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[DitV] Trying Again

Started by IMAGinES, December 16, 2006, 02:39:27 PM

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Hi, everyone,

From the looks of things, another long-term break in my gaming will be coming to a close at the beginning of the New Year. Although I've been going ga-ga over Burning Empires recently, my wife reminded me that she'd really like to play some Dogs in the Vineyard sometime. I've been a bit gun-shy about Dogs ever since I first tried my hand at writing a town – a prime example of why you shouldn't play before play starts – and the first time I attempted to run the game, which... well, it didn't suck, but I think I was enjoying it for the wrong reasons. (Lesson #1: No more caffeine or sugar for me while I'm GMing.) But my wife, whom I introduced to the hobby, rarely expresses serious interest in playing a game, so I decided to suck it up and pull my printed-and-bound copy of the rules off the shelf (I wound up doing myself off another one so my wife could have a copy at home while I have one to read in my lunch breaks at work).

I also started keeping an eye on this forum again, and I saw Vincent suggest to a new Dogs owner to try writing up a town, all the way to the Hate and Murder stage. So I thought I'd give it another shot, to see whether I could do it without over-thinking (and –writing) it like last time.

So if you'll indulge me, here's my attempt (complete with director's commentary): The Baker's Mill Branch.

1a) Pride: Brother William is a very accomplished teacher, able to run the branch's school single-handed, and very much enamoured of the children in his family. He believes that, because they are uniformly quick-witted and quick to learn (true), that they are more deserving of his skill as a teacher than the rest of the branch's young.

(For some reason, it was Stewardship-related Pride that jumped out at me. I dunno; maybe authority and guidance are lurking in my subconscious at the moment. Still, how teaching came into that, I'm not sue, especially as I've been more interested in Starship Troopers-style discussions of duty and service.)

1b) Injustice: Brother William neglects his teaching position in favour of teaching his own children. His farming family lose his income, meaning they can't afford to keep hands on; his second cousin, Brother Lawrence, must do the work of three in Brother William's fields. Also, without William, the school-house closes down, leaving the wives of Baker's Mill Branch to care for their children. Sister Julia barely has time to keep house already; with her children running her ragged, she can barely keep dust off the floor.

1c) Nope, not grabby enough yet. So on to:

2a) Sin: In desperation, the normally dependable Brother Lawrence has started stealing grain from the stores of the neighbouring farm belonging to Brother Prester. He still has to work hard in the fields, but now at least he gets a little more respite. Because his "lazy wife cain't do a simple thing like keepin' a proper house while he's out workin'", Brother Derrick took to takin' to his wife, Sister Julia, with his hide belt strap.

(I see-sawed a couple of times on the second sin. Brother Derrick went from wife-abuser to adulterer to stay-out-late-drinking-er, but I had trouble coming up with decent Demonic Attacks, and there was just something more grabby about the wife-abuse angle, so I trusted my first idea.)

2b) Demonic Attacks: A blight has struck Brother Prester's grain, which Brother Lawrence has spread to Brother William's stock with his thieving. Both families' resources are dangerously low, and as a result the branch mill and bakery is also facing ruin. In the meantime, children around town are starting to notice how fathers are gettin' angry at mothers and mothers are gettin' too timid to pay their kids proper mind.

2c) So far I have two or three NPCs who could make a claim on the Dogs' time (Martin, Derrick, maybe Prester and Julia), at least one NPC who can't ignore the Dogs' arrival (Lawrence) and an NPC who's doing obvious harm (Derrick). I already know I'm pressing on, but I feel like I want more anyway.

3a) False Doctrine: Brother William's eldest and brightest son, young Brother Thaddeus, likes this new attention and power lavished on him by his father, and has noticed how Derrick's kids have the run of their house. He believes that "The King of Life blesses all that children do, and them grown-ups that stand against the young blessed will face retribution from their own."

3b) Corrupt Worship: Brother Thaddeus has become most insistent that he or one of his siblings lead prayers at Brother William's household. Sister Althea, Brother William's level-headed wife, tries to give the adults a chance to lead prayer, but doting Brother William refuses any denial of his children.

3c) Okay, I like the Midwich Cuckoos vibe here, so I want to establish this cult of children further:

4a) False Priesthood: Sister Honora, eldest child of Julia and Derrick, bullied her mother into letting the eldest children of the branch's families (none older than eleven) meeting in a room at Brother Derrick's house. Brother Thaddeus preaches to them about how the little children should suffer not.

4b) Sorcery: Branch Steward Hiram has been spending time in every house over the last week, talking with husbands and doing a pretty good job of soothing sore heads down – which meant the adults started asserting authority on the kids again. Two nights ago, right before Hiram was due to visit Brother Derrick, the Steward's sturdy house suddenly collapsed; a falling beam shattered Hiram's leg. With Hiram laid up at the doctor's house and more worried about building a new house for him and his wife than about his branch, tensions have worsened even further and Brother Thaddeus and his coven are again left to their own devices.

4c) The demons definitely want Brother Thaddeus' little church to touch the minds of all of the young of Baker's Mill.

4d) Well, I've come this far, and I have a neat idea to push it all the way.

5a) Hate and Murder: Last night, while everyone else's eyes were closed around the dinner table, Sister Honora let go of her little sister's hand and slipped poison into her mother's food. This morning, Derrick woke up to discover his wife dead in bed.

5b) Yep; that looks good.

6a) What do the townsfolk want from the Dogs?
·   Brother William wants the Dogs to recognise and endorse the good he's done by separating his kids from the chaff of Baker's Mill.
·   Brother Lawrence doesn't want the Dogs to discover his thieving, but he does want them to get Brother William either back in the school-house or out in the field so he can find out what honest work is like.
·   Brother Prester fears he is somehow at fault for the blight, which he doesn't want the Dogs to think; the problem is, he wants the Dogs to bless his crop (ending the blight) and end the theft of his grain.
·   Brother Derrick thinks he's responsible for his wife's death, and he wants the Dogs to declare her death as righteous punishment for being so lazy.
·   Brother Thaddeus wants the Dogs to allow him to help the grown-ups (who're all so busy and angry) by taking over the churchin' of the kids of Baker's Mill.
·   Sister Althea wants the Dogs to rein her children in and bring her indulgent husband back down to earth (preferably with a good, hard bump).
·   Sister Honora wants the Dogs to fill her Daddy full of lead "for killing Momma" and, as eldest child, let her take care of her siblings.
·   Brother Hiram wants the Dogs to transfer Stewardship of the branch to the dependable, trustworthy Brother Lawrence.

6b) What do the demons want?
The demons want the Dogs to kill that interfering Sister Althea and Brother Lawrence. Althea knows about Lawrence's thefts and is covering for him until he's ready to come clean, so the demons will make it look like the pair are having an affair.

6c) What would happen if the Dogs never came?
Sister Honora would encourage other kids to start poisoning any grown-up who gets in their way, with Sister Althea next in line. Brother Derrick would rapidly be consumed by his guilt and, blaming Hiram for not being there when Derrick needed him, would take his gun to the doctor's and shoot Brother Hiram. After the inevitable lynching, and with no one to guide the town, fear of starvation would force those capable to pack their houses up and head for the next town – the children of those who survived would undoubtedly spread Brother Thaddeus' twisted doctrine yet further.

So how does that look?
Always Plenty of Time!


Looks good to me but I'm going to have my own prejudices about what's grabby or not. I think if you really get into the wrongs and hurts, and it matters to you, then you're off to a good start.

I would ask one question that you (or anyone else) might be able to answer. I'm not totally clear on just how demons get things done. The rules suggest that they are not corporeal. How do demons then make things appear that X is really Y, or make buildings collapse, etc? Do they act through possessed people, or what?

Ok, so if I was to run your town, as written, what would I latch onto? I really like the children as the cult. I'd probably open the throttle on that. I'd have the children get the first crack at making the Dogs do their bidding, using all sorts of sad-eyed looks or manipulative behavior. It'd be easy to see that something was up.

I would also ask myself if there was also any injustice->sin that ran through or over any of the children, and would that also have a track that would lead to their part in the false preiesthood or corrupt worship. But that's just what "grabs" me, looking at it. This is also without any consideration of the what the players are like and what sort of decisions they might have come to in other towns.


Hello, James. Thans for responding.

That question about demons is one I've brewed over myself a few times, especially after reading discussions of the issue on these forums. My thinking is this. I try not to think of demonic attacks in terms of the game-world's internal consistency, its Laws of Physics. Instead, I think of demonic attacks as plot devices. They're The Worst Possible Thing That Could Happen Next. They're the flashpoint, the spark that ignites the dry tinder the GM builds in the preceding steps. Without that Worst Possible Thing, the town stays where it is, and maybe the sinners realise that they're doing others harm and stop, or maybe they keep at what they're doing and it quietly becomes the new status quo. But where's the drama in that? Where's the potential for serious, gut-churning pronouncements of judgment?

In the case of my town, maybe it's just pure coincidence that the blight struck when it did, or that Brother Hiram's house collapsed right when the kids needed him off their backs (maybe there was some sturctural flaw there after all). The Faithful choose to make their existence in a harsh, untamed, unforgiving land, and sometimes, shit just happens. But the Faithful, especially the Dogs, aren't brought up to see it that way. Instead, they see evidence of demons at work. And if my players start talking about Buffy-esque demon-bashing again, I'll pick up their cues and start throwing in all sorts of supernatural weirdness, and it'll likely turn out that the blight and the house falling apart will really be the fault of non-corporeal beings of evil.

But I'll try not to sweat the small details, the "Just how did the demons weaken the beams of Brother Hiram's house?" I honestly feel that trying to drill down to that kind of clue-finding, crime-solving detail in Dogs in the Vineyard is detrimental to a fun game. It only matters that the Faithful believe the demons did it, and they did it because someone in Baker's Mill done become a sorcerer and told them to.

Nice thought about the children getting first crack at the Dogs. Yeah, I can quite easily see Brother William presenting Brother Thaddeus to the Dogs when they ride into town. ... yes, the young evangelist-prodigy Thaddeus suggesting that they let him lead the chil'uns of Baker's Mill in prayer, since the grown-ups are busy and angry all the time. Heh, heh, heh! Thanks, James!

I just want to make sure you're reading your last paragraph right: Are you thinking that rather than being dragged in halfway through the process, the kids' False Doctrine ought to be anchored in a pride of their own? I'm not sure it's all that necessary. I've always liked the Boxelder Canyon example Branch in the book, as it manages at every step to drag someone not directly related to what's gone before into the proceedings. Even though it was the TA guy's Pride and Injustice and his wife's Sin, it's the Dog's uncle who gets harmed in the demonic attack and, unaware of the Pride, the Injustice or the Sin, writes the False Doctrine and makes Corrupt Worship. In this case, though, Br. Thaddeus is tied to the Pride, because it's he and his siblings whom Br. William is so proud of.
Always Plenty of Time!


Quote from: IMAGinES on December 17, 2006, 09:35:02 AM
Nice thought about the children getting first crack at the Dogs. Yeah, I can quite easily see Brother William presenting Brother Thaddeus to the Dogs when they ride into town. ... yes, the young evangelist-prodigy Thaddeus suggesting that they let him lead the chil'uns of Baker's Mill in prayer, since the grown-ups are busy and angry all the time. Heh, heh, heh! Thanks, James!


QuoteBrother Thaddeus wants the Dogs to allow him to help the grown-ups (who're all so busy and angry) by taking over the churchin' of the kids of Baker's Mill.

Right. Next time you have a "brilliant idea", Rob, make sure you've not already had it. So maybe think about Sister Honora's approach, make it about her mommy and daddy instead of just "I want you to shoot my daddy dead". Sad-eyed looks or manipulative behavior to the nines. Thanks, James! I think I was going to just play her psychotic.
Always Plenty of Time!


Quote from: IMAGinES on December 17, 2006, 10:01:43 AM
Sad-eyed looks or manipulative behavior to the nines. Thanks, James! I think I was going to just play her psychotic.

I'm a parent. This is normal behavior from normal children. It gets creepier when you realize that they know what they are doing. Watch children, from a distance, when they interact with their parents. Lots of manipulation and whatnot to get what they want.

And, yes, my question about the last paragraph and the track of injustice->sin is more of a "Why this way as opposed to that way?" question that tradesman might ask another, in admiration of a method or task. One more good idea!