Original SA post
Dogs in the Vineyard posted:
The shopkeeper from Back East? His wife isn’t really his wife. He’s the procurer and she’s the available woman. Their marriage is a front.
Your brother’s son, your nephew, is fourteen years old. He’s been stealing money from his father, your brother, and taking it to visit this woman.
Your brother is in a bitter rage, humiliated by his son’s thievery and grieving his son’s lost innocence. He’s going to shoot her.
What do you do?
Dogs in the Vineyard is Vincent Baker's great Western RPG. It's more about tough decisions and moral turpitude than high-noon gunfights and saloon brawls (althoug there's room for some of that, too). Hailing from the now-distant year of 2004, it's notable for playing with some unique (and sadly never-ripped-off) resolution mechanics and for its evocative and unique setting. It's easy to see a lot of throughlines from Dogs to later indie RPGs, particularly in the town creation system, which encourages the GM to
plan plots out in advance. The game is a sometimes awkward mixture of traditional systems and storygame-type innovations, but I'll go over that stuff when I get there. Until then, let's start in the first chapter:
A Land of Balm and Virtue
. (I'm skipping the introduction since it's mainly just the "What is a RPG?" stuff we all know by heart).
The author opens the first chapter by saying
Vincent Baker posted:
I'm just making stuff up!
which doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Anyway, the game is set in a fictionalized pre-Civil-War Utah, and is largely concerned with the settlements of the Faith (full name: Faith of All Things in the King of Life, Reborn), who are basically Mormons. The capital of the Faith, Bridal Falls, is built near the soaring mountain ranges that border the Faith's territory, while most of the other towns are built across the huge fertile range west of the mountains (ranging from green hills to scrub desert). The Faith settled here after abandoning the decadence back East, and the Territorial Authority (the secular government) largely leaves them alone. Their relationship with the native Mountain People is troubled but
peaceful; the natives are nomadic and tend to pack up as soon as the Faith expands into their territory. The Faith doctrine is that the Mountain People are the fallen remnant of an old Faithful civilization. Some say that they are uniquely beloved by the King of Life (the Faith's God), while others think of them as subhuman sinners.
The Faithful don't drink coffee, liquor, or black tea (herbal teas and barley beers are OK, though). Women dress modestly and do the housework, men work with their hands and deal with outside affairs. Most people have a gun, and they're the big, scary hand cannons from before the six-shooter took off. They're slow, smoky, and prone to misfire, but they can punch a hole through you the size of a fist. Tobacco's allowed, but increasingly unpopular. One of the nice touches in this chapter is that it lists the kind of buildings that you'd find in a small/large town- stuff someone without a lot of Western experience might not think about (barrel-makers, millers, masons).
Of course, your character isn't going to be a barrel-maker. He or she is a Dog- a member of the Order Set Apart to the Preservation of Faith and the Faithful (the Faith
loves its long names). They travel from town to town, representing the Faith as both priest and lawman. Dogs are the final word on religious and legal affairs, and it's fully within their purview to drag a sinner out to the main square and shoot him in broad daylight. Most of the time, though, Dogs serve a more benign role, carrying out ceremonies, bringing mail, kissing babies, and so on. But when confronted with sin, it's their job to bring salvation, in whatever way they choose.
Next time: Character creation! Ceremonies! Hot Dog-on-Dog action! Also, this was my first post. Let me know if there's anything I need to fix up or improve!