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[DitV] Simplifying the system

Started by Marc Truant, January 09, 2010, 07:30:24 AM

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Marc Truant

Vincent, you had me at "kill puppies for satan", but I fell in love when I finally bought Dogs in the Vineyard. The setting, the gameplay, the ideas and themes persistent throughout... Beautiful, wonderful, and so creative. I could see books, independently developed video games, maybe even indie films...

But that's not what I'm here to ask you or any other fine roleplayer on these forums today. What I'm here to ask is... How do I, for the sake of some of my players, simplify the system? How do I simplify it without dumbing down the themes and ideas, without removing Escalation of conflict and the narrativist elements of the system?

These guys, they would truly love the game and the setting... But not all of us have all that dice to spare, and some of them can't comprehend the system when the terms "Raise", "Fallout", "Take the Blow", etc surface and show their faces.

So how can I effectively SIMPLIFY the game's system while still keeping the spirit and the feel of Dogs in the Vineyard? I haven't been so inspired by an RPG in a while, I haven't been so pushed to play such an RPG, and my friends feel the same way. They want to be Dogs, they want to struggle as the Left Hand of God, but is there a way to make it possible for them?


An interesting question and I'd certainly like to help, but I feel it would help if you were a bit more specific about what you were trying to achieve.

For one, I don't think the rules are all that difficult. If your group has trouble comprehending the system, perhaps it's more a matter of explaining it differently? Of using different terms? Are you perhaps not native English speakers?

Now, as for not having enough dice, that's another matter entirely. I think... ah yes:, some info about using cards instead.

Marc Truant

Quote from: Falc on January 10, 2010, 04:15:24 PM
An interesting question and I'd certainly like to help, but I feel it would help if you were a bit more specific about what you were trying to achieve.

For one, I don't think the rules are all that difficult. If your group has trouble comprehending the system, perhaps it's more a matter of explaining it differently? Of using different terms? Are you perhaps not native English speakers?

Now, as for not having enough dice, that's another matter entirely. I think... ah yes:, some info about using cards instead.

I don't think it's that difficult either. Maybe you're right and I just need to explain the rules better... And we are actually native English speakers. :P


Do they play/understand poker? Tell them it's like poker. In poker when I make a bet, you can either fold, see or raise. The principles are similar.

You can just give up (fold), or if you care to see the conflict to the end you have to match my "bet". It you do it with two dice you're also taking a blow in the fiction, if you need more/better dice you can up the ante by escalating. Fallout is the "damage" you take along the way.

It's really not that complicated. Maybe you should just try playing, step by step. It might make more sense in play (or it might be a disaster, I don't know).


Teataine makes a good point: try to explain it by starting from things they already understand.

I mean, if they're American Football buffs, I'm quite sure you could draw some neat analogies. One side's the offense, other one's the defense, offense calls their play by putting two dice forward, defense either gets a sack (respond with one die), loses ground (respond with two dice) or gets scored against (respond with more than 2 dice). It's not a perfect analogy since you switch sides after every play, but it should at least get the idea across, and that's what matters. The actual terms used, not so much.


Are your friends gamers? This might help:

- It's just like combat in any rpg, except that you roll all of your dice upfront instead of rolling every round.
- Instead of making an attack roll, you push 2 dice forward.
- Instead of making a defense roll, you push dice forward to match the attack. 2 dice is a successful defense, 3 or more means they hit you.
- When they hit you, you don't roll damage right then. Instead, you set aside those damage dice and roll them all together at the end of the fight.
- If you run out of dice first, you lose. You can also "give," if you want out of the fight before you're out of dice.
- You can get more dice by escalating or by bringing in your traits and belongings.

I don't recommend trying to simplify the rules, but they should be easy enough for most gamers to follow.



I found that we didn't need huge amounts of dice. Conveniently, stats are d6 which helps a lot.

We didn't set aside physical dice for fallout, rather, we just tallied up the fallout die types as fallout was taken.

A trick we never had to resort to:

If you're really short on the unusual dice, often after rolling a d8 or a d10 (and all the time with a d4), you can replace the die with a d6 set to the right number. You could also use numbered chits (having something physical to put forward for a see or raise is a lot more critical I think compared to keeping track of the fallout).

Frank Filz

Moreno R.

Hi Marc!

I don't think you need to simplify the system, so much as simplifying the explanation.  I do a lot of Demo of DitV at local conventions (a "demo" around here is a full 3-4 hours game, not a quick 15' demonstration) and I have the problem of having to explain the system quickly and having the players remember it afterwards. These are the things I do:

- I don't explain the different backgrounds: I directly tell the number of dice everybody must use (this really save A LOT of time, the different backgrounds confuse everybody the first time)


- I don't explain the different dice for the objects, everything has a d6.
- I give everybody the same object.
- I don't explain how the dog's coat is done. They have a peculiar coat, period (some player, especially the ones used to WW games or AD&D2 could pass a hour, in real time, to describe their coat design and history, and come up with something totally inappropriate anyway)
- I don't explain the ceremonies.
- I don't explain the helping rules (this, not so much to save time at the beginning, as to save time during the game. Players not used to play in author stance make a total mess with the helping rules)
- I don't explain the different kind of relationships, I talk only of relationships with a single person, and my advice is always to keep all the dice available or take a relationship with another dog in the party.


- At the character's creation, I guide the choosing of the trait directing people to give the best dice to the "I am a Dog" trait and the shooting trait (telling them to write it as they prefers, from "I a Dog and the Lord is my guide" to "somebody made me a Dog, help me!"...). It's what they usually want to do anyway but they are afraid of being called a Bad Player if they do, so I assure them. After that there are only the little dice to divide and there is less pressure.

In this way, the characters are ready in very little time, and the players have to remember only the basic conflict mechanic.

Then, I make them play a very simple city. REALLY simple (the cities posted online are not good, they are never simple enough. Make one yourself, using the procedure written in the game manual - ALWAYS use the procedure written on the game manual, it's the most important piece of the game - trying to do the most simple city you can. If you can't write it in 10 minutes it's not simple enough. If there is more than one "bad guy" or if there isn't a clear bad guy, it isn't simple enough. And go to Hate and Murder,

In your case, playing with the same people afterwards, you could explain all the other rules the next time, when they are already familiar with the basic ones, of when they need them during the games.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)

Marc Truant

Wow, thank you for the answers everyone! Those were really helpful.

Yeah, I don't think I really need to simplify the system than just find a way to explain it to my players. Maybe I shouldn't read it verbatim, and I should just go for something they already understand. :)

Thanks again everyone! Happy gaming!

David Artman

Late to the party, but I'll try to help address the "too many dice needed" thing (Lord knows I've bought more dice to play lumpley games than all other games I've played--combined!--between DitV and Mechaton!):

* If you go to any of the larger conventions, the Chessex booth has "blem" dice that you can get for something like $20 for a whole PITCHER full of them--easily five pounds or more of dice. The blems are, typically, bad plastic dye mixing, merely causing a "spotted" effect not any grand unbalancing or fragility. At worst, you'll get some actual sprue blemishes--i.e. unusable dice, for the most part (unbalanced, at the least; wont' roll stright, at the most). Or totally blank dice in both opaque and transparent--I call those dice "gems," because they are actually quite useful as such in LARPs. You can also choose to hand-pick your dice, for a premium price (e.g. $25-ish for a whole pitcher... and be prepared to hand-pick for an hour, to fill a pitcher!) They also have smaller containers, like coffee mugs (random or hand-pick).

* Chessex Pound of Dice can get you about 100 dice for $20 (20¢ per die--hard to beat), but that will include d12s and d20s. Unless you play Uber DitV (where d12s can be used), then you'd want to break them out and use them for Dread: TFBOP or Spite: TSBOP. The d20s you can sell on eBay or make into flails. ;)

* If one (or more) of you use a netbook or have a laptop or desktop handy at the game table, then there's the bad-ass Catch Your Hare Dice Roller. Enter "ditvexample" for the Set password field, to see how I would show a Sorcerer having bid 10 with two dice, and the two Dogs having to See (Br. Fred having to Take the Blow in the process).

* In a REAL pinch, you can just share dice, write down what is rolled as it's rolled, and cross out values used as they are used. Not very FAST... but it will do. Similarly, you could replace rolled dice with Uno or normal cards as they are rolled (NOT use cards totally in place of dice, as the link above describes). Have one person find and hand out the cards while another is rolling, to maximize the speed of it. This process likely will require several card decks, though (due to the commonality of 1 to 4 results).

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