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The Town that Isn't

Started by Jason Morningstar, July 01, 2005, 08:05:57 AM

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Jason Morningstar

Last night I watched Bad Day at Black Rock, which was good, and played out like a very interesting "bizarro world" Dogs story.

The way the story goes, the Dog is a stranger and the town does not welcome him - they aren't even Faithful and he has no power over them.  Bad, unjust things happened to the Faithful who once lived here that he must set right, but the town's Big Men would just as soon see a meddling interloper dead.  The Dog must persuade weak unbeliever townsfolk to stand by him in the name of justice, if not righteousness, against the murderous goons, or he will surely die alone.  ( This description may make more sense if you've seen the film.)

So how would you organize this very compelling situation, that seems to violate all the "make a town" rules?  Do you just carry on with creating the sin and demonic influence, even though the people are not Faithful?  Does the game "work" when the Dogs are outside their moral element?  What do you think?

Doug Ruff

Personally, I think this idea kicks ass, and that you shoulld definitely go for it.

As for making the town, this sounds like an example of what would happen if you took the Town Creation rules, all the way past "what would happen if the Dogs didn't turn up".

I think it's essential to go through this process, in case the Dogs want to find out what happened (they will.) It also gives the perpetrators an opportunity to explain why they did what they did - which gets especially interesting if the Faithful were at least partly responsible for the Hate and Murder, or what led to it.

And as soon as the Dogs find out that the Faithful got murdered, that's 5d10 Demonic Influence working against them.. so it could be a very tough time for the Dogs.

I also think that a key element in running this town, is that in order to pronounce judgement, the Dogs have to convince the townsfolk to accept their authority to pronounce judgement. Cue several conflicts, with opposing traits like "the last Faithful who spoke up took a bullet between the eyes 2d8".

For what it's worth, I think that the Dogs are always outside their moral element, whether they're amongst sinning Faithful or unbelievers - it's what they choose to do about this that makes the game special.

Hope this helps,

'Come and see the violence inherent in the System.'

Jason Morningstar

Thanks, Doug.

I think it would be a particularly tense situation, because the Dogs have no authority at all, other than what they can convince people to give them.   The Big Men will be looking for any excuse to kill them on the flimsiest of pretext, but if the Dogs resort to gunplay they are essentially doomed, to either death or prison.  

One key to the film is that the Dog character is essentially stranded - he can't just leave and call for help, which would be a pretty logical thing to do.  He has no choice but to face down the Big Men with whatever help he can talk people into.  I'm not sure how to arrange something similar, or even if that is a good idea.  It's a nasty set-up without any compelling reason not to just ride for the Territorial Authority.  It seems antithetical to the game to pre-arrange anything, but without that piece, I'm not sure it works.  Thoughts?

Doug Ruff

Why is it a problem if they do decide to run to the Territorial Authority?

If there is anything that's antithetical to DiTV, it's the idea that playes are forced to deal with a town in a particular way. There's nothing wrong with giving your players a hard choice, but make sure you don't fall into the trap of removing their choice altogether.

Seriously, from what I've seen in Actual Play reports, most Dogs will go down blazing rather than turn and run, unless the situation is truly hopeless. Even so, don't worry abouy second-guessing the player's actions. Just drop it in their laps and let them run with it.
'Come and see the violence inherent in the System.'


This is an idea that I've been thinking of putting int my campaign, probably as the second or third town that the players come to, but perhaps it might make a good first encounter... learning to deal with resistance from the people they are sent to help.

Anyway, I really like this idea and some of the ideas you've fleshed out further than I had thought out yet. In my scenario, I knew that there was something that had to make the Dogs stay in town, but I wasn't sure what it was. Maybe they're there to find a fellow Dog who was en route through this town, but wasn't heard from. Maybe he tried to convert this town and met with resistance from these athiests. The greatest detail that I've come up with so far is the opening scene where the Dogs pull into town just before sunset expecting a warm welcome from people in need of guidance and being stopped by a mob on the border who are, while not violent, very unwelcoming to the presence of these people who are here to uncover their secrets and convert their lifestyle.

If I've interperted other threads correctly, the law is always on the side of the Dogs, especially in the case of murder. Legally, the Dogs can go anywhere they want and no town that resides within the district of the church can keep them out.

I don't think there's any problem at all in terms of creating the town. In some ways, the sins are defined only as sins in the eyes of the church and thusly the eyes of the Dogs. So as they come to the town, they'll uncover all the things that they may consider to be sins and then cast judgement. It should be pretty easy to figure out what they are. Pride in rejecting the help of the Church and the King of Life, Athiesm is certainly a false doctrine as far as the church is concerned, and by not turning against the church, they've allowed demons in which caused the murder of the faithful in the town. Solving things from that point may be a bit more difficult, but may happen by discovering the murder of faithful by some citizens, the revelation of some conspiracy to take over the town by first running out the Stewart and Faithful, and then making a plea to the morals of the population to assist in running out the bad elements of their society that have turned them against the church, possibly resulting in a nice showdown between the two sides.
"There is only ONE god,
He is the SUN god,
Ra! Ra! Ra!"
- The Illuminatus Trilogy, Book 4

Jason Morningstar

Among the Faithful, Dogs have absolute religious authority as well as a degree of secular authority.  Among unbelievers they have neither.  So in a town with no (living) Faithful, they are just folks, and if they start killing people, the Territorial Authority isn't going to listen to any "King of Life" claptrap.  They are going to kill them back, or put them in jail.  

My whole query in this thread is whether it would be possible or even fun to present a town consisting entirely of unbelievers.

Lance D. Allen

A few notes:

The LAW isn't always on the side of the Dogs. The Dogs aren't really an officially recognized organization by the Territorial Authority. They're ordained by the Faith and by a Higher Power to do what they do, but the mostly non-believer TA lawmen may not be as inclined to let their actions go, especially when they kill someone.

Unless the town were considered a Faithful community, the Dogs probably wouldn't bother with it. Their job is preservation of the Faith and the Faithful, after all. Now, that isn't to say that this setup couldn't work, you'd just have to make the athiest (or non-Faithful, at any rate, which doesn't mean they don't have SOME different faith) community a once-Faithful one. The Dogs would have to decide whether or not the community could be led back into the fold, or if they'd be better off left alone, or even razed to the ground to keep their heresy from spreading.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Jason Morningstar

In Bad Day at Black Rock, the hero shows up out of the blue to pay his respects to the father of a man - a Japanese-American- who died saving his life in Italy.  The father was burned out and murdered by the townspeople five years previously.  He feels a powerful obligation to make things right.  

So in Dogs terms, I'm thinking they're arriving to give the personal effects of a Dog who died in the line of duty to his cantankerous father, who stubbornly  lives on the edge of an unbeliever town.  Make that lived - of course he's been dead for years now, and the people who killed him run the town.