[Dogs in the Vineyard] Best resources for first-time presentation?

edited February 2009 in Play Advice
Hi! I'm GMing Dogs this weekend. I've only done so once before, and it's been awhile, so i wanted to trawl SG's collective brain for the very best online writeups, discussions, one-sheets, and so on for presenting DitV to first-time players. Either advice for me or handouts for them are dandy. I'm particularly looking for good ways to quickly and engagingly communicate the following:

1) The "Setting" basics of the environment, Faithful culture and customs, and the religious hierarchy of Elders and Stewards and Dogs and such.

2) The gist of the Faith itself, particularly the Dogs and their Players' role in interpreting and judging.

3) The metagame conceits of the game such as group consensus of setting details (but respecting GM authority over Town Prep), actively revealing the Town, Roll or Say Yes, the Supernatural Dial, and the role of Player Judgment.

I'm looking for perspective on presenting these topics without seeming off-putting to folks not used to this play mode, and without overselling ("It's all about your judgment as a player." "Oh, so in this game you play out of character.") OR underselling ("You play religious zealots with this code of Doctrine." "Oh, so here's a list of rules for good roleplaying.") the game's innovation and particular paradigm. Also without using phrases like "particular paradigm." I've had mixed results in the past. Help me out!

Peace,
-Joel

Comments

  • I really liked how I heard Vincent describe it at this past Gen Con.

    "It is about these kids who are told to go into their communities and solve serious problems and the tools they are given to solve the community's problems are a book and a gun."
  • I find that it's generally best NOT to discuss the things you list in number 3. It's a good idea to go over the setting basics you list in #1. In particular explain the Dog's job of fixing problems in the town.

    At some relevant part of play you might want to explain the elements of Ceremony and point out that their "special effects" can be as mundane or flashy as they want. As the GM I usually take a leadership role on the supernatural dial by simply introducing stuff into play, and players generally "match" my level of supernatural weirdness (which, for me, is admittedly high).

    If you do start getting of that, "Ah, so we're evil religious bigots" vibe I generally point out the part of the text where it explains that "The King of Life is a Pragmatist." That way there's no player/character confusion over the judgment issue. Just be clear that *any* way they choose to resolve the town's problems is "acceptable play" or "good" role-playing.

    Jesse
  • This is a good thread, that has links to the pullouts and some character creation handouts.

    One of the things I've done that seems to help new players is, on a blank piece of paper, I draw a circle. Then I put the four traits around it, then I place the types of conflict in between the traits. I then explain about how you can go to different types of conflict to get more dice. It seems to avoid the 'linear' idea of escalation that some people have.

    And I think thatVincent's advice in this thread is particularly good wrt character creation.
  • edited February 2009
    Quoting Warren Merrifield from this thread.
    Posted By: warren
    I have come up with this one-sheet PDF introduction that explains what the Faith is, and a short bit on Coats, authority the Faith and demons. I think it works quite well.
    Haven't played Dogs myself, but this is one of the texts that allowed me to understand what this game is about the easiest.
  • If I may humbly submit my own play aids. This is everything I use at the table.
  • Just wanted to say, great stuf, guys. I'm playing this afternoon, so I gotta go prepare. My faves were the Book of Life (worth it just for the cover!) and Vincent's "pullout" set of sheets, which had the best combo of layout and game info cheat sheets. Only, my computer says the page for Town Creation is broken and can't be dsiplayed, so I couldn't use that! :( I'm just gonna hafta write towns on plain ol' notebook paper.
    Posted By: JesseI find that it's generally best NOT to discuss the things you list in number 3.
    I understand that in principle, Jesse, and I'm pretty fine with it for stuff like the Supernatural dial. it's more the stuff about judgment that I'm a bit nervous about. Last time I ran it I had a player furrow up her brow, like hard, and go "ity's going to be tough to get into that perspective [of pretending for roleplay purposes that The Faith is on the level and all that Sin and Virtue stuff is real and really brings on Demons and stuff]." I managed to muddle through something about any choices and judgments you make being valid play, but I was hoping to streamline the presentation so it's more clear and confident on my part.

    I just don't want anyone to fall into the trap of "trying to do it right" to properly emulate the Faith, at the expense of their own personal inclinations and judgments. But I also don't want to tip my hand or "jinx' it by giving a big windblown speech that gets people even MORE nervous about 'doing it right."

    I think "the King of Life is a Pragmatist" is actually a great touchstone for that. I'll try and emphasize that and see how it goes. Thanks!

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: TristanQuoting Warren Merrifield fromthis thread.

    Posted By: warren
    I have come up with thisone-sheet PDF introductionthat explains what the Faith is, and a short bit on Coats, authority the Faith and demons. I think it works quite well.
    Haven't played Dogs myself, but this is one of the texts that allowed me to understand what this game is about the easiest.
    Heh, cool :) I'm glad that it's useful!
  • I'm playing in a first-session tomorrow, and this stuff is really helpful. I'm bringing the name sheet to the game to help us all out, and giving some of the other stuff to the GM in the hopes that it'll be helpful.
  • Hi!
    I have found that you get a lot of mileage over saying to your group, "I know that this religious stuff may make some people uncomfortable. But, if it helps, let's assume that what the Dogs believe in is true and that it is not a game about dogmatic bastards." Once the idea that you are not playing a total asshole is out of the way, most people approach the games with gusto. Ironically, some people go and make an asshole anyway, and I think that is part of the fun.
    Also, I think if you play the Initiation by the book, it shows the players a lot of the "metagame conceits" with out getting in their face about how cool and "indie" the game is.
    As far as getting the setting details across to the players, I generally try and describe them as we go. Rather than get it all out in front. It generally goes a lot better with context anyways.
    I hope that answers your questions. good luck on your game!
    Dave M
  • edited February 2009
    I've had the best luck playing and talking about Dogs in the Vineyard with folks who have an appreciation for the complexity of life in a religious community and don't assume that Dogs are deluded bigoted zealots. Often this requires growing up in or having some other experience with a religious community that was supporting as well as frustrating, welcoming as well as condemning. I imagine most contemporary pagan* communities (or, hell, larp or tabletop communities) have many of those same traits, so it's not specifically limited to those with a background in Christianity (though I suspect that helps one invent appropriate language and rituals more easily).

    You know how play of carry: a game about war begins with everyone talking about their experiences with war and soldiers? I think play of Dogs could probably benefit from starting with a conversation about religion and players' experiences of it, though that may be hard for some folks, especially for a one-shot or convention game. But if I was starting a campaign of Dogs, that's definitely what I'd begin with.

    * I mean in the self-identified-as-pagan sense, not in the everybody-who's-not-Christian sense.
  • Good suggestions, Jonathan. The game we're starting tonight will certainly be interesting, and I hope in a good way. One of the guys isn't so sure about the game because he grew up in Utah and currently doesn't have contact with his Mormon family there. Meanwhile I grew up in the protestant church, and my faith has grown to be quite a chunk of my life. AFAIK, the other two guys have no particular religious bent. We'll see what happens...
  • Yeah, I think one of the challenges is for the players to see the game not as being about early Mormonism but instead being about being a part of a religious community and trying to make things better. If you don't have any experience being in a religious community, you might have to find some comparable experience to fall back on (It's like being in Girl Scouts! It's like being a mid-level manager at Starbucks!). But I think folks from some roleplaying backgrounds are used to the setting being the most important aspect of play and, in Dogs, that's not necessary true. Reveling in the flavor of early Mormonism isn't necessarily the point.
  • Hans,
    I think for players who are unsure, I try and reassure them by comparing the characters to paladins, rather than Mormons. Honestly, I avoid calling it "like early Mormons," simply because that is meaningless to most people (who don't know a lot about early Mormons) and potentially detracting from what is an awesome setting.
    Another great analogy is A-Team/Knight Rider/the old Kung Fu TV show, where the characters are wandering, solving problems everywhere they go.
    Good luck on your game.
    Dave M
  • Hans, if it's any interest to your players, I grew up in Utah and currently don't have any contact with my Mormon family there, too.

    -Vincent
  • Posted By: DInDenverAnother great analogy is A-Team/Knight Rider/the old Kung Fu TV show, where the characters are wandering, solving problems everywhere they go.
    It's like the A-Team, if the A-Team thought they were judging in the name of God.

    Graham
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonBut I think folks from some roleplaying backgrounds are used to the setting being the most important aspect of play and, in Dogs, that's not necessary true.
    This is one of the big paradigm shifts of the game for most of my group, at least as I see it. When we sat down after our last game, the main group GM didn't say, "so what game do we all want to play next?", but rather "What kinds of settings do you guys like to play in?". I balked a bit, and had to explain my POV: "Well, I'm interested in this game because of this, and that game because of that..." etc.

    It definitely is about where people are coming from in their RP experience.

    Dave, thanks for your suggestions, and Vincent, thanks too. I'll let him know that.
  • edited February 2009
    Graham: New back cover blurb, right there.
  • Joel: How did the game go?
  • Posted By: lumpleyGraham: New back cover blurb, right there.
    God yes.
    Posted By: hanselJoel: How did the game go?
    Pretty well! I ended up not having any of the new-to-dogs players I was anticipating, so a lot of this discussion was moot for that purpose. But that's fine, it was illuminating nonetheless and I'm planning on doing Dogs for a con next month, so it's still helpful!

    I'll post about the game son in it's own thread. Good luck in yours!

    peace,
    -Joel
  • edited February 2009
    Just as quick update: We finally got around to playing this today. We didn't get to a town, because we had a three-hour conversation wherein we tried to kit-bash the setting to make it work for everyone. In the end, we realized it just wouldn't work, and so the one guy who couldn't hack the Western + pseudo-Mormonism theme (he grew up in Utah and no longer talks to his Mormon family), decided not to play, and myself and the other player got down to business fairly quickly, made up characters, and played through our initial conflict.

    I am fairly new to gaming, though I've had the Dogs book for nearly a year now, read it twice, read a lot about it online. I was worried that I had built it up so much in my mind, and had in fact built up RPGs so much in my mind, that I didn't actually like them that much and/or would be disappointed when I actually played. All I can say is this:

    I popped my Dogs cherry, and it hurt so good.

    I feel so pumped right now. I love this thing, this thing that we do.

    (thanks, Clyde, for teeteewedo. And thanks Vincent.)
  • This may not be helpful at all, but I like color and detail and setting (and I don't like system so much), but I was cooking rice yesterday, and I was stirring it with a big, blue, spatterware spoon that I bought at Cracker Barrel and I held it up and said, "This is a Dogs in the Vineyard spoon." I have a ladle too. If I were running a DitV parlor LARP, that's what I would use for serving food and I would serve some sort of grilled meat, potatoes, and homemade bread. I've only played DitV once and it was awesome (at GenCon Indy last year, with Malcolm Craig running it after hours). I didn't really get a Mormon vibe at all: we were more like do-gooders with giant ethical decisions and a gun and a book, like Judd/Vincent said. We were up against people who were a lot more powerful than us and we had to outwit them and take a morally high ground. It was like, "well, if we arrest the guy who's pimping out is daughter (OMG, EW!), his younger children will starve to death. What do we do??")

    And I realized I would have to buy a lot more dice in the dealers' hall. : )
  • I think the guy who couldn't buy the Mormon vibe (I agree, it's not really in your face) was doomed from the beginning, as it was originally pitched to him as a game where you basically play Mormons in the 1800s. No matter how much we described the setting as it's written in the book, and talked about how it was really more of a Western than a game about Mormonism, he couldn't shake that initial idea out of his head.
  • Posted By: oresoIf I may humbly submitmy own play aids.This is everything I use at the table.
    Woah, you are hardcore!
  • That's pretty cool, Hans! Nice to see Dogs got in your blood. :)

    The first time I played, we just got through Initiations as well. It was totally fun, though! The purpose of this thread was to refine and streamline the process so we can have that fun while geting through a whole Town. Now this time, I had it easy, 'cuz I was playing with all Dogs-familiar players (I posted up a play vignette here). The real test will be when I run a con game at the end of the month.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: oresoIf I may humbly submitmy own play aids.This is everything I use at the table.
    Just to let you know, the character creation cheat-sheet you have in there has incorrect numbers of dice in stats, traits, relationships in the background summaries. Luckily we caught that during character creation.
  • this is all making me want to try Dogs again. i tried running it once, for two friends of mine, and i think we got about half-way through one town. one of my friends was having trouble groking it, primarily because the western thing wasn't working for him. my other friend occasionally says "We should play Dogs in the Vineyard again sometime." it's been at least a year now. i think i ought to write up a town of my own and give it another go sometime.
  • Posted By: fnord3125this is all making me want to try Dogs again. i tried running it once, for two friends of mine, and i think we got about half-way through one town. one of my friends was having trouble groking it, primarily because the western thing wasn't working for him.
    I really, really gained an appreciation for my GM when we had our pitch-and-bitch session prior to the game yesterday. He wouldn't accept less than real excitement from anyone about the game, and when one guy couldn't muster it, we decided play a different game every other session so he could join in, and just have him not be in the Dogs game.
  • Posted By: hanselPosted By: oresoIf I may humbly submitmy own play aids.This is everything I use at the table.
    Just to let you know, the character creation cheat-sheet you have in there has incorrect numbers of dice in stats, traits, relationships in the background summaries. Luckily we caught that during character creation.hmm...The one marked (original) matches my book. The other is marked (low) and the dice are lower.
  • Posted By: nocluePosted By: hanselPosted By: oresoIf I may humbly submitmy own play aids.This is everything I use at the table.
    Just to let you know, the character creation cheat-sheet you have in there has incorrect numbers of dice in stats, traits, relationships in the background summaries. Luckily we caught that during character creation.hmm...The one marked (original) matches my book. The other is marked (low) and the dice are lower.

    Ah. You are correct. I hadn't noticed that there was even two of them in there, let alone that one was low.
  • edited March 2009
    Tsk tsk. The READ ME FIRST!.txt not grab your attention?

    But yeah, sorry, probably should've mentioned that in the post. I made the package ages ago for someone who had played at my club.
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