Every other Saturday, Jackie attends a game that I’m not involved in, leaving me and Justin to bang around the house for about six or seven hours. Lately, he’s gotten into the habit of requesting that we play some kind of RPG. Paladin was his first request, and following that I pitched the idea of Dogs in the Vineyard, since there’s a bit of a thematic similarity (at least on the surface).
Now, I feel I should lay some background; Justin is my nephew, who is now 14. He’s been living with I and my wife for… it’ll be five years at Christmas. His request. When he came here at nine, he couldn’t read, do math, any of it, all thanks to my sister in law, his mom. He’s caught up to his grade level now and has been gaming with the grown-ups pretty much since the beginning (a lot of everything — great math incentives). He’s not a big fan of ‘games with guns in them’, and he doesn’t have a lot of exposure to the western genre at all, so there was some initial reluctance about DitV. His exposure to firearms has been pretty nonexistant (which is weird to me, since I grew up on a farm and hunted a lot, but there you go). Also potentially relevant: his exposure to any kind of formal religion is essentially zero, though we do discuss issues of faith informally on fairly regular occassions and he finds stories and games that involve such things to be interesting and fun.
Anyway, facing his mild reluctance, I agreed that if we went through character generation and he wasn’t interested in ‘his guy’, then I’d drop it completely and we could do something else. He agreed.
We went over most of page five, some of page six and seven, then we skipped up to the Background notes for a typical Dog on pages 18, 19, and 20 and went through that pretty closely. I showed him the picture on the front of the book at the appropriate point and he announced that, if he *had* a gun, it would be ‘one of those that the guy has… not one of those other ones.”
We started into chargen proper by talking about the kind of Community his character was from, but not getting into the dice benefits — it was just story focus. He decided on a Complicated Community, and described a small, dirty town on the edge of the mountains, off away from everyone, where there was a lot of fighting between the families in town: a really nasty place — hardly felt like a community of faithful at all, but that wasn’t for me to work out: I asked if it was and he told me yes, but it wasn’t a good one at all. Okay.
Somewhere in here it became clear that the character was a ‘he’ — I don’t make assumptions about this at any point with him — probably half of his characters are females (unusual in male teen gamers) — not charicatures at all (also unusual in cross-gender play, in my experience and especially with younger players).
We talked a bit about what his guy (some “Z” name was all he knew at this point) had done in town and he told me about fights he’d gotten in and problems he’d caused for his grandpa.
“You don’t live with your folks?”
“Nope. Grandpa came to take care of me when my folks died.”
“How’d they die?”
“In the fighting. Someone burnt their house down with them it. I killed the guy who did it. That guy’s son is my age.”
I really love doing games with him that let him open up during character generation — he comes up with some amazing stuff — stuff from someplace I can’t even guess at.
So, we got down to assigning Stat dice:
Acuity 4, Body 3, Heart 4, Will 4
I asked about the one slighted stat, and he told me that he had to rely on being quick, mostly.
With traits, I used Vincent’s recommendations for people who are stuck on what to pick and started him out by talking about whether or not he could shoot well. Got a yes. Asked how.
“Grandpa taught me.”
“Because I’d already shot that guy, and he wanted to make sure I knew when I should and shouldn’t.”
“So not for hunting or anything?”
“No. It’s just something he thought I should know… he used to be a Dog.”
Oh, oh my. Sweet harmony of angels sing praise. Love it. We talked about the rest of his background a bit and got this:
Grandpa taught me to shoot 2d6
Grandpa was a Dog 2d6
I got in a lot of fist-fights in town 2d6
I like riding horses 1d8
I know how to cook 1d8
We didn’t get a trait down for it, but his short temper is fairly well-reflected there, I think. Certainly, we talked about it at length.
Then, we talked about how smaller dice might mean things getting complicated a lot more and built some relationships.
Girlfriend (Patience) 2d6
Son of the guy who killed my folks 2d4
Remaining: 2d4, 2d8, 1d10
I asked about the girlfriend and he explained that she was from a very ‘good’ family who didn’t like him at ALL… she was away at college in the East right now (I’d previously compared the age-group for Dog’s training to college-age kids), maybe to get her away from him. Hooeee.
We also discussed how Blood relationships could be added for free at 1d6 if he ran into a cousin or something. Moving on.
Justin loves the system for assigning dice to Belongings. Now then:
Coat — Red and Blue with yellow bolts of lightning down each sleeve — built by Grandma: 2d6
(This was the first that a Grandma had been mentioned, but he seemed to think that that was simply understood; he learned how to cook. Duh. Silly me.)
Horse “Patience”: 2d6
(This was a beautiful horse that his girlfriend had given him just before she left for her school. This made her family MAD and “they tried to take it back, but I just wouldn’t let them.” I asked how his girlfriend would feel about having the horse named for her, and he said it was all right because it helped him remember her. Cool.)
(Ironically, I think he decided Patience was a cool name for a smart horse and *then* retrofitted it to his girlfriend. 🙂
Grandpa’s shotgun: 2d8 +1d4
(I asked him about this a bit and commented that I’d been surprised he hadn’t decided to have his Grandpa’s coat. His response: “He still *uses* the coat sometimes, but he thought I’d need the gun.”
Book of Life: 1d6
Jar of Earth: 1d6
A pistol from the Dogs (added during play): 1d6+1d4
I think you can see what items were important to him by the dice they got.
We dug through some name sites and he decided on Zebediah.
I started putting a Town together (this was a pretty impromptu game, obviously), and told him he should go and think about “Something you hope happened for your character during training.”
His immediate response: “Oh, I hope he learns to control his temper. How long before we can start playing?”
We never got around to me asking him if he was still interested following chargen. 🙂
GAH! Zebediah is a whole DitV town rolled into one person. I’ll talk about initiation and the start of play in a followup post, but it’s clear that this is going to end right back where it started, in Zeb’s home town. Some of what he said during Initiation and play illustrates this, but let me say now that he clearly felt exactly the same way.