"For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion."
- - -
"We went west. We went through massive canyons, dryer than they were deep. We roughed mountains, so high they held the angels. We knew fields so long they must've surely circled the Earth their length over. We saw oceans and sinkpits, we drank from His pools, and we felt their cool refrain on our faces. We walked until our horses gave out, and our feet went ragged, and we knew, yet, we were not but a fraction of the road to be traveled, a bead of sweat towards the work that had to be done."
- - -
DOGS IN THE VINEYARD
Dogs in the Vineyard is about God’s Watchdogs, young men and women called to preserve the Faithful in a hostile frontier territory. They travel from town to isolated town, carrying mail, news, and doctrine, healing the sick, supporting the weary, and pronouncing judgment upon the wicked. Sharpshooters, Cowboy-Priests, and Holy Horsemen alike - a town welcomes you with celebration and honor, but what you’re there to do is stir up its dirt and lay bare its sins.
The setting is a fantasy inspired by pre-statehood Utah, the Deseret Territory, toward the middle of the 19th century. Picture a landscape of high mountains, icy rivers and cedar woods, falling away westward into scrublands, deserts, buttes and swells. The summer skies are heartbreaking blue, but the winters are long and killing. "Mountain Men", ancestors of those who properly own this land before it was ravaged from them, maintain an uneasy truce with the frontiers in some places, and outright wage war with them in others,
Picture religious pioneers, fleeing persecution and violence in the East. They’re trying to establish a society based on faith and righteousness out in this frontier. They’ve made the long trek westward but they’re still in danger: their towns are small and isolated, vulnerable to attack from without, sin and corruption within. Under pressure, their pride becomes sin, their anger becomes violence, their resentments become hate. Winter and the demons howl...
You are God’s Watchdogs, holding the Faith together.
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"I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment."
- - -
Each session is a single town, where the Dogs arrive to deliver mail, perform ceremony, preach wisdom, and, most importantly, deal with any problems that may arise. The Watchdogs have unspoken authority to drag sinners out into the street and shoot them, convert them to the Faith, or try to ease them of their hardships (even if their authority is sometimes challenged by non-believers, or the local Law who doesn't want any trouble in his town).
The Dogs must deal with the sin, they must lay Judgement, but how they do that is up to them: do they preach and speak wisdom? Are they diplomatic? Are they fair? Or will all sins meet the same fate at the end of a gun?
The ethics and moral problems of how to deal with each case are what makes Dogs in the Vineyard so fun to watch. One Dog is out for blood, the other seeks to find a more peaceful solution: how will things resolve?
- - -
"Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss."
- - -
The whole name of the Faith is the Faith of All Things in the King of Life, Reborn.
The whole name of the Dogs is the Order Set Apart to the Preservation of Faith and the Faithful. Casually, the King’s Dogs or Life’s Watchdogs. Dogs are always called Brother or Sister by their first name: Brother Jeremiah, Sister Patience.
The Faith is the only true religion in the world. All other religions are a) actively demonic, cults created by Faithful leaders fallen into sin; b) corrupt and decadent, like the majority religions of the East; or c) idle nonsense, like most of the religions in the wider world.
God's true name to those in the Faith is the King of Life.
Representatives of the Territorial Authority will generally be either a claims officer or other bureaucrat, or a circuit rider not unlike you Dogs. Only larger towns will have any sort of Territorial law enforcement — a sheriff — but he’s most likely to be Faithful, elected to the job by his congregation. The Territorial Authority’s real concern is that taxes are paid and nobody interferes with the mail — it worries about “keeping the peace” only insofar as lawlessness interferes with taxes and mail.
It’s worth pointing out that the Dogs are authorized by the Faith to do some things — like shoot sinners in the street — that are against the law. Exercise your authority cautiously.
If you're thinking post-Civil War firearms, you've got it all wrong. This is a time before the Colt Navy, you're carrying heavy-slung guns. Lower profiles, massive bores. You make your own cartridges - lead bullet, twist of gunpowder, nitrate-soaked paper - and you load it the hard way. Cartridges down one end, caps down the other, put the cylinder back in. These guns are load, smoky, and sometimes the you misfire, or it jams. But they're accurate, and they put a mighty large hole in a man.
Most converts come from Back East; practically everyone born out here in the mountains is raised Faithful. Being from Back East means that you’ve left friends and family behind and made the trek westward to join the body of the Faith. One person out of ten dies on that trek.
The Faith is organised by a series of nested domains of spiritual authority, called Stewardship. It's a heirarchy of responsibility from each individual Faithful up to the Prophets and Ancients of the Faith, who derive their authority from the King of Life. You're responsible for anyone within your Stewardship, and you're responsible to whoever holds Stewardship over you. When the End comes, you'll be judged for how you fulfilled your Stewardship, and nothing less.
Now, families are one thing - anyone who isn't in the pair of married adults in the household fall under their Stewardship, and those married adults are under the Stewardship of the husband. Local families are under the Stewardship of local officials, who fall under the regional officials, who fall under the Prophets and Ancients.
Most communities will only have one local official, their Steward, who leads the branch. Sometimes, though, if the branch is big enough, there'll be Counselors, who squeeze between the families and the Steward of the branch.
Now, I hear you asking, what about the Dogs? Well, the Dogs have authority over the congregation, which is every Faithful who isn't a Steward at the Dogs' temple, or one of the Prophets and Ancients. Notice that the branch Steward has Stewardship over the families in his congregation, while the Dogs assigned to that route have Stewardship over his congregation as a whole, including him in his official capacity. Dogs have no authority to solve the problems of families or individuals, that’s the Steward’s job, except as the problems spill over into the congregation as a whole.
In the end, you don't have Stewardship over your role in a family, your congregation, or the Faith; those all belong to your Steward.
LOVE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE
I bet this was the first section you decided to look at.
Here's the deal with love and sex: between a husband and wife, all sex and love is virtuous. That's the only circumstance where sex is definitely not a sin. All other sex is a sin, except when it comes to two unmarried people, where it's probably a sin. That caveat is there because, sometimes, the King of Life is a realist. He'll prefer a loving family to official recognition.
Love, now, this is where it gets tricky; between two men, two women, a married woman and an unmarried man, or two people married to other people? No romantic love is virtuous there. Between two unmarried people, or between a married man and an unmarried woman, love can be virtuous.
That's because polygamy is a fundamental part of the Faith, a reward men for long-term service and dedication. So it's polygyny, really, because polyandry ain't allowed at all. The number of wives you can possess is mostly determined by those with Stewardship over you, and your fulfillment of duty - but as a rule of thumb, nobody will make as many wives as they have decades to their age. So, no man will have more than two wives if he's thirty. Get the picture?
- - -
But all this fluff is useless unless we have some players! You don't need the rulebook: The requisite rules for character creation are below. A good group of Dogs has three members, so that's what we're shooting for - three players
. Depending on interest level, I'll extend signups for a while, but they'll most likely close within a week. May the best characters win?
A few points about this game:
- The game itself will be played in PbP format.
- If you want to run your initiation conflict with me on IRC, that's great! I am usually on most of the time, but American evenings are generally my zone of habitation. Also, American mornings. Also, whenever you ask me to be around.
- If you want to see how the game looks in play, I suggest you check out either of these two (abandoned) games - robotsunshine's
and one of my old ones
Some Helpful Things
Appropriate clothing for the era (and again)
Fiery Words for a Dog to say, from the Book of Life
This OP was shamelessly stolen from robotsunshine's Dogs in the Vineyard OOC thread, and edited by myself!