2005-09-20 : Dogs in the Vineyard, the Vision
Christian Fasy wrote me the other day:
I have wanted to contact you ever since I bought the game. As a member of the LDS faith, an avid role-player, a student of history, a lover of fantastic fiction, and a fan of westerns, I believe that I am your ultimate target audience.
I loved reading this game and I got a bunch of my LDS gaming buddies together and even invited my father, himself a convert to the church who doesn't do pen and paper role-playing, but is a gun nut and historian in his own right who started the Utah chapter of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS). He expressed some anxiety to me about playing a game with me and my friends, and I scoffed at him. The SASS is an organization of western shooters, who meet and have shooting matches in full period costume, using only period weapons, and who all go by period aliases.
Compared to Dad, my friends and I are all couch potato posers!
Anyway, when we got together, my father did an impromptu one hour and forty five minute lecture on black powder weapons for me and my friends. He brought several of his guns. Then another friend, whose own father collects period black powder reproduction pistols, showed up with a case of the old blunderbusses! We had props everywhere to go with our big bowl of dice and the drinks and Doritos.
I had copies of the character creation and conflict resolution rules for everyone, and once I got Dad to stop lecturing, I explained the whole thing cold to the group. I had asked everybody to come up with a character idea and a 'look' based on a favorite actor out of Western movies. We had, variously, Sam Elliot, Kevin Costner from Silverado, Clint Eastwood from Pale Rider, Alan Rickman, and believe it or not, Jimmy Cagney as an Irish convert. Dad chose a Mountain Person who had also converted.
We played out everyone's' initiatory conflicts. For your information and interest, out of 5 players and one GM, 4 of us had been on missions for the church and one (Dad) was a convert, so many of us had experienced first hand the actual 'Dogs Temple' in 'Bridal Veil City'. This lent a lot of power to the initiatory scenes. I got some of the best role-playing I have ever experienced in my 26 years of running RPGs, and the kibitzing rules were very well used. At one point, I thought we were going to have a hard time when my father declared that his character's initiatory goal was to have the rest of his group respect him for who he really was; not as a Dirty Injun and not as a Noble Savage but for himself. I should never have doubted.
He set the scene in scripture class where he caught up the Instructor misquoting and misinterpreting scripture. We staged several more instances like this and by the time he was done, EVERYBODY respected him. In fact, the oft-repeated in joke of the night was "We'll put up with the Injun, but not the Irishman."
It was an amazing experience. We only got part way into the town and several had to leave, except two players. These two had been on actual missions. I set up a scene with an NPC brother who had lost his wife to a richer man and was trying to decide between murder and suicide. It was a long, depressing exchange for the characters.
The player, who's Costner based character was the brother of the NPC, had actually lost his own wife several years ago to breast cancer. Watching him dialogue with his 'brother', a man in the blackest despair, was an inspiration. He was pulling stuff straight from his own experiences and personal tragedy to answer the problems of this NPC brother of his. It became intensely personal and a beautiful thing.
After convincing his brother to give up his weapon, the two dropped him off with the Steward for safe care. The two players were experiencing emotional exhaustion after all this. They both sat back with a relieved "Whew!" in stereo. It was classic. And then came the bit that, for me, was the capper for the entire evening. Only someone who had been on a volunteer mission for their church or some equivalent charity work could truly appreciate it.
The two characters were down, really down. Affected by the brother's plight, overwhelmed by the town's black mood and feeling outnumbered by the bad guy and his army of goons, the characters (Costner and Cagney!) schlepped around the ranch house and paused by their horses in the cool evening air. 'Costner' wraps his hand around the saddle horn and stops, telling his partner how blasted he feels inside. 'Cagney' looks at him for a minute and after a long pause says, "Well Brother, how 'bout we sing a hymn?"
From memory the two PLAYERS picked an actual hymn from our LDS hymnal, and sang two verses right there on the spot. The 'Cagney' player started playing around with the words, adding references to what they wanted to do to the bad guy, and both of them started laughing. I joined in for a rousing third verse and we all broke up.
I don't know if I have conveyed it clearly, but for a minute there, it was like actually being on my mission. I know the other two were feeling it as well. The despair and the catharsis of the moment throwing us back through time to an imaginary place, but with our real personal experiences acting as a lens to focus the moment.
I was so delighted that I declared extra dice for them from Ceremony. We broke up the game and all went home. Two days later, the Costner player calls me up and asks when we are going to finish the game because he has been dreaming about his character. This hasn't happened for him since he first played D&D 25 years ago. I got similar responses from all the players.
I just wanted to say 'Thanks'.
Who here knows the story of how I came to write Dogs in the Vineyard? You'll see that my whole vision has been fulfilled.
1. On 2005-09-20, ScottM said:
2. On 2005-09-20, Brand_Robins said:
3. On 2005-09-20, Brennan Taylor said:
XP go "LOL!"
jk go "another lol"
lpl go "i want to kill sinners for the king"
4. On 2005-09-20, Vincent said:
5. On 2005-09-20, Christian Fasy said:
6. On 2005-09-20, Peter Dyring-Olsen said:
7. On 2005-09-20, Meguey said:
8. On 2005-09-20, Vincent said:
9. On 2005-09-20, Brand_Robins said:
10. On 2005-09-21, Meguey said:
11. On 2005-09-21, Ninja Monkey J said:
12. On 2005-09-21, Keith said:
13. On 2005-09-21, Christian Fasy said:
BR go "Next time I'm in Utah I'll look you up."*
CF go "That would be cool.."*
*click in for more
14. On 2005-09-21, Poh Tun Kai said:
15. On 2005-09-21, Judd said:
16. On 2005-09-21, joshua m. neff said:
17. On 2005-09-22, TonyD said: