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DitV Conflict Tips?

Started by Maestro, May 13, 2010, 03:30:14 AM

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Hey all.

I mentioned in another thread, I am a huge fan of this game and the system. However, and I'm sure this has been written about before, does anyone have any tips as to how to keep the game from breaking down with multiple players? My conflicts run super smooth with one player, somewhat less with two, and once three or more characters get involved it just all starts going to hell quickly.

Thoughts and advice as to how to keep conflict scenes with multiple characters getting out of control VERY welcome. I just signed up some friends to play a 4-character DitV mod, and I kind of feel like I'm stretching the limits of the system by including a 4th character. What are some techniques I can use to mitigate the highly negative affects of combat? I'm a pretty creative guy so I've got some ideas of my own, but I want the input.

Also: Do you guys generally prefer to SHOW the DM's roll results to your players? Or do you keep the rolled scores SECRERT behind a DM screen? What are the overall affects that change has on tactical calculations and combat? I want to minimize the amount of time people spend focusing on their rolls, but also don't want to completely discourage them.

I have thought a fair compromise could be, I tell my players what their current dice pool rolled is (i.e. 2d10) but I don't tell them the scores (i.e. 2 and 7). Keep them sweating a little about the challenge level but don't take advantage of their blindness. It also leaves me as storyteller lots of room to fudge things in case rolls turn out making the story less interesting (never a good thing!)

Your thoughts welcome!!


I prefer all the dice out in the open for everyone. Part of the fun of the resolution mechanic for me is knowing what the other guy is holding. Secret rolls change things for no good reason as far as I can see.

As for multiple Dog conflicts, there's been some good discussion of that on the forum lately. Do you have any examples of the problem from your games?
James R.


Hi there,

I'm also a big fan of this game and the system underneath and in the games I've played or GMed this
Quote from: MaestroIt also leaves me as storyteller lots of room to fudge things in case rolls turn out making the story less interesting
never happens :)

A great part of the juice of the stories in DITV, revolve around the resolution of conflict and since every move of that resolution is discussed between players and GM everyone is always making contributions that are in agreement with the definition of "interesting" for the group.

Have you ever had a situation where you thought you needed to fudge the outcome of dice?

Also, yep dice always in the open.

All the best,


Part of me is concerned that dice behind screens will seem inherently unfair. But it's also easy to "gamble" when you can see the other guy's hand. A savvy player should never have his blows reversed - which can in turn make it difficult for Bad Guys and NPCs not only to win their conflicts but sometimes to even inflict Fallout. And that's kind of the heart of the game. I don't want my conflicts to be too easy or predictable because the PCs are comfortable with the numbers game.

Yes, I have had circumstances which have required fudging the rolls, but most of the time it has had to do with my miscalculating the bad guy's dice pool. I'm not saying that I'm a control freak who refuses to let the game deviate and walk other paths, believe me. But what has been problematic for me sometimes, especially when there are multiple characters involved in the conflict, has been judging the appropriate number of dice which the villains should be rolling. There are some guidelines for this in the book but I have also found it somewhat inadequate. Giving my villain groups of mooks and adding to their dice pool that way seems only a halfway solution.

One of the big problems specifically seems to be the flow of combat.


Villain NPC raises against the PCs.
PC 1, 2, 3, & 4 all block or dodge to See.
Then PC 1 raises.
PC 2... etc.

And the villain ends up having to see 3-4 separate attacks. Pretty soon their dice pool is depleted, even if they are a sorcerer calling on some heavy Demonic Influence. Am I just doing something wrong here in general? I try to keep the characters in pairs or separate groups to traverse separate story arcs, but a least once a game there has to be some kind of larger showdown. It would be nice for a change if I could get that large scene to flow smoothly and naturally.

Paul T

If you look at my last couple of threads on this forum, you'll see that I just ran a Dogs game for four Dogs, and it was a bit of a challenge. Some quick notes:

* Definitely play with the dice out in the open. This is very important: having the dice out in the open prompts and encourages escalation on everyone's behalf.

* Reversing the Blow is not a common thing anyway, but you can get it to happen by holding back dice and rolling them in later. Use the NPCs' Traits and your Town Dice for this, as well as props and other helpful NPCs.

* To mitigate the problem of a number of Dogs ganging up on one NPC, Vincent had come up with a rule for use with his Dogs mod Afraid, where you can reuse the dice you push forward to See until your next turn. It doesn't work terribly well, so we adopted a slightly less efficient version, which DID work very well:

When the GM is Seeing multiple Raises in a row, he/she can reuse any of the dice pushed forward to See, so long as each See uses at least one new die from the GM's pool.

This can be handy, for example, for Taking the Blow: grab a bunch of the dice you've used up already, then add a "1" or "2" from your remaining dice. The NPC has taken a severe beating, but their dice resources aren't hurt all that badly.

* I could definitely see letting a NPC opposed by several Dogs take their turn more often. Especially if there's a group of NPCs involved. I'm not sure how best to do this, however. Some guidelines would be helpful here, I think.

* Design your NPCs and your Towns as much as possible to be interesting to the Dogs, as opposed to challenging for the Dogs. If they're aligned on issues, they can always win. Don't make it easy for them, though: have some violent NPCs who are in the right, have some NPCs they aren't willing to use violence against. Scene frame aggressively, if necessary.

If you make sure the Dogs have relationships to people in the Town that are meaningful to them, it will seriously change the nature of the game, and alleviate this problem. I had my players create NPCs they cared about, which I then plugged into my Towns; a friend of mine puts little pictures of his NPCs onto the table before a Town, and asks the players, "which of these people do you know, and why?"

Adds a whole 'nother layer of Situation onto what's happening, either way.

* Multiple NPCs within a conflicted situation can mean several separate conflicts, rather than pushing everyone into one big mess. Have that little scrawny kid try to steal the nearest Dog's gun while the others argue with the Steward.

* Given all these things, it might take a Town or two for the situation to develop enough to get truly interesting--let the game build with some early successes, and see where that leaves the Dogs turn out a little later...


This is valuable advice, thank you.

There are some additional challenges because I'm attempting to run a game in September which is based on following one long running mystery, rather than being traditionally town-based:

I know that I posted that in the wrong area, but I didn't see a button anywhere to edit my posts so I assumed the moderator will move/delete it if necessary.

The game I'm envisioning is somewhat less cowboy and gunslinger oriented. I'm also trying to think of creative ways to threaten their lives without shootouts - including demonic possessions that inflict higher D-sized fallout based on the current level of demonic influence, etc.

Getting the investigators divided on an issue will be very challenging given the nature of such a game. But I will think carefully on it. Giving NPCs more frequent actions in conflict had crossed my mind. I may simply allow them to Raise in retaliation whenever someone Raises against them. Allowing them to re-use previously rolled dice could greatly increase their longevity. (Length of the scene to be proper is far more important than the difficulty of the challenge mechanics-wise).

Paul T

I read the linked post in the "Alternative Settings", and it sounds quite intriguing.

You may want to check out Vincent's putative game Afraid, which is a "horror" Dogs mod:

As for helping you further, I have a few comments:

1. Balancing increased NPC effectiveness in conflict versus multiple players with the number of players involved is going to be tricky.

For example, using the "reuse dice from a See" rule will NOT work if the NPC/opposition is Raising as often as the PCs. The whole point of that rule is to scale against a varying number of PC Raises. If you alternate, it doesn't do anything.

Given the "hopeless", dark theme of your game, you might consider using the original rule, where the NPC can reuse all the dice used to See. Some players will be unable to make meaningful Raises on certain turns, but that might be fitting to the game.

Giving the NPC more dice, on the other hand, is problematic because a) it draws out conflicts and b) makes conflicts which involve fewer PCs too hard.

I might consider an alternative like increasing the number of Town Dice available to the GM based on the number of players. This would give you some flexibility in pacing, but the total number of dice would keep you "honest". It would still feel harsh and unfair sometimes from the player side, which might be just the thing you want.

2. Other than that, it's incredibly hard to give specific advice for the game without a clear idea of how the situations in the game are structured. Dogs has Town Creation and generally resolves each Town in 1 or 2 sessions.

Can you sure you prep/scenario structure for this game? That would help immensely. What's your version of Town Creation for this game, and how long do you expect a given situation to play out?

3. Creating difficult issues for the Dogs to potentially divide over sounds like it makes you uncomfortable. But I think it might be just the thing: yeah, you've got all this horrible stuff and violence and mistreatment, but why not make as human as possible, tied into whatever the Dogs care about, and the kinds of people that they are? Take their hopes and fears and twist them into what's happening, subverting each one.


I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. My responses below:

1. Rules effectiveness is important to the game. Whatever I do, the mechanics of the game need to be sound. What I'm leaning towards right now at this minute is a combination of two half-solutions:

a) Allowing my PCs not to raise according to "best roll" / turn order, or in any sort of round-robin fashion. Instead, the PCs will raise when cinematically appropriate to do so, if there are multiples in the combat. I will also allow my NPCs to raise more than once per "round" - whenever it is appropriate for them to do so. I may, or may not, implement the rule where one of the dice they use to See can be re-used on their next See.

b) Assign additional Free Dice to towns, in the case that they CAN be rolled, but are not necessarily forced to be rolled in a combat. I also think that NPCs who are notable enough to demand PC team-ups to combat will have "Sorcerer" like powers and can roll / command the Demonic Influence as Free Dice for themselves to roll. This is much more significant than in the base game, because in the base game the level of Demonic Influence is set once, for the entire town. In my hack, each PC Character has his own current level of Demonic Influence. Thus, more dice to be used by the bad guy.

This is also partly balanced by the use of "Hunches" which can be used to guess an enemy's Trait Dice and roll free dice equal to the Trait guessed. (Incorrect guesses get them nothing though).

2. This is a good question which I am currently coming to grips with. At first, I'd intended to have the structure of the game roughly follow vanilla Dogs - i.e. Go to New York, investigate the murder of so-and-so, then follow the trail of the killer to Chicago, etc. Upon closer examination of the game as I've begun building it, that format is counter-productive. In order to encourage a broader story arc and more independent player actions and stories, the group will roughly be split into two groups of two investigators each at the very beginning of the game. From there, the game will follow a somewhat more traditional RPG story arc which will deal primarily with episodes, wherein the PCs discover the information which is meant to be discovered. I will present them with a limited part of the mystery, with the expectation that by the end of the session, they will have uncovered that much of the story.

I thought hard about making it more open-ended, which is after all the spirit of the Dogs game (and what I really love about it!) - but it just doesn't really work as well for a specific, assemble-the-facts murder investigation. The players could draw vastly different conclusions about who the actual killer(s) is/are, and I don't want to make the game that open-ended. I want to present a very tight, coherent story comprised of several different arcs that assembles into a cleanly constructed case. At the end of each session, I want them to really get how the different pieces are starting to fit together and go "oh yeah, that makes sense..." and also, "Where the heck is this next part leading to?"

The game's going to have a very particular pacing, and somewhat pre-planned scenes with a strong soundtrack and a chain of character-driven events. The players will have a choice as to when, and where, they explore the different arcs (for instance, if they choose to interview Dr. Holton at his place of work, or at his home), and there will be a chronology of events for each session which could lead players to catch people doing incriminating things, or even to drive them to take certain actions to either evade the law, rat our confederates, etc. Timing is important. But the actual events themselves will, at the end of each session, if planned correctly end with a certain pre-determined set of objectives fulfilled, so that they can head on to the next part of the story smoothly.

I think I conceptualize the game as an HBO miniseries. There's a mystery to solve, but the players need to pick up the clues to jump through a pre-planned series of hoops. How they discover the clues, and the actions they then decide to take on the information, are largely up to them. That's their share of the gameplay. They also take responsibility for crafting their individual and group stories, by choosing when and how they interact with their Demons. Are they growing over time, becoming more mature and stronger, or is the Demon (alcholism, past trauma, infirm mind, etc) getting the better of them? And how is their outlook affecting their relationship with the other characters, and any important NPCs in their lives? The players collaborate with me in building the story - I provide them with the raw clues and information that yields a convincing and dark tale of depravity and murder.

That was longer than intended. I hope it helps you understand where I'm coming from.

3. Intra-party conflicts does intimidate me slightly, yes. I'll tell you why.

First, this game is dealing with some heavy themes - deception, murder, fraud, integrity, loss, betrayal, hate, legality, etc. In that sense, it's similar to the base game of Dogs. However, there is no inherent bond of brotherhood shared merely because they're all Eyes. It isn't necessarily a fraternity of shared values. I'm worried that with the weight of the themes discussed, characters may take actions that lead to irrevocable, irreparable relationships between them. While that may make for some awesome story-telling, it could also badly disrupt the "flow" of the game in the directions I need it to go, depending on the specifics of how the sessions are planned.

I think I could handle the above - and, I've got a solid group of players who are mature enough to deal with it responsibly. But I don't yet have character concepts from all of them either, leading me to be cautious about over-planning how and why characters should feel a certain way. On one level, I think it's awesome. But I'm also trying to account for a larger story as well, and need to balance distracting vs. enhancing when assessing the appropriate level of infighting required. Then again, it also allows for some really cool manipulation of the mechanics - say I give one player the choice: "You know John's got a drinking problem." Then it's up to them to make a cutting remark and leave him alone with the bottle. And oh, if they do, they get to roll the dice for John's demon...

All the better if it leaves the conflict with damaging (and interesting!) fallout. :)

Thanks a lot for the feedback. I'm interested in continuing this discussion and getting more opinions on the game scenario. I appreciate your interest and advice!!