Dogs in the Vineyard with fewer dice?

edited August 2019 in Story Games
I'm heating up for a DitV game and found out a variation using fewer dice (thanks @Aviatrix ). I already customized the playbooks with it based on some cool design I've found in the web (can't remember the author name, please if someone knows it, lemme know).

Anyway, my question is: have someone used this tweak, or played the game with fewer dice for themselves and if so, what are your thoughts on it? My intention is speeding up the conflict system for our first game on the basis that a) our timetable is tight, with just 3h on week days, and b) I know a couple members of the group are not big fans of dice manipulation games.

So that's it. Thanks in advance.

EDIT: Found it! It was @jenskot who did the playbooks in this thread here.


  • This is something I’ve given a fair bit of thought! It’s tricky. Sometimes conflicts feel “punchier” with fewer dice, and sometimes it seems like they go by too fast, with nothing to “hold onto”. If you only get two Raises each, it can feel insufficient and unsatisfying.

    The main thing that drags down Dogs games, in my experience, is when people forget that they are allowed to “give” in conflicts. That’s really key to making the game work!

    I watched Vincent Baker play once, and I was struck by something he did in the game:

    He was portraying an NPC, and after the initial dice pool was rolled, he said: “I can see that toy have better dice, and I know [this NPC] isn’t willing to escalate, so I’m going to give right off the bat.”

    Having that sort of insight, instead of stubbornly playing every conflict through to the last die remaining, really helps the game work.
  • Thanks for the input, Paul.

    I'm really undecided here. See, besides our tight playtime (3 hours), with the exception of 1 other player, my group is super traditional in their preferences, and I fear DitV dice play could be too much for them.

    So I'm torn between: a) using the default rules in a very simple town (so we get less conflicts but crucial/long ones), or b) using the fewer dice variant on a normal town (so we have more conflicts, with faster duration each).

    If you or someone else has more thoughts to give, I appreciate. Thanks!
  • My experience is that having just a couple fewer dice in each conflict won't speed things up all that meaningfully. Kind of like how giving Fighters in your D&D game multiple attacks sure *will* slow combat down a little, yes, technically, but hardly enough to be noticeable.

    Feel free to try it, of course! But that's been my experience. Dealing with setting up the conflict, figuring out the stakes, collecting dice, thinking through what Traits and Belongings come into play, and whether the various parties will escalate or not, and then Fallout (plus potential healing conflicts!) all take far more time than an extra Raise or two once the conflict is under way.

    I would choose to use fewer dice because I like how it *feels* (conflicts are punchier and more immediately decisive, perhaps, but less detailed and colourful), not because I need to speed up the game. It's an aesthetic/flavour/style choice, in other words.

    Learning to go to conflicts very early, and giving as soon as it becomes reasonable to do so, will speed up your game far more. (And you should do that in any case.)
  • Some further thoughts:

    The "fewer dice" version has 2-3 fewer dice per participant per conflict or so (e.g. 11d for Stats instead 13d, of which one might come into play, plus maybe one fewer Trait). It's a pretty subtle difference: you might have four "rounds" of Raises and Sees instead of three, for example. If it feels good, do it! But short conflicts can also feel unsatisfying, so it's a tradeoff.

    Another thing that really affects the duration of play is how hard you scene frame and how many players there are. DitV, as a game, is very sensitive to the number of players (especially if you're using the rules as written, in which you may need to design your Towns differently, as well, depending on how many Dogs there are).

    One thing I saw Vincent do when he was running the game was NOT to let every Dog participate in every conflict. He'd just have one Dog lead the conflict, and the others could "help" if they were present. This balances the game and makes it move a lot faster, too, but could be unsatisfying for the players who end up on the sidelines.

  • Another note:

    I looked at the "reduced dice" in the link, and they're nice in a lot of ways, but they don't balance as well between the different character backgrounds as the rules as-written do. That's not a huge deal, but I thought I'd point it out!
  • edited August 2019
    Paul, thanks for the insight on what slows the game down. And yes, I've watched the session on Youtube with Vincent where they designate a lead Dog and the others help (instead of everybody participating in the same conflict). I'll be using this rule.

    About the fewer dice playbook, I've notice the inconsistency in the originals. I've tweaked it since. Could you take a look and say what you think?


    Edit: and since we are here, I thought about adding a back page to those playbooks. What do you think would be cool to add? I thought of this little stats graph here by Jhkim, plus ceremony and a resumed flow of conflicts.
  • I actually have a slightly reformatted way to do Dogs character creation I should post sometime. Let me see if I can throw a "reduced dice" version of it sometime.

    (Have you seen my "Dogs Character Generation" thread?)

    I don't have any particular thoughts on a character sheet. In long-term play, you'll just need more space for everything; otherwise, it's not too different.

    Some information on the Faith and how the social structure in a Town is supposed to work could be nice.

    I also like to have a "temporary" section, for recording Fallout. The idea is that you write things here and then cross them out or erase them when they come into play. Temporary Traits, reduced Stats, and dice to carry forward could all go here.

    Ideally, each character sheet would have all the Fallout options, as well. (Speaking of which, what Fallout list(s) are you using? I discovered that pretty much everyone's Fallout lists on Dogs references are different!)
  • edited August 2019
    (I'd happily look over your dice arrangements and totals, but it's hard to do from the formatted character sheets. Do you have a summary sheet or anything like that? Otherwise, I'd have to make one from the character sheets. It's not a huge deal, but still takes some time.)

    (I seem to remember, for instance, that being "Well-Rounded" is a far better deal, since, compared to other characters, you get four more dice of Stats, which is bigger difference than it was under the default rules. Little things like that.)
  • I'm also curious how you're going to handle Relationships! Those can be tricky.

    Finally, in case it wasn't clear before:

    I ran a few Dogs Towns recently, and had a blast. I initially wanted to use the "reduced dice" (like you), because they look nicer on paper, but couldn't get those references in line in time for the game (since it requires reworking the NPC rules, as well, for instance, and probably Reflection and Fallout, too - although that might be OK as-is).

    After playing the game, I found that, if anything, some conflicts were too short, and I felt no desire to go to "reduced dice". However, I might try it sometime, anyway.
  • edited August 2019
    Hi Paul, thanks for the tips. Including Fallout and XP options on a second sheet is indeed a good idea. About the updated numbers on my "Less dice" version, it's this (assume Stats, Traits, Relationships, in this order):

    15d6, 2d8 2d6 1d4, 1d8 2d6

    Strong History:
    11d6, 2d10 1d8 4d6, 1d8 2d6 1d4

    Complicated History:
    13d6, 1d10 2d8 2d6 2d4, 2d6 1d8 1d6

    Strong Community:
    11d6, 1d8 3d6 1d4, 2d10 2d8 2d6

    Complicated Community:
    13d6, 1d8 5d6, 1d10 1d8 1d6 2d4

    To be honest I'll probably try the default version first, as I like to try all games RAW first time. But I appreciate if you have some insight on these numbers too. THanks!
  • Nice! I’ll look those over and get back to you.
  • edited August 2019

    Complicated History:
    13d6, 1d10 2d8 2d6 2d4, 2d6 1d8 1d6
    Is this a typo?

    Assuming it's not:

    * Generally, this looks reasonable. The Dogs will be rolling 2-3 fewer dice per arena of conflict, so you'll get one fewer Raise than in the rules as written. (A slight difference.)

    * Did you have a system or method for creating this, or are you just eyeballing it?

    * How will you adjust the NPC rules to match, I wonder? Initiation? Demonic influence? Healing? Do you have a plan? (Just curious; it's not a huge deal to adjust things, and the game's not that sensitive, but it's still worth a thought.)

    * Overall, these profiles seem to have far fewer Relationship dice (relative to other totals) than standard Dogs. That could be a good thing, not a bad thing, but it jumped out at me. I suppose it depends on how you're intending to handle Relationships!

    * I'd say that Complicated History feels a bit "stronger" than the others to me (though it depends on how I estimate that), and Strong Community is definitely on the weak side (mostly due to having fewer stat dice). The others feel pretty good.

    If you're curious what I mean, check this out, for an example: compare Complicated History to Strong History. Complicated History gets better stats. Then the Traits are seven dice in both cases, with slightly (but only slightly!) lower die types for Complicated History. Relationship dice are similar, but, again, very slightly better for the Complicated History profile. Strong Community, meanwhile, gets worse stats AND worse Traits than any other profile; I don't know if all those Relationship dice really make up for that. Maybe they do! But I think some players may feel a bit useless, when their Relationships aren't around.

    * My gut sense is that there aren't enough d4s flying around, especially for the "Complicated _______" types. For example, if you have a Complicated History, you get 2d4 for Traits, compared to a Well-Rounded Dog, who has 1d4. That's almost too subtle a difference to be "felt". (Although, again, that may not matter! The Dogs will change so quickly in play...)

    Overall, I like it! It should be fine.

    I'm also not entirely convinced that these backgrounds are an important part of the game (note that Vincent doesn't use them in that one-shot we both watched!); if I were going to start rewriting the rules anyway, I might experiment with other ways to generate dice totals. (If you're curious, I can post a basic idea I outlined recently.)
  • Another idea for something that could go on the back of the character sheets would be some guide, tips, or resources for character creation. I fooled around with some different techniques in this other thread (see below), and I recently ran a couple of Towns with newbies who really appreciated these tools.
  • Thanks again, Paul! Very interesting ideas in that link. I'll surely mine it.

    This though..

    "My gut sense is that there aren't enough d4s flying around, especially for the "Complicated _______" types. For example, if you have a Complicated History, you get 2d4 for Traits, compared to a Well-Rounded Dog, who has 1d4. That's almost too subtle a difference to be "felt". " something that's been worrying me too, as the d4s are a big part of what makes conflicts interesting for me. In the end, we may end up going default all the way and staying at it.

    Thanks for the great insights here.
  • I'm glad someone else is playing Dogs, and interested in talking about it! It's one of the most fascinating (and fun!) games of all time.
  • edited August 2019
    Hey Paul, take a look at this playbook. I've added a back page!

    (was unsure between a Colt Paterson or Walker - I love the Walker! - but went with the former as it's actually cited in book so, more "canonical" I guess)

  • That looks great! I hope you will “migrate” this conversation over to another medium so we can continue. I’ll PM you my email address as well.
Sign In or Register to comment.