Some observations on Dogs in the Vineyard

14 February, 2010 at 10:02 pm (actual play, game mastering) (, , )

I have up to this point game mastered three, I think, sessions proper of Dogs (hereafter DitV) plus one character generation session. There is a pool of six players (plus me as the GM) and we handwave why the cast of characters changes between sessions.

If you, dear reader, are not familiar with Dogs, I’d recommend reading about it here or here. Now, some observations:

  • DitV is actually well-designed. Both the rules and the setting are. The writing is very conversational, which I occasionally find demanding to interpret, but most of the time the text is clear and entertaining enough.
  • Dogs is a game about religion. It is not a game that defends or attacks religion. This I find both rare and refreshing.
  • Dogs works well with three or four players. I think I actually prefer three. No testing with two or merely one player. (Plus the GM.)
  • The town creation rules work. Following them is recommended.
  • The game works best when one is trying to play it honestly – don’t create a tricky character to begin with (that will come with play), don’t create a caricature, but do try to honestly fix the towns and their problems. Playing inquisition is trivial.
  • DitV is difficult to game master. One should be able to play generally more than four actually different characters and make them somewhat compelling and sympathetic. This is beyond my skills, but one learns by doing.
  • Do call player characters by name. Always. All the time. It helps to establish the characters. Also, non-player characters. Don’t be ashamed of the names you or others come up with – just use them.

Here’s something I’m planning to do. There are six players total. After each session there is a moment for reflection. Here’s my plan: an entire session for reflection, socialisation between the players and free roleplay. Some possibilities within the fiction: A city where everything is okay. Return to Bridal Falls (where everything is okay). Number of players would be up to six. Probably no or very few dice used. Players sitting in a circle or semicircle rather than around a table other obstacle. Maybe even players freely roaming about.

My modest apartment is too small for this, I fear, but maybe sometimes, somewhere.

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