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Breaking a Player

Started by Brand_Robins, January 30, 2005, 07:16:53 PM

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In a short Dogs game I ran last night (I will do a full Actual Play write up at some point, I promise) there came a juncture at which one Dog alone was facing down a trio of sorcerers and was getting ready to deal out fiery justice when the sorcerers invoked the demons in a desperate last stand of good vs. evil. The Dog had just finished another contest, and was taking the fallout dice to help him in the current, and so felt pretty confident when he went right in with guns blazing and ceremony on his lips.

Then the sorcerers rolled their demonic influence and relationships, and came up with 5 10s, 3 9s, and multiple 8s. The player looked at his dice, looked at the sorcerers' dice, and made this sound....

Imagine if you'd had the worst day at work you'd ever had in your life, and then found out you were getting a really nasty cold. On the way home from work you get splashed by freezing water thrown up by the wheels of a car driving too close to the curb. You arrive home, just wanting to get into bed only to discover that your washing machine has malfunctioned and your whole house is flooded. The sound you might make when the plumber handed you the $350 repair bill is the sound the player made.

Everything turned out alright, and the player won (and the character died), and it was a great session. I'd just never seen that kind of response in game to a dice roll before – which speaks loads about the way that Dog's pre-action rolls boost up the drama.
- Brand Robins


That's a great story, I'm so psyched about trying the game myself.

I cannot wait to try how the conlict resolution system actually works in real play, the escalations and maneuvering to invoke traits appeals to me on so many levels, and having read your story even more so.



Jason L Blair


I'm looking to Actual Play so I can see exactly how the player won yet the character died.

Jason L Blair
Writer, Game Designer


Brand, that'll be the first dead Dog ever, I think. Tell more!



The game had focused around a group of sorcerers born out of poverty caused by the unrighteous dominion of a local steward who had been siphoning funds off of the tithes in order to enrich himself. The sorcerers had, through the hierarchy of sin, come to use this as a rationalization for themselves to commit murder and use terror to keep anyone from stopping them or informing on them (the fruit of my long ago Gadianton Robers idea). They were a really nasty group of really evil folks, to contrast to the more humanistic slant I usually put on the "opposition" in Dogs, and got the players really riled up.

We're getting towards the end of the game, and the Dogs are split up on various tasks. (I can't remember why they split up; it was something they did on their own, probably in response to some unacknowledged horror movie trope that was active in the back of their brains, forcing them to split forces at the crucial moment.) Two of them had tracked down a little boy who was a witness to the crimes, who just happened to be the god child of one of the Sorcerers. The other had gone to have a final confrontation with the steward about the missing tithing money. In this confrontation he finally figured out who, exactly, the sorcerers were and in a fit of rage went off after them alone. He tracked one to a farmhouse and wailed the poor sucker at the contest, and spilled all the fallout over into dice for the fire and brimstone confrontation.

At this point we cut back to the other two, who are interrogating the little boy with a distinct lack of subtlety or compassion. He finally ends up rolling his "I'm about to be pushed over the edge 3d8" trait and using it to blow them off, not only not answering their questions but fleeing from them as well. They tried another contest to follow him, and once more got crunched flat. It becomes obvious that the two of them will not be there in time to help the third with the sorcerers, and with that knowledge in mind we cut back to said third, and ask him what he's doing.

He declares that he's going in anyway, and his intent for the conflict is to end the sorcerers – killing them and damning their souls to hell. Nothing short of that is acceptable. So he goes in guns blazing, and all hell breaks lose, literally. This, BTW, was the point of the roll that elicited that wonderful, horrible noise – partly because just before they rolled he'd told the other players he wanted to do this alone.

The contest that followed was one of the longest I've played in Dogs, and involved every single stat, trait, item, and special on the character's sheets (and a fair number of improv ones) coming in. Things were getting bad when the kid from the other scene ran in, and one of the sorcerers intimidated him into turning a gun on the Dog. The sorcerer raises with two 10s.

The Dog, who now uses one of his last traits, a relationship of 2d4 with the kid, looks at that 20 and looks at his dice, and their dice, and his dice, pauses for a really long moment, and then takes his lowest 9 (IIRC) dice and Takes the Hit with them. We all look at his pile of d4s and d6s, and say "Dude, that's um... lots of fallout." He says he knows, and then tosses his highest dice left (a 7 and 6, I think), and describes having a hole blown through him, and as it happens he does ceremony to forgive the child – the mercy of it driving one of the demons away.

The conflict then shifted mostly to the spiritual, with lots of ceremony vs. demonic influence, and in the end the PC just ran the sorcerers out of dice – taking multiple dice Take the Hits several times to do so, eating up their higher but fewer in number dice. In the end they fold, and the Dog stands over their prone bodies and one at a time stands over them, puts his gun to their head, damns them to Hell in the name of the King of Life, then blows them away.

The conflict ends and the Dog takes fallout. He rolls multiple 10s (totalling 20, of course -- but he rolled enough that even if we'd taken off the top 2 dice he'd still have had 20 left) and declares that he bites it after giving his gun to the kid and telling him to remember the King's mercy. His final scene is the other two dogs riding up the house to see the kid standing outside, holding the Dog's scriptures and gun, to tell them that he wants to be a Dog and help others now. The other two Dogs take him and their fallen comrade's body, torch the house, and ride into the night.

So the player won, because he killed the sorcerers, but the character died because his fallout was monstrous due to the sacrifices he had to make in order to win the contest.
- Brand Robins

Lance D. Allen

Oh, wow.

That's bloody nice.

I think I remember a mention of a Dog dying before, but I somehow doubt it tops this denoument.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Joshua A.C. Newman

Very nice.

I'd want to play the kid in the next town. A few years have gone by, maybe the kid's got some talent... and he meets up with the rest of the Dogs' cadre on their next swoop through Bridal Falls...

Really dig on the consequences of the violence, the changes it makes to peoples' lives.
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.


Oh yeah, Lance, you're right, there was another dead Dog before this one. Wasn't it because of some Fallout rules confusion, though? They were summing all the Fallout dice instead of just the high two?

I've been searching for it, no luck.

Either way, Brand, that's a great, great story. How'd the player feel about it? Is the game over, or are you going to keep playing?



Quote from: lumpleyOh yeah, Lance, you're right, there was another dead Dog before this one. Wasn't it because of some Fallout rules confusion, though? They were summing all the Fallout dice instead of just the high two?

I think that is so. I remember the thread, but can't find it now.

QuoteHow'd the player feel about it? Is the game over, or are you going to keep playing?

It was a oneshot, and we haven't really talked about what we're doing next. However, the player was happy about it. He's the sort that normally leaves right after game, and even when he stays isn't very talky about what happened in game. After this game, however, he was the worlds biggest Chatty Cathy and kept talking about the kid. I may throw Nikola's suggestion at him, and see if he'd want to play again as the kid.
- Brand Robins


Quote from: Brand_RobinsSo the player won, because he killed the sorcerers, but the character died because his fallout was monstrous due to the sacrifices he had to make in order to win the contest.
Fantastic! Just a great frickin' scene Brand_Robins, cudos to you and your group. I'm sure the memory of that scene will be talked about for a long time.



Kaare Berg

It was actually two dogs dead, but as the GM of said confused disaster I officially say the above tops it. Both in drama and obvious player response.

Just to prevent any search for this from bugging you. Here is the short short version and here is the thread about the fallout confusion.

After reading this I just got to finish the Leah Thomas game now. Curse on you time thiefs!

Mike Holmes

It's just so damn cool that the system gives the player the choice to win, despite the odds, and fortune going against him, as long as he's willing to pay the price. For this player, in this circumstance, winning was more imporant, than living, and more dramatic because it meant giving up the character's life.

I think we all sensed (at least I did) that this was possible with the system, and that it would happen eventually. And that it would be a really powerful moment when it did happen.

In play of other games, where no such system existed, I've ruled that if a player wanted to sacrifice their character's life that they automatically succeeded. But it was always a kludge. Finally we have a system where a player can mechanically make this choice, and the system bears it out. It means that there's never a point where the system tells the player "tough luck, you just fail" instead it's always about the consequences of succeeding, the cost of it.

That's better than nice folks. In fact I don't have the words for how cool that is.

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