Playbooks for Dogs in the Vineyard

Hi there! First post here.

I’m on a Dogs in the Vineyard fever lately and decided to update this awesome playbook template I’ve found a few years ago by Jenskot* at the Story-Games forums. I created a back page for it with advice from @Paul_T (thanks Paul!).

*By the way, does someone know where is Jenskot these days? As the playbooks are his creation, it would be cool to know what he thinks of these changes. Thanks!


I could swear the book cited the Paterson, but I reading it now it actually cites a Colt Dragoon. Soooooo… voi lá!

(if the gun is too big on the page, please tell me. My gun fetish may be showing :laughing: )

I messaged you re: jenskot

Glad to see you restarting this topic here! I have lots to say (and am in touch with jenskot somewhat regularly these days, as he’s an old friend), and I’ll definitely be back to contribute to this discussion. Excellent!

First of all, I’ll share my favourite Story Games threads about Dogs. The forum is supposed to be up for another year (presumably until August or Sept 2020), so there is a danger these links will no longer function after that. In the meantime, they are great reading and full of great advice:


I should post my own Dogs Character Creation notes here somewhere… but a lot of them are in that last Story Games thread, above.

A few minor comments on the playbooks, if you’re looking for some:

  • I find it odd that Belongings take so much real estate on your sheet, and on the left side (which makes them seem more important). Does every character really need a “big and excellent item”, AS WELL as an excellent item, for instance?

  • The circle image from John Kim’s analysis (on the back) is a good addition, but it’s very low resolution. I’d consider making a new, better quality image that’s easier to parse visually. (Maybe with some visual symbols to represent the stats and arenas, or something like that.)

  • I still think that an area for “temporary” things (like Fallout items) would be really helpful and key. Perhaps a section for that on the back would work, since there’s clearly no room left on the front!

Otherwise, loving these! Excellent work. I’ll be back with my dice methods later. (They could be used to collapse these into one playbook everyone can use, among other things.)

(Just for curiosity’s sake, edited to add:)

Here are my guidelines for Belongings. They don’t match the format of jenskot’s playbooks, since they reverse it (the items are listed, and you assign dice), but they’re just as concise and would take little space:

Quick Belongings

You have:

  • Your Dog’s Coat, symbol of your authority

  • A horse

  • A jar of consecrated earth

  • The Book of Life

  • A gun

If you like, add one other possession you carry to the list.

Now assign dice:

  • Pick one item: it is Excellent, high quality, expensive. Write “2d6” beside it.

  • Pick one item: it is Big, impressive, powerful. Write “1d8” beside it.

  • Pick one item: it is Crap, poor, shoddy, worn, old. Write “1d4” beside it.

The others, write “1d6” beside them.

Finally, write “+1d4” beside any item that is a gun.

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Thanks for the input, Paul. I agree the circle is too low resolution, Ill try to do a better one.

About the positioning of belongings on the left, the reason is to group the “hard” stuff on the sheet in the same block - Stats, Traits and Relationships. It seems easier even to visualize the different backgrounds dice spreads.

And I must disagree with you on the belongings format. See, if there’s one thing I find absolutely marvelous in what Jenskot did, is giving examples of stuff that color and invoke the different backgrounds, things like “Fine clothing” for the strong history and “Something demonic” for the complicated history. This coupled with pre-alocated dice makes it evocative and easy to come up with those.

I may, at some point, turn this into a more condensed/concise form, but for now I’ve just been collecting my notes and ideas here.

It’s been my experience that character creation can lag or go awry (when people don’t understand the premise of the game yet), and these tools really help. I’ve recently played a couple of times with people who are mainly OSR gamers, and the random tools really helped get the characters to the table quickly.

(Random generation is well-suited to Dogs, unlike other story games, because the gameplay doesn’t depend on the personalities or other features of the Dogs themselves, but gets established in play, with the players often using the Dogs as avatars or stand-ins for themselves - similar to many OSR-style games.)

Most of it just recapitulates Dogs’ own rules, but I have a “playbook; choose two” reformulation of the different Dog types.

The dice totals are slightly different from standard Dogs (e.g. it’s impossible to make a purely “well-rounded” Dog now), but very much in the same ballpark, while retaining differentiation between characters.

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I had initially missed the “sample equipment” lines on those sheets, not realizing they were personalized! That’s a nice touch.

I still see Belongings as the least important part of a dog’s character creation, though, and making the players feel like they should all have so many dice worth of equipment before they’ve even thought about it seems to place the emphasis in the wrong place. Having a lot of room on the character sheet for Belongings, having them on the left side of the sheet, and having them preassigned with some heavy dice (2d8! 2d6!) seems to me to make them seem far more important than they are.

Still, it’s a minor point.

But, for quick and easy play, I’ve considered removing them altogether. Just a rule for guns and another rule for “improvised items” could be enough for successful short term play, I think.

Hmmm… now that you pointed it, it does seem like there’s too many Belongings dice indeed. Perhaps cutting some of those down as you suggest makes sense.

Edit: ok, I’ve updated it.

Edit2: aaand… a new Stats wheel with improved resolution.