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Dogs from Another Angle

Here's a very interesting and thought-provoking comment from the responses to "You're Soaking In It":

    Dogs [in the Vineyard] breaks for me in interesting ways. As a player, it's fine, if not paradigm-breaking. I like the concept and the questions. What I can't get past (as a player) is that I have so much control over what other people do. Almost any situation I can arrange to get my fellows in, we can argue our opposition into anything, no matter how dumb our arguments are. As a GM, it's the flip side. I have to "lose" to some grossly unconvincing statements. It moves the argument from the game to a meta-argument about stakes.

    In general, I'm not too keen on social stats and mechanisms in games. I think it's useful for a GMs to have a way to resolve social conflicts for NPCs when s/he doesn't care, but I see too much reliance on dice rather than interaction in Dogs or Burning Wheel to make me happy. The story I review at the end of a session is often unsatisfying because someone chose a course of action that was unusually stupid because the dice told them they lost a conflict and had to do so. This is an area where vagueness and winging it are what work for me and getting into explicit detail blows my suspension of disbelief.

I'm interpreting this as another view of The White Gamer's Burden: "What if I'm not socially adept and/or quick-witted, but I want to play a character who is?" It's a question that I think has slowly dragged itself into the gamer consciousness as an item worth addressing ever since Feng Shui started rewarding players for wildly-creative stunts - effectively penalising the poor bastards who aren't quite quick enough or imaginative enough to come up with something better than "I shoot him" when put on the spot.

I'd shrug my shoulders and say hey, roleplying draws in creative and quick-witted folk, so where's the problem?, except Michael (the commenter) mentions examples drawn from experience; not "I can easily imagine this happening" but "this actually happened at a game or games that I was part of".

Dogs in the Vineyard is, I think, a game for the quick-witted and imaginative, and although the encouragement of kibbitzing can help people who are suddenly having brain-farts, "I can easily imagine" some poor bugger out of his or her depth and getting kibbitzed to death.

Then again, Dogs in the Vineyard is quite explicitly about posing moral challenges and discussing the events of play amongst yourselves as players afterward, so it's pretty much aimed at a player willing to confront, explore and discuss hypothetical examples of big ideas - my personal opinion (based on zero play experience) is that such a typical player is unlikely to have the sort of trouble Michael describes.

In two sentences: Michael says, "Dogs [in the Vineyard] breaks for me in interesting ways". I say, "Anything breaks when you try to make it do things it's not intended to do."

Further comment and discussion is most definitely welcomed!

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