Dogs in the Vineyard – Conflict Process

I've been playing a few short sessions of Dogs in the Vineyard, so put together a one page step-by-step summary of the conflict process.

Note that the process does not include the detailed tables for fallout. You will need to refer to the main rules for that, or the D.O.G.S. generic version.

It is an interesting system, where a conflict is not a single roll of the dice, but an entire scene that you add (recurring) elements to as it progresses; it kind of reminds me a bit of the conflict resolution in Mouse Guard.

It is not just a "I do this", roll, done, type system, but one where resolving the conflict forms the narrative story line, as you bring in elements. The more narratively important an item is to you, the more dice you should assign it - a similar example from the Cortex Plus Firefly game is "Jayne's Hat". Assigning that item 2d10 (in DitV) would mean you want to narratively bring it into every conflict that you can.

I can't even think how to approach a statistical analysis of DitV, like I have done for other systems. Systems like Corex Prime are complex enough so that you can't readily calculate probabilities in your head — you know 3d6 is better than 2d6, and 2d10 is better than 2d8, but trying to compare (1d10 + 3d6) vs (4d8 + 1d4) is not something you can do off the cuff. But you can mathemtically calculate it.

Because DitV involves some foresight (you roll a little bit in advance before you pick what to use), it relies on some tactical skill at picking dice, not just probabilities. And because what you will roll depends heavily on the narrative direction the encounter goes, it is difficult to know what even will be relevant.

The resolution is also at the entire encounter level, not individual actions. e.g. it is easy to statistically determine if you will hit in Dungeons & Dragons, and what your average expected damage will be. But trying to determine who will win in a fight between a Rogue and Cleric vs three Orcs is a lot more complicated.

I will look at doing a longer analysis of the system in the future, but for now the conflict process summary is a start.

RPG Mechanics: Success at a cost

Tabletop roleplaying games are generally about shared storytelling, and stories are generally pretty boring if the story ends because the protagonists don't find the clue, don't get past the locked door, or don't survive a battle. Failure needs to continue the story by leading to something else interesting, being only a partial failure, or being success at a cost.

I will detail some of the concepts and approaches used by different systems, including several open source alternative roleplaying games, that can be incorporated into your game, even if the specific mechanics are not.

A related concept is the treatment of character death, which is usually the ultimate failure.

Some systems, like early Dungeons & Dragons, or revival games like Dungeon Crawl Classics, treat the adventuring group more like a wargaming troop, where when one character dies the next steps up to continue as the protagonist. Other modern systems have more explicit success at a cost mechanics or alternative ways to handle death.

The discussion is organised by concept, with examples given from different systems, including Fate, Dungeon World (Powered by the Apocalypse), Blades in the Dark, and Gumshoe.

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Open source alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is easily the most widely played roleplaying game in most places (except for Call of Cthuhu in Japan) however there are thousands of alternatives.

In this post I will highlight a few open gaming alternatives, all highly rated (either the game itself, if fully available, or if just and SRD the commercial game it is derived from is highly rated).

  • Fate
  • Open Basic (d100% / Basic Role-Playing)
  • Dungeon World (Powered by the Apocalypse)
  • Blades in the Dark (Forged in the Dark)
  • Gumshoe System
#ffffee;"> Update (2023-01-28): The Dungeons & Dragons SRD 5.1 is now avaliable under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

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RPG Mechanics: Fate Core

Having a background in statistics, I like evaluating the mechanics of roleplaying game systems. I have previously blogged how 3d6 is not less swingy than d20 comparing different types of systems at a high level.

This post is a more detailed dive into Fate Core (the 4th edition), which has a bell curve based dice result distribution.

Fate Core is an open source roleplaying game, available under both OGL and Creative Commons licences, with several published books (available both printed and as nicely formatted PDFs). The Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) version is a short (only 40 pages) and lightweight variant of the system, with the recent Fate Condensed a streamlined version of the full system with clarifications and minor updates such as a safety tools section. (All are considered part of the same edition.)

There are several highly rated settings that use different versions of Fate, including Dresden Files, Fate of Cthulhu, Disapora, and Spirit of the Century.

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3d6 is not less swingy than d20

With tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) systems, sometimes I hear a claim that bell curve dice rolls, e.g. 3d6, are “less swingy” (less variance) than a linear based dice roll such as d20 or d%.

This is, however, incorrect.

While the distribution of dice rolls are different, the distribution of outcomes – success or failure – are the same, and for equivalent circumstances have the same statistical variance / standard deviation.

Although the outcomes have equivalent distributions, the underlying type of dice system is important for analysis of modifiers and skill progression.

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Firefly RPG rules summary and characters

Following on from my Mouse Guard summary, here is some similar material I created for my 2017 Go Play game, running the What's Mine scenario from the Firefly RPG.

I prepared a Firefly RPG rules summary, with a summary of how to build dice pools and various game rules, how plot points work, a summary of skills and attributes, and then some notes on Game Master dice pools and plot points.

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Mouse Guard RPG rules summary and character sheets

When running convention games, I often prepare a 1-2 page rules summary for players, particularly for those unfamiliar with the game. There are also usually a bunch of pre-generated characters for the game.

Here are the Mouse Guard - Summary Rules that I made for my Go Play X game last year, where I ran the Dam Beaver introductory scenario.

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Go Play – Mouse Guard RPG playtest

So, I will be running some Mouse Guard quick shot (90 minute) sessions at the Go Play Brisbane 2018 gaming convention in September this year.

To test out the system I ran a bunch of young (pre-teen) children through it: my daughter and the kids of a few friends. I figured if it can survive them, then it will survive any players.

I played the introductory scenario "Find the Grain Peddler".

Here are their character sheets; I let the players pick their own cloak colour:

mouse-guard-playtest-sheets

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