Monday, March 1, 2010

Dogs In The Vineyard: Okay, Now I'm Intrigued

Several days ago, I was decrying the use of the terms "crunch" and "fluff", claiming they were having a pernicious effect on the hobby. My argument was that rules are dependent on setting, and using the terms crunch and fluff harms that natural relationship, by inappropriately elevating rules at the expense of setting. An esoteric post to be sure!

In disagreeing with my post, JB (B/X Blackrazor) pointed to Dogs In the Vineyard ("DitV") as an example of a role-playing game that -- appropriately -- places rules before setting. I am largely ignorant with regards DitV: my only encounters with it have been in ocassional references made on other old-school blogs. I was on hiatus from role-playing through much of the last decade, and, so, missed DitV's 2004 release and accolades.

So when JB replied to my blog, using that game as an example of rules trumping setting, I was intrigued. Having done a little more digging for information on DitV, I came across this exchange, which made me all the more intrigued. Most writers are advised to "write what they know." It is fascinating to me that this is -- in fact -- what happened with DitV.

DitV has been described as a game of "pseudo-Mormon gunslinging-Paladins in an American old-West that never was." I think it would be interesting to boiler-plate this setting to a Weird West or horror setting, thus creating a game of 19th century holy warriors, ministering to the faithful, and battling real-life demons.

Is this a game other old-schoolers are playing? I'm tempted to buy this, despite my discomfort with the whole "Forge" connection. Comments, recommendations, notes of caution?

14 comments:

/Matt said...

You may want to check out the Dogs in the Vineyard Actual Play podcasts (http://www.rpgmp3.com/downloads/data/bw/bwpodcast.xml) that the Whartson Hall Gamers did a few years ago.

JimLotFP said...

It's a good game, but it's also a sneaky game, because in my experience what the game is about isn't at all what the game says it's about.

Ara Kooser said...

It's a great game. Here is an interview with Vincent Baker about DitV
http://ninjavspirates.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=506298

And there are a bunch of APs kicking around on story-games and the forge.

Also on the Forge are a bunch of awesome DitV hacks. The list is here:
http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/dogsinthevineyard/settings.html

Wolves of the North is my favorite.

ara

A Paladin In Citadel said...

James, you've got my undivided attention. Do tell.

JimLotFP said...

Basically, the game is set up so that the PCs ride into town and there's all this stuff happening and the PCs resolve it.

But if the PCs are united in their goals, there isn't much of a challenge. They just steamroll over everything, get their way, and move on.

In my experience, the game gets interesting when the players can't agree on what should be done, and so are in conflict amongst themselves.

It's a PvP engine, really.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Thanks for the responses, this game is going on my wish-list.

/Matt said...

Another podcast with DitV actual play is the Walking Eye (http://www.thewalkingeye.com/). I haven't listened to the pods yet, though, so I don't know what they're like.

JB said...

@ Pal: Glad I could inspire!

; )

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Thank you for putting me onto this. It looks like a really interesting game!

The Lord of Excess said...

This is an amazing game ... I can not say enough good things about it. What I will caution however though is the game plays best with a GM and 3 players. Going beyond 4 actually tends to break the game due to the mechanics (just my opinion ... having tried it twice to miserably fail). Less than 3 players reduces the best aspect of the game and that is the conflict between the Dogs. That above all is the hallmark of this system ... its building in a strong base for the party to have really interesting PC vs PC conflict. The game plays best when the party is willing to challenge one an other in their administration of old western-faith based justice.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely be buying a copy of this game.

I was trying to find out if there is some specific reason he called the games dogs in the vineyard. I get the dogs part (watchdogs for the faith). I get the vineyard (the true believers are the fruit of the vineyard). Curious, though, whether this phrase springs from some published reference within that particular religious culture.

Will have to track down the author, if only to satisfy my own curiousity.

The Lord of Excess said...

Vincent Baker has done some great games in general. In a Wicked Age is really awesome (with the right group). Anyway Vincent used to live out west but currently resides in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He and his wife run Lumpley Games (which is really just about the only place you can get Dogs anymore it seems). He is somewhat accessible through the site. Also here is a link to a decent interview with him: http://ninjavspirates.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=506298

The Lord of Excess said...

Apparently the name comes from the book of Isaiah, some reference to the servants in the masters vineyard. Apparently the book of Isaiah is heavily quoted in the book of Mormon (though I live in Utah ... I'm no Mormon ... actually an Atheist ... but I digress). Anyway really good interview with him there on Ninja Vs. Pirates.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Thanks for that information, that helps put the title in perspective!