly into those issues of faith and effibility and doing bad in the service of good (being Heaven's Hellions) and stood directly in your face and told you to play a Narrativist game about hard-as-steel ethical questions, but didn't really give you the tools for doing it.  So instead, the community that grew up on the original In Nomine message boards spent most of our time trying to ensure that those sorts of situations happened anyway, crippled a system that looked like it was invented by a 12-year-old.  But the spirit was there.  It was there in the text. It was there in the artwork and in the mechanics for Falling and Redemption.  It was there in the setting that encouraged you to play demonic characters that had some good qualities (the opposite of angelic characters with weaknesses), just to see what it was like to be the gutter trash and Third World of the supernatural world.  It was the setting that made Lucifer a Miltonic character who rebelled for some damn good reasons, a somewhat noble character pointing out flaws in Creation.  And, you know what, reading Dogs gives me that same great torment in my ethical organs (which, from experience, I think are located in the top part of your stomach), demanding that I pay heightened attention to what actions really say on a moral and philosophical level, that makes me want to put characters in impossible situations to see what happens, that makes me love wuxia and all of its kungfu heartbreak, the part of me that cries when I think about the butterfly transformations of characters in Torchbearer, where the old must die (with all its glories and vanities) to give birth to the new (with all its pride and awkwardness).  And when I look at the modern world with all its fucked up assumptions about this that and the other, where the Imperial West can self-righteously do the things that its down recently and point the finger at other people, where 60% of the world's people are beset with problems than nobody else ever hears about, where groups often succeed in destroying individuality, where individuals often toil alone and friendless, where people live in shame and fear, and where the deeds of everyone on this entire planet will eventually be forgotten, and then I read games that pull out your heart and rub it on a piece of paper, which they then hand to you, saying "Read this, you might get a kick out of it..."  THIS is when I have hope for the world.  This is when I begin to believe that roleplaying as an artform/form of expression/medium has a power distinct and seperate from everything else that's ever come before it, because you can be given an impossible situation and then explore making those choices YOURSELF and the outcomes that might arise.  Better yet, you can explore what it would be like to make the same choices AS OTHER PEOPLE, not in an "I'm reading about this character who..." sense, but in an "I'm this other person, so I would make this choice differently."  And this gives me hope for sympathy, compassion, and understanding.  This gives me hope that the world is not just (as Paul Bowles once put it in A Sheltering Sky) blood and shit.  And for this, I have nothing but gratitude.

Amen.
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Mark D. Eddy
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Posts: 157


« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2004, 04:52:57 AM »

OK. That does it. I now officially need to get a copy of Dogs in the Vinyard. I wanted to before, but this pushed me over.
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2004, 05:40:16 AM »

Mark: Hooray!

Jonathan: I think you've got a pretty clear picture there, except for one thing: the King of Life does speak to you directly. He tells you what to do constantly. The unusual thing is that you, the player, are in charge of what He says, and He doesn't necessarily say the same thing to your fellows. He can say "Kill that guy" to you, but "Save that guy's soul and show mercy"  to your compatriot. What He says is clear. Why He says it and what He expects to come out of is the mystery.
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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.
Brand_Robins
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« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2004, 10:28:52 AM »

Quote from: nikola
the King of Life does speak to you directly. He tells you what to do constantly.


I'd think that this would be very dependant on the group. As far as I remember the book never says this (at least not explicity), and it does say that the level of supernatural/ceremonial/religious explicitness will change from group to group -- so this may be true of one groups game and not of anothers.

I know that in all the talking with players that I've done getting ready for my (at long last!) upcoming Dogs games the direct voice of God speaking to the characters on a regular basis is not something either I nor any of my players have ever expressed interest in.  

(I also find it interesting that, at least partly due to how the mechanics work, there is no listed ability to take a relationship with the King of Life.)
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- Brand Robins
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2004, 10:50:33 AM »

I disagree.  I, personally, think that there is nothing cosmological about Dogs at all.  All that stuff about demons and the King of Life and such is color.  It only comes into the meat of the game because religion is a thing that people believe in.

Dogs is interesting because the dogs are people.  Not angels.  Not demons.  Not gods.

People.  Trying to solve the problems that people have.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  I see that you are saying something similar to this, in your post, but you're describing it in a different way.  Personally, I think that the projection of the mundane world into the divine is dangerous, but perhaps that's a different thread, or a PM conversation?
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2004, 03:05:31 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Dogs is interesting because the dogs are people.  Not angels.  Not demons.  Not gods.


Of course this point becomes interesting in Mormon theology (on which Dogs is kinda/sorta but not really based).

Therein an angel can be one of two things: a person who has not yet been born, acting as an agent of God, or a person who has been born, lived righteously, gone to paradise, and is now acting as an agent of God.

A person is an angel (soul) that has been born, given a body, and had the veil placed over them so they do not remember God or the life they lived with him before the mortal coil.

A demon is a soul (person before they were born) who chose, with full knowledge of what they did, to rebel against God. They're an angel of the devil. (In this Dog's Demons and Mormon Demons/Devils are clearly different.)

A god is, of course, a human who was born, died, did everything right and proper in between, and has come to a fullness of glory, understanding, and perfection.

So, under that definition, Dogs are pretty close to angels -- they just happen to be people as well. Oh, and because they have that lumpy, non-perfected body they can lust, crap, bleed, and die. And because of that pesky veil they can sin, kill, be immoral, and get very, very lost. Just like every person you've ever known.
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- Brand Robins
DannyK
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2004, 03:26:19 PM »

Saying that the Dogs are angels is interesting, but it's just moving that Your-Religion-May-Vary debate one step further back.  After all, there's plenty of different takes on angels; in one Jewish tradition, angels are just servants of God, doing their appointed jobs.  In that tradition, an angel is no more capable of moral judgement than a Tivo.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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the glyphpress


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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2004, 04:18:20 PM »

Dude, I checked my talit at the door when I started this project. I'm working on an analogous game from a Jewish perspective - bronze age heroes, agels with three faces and eight wings, voices in the whirlwind, all that jazz. It really, really doesn't fit with Dogs.

Now, I'm inclined to agree with most folks here: the humanity of the Dogs is what makes them interesting to play. Talking with God, well, that's crazy, but it doesn't mean it's not happening, so there's fun to be had there. For one of my characters, justice was everything. For another the King was everything. It depends on the character, as well as the group. The only thing that's required in the rules is that the player take responsibility to work out hir own bag with the King.
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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
Guest
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2004, 04:30:44 PM »

Quote from: nikola
Dude, I checked my talit at the door when I started this project. I'm working on an analogous game from a Jewish perspective - bronze age heroes, agels with three faces and eight wings, voices in the whirlwind, all that jazz. It really, really doesn't fit with Dogs.


The other part of my post, which I deleted because I thought it was too far off topic, was that I really appreciated that way the Faith is given a very strong, specific flavor without too much actual dogma that the players and GM have to get their head around in order to play.  

I'm interested in your game, Nikola, whenever it reaches fruition -- PM me or post something when it happens.
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