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Lone Wolf Adventure Game

Come join BwK  as we get a group together to learn the Lone Wolf Adventure Game together!  Even the GM's trying it for the first time!  We have lots of fun and 2 rather cool scenes I was asked to bookmark in the video description.

Actual Play


An interesting pattern is visible here: the player characters, with a fair amount of authority, come to a settlement with problems, and then they use that authority and (attempt to) solve the problems. Similar scenario as in Dogs in the vineyard and (based on actual plays only, I have not read the text) Circle of hands.

One approach that I rarely see in roleplaying is approaching such issues from a softer perspective: there are people there who want things, and because they can not get them, they do other things. How about figuring out what people really want and trying to meet the needs by healthier means?

noah_t's picture

I'd also be interested in discussing games (whether designs or approaches to existing designs) that take a different approach to this paradigm. For what it's worth, I have heard that Dogs in the Vineyard was the result of Vincent Baker working through the faith he'd been brought up in; a driving question for play is whether the Dogs are righteous servants of God or adolescent extremists who've been told they're infallible and given the bullets to silence anyone who disagrees. Again, just from a read-through, Circle of Hands explicitly instructs the GM to not prep the settlement as a 'problem to be solved.' The Circle Knights might cause as many problems as they resolve.

Ron Edwards's picture

Hi Tommi, I think you're generalizing too widely for your identified pattern. One core variable concerns whether the real people playing know and expect the newcomers (player-characters) to solve the problem, thus presuming and validating their authority, as well as implying that the local community is essentially dysfunctional.

I agree with you that the pattern exists, in role-playing and obviously all other media too, and that it’s pernicious or at least raises valid questions.

The titles you mentioned are, as I see it, not immediately eligible for inclusion. Dogs in the Vineyard represents a certain grim history concerning the topic which I think is evident in the text and doesn’t need to shift into psychologizing its author. It’s not as simple-minded as I think its play-culture became. Both Trollbabe and Circle of Hands deviate significantly from the "save the community" model, on purpose.

Rather than quibble or argue about those, I’d rather focus on a real instance of play with unequivocally implicated game design in order to talk about it. What do you see in this account of Lone Wolf & Cub toward that purpose? Or, if you are thinking about another experience of play, then it would do very well as a post of its own with a link to this one.


Possibly pedantic material follows; ignore as needed.

In other media, when the answer to my opening variable is "yes," so that the newcomers are straightforwardly heroes and the community is either so beleaguered or so dysfunctional that someone has to do something or nothing good will happen, then it’s a sign that the idiom has typically been around for a while and has become genre. That means that the familiar or standard setting and common imagery for this sort of story has solidified to the point where the themes and meanings of the stories are also now standardized.

The history of the American western is a good example. Early versions, both in prose and film, were full of dark and weird ambiguities, often grading into psychological horror and displaying themes of all sorts. Whereas a few decades later, the topic had shrunk into genre with only a very few possible plots and such a narrow range for themes the term became a joke. When edgy westerns were made later, hardly anyone knew they were callbacks to the beginning of the form.

[even more blithering about Star Trek is snipped, for which we can all be grateful]

Hi Ron,

In this particular case what caught my attention was all the talk about jurisdiction: The player characters evidently are from some organization that has orthogonal jurisdiction to the local ruler, who has made less than optimal use of their resources, thus causing tragedy and loss of lives. If the characters have the right to make decisions, then they can order for things to happen in a particular way. Otherwise, maybe they default to violence or threat of it, implicit or explicit. In particular, if the characters are of a martially privileged group (Dogs, Circle knights and as far as I understand the characters here), the implicit threat of violence is present in the fictional situation, should the play group be sensitive to it.

My interest is in the pattern: Given that characters arrive to a community where not everything is fine, and given that they want to make things better (whether dictated by the game or just something the players decide to take on), how do they go about it?

What I have usually seen, and I'll have to relisten to hear to what happens here but clearly it is considered at least, is force: maybe violence, maybe threats of it, and here legal force (who has the right to do what) is at least considered.

What I remember seeing less often, and this might just be my own biases of perception on display, is defusing the conflict: listen to what people have on their heart and maybe help them find closure or compromise.

I don't think this is a matter of blaming certain games or anything of the kind. The roleplaying culture does have a long history of focusing on conflicts and many games reflect this. Roleplaying is not the only medium with this focus in the modern day and age. (In particular, just to be explicit, I have no interest whatsoever in psychoanalysing Vincent or anyone else as a result of the games they have written.)

noah_t's picture

Apologies to Lallatwittle and Tommi if my comment above misdirected the conversation. I am also primarily interested in hearing people's thoughts about how these approaches are encoded in genre (as per Ron's comment), or how conflicts are resolved in specific instances of play (as per Tommi's). Looking forward to hearing more!

Ron Edwards's picture

Hi! It became a lot easier to (finally) get my comment done in video, which is here: The humanitarian killing squad. I hope this discussion continues!

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