OMG I got to roleplay last night!

edited July 2007 in Actual Play
The last three years have been a hell of a drought for me, but now things are looking up! The greater NYC area appears to be a hive of scum and gamery, and I'm loving it.

Last night John S ("jenskot") GM'ed Dogs for Me, Jon H, and James N. They only get initials. This is only the second time I've ever played Dogs. Yeah, drought.

I wanted to talk about the game and its rules, but then I thought of this Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about people who've finally seen a movie that came out eight years ago and everyone's all, "go away, loser, nobody wants to discuss it any more."

But it was cool. So there.

So here's what I'll say about that particular town. None of us three Dogs fired a shot. One dog escalated to fighting, but it amounted to someone being pushed to the floor. An NPC fired at Jon's character's foot, to no consequence. And this is a town where people are slowly dying, covered in their own vomit. I had created this dude who I totally imagined as a hitler youth, and he got to do some awesome hellfire preaching and intimidating, but he didn't lay a hand on another character.

I enjoyed how everything worked out, but there's one thing I'd do differently. My character confronted the steward-in-training, who was shirking his duties, and who also bullied my character when they were younger. We didn't bring dice into it, and I think we should have.

Also, I'm not used to staying up late any more. I get up at 5:30 nowadays, and that makes 11 seem mighty overwhelmin'.

Comments

  • Welcome back! Apparently gaming is now fun!
  • You saw that movie too? Dammit, now I must be the only one...
  • Posted By: Matt WilsonI wanted to talk about the game and its rules, but then I thought of this Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about people who've finally seen a movie that came out eight years ago and everyone's all, "go away, loser, nobody wants to discuss it any more."
    Do it anyway.

    Some of us like talking about eight year-old movies.

    And nobody else needs to come back to the thread if they don't want to see it. You're not sitting in their living room talking about it.

    I always like to hear a new slant on a game.
  • Your weird new/old perspective will be really interesting.
  • Posted By: LinnaeusDo it anyway.
    Plus, you're not the only one who's joined the party late. I got to play it for the first time just a couple of months back!
  • Awesome Matt!

    I'm going to email Jon and James and point them to this thread.

    I loved coincidentally running into Thor, Luke, and Anthony (who works with me) before the game at the Chinese restaurant by my office. Apparently they were scheduled to run Burning Wheel at the same time we were set to play Dogs in my office! They ended up going to Luke's 2 blocks away because Sum 41's manager had a late night conference call but it would have been fun to run both games simultaneously in the same space.

    There was much role playing had last night! And lots, and lots of one liners! It was pretty tense and hilarious. What I enjoyed the most was how everyone role played with the dice. The RP and dice play were one and the same. Raises and Sees flowed into each other through an often uninterrupted narration. And the conflict never seemed to drag. Everyone seemed very comfortable giving as well as escalating when needed. We also used Afraid's rule for escalating to ignore a raise which worked perfectly.

    We definitely needed 1-1.5 additional hours. After character generation and initiation scenes, we played the town itself in 2 hours and 45 minutes. I would have loved to extend all the scenes with Amber (7 year Dog veteran, full of entitlement, demanding to marry someone who didn't love her), explore the consequences between James' character lying to Amber, have Matt further confront the Steward in training, have a final conflict with Aaron Davenport (antagonist trying to profit from the town's misfortunes), give Jon a last scene to shine, see if any wedding transpired the next day, and role play a few epilogues. A lot of what we were building to had to be rushed unfortunately. But it was a great deal of fun!

    I didn't push as hard as I could have with Matt in the scene with Wesley, the Steward in training. I may have made Wesley's situation too relatable in some ways. There were too many understandable ways out of conflict. Which although logical, and helped build tension for later scenes, took away from Matt's momentum. I should have built on Matt's enthusiasm entering the scene with Wesley. I was too focused on the follow up conflict at the Jail, that I built towards that (since that is where James was headed as well) rather than take advantage of the obvious conflict in front of me. It was a gift I didn't fully unwrap! I would definitely push harder next time, support the conflict, and bust out the dice!

    I loved how none of the Dogs fired a shot. It felt like they could have in a few situations but it never quite went that far. I suspect if things developed differently, if the wedding has transpired, there would have been quite a bit of gunplay. I was envisioning the wedding with 50 wealthy guests surrounded by an ocean of poverty, desperation, and death. The guests carrying elaborate gifts... the bride wearing her coat modified into a wedding dress... a diamond encrusted wedding ring in the form of the tree of life... the husband-to-be stripped naked before the crowd to match the image of him from the pornography the wife-to-be carried with her... the father yelling and screaming about the mines in the background... threatening to relinquish his aid to the town if the Dogs do not comply. That would have been ugly! If we only had more time! Hahahahahaha.

    There was a definite holy shit moment for me when James lied to the wife-to-be, telling her that her husband had died, poisoned by her father's medicine. It was this huge twist with hundreds of possible consequences. I was like... holy shit... now what! I really wish we had more time to explore the consequences of that scene. It was huge!

    That being said, a lot of future antagonists survived, and lot of conflicts are still begging to be resolved. A lot of "what ifs" still clawing the insides of my imagination. Great material for future games.

    I really enjoyed the player's characters. Jon's character especially. He was less forceful than the rest but also more vulnerable which gave him breathing room to reflect the events around him. He was a quiet moment in a symphony of insanity. The characters contrasted each other well. If we had more time, I would imagine there would have been more inter player character conflict.

    11pm on a weeknight with an hour commute afterwards can be overwhelming. It's taken me a while to get used to since it's often convenient scheduling wise. But I also look forward to gaming with you all on a weekend sometime (although weekends are a lot harder for me to schedule).

    How did you all feel about the balance between conflicts and non-conflicts?

    What didn't work?

    What worked?

    Rock!

  • Plus, you're not the only one who's joined the party late. I got to play it for the first time just a couple of months back!
    Heck, I just heard of the game a couple weeks ago and haven't seen the rules yet.
  • Man, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I got to game Saturday myself for the first time in a long drought. Played a full game of 44, and it was a great time. Felt normal again, instead of a man slowly going crazy believing in Bigfoot and UFOs.
  • Rule wise, I made a mistake last night. If you give, you only get to keep 1 die, not 2. I confused this with the rules for NPC fallout below. Not a huge deal, but worth pointing out for future games:
    The rule change
    I'm the GM. My NPCs take a stack of fallout, but nobody cares if they live or die or what.

    How it used to work: I pass all their fallout dice, unrolled, to the players, to roll with their dice in the followup conflict.

    How it works now: I roll their fallout dice as I would if we cared about them. However, instead of assigning fallout, I pass the two highest showing dice across to the players for their side of the followup conflict. They don't reroll them.

    This is to make followup conflicts less humiliating for me as the GM.

    The new rule
    If you give instead when it's your turn to raise, you get to "cut your losses."

    Take your highest single showing die and set it aside. After you roll your dice for the followup conflict, add the "cut your losses" die back into the mix, without rerolling it.

    This is to break the thing where people are by default staying in every conflict past when they should be ditching out.

    We also used the escalation rules from Afraid (ignore a raise when you escalate, allow others to enter the conflict but they can't roll stats that have already been rolled) as well as the rules variation for NPCs:
    NPC DICE:

    1. 6d6+2d8, 4d6+1d10, 3d6, 1d8+2d4
    2. 5d6+1d10, 3d6+2d8, 3d6, 1d10+1d8
    3. 7d6+3d4, 4d6+2d4, 5d6, 2d6+1d8
    4. 9d6+1d10+1d8, 2d6+2d8, 2d6+1d4, 1d6+2d10

    FLOATING DICE:

    1d6, 1d6, 1d6, 1d8, 1d8, 1d8, 1d10, 1d10
  • edited July 2007
    So this is me, checking in. Like Matt, I have a new/old perspective having only played Dogs twice, both within the last month. I enjoyed our game a lot. Like Jenskot said, lots of one-liners. "Dogs" has a very nifty system and it's very fluid in play. I think our characters were actually pretty plausible and well-chosen as a group, it's a pity we won't see their further adventures, particularly against such a dislikable bunch of enemies.

    Although we didn't draw blood, I still committed an act of emotional violence against the Renegade Dog. I'd like to feel guilty about it, but it had to be done, and it happened quickly and cleanly.

    I have some reflections on (what I presume to be) the thematic intentions of "Dogs", but these are complicated and idiosyncratic, perhaps best saved for another thread.

    PS. Matt looks nothing like I imagined. I imagined him as kind of looking like Luke Crane, and Luke Crane kind of looking like that big growly monster from the Muppet Show with an eye patch. Shows what I know. Unless they were in disguise.
  • Here's what I like about the Dogs conflict rules. They function as storytelling cues rather than simple yes/no generators.

    Anyone who's looked at Galactic might guess that I'm trying for something similar with the dice there. I like when the dice give me ideas. I remember back in the early early days, when we'd play D&D and hardly anything would come into play except the die result. If you rolled high, something awesome happened. If you rolled low, something lame happened. Except in that case it was the (usually) benevolent dictatorship of GM fiat.

    In Dogs, I roll and it's like generating a palette. The roll doesn't say what happens. It gives me constraints.
  • edited July 2007
    So here's something that bugged me about the two times I played Dogs (Jon's game, and John's game) - I felt like I could probably come pretty close to doing the right thing.

    Like: "Oh man, here's a rotten situation. X, Y and Z hate each other. How will we ever untie this Gordian knot?" (With the implication that we cannot untie it and will have to use force.) And for me, that's a cue to take out my little notebook, and jot down crimes committed, social policy implications, and retributive/rehabilitative/restitutional goals for the townsfolk. And that can usually work, given some good interview techniques and a low burden of proof.

    In last night's town we may have acted a bit hastily: there was clearly something deeply wrong with the Renegade Dog, her father, and her fiance, and we imposed a quickie-solution on it in the interests of time. But I don't think we erred too badly: if you squint it looks like justice.

    In other words, everyone else was like, "Cool, we solved the town without firing a shot" and I was like, "Shucks, I was hoping to see where my technique breaks down."

    (I would really like to see a Dogs game where all the participants are judges, policemen, and theologians in real life. With teenage children to use as models for Dogs. Somebody arrange that, and record it for me.)
  • This wasn't my first time playing the game, but it was the first time everything really started to click for me. Thanks Matt, James, and John: these are all characters (PCs & NPCs) that I'd love to run into again.

    I actually did fire one shot (at Amber's gunhand): though it ended up not being all that effective.

    I also liked the way the dice helped us establish a rhythm in the dialogue and the general back-and-forth.

    Obviously the lack of time was kind of an issue, but I have to say I'm still glad we decided to play out the initiation scenes.

    I'm not sure what was more harsh: me refusing to help the sickly, dying Steward and showing him zero compassion or James making up the story about the guy Amber loved being dead just to shake her up a little. Was Matt's character the only one who didn't do anything (borderline?) awful? But that's what interests me: we didn't shoot down any sinners, but we still used our authority as Dogs to hurt people who may or may not have deserved it.

    James - I'm not sure that the game is meant to work by telling you its theme. Rather, by playing, we made our own theme, which, in this case, might just have been "well, it only looks like justice if you squint a little."
  • Posted By: James_NostackIn other words, everyone else was like, "Cool, we solved the town without firing a shot"
    Actually, I just said this to someone in chat: "I didn't get to shoot anyone in the face, which is always a letdown, but it was otherwise rad."

    I suspect that if you approach Dogs with the intent of solving the problems as neatly as possible, you'll get out of it what you put into it. If you want to see things go badly, you probably have to contribute to it in some way.
  • I have had exactly that experience with my one and only not-so-good Dogs game. About 3 out of 4 players were definitely operating from the "let's find all the evidence, come up with the Right Answer, and make it happen" standpoint. You couple that with a hefty dose of "Don't Split The Party" and "PvP BAD" baggage, and... flat. Very flat. I really wanted to do more half-cocked emo teenage face-shooting, but it would have been rude.
  • Posted By: Mark WI really wanted to do more half-cocked emo teenage face-shooting, but it would have been rude.
    Really? I figured it'd have been right out of the book.

    It is kind of amazing to me that the Dogs finished a town without resorting to gunfire and pretty much still got what they wanted. When I played, I did finally get what I wanted but I did have to pull a gun and force the issue despite attempting not too. Of course, Tony Lower-Basch is a rat bastard GM who kept pushing and pushing and made me pull my damn gun. I half expected him to make me use it actually. That would have been creepy given the circumstances.

    ~Andrew
  • I think that, if you want the players to not spend their time looking for the Right Answer, the GM just needs to step it up and PUSH HARDER. Also, this is something individual players can do too. If you wanna shoot somebody, shoot 'em. Let the other players try to stop you!
  • Seriously, Dogs works best when the players are directly at odds. When they team up to fight crime it isn't nearly as fun.
  • "if you squint it looks like justice."

    Best. Quote. Ever. It is my new Dogs motto.

    In the campaign game I ran, one of the dogs pulled a gun during his initiation. That would be the character who ended up with "There's sin here, and it's YOURS![1d6].

    It's either ironic or poetic that the same character didn't pull his gun out for about 3 more towns.

    James
  • I know we're all talking from our own experiences here, but I think John did an excellent job in terms of pushing hard. I mean, there's a story in two Dogs pulling guns on each other because they disagree about what's right but there's also a story in one Dog doing something that is (emotionally) kind of horrible - i.e. James' Dog casually lying to the woman about the death of the man she was in love with as a kind of trick - while the other Dogs stand by and let him.
  • Maybe I should do some gaming while I'm in NYC after all.
  • Posted By: Jon HastingsI know we're all talking from our own experiences here, but I think John did an excellent job in terms of pushing hard.
    No argument from me there. I loved it.
  • edited July 2007
    Posted By: Jon Hastingsone Dog doing something that is (emotionally) kind of horrible - i.e. James' Dog casually lying to the woman about the death of the man she was in love with as a kind of trick - while the other Dogs stand by andlet him.
    It weren't no-ways casual, Brother Ethan. That addle-brained hussy was about to turn a lily-livered boy into a full-grown man, and I had to protect you!

    But, speaking as an audience member: I don't think it was all that horrible. Harsh medicine, maybe, but better than lead. The worst I did was rip her delusions away, which in the long run is doing her a favor. She probably won't appreciate it, but hey--that's what's so nice about one-shots!

    (The alternative was to propose to her myself and neutralize things that way, but who wants that asshole businessman as an in-law?)
  • Posted By: James_NostackThe alternative was to propose to her myself and neutralize things that way, but who wants that asshole businessman as an in-law?
    "Convince her to marry me" would have been such a great conflict, though the idea of escalation makes me a little uneasy.
  • Game 2, Burning Wheel = Awesome!
  • Yes indeed.
  • Posted By: Matt Wilson"Convince her to marry me" would have been such a great conflict, though the idea of escalation makes me a little uneasy.
    It should. We had that very one in a game once, and the NPC woman in question (the one who wanted the Dog to marry her) escalated. With suicidal gestures. The Dog gave.
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