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On removing homosexuality and violating gender roles as sins...

Started by Particle_Man, October 02, 2005, 11:36:41 PM

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I have looked over the infamous "Racist Nazi Dogs" thread and want a DotV game in which homosexual relations are not sinful and in which women are not limited to either being a Dog or being locked into gender roles (I don't mind them being locked in by a terrestrial authority -- I mind their violating their gender roles causing them to be possessed by demons because they are objectively sinning by the rules of the world).  I find both as problematic as I would saying that interracial marriage is an objective sin.

Now, can I do that and still keep most of the Cowboy stuff (which I like the idea of)?  I was told that I might be in danger of losing most of the interesting moral conflicts if I "liberalize" the Metaphysical world of the Dogs.  Is this so?


We can definitely talk about this. It's interesting territory. I have lots to say about it.

But first.

Have you considered letting your players do it in play instead?



I can see letting the players do a lot in play.  But how do I explain to them that homosexuals get possessed by demons because God doesn't like homosexuality?  Do the players declare war on God?  Do they side with Demons? 

I guess I don't see where what the players do affects the metaphysics of who gets possessed by demons and who does not, due to the definition of Sin.  Have I missed something?

Darcy Burgess

Having finally read the game myself, I think my reply would be:

"God thinks whatever the Dogs say he thinks."
Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.


By that do you mean that the players and I would sit down and work out the Ceremonies and Sins and stuff ahead of time, before they make characters?

Or do you mean that the characters have enough power over reality that if they say "X is no longer a Sin" then the world objectively changes, demons can no longer possess homosexuals anywhere in the world, etc. (Basically on this option God does not exist and the pc's are reality-changing creatures a la that twilight zone episode with that weird kid "Its a Nice town" etc.)?


You're borrowing trouble.  Nobody cares about what's going on everywhere else in the world.  That's not part of your story.  As the GM, your job isn't to present the whole world, as seen from an objective point of infinite distance and perfect clarity.  You present one particular town with specific people for the PCs to judge.

So you present a town that is beset by troubles.  The well's dried up.  People are just plain ornery.  In that town is a homosexual couple.  Some people think they're the cause of all the trouble, because of (to the mind of those people) their terrible sin.  Heck, maybe even one (or both) of them think they're the cause of all the trouble.  Though, of course, since you've built it according to the Town Creation rules (right?) there's got to be a lot of other stuff also going on.

And that's what you present.  Period.

Are the homosexuals the cause of the demons?  Or is it some of that other stuff?  That's not for you to judge.  The players will tell you what they think on that score, and what they think is the truth.  More to the point, it's more interesting than any rigid idea of what the truth ought to be.  It's not THE truth, it's their truth.
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Ron Edwards


Sometimes you realize that someone just doesn't get it, and sometimes you don't have to realize it, he's standing on the Empire State Building and shouting it out.

Dude. There are no "demons" or "sins" when you play Dogs.

Those are terms people use in the game-world, and they think in those terms, yes. You can even dramatize those perceptions and attitudes all you want, by having magic flare up visibly and demons cackle and materialize.

But those are just dramatizations.

There is no in-game-world objective reality to which you must conform. There is no in-game-world morality. There is no in-game-world religious faith that is "true" in that game-world. When the Book that the Dogs carry says something in it (and who knows if it does, let's say it does) about how homosexuality is wrongly wrong ... well ...

... it's still up to the Dogs. It's their call, in that town, and in the face of this particular situation. You see? It's still up to the Dogs, and you play the Dogs' judgment.

I'm talking now to all the folks who keep posting here in what appears to be a state of RPG-induced brain damage. When the rules say, "What the Dogs decide is right," they are not talking about the in-game "reality" (which of course is not real). They are talking about you, the real people. It is on you to make the Dogs do what is right, and there is no in-game-world canon to turn to. The game-play process is asking you.

Say my Dog character, Jeremiah, drags that obviously demon-ridden Sally girl from her room, and prepares a terrible scorching exorcism to rid Sally of that demon who "obviously" made her do that awful act with her best friend Sue.

Now I, the player, and my friends, the other players, are about to find something out about me, and about one another. Do I have Jeremiah do it? Does he escalate to shooting if it goes sour? Perhaps he cannot. If he can't, does that mean he's a bad Dog? No - it means that's what I think is right, and Jeremiah has demonstrated it.

And it can be more subtle than that, too. Let's say I do go on with it! What kind of fallout does he take? If I pick something like "terrible scar," frankly, I just demonstrated that I, Ron, am comfy with a story in which homosexual acts are treated as demonic.

But what if I take "gnawing doubt" instead and pump it up to massive dice? See the difference in what that says about me? See how I just begged my GM to turn up the volume on later conflicts involving homosexuality? See how my fellow players are going to have to decide how their characters deal with my gnawing doubt?

From the text, p. 45:

QuoteDoes this mean your character can't sin?

No. But it does mean that no one's in a position to judge your character's actions but you yourself. Your character might be a remorseless monster or a destroying angel - I the author of the game can't tell the difference, your GM and your fellow players can't tell the difference, only you can.

... Sin, arrogance, hate bloodlust; remorse, guilt, contrition; inspiration, redemption, grace: they're in how you have your character act, not (just or necessarily) in what's on your character's sheet. Those moments, in play, are what matters.

Your character's conscience is in your hands.

If I had my way, I'd insist that no one be allowed to post in this forum until he or she turned in a 500-word essay to demonstrate their understanding of that section, and had it critiqued. Lucky for you, I don't have that power.

But boy is it called for.



Nah, having everyone ride in to "set him straight" is way too interesting and enlightening.

RPG-induced brain damage or not, if it has to be said explicitly that the Town Creation Rules do not necessarily represent the "metaphysical reality" of the game world, then heavens, let it be said explicitly!  :)

I feel clearer about Dogs having had this all said in so many words.  I don't know that I was exactly in the same boat as Particle Man but I still appreciate the additional clarity of each and every one of the replies.

Darcy Burgess

Particle --

To begin with, I need to apologize for my rudeness.  I didn't check out your # of posts.  I just did.  Welcome.  I sure hope that you've been lurking, otherwise the "take no prisoners and beg for no mercy" approach around here can really blindside you.

What I meant wasn't either of the things you suggested.  Tony and Ron both touched on what was going through my head -- which is best illustrated by this:

"Dogs is about the judgements you make.  The rulebook presents the in-game "reality".  If that rulebook presented all sorts of things that sat well with you and me, then Vincent would have written a game devoid of real meat for you and me."

So, when I said that God thinks whatever the Dogs say he thinks, I wasn't talking about re-writing rules or retconning the in-game reality.  What I meant was in the moment -- when a whole town is outside waiting for the sinners to be struck down with righteous wrath -- you get to decide whether or not the sinner is wrong or not.  The rest of the "world" can stand there, slack-jawed in disbelief when you don't ventilate the "sinner", but they'd better snap that jaw shut and pronto, because yours was the only voice that mattered.
Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.


Well if things are that relative to the Dogs' judgement, I am not certain what purpose all that stuff about sins, demons and the Book of Life serve.  If it is totally up to the players, why are those other things there?

Maybe I could have a game where the players become the first ever prophets of some God, and their divinely given super-power is, when they lay down the law (and win the relevant conflicts), it is Accepted (by the relevant people, and by the God).  The God is new, and is waiting for advice from his prophets on what the Divine Judgements should be (so acts as more of an enforcement principle than a legislative one).  On this analysis, demons would be "Rival Gods" who don't have the ability that this God has (and so are destined to lose every time); the sorta-Mormon religion would thus not have any divine backing, unless the players agree with it.  Assuming that the players call all the shots anyhow, would this work as well as the default framework, or am I missing something?

Also, I understand that there is talk of "Firefly in the Vinyard", and other "vinyard variants".  I don't know about the others but, on the assumption that homosexuality/violating gender roles are not sins in "Firefly in the vinyard", and on the further assumption that "Firefly in the vinyard" would still have interesting, meaty conflicts, could I still have a "cowboys who lay down the law" kind of game without those particular things as "book of life" sins, but with other interesting, meaty conflicts?

Mr. Ron Edwards: With all due respect, I don't think I would have bought the game from Vincent/Lumpley if I had come across your "RPG-induced brain damage" comment.  I am trying to get information.  My ignorance of this play style, and even my habits of thought picked up from other play styles, do not amount to brain damage.  Brain damage is a real medical condition, and tragic when it occurs.  If you believe in the virtues of this game, perhaps you could use other words than those you have chosen.  The ones you have chosen seem to be designed to exclude the ones being described from being considered "worthy" to play this game or post in this forum, and are thus less likely to result in educating people, which I wish to assume was your intention in making your post.  In addition, it seems paradoxical to request a 500 word document to demonstrate understanding of certain points of the game *before* one is allowed to ask for information about those very points.  Is there another Lumpley Games forum for beginners that I have somehow missed?

Eero Tuovinen

Quote from: Particle_Man on October 03, 2005, 07:09:13 AM
Well if things are that relative to the Dogs' judgement, I am not certain what purpose all that stuff about sins, demons and the Book of Life serve.  If it is totally up to the players, why are those other things there?

This is somewhat intricate, and the book doesn't go into the theory. But here's my understanding:

The setting of the game, including the theology of the Faith, is intented to be a backdrop over which the players get to demonstrate their choices. Being as they are choises, there has to be something you choose about. Thus the setting. However, the setting itself doesn't implicate right or wrong choices, it only tells us what the NPCs in the setting would like the PCs to choose. The theology, for example, is not there to tell the players how to choose; it's there to tell them how the elders of the faith would like them to choose. Similarly the demons are not there to tell the players what not to choose; they are there, again, as opposition to the in-game Faith's way of life.

I suggest that you simply ignore what the book says about right and wrong choices in the game. It seems to confuse people more than help them. The only thing Vincent means by it, as far as I can see, is that the GM shouldn't impose his own morality on the game. He doesn't mean that the game world doesn't have morals, or that the world wouldn't try to impose it's opinion. For example, it's perfectly possible for the dogs to degree something and for the whole town to disagree and turn against their authority, if they get radical enough. Or the classic "elders of the Faith send a death-squad after you" scenario, that can happen, too, if a PC insists that the Faith is wrong and continues as a Dog anyway. There is no rule in the game about the PCs being always right in the eyes of the people of the Faith.

This is all very confusing, because the book is talking about two kinds of right:
1) The players are morally right, insofar as anybody is. The GM can't say otherwise.
2) The characters just happen to be in a morally authoritative position. When they ride to town, the people tend to look to them for advice and support. The Faith states that the Dogs can interpret scripture. This, however, is only religious authority, not magic power; people can, and will, challenge it.
The above two things are completely separate, as far as the rules and the purposes of the game are concerned. It's only when you collate the two ideas you get the problems with "what if my player decides that the Faith is wrong" kinds of paradoxes. There is no paradox, because there is no necessity for the Faith and the player to agree. All it takes for the equality to break down is for one or more NPCs to decide that they don't believe in this "false Dog" who obviously isn't interpreting scripture anymore, but creating it instead. That happens all the time in the game, even the local Steward can disagree with the players. The only difference between this and PC heresy is who has more guns.

Now, the setting is the way it is for a purpose. You'll notice that the players have freedom to invent their own scripture in the Book of Life when they feel like it. This is not because the religion is whatever the players say, but to faciliate a maximal freedom for the players to interpret the Faith of the setting. It would suck if the players would actually have to look for scripture in some book to find out if their position is defensible in the Faith. Much better to assume that everything that's even borderline believable is already in the scripture, and actually both sides can find support for their position. Which is not far from the truth, if you look at actual holy writings in the real world.

For the original question: I suggest letting the players change things in the game, because that's more interesting. But that also means that they will have to fight the fight again and again in each town they go, because they have the in-setting inertia of the Faith to deal with. If that's not your cup of tea, then change the setting instead.

I hope that helped some. I would also hope that Vincent made a sticky or wrote an article on his web-site explaining this stuff; it seems I only ever write about this topic on his forum.

Mr. Ron Edwards: With all due respect, I don't think I would have bought the game from Vincent/Lumpley if I had come across your "RPG-induced brain damage" comment.

Getting offended by Ron is like getting offended by a talk-show host. Satisfying perhaps, in that you can feel good about being more sensitive, politically correct and all that, but ultimately pointless, because it doesn't make the issue itself go away. I suggest just taking it; nobody else thinks you're brain-damaged just because Ron implies so, but they will if you start fixating on it.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Hi PM,

The core of this discussion is "objective morality", and what folks here are trying to say is, "It doesn't exist".  

You know that opening paragraph to the Conflict chapter?  It literally asks, "What do you do?"  The objective morality to the world is not laid out, because once you do, you have no reason to ask that question anymore.  "What do I do?  I do whatever God tells me to do."  Problem solved, movie's over in the first 5 minutes. "Ah, but what does God tell you to do?"  Oh, now we have something interesting, see?

What function does Sin hold in the game?  Sin encompasses all things that lead to conflict between people- which ranges from treating each other crappy to simply living differently.  Some of these are "morally wrong", some are just differences between people.  The role of the Dogs isn't just figuring out which is which, but then also giving these people plausible ways to deal with their differences.

What about demons?  Demons represented as dice are there to escalate the game to a climax.  The conflict between people gets worse and worse, unless the Dogs do something.  This is why you can play Dogs with demons simply being people's excuses for treating each other bad and bad luck and it still works- dice-wise, "demons" as a concept still serve the same purpose.

So, let's take your example- homosexuality.  As a "sin", it means it's leading to conflict between people, obviously because the Faithful disapprove of it.  And, it wouldn't be much of a conflict if the people left each other alone, now would it?  So escalation occurs, and the demon dice make it more and more likely that someone's going to get hurt, defending their way of life (note, that can be either side...).  And here come the Dogs, to try to help the town.

Let's say the Dogs tell everyone homosexuality is cool, did they just give the finger to God?  Nope, because God hasn't said jack about homosexuality, God hasn't said anything at all. No objective morality has been established.  It's not God who's been saying anything about anything- it's the Faithful.  And the Dogs just said, "Fuck that!  These people love each other!"

And that's what Dogs is about.  There's a philosophy, there's a way of life, and there's conflict about that way of life.  What is right?  What is bunk?  What are the conditions where that changes?  Where is that line?  

No one's going to tell you.  You tell me.


Darren Hill

Here's another way of looking at it.
Occasionally you see a film, TV series, or book in which a homosexual character exists, and the author uses that story to highlight the issues faced by homosexuals and society. To do this, the author can't simply tell the audience what he feels; he has to create situations which show the injustice, and has to put his protagonists in situations that are clearly unfair, to provoke them into making decisions and showing their humanity or inhumanity.
That's your role as GM in Dogs.

You are personally offended by the idea of limiting gender roles and sexual orientation. So, one thing to do would be to make those issues very real in the game world, and give your players the opportunity to be offended and the power to change the world.

Of course, as Eero hints, you have to be sure that the players will enjoy the opportunity provided - if they don't consider it suitable fodder for a game, you can change the setting to eliminate that conflict - there's still plenty of meat in Dogs to provide other sources of conflict.


Hi. I'm moderator here.

No one is to post to this thread but me and Particle Man, until I get to have some good dialog with him.




Hey, P_M. Welcome to the baptism by fire, glad you got through it.

I'm Vincent, what's your name?

What's confusing to a lot of people is that Dogs maybe looks like it presents a setting with metaphysics and stuff, a "world" where "God" is "real," but it doesn't. It presents a procedure for play, nothing else. Now - that's legitimately confusing, especially to gamers, but so what? I bet that most people who really figure it out are going to figure it out through play, not by dead reckoning. My approach here therefore is to tell you how you can play the game without feeling like a homophobe, because without that, no amount of explaining is going to serve you.

So I want you to just totally and absolutely blow off everybody who posted above. Later on, you can go back and reread them and see what makes sense and what doesn't, but for now just stick with me, okay?


As GM, you have three choices wrt homosexuality in your game. All are legit, none are game-breaking or wrong or feeble or wimpy or anything like that. You get to simply choose, based on your own native whim.

Choice 1: present homosexuality as problematic, let your players judge if it's so.

Choice 2: present homophobia as problematic, let your players judge if it's so.

Choice 3: present no problems wrt homosexuality, case closed.

The first thing to do is create a town, by the rules in the book.

If you choose choice 1, make a town where the pride is love between two men or two women. Have that love lead to some reasonable injustice - she won't be courted by the steward's son because he's not her lover, for instance. Have the injustice create sin, and so on up the ladder.

If you choose choice 2, make a town where the pride is that somebody hates that two men or two women are in love. Have that hate lead to some reasonable injustice - he's the shopkeeper and he won't sell them food, for instance. Have the injustice create sin, and so on up the ladder.

If you choose choice 3, make a town where the pride has nothing to do with love between two men or two women, and neither does the injustice, and neither does the sin, and so on up the ladder.

So if you will, please go ahead and choose one and create a town. Just wing it out, don't deliberate, you aren't going to play this town so it doesn't have to be awesome, it just has to follow the rules. Don't hesitate to use my "for instance" injustices, if you're having trouble coming up with one yourself. For ease, have there be only three or four named NPCs and stop at demonic attacks - but be sure to say what the three or four NPCs want the Dogs to do.

I'm happy to answer questions meanwhile, if you have any, but creating this town is really the next step!