The Problem With Dogs in the Vinyard

I’ve recently been running a game of DitV, widely regarded by many as one of the best indie games in existence, and certainly one of the most well known.  However, there’s something that’s been bothering me about it:

I don’t think it handles multi-participant conflicts very well.

Dogs, like many Indie games (Burning Wheel comes to mind), has a very intricate, very themed conflict resolution system with many options and nuances.  The dramatic impact from Dogs comes out very tensely in the conflicts- however, this really only holds true for one on one conflicts.

When one has a multiple party vs. one person (or to a lesser extent, multiple party vs. multiples), the tension and dramatic impact is lessened because the side with more members is practically assured of victory.  PCs team up?  There’s no challenge, and very few conflicts that escalate because they’re over so quickly.  A game of Dogs without escalation is practically no game of Dogs at all.

So how do we solve this?  Split the party as much as possible, keep them isolated, keep the conflicts personal, and drive towards inter-party conflicts.  But that’s a game-play solution, not a systematic solution, and the mantra of indie games comes to mind: System Matters, and it appears with repeated playing that the system of Dogs needs major work for a very common type of conflicts.


2 thoughts on “The Problem With Dogs in the Vinyard

  1. Rahvin says:

    I’ve been thinking of implementing a rule, allowing each additional participant beyond the first to contribute only one die of each type to the conflict, regardless of how many dice they have. There is one “primary participant” in the conflict and everyone else is an “assistant”.

    It’s still not perfect, but I think it works a little bit better this way.

    To primary participant determines when to use an assistant’s dice, but each time he does so, the assistant must narrate his actions appropriate.

    I kind of equate it to cheezy cinema scenes where the damsel in distress hits the villain in the head with a vase while he’s confronting the hero…

    I’ve also been experimenting with a group vs group system where each participant gets to raise up to once per turn, but only if he sacrifices dice to do so – trying to go for kind of a comic book feel as opposed to “everyone gets one action per turn”. I haven’t even begun to test this yet. Just a thought.

  2. Rahvin says:

    Completely 100% agree with you, though. I find it strange that group vs group stuff isn’t strongly emphasised by the system at all, considering that most of the players tend to be on “the same side” at the start of the game and many villains involve a group of possessed cultist. These conflicts are actually setup by the system, but are difficult to resolve “directly”.

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