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[DitV] Alternate Setting: Cops on the Street

Started by yangnome, July 31, 2006, 05:09:30 PM

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I picked up DitV last year and have had a blast playing it.  Immediately, it seemed like it might make a good fit for a modern police game.  I'm looking for a fast paced, kick ass and take names type game as opposed ot a crime scene investigation type game.  I've run a version of this once for my home group by the seat of my pants to try the idea out.  now I'm preparing a session to run as a pick-up game at GenCon this year.  Here are a few things I'm curious about for the conversion:

Interrogations:  Escalations works well on the street when encountering NPCs, it does a good job reflecting use of force scenarios (one of the things that made me think this system would work well for this game).  However, when dealing with a suspect that has been brought back to teh station for interrogation, the system does not hold up.  Now granted, in an interrogation setting the cards are stacked against the suspect, but with little or no ability to escalate, the suspect quickly runs out of dice.  In the game I ran, this seemed to kill the suspense.  i suppose you could use timeplay to help combat this, but it still didn't feel right.

Demonic Influence- I'm not sure how to adjust demonic influence for this game.  Criminal influence might seem like an obvious answer (level of crime witnessed, or known power of criminals being investigated), but I'm not sure this is the right answer either.  Looking for any thoughts here. 

Creating a Town-
Static environment- For a 1 shot Con game, this won't be important, however, for long term play, given teh nature of the game, the PCs will be in the same town in the same beat instead of heading town to town.  This means that not all problems in the town will be solved in a single session.  I don't really see a problem here, but it is a bit of a concern.  Of course there will always be new crimes that spring up and hte PCs will have the opportunity to interact with the same NPCs over and over. 

Now, I'm thinking that stroy arcs can be developed in a similar way that towns are created.  Instead of starting with pride though, one could start with pride, Greed, Lust, Anger (or any of the other deadly sins), which leads to crime, which leads to murder, etc.  Of course, many times when dealing with a police type story, you'll start at the murder end of things and work your way backwards throwing in the threat of potential murders occuring might help keep tension up.  For instance, game starts with a body lying on the side of a road, victim of a drive by.  PCs get called to investigate and find the murderer.  During the course of their investigation, they find out it is gang related (guy was selling drugs on another gang's turf.  Thing is the victim's gang is going to take a shot at the gang.  Can they find out and stop it in time?  If not, is a gang war brewing?  Can they stop that?  I don't really have a problem coming up with ideas, but I'm kind of curious as to how one would put this into a quick start system as listed in the DitV game.  It'd be nice to be able to draw up an episode (game session) in about 30 minutes.

The last thing is that these characters do not have divine right to act how they wish.  if they cross the line (break the law) they may need to be held responsible (if anyone finds out).  For the most part though, I think this can be handled through conflict resolution.  A GM might want to add corruption to the game to add another layer of conflict (e.g The Shield) where cops are trying to fight crime and trying to protect their own asses. 

Anyway, any thoughts on this?  I'll post more once I have things drawn up. 
Anyhow, looking for thoughts on this.  For the most part, things seem like they'll transfer well. 


There is one essential element of Dogs that I am not seeing in your setting - that the cop is a member of the same community as the suspect, and that both of them know it. Without that, the question of how far the cop would go is an order of magnitude less interesting. Rule of law and police procedure, as constraints on player behavior, aren't nearly as personal or visceral.

Most cop dramas that I have seen are, indeed, missing the element of one community for cop and for suspect. Now, if your cops were members of Internal Affairs, then you would have a one-community setting with a vengeance...


Joshua A.C. Newman

If the cops don't have the authority to act as the players see fit, it will break the game. However, it's not a big deal to award them that authority and have it still work as cops: these are Vice cops working undercover, and maybe they're in a little too deep. Also, don't assume that this is, say, New York law; make up the law as you see fit, just like you make up the Faith.

Just make sure you raise that you planted a gun on the guy's body after you shot him in cold blood.

Charles, the connection of a police detective to the community is, indeed, an angle interesting to explore in play. I say, you get that Relationship die when you know the guy; like, "I know Frances "The Hammer" Mahoney from my days as a beat cop, when he was hustling on a street corner, 1d6."
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.


The detective may have a connection to Frances "The Hammer" Mahoney, but the two of them don't belong to the same community in most cop shows I've seen - not in T. J. Hooker, not in The Shield. It's that element of common community that lends poignance to the question of how far a Dog or a cop would go - for example, in the movie Code of Silence, where the community is the cops.



I am planning on running things as plain clothes detective types, in a similar role to the Strike Force on The Shield.  While they are not members of the same community in a religion sense, I don't think that will take away from this game.  Presumably the cops will be working in the same neighborhood, therefore they'll know the criminals and the victims to some degree.  Instead of religious doctrine, they'll bring judgement based on law that all are supposed ot live by.  The difference here is you have one group (criminals) who choose not to live by those laws.  The cops may have to act on this, or they may not.  For instance, they may give a drug dealer or a prostitute a pass to get info on the location of another suspect for a worse crime.  This opens up all sorts of story possibilities.

I don't intend to run things in direct accordance with current written laws--I wouldn't expect the players to know or understand the nuances of everything (use of force and search & Seizure policies & procedures, etc.).  I don't want to nitpick.  PCs would be free to act as they choose, however certain actions may or may not have repurcussions.  The gun someone chose to plant as a raise may or may not come back to bite them in the ass later on.   While the players won't know every policy and procedure, I think there are some actions which clearly cross the line (planting evidence, killing out of revenge, etc.).  Nothing prevents the players from shoosng the actions, it'll just make for some interesting moral situations in play and some future story hooks.


Another question---Ceremony.  i was thinking about leaving this out of the game, but now I am considering putting it in. A few off the top of my head (htough no dice have been attributed):

Placing someone under arrest
Reading Miranda:
Invoking Miranda (NPC conducts ceremony; Request a Lawyer) fatal?  takes NPC out of story?

Any other thoughts?


I'm working up a similar variant (I've been calling it Dogs on the Streets).  As people have pointed out, I'm not sure it'll work as a typical Law & Order-style, police procedural detective story.

I began by approaching it from the perspective of a show called Wanted that was on TNT last year.  Basically, an "elite" group of law enforcement officers brought together from different local and federal agencies.  Each episode they hunt down one of the most wanted criminals in the city, usually after said criminal does something extreme to earn the spotlight.  There are lots of complications because everyone on the team is fucked up in one way or another.  It wasn't a great show, but it was an interesting, if contrived, premise.

So, the character creation is pretty much unchanged.  Instead of 2 months of training, they've got their prior career (months or years) with the agency they came from.  I plan to have the Accomplishments taken from that time, but otherwise function the same.  The automatic 1d6 relationship for PC goes to Informants and Cops.  I've tried to come up with replacements for Coats, Book of Life, and Consecrated Earth.  Right now, I've got some ideas I'm not wild about, so I'm still working.

For now:
   Coat = Badge, which may include extra decoration for commendation or reprimand
   Book = Newspaper, which reaches the community with current events the Dogs can use to demonstrate the negative influence of Criminal Enterprise
   Earth = Official Documents, which can be served against people to influence behavior.  These are things like subpoenas and warrants.

Things got more complicated when I looked at the GM side of things.  Instead of a Town, you've got a Fugitive.  I need to rethink the hierarchy of Something's Wrong, but for now it is basically a history of the Fugitive's criminal career.  Criminal Enterprise takes the place of Demons.  The philosophical force of Criminal Enterprise wants to promote rule of the strong.  It threatens the community in which it exists through intimidation and opposes the force of Law.

The Gang takes the place of the cult and the Gang Banger is an altered mental state, similar to possession.  The Banger's devotion to the Gang enhances their abilities.  They may enter the state willfully or be excited into it by the Gang Leader.  Gang symbolism is likewise enhanced around someone in the Banger state - their tattoos and colors are more apparent, they use more slang and hand symbols, etc.

A lot of the conflict is over control of the community - their hearts and minds.  Instead of Demonic Influence, you've got Criminal Influence, which works roughly the same.  The more extensive and extreme the Fugitive's Criminal Enterprise is the more potential dice of Criminal Influence.  Then the more the Dogs know about the Fugitive's Criminal Enterprise, the higher the pressure becomes for everyone, so more dice of Criminal Influence actually come into play.

Here's what I've got so far for Ceremony.  It's pretty much a one-to-one mapping and is still a work in progress.
Authoritative Presence (d6): Standing imposingly over someone, whether threatening or protecting is a powerful gesture.
Calling by Name (d4):  Calling someone by their real, given name, rather than their chosen alias or gang name forces them to pay attention.
Invoking the Law (d4):  You state your authority as a law enforcement officer
Flashing the Badge (d6):  Beyond just stating your authority as a law enforcement officer, boldly presenting your badge, carries even more weight.
Reciting Crime Stories (d4):  Telling people about the horrific nature of crime can coax them to the side of the law.
Serving with Papers (d8):  Serving someone with a subpoena or warrant always gets their attention.
Three in Authority (d8):  Having at least three officers present is daunting to many criminals.
Wiretapping Evidence (d6):  Playing a damning recording will always bolster the officer's case.

That's most of what I've got so far.


You've got a lot of good ideas there Reed.  I agree, the GM side of things gets complicated.  It looks like your idea takes care of the static location problem I'll have.  Being able to move around the country looking for fugitives will allow you to build new areas up.  I also like the way you approach ceremonies.  I'd call Authoritative Presence, Command Presence, bu tthat's just me nitpicking.  I might also throw in verbal judo at a d4 or d6.  If you wanted to play a game that allows corruption from teh officers, you could also make planting evidence or using a throw down gun a ceremony (though it is essentially the same thing, I'd separate the two due to the greater severity of the later).  I'd also make a seizure of property ceremony

I also like your idea about the criminal groups trying to influence the community.  I think your idea for criminal intent dice is right on. 

For your Coat, Book, Earth, I'd personallyt run them this way:
Coat = Badge (pretty obvious)
Book= Book of law/Penal Code
Earth= Warrant (Search or arrest)

I think I've figured out a way to solve the Create a town problem with teh static location.  Instead, I'm going to create a case.  The case will form the basic building blocks for each episode.  The main difference is that the town will already be formed and be an area that is constantly played in.  Most of the gangs will be known (though there are always new gang bangers and power struggles).  Of course some sessions could not involve the usuals, but be something else entirely (e.g. elderly man kills his ailing wife/illegal, but something they could sympathize or find despicable).  I might also create a new rule for creating larger story arcs which would span a "season".  These larger story arcs might help form the foundation for some of the cases built for episodes. 

For the purpose of this game, I'm thinking about changing my Crime creation a bit, though I do intend to have a similar escalation list. 


Good thoughts on the Ceremony.  I definitely want to think of some more changes to better fit the genre and focus on theme.

I did something similar to the Case.  Instead of a Town, there is the Fugitive.  The history of the Fugitive involves a Craving (for respect, money, love, sex, power, etc) Acted Upon as a Broken Law (theft or violence).  That Broken Law leads to a larger pattern of Crime (Drug Dealing, Blackmail, Money Laundering, Slavery, etc.) that forms a Criminal Enterprise, which seeks to oppress the community, endanger its survival, exacerbate its crimes, and prosper its criminals.  The criminal justifies his crimes or the victim explains them as Street Cred, which leads to a Street Code (ignoring the law and substituting criminal hierarchies and vigilante justice).  Three or more criminals working together form a Gang, with one of them serving as the Gang Leader.  The power of the Gang is in Intimidation of the citizens to accept the Criminal Enterprise.  Eventually someone is murdered to further another crime, this is called Felony Murder and is the ultimate extrapolation of the Criminal Enterprise.

I ran a one shot of this last night when two of my five regular D&D players couldn't make it.  Another friend joined us, so there were four Dogs.  There is a lot of room for pushing the characters.  Our one-shot was pretty straight-forward, but could have gotten more complicated.

An LAPD Vice undercover officer was killed and everyone was sure it was the gang leader, so the team was called on to bring him in.  We only played four conflicts, since time was short, but it worked out pretty well.  One PC went to the Vice squad to get their files and the Sgt. didn't want to share them because he had other undercovers that he didn't want to compromise.  The PC ended up giving and launching a followup by rushing to the courthouse to get an order for the files from the D.A.

The second conflict had all four Dogs staking out the gangster's girlfriend's apartment trying to catch her home alone.  Raises on my side included things like the drudgery of the stake-out.  The Dogs used tricks like sending a pizza order to the apt then questioning the delivery guy to see if anyone else was there and finally bursting in with a search warrant.

The girlfriend asked them to bring him in safely and give him a deal to testify against his bosses, then she called him to come see her and the Dogs set up an ambush.  The final conflict was all four Dogs against the Fugitive.  The Dogs didn't hesitate to open fire once the Fugitive took it that way.  It was a big firefight that ranged throughout the apartment and ended with everyone being shot.  The Fugitive did pretty well in a 4-on-1, but I had to pull out everything.  Two Dogs took 3d10 fallout and two took 6d10.  The Fugitive had something like 15d10+6d8 fallout by the end.  The Fugitive and one Dog died.  Another Dog was in bad shape, needing medical attention, and the other two were fine.

It was a ton of fun and a lot easier for us to get into since the setting was the modern world.  The Fugitive creation was kind of clumsy, but the results worked out in play pretty well.  I'd still want to modify it a lot more before using it for a campaign.



As far as ceremonies go for this, as I understand from other threads, and from dabbling with DitV AP myself, ceremonies are there to explicitly allow behavior 'normal people' wouldn't otherwise be able to do. Magic, in short.

Either it's just straight out a superhuman effect Vincent wanted Dogs to be able to do (such as healing someone without medical facilities), or a way to confront a supernatural threat that they would not otherwise be able to interact with at all.

So my question here is: why do you need ceremonies to interrogate someone? Or have a commanding presence?

Certainly having a trait (perhaps one that everyone gets for free?) to emphasize this aspect is cool...

I think perhaps some of this confusion comes from taking the model that Dogs provides and then assuming you have to map one-for-one. 'Dogs have ceremonies so what would cop ceremonies be?' Hey, your cops are gonna write down traits like 'intimidating presence', if they know what kind of game they're getting into.

The actual effect of ceremonies, beyond IC feats normal-dudes-can't-do, is to raise the fallout. So if you don't need ceremonies to speak to someone effectively in an intimidating manner, then the only thing remaining in favor of 'cop ceremonies' is 'have you, as a cop, made a more-permanent mess of this person's life when you walk away from the conversation, than you would be capable (as a civie)? And that's a good question.

So the bottom line, I think, is that cops don't need 'intimidating presence' as fallout, but I think you could argue that the stigma of arrest or public interrogation might warrant an increased effect from normal talking fallout specifically because of things like inordinate community response (to the fact that you've been arrested or are seen talking too long to the cops) or life effect (this will go on your permanent record).