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[DitV] Fort Lemon Branch

Started by Jason Morningstar, November 21, 2004, 07:10:29 PM

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Jason Morningstar

Comments welcome!  I'm anxious to hear what you think.


The name is misleading.  Fort Lemon is a trading post and Territorial Authority garrison on the eastern-most edge of Faithful territory.  It is the first settlement of any kind past the mountains.  Anyone traveling from Back East invariably passes through Fort Lemon, but the place itself usually has no Faithful to speak of.  There is no Branch.  William Lemon, who founded the outpost, is a mountain man whose tenure predates the coming of the Faithful by many years.  He owns all the land surrounding Fort Lemon, and he generally despises the Faithful.  The Territorial Authority recognized the strategic importance of old Lemon's trading post and established their eastern garrison here.  It is a tiny settlement, but it is a hostile place for the Faithful, and full of sin.


Something is very wrong.

For the past few years the Prophets and Ancients of the Faith, for a variety of reasons not relevant here, have encouraged Faithful Back East to make their way west in great numbers, in great haste, and with the least expense.  To accomplish this, the emigrants build handcarts, formed "companies" that followed Branch structure, and walked 1200 miles to Bridal Falls City.  

Those that left in early spring did well, making better time than teams of oxen.  Their arrival was cause for celebration.  The last Company to leave – in July – had a different fate.  Confident that the King of Life would shield them from the onset of winter, the Company organized and led by Abel Watson plunged into the mountains ill-prepared, and was stranded.  The Prophets and Ancients of the Faith grew concerned and dispatched a rescue expedition, which was supplemented by expert guides from Fort Lemon.  (The rescue expedition could be played out, providing a number of excellent conflicts.  Can they make it through the drifts in time?  Can they rally the starving Faithful?  Can they get to the safety of Fort Lemon before another deadly blizzard hits?  Can they work as a team with T.A. scouts and coarse mountain men?)

The conditions faced by the Watson Company were dreadful – starvation, exhaustion, and  hypothermia all took their toll.  A quarter of the Company died, and many were narrowly saved.  Frostbite took appendages indiscriminately.  The survivors arrived at Fort Lemon in deep winter, and it is clear to their rescuers that they will not be moving again until spring.  To William Lemon's great displeasure, the Watson Company survivors have formed a temporary Branch within the walls of his trading post.  


Abel Watson died in the disaster and his Counselor, Asher Crosby, took over.  Brother Asher made some bad decisions that many people feel made the situation worse.  Whether this is true or not is debatable – they were in a terrible mess and he did the best he could, which he freely admits was not that great.  There are lots of Watson Company survivors who resent him, and about half feel that he should step down as Steward.

During the disaster, Sister Sharon Burns lost her husband and effectively took his role for the duration, caring for her two young boys and helping lead the Company.  She is a strong-willed and highly competent woman who is credited with saving many lives.  She kept a cool head and made hard decisions when Steward Asher would not.  She is widely loved and respected.  So respected, in fact, that a cult has formed with her at the head – a breakaway Branch with her as Steward.

Bradshaw Hudspeth is a wealthy man who managed to pack along plenty of food for himself and his family.  He shared it, when pressured by Sister Sharon, but did so late and grudgingly.  It is possible that others starved to death while his family was eating well.  It is also possible that his was simply better prepared than other families for a gruelling journey.  

Samuel Lutz had run out of food by the time the Company was stranded.  He forced his pregnant wife Hannah to secretly cook and eat human flesh so that they might both survive.  


Steward Asher cannot fulfill his role – he is not respected and his edicts are roundly ignored by half the branch.  He is held in contempt by all who lost a loved one in the disaster.  The community is divided in half.

Sister Sharon likes her new-found masculine role and is not eager to put it down.  When some discussed making her the new Steward, she supported the idea.  Now she is the sorceress of a cult, but doesn't even know it.

People went hungry because of Brother Bradshaw's greed; maybe even died.  

Borther Samuel and Sister Hannah had to choose between death and sin, and chose sin.  


Deceit:  The Lutz family has a big secret they are keeping from everybody.  

Deceit and disunity:  Brother Bradshaw hoarded his food until called out by Sister Sharon.

Disunity:  Sister Sharon and her supporters conspire to replace the Steward.

Worldliness:  All the members of the Watson Company are guilty of this – they have few resources and are mentally, physically, and spiritually spent.  While they recover at Fort Lemon, they are at the mercy of unbelievers, and cannot avoid being exposed to sin and vulgarity at every turn.

Faithlessness:  Some members of the Company, particularly those who lost family and gravitate toward Sister Sharon's leadership, are questioning the core tenets of the Faith, sometimes openly.  Why did the King of Life not aid them?  Why the suffering and death?


The demons are having a field day.  They like where Sister Sharon is heading, and they like the divisions within the community, and they love cannibals.  

They are making sure that every decision the Steward makes turns out badly.  He ordered two families to leave the home of an unbeliever; the freezing barn they were sent to caught fire.  He bought some food from William Lemon; it sickened the entire Branch.  Conversely, Sister Sharon can do no wrong.  The T.A. officers get along with her and aid her however they can, and she has but to ask and old Lemon bends to her will.  

They are driving Sister Hannah mad with guilt and shame by sending her dreams of her sinful acts every night.  She has taken to drinking to blunt the images and secretly hopes to destroy her unborn baby, which is near term.  Her husband, furious and ashamed by her worldly ways, savagely beats her with no demonic help at all.

Brother Bradshaw suddenly has a golden touch.  He has parleyed his remaining possessions into comfort and security for his family, while others live in squalor.  


Sister Sharon and her supporters believe that A WOMAN CAN BE A BRANCH STEWARD.


Sharon and her followers have taken to worshipping on their own.  The community is effectively divided in half.  


The cult is led by Sister Sharon, who has 50 or so followers.  Her aide-de-camp is Peter Anderson, who lost his mother in the disaster.  Their relationship is platonic but his wife, Tamar, is intensely jealous.  Brother Peter is the outspoken public face of the Stewardship revolt.


The cult is served by a trio of demons who manifest as officers in the Territorial Authority cavalry.  They attend Sister sharon's corrupt services and do her bidding, and can walk among and interact freely with unbelievers.  No one can remember them or place their faces, and they are not attached to the garrison, but everyone will react as if their presence is perfectly normal.  These are lethal enforcers who are eager to start a conflict with the true Steward.


None yet, but there is plenty just around the corner.  One of the Lutzes will kill the other.  Somebody will kill Brother Bradshaw in revenge.  And then either the Steward or Sister Sharon will be next.  After that, it will be a holy war in the icebound fort.  


The Steward wants to be a better man.  He believes the revolt against his authority is entirely his fault and he is ashamed of himself.  He has no idea Sister Sharon has formed a cult - he likes Sharon and can't imagine her consorting with demons.

Sharon Burns is caught up in her rapidly-growing cult.  She sees it is a natural progression, and that she is the rightful Steward.  She is canny enough to recognize that Dogs may not approve of this – yet.  She wants time to organize and recruit, and is happy to represent Brother Peter as the "dissenting Steward".  

Peter Anderson, Sister Sharon's right-hand man, wants her to be recognized as Steward.  Although content to play the part for visitors, he is eager to extoll her virtues and praise her wisdom.  He can't help it.

Tamar Anderson wants Sister Sharon returned to her role as widow and mother.  She wants her husband to stop paying attention to Sister Sharon.

Bradshaw Hudspeth wants Sister sharon ruined and the Steward returned to a palce of respect.  He also wants to be forgiven for his evil deeds, which continue even as he thinks this.

Joyelle Hudspeth wants her husband's success and wealth to be recognized, and she wants to be known as the most fashionable lady at Fort Lemon.  She also hates Sister Sharon.

Samuel Lutz wants his wife to stop drinking with rough soldiers and trappers.  He does not want his secret to be known.

Hannah Lutz wants forgiveness.  She wants the dreams to stop.  She wants her baby, which she imagines to be composed of the human meat she butchered and ate, to die.  She will give birth while the Dogs are in Fort Lemon, one way or another.

William Lemon wants the Faithful out of his trading post, and he wants them to pay their mounting bills.

Major Mitchell Jeffries wants to ensure that the injured and sick are properly cared for, in his garrison lazarette if necessary.  Beyond that, he wants to maintain order and keep the opportunities for mayhem to a minimum.  He does not care one whit about Dogs, until they start killing people.  Then they are murderers, and he will track them down like diseased animals.  


The Watson company to tear itself apart.  They want every Faithful in Fort Lemon to be dead, insane, or in prison by spring thaw.  


Recognize that the Steward is incompetent and accede to the will of the majority, who will agree to install Peter Anderson as the new Steward.  


The cult will subsume the entire branch after a series of murders and disappearances.  It will travel into the land of the Faithful at first thaw and spread their heresy far and wide.  


Asher Crosby, Steward and widower

Sharon Burns, outspoken leader
   Her two young boys, Ethan and Zedekiah
   Captain Tom Blue, demon
   Lieutenant Hans Gerlach-Saye, demon
   Lieutenant James Braxton, demon

Peter Anderson, Sister Burns' aide-de-camp
   Tamar, his jealous wife

Bradshaw Hudspeth, rich man
   Joyelle, his wife
   Their three children, Lucius, Seth, and Deborah

Samuel Lutz, cannibal
Hannah, his pregnant wife

William Lemon, grizzled old mountain man.  Unbeliever.

Major Mitchell Jeffries, T.A. garrison commander


Abel Watson, original leader and Steward of the Watson Company
William Burns, husband of Sister Sharon, dinner of the Lutz's


Jason Morningstar

I put a cleaned up version of this here:

Still looking for feedback, though!

Mark D. Eddy

I would never personally play this town -- it's too big, too complex for the way I want to play Dogs in the Vinyard. It's like you're trying to destroy your Dogs' ability to do anything to make a difference. There's enough tension for three or four different towns in this one place, and no way to sucessfully resolve anything. In fact, I'd suggest breaking this down into three different Branches:

1) The refugee branch trying to cope with being under the Territorial Authority and the hostility of the founder of the town/fort.

2) The handcart survivors branch that is dealing with the cannibalism and the food hoarder.

3) The branch that is trying to cope with the strong widow of the previous Steward.

Maybe I'm getting the cart before the horse. How do you see this branch playing out with a standard team of three Dogs?
Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."

Jason Morningstar

Thanks for your comments.  You're right that it could be divided into multiple towns, but I worry that a single problem may be too linear.  This is a dynamic situation, but the Dogs could easily ignore the "minor" problems, if it proved to be overwhelming to them.  

More generally, to those of you who have more experience running DitV than I, is this over the top?  Is it difficult or unsatisfying to run towns with multiple problems, or to put Dogs in a difficult situation where there may be no "good" outcome, but only a spectrum of bad ones?  I honestly didn't consider possible outcomes as I designed this - do you, when you build a town?


Oh, I don't think it's too big at all. I like it. I wouldn't hesitate to run it. Don't count on resolving it in one session, maybe, but that's no problem if your players are into it.

What I would like to see is an addendum to each of the named NPCs: "he/she wants the Dogs to [something concrete]," or "he/she hopes that the Dogs [do something concrete]." What you're after is, whomever the Dogs talk to, they're asking the Dogs to do something. Like poor Sister Lutz - she wants her unborn baby to die. Does she want the Dogs to rid her of it, with no blame to herself? Does she want the Dogs to name it, so that if it dies before it's born it'll be in the Book of Life anyway? Will she tell the Dogs about the cannibalism or won't she?

Same with every person you've listed. Each one of 'em thinks that the Dogs can make things right for him or her, if only they do ... this. You should know beforehand what this is.

QuoteIs it difficult or unsatisfying ... to put Dogs in a difficult situation where there may be no "good" outcome, but only a spectrum of bad ones?
Well, the Dogs' job is to find the good outcome that nobody else can see. For myself, I'd never put the Dogs in a town where there's a good outcome I've already thought of.

Thus, I never, ever, ever consider possible solutions when I design a town. I sometimes give the NPCs contingency plans if the Dogs do such-and-such a thing, but when I do, it's always from the NPC's point of view, with never a thought to what I might want to happen or what the Dogs might actually do.

Especially, it's not a game of "bad outcome no matter what, that'll learn you." The Dogs will come up with startling, elegant, lateral solutions. Don't go digging for a bad outcome when there isn't one. (I mention this only because I used to GM that way when I was younger - my plan was to make the players feel guilty for their characters' actions, and by gum I was going to find a way, no matter how good their actions were. Bleh.)

Oh and towns with only one problem aren't linear, for what it's worth. They're still demanding and complicated, just shorter to play. All you have to do to make 'em so is: make sure that your townspeople, among them, have at least three incompatible agendas.



For what it's worth, I'd love to run this town.

I think I'd do it as a one-shot all of it's own, starting with the rescue mission, as you say, and continuing from there to the Fort for the winter lay-over.  Maybe one or two more Dogs than normal, but maybe not.  Let the whole thing play out, call it, and end the campaign for that group.  Probably about three sessions for the whole thing?  Maybe.  Quite a little Dogs vignette.
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.


My only real trepidation that I would have running this town is that the Dogs are seriously outgunned.  Like 20-1 odds against just the cultists, let alone the heathen garrison that the cult leader has wrapped around her finger.

I can seriously see a whole lot of ways this town could head which end in the cultists coming down on the Dogs like a ton of bricks, and the Dogs basically have no chance in hell.  A sorcerer and 3 demons kicking around, all of whom get to add 4d10 to every conflict is Big, even without patsies kicking around.

I wouldn't take new Dogs to this town.  I would make it a few towns down the road, so they've got some traits to 'em first.  THEN I'd let 'em loose. :)

I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

Jason Morningstar

Thanks very much for the feedback.  I'm encouraged that there is a diversity of opinion about this town, and how to structure towns in general.  

The point of having specific wants for the NPCs is well taken and I'll add that.

I can definitely see how this could end in a number of grisly ways, but I'm not too concerned about that.  The Dogs will see that, too - the odds aren't hidden from them.   If they choose the "Wild Bunch" option, that's their business.

For example, I could imagine a group saying, "Well, we definitely need to take out the cult leader, and probably her sidekick.  We'll need to get them alone and isolated, and we'll have to go through three demons to do it.  Then we'll go to prison and probably hang."

As a player I think that would be awesome, and very Dogs-like.


I just finished playing through this particular scenario of DitV at OwlCon in Houston.  It was actually everone's first time playing DitV, and even the GM, who has years of experience in other games and systems, had never done a full run through of Dogs.  The only disappointing thing was being on a time limit.  I enjoyed it so much, in fact, I went online and bought a copy as soon as I got home.  Still waiting for it to come in.

As for this scenario in particular, and keep in mind that we were on a four hour time limit, the first hour of which was character creation, I had trouble keeping up with the number of characters and names, their unique situations, and it was overwhelming trying to get a six player team to decide what direction to head in.  (Not to mention the fact that we decided to create our own internal strife by creating one Chinese immigrant and one Islamic immigrant character as Dogs, another pair of player characters consulted with the heathen medicine men of the mountains in their upbringing, and the last pair were "never left the farm" Mormon brothers.)  We were able to successfully exorcise the demons inhabiting Hannah and her baby, deliver it, and reunite her with Samuel.  We discovered the demons who were always around Sharon, but the rest of the story had to be summed up into "supporters of Sharon's stewardship cause".  When one of the con volunteers came in, giving us our 30 min warning, we had to wrap up the story rather quickly and it ended up in a final gun showdown, with demons inhabiting Sharon and two of her female followers (the demons at this time being portrayed as witches or sorceresses).

The story ideas were wonderful, cannibalism and pregnancy, female empowerment having to be demonic, greedy hording of supplies in the face of dying friends, but the lack of time to explore all these thoroughly made it a bit confusing for a group of beginners.  I certainly wouldn't want to have three different towns with three different stories, I can see how well they all blend together, unfolding as if in a movie, layers upon layers with any number of different possible outcomes, all of which reflect many of the old westerns I watched as a child where there really is no "good" ending for the main character.  Usually the main character has to sacrifice his own well being for the good of family and town.

Anyway, thank you for coming up with this one, it was a great play through for a first timer, enough for a sale.

p.s. to beginners like myself:  Don't try to be the peaceful diplomatic character (I was the Islamic immigrant who, above all else, was determined to find a peaceful solution, creating all this before knowing how the game is played) because when the guns come out all you can do is stand there and calm the herd to keep them from stampeding, which doesn't take a roll.

Jason Morningstar

Wow, last post from 2004!

I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Your group of Dogs sounds full of crazy!