K, I don’t know how on earth folks have missed my references to Dogs in the Vineyard up to this point, but let me fix this right now.
Here is where I quote an explanation of the elegant, gorgeous dice mechanics, and here’s the RPG.net thread discussing the game in general that I also linked to in that post.
This set of characters were eventually played in a game, and the report of actual play got included in the thread above — but you can jump right to it here
Finally, this links to an online character generation for six Dogs that I took part in — quite illuminating in it’s own way.
Now, I don’t have the book with me (and I’m glad Dave mentioned reading it, because I’ve been looking for it all damn night), but I’m going to give a shot at explaining the basic concept of the setting.
Your home territory is a land of lush farmlands bordered by high mountains on one side and dry butte desert on the other. Almost everyone in this territory is (or at least professes to be) a member of the Faith. You are young gunslingers chosen for… well, there are lots of different reasons why, but chosen you were. You were proven, trained, and initiated, then sent out with a couple of your peers on a route that takes you from town to town.
In a perfect world, you’ll deliver the mail, name a few babies, bless a wedding or two, and that’s it.
It’s not a perfect world.
The reality is that you’ll usually come to a town and there will be Pride. That Pride leads to some kind of Sin, and that Sin has allowed a town to become corrupted. Specifically, it lets Demons into the township — until that point, a town is secure in the Faith.
Sometimes it’s not that bad — there’s a little jealousy, a little rumoring, and that’s it. You might slap a hand or two. You might bond two feuding families by marrying their oldest children to each other.
Sometimes it awful — there’s False Priests and sorcerers doing all manner of unspeakable things. You might hold a sinner’s hand over an open flame to break through the miasma of drink in him. You might drag someone into the street and shoot them right there. You might kill dozens. Whatever it takes to save the body as a whole.
Now… yeah. I hear what you’re saying — inquisition. Fanatics. Puritans with pistols. Whatever. Let me lay a spin on you to put this in perspective.
Demons are Real.
Stop. Just let that sink in for a second. This isn’t a belief system that some nutjobs are using to keep people in line — this is the reality of the setting: Demons are real, and they will destroy every. last. one. of you if you let them.
This is not a Faith you take on faith — this is the one Truth in a world of shit and lies. The rich cities back East are ruled by rail barons that got their power through the pacts they have made with demons — it’s a deadly dangerous place for one of the Faith to go.
Are you a cold bastard for burning that guy’s arm? Maybe. More likely, you saved his life. One man (or woman) got shot in the street? Well, you saved the town, and that’s what you were there to do. That’s your mandate. You are the Watchdogs of the King of Life and what you say is right is right and what you say is wrong IS wrong. That’s it. You don’t answer to anyone but yourself, and that’s the truth.
Now, there’s dials you can set to this
— It could be a subtle kind of game where the demons might be mostly metaphorical (or so it seems) — there is Sin, and as a result they’ve blighted the crops and there’s sickly children and lots of anger. Find it. Fix it.
(There’s some fine examples of this already online.)
— It could be the kind of game where 2 out of every three towns are like the one above, but every so often, when the Demons have got their fingers in tight around the town’s throat, well, that’s when people’s heads start doing full 360’s and spitting acid bile and the little girl with the pretty singing voice can float in mid-air and set haystacks on fire. Find the problem. Fix the problem.
(I’d say that’s about where I am on the scale.)
— It could be full out, balls to the wall — when you find demons and force them out, you’d better be ready with some blessed clay and good shotgun, because it’s going to look like the Wild Bunch crossed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
(I’d say that’s about where my little game with Justin is going to fall.)
The bitch of it is: you’re the ones who get to say what’s right, and … well, no one will doubt you, except you. What you decide might as well be gospel, and the results might be your own little hell 🙂
It’s the best game containing religion (not just Magic from Gawds, but a real RELIGION) in it I’ve ever seen. I daresay that any other game I can think of, with the POSSIBLE exception of Heroquest, amounts to nothing better than a Jedi Order. At BEST.