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Dogs with Star Wars Sauce, Or: How Do You Make a Town into a City? Dogs & Genre

Started by Paul T, August 30, 2009, 05:53:31 PM

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Paul T

I ran a Star Wars-flavoured session of Dogs a few weeks ago, with great success. I didn't modify the rules in any way, except suggest that the accomplishment/initiation conflict deal with the Jedi's relationship to the Dark Side. That's why I'm calling it "Star Wars-flavoured" as opposed to Banthas in the Vineyard or whatever you will.

Since I haven't run Dogs a whole lot, I wanted to stay loyal to the setup of the game. I had the young, virgin Jedi travel to a small backwater planet where a small low-tech village of humans with a culture of polygamy and patriarchal family roles were experiencing some trouble. Sin, anger, fear, etc, attracted the influence of the Dark Side, which tempted common folks to greater pride and violence, and gave extra strength to those who gave in.

The result was that we pretty much played Dogs straight up, except that the Dogs were called Jedi and carried lightsabers instead of guns. In every other way, it was just a regular game of Dogs, to the point that we sometimes forgot entirely that more advanced technology existed, that the Jedi had unusual abilities, etc...

None of this was bad: we greatly enjoyed the game, and our goal was just to expose a few more players to DitV as well as have some fun, so it was a success on all fronts.

But I realized that there's something I'd really like to hear more about. Despite all the discussion of how to modify the rules to make Dogs work in other genres on this forum, I haven't seen any discussion of how people build Towns or create stories in a different format. Because using the Town creation rules straight-up works really well--in fact, in preparing for this game, I was really surprised how much bang I got for so little prep. But preparing a standard Dogs town and sending some moral authority into it is never going to create something like a Star Wars story. It's still Dogs, you know? ...Just with some different sauce on top. Because Dogs is all about the troubles that crop in small, isolated communities with strong communal traditions.

All those "Dogs in other genres" threads (from my limited reading) don't seem to share the product, just rule modifications and setting details.

So, those of you who have run Dogs in other genres successfully:

* What did your prep look like? Will you share your "towns" with us in this thread?
* How did those stories play out?
* Did you still use an episodic Town-by-Town approach where the Dogs visit a place, make judgement, and leave, or did you follow something more like a typical "RPG campaign" with an on-going story arc?
* Have you ever run a Dogs game that totally broke the standard Dogs mold (like a long-term story set in a huge, sprawling city, say)? If so, how did it go?

Thanks! I'm looking forward to more DitV in my future, and I hope this thread will bring some of you out of the woodwork to share your experiences, caveats, and recommendations.


Paul, I'm coming to this a little late but I hope you'll still see it.

I don't know Dogs in the Vineyard that well, but it tells a very specific sort of story: the "town tamer" story, in which a hero rolls into a community that's falling apart, violently removes the corrupting elements, and then rides off having reestablished the way things ought to be.  This sort of story is very strongly linked to the genre trappings of the Western, but it shows up in other places too: Kurosawa's Yojimbo, virtually every episode of Dr. Who, several episodes of the original Star Trek series, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Walking Tall (big 2x4, 2d8), Carlito's Way, etc. etc.  Structurally Dogs should work fine for any of these: you're just changing the incidental color.  The interesting questions in stories like this are all about, "How did the town get this way?  How far will the people go to change it (or resist changing it)?  What does the aftermath look like?"

Star Wars however is a little bit different.  With the exception of the unwatchably tedious Phantom Menace, none of the films are telling a town-tamer type of story.  Instead, it's a pretty standard bit of issue-driven face-stabbing, the kind you'd see in many other Forge-type games.  The issues at play involve "Love vs. Duty" and "Feelings vs. Reason," among others.  Structurally, the films are sort of like a Bildungsroman, a story about a character's moral growth into adult responsibilities and commitments.  (I'd argue Han Solo undergoes this sort of transformation as well, even though he's an older dude.)

So while I think you can have a Dogs game in which the Dogs use lightsabers instead of pistols, and call it a Star Wars game, it isn't really Star Wars on a structural level.  I don't know exactly how to use Dogs town creation to handle a Bildungsroman plot structure, but I'll give it some thought.

Also, make sure that any lightsaber battles you have, occur in horrid industrial hellscapes.

P.S.  The first season of Ugly Betty strikes me as a potential Star Wars type of show, if the fashion magazine were the Evil Empire and her father were the last of the Jedi...

Paul T


I agree with you entirely. Which is why I'm particularly curious how others have handled this sort of thing, and how it went.

I hope some of those others will chime in...