Dogs in the Vineyard, how should I handle scripture decisions?

edited November 2013 in Play Advice
I am running DitV with one of my home groups at the moment and have a constant fear that the Dogs are just going to come in to a branch and decide that the heresy that exists there just isn't actually heretic. It's not happened yet, but I'm not sure what to do if it does.

Unless I've missed something, if the Dogs come in to a town and the big 'problem' is that Br Jed has decided that his wife Sr Mary is no longer the one for him and the King of Life is happy for him to set up home with Br Henry as his new wife if the Dogs just go 'yeah, I've no problem with that, nothing wrong here' everything is just kind of instantly better. If I've decided that's why the demons were there, wouldn't they just shrug their shoulders and leave, or would they latch on to a different 'sin' in the set up and just change allegiance as they were in the area?

I may be worrying over nothing, a mix of pitching the heresy right and the unspoken contract of 'we're here to deal with heresy so something here must be heretic' could just gloss it over, although I know the latter is what we did in the first game I ever played and because we felt we had to be upset by what was happening it just didn't feel 'fulfilling'.

I'd be interested in hearing if other people have dealt with similar worries, or just some general 'don't worry' type advice :-)

Comments

  • edited November 2013
    Whatever the Dogs decide is right in a town is right (in the eyes of Faithful Law): they have the absolute religious/civil* authority given to them by the Elders in Bridal Falls.

    *as long as it's about Faithful: a Sheriff that's not one of the faithful will probably have something to say...


    The faithful know that an will generally abide, but that doesn't rule out someone rebelling: they'll have to decide how to deal with them.

    If the Dogs come to town, see the behavior you wrote down as "the problem", and decide that's not a problem at all then that's their decision. They will bless some children, officiate one or two rites and move on: prepare a new town. Your Town Creation will have told you what will happen if the Dogs never came (and that's pretty much what happened), so that will happen.

    Let the Dogs revisit the same town some time in the future, and let them see what happened.

    Also note, they might encounter a similar situation in the next town and rule differently: that's their prerogative.

    And finally... remember, as a GM you should always play as if god, the demons and the supernatural didn't exist at all: the Faith is in the hands of the faithful, and the faithful decide to put authority over the Faith on some people. Whether they then are ok with the decisions of those people is up to you, playing them as close to your idea of "real people" you can.
  • edited November 2013
    Renato's got it!
  • edited November 2013
    I'm not very experienced with DotV, but it was my impression that what makes a practice heresy or not has less to do with whether it's "correct" or "incorrect" according to the text, and a lot more to do with whether the people engaging in the practice are doing so because they think they know better than the rest of the Faithful. It's about presumptuousness and contempt for those whose good will you depend on, and all the evil effects that emerge are the consequences of that attitude. So, resolving the scriptural question doesn't address the underlying problem. Is this accurate?
  • My understanding is that if the Dogs say "X is right", then demons have NO power to mess things up when X is happening. This is why, if one has actual demons, the demons don't want the Dogs pronouncing something that would be a sin if the Dogs never came as Not a Sin.

    In other words, if the Dogs say, "Nope, this apparently sinful course of action is not a sin", then you do not have an "If the Dogs never came" situation.

    So, somewhere down the line, possibly in the next town, possibly not, take X one step further, and see if the Dogs are okay with the new situation. At least, that's my understanding.
  • And finally... remember, as a GM you should always play as if god, the demons and the supernatural didn't exist at all: the Faith is in the hands of the faithful, and the faithful decide to put authority over the Faith on some people. Whether they then are ok with the decisions of those people is up to you, playing them as close to your idea of "real people" you can.
    It's that tongue-in-cheek separation that draws me back to this game. The Dogs, (and sometimes by extension the players) have a world view that is hard to sustain, and difficult to fight for. That's what keeps them motivated to fight harder.

  • Also, remember that different people will want the Dogs to say that different things are okay or not okay . . . so even if the Dogs are inclined to say, "You betcha, Brother Jeb, toss that washed-up old biddy aside and get you a new bride fresh as the driven snow, it's all jake with the King of Life," there will be other constituencies--maybe powerful ones--for whom that will be not cool, and they will make their displeasure known to the extent they can. Plus, then what Lisa said.

  • Yeah, I don't really get most of the responses here. It's not like everyone in town is going to respect the Dogs' authority, any more than they would if the Dogs showed up and said 'everything you are doing is wrong! everything!' Some people want the Dogs to say that "the problem" is a sin. Everybody wants something from the Dogs, and the whole town never wants the same thing.

    Moreover, town generation is pretty clear about the course of demonic influence -- demons only arrive after the town is thoroughly dysfunctional, usually because of major clashes between the personalities and desires of its inhabitants. Again, the Dogs just being like 'this is all fine' does not somehow make that so. It may make it so in terms of religious doctrine, but the town generation rules aren't about religious doctrine -- they're about social and cultural conflicts that have spiraled out of control.

    So yeah, the Dogs can do that, and some people will be happy and some people will be upset, but the likelihood that it will solve the problems of the town are relatively low. Then again, it depends on the town, you never know.
  • edited November 2013
    Yeah, the GM decides what's pride, sin, heresy, hate, murder During town creation. The Dogs have absolutely no power to change those facts.

    If the Dogs come to town and say that X sin is not a sin, you as GM can absolutely have the demons keep using X to gain power over the Faithful. The Dogs don't have any power at all, unless they can set it as stakes and win it with dice.

    "What the Dogs say is right, is right" is a long-held and widely-repeated mistake. Reread page 143 in the context of pages 137-141! It doesn't say the Dogs are always right at all.

    Edited to add:

    This answer should be good and liberating, by the way, so I hope it is! The answer to "what should I do if the PCs declare sin to be righteousness?" is the same as "what should I do if the PCs decide to gun somebody down?": drive play toward conflict, actively reveal the town in play, set the stakes and roll the dice. Play the game. No problem.

    -Vincent

  • Unless I've missed something, if the Dogs come in to a town and the big 'problem' is that Br Jed has decided that his wife Sr Mary is no longer the one for him and the King of Life is happy for him to set up home with Br Henry as his new wife if the Dogs just go 'yeah, I've no problem with that, nothing wrong here' everything is just kind of instantly better. If I've decided that's why the demons were there, wouldn't they just shrug their shoulders and leave, or would they latch on to a different 'sin' in the set up and just change allegiance as they were in the area?
    This is why it's good to take towns, especially towns early in the game, right up to murder. Maybe the Dogs think Jed's new arrangement is cool, but there's still some good people in the graveyard and some angry families asking for revenge. That's a problem that the Dogs can't solve by telling everybody to be excellent to each other.


  • "What the Dogs say is right, is right" is a long-held and widely-repeated mistake. Reread page 143 in the context of pages 137-141! It doesn't say the Dogs are always right at all.
    OK, this is probably my big mistake, I'll do some re-reading when I'm back where the book is :-)

    I was very much working on the concept that the players made up the religion and the religion (or at least working against it) was what gave the Demons their power. Hence the problem. Without the extra power of the demons behind someone it seems mechanically quite easy for a group of Dogs to overcome an obstacle and my error was thinking that the Dogs could 'just fix the Demon bit' by announcing something 'fine by me'.

    The first few towns I've done have all been at murder, or about to have it during play, so the tension has always been pretty high. And, to be fair, the game is running very well. It's just I've had this nagging 'what if' in the back of my head.

    Thanks for all the help.
  • Also, the supernatural can be real if you want. It's a dial that you and/or the players can set for that game.

    In a run of Fort Lemon, I had the demon possessed woman show actual infernal power, but only to one character. This created a big split in the group as not everyone believed hm.
  • It's a conversation I tend to have at the beginning, we generally set the dial somewhere in the middle, edging towards obvious now and then (that makes it sound like I've run a lot more games than I actually have :-) ) . In the home game the players have done laying on hands and blessing areas to be Demon free as conflicts. We ran a oneshot at Indiemeet which had the supernatural dialled right up and was a lot of fun.
  • I probably worded my post in a not-so-clear manner, Vincent: I mean that (if I remember correctly) the Dogs always have the absolute religious law authority on the matter at hand, and what they deem sinful is officially sinful, and what they deem not-sinful isn't for that specific case.

    For example: a girl marries her boyfriend against the authority of her father, but the Dogs are moved by her story and rule that that's ok.

    ...that doesn't mean, clearly, that her father will automatically be ok with it, or that the community will, or that the problem is magically solved or that it won't come down to guns anyway (wether you present it as Demon attacks or not). And if the Dogs decide to just leave... I guess as a GM you should drive towards conflict and don't let them, but the option of postponing the effects of their non-action to a later game in the same town seems a good option too (if playing a campaign, obviously).

    Am I remembering it wrong? It has admittedly been years.
  • Without the extra power of the demons behind someone it seems mechanically quite easy for a group of Dogs to overcome an obstacle and my error was thinking that the Dogs could 'just fix the Demon bit' by announcing something 'fine by me'.
    More than that, it's very difficult to make things mechanically hard for a unified team of Dogs, without demonic influence! Their dice whollop 'random Brother Bob' (nearly) every time. But throw in a sorcerer and demon dice and a rabid pack of cultists, and the dice power shifts dramatically. You'll discover this if you play a full-progression town: the early conflicts tend to be trivial for the Dogs to win (unless you split them--see above), but as things spiral out of control, and Dogs take fallout dice along the way, it becomes very touch-and-go.

    (IMHE, YMMV, IANTD)

  • edited November 2013
    Renatoram: That's the common mistake. Dogs don't have absolute religious law authority. Their job is to solve problems in a town that its steward can't solve, not to pronounce religious law.

    I mean, they can pronounce religious law if they want, if doing so helps them solve a town's problems. They can pronounce any fool thing they want to pronounce. But pronouncing something doesn't mean they're right about it.

    There's no such thing as right or wrong in Dogs in the Vineyard. The only thing there is, is did or didn't do.

    The girl married her boyfriend and it was a sin, and now the Dogs say that it's fine: all that we know from this is that it was a sin, and now the Dogs say it's fine. This doesn't mean that it's no longer a sin. It's not suddenly fine according to religious law (because you decided that it wasn't during town creation) or the will of God (because there is no God, or if there is, His opinions are unknown to us).

    It just means that the Dogs are contradicting the doctrine of the Faith, that's all.

    -Vincent
  • Reed,
    There are a couple of issues swirling around here:
    1) What happens if the player shutdown your town problem?
    2) What happens if you and the players do not agree what is heretical?
    3) What are satisfactory solutions when GM and player interpretations are disconnected?

    RE: 1) There is a progression if you do town creation, punch it up to the next progression. If you followed the town creation process, it leads to stuff that is simply not acceptable (murder eventually). You may need to retcon the original offense, or change the perspective that the sinner is coming from. But it should be salvageable.
    RE: 2) This depends on how salvageable this is. If it is just a semantic thing, then carry on. If what is happening is heinous enough that they are breaking more than one rule, then you are good. If the problem cannot be easily adjusted, maybe it is time to talk to the group? Ultimately, this question seems like it is more about how much you trust the players to "get it" and play along. If this is a serious concern for you, then you need to work that out with your players, right?
    RE: 3) Barring that, essentially, you only have a few options: a) keep escalating until the players are roused to action, b) retcon to make the current scenario match the new interpretation, c) adjust the motivations behind the action to make them more heretical, d) Let the town go to hell after the Dogs leave town, e) Let the town be uneventful.
    These options are just taking the good advice provided and putting them in a practical frame of mind.

    I sure hope this helps!
    Dave M
  • The main solution to this is that in town creation you already know what will happen if the Dogs do nothing. Saying "there is nothing wrong here" is absolutely fine. They can even leave town. Be sure they come back to see how that went! If you did town creation you will be happy with the result.
  • Yeah, the GM decides what's pride, sin, heresy, hate, murder During town creation. The Dogs have absolutely no power to change those facts.

    If the Dogs come to town and say that X sin is not a sin, you as GM can absolutely have the demons keep using X to gain power over the Faithful. The Dogs don't have any power at all, unless they can set it as stakes and win it with dice.

    "What the Dogs say is right, is right" is a long-held and widely-repeated mistake. Reread page 143 in the context of pages 137-141! It doesn't say the Dogs are always right at all.

    Edited to add:

    This answer should be good and liberating, by the way, so I hope it is! The answer to "what should I do if the PCs declare sin to be righteousness?" is the same as "what should I do if the PCs decide to gun somebody down?": drive play toward conflict, actively reveal the town in play, set the stakes and roll the dice. Play the game. No problem.

    -Vincent
    I've been asking this for years, but stupidly, not asking you. It explains how you can have plausible supernatural demons in this game. I'm really pleased you wrote this.

  • Hey, cool. Glad to help.

    -Vincent
  • edited November 2013
    My impression:

    Think about what it means to be a priest, a judge, an old-time sheriff. Not a prophet or a lawgiver.

    -- Alex
  • I'd say I've been playing it wrong for years, except that I've played it only rarely, when someone else ran it, and this situation didn't come up. But, you know, if I had been playing it for years and it had come up, I would totally have been doing it wrong. Thanks, Vincent.
Sign In or Register to comment.