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Backstory and False Doctrine: How the Ancients have fallen

Started by Alephnul, February 21, 2006, 06:55:25 AM

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This comes out of some discussion with Vincent in his open house thread at Anyway, but is mostly my own weirdness. I don't think I am actually going to use this in play, but I am interested in getting other people's reactions.

I was thinking about something Vincent said about the backstory of each town being entirely under the control of the GM, and that therefore what was false doctrine was entirely the GMs choice (although the players, through their Dogs, are totally free to treat false doctrine as true and enforce that on the community). So that led me to a little what if...

What if the Ancients of the Faith have gotten lazy and self righteous, and a lot of what passes for Doctrine these days is false doctrine, designed to serve the sin and pride of the Ancients? What if the spiritually intuitive in the towns are responding to this by rejecting the false doctrine innocently passed to them by their stewards, so when the Dogs come to a town in trouble, and they look around for that group of people who are off over there worshiping alone and disrespecting the steward, and the steward is riling the people up to go root out those false believers, it is the Steward's pride of office that has led him to sin of apostasy (in accepting false doctrine from Bridal Falls), then to demonic attack and dissension when he ignored the doubters, new false doctrine to reject the importance of spiritual intuition, pretty much instantly to false worship, as most of the congregation obeys their apparent leader, to false priesthood as the steward introduces new ritual to emphasize the importance of the hierarchy from which he now derives his true power, and is about to lead into hate and murder when he leads his flock to kill the King's few faithful. Demonic sorcery disguises itself as spiritual power, and the spiritual power of the few true believers gets called sorcery. Will the Dogs, trained up in a sclerotic Dogs Temple heed the true voice of their spiritual intuition? Or will they sanctify the Steward's false doctrine and root out the faithful? First town, they'll probably root out the faithful, but when they keep hitting town after town, where the people everyone claims are rotten seem decent and good, and the supposedly faithful start seeming a little on the vicious and mean side, will they go over, realize that their world has fallen deep into corruption, and that as God's Dogs it is their duty to root out the wickedness?

I'm not going to do it. This is my first Dogs game, and I mean to run it as intended, but this fascinates me. I think doing it without letting the players in on the secret would be mean and against the spirit of the game, particularly if you played it along for a full short campaign and then revealed at the end. Betrayal. Bad practice. But if you either laid it out there from the beginning, or if you made it clear that things were not what they seemed in this game, it seems like it could be interesting.

Do they decide that schism and collapse are better than false and self-serving doctrine, or do they decide that what the Ancients have build is better, even if it isn't quite what the King of Life wants? It seems to me there are still plenty of powerful choices for the players and the Dogs to make.

Of course, this may be a higher level setting decision than the GM should really be making (within Dogs), but if I as GM am deciding what is the sin here? what got the ball rolling? then it seems within my prerogative to say, "The first sin in every town here came when the pride or laziness or fear of the Steward listened to the newest doctrine out of Bridal Falls rather than the King of Life." Some towns may be in sin upon sin, where even the schismatic hold outs to the true faith have decided to meet sin with sin, but others will only have the first layers of sin, where the isolated true faith members are only starting to come under attack.

So is that an awful idea, or is there something interesting in there?

Emily Care

On reading the book again, I was struck by the fact that Vincent talks about going back to the Dogs' Temple as a good alternative. I may be missing the threads, but I haven't heard much actual play that goes in that direction.  If you were going to do something like the scenario you lay out, Charles, I can imagine the dogs traveling from town to town uncovering this corruption that leads back home, and finally going back to confront it at its source. 

It sounds fascinating and terrible to me. Terrible in a good, full of awe adversity providing way.  I wouldn't see it as being against the spirit of the game in that it is still putting the dogs in the position of making right their charges. However, it goes against the stream of authority--you are in the stewardship of those above you in the hierarchy rather than vice versa.  But if that authority is abused? What does the King of Life have to say about it... 

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games


I find that an awesome idea, although as you say, perhaps not for the first introduction.

I've got a false doctrine that would fit really great too: That the King of Life speaks only to the Prophets and Ancients of the Faith, and not to individuals.

And if the Dogs go "The King is telling ME to ride back to Bridal Falls City and put a bullet in the Prophet who is lying to his People!" how great is that?

I want to run my idea for a sorcerer Dog in that, with his trait "The King of Life speaks to all who listen 4d4."


"There are no angels described in Dog's default setting because Dogs are the angels. What priest will gainsay an angel?" -- Brand Robins


Glad to hear it!

The process of undermining the Dogs' faith in the Prophets would be both fascinating and tricky, and it definitely seems like a setting that has huge opportunities to go blood opera over something other than 20th C morality. When the Dogs start disagreeing over who is the sorcerer, and who is backed by the true faith, I can definitely see guns coming out.

I think the development would have to go slowly, so that the players had more time to develop a sense of group cohesion of their characters, if it wasn't going to end in a slaughter of Dogs. Backing down in the conflict, "I convince Brother Jed that the  Ancients of the Faith really have turned to sorcery," without going to the guns, would require a huge degree of inter-party trust.


Your mention of Blood Opera reminds me of my idea for mixing The Mountain Witch with Dogs: Six ex-Dogs are hired to climb King Mountain and slay the King of Life, but dark fates and past betrayals haunt them.  Who can they trust, when every heart holds human weakness?


I believed in you.
      Whose fault is that?