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Author Topic: Observations from first two towns  (Read 6026 times)
SabreCat
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Edward "Sabe" Jones


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« on: May 19, 2006, 09:06:47 AM »

Hullo all!

I posted a while back asking for advice on my first session, and didn't really follow up on it.  Since then, though, I've run two towns (Boxelder Canyon and Tower Creek from the book), and have a random handful of observations and questions to hear people's thoughts on.

* Neither town was resolved in a single session of play as recommended.  Uncovering all the tangles of the hierarchy of sin and playing through conflicts just took too long!  From what I could tell, this was because my players were very careful and cerebral about their Raises and Sees: I'd Raise against them, and they'd sit and ponder for a while about how best to respond and bring Traits in.  One player's taking tricky Traits like "literally unremarkable" and "I can feel places threatening me" had something to do with it, too, I think.  It did start to smooth out over time, as we realized we didn't need, e.g. elaborate counterarguments to Block or Take a Blow in a talking conflict, for instance: you can just say "I shake my head scornfully" or "She blanches, taken aback at your words."

* Since having all one's dice on the table gives a sort of tactical clarity, it became tempting for players to do what I called "the power-up sequence" in the first round of a conflict, mentioning every possible Trait.  Since players started vetoing the repetitive bits, it wasn't a real problem, but it does amusingly suggest to me that Super Sailor Sentai Watchdog Evolution or something might be thematically supported by the system.

* Traits and Belongings we understand.  Relationships we understand, though I had to disappoint the players a number of times by saying that Relationships only apply when the person's at stake or in the conflict with you--you can't just draw upon them by mention the same way you do Traits.  Attributes, though, caused a lot of confusion.  For instance:
** Can you "de-escalate" and get more dice?  If you're fighting, that's Body+Will; suppose you Block with some sort of hold, or shoving the person away from you, then on your Raise you start trying to shout them down.  Talking conflict's Acuity+Heart.  Do you get that load of dice, or has the conflict gone irrevocably up the ladder by this point?
** The "axe to the head in the night" trick (which I actually used; it got the same reaction from the players as described in the book, great fun ^_^) suggests you roll just Acuity when you're asleep.  Where else does such a thing apply?  Say what's at stake is "do you catch Sister Wilhelmina before she vanishes into the badlands," and it's a big horse race, and Wilhelmina's out of gun/word/fist range.  What kind of conflict is that?  What do you roll?
** If you're refusing to escalate, as Dogs sometimes can with their superior dice, how do you Block/Dodge?  Say you're talking, Acuity+Heart, while your opponent's shooting at you, Acuity+Will.  When you duck the bullets, do you roll in Body or Will, or anything at all (besides relevant Traits)?

* People were spot on about players wanting to take Fallout, though it varied.  One player, the one who liked to ponder, doggedly (heh) avoided it.  Another tended not to take it deliberately, but delighted in what it said about his character's strengths and weaknesses when he did.  The third player voluntarily Took blows he really didn't have to, even going so far as to deliberately put forward weak dice on Raises so his opponent could Reverse against him!  He said it made things more interesting, and it really highlighted why Dogs is a narrativist game--the mechanics put that power in his hands.

* One thing I found tricky: the game's supposed to be about moral shades of grey and whatnot, but it's tough to work within the Hierarchy of Sin without making a villain, a final boss character.  In Boxelder Canyon, the man burned in the fire was causing most of the trouble; in Tower Creek, the sorceress with the false-marriage cult.  Is that okay?

* Speaking of which, we had one notable Dog-vs-Dog conflict at the end of Boxelder Canyon, when one Dog wanted to shoot the unrepentant bigot in the street, and the other wanted to send him off as a missionary to the Mountain People.  Shooting won.  It was the Dog's uncle.  The other Dog rewrote his coat's description to include the blood spatters.  ^_^  ^_^  ^_^
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ffilz
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2006, 01:15:49 PM »

As the players realize the system doesn't allow negation of their narration of raises and sees, they should be more comfortable with not agonizing over what to say. In the game I played in, we occaisionally blocked or dodged without saying anythink (not really kosher, but then also, no one was raising eyebrows, or at least not that I saw). Note also that players (and the GM) can help each other with their raises and sees.

Quote
One thing I found tricky: the game's supposed to be about moral shades of grey and whatnot, but it's tough to work within the Hierarchy of Sin without making a villain, a final boss character.  In Boxelder Canyon, the man burned in the fire was causing most of the trouble; in Tower Creek, the sorceress with the false-marriage cult.  Is that okay?
If the town doesn't go so high up the sin ladder, you'll see more greys. You will also see grey areas on the edges. How did the players respond to the mother of the dead baby in Tower Creek? There's some grey area there.

You can definitely escalate from fighting to talking. If someone is just dodging bullets, I wouldn't really consider that escalation. If they block by shoving the shooter so his aim goes off, then that would be an escalation.

If people are "powering up" by mentioning traits in rapid succession, watch for people raising eyebrows about the raises and sees. If no one's bothered, then it's fine, that's the way your group wants to play.

Sounds like you had some great play there.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2006, 06:45:28 AM »

* Neither town was resolved in a single session of play as recommended.  Uncovering all the tangles of the hierarchy of sin and playing through conflicts just took too long!

Don't forget that your job as GM is to reveal the town so the Dogs can do something about it. Make conflicts like, "Do you find out he's a murderous outlaw in disguise?" Let the players in on the information without letting the Dogs in on it, and do it with Stakes.

Quote
From what I could tell, this was because my players were very careful and cerebral about their Raises and Sees: I'd Raise against them, and they'd sit and ponder for a while about how best to respond and bring Traits in.  One player's taking tricky Traits like "literally unremarkable" and "I can feel places threatening me" had something to do with it, too, I think.

"I can't differentiate gender" is one of those I saw in play once. The point of Traits is to give tools to the players. Encourage them to take good tools.

Now, if I had "Literally Unremarkable" as a Trait and I needed those dice, I'd describe taking off my coat and following someone through town without them seeing me.

I had a Dog with "Farsighted" once. She was a sharpshooter. I'd get her dice by taking off her glasses to use her rifle.

Quote
It did start to smooth out over time, as we realized we didn't need, e.g. elaborate counterarguments to Block or Take a Blow in a talking conflict, for instance: you can just say "I shake my head scornfully" or "She blanches, taken aback at your words."

Right on. I've had blocks like "Psh" or "I don't care."

Quote
* Since having all one's dice on the table gives a sort of tactical clarity, it became tempting for players to do what I called "the power-up sequence" in the first round of a conflict, mentioning every possible Trait.

Unfortunately, I find that this makes the Traits meaningless. If they're bringing in "I'm a Dog," ask them if this is really an official action, or if it's personal. "I'm a crack shot" doesn't make sense until you're taking a shot, or maybe you're telling someone that you are.

Don't worry. You can use those dice.

Also, don't forget: fallout is very, very good.

Quote
** Can you "de-escalate" and get more dice?  If you're fighting, that's Body+Will; suppose you Block with some sort of hold, or shoving the person away from you, then on your Raise you start trying to shout them down.  Talking conflict's Acuity+Heart.  Do you get that load of dice, or has the conflict gone irrevocably up the ladder by this point?

Think about an action movie. The hero and villain are in a fight. They're, I dunno, throwing trains at each other. They lock eye lasers and realize that they're equally powered. They begin struggling hand-to-hand. They just escalated to Fighting from Superpowers (Superpowers is the same as guns in this ccase). They're slugging it out, wrestling, until they start to become exhausted. They've locked arms and aare staring into each other's eyes with fury. There's a moment of silence as they glare at each other. Then the villain says, "Your daughter's flesh tasted so sweet. I didn't know you'd be so tough!" He's escalated to talking!

Quote
** The "axe to the head in the night" trick (which I actually used; it got the same reaction from the players as described in the book, great fun ^_^) suggests you roll just Acuity when you're asleep.  Where else does such a thing apply?

I suspect this is an artifact from an earlier incarnation of the game. It's a fighting conflict; I'd give the Dog full Body and Heart.

Vincent?

Quote
Say what's at stake is "do you catch Sister Wilhelmina before she vanishes into the badlands," and it's a big horse race, and Wilhelmina's out of gun/word/fist range.  What kind of conflict is that?  What do you roll?

It depends. If she's taken off before the conflict's started, the Dog gets the first raise. "I track her for six months and find her." is perfectly acceptable. So's "I telegraph ahead". Tracking would be phyisical, telegraphing would be talking.

"I make the shot of a lifetime and kill her as she crosses the horizon." is shooting.

If Wilhelmina's made the first raise, obviously it's physical. Respond in kind or escalate.

Quote
** If you're refusing to escalate, as Dogs sometimes can with their superior dice, how do you Block/Dodge?  Say you're talking, Acuity+Heart, while your opponent's shooting at you, Acuity+Will.  When you duck the bullets, do you roll in Body or Will, or anything at all (besides relevant Traits)?

Escalate however you wish. Rolling Body+Will is escalating if you haven't already rolled those dice.

Quote
* People were spot on about players wanting to take Fallout, though it varied.  One player, the one who liked to ponder, doggedly (heh) avoided it.  Another tended not to take it deliberately, but delighted in what it said about his character's strengths and weaknesses when he did.  The third player voluntarily Took blows he really didn't have to, even going so far as to deliberately put forward weak dice on Raises so his opponent could Reverse against him!  He said it made things more interesting, and it really highlighted why Dogs is a narrativist game--the mechanics put that power in his hands.

Man, fallout's fun. The ponderer should take some so there are some d4 traits to use while pondering.

Quote
* One thing I found tricky: the game's supposed to be about moral shades of grey and whatnot, but it's tough to work within the Hierarchy of Sin without making a villain, a final boss character.  In Boxelder Canyon, the man burned in the fire was causing most of the trouble; in Tower Creek, the sorceress with the false-marriage cult.  Is that okay?

Pride: The Town Steward, Lawrence, has decided to take a second wife because his first one won't give him children. The first wife is jealous and is against the marriage.

Sin: He has married the daughter of the richest man in town, the owner of the General Store, without sanction of the Faith Elders, but the rich man is pleased to have his family tied so tightly to the Steward. The

False Doctorine: The Steward preaches that, if the town agrees to something, that's official sanction enough. This infuriates his first wife, who decides she's going to end this herself by excluding the second wife from the quilting circle. They feel the first wife's being mistreated, so they back her and won't allow the second wife, just a girl of 15, into the circle, excluding her from the powerful women of the town. Included in this circle is the girl's mother, who feigns agreement to broaden the division between the wives.

False Priesthood: The second wife has complained to her husband and father about the first wife's behavior. Her mother, it turns out, has been slipping a contraceptive into the tea of the first wife to make the Steward's eyes wander while the store owner's been offering his daughter as the solution.

Hate & Murder: The first wife stabs the second wife in a rage while cleaning up after dinner.

When the Dogs arrive, the town is in official mourning. The Steward wants to be shot for causing the death of the girl. His wife wants to be vindicated for putting an end to her husband's illegal marriage. The store owners want the first wife to be executed and for the owner to be made new Steward.

There.

Now. Who's the bad guy?

Quote
* Speaking of which, we had one notable Dog-vs-Dog conflict at the end of Boxelder Canyon, when one Dog wanted to shoot the unrepentant bigot in the street, and the other wanted to send him off as a missionary to the Mountain People.  Shooting won.  It was the Dog's uncle.  The other Dog rewrote his coat's description to include the blood spatters.  ^_^  ^_^  ^_^

Very, very excellent.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2006, 07:49:25 AM by lumpley » Logged

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.
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2006, 06:49:21 AM »

(Sorry for the supersloppy post. I clicked "Post" by accident.)
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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.
lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2006, 07:43:32 AM »

Re: Villains

I endorse having a bad guy! I wish more people played with real villains.

I ran a town a couple weeks ago where this guy came to town with a gun, thought he was the big man because he had a gun, used it to throw his weight around and get his way - but the villain of the town was the Steward, who didn't deal with this guy effectively. By the time the Dogs showed up the town was gone completely to hell, the Steward was a sorcerer with a third of the town his possessed followers, he'd hanged his own wife from the Tree of Life in front of the meetinghouse. The gun guy who started it was just holed up somewhere feeling bad for shooting - but not killing - that one kid.

So the Dogs hang the Steward, shoot a bunch of people, and even one of the Dogs dies possessed by a demon. Eventually they look up this gun guy and he's like, "yeah, man, if I'd known what was going to happen, I'd'a pitched my gun in the river."

What do they do with him? It's his fault the town's half-murdered and corrupt, but he didn't really do anything that bad. Do the Dogs hang him alongside the sorcerous Steward? Do they say, "well, now you know! Don't let me catch you with a gun again!"

You can have a serious villain, no redeeming qualities, and still have moral complexity underneath.

Re: Rolling just Acuity

There are no rules for when you play these kinds of games, except: get your players' buy-in. Feel free to play with the stats and when to roll which, as long as you keep everything above-board, as long as you're not doing it to get one over on somebody.

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2006, 07:48:48 AM »

Quote
I endorse having a bad guy! I wish more people played with real villains.

OK, not really my thing, but I'll see what I can do!
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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.
lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2006, 07:52:42 AM »

For anybody who doesn't know, J's running Dogs for me and some folks just now. Thus his response and thus mine:

"More people" doesn't mean, y'know, anyone in particular, even us. I think people would have some more fun with the game in general if they treated having a real villain as a viable option, instead of being all like "if there's a real villain, judgement's too easy; better not." That's all.

Oh and I fixx0rd your /quote.

-Vincent

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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2006, 08:46:42 AM »

Thanks, V.

See, here's the thing about villainy: as long as that's not where the real judgements lie, that's great. Typically, in my towns, the real atrocities of the town are committed by good people overreacting to injustices wrought by those abusing power, whatever power that is. That is, the burden is on the power structure (sometimes it's the Steward, sometimes, like on the Western Star, it rests with someone else) to either let people be or act very, very carefully. You may have noticed the theme of authorities acting out of fear (of their own people or of their own higherer-ups) and greed, which is sort of my feeling about authority figures in general. They act poorly — either heavy-handedly or weakly — and the reaction is to act in self-interest (which we can assume people will usually do), which threatens the authority's position, so they either overreact or fold under the weight... and so on.

Now, maybe the Steward's a bully, or maybe the snake-oil salesman is greedy and holds his cure over the townsfolk, but the issues is that everyone's in it up to their elbows, behaving badly. Shooting the Steward or the salesman won't solve anything even though those guys suck and are the cause of the trouble; you've got to have enough characters around that the players decide who's worth what, cuz they can't shoot the whole town.

Right?
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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.
Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2006, 06:39:15 PM »

cuz they can't shoot the whole town.

Right?

They can't?

yrs--
--Ben
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2006, 08:14:49 PM »

They can't?

By the King, no! Surely all of the Watchdogs are kind and gentle individuals!

What kind of hypocricy would that be? And the King will abide no hypocrite.

Right?
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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.
Claudia Cangini
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2006, 08:38:12 AM »

Re: Villains

I endorse having a bad guy! I wish more people played with real villains.

Vincent I just realized you are TOO RIGHT!
The Town I created (to be posted as soon as the players will be finished) was very satisfactory in terms of doubt, difficult choice and personal growth for the character but lately (it's taking more than 1 session, it's quite a complicated place…) I came to realize something is missing.
Your message just clicked with this consideration. Dilemmas are very nice but, after all the frustration of trying to understand every point of view (my players are like this: I just love 'em!) the Dogs deserve to vent out with a bit of good old violence!
I should have provided some obvious target… Fortunately there are a couple of really nefarious Unfaithful characters with many thugs in town so maybe they'll find a way to have a final showdown anyway…


You can have a serious villain, no redeeming qualities, and still have moral complexity underneath.

This is too true. I'll remember this should I write another town
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Claudia Cangini

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