Demagogues in the Vincity (Igor Horst's houserules for "Dogs in the Vineyard")

After some discussion in a previous DitV thread, Paul_T suggest that I start a new thread about my ‘Cold War’ game. So here is that new thread.

Here’s my house rules for “Demagogues in the Vicinity”, my houserules for DitV that I used for the ‘Cold War’ game.

Note that I included only a brief summation of the sample scenario ‘1986 Coup’ - the full scenario is currently kept under wraps because I plan on running it again for my local group. After I finish running it, I’ll post my full notes for the 1986 Coup. That being said, my brief summation should be enough to explain how I set up the Town properly.

My goal is to produce a generic system that can be used to represent players possessing political leadership (in the same way that the vanilla DitV was about police officers possessing unlimited power in resolving political disputes, to protect domestic peace and tranquility). It essentially reskins a lot of concepts from DitV to be more generic and less supernatural (demons become ‘Disorder Personifications’, the Town Creation process is purely secular, etc.). I definitely plan on reusing these rules again the future.

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This is some serious business! I’m looking forward to digging into it; it’s quite an ambitious and a very interesting application of the Dogs system (kind of like DitV superheroes - https://www.reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/7q3p83/xmen_in_the_vineyard_whats_at_stake_is_can_you/), and I have long said that if people spent as much time with a game like this they’d discover as much different ground to explore as the hobby has over the decades with D&D. This a good of proof of concept in that sense!

Reading your arenas of conflict and the kinds of situations which occurred in your game, I am trying to imagine the kinds of fictional situations they represented and what a typical Raise might look like. Do you play out large-scale situations, without the characters being physically present? Or what? Might a Raise be something like “the municipal police send three squad cars to the scene”, for example?

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I play out large-scale situations, without players being physically present (if they want to help out, they can assist, without being present as well).

I can zoom into specific events within the conflict where players are indeed present (for example, the “Director-General of the BBC” interviewing the leader of the Combined Peace Movement directly, without intermediaries) as necessary, for dramatic purposes…and then to zoom back out to the big picture for the rest of the conflict.

A Raise would be like as you say, “the municipal police send three squad cars to the scene”, though I would like more detail to help tie it to the fiction (“how are those squad cars helping your side or hurting the other side and forcing them to respond?”).

That is a very clear and detailed document! I am very pleased that you have such a good record of this rather unusual application of the Dogs system, and wonderful examples, too. Fantastic!

I really like how you adopted the Backgrounds to your setting, too, a nice touch.

There are many interesting implications to these house rules and this version of the game. I will definitely be thinking on it more!

How often would you say you see “traditional” Dogs-like conflicts (two people talking or fighting with each other), compared to large-scale conflicts that involve a lot of people and have the players narrating relatively freely (describing events and developments, instead of individual actions, if I understand correctly)? Do they feel very different in play?

I think I see a lot more large-scale combat as opposed to “traditional” small-scale DitV combat. However, combat in both scenarios feel very similar in play: you’re still pushing dice by Raising and Seeing…the only thing that changes is the fiction that is being used to justify a Raise/See.

And yes, in large-scale combat, we’re describing events and developments, not specific actions. The dice tells us how successful those events and developments are.

That sounds pretty workable to me; I’ve always been aware of the great potential for flexibility in application when it comes to DitV combat.

The only challenge is handling fallout. I see you have a clever negotiation clause worked into being badly injured… can you tell us a bit about how fallout tends to be handled in these “zoomed out” conflicts? How does it differ from typical Dogs play, and does it ever feel awkward?

Ah, there’s a weakness in my rules there.

It is awkward to deal with Fallout damage in large-scale conflicts, and the only way we handled it is to brush aside the details of how a character became Seriously Injured and then later Dead, at best stating (in rather vague terms) that the character’s reputation was smeared during the conflict, and he may be forced to retire or be assassinated (possibly by disgruntled constituents). We focus entirely on the “negotiation clause”, and that helps to distract from the Fallout weirdness.

The next game I run, I should probably tell players to define (in the fiction) how they became Seriously Injured during the conflict, and see if that gets rid of the awkwardness.

To help reduce the chance of awkwardness further…I could also treat Fallout as an abstraction of “unpopularity”, Growth as figuring out how to change yourself to recover from your loss of reputation, and “Recovery from Serious Injury” as waiting out the wave of unpopularity and slowly building back your support base. That might help a player generate enough fiction to justify the Serious Injury.