A little about our group, because I think it’s pertinent here – we’re all active members of the LDS church, so we’re more than passingly familiar with the source material that Dogs in the Vineyard builds on. We’ve been in a long-running (3 year) D&D game together, but someone wasn’t going to be able to make this session and there wasn’t a good alternate date, so I pitched the idea of running DitV for the remaining players, intended as a one-shot. Several of them haven’t ever roleplayed outside of D&D, so in addition to our shared religious culture, I wanted to run DitV to show them how a different system accomplishes making a story together. It had been more than 10 years since I’ve run DitV, but I knew it could and would deliver if they’d let it.
I didn’t have quite as much time to prep during the week as I’d’ve liked, so I went looking for pre-made towns and found one I really liked: Bootblack Ridge ( http://www.indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=17472.msg185155#msg185155 ). It features the ghost of a dead Steward and some very well-constructed and subtle differences in what each NPC wants from the Dogs. Reading through Brendan’s town will be important to understand the scenario, as I’ll describe reactions to it but not the town setup itself.
Players, their characters, and their initiation conflicts:
Jared, playing Brother Wylin (Complicated History), made a Dog who had lost his parents, and whose father had been a Steward who had apostatized (and who may or may not have been killed by Dogs when Wylin was young). Wylin was bookish and weak, and had a too-big but beautiful coat that had been made with love for someone else but then given to Wylin when that other person couldn’t serve as a Dog. Wylin’s initiatory conflict was “I hope I can overcome my belief in my father’s false doctrine – that there are really many Gods, not just the King of Life” – He won, which meant that his teachers and others actually failed to get that belief fully from him, but he learned not to talk about it publicly.
Mike, playing Brother Alex, a convert from back East who had been converted by a man who rose to a prominent position in the Faith. Mike decided this meant that Alex thought he was destined for greatness in the Faith too, and his initiatory conflict reflected this: he wanted to develop a small following among the other initiates that would bolster his belief in his chosen destiny. Even after some big raises by me in the conflict, he eked out a victory on those stakes and nothing his instructors could do would stop others from going to Alex for advice on their problems.
Rob, playing Brother Hamish, a convert from Scotland who made his way to join the Faithful, and who had some scouting experience with the territorial army. He chose an initiation conflict along the lines of “I hope I made a lifelong friend during Inititation” – I paired him with as unlikeable a person as I could manage but he also ended up winning his stakes.
On their way into town, I had them spot what seemed to be a man up on the ridge in his rocking chair watching them come into town (the ghost of murdered Steward Boaz). They rode in and found the acting Steward, Silas, and heard his point of view on things, then ended up seeing demon-possessed Sister Clemence and the barber Brother Levi tending to her. Further interviews with Brother Nahum and even Sister Eliphal all seemed to back up the same idea; that the mountain person Hazel had been the cause of the town’s trouble and that she continued to curse the town from her hiding place in the mountains, and that Brother Silas ought to be the new steward, and that Steward Boaz had done wrong by defending her from Silas and his gang.
When they visited Sis Eliphal sick in her bed, she described feeling like there was a bloated baby sucking the life from her neck, so they tried to exorcise that demon, during which Bro Hamish took significant physical fallout. Instead of making him seek medical attention, we launched into a followup conflict where the demon tried to take direct possession of Hamish’s body. He succeeded only by bringing in just about every ceremony he could think of, including finally eating his jar of Sacred Earth to get it inside him where it could do the most good.
Exhausted after that ordeal, they retired for the night, staying with Brother Nahum, the dry goods store owner who’d seemed nice enough. We determined the following morning was Sunday and that Bro Silas had all but announced to everyone that the Dogs would be ordaining him as the new Steward at the morning service. But at dawn, the Dogs found their way up onto Bootblack Ridge and found the fresh grave of Steward Boaz and the wilflowers left there by Sister Hazel, and the ghostly personage of Boaz himself. As they listened to his side of the story, it started to ‘click’ for them that there really was a strong opposition view to what they’d been told up to this point. They consecrated Steward Boaz’s grave and set out to find Hazel.
(by this time, it was 1130pm; we usually play till midnight, so we started to compress time when we could).
Sister Hazel made clear that it was Sis Eliphal who first came to her for the mountain-person remedy, and that Eliphal and Nahum had committed carnal sin together. Hazel refused to go back into town with the Dogs and they decided not to make a conflict out of that in the interest of time. So they went back down into town, interrupted services, and brought everyone from the church over to the barber shop to witness as Brother Alex cast the demon out of Sister Clemence. By now I had revealed as far as Murder so I had big 5d10 demonic influence dice, so I was making things pretty difficult for Alex. He pulled in lots of traits & relationships but took some “fighting-level” Fallout when the demon switched bodies to Eliphal and came at him with a handy razor (Clemence died without it to sustain her). He failed the exorcism (Demon-possessed Eliphal left) and failed his Fallout conflict and was going to die, so he had a death scene where he passed the mantle of “chosen one” on to Brother Hamish.
Brother Silas and his gang called them false Dogs and drew guns on them, some gunfighting found Silas dead and Hamish wounded. Brother Wylin took 3d10 gunfighting fallout but rolled 2,3,4 and wasn’t wounded at all – we determined it’d passed through his huge coat and _looked like_ it hit him in the chest but just made a hole in the coat.
At this point, we were past midnight and needed to wrap up quick, so I asked them how they wanted things to go. Clemence and Silas were already dead, and Boaz laid to rest, but they decided to
– Kill Eliphal and hopefully get rid of the demon in the process
– Kill Nahum because of his adultery and lying to them about it
– follow Sis Leah’s advice and publicly shame any remaining men and women who had committed sin
So they seemed committed to peaceful resolution up until the conflict where Alex and Clemence died, at which point they killed Silas, Eliphal, and Nahum. They appointed Brother Levi as Steward. Sister Hazel and Boaz-and-Eliphal’s young son Newton they took on to the next town.
Text from one of my players the following day: “It was definitely a “Well that escalated quickly!” ending! I had a blast. I really enjoyed the 1st-person role-playing and emphasis on the narrative style. Very interesting game mechanic compared to D&D. I know we said it was a one-shot, but if Mike ends up having to miss again during basketball season, I’d be happy to pick up with the surviving characters.”