I often feel like 75% of the vitriol towards Forge-identified concepts, theories, and ideas comes from people who have only heard them second or third or fourth or twentiethhand, out of context, misunderstood and misapplied. Hell, 9 out of 10 podcasts that present themselves as authorities on any given subject did little, if any, due diligence, and flat out distributed incorrect information as if it were accurate. Irritating.
Back in 2004, Vincent Baker released Dogs in the Vineyard. It had quite a few good design things in it, but an idea which found it’s way into the general tabletop scene is “Say Yes or Roll the Dice”.
Like many of the things that spilled out from the Forge forum crowd, it would become a thing people say, shifting the idea and losing the original context. Now you can find people arguing “But if a player wants to have their character punch the planet in half in my gritty realistic detective game, do I have to say yes or roll the dice?!? This is ridiculous!”… So, context.
First, it’s important to know the basic structure of Dogs in the Vineyard – the player characters are special religious deputies, whose job is to go into towns and fix their conflicts and problems.
There’s basically two axis’ of conflict:…
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Imagine you’re at an after party at a night club full of young professionals. You’re making conversation with some of the attendees. One woman at the party is a full time caregiver. She works do…
Sandy winces as the dice clatter to a stop. “16 more points of damage. Solomon can only take a couple more hits like that.” She looks over at Kelly. “Dude, we’re getting our asses handed to us here. Can’t you call on the gods for help or something?”
Kelly’s eyes try to take in everything on his character sheet, but quickly glaze over. He turns beseechingly to the woman at the head of the table. “Uh… can I do that?”
Angie smiles at her newest player. “Father Keldor is a cleric, a mortal agent of the gods. What do you think?”
Kelly nods, as if of course he knew that. “Right. Okay. I, uh… “Hey, gods, a little help?”” he looks up and makes a sort of jazz-hands motion in the air.
Several players giggle, and Angie shakes her head. “Yeah, that’s not going to have any effect. Are you asking for help from ‘the gods’, or from a particular god? Think about what kind of relationship you have to the divine, and what kind of aid you want. The gods don’t pay attention to every cry for help, they’d go deaf. But they will hear yours, if it’s sincere.” she looks over the top of her glasses, emphasizing her point.
“Okay, okay, gimme a second.” Kelly wipes his clammy hands on his jeans and presses his palms together, leaning his face on his hands, almost as if he were actually praying.
“Okay. I- uh, Father Keldor falls to his knees in the midst of the battle, dropping his weapons and closing his eyes to demonstrate the completeness of his faith. Raising my arms and turning my face to the sky, I cry out “Lady Bast, I beg your mercy and protection in my hour of need!””
Tom chucks Kelly’s shoulder appreciatively “Nice, bro.”
“Now, that sounds sincere.” Angie smiles wide, then looks around the table. “So, the rest of you are still fighting for your lives, this next bit is just for you, Kel.” She rubs her hands together with relish, eyes angled toward the ceiling as she chooses her words carefully.
“Your plea rings out across the battle, echoing off the stone walls of the throne room, and as that echo dies, so do the sounds of clashing weapons and the cries of rage and pain. Total silence descends upon you like a blanket. What do you do?”
“I open my eyes.”
“The first thing you notice is the blade of the axe about six inches from your face.”
“Shit! I roll out of the way!”
“Your instincts tell you to dodge, but your body does not obey- you don’t move an inch. But, neither does the axe. Pulling your focus away from it, you realize that the entire scene has frozen in time, down to the dust motes and blood drops in the air. You can see some of your companions engaged in melee with numerous foes- too numerous, it’s easy to see from this vantage. Your friends are brave and strong, but the enemy was expecting you, and prepared their ambush well.”
“I knew it was a set up!” mutters Sandy, but someone shushes her, and the GM continues.
“As you scan the tableau, you hear a faint, soft noise, even in this silence it’s barely audible. You can’t quite recognize it until you see the sleek black cat daintily picking its way through the carnage, and then you realize what you’re hearing is the creature’s purr growing in volume as it slowly approaches, twining between the legs of a warrior here, hopping over the corpse of a fallen acolyte there. It even pauses once to clean a paw after stepping in a spot of blood. You remain frozen there, watching it come closer, but it doesn’t seem to pay you any special attention. In fact it passes right by you, close enough to reach out and touch, were you not paralyzed. Your eyes follow it until it moves out of sight behind you.”
As Angie pauses, Kelly glances around the table as if for advice, but Olen only shrugs, and before anyone can say anything, Angie is speaking again.
“Abruptly, you feel hot breath on your ear and sense an immeasurable presence at your back, as if you were suddenly leaning against the flank of an enormous, powerful beast, the very molecules of the air in the room vibrating with its purr.” she spreads her hands outward, as if encompassing the imaginary chamber of stone and marble.
“Within that purr you understand meaning, words resolving in your mind, simultaneously subtle as a whisper and as overwhelming as the roar of the ocean;