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Author Topic: [DITV] Initiation and Zarephath  (Read 3154 times)

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.

« on: July 31, 2006, 07:21:14 AM »

I ran a game of Dogs in the Vineyard with my friends.  The two of them, Lisa and Chris, have not had that much exposure to the newer indie games, and due to some rather rabid raving on my part became reluctant to try these games. 

Since I've toned down my Activism on indie games, they agreed to try out Dogs to "see how it goes". 

Lisa played Sister Foxglove Tanner, the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters.  Her parents had several brothers and sisters as well, and the Tanner family is spread throughout the Faithful's lands.  She took Strong Community as her background.

Her traits were:

I can heal the King's creatures (3d6)
I'm afraid of violence (1d4)
I am one of the King's chosen (1d8)
I can calm the King's creatures (1d8)

She had a massive wolf (2d8) she befriended, not all that tame, but a companion of hers.  Sounded cool to me.

Her initiation was "can I return a stillborn baby to life?".  I framed a scene where she was granted leave to witness her sister's birthing, and the birthing go badly.  With the family mourning the stillbirth, and the mother hysterical, Sister Foxglove approached the baby and began ceremony.  I used raises and sees as "the still form fills you with doubt" and "the sad bundle doesn't stir", but she is successful. The supernatural dial had been set!  She gained the trait: I can work miracles (1d6).

Chris played Brother Darien St. John, son of a wealthy family of the faith.  He had been educated, and sent to travel out east, as well as across the ocean to the old world, returning to Bridal Falls to answer his call to become a Watchdog.  He took Strong History as his background. 

His traits were:

I know the Book of Life (2d8)
I am well read (1d8)
I've seen the old world (1d6)
I trained with a Chinaman (3d10)
I have seen the darkness and still I stand (1d8)
I can run like the wind (2d6)

His initiation was: I hope I get a teacher to learn something.  I framed a scene in a classroom, where the teacher Brother Sampson was discussing the rumors of a miracle performed by Sister Foxglove.  He was deriding the rumor, claiming that a miracle did not occur.  This conflict got to some heated talking, but Brother Darien squeaked by, exhausting my dice and gaining the victory.  Chris really quickly got into the swing of pulling in his different traits, adding dice to his pool to gain the upper hand.  He swore more than a few times at his unlucky rolls, a problem that plagued him the whole evening.  He chose the trait: Brother Sampson learned from me (1d6).

Both refused taking a gun or a horse, going by foot from town to town.  I found that to be an interesting choice.  I kind of wanted the gun to be there for them to use should they run out of dice, as a temptation, but I also realized that guns can be gained from any town should they want them.  I went with their decision.

We had time, so I ran them through the town of Zarephath. I changed a few things, changing Sister Althea to Sister Bluebell, Foxglove's sister, and made Brother Cuthbert Darien's Uncle (on his mother's side).  Blood makes things all the more complicated. 

I also added in a third person to the secret blood rites, a younger orphan boy named Brother Jacob.  I connected Jacob to Sister Bluebell (adopted mother) and had him recently savagely attack Phillip Svogeld in front of his kids.  This landed Jacob in the Sheriff's jail, and Phillip with one hell of a black eye and revenge on his mind.  This put the town on far more of an edge, with the Faithful wanting Jacob freed and those not of the Faith wanting him punished.

I also decided to make the other faith a Far Eastern religion, modeled a bit after Islam, making the division between faiths all the wider, adding cultural difference to the religious difference. 

When the Dogs walked in at dusk they were greeted, and almost immediately separated by Bluebell and Cuthbert, both giving each other dirty looks.  I wanted to show them everything going on, so I had Bluebell immediately talk about Jacob in jail for hitting Phillip for no reason and no provocation, and Cuthbert making it impossible for her to charge the other faith a fair price on anything.  She talked about the crop failure with the Goode farm.  She talked about the tension between the town and how it had to stop or something terrible would happen.

I had Cuthbert talk about how upset he was that Bluebell was so friendly with the other faith, and complain that the other faith had Jacob in jail for no reason, and how the other faith was spoiling for a fight, and how it had to stop or something terrible would happen. 

The Steward greeted them.  He referred to the people here as his flock, and the people across the way as the lost sheep.  He told the Dogs that the other Faith wouldn't last long, and soon there would be harmony among the people, all singing the same song.  He took everyone into the church, where he asked the Dogs to make a little speech.
At this point they heard the singing across the way from the other church.  Phineas, one of the two secret blood worshippers, yelled out "only thieves and murderers pray at night!".  The people looked angry. 

Sister Foxglove and Brother Darien stepped to the podium, and I briefly went through the stakes of the conflict: Does Phineas enrage the crowd? (I wasn't sure if the stakes were strong enough here, but they ran with it).

Two Dogs vs. One angry man = no challenge.  I had Phineas joined by Mordecai, his accomplice, and a few angry townsfolk.  That beefed up my dice a bit.  The shouting match still ended fairly quickly, with Foxglove doing the most of the talking and Darien shooting disapproving looks and a quoting a piece of scripture from the Book of Life at the end. 

Phineas sat down, the crowd was mollified by the Dogs promising to deal with the problems at hand.

Bluebell and Cuthbert wanted their siblings to stay with them, and Darien was reluctant to stay with Cuthbert.  Darien and Foxglove had a brief discussion about it, I asked if it was a conflict, making sure they knew it was a-ok to conflict with each other.  Chris said yes, rather than roll the dice, and stayed with Cuthbert.  He noticed how fat Cuthbert was, how he had a big house and nice things, and Cuthbert himself proudly told Darien that he charged the other faith a fortune for land, and the Faithful almost nothing.  He was worried about Phineas though, and the outburst he made.  Phineas is Cuthbert's Brother in Law, and Cuthbert mentions that "Phineas doesn't talk to nobody but Jacob and Mordecai.  Those three kept to themselves, working on the Goode farm.  I didn't like it, but I didn't want to say anything.  Maybe you can."

Chris looked at me and said "you aren't making anything secret, are you?" I replied "Secrets are only fun if you find them out."  He smiled at that.  In fact they both were smiling.  They were having a good time!

The next day they went to the other end of town.  I put a river between the two parts of town, and a rather shabby bridge connecting the two.  I made the other side of town shabbier.  They went to the Sheriff's office, but outside was Phillip Svogeld and his kids.

I made a stake:  Does Phillip teach the Dogs a lesson?

Phillip started Physical with Darien, and quickly went to fighting.  I had Phillip use a few of his traits "I failed my kids", "The Faith persecutes me", "I won't let another man hit me again".  Darien escalated as well, using his massive "I trained with a Chinaman".  Yes folks, Darien knows Kung Fu. While Darien defended himself from Phillip, Sister Foxglove tried talking Phillip down.  The two of them managed to deplete my dice, and while Phillip had a gun, I didn't have him use it in front of his kids and the Sheriff's office.  He broke down crying, and tearfully told the dogs of his plight.  Without a home for his kids, with no land to call his own, and with Cuthbert raising the prices by raising the rent on his land, he's desperate.

Darien did take some fallout, adding "I can roll with a punch" and a relationship with Phillip at 1d4.

Foxglove resolved to get Bluebell to take Phillip on as a farmhand, after they spoke with the Sheriff. 

I realized that it might be nice to split up the dream team here, so the Sheriff told them that only one person could see Jacob.  He was flanked by his two burly deputies.  Darien stayed to negotiate a possible release.  This caused game issue later.

The stakes was "Does Foxglove find out why Jacob is acting so strangely?".  Jacob's cell had symbol of the King of Life on the floor in Blood, freshly inscribed by Jacob.  We went from talking to Ceremony fairly quickly.  Lisa was tossing traits in like a professional.  She told me that Jacob, being an adopted son of Bluebelle, counted as blood.  Having a foster sister in real life, I immediately agreed. I wonder how I would have responded had I not had that personal experience.  Anyhow, she talked him right down, breaking him in two with ceremony and harsh words.

He spoke of his blood rituals with Phineas and Mordecai.  About how they planned to kill the faithless once they had gained "the power of the King of Life" through these secret rituals.  And how they viewed the other faith as "corrupted and filthy animals".  Jacob was repentant and genuinely sorry for his actions, remorseful.  He had a huge pile of fallout from it, so I played it to the hilt.

Darien's conflict with the Sheriff shouldn't have been a conflict.  All Darien wanted was to make sure Jacob was treated well, and the Sheriff was on board with that.  What I made the stake was "Does Jacob go free?", which didn't really work.  Chris ended up giving on the conflict and was a little put out until we discussed it afterward.  Clearer stakes would have been way better, as Chris would have given right away and no rolling would be necessary.  Oops. 

Afterwards, Foxglove spoke to Bluebell to get her to take Phillip and his sons on as workers on her farm.  She was happy to do it, but asked if Foxglove could get the Steward's blessing first. 

Darien wanted to deal with the blood cult, and Foxglove wanted to talk to the Steward.  Again some discussion, and I asked again "is this a conflict?".  After a beat, Darien said yes.  But at this point, we ran out of time. 

Hopefully when we get back together, we can find out how the talk with the Steward goes, and how the Blood Cult gets resolved. 

Now, ending thoughts.  I'm not sure if I pushed enough, I found that they won a lot of the conflicts fairly decisively.  Two Dogs on one conflict seems to mean victorious Dogs.  Separating them for different conflicts seemed a lot more effective in adding some tension and drama.  The players did pick up on the system almost instantly, having never played previously.  They also loved the game!  The initiation conflicts really helped learn how the game is supposed to be played.  And man, I gotta work on clear stakes for the conflicts in question.

Hi, my name is Jon.
Robert Bohl

Posts: 525

« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2006, 04:37:44 AM »

That sounds great.  As the person who made up the Zarepheth-town, I'm glad to see some of the embedded issues there working so well for you.

It's quite true that if the Dogs are united, they are going to win.  Dogs is a game that gives most power to the players.  In order to give them a challenge, the GM has to find a chink in the united armor and worry at it, in my experience.

Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
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