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[DitV] Little Valley

Started by Jason Morningstar, October 25, 2004, 03:02:02 PM

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Jason Morningstar

Hey all, I'd value any feedback on this town.  Things sort of escalated as I developed it until it was a serious, serious problem, and I'm wondering if I shouldn't throttle it back a bit.  Also, some of the "what do they want?" questions have answers I still think are a little weak.  I'm open to suggestions.  Thanks in advance!  --Jason

Two young women refuse the attentions of eligible bachelors and a third recently behaved scandalously, fighting a lawful marriage until the bitter end.  

These three women have formed a cult.  They believe that the King of Life will allow the Faithful to marry soul-mates who have died.  They have become enmeshed in false doctrine that has led them to violence, disunity, and apostasy.  

Sister Bethany was deeply in love with Brother Thomas and Sister Deborah was in love with Brother Matthew.  All agreed these would eventually be good matches.  When the two boys were killed in an accident on the river, Bethany mourned her suitor's passing excessively.  Now she refuses to acknowledge men who come courting and turns them away.  Deborah followed suit, but her father Brother Silas forced her to marry his recently-widowed business partner, Brother Cleophus.  

A third boy, Brother Timothy, died recently in a logging 'accident', only days after the branch Steward announced that Timothy would be marrying his daughter, Sister Candace.  

Since the death of Brother Timothy, Abiah also stubbornly refuses the attention of her gentleman callers, principally Cleophus Evans' cousin Mark.  Unwittingly guided by demons, Abiah engineered Timothy's death.

The thre women are not fulfilling their roles.  Deborah fought tooth and nail to avoid marrying Cleophus and openly expresses her displeasure with him.  Neither Bethany or Abiah will deign to be courted or marry.  

Violence – The killing of Brother Timothy.
Disunity – "Stealing" Brother Timothy from Sister Candace, Deborah's behavior toward Cleophus, Bethany and Abiah's refusal to be courted.
Apostasy – the secret marriages (See corrupt worship)

Sister Abiah's killing of Brother Timothy, aided by demons
Sister Zillah, once-loyal wife of the Steward, is having feelings for her pre-marriage old flame, Samuel Rutland, for the first time in many years.  She is tormented by this.
Cleophus Evans is next to be killed as a "false husband", with others to follow.  


Bethany Rutland married herself, "before the King of Life and all creation" to her dead lover, Thomas Culver.  She then performed the ceremony for Sister Deborah and the dead Brother Matthew before her actual marriage to Brother Cleophus.  The two of them encouraged Sister Abiah to kill Brother Timothy rather than let him marry Sister Candace, then married the two of them, cementing the cult.  

The cult is overseen by Bethany Rutland, who is drunk with her new-found demonic power.  Sisters Deborah and Abiah are the other two cultists.  In time Sister Zillah will join, oblivious to the fact that the cult destroyed her own daughter's happy future.  

Despite their false doctrine, the cult women still obey the central tenets of the Faith and place themselves in the stewardship of their "spirit husbands".  The demons bring the women vivid dreams and visions of the dead men, who instruct them to grow the cult.  The demons also guide their hands and lend strength to the cultists.  They sow marital discord and are currently working on Sister Zillah.  

One man has been killed to prevent him marrying a rival, and two more (Cleophus and the Steward) are on the block.  

The Steward is truly at wits end and wants the Dogs to restore decency and sensibility to the young women of the town – and perhaps his own wife.  His daughter Candace will eventually want a new husband, and would make a fine catch in a year or two for some enterprising Dog.

Brother Samuel wants the Dogs to persuade his daughter to give up her stubborn opposition to courtship and marriage.  He also wants them to give Sister Zillah a gentle nudge toward fidelity.  

Brother Nathan Clark, father of Sister Abiah, is a doddering old man who was once a Dog himself, and has the ragged coat to prove it.  He wants to swap war stories, possibly offering some useful advice along the way.

Brother Silas Tanner, butcher and father of Sister Deborah, wants the Dogs to censure the Steward, who he quietly blames for all the trouble.

Brother Cleophus wants the Dogs to make his new wife to love and honor him.

Brother Jared and Brother Mark want the Dogs blessing and overt support in their efforts to marry.

Sisters Bethany, Deborah, and Abiah want to grow their cult.  They see many advantages to marrying dead men, and would prefer that the Dogs either leave them in peace or, failing that, realize the righteousness of their newly-discovered doctrine.


The demons want the death-marriage cult to spread, and to flower into other radical doctrine.  They want more men killed.


The demons serve the cult now, and want the Dogs to reach a sympathetic and soft solution – a stern lecture, a gentle nudge.  They will do their best to ensure that Bethany and Abiah are seen as grieving victims who just need more time to get over their losses.  


Brother Cleophus would be killed to remove the stain of his "false marriage" to Sister Deborah.  Sister Zillah would be recruited into the cult and kill her current husband, the Steward.  Bethany would then hand over the reins to Abiah and leave to spread the false doctrine in neighboring Branches.  


Brother Ezra Watson, Branch Steward
Sister Zillah Watson, Ezra's wife
Sister Candace Watson, his unmarried daughter, was engaged to Timothy James and greiving his loss.

Brother Samuel Rutland, father of Sister Bethany, widower
Sister Bethany Rutland, cult leader and sorceress

Brother Nathan Clark, elderly father of Sister Abiah
Sister Abiah Clark, cultist

Brother Silas Tanner, butcher and father of Sister Deborah

Brother Cleophus Evans, hog farmer and business partner of Silas Tanner
Sister Deborah Tanner-Evans, unwilling wife and cultist        


Brother Jared Milton, courting Bethany Rutland      
Brother Mark Evans, younger brother of Cleophus Evans, courting Abiah Clark


Brother Thomas Culver, beloved of Bethany Rutland, killed by accident        
Brother Matthew, beloved of Deborah Tanner-Evans, killed by accident
Brother Timothy James, beloved of Abiah Clark and killed by her


Wow Jason, your town looks spooky and dark-- it has me hooked.  The "what do people want from the dogs" part looks pretty good to me; I particularly like Brother Nathan Clark.

Sorry I don't have much to contribute to leavening your town, but I'll be looking forward to its actual play.  
Good luck,
Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.


I'm with Scott, this is a not foolin' around town. I wish I were one of your players.


Jason Morningstar

Thanks for the positive comments.

Are the demons working right?  I was a little confused, because according to the rules they should be subserviant to the sorceress/cult, so should I even consider what they want in a town with a cult?  Shouldn't their goals now align with the cult goals?  I assume the demons, although supportive of the "good work" of the cult, are still calling the shots, right?


This is probably too over-the-top, but when I saw
False Doctrine: The dead can be married to the living
I thought - Zombies!
Now that there's a sorceror, Bethany _can_ bring back her dead lover.  Sure,  he doesn't have a soul, and he's kinda rotten, but the demons could probably  deceive her into thinking he looks just fine :)

Reading further, I see that you're going with a more spiritualist interpretation of the dead husbands.  This makes more sense,  as the townsfolk would run screaming from zombies, and there wouldn't be a ghost of a chance of convincing the dogs everything was ok :)  *wistfully*  Still, you could pull out one zombie at the end, when the game was already up, just for the shock value...

Albert the Absentminded

Interesting little problem there.

My own "ideal" solution is as follows:

Divorce Cleophus and Deborah - just because women should be receptive to courtship doesn't mean they have to say yes when the man pops the question, and taking advantage of societal position to forcibly marry an unwilling woman is akin to rape. (Note: Within the context of the Faithful, I interpret the whole 'all sex is righteous between husband and wife' to be when the marriage was desired by both, and thus both are bound by the 'for better or worse' part of the covenant.)

Likewise, Mark and Jared get a stern lecture on free agency and the need for both parties to desire union. With respect to this particular problem, the girls should be counselled to be gracious in their behavior.

Call back the ghosts - the two accidentally killed boys and the murdered boy - and see if they still want to marry their sweethearts. We ought to be able to do that as Dogs, although this is a request sent to the King of Life, rather than a forcible summoning. If yes, seal them together for time and eternity.

Try the girls for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Find out what _they_ think their penalty should be - I retain the veto, which is an execution if I don't think they are repentant enough. Oh, and if the murdered boy is feeling vengeful, I'm gonna respect his opinion rather more than the girls.

If I decide to let the girls live, let it be known that they are not to marry as first wives, but only as plural wives, and only till death do them part. Mark and Jared may be out of luck, if Thomas and Matthew want to marry their sweethearts.



I wasn't thinking zombies, but I was thinking about *ghosts*.  Rereading your writeup, it seems to me that there aren't really any ghosts, just demonic influence, but maybe the demons could appear as ghosts to the Dogs, too?  

Or, depending how heavily you want to push it into the supernatural, the Dogs might contact the *real* ghosts of the dead men to get the real story...

Jason Morningstar

Wow, good ideas.  As written there are no actual ghosts, but if they appeared (either in reality or as constructs of the demons to deflect suspicion) that would seriously muddy the waters.  Maybe too much - what do you think?

I love a zombie as much as the next guy, but I don't think this is the town for them myself.  But it does give me other ideas...

Here's a related question - how much of this do you reveal to the players at the outset?  All of it, including the demonic aspects?  Just the surface problem?  Where do you draw the line between investigative roleplaying and full disclosure?  I can't help but think that if I lay it out for them in detail, and they choose to put bullets in the heads of the three girls, it'll be a short evening.  Can you tell this style of gaming is a little new to me?


Joshua A.C. Newman

Putting bullets in the heads of the girls is a valid, if horriffic, ending. Unless the Dogs have all invested in "Grampaw's Gattling Gun 8d10" and "I shoot fire out my eyes - 19d4" then someone will probably want to find a more elegant solution.

There are lots of ways to solve a problem. Guns are easy, but are liable to get the townsfolk pretty upset pretty quick. I find that combat consecration is one of my favorite tactics. Killin's too easy for some. For others, it's what they deserve. Some others really just need to get back to the fields.
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.

Jason Morningstar

Well, my players aren't that bad, but they are definitely going to take the setting and their roles very seriously.  So I can see them using the "diseased limb" metaphor pretty freely.  

I suppose if they take a brutally direct route, I could just fast forward to them returning to Little Valley a year later, with all kinds of new problems they directly inspired through their callous judgment.  

I know it isn't my job to lead them to conclusions, but is it even appropriate to say, "are you sure you want to put a bullet in the head of this seventeen year old girl?  Will you be satisfied with that solution?"


Definately appropriate.  Especially if you follow that warning up with "one year later... look what you've done."

It's fine to highlight the scope of their actions... "You know, she's just a kid, and you can't change your mind later."  If they still choose the expedient solution, make them come back and suffer the consequences of that expediency.  "Oh, you took the easy way out and thought you wouldn't have to worry about the consequences?  That's cute..."

Also, I would recommend that you start by giving your players just a basic outline with the surface problems of the town.  If things seem to be bogging down then start disclosing more.  You can always provide more information if the game needs it, but you can never take information back if it turns out that the game is less fun with everyone having it...

Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible


Quote from: JasonAre the demons working right? I was a little confused, because according to the rules they should be subserviant to the sorceress/cult, so should I even consider what they want in a town with a cult? Shouldn't their goals now align with the cult goals? I assume the demons, although supportive of the "good work" of the cult, are still calling the shots, right?
Either way. The demons and the girls are now allies - they both want the same thing, which is to murder Faithful. The demons everywhere want to murder any and all Faithful, that's their deal. These girls want to murder the town's best young men - and the demons say, "that's a fine start, we can get behind that."

When the PCs get into conflict with the girls, be sure to NPC 'em as sorcerers and give them the dice and powers sorcerers get. Because of the demons, those girls are dangerous. You can characterize them as fragile, but back it up with their full dice and aggressive Seeing and Raising - they'll be all wilting and begging the Dogs' forbearance in their grief, but their dice will be hard and ruthless. Very cool.

QuoteHere's a related question - how much of this do you reveal to the players at the outset? All of it, including the demonic aspects? Just the surface problem? Where do you draw the line between investigative roleplaying and full disclosure? I can't help but think that if I lay it out for them in detail, and they choose to put bullets in the heads of the three girls, it'll be a short evening. Can you tell this style of gaming is a little new to me?

You reveal it as it comes out. It's hard (for me at least, my gamer instincts are to cover it up), but that's what you do. In practice, that means they'll probably start with the Steward, and he'll say - yeah, check with bro Samuel, he's been having trouble with his daughter, and would you mind talking to my wife? And it'll all unfold from there.

Anyone who would tell the Dogs the truth, have 'em tell the Dogs the truth. Anyone who'd lie to the Dogs, have 'em lie to the Dogs - then smirk or say "...but she's lying" or "...and that's what she says, but it's obviously not the whole truth." Then the Dogs can launch a conflict and eventually get to the heart of things, or else go find someone who will tell the truth.

QuoteI know it isn't my job to lead them to conclusions, but is it even appropriate to say, "are you sure you want to put a bullet in the head of this seventeen year old girl? Will you be satisfied with that solution?"

Don't sweat it. They'll agonize plenty without your help.

See what Albert did - that's what you get if you just present the town to your players like you did to us. What you'll do in play is attach humanity to all those problems. (That's not something you have to work at or think about or try for, that's what playing through the town does.) Your players will have first impressions of the girls, the Steward, all the townspeople, and then they'll come to like some of them and dislike others. It's the NPCs' humanity in play that makes the game into something better than "on a scale of 1-5, which is more important: obedience or love?"



That's why I was thinking of the ghosts -- you might want to slow things up a little bit, and the image of Dogs summoning ghosts by the light of a campfire is just cool.  

From my limited play and running experience, that this is a game where the GM really needs to let the chips fall where they may.  If they get cerebral and work this through step-by-step, that's cool.  If they get wrathful and summarily execute three women in one night, that's pretty cool too.  But in a very different way. You can still play out the rest of their judgement on the town and jump into the reflection between towns part.  And don't forget that the next town may hear what the Dogs did in this one.  

Regarding the cult... it's occurred to me that the sorcerers in Dogs are a lot like the sorcerers in, um, Sorcerer.  They break some important rules and get unholy power, but the demons have an agenda of their own.  When my game gets that far, the demons are going to be manipulative and cunning.


Okay, this all looks great and will create a very interesting setting, but I'm interested in how everyone else is involved with the the girls' transgression:

Obviously the unfortunate initial death of some of their fiances is the catalyst, but how did other people's reactions to this event drive them to bring them back?  In other words, how deep does the rot go?  

Right now we just have some girls who want to be married to some men who are unfortunately dead.  What is it about their relationships with their families, with attitudes to marriage (both in the village and in the faith), (and here's where I'd go) with their parent's and other suitors reactions to these deaths that pushed them to take this terrible step?

What I like about how the settlement creation rules work in Dogs is how it traces sin back to very small things--the slight, only just wrong, first thing that starts the avalanche.  In this case, I'm feeling not that the situation has gone too far, but that it doesn't root back into the beginning deeply enough.

The way I see it, is that in a proper faithful community, the sort of actions  or events that make a need for the Dogs to come visit are often fixed before they get out of hand.  They are reacted to with charity, understanding, and compassion, such that they just don't get going.  When a village has gone off the rails, it is because everyone has failed in their duty--most often because of sins of omission rather than commission, failures to pay attention to, consider and help their neighbours, which is their duty.

Which means for me, that you can start things slightly slower.  Emphasize the actions the rest of the community took to solve the problem of the deaths of the men, and show how these attempts to help became harmful.  

She's upset, so best find her another husband to comfort her straight away.

Or, I know she's still in mourning, but the Guthrie boy is just too good a catch to lose.

Or, another girl in town showing off _her_ new husband.

The point being, that the sins in Dogs have their emotional impact because they show how easy it is to fall into them.  Because anyone could end up as a sorceress, it seems more human, and not simply the choice of a group of _women_ tainted by the sin of Eve--no, brother, that'd be hypocrisy speaking.


I was thinking about this town, and I was struck by your use of the word lover to describe Bethany's relationship with her 'husband'.  I see 3 things that could have been meant
* She slept with him before marriage, and is therefore a sinner and so on and so forth.  Not tremendously interesting.
* You're referring to their current relationship.  Makes sense but I don't like it as much as this:
* Bethany and Thomas were married in the eyes of the King of Life, who was of course aware of Thomas's impending demise (so why didn't he stop the demise?  I'll leave that to the philosophers :).  Thomas died before the marriage could be formalized, but it already existed in the eyes of God.  Therefore Bethany's correct status should be 'widow', and she probably shouldn't have been courted as aggresively as she was.  The relative lack of support she received lead to her confusion on the subject of dead husbands.  If I were a player in your game, that's the solution I'd go for.  I'd start by exorcising the demons.  I'd explain the situation to the town, and clarify the whole live/dead husband thing.  Finally, we have the situation of the murder which has been commited.  I'm not sure what I'd do about that.  On the one hand, it is a murder, but on the other theres the question of demonic influence.  I think that leaving her unpunished is out of the question, as that would be unjust, and present Candace with too great a temptation to hatred.  However, right now, I can't think of an appropriate available punishment short of death.

Anyway - very cool town :)