Using Dogs in the Vineyard to play in the Firefly/Serenity Universe
These rules present rules to adapt the Dogs in the Vineyard,
role-playing game to the setting of the Firefly & Serenity. In
order to understand this adaptation, it would be best if you had read Dogs in the Vineyard and had seen the show & movie!
Dogs in the Vineyard is a independently published game, and you can buy
the PDF ($14) from the Lumpley Games online store, or a real book ($22)
from Indie Press Revolution. It's a great game anyway, and worth
playing "straight" as well.
Pretty regular character creation. No need to require the players to pick a Relationship with the Dogs or to take an "I'm a Dog" trait, obviously. Instead, make each player take one Trait which explains why their character is perpetually in need of more money. This could be a lavish lifestyle ("Ale & Whores!") or something to do with the ship ("The ship is in continual need of repair") or whatever ("I give all my money to the Church"). Something which will always explain why the character will always accept a Job.
These work in the same way as normal, but instead of being set during
the character's Initiation, it should be something the character hopes
he accomplished as part of this crew. Again, it shouldn't be something
which will break the character if it goes the wrong way. And at the
end, you still get a d6 Trait, no matter what.
This all works exactly the same as in regular Dogs in the Vineyard. The arenas of conflict remain Talking, Physical, Fighting, Gunfighting. Fallout works the same way, just as you would expect. To make things easier for the Gamesmaster, I advise using the NPC rules from Afraid (Vincent's urban horror version of Dogs), but this is just for convienence. You lose some NPC meat-stuff but you gain some easiness.
When an NPC gets into conflict with the PCs, pick one of these four templates. So, for the Alliance Sector Commander you might pick the forth set:
- 6d6+2d8 / 4d6+1d10 / 3d6 / 1d8+2d4
- 5d6+1d10 / 3d6+2d8 / 3d6 / 1d10+1d8
- 7d6+3d4 / 4d6+2d4 / 5d6 / 2d6+1d8
- 9d6+1d10+1d8 / 2d6+2d8 / 2d6+1d4 / 1d6+2d10
Each set of dice is a level of escalation in this particular conflict. The Sector Commander always leads with 9d6 1d10 1d8, whether the conflict leads with just talking or gunfighting or what. The first escalation, whether it's to physical or to talking or to whatever, he rolls his 2d6 2d8. The dice sets come in in order, in other words, they are arena independent.
Note that dice and special abilities coming from being an Alliance Operative or Sympathizer -- like using Alliance Interest dice and so on -- apply on top of the dice given here. And don't bother changing NPCs' traits and stuff when you deal with NPC Fallout. Instead, always just give the PCs the two best Fallout dice for the next conflict.
This is a pretty basic modification of the Town Creation rules in regular Dogs in the Vineyard, so it works in pretty much same way. The tweak in character creation should ensure that the PCs all need money, so simply presenting them with "You need some money. Here's a job where you can get money" should be enough to get them involved, and then the rest of the messy situation plays out.
You can imagine that the Jobs which go smoothly, and the time between bouts of poverty are shown "off-screen", and it's only these interesting ones which we actually play out!
Step 1a: Someone is Excessively Wealthy. Being just wealthy isn't enough, they have to be rich enough to rob from! Write down the nature of the wealth (money, drugs, information, etc.)
and the name of somebody who is responsible for that wealth (a rich
noble or the local Alliance commander, for example). Generally, the PCs
will all know of this at the start of the Job.
Step 1b: If somebody is Excessively Wealthy, then somebody else is going to be worse off because of it. Someone is sick when someone else has all the medicine, or an industrialist is keeping his employees in poverty, or something. Attach a name or names to this injustice to it. If the situation seems grabby enough to you, which it probably won't but if it does, you can stop. Skip ahead to step 6a.
Step 2a: Unaddressed, this injustice leads to problems. The
advantaged person becomes bold or the disadvantaged person becomes
resentful -- either way, they do something that is obviously crappy.
This includes violence, deceit, profiting from other's misfortune,
getting drunk and being unable to support your family, and so on. Pick
something, and attach a name for the person doing this, and also a name
of somebody who is the 'victim' of this problem.
Step 2b: When things were in this pressurized state, something went wrong. Some bad luck, or an unexpected complication happens. Imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to people in this situation, and that's what happens. Make a note of what it was. If you've got enough NPCs to keep the PCs busy and you're happy with the situation, you can stop. Skip ahead to step 6a.
Step 3a: When things go bad, people rarely put it down to "one
of those things". Either the person causing the problems blames
somebody else or the victim decides to respond in kind. They find some
justification for either continuing do what they are doing, or to be
equally as bad in response. Write down who, and their
self-justification for doing so.
Step 3b: This self-justification becomes popular, and attracts more who agree with it. This justification lets them do antisocial things in order to "sort things out". What do they do, and who is the target of it? If you're happy with the situation, you can stop. Skip ahead to step 6a.
Step 4a: Somebody decides that they would have a better chance
of getting what they want if the Alliance were alerted to the
situation. Note down who, and what they had to do to get the Alliance
to pay attention to them -- this usually means betraying a trust or
Step 4b: Now the Alliance get involved. Who do they sent to deal with this problem? Write a name and what they want to do here. It's a good idea to tie this back into the Excessive Wealth you had at step 1 -- how do they try and secure this Wealth for themselves? If you've taken the situation as far as you want to, you can stop. Skip ahead to step 6a.
Eventually someone kills someone. The Alliance especially like it when
1) possible threats get murdered and 2) they use the murder to gain
more control. Attach names to the murder and write a paragraph. Go to
step 6a now, or continue with more murders until you are happy with the
Step 6a: What does each named person want from the PCs? Write a
sentence or two for each. Also, do a quick double-check to make sure
only the person you identified in step 1a has enough money to steal
Step 6b: What does the Alliance want in general? What do they want from the PCs? What might they do? Write a paragraph.
Step 6c: If the PCs never came, what would happen -- that is, what's the next step up the "what's wrong" ladder? Write a sentence or two.
And you're done! As in regular Dogs in the Vineyard, I think the first few games should go all the way up to Hate & Murder, so the situation is at it's most "grabby" and obvious.
You know how in regular Dogs, the Towns usually have NPCs who are the blood relations of the PCs, to tie them in more and feel more responsible? In this variant, instead of family ties, some of the NPCs involved in each job are people who have worked/served with the PCs, and hence they get a free d6 relationship to them.
Where you get "Demonic Influence" dice in regular Dogs in the Vineyard,
you will get "Alliance Interest" dice here. It again, depends on what
the PCs have discovered about the situation. What's the worst thing the
PCs have seen here?
Injustice: the Alliance Interest is 1d10.
Complications: the Alliance Interest is 2d10.
Blame and Recrimination: the Alliance Interest is 3d10.
Alliance Intervention: the Alliance Interest is 4d10.
Hate and Murder: the Alliance Interest is 5d10.
In this version you should still use the Possession and Sorcery rules
in Dogs in the Vineyard for the "Big Bad" of the Job (otherwise the conflicts will get
lame). The way Job creation is set up, this will tend to be whoever the
Alliance sends in Step 4b (Not necessarily an Operative, but it's
catchier to use that terminology).
Give that person a 4-die Relationship to "The Alliance" (i.e. the Demons) above and beyond the above and beyond the Relationships listed for the NPC. They can therefore Get Alliance Support: Add the current Alliance Interest to his preferred side of any conflict, as though it were a Trait, by introducing some Alliance involvement into a See or Raise, such as special technology, air support, generic purple bellies, or whatever.
You can obviously extend this to Possessed People (Alliance Sympathisers) by making Possession more like "using Alliance resources" and describing it appropriately.
You could, for a different spin on things, use these rules for Reavers
instead (which I have left out of the Job Creation rules, as I wouldn't
want Reavers being part of that structure.)