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Author Topic: [DitV] Conflicts are tensionless  (Read 6566 times)
Neil the Wimp
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« on: October 18, 2007, 03:31:27 AM »

I finally get to play in a mini-campaign of DitV and things aren't going so well.  We're doing a 'rotating GM' thing where each of us takes it in turn to run a town for the other two.  The first few towns went well.  The trouble is, for the last couple of towns (with me as player then GM), I've found that there's been very little tension in the conflicts we have.  This is because the long-term fallout and experience the Dogs have undergone has given them each two or three traits in the 3d8 to 4d10 range, and these traits are applicable in most conflicts.  This means that the Dogs are in almost complete control of how the conflicts go, what blows are taken, and what fallout dice are distributed. 

As I understand it, the GM's role is to make the players think hard about what conflicts to engage in, and how hard to push those conflicts.  The mechanics are there to inform those decisions.  The GM can make the players think by doing three mechanical things:

  • Win conflicts: the easiest one to aim for, as it means that the Dogs' opponents get what's a stake.  Unfortunately, this doesn't happen because the Dogs can bring two to three times as many dice to the table as any NPC.
  • Raise with a blow the Dogs' don't want to take: plenty of fine examples of that, but tricky to do when the Dogs have all those d8s and d10s at hand.  The Dogs can Block just about any Raise the GM can make, and choose when to take the blow to generate lots of d4 fallout when it doesn't really matter in the SIS.  I have, however, been using the Viciousness power for a lot of the possessed.
  • Escalate and have the NPCs take terrible fallout: about the only option left.  Trouble is, two of the three Dogs are set up as talking types, so most of their raises are non-fighting ones.  It's difficult to stack up a big fallout total when the NPC is taking mainly d4s and d6s

So, what to do?  One answer is to give the NPCs more and bigger dice so that the Dogs get a run for their money.  What's preventing me is the general well-crafted nature of the DitV rules.  I'm concerned that the problems I'm seeing are more to do with our misapplication of the rules than genuine failures in the rules themselves. 

Any thoughts?

Neil.
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2007, 05:24:23 AM »

Do the Dogs always agree with one another?

-Vincent
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Neil the Wimp
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2007, 06:04:09 AM »

We've only three players, so 1 GM and two Dogs.  That leaves little room for disagreement between the Dogs.  So far, there's been no strong disagreement between them.  This could be because each of us used a 'starter' town for our first run, so the problems were fairly straighforward and easy to judge.  There weren't many shades of grey or, if there were, the players saw them the same way. 

But that doesn't solve the problem I see: the Dogs, even acting alone, don't run much of a risk when going up against NPCs.  Or are you saying that satisfying DitV play requires that the players are in conflict with one another?

Neil.
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2007, 06:39:22 AM »

If you find yourself often without enough dice to "push" a hard raise to the players (in the sense that even if you say "you have to choose between saving x or you, the players can easily see with big dice and say "no, we save both") a possible solution I have used sometimes is to begin a lot of conflicts, see what dice you all rolled, and "give" without even playing the first raise if you see that you have not the right dice. (You'll need a couple of big numbers, like 9 or 10, more than the players. The demonic influence is very useful for this). You "keep" only the conflicts that you see as "interesting" in the "numeric" sense (this could mean giving early in a big duel in the main street, saying "you kill him, whatever" and staying later in a conflict that seems less important. Doesn't matter, find a way to make it important enough for the dice, and start raising). So you begin a lot of conflicts but don't lose time with the ones where you don't have the right dice.

I would not suggest raising the dice on the NPCs or using Mobs. These tactics smell of "GM force", and you don't need NPC strong enough to win a conflict. You only need a couple of "10" at the right time, to make the PC's life more... interesting!

Another advice: make the conflicts be against people the PC care about, or that are indispensable to the community. Then show the players that you can "see" with a lot of "1" against their gun any time you want (killing the NPC you are using, even if they did not want that). You can use their big dice AGAINST them, making them be much more careful about using them.

But the best solution is still having the Dogs fight between themselves. But to do so, you have to leverage your knowledge of the players, and see the way they are playing, there isn't a hard and fast method to get to that point.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2007, 06:55:25 AM »

How are you doing with sorcerers and possessed people?
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aescleal
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2007, 09:49:59 AM »

Watcha all,

I'm one of Neil's players. My recollection is a bit different to his. Despite having a Dog with two fairly good traits the final two conflicts in the last session drove me to relying on lucky dice rolls (one by me, the other by Neil) to avoid my Dog taking some big fallout. In one Neil kept the tension going by burning low dice and keeping a big deterrent '9' sitting on the table which made the pair of us grub around for traits to avoid the blow being turned. The other was a different kettle of fish, as both sides dice drained away and we were all grubbing around for traits again to try and deliver something that would end the conflict.

Interestingly (and this an observation which might indicate another way of keeping the tension up) in one of the conflicts I couldn't use my Dog's most effective trait and in the other I had to make the conscious decision to not use my Dogs second most effective trait to avoid killing the person the conflict was with.

Moving onto player disagreement... I think the other player and myself have similar world views and we were quite happy working together. Our character's agendas were compatible enough which helped.

Cheers,

Ash
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knicknevin
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2007, 10:04:43 AM »

And I'm the other player.

I think the apparrent lack of tension was more an arteifact or the way in which we were playing the game, i.e since only one character at a time continued from one town to the next and no character ever went more than two towns in a row before being 'rested', there was very little chance to build up the relationships & motivations that the characters had. With more consistency, it would be possible for a GM to use the strategies already mentioned in this thread for developing tension.

That aside, I think another contributory factor towards a lack of tension is the essentially formulaic nature of Dogs: you ride into town, sort out the people's problems and ride on. We very quickly fell into meta-gaming each town, e.g. trying to identify who was on the side of the demons by speculating about their prideful nature and possible sins. Perhaps with more experience GMing the game, I could avoid creating towns that fell into the trap of being predictable, but its hard to break away from the central formula of creating a town without undermining the nature of the game. Has anyone come up with any answers to that?
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Neil the Wimp
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2007, 12:05:44 PM »

...a possible solution I have used sometimes is to begin a lot of conflicts, see what dice you all rolled, and "give" without even playing the first raise if you see that you have not the right dice.

That's certainly one idea.  Do you find that you abort a lot of conflicts doing things that way?

How are you doing with sorcerers and possessed people?

Possession effectively turns a relationship into a trait and gives some extra funky powers.  It doesn't give any more, or any bigger, dice so possessees don't seem to be in conflicts much longer and the players still seem to be in control of when fallout is taken.

Sorcerors are the few people that actually make the Dogs stop and think.  5d10 or 6d10 gives a few big numbers for turning blows and threatening large raises. 


Ash, in the last few sessions, I didn't get the impression that the players were agonising over whether to continue with a conflict or give early.  It seemed to be a pretty foregone conclusion that the Dogs would win the conflicts, and win handily. (Note that I was GM in the last session and a player in the session before

James, town design is another issue.  I don't think there was anything wrong with any of the towns that we played through, or with any of the way the towns or NPCs were played.  My question here is a purely mechanical one: how can conflicts with ordinary people be made mechanically tenser?

Neil.
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David Artman
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2007, 01:08:07 PM »

This is because the long-term fallout and experience the Dogs have undergone has given them each two or three traits in the 3d8 to 4d10 range, and these traits are applicable in most conflicts.
[Bolding by me.]

I think that bold sentence is the real rub, though I'll try to ponder it a bit more for you on a "larger, theoretical" level (not that I could help with that more than Vincent, but still...).

I find that broadly applicable Traits are a real problem for campaign play--it's almost like you need two standards based on how many times you expect to use a given Dog. In a campaign, a Trait like "I am commanding" or "I never miss with my Colt Peacemaker" or other general Traits that couple directly with the escalation levels mean (a) they always get evoked and (b) the player fights hard to keep (or get to) the escalation level that best suits it.

Consider it another way: are their Fallout dice (d4s and d6s) applicable in every conflict and being evoked like clockwork? Probably not.

It's a Pyhrric solution, if you have to rewrite the Dogs at this point, but you might want to consider it for the future (and even for these Dogs' future Experience).

HTH;
David
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2007, 03:18:27 PM »

...a possible solution I have used sometimes is to begin a lot of conflicts, see what dice you all rolled, and "give" without even playing the first raise if you see that you have not the right dice.

That's certainly one idea.  Do you find that you abort a lot of conflicts doing things that way?

No, not many. But I never had to deal with many over-powered characters, The PC usually did not bring a lot of d10 with traits and with demonic influence + high relationships (the NPCs are usally connected to the stakes) is rather normal to get the dice for one or two big raise eith there (the game is build like this, too.  At the beginning of a conflict the only way for the Dogs to have d10s is relationships, because the traits are all d6s, while the GM has the demonic influence dice from the start.  Bringing traits into play the PC can usually get more than enough dice to win, but not until getting hit by some raises)

Usually I do one of two things:

1) if they don't have enough big numbers rolled at the beginning but I have, I start hitting big, forcing them to choose between giving or commiting to stay in the conflict bringing into play their "big guns" (the traits big in d10). If they are lucky they parry but they are usually committed at that time to a rather violent course of action that will bring other conflicts down the line.  And if they are not, they are hit by the raise

2) If they can stop my raise, I save the biggest dice in reserve, to be use when they doesn't have the dice to stop it (from what the other players said, you already do this, right?)

About "normal" people (with no powers, possessing demons or big mob behind), the demonic influence can be pretty mean by itself. And to use it you don't need to use supernatural descriptions, if the demons are acting by themselves and not at the order of a Sorcerer.

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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Noclue
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2007, 10:24:54 PM »

Ash, in the last few sessions, I didn't get the impression that the players were agonising over whether to continue with a conflict or give early.  It seemed to be a pretty foregone conclusion that the Dogs would win the conflicts, and win handily. (Note that I was GM in the last session and a player in the session before

James, town design is another issue.  I don't think there was anything wrong with any of the towns that we played through, or with any of the way the towns or NPCs were played.  My question here is a purely mechanical one: how can conflicts with ordinary people be made mechanically tenser?

Neil.

Well, give them reasons not to want to hurt the people they are in conflict with. Give the dogs personal ties to the town that make them not want to draw their big guns and start shooting. Its not easy to gun down your mom for adultery, or your cousin Abel for blasphemy. I stumbled into this in a fun way the first time I ran Dogs. Will's PC was trying to talk his cousin's husband into forgiving her and taking her back. The NPC said something really insulting about his cousin and her adulterous ways. Will escalates to fighting and just wallops the guy, he pushes forward some pretty big dice. And I, smiling, make sure the poor husband takes as much fallout as I can as he is knocked off the porch and down the steps.
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James R.
Noclue
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2007, 10:36:54 PM »

Oh, I forgot the kicker. The husband is lying there crumpled on the street and the Dog who hit him is having his "oops" moment. Then they all go into healing mode and save the poor bastard. Of course, since Will had won the conflict, he got the stakes. The guy took his wife back. So we narrated how his cousin comes up while they're struggling to save his life and there's this tearful "I always loved you scene."
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James R.
ffilz
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2007, 02:10:32 PM »

See this thread where Vincent suggests that possessed people get the demonic influence dice.

Frank
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Frank Filz
Neil the Wimp
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2007, 12:48:25 AM »

See this thread where Vincent suggests that possessed people get the demonic influence dice.

Actually, I think that's where Vincent suggests that possessed people are common, and they get to add the dice from their Relationship with a demon to conflicts, if they have the Ferocity or Cunning powers.  It's Sorcerors that get an additional four-dice Demon relationship, get all the Powers, and who can call on Demonic Influence when they want.  

Neil.
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Claudia Cangini
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« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2007, 02:49:28 PM »

I finally get to play in a mini-campaign of DitV and things aren't going so well.  We're doing a 'rotating GM' thing where each of us takes it in turn to run a town for the other two.  The first few towns went well.  The trouble is, for the last couple of towns (with me as player then GM), I've found that there's been very little tension in the conflicts we have.
[...]
So, what to do?  One answer is to give the NPCs more and bigger dice so that the Dogs get a run for their money.  What's preventing me is the general well-crafted nature of the DitV rules.  I'm concerned that the problems I'm seeing are more to do with our misapplication of the rules than genuine failures in the rules themselves. 

Any thoughts?

Neil.

Hi Neil, you already received many good advices but, if I were you, I would still also try to get the players int Towns and situations more controversial.
At least enough to break usual agreeing between them or to really put the characters in some difficult position.

Family ties, as already suggested by Noclue, are always great but there are many more though (morally, not mechanichally) choices you can confront your player with. You should get some ideas on where their Achille's heels are observing the character and the player until now.

Best of luck with your game!
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