Friday, June 16, 2006

Dogs in the Vineyard :: Mandrake Hollow

Mandrake Hollow. A small community nestled in the green valleys to the west of Bridal Falls City, almost in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Spring was in full bloom, but not everything was rosy as the Dogs would soon find out...

The following text comes from here:

Pride: The Town Steward, Lawrence, has decided to take a second wife because his first one won't give him children. The first wife is jealous and is against the marriage.

Sin: He has married the daughter of the richest man in town, the owner of the General Store, without sanction of the Faith Elders, but the rich man is pleased to have his family tied so tightly to the Steward. The

False Doctrine: The Steward preaches that, if the town agrees to something, that's official sanction enough. This infuriates his first wife, who decides she's going to end this herself by excluding the second wife from the quilting circle. They feel the first wife's being mistreated, so they back her and won't allow the second wife, just a girl of 15, into the circle, excluding her from the powerful women of the town. Included in this circle is the girl's mother, who feigns agreement to broaden the division between the wives.

False Priesthood: The second wife has complained to her husband and father about the first wife's behavior. Her mother, it turns out, has been slipping a contraceptive into the tea of the first wife to make the Steward's eyes wander while the store owner's been offering his daughter as the solution.

Hate & Murder: The first wife stabs the second wife in a rage while cleaning up after dinner.

When the Dogs arrive, the town is in official mourning. The Steward wants to be shot for causing the death of the girl. His wife wants to be vindicated for putting an end to her husband's illegal marriage. The store owners want the first wife to be executed and for the owner to be made new Steward.

-Sister Rachel- The dead 15 year old girl.
-Brother Jeremiah- Rachel's father, Marah's husband.
-Sister Marah- Mother of Rachel, Brother Jeremiah's wife.
-Steward Lawrence- the Steward, took a second wife without the elders' approval.
-Sister Eve- the Steward's wife and murderer of Rachel.

The Dogs were:
Brother Calvin, a one-armed, older Dog, who was full of the grace and mercy of the King of Life.
Sister Patience, a Calamity Jane type, cold-hearted, carries a big gun, and knows a thing or two about medicine.
Sister Juju (a.k.a. the Wolf-Girl), raised by wolves, mostly uncivilized, but taken in by the Faithful and now a Dog.

So, I started with the Dogs arriving in Mandrake Hollow, just as the funeral procession was entering the chapel at the end of the street. The Dogs went inside, and the people began whispering about how "the Steward and his wife are gonna get it now..." Seeing that the Steward was absent, the townspeople asked the Dogs to say a few kind words and annoint the dead girl with sacred earth. They politely did so, and that's when they noticed the stab wounds.
They finished up the ceremony, then the two shopkeepers cornered the Dogs. Sister Marah said, "It just ain't right for a Steward's wife to be a murderer. Lawrence ain't fit to be the Steward, and Eve deserves to die for killing our little girl. Please, do what's right, and when it's done, make my husband the Steward."

The Dogs were off, staight to the Steward's house on the north side of town. They knocked twice, and finally Lawrence answered. He was pale and worn out, and when he saw the Dogs' coats, he said "I knew they'd send you. Come in and do what needs to be done. I'm prepared for justice."
We launched our first conflict then: Can the Dogs convince the Steward that he's not a despicable sinner, and the King has forgiven him?

--Calvin preached the King's forgiveness from the Book of Life--about how Jesus' own disciple was a corrupt tax collector.
--Lawrence said he was a far cry from a tax collector--he was a murderer.
--Patience said he was a sicko for taking such a young girl for his wife.
--Juju said, "As long as they in heat, it's okay."
--Calvin escalated to physical, laying his hand on Lawrence and trying to comfort him.
--Lawrence escalated likewise, and put a gun into Calvin's outstretched hand, telling him "To do the right thing."
--Patience said, "Go on Calvin, give the man justice."
--Juju lunged at Lawrence, knocking him out of harm's way with a bear hug of love.
--Calvin exhorted him one last time to accept God's forgiveness, and Lawrence Gave.

A follow-up conflict was launched, with Sister Patience drawing her pistol and shooting Lawrence in the back.
--Lawrence blocked by dodging to the side and grabbing the gun barrel as it went off. His hand was blown to bits, and he dove under the table.
--Juju screamed "No!" and moved to shield Lawrence.
--Calvin knocked the gun out of Patience's hand.
I think the conflict was over at this point.

So we launched the conflict: Does Lawrence die? He was bleeding pretty badly, but Calvin managed to patch him up, and call him back to the light.
He was forgiven, but horribly maimed.

Juju ran upstairs to find something that belonged to Sister Eve, so she could track the scent. They followed the scent into the wooded mountainside, where they found her in a clearing, sitting on a stump. (In retrospect, I think she should have been picking flowers or doing something. I was stuck at the moment.)
"They sent you to kill me? They're the one's who caused all this! The whole reason my husband took another wife was because I was infertile. And I was infertile because they were slipping Pennyroyal into my tea! I'm the innocent one in this whole affair-- my husband and those damn shopkeepers are the ones who should be punished! I only did what was right, by putting an end to a forbidden marriage."

The scene was done at this point, but Calvin really wanted Eve to forgive her husband. He managed to convince her. (The conflict was pretty flat. I think I should have just said Yes.)

At this point, we launched a conflict between the Dogs: What should we do about the shopkeepers?
--Patience-- We should poison them...or hang them...or drag them behind a horse.
--Juju-- And then we should eat them!
--Calvin-- Now Juju, you can't just go around eating people. It's not right. We need to show them their rightful place and restore them to the community.
--Patience-- You're so high and mighty, dealing out grace and forgiveness to everyone. Where's the justice, Calvin?
--Juju dropped out of the conflict for lack of dice.
--Calvin-- The King came to give grace and forgiveness to everyone, and he will deal out justice on the day of final judgement.
--Patience-- You talk way too much. (Escalates to Fighting) *sucker punch to Calvin's gut*
--Calvin refused to escalate to fighting, so he crumpled to the ground and Gave.

Off to the General Store...
Patience throws the door open, with a vengeance burning in her eyes. The shopkeepers ask "Did you take care of the Steward and his murderous wife?"
We started the night's final conflict: Do the shopkeepers get what's coming to them?
--The shopkeepers ran for the door.
--Patience draws her pistol, aims, and shoots Jeremiah in the back, splattering his blood all over the glass door pane. *see note
--Juju lunges over the counter and begins tearing and clawing at Marah. The two fall to the floor, kicking and biting at each other.
--Calvin runs over and knocks the gun out of Patience's hand.
--Jeremiah rolls over and says, "I love you Marah. I don't think I'm gonna make it out of here alive. Carry on without me." (Juju sees this raise, saying "My animal instincts have taken over." Patience says, "My cold heart hardens even more.")
--Patience pushes the heavy cash register over, trying to crush Jeremiah's head, but at the last second --Marah struggles to push him out of the way.
--Juju claws Marah to death while Calvin looks on in horror.

They buried the shopkeepers, and restored the Steward and his wife to their rightful place in the community.

*Note: We ran into a little bit of a rules-hiccup at this point. Calvin wanted to Block Patience from killing the shopkeepers, but she had already fired the gun. In retrospect, I should have allowed Calvin to lend a helping die to them, so they would have taken less severe Fallout.

Overall, a good session, not bad for my first time running Dogs and for being pretty green with Narrativist systems.

I'm looking forward to the next town!

Kruug Archimbault

I wanted to make a character who was struggling with the triumph of reason over passion. So, here he is: Kruug Archimbault. Made for d20 Eberron, and also using Beliefs and Instincts from Burning Wheel.

Kruug was born deep in the Eldeen Reaches.
He was a savage warrior, bred of fear and hatred, concerned with only survival.

Then Kruug found the gift of knowledge. Deep in the forest, he found it, beckoning from the shadows; it drew him forth.

He couldn't shake the addiction. He would return to the same place night after night, courting his destruction.
Soon, Kruug could no longer enjoy the wild raids of his clan. He became withdrawn. They seemed so savage and stupid...superstitious.

The clan began to notice the change. He was growing weak and foolish in their eyes. He refused to consume the strength of their rivals. Kruug was no cannibal, not any more at least. They blamed the spirits, the gods, Kruug's wickedness, whatever strange idea they came up with at the moment. Their minds were blown about, like dead leaves in the wind.

The Darkwood Clan turned on Kruug, but he was already far away by the time they mobilized against him. Moving steadily toward the rising sun, toward the strange lands he had feared his whole life, Kruug passed into Aundair, dirty, smelly, confused, and still very much a savage orc.

He tried to get jobs and a place to live, but he was unskilled and unlearned, unrefined. He resorted to living on the streets and begging for food. When a passing human laughed about that "disgusting waste of life over there," Kruug crushed his windpipe and snapped his backbone. The blood filled his eyes, and he killed others. Who knows how many? When he saw the torches through the red haze, he escaped to the forests and after a time made his way to Breland, to Sharn. He became Kruug Archimbault, because he liked the way it sounded.

In Sharn, he easily found work aboard The Cutlass as an oarsman. His strength served him well, and he learned to adapt. After several successful voyages, he was befriended by Officer Benson, who trained him in the sailor's art.

Kruug is happy that he is learning the life of a is one step closer to civilized life. He dreams of the day when he can stand before the noble courts and give eloquent speeches on behalf of the less fortunate, like he himself once was.

-Clear reason is better than blind passion. I will subject my passion to my reason. Solve disputes through words, not swords.
-I will make a place for myself in proper society, at any cost. My first step is to learn to fit in with the civilized world as a sailor.
-I belong in the courts of the nobility.

-Always fight dirty.
-If you insult me, I'll cut your tongue out.
-If I fail at something, my temper flares up.

So, he seems primed for conflict as he has a dual nature.

For reference, he is a level three, full-blooded orc barbarian.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

20 Keys to Dysfunctional Play

(Tips for playing non-fun roleplaying games)

1) The central character is passive and does not move the action of the story forward.

2) There is no real central character identified that conveys the story to the audience.

3) The world of the story is not set up quickly enough (what type of environment the story takes place in and what the genre of the story is).

4) The narrative question (what the story is about) is not defined until too late in the campaign.

5) There is no discernible myth to the story - stories seem small to the group when no significant force presses the protagonist into the action of the story - there is no force of antagonism that provides truly worthy obstacles to the protagonist to keep the stakes of the story interesting.

6) The protagonist does not feel big emotions - small problems abound that are not central to sustaining the suspense of the impending actions in the story that will deeply affect hero.

7) First narrative event (revealing information central to characters or story) happens late in each scene.

8) The events in the story are not surprising as they happen and do not appear inevitable to the story in retrospect.

9) Narrative exposition is used to define characters instead of the actions and attitudes of those characters.

10) Scenes happen without a causal relationship to other events (or reveals) contained in the story.

11) Not enough is revealed about the characters and their emotions (or beliefs) through confrontations, deeper feelings are never revealed through expository dialogue.

12) The GM does not let the players know the underlying drama (the stakes) in each scene - the scene's necessity is not made clear.

13) Characters act in ways that are inconsistent or uncharacteristic to the way they've been established without there being a believable reason behind their action.

14) Expository dialogue is used that has not been passed through an amusing diversion, a peripheral character, or through conflict.

15) Characters speak the subtext, do not portray the subtext, betray the subtext. Use visuals as texture to show subtext to divert audience from just hearing subtext.

16) Subtext has not been shown through characters' actions.

17) Dialogue is used to explain more about the story than actions are (story is being told not shown).

18) Actions are forced - do not contrive actions to the story that do not fit logically into it - do not make events happen that are not connected logically to the flow of the story.

19) Do not use deus ex machina events to solve protagonist's problems - lucky coincidences are not allowed - coincidences are only allowed once at the beginning of some stories to set events in motion, and later only if they happen to heighten the obstacles thrown into the protagonist's path.

20) Do not use cliches in the plot, dialogue or characters - if you've seen it too many times before, the group has too.

Adapted from

Monday, January 23, 2006

Methylchloroisothiazolinone (A Death Metal Ballad)

(string intro)






Saturday, January 21, 2006

Good ol' Uncle Figgy

I rediscovered an old set of articles on general roleplaying advice, and I was amused when I got to Chapter 2.

Now, in this chapter Uncle Figgy describes the two gaming extremes: "The Monty Haul" and "You're All Gonna Die". The first involves ridiculous rewards for trivial challenges, the second sends the hapless players through vicious challenges for nearly nothing.

And finally, the quote that makes me post:
"It is common in the average YAGD game for at least one player character to be killed during each gaming session. Often, the PCs face overwhelming odds and come out on top just to face a deadly trap placed there only to wipe them out. I played in one game in which the GM happily twisted rules and created fiendish traps that existed for no other purpose than to murder the PCs."

Twisting Rules? Fiendish traps? Overcoming overwhelming odds only to find you've been on the wrong mission the whole time? 1 PC death per session? Bah. How about 30?

Player character death is entertaining. Don't be a bitter beaver, Ben.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Web of Hate #1 and Treason Snippets #1

Presenting: The Web of Hate #1

This is a little process I go through to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of backstabbing and sabotage in my games. In case you can't read the center bubble, it says "mission". The little pink arrows mean that player should be actively trying to screw with the pointee. Certain players don't need any more arrows pointing at them, because everyone always screws with them anyway. Good times.
Sorry about the blurryness.

Treason Snippets #1
And for your viewing pleasure- some amusing notes I have received in-game (maybe I'll scan some later). I left in the spelling errors, for comedic effect.

  • Use nerowhip to deflect lasers.
  • Walk over to scrubot and plant gernade on it.
  • Rig the scrubot secretly to clean the robot overly roughly.
  • How close is everone else?
  • Do the lights go out yet?
  • While people sleep, I rip the robot up.
  • Toys-R-USS for faulty leadership, and possible mutant powers w/ the bleeding eye thing.
  • Stick a garande in "hole" and walk away unnoticed.
  • Is there any gore left?
  • Examines robot "stink-hole"
  • Grab grenade and pull the pin.
  • Hit the floor!!!
  • Throw gernade @ robot.
  • I put the grenade in ben's pocket with telekn but he doesn't notice. (oh really)
  • After pulling pin, roll away and raise blast shield.
  • I spray them with spacteling.
  • Set the girl on fire.
  • Call for docbots.
  • Docbots?
  • Instant Messages Secret Society: "I appear to have found no door to the Outside. I believe there is none, sadness." -Roses
  • Kill the poor unconscious man....Fire.
  • Set her on fire. And the electro-man.
  • Use my Mutant Power on Ben (light his feet on fire)
  • Can I levitate underwater?
  • I drop a smoke grenade and turn into a bag.
  • I want to buy a Yoda-Hover-Pad
  • Drop Grenade in briefcase and slide it towards the desk (and the briefing officer)
  • I mind blast the short, black man--"Pete"\
  • I call scrubots on my way back.
  • And docbots.
  • Ben
  • #2 Drop the Last 5 grenades that I have... #1 sleight of hand out of handcuff and do number 2. (This one confused me).
  • Mind blast Santa.
  • Yeah I want to grenade Ben now.
  • I roll back and see who lives.
  • Activate remote, leap for safety.
  • Pete, I'm here to protect you. I have another helping me protect you.
  • Make Derek dive on Santa to protect him.
  • I jump and protect Pete.
  • I jump in Front of Santa and extend my shield around him.
  • Rolls grenade towards ben...
  • Use puppeteer to have Wood run and hug bot.
  • Use foot bomb on Dan.
  • I move.
  • Brainscrub Josiah as he talks.
  • Used Sec.Syst.IS to find another way to get to the stash.
  • So, apparently my testing equip. sucks?
  • Grab remote, jump at Team Leader, explode mine.
  • Accident, of course.
  • I "aim" at Josiah and try to hit Derek.
  • Who is still dirty?
  • Blast Team Leader when no one's looking.
  • Slide remote mine under group, leave room. Activate.
  • Goes and hides in present.
  • I run.
Whew! That's all for now.

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