Ferrier's Bellows: Dogs in the Vineyard

Listening to this now.

They mention things taking a long time to get past the Character Creation/Accomplishments part.

As someone who only runs it in one-shots (a campaign would get kind of samey, I think, and I believe it helps to not have to remember town info over two sessions for players), I get 4-6 people through character creation/accomplishments in about an hour. 2-2.5 hours to find out what’s going on in the town. 45 mins or so for the players to argue about punishments and then resolve the session.

How does this fit with other people’s experience?

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That gels with my experience - 1 hour/2 hours/30 minutes maybe. I totally disagree about multiple towns though, that is the game’s secret sauce. Returning to a town you summarily ruined after many sessions is one of the best moments in all of roleplaying.


At some point, I might try that. I’ve seen some amazing reactions from people as they grapple with the disconnect in our morality and theirs and I think coming back and seeing the consequences could be powerful.

I’ve never had players turn to violence and they’ve often tried to find a way to be stern but forgiving when they could. It’d be interesting to see that collapse.

But I’d have to fight my desire for variety and the boredom I settle into with mission based RPGs. Dogs has enough strong NPC interactions that I might be able to do it.


I’ve also found it difficult to “get through” initiations relatively quickly - it’s hard not to feel like you’re taking valuable time out of your short game slot.

One option I try to encourage is to include NPCs in the Town in the initiations, so that you’re building some history/relationships which will still feed directly into the game. That can really heighten the intensity of playing the Town itself!

And I agree with @Jmstar that playing more than one Town is really where the game gets going! I only got to run a Dogs campaign once, but it was notably more interesting and more intense than a one-shot, with the game developing in really interesting directions.

I also used NPCs from PC backstories to populate the Towns in a semi-aleatoric way, which made it even more interesting and more personal, but that’s not necessary.

(I think there can be an issue with ramping up Traits if people try to really squeeze the most out of them - Experience can transform characters really fast! - but that shouldn’t ruin the game in most cases.)


You don’t necessarily need to imagine dozens of Towns… my “campaign” was three Towns, and you’ll see a big difference even between just the first and the second.

(I’m not sure how many Towns a group of Dogs could reasonably survive, anyway! Mine starting getting dead or quitting the Dogs by the third…)


Small side tangent: I still think this is the perfect game to run The Witcher in.

Yes, yes, a few towns is enough. My most recent Dogs game was five towns, with each of five players stepping in to GM one.


Interestingly, I don’t like Dogs going back to previous towns. I think there’s an element of importance in not knowing, in not putting words to it. You did your best, how will it end up? Hopefully good, maybe bad, but you’re now no longer in control of that. By going back to the town, you collapse that possibility space of consequence into a single sphere and say “yup, this right here is the consequence of your action.” I find that much less interesting.

Of course, one of the things this podcast has taught me is that I think I experience Dogs in a very different way to how others do. And I’m absolutely here for people who would prefer to push the consequences into their Dogs’ faces. Really cough rub their noses in it, as it were.

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Just a musing in response to your thoughts. Perhaps returning to a town doesn’t mean showing the Dogs the consequences of their own actions at all though? Maybe a town isn’t ruined because of, or in spite of, the actions of the characters: but just because bad things happen - or because God works in mysterious ways. That kinda futility/‘why is God such a dick’ theme could be pretty great to interact with in a game about highly religious people.


Quite right. It could as simply be, “Hey, I’m curious what the players will make of this new twist,” as “let me show them the consequences!”

For instance, let’s say I have a Town full of horrible people without a moral compass, and someone not traditionally suited to the leadership role who is a better fit for that - maybe the Steward’s wife, or the Steward’s male lover, or something like that. The PCs put that person in charge! Now, when they go back, what if the most reasonable person around is now a little kid? Will they do the same, or does this change things for them?

But the history and existing relationships help to enrich the whole thing, all the same.

(I think the rules support this pretty well. The rules for Relationships, for example, don’t do a whole lot for the game - or, at least, not as much as they could - if we never interact with the people we assign dice to again.)


The idea of the Lions fascinated me because that is what I’d like my players to realize that they could easily become.

They are the highest authority. Until they put down the coat and guns, they can interpret the book as they see fit and retire in the world they want to see. Odds are they won’t and there are plenty of forces acting against them but…