In a Dogs in the Vineyard game earlier this year, my character Brother Wiley was a blacksmith in his home town. He brought his hammer with him, marked as a “1d8 Excellent blacksmithing hammer” in his Belongings alongside his 1d6+1d4 Gun.

Now, to my knowledge, conflict gets resolved at one of four stages of escalation (page 79):

  • Just talking
  • Physical, not fighting
  • Fighting hand to hand
  • Gun fighting

Over the course of the few sessions we ran, a surprising number of conflicts were resolved at the fighting hand to hand stage by Brother Wiley pulling out his blacksmithing hammer and swinging it into someone's knee or leg. Since this wasn't gun fighting, nor was it an attempt to actually kill anyone (just subdue them), we didn't consider it an Escalation up to that stage. However, it also wasn't just “hand to hand” — weaponry was getting involved!

At what stage of escalation is it appropriate to bring in non-gun weaponry? Is hand-to-hand an OK stage for doing this? Should we have escalated to gun fighting? Do we add some kind of “weapons but not lethal” Escalation stage between hand-to-hand and gun fighting and consider this to be in that new stage?

  • \$\begingroup\$ (Which printing of Dogs are you using?) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 15 '17 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Is there a particular way I can check and clarify? Mine is a PDF with "AD MMIV" on the front and inside cover, and has copyright dates of 2004 and mentions Gencon '05. Should I mention any of those factors in the question to narrow it down? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 15 '17 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh. There's no listing of an edition number, for example? That's cool. The PDF I located does go to page 79, but what you have quoted isn't on its 79. It's okay. Maybe mine is the outlier. (Not a Dogs player; just interested in the question.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 15 '17 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan No edition number; here's the license/credit page: i.imgur.com/7wYTzm6.jpg I can't remember if this is from drive thru rpg or a humble bundle. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 15 '17 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ No kudos for the title yet!? Well then: *applause*. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '17 at 0:19

Weapons exist at a mechanical level separate from both fists and guns.

In the "Belongings" step of character creation, p.27, one of the things given is "a big knife 1d8". (Specifically, it's a "holy smokes that's a" big knife 1d8.) A big knife seems about as deadly in the right hands as a big hammer, right? Thought so.

In the "Fallout" step of conflict resolution, p.81, you roll the fallout you took from a conflict as dice depending on the nature of the Blows as you Took them - the relevant values here are "Physical: d6 -- A weapon: d8 -- A gunshot: d10". So you can have a hand-to-hand fight with either fists or weapons, but weapons will have more grievous fallout associated with them.

Your two highest fallout dice determine the net effects you suffer from the combat - 12 or more is injured, with a body save (beat your Fallout on your best 3 body dice) to not go lethal, 16 or more is lethally injured, with a medical attention conflict vs. your fallout + Demonic Influence to not die, 20 is, well.

It's a lot more likely that someone will get badly hurt when you bring the hammer out, but it's still not as bad as a gun.

Weapons exist as things in the game fiction at a step below guns.

Why are guns are a separate thing? Why do they escalate the conflict when they come out in a way that non-gun weapons don't? Because this is a Western pastiche, and it's always different and more impactful when the guns come out.

Guy with a hammer, you could maybe dodge some, use a laundry pole to keep him at a distance. Guy with a gun? Where you gonna run to? Fill your hands or pray.


Hand-to-hand is the appropriate stage because you're fighting and not using guns. Hand-to-hand means “in close range” not “using only hands”.


First of all, those are "arenas" of conflict. Not "stages". Escalation does not have to be in that order. You could (de)escalate a fistfight into a shouting match if you can find a good vector.

Second, the four arenas of conflict (Talking, Physical, Hand to hand, Gunfighting) do not have to correspond one to one with four levels of fallout (non-physical, physical, weapons, guns). You could get confused in a chase, or stabbed in a gunfight.

Third, a "blacksmithing hammer" sounds awfully lot like an improvised weapon. Probably not designed to be used as a weapon, it would only contribute as such.

And when considering what arena a weapon works at, think if you could reasonably counter a threat with it. It usually doesn't make sense to bring a knife to a gunfight, but in certain circumstances it sometimes may. And flashing a gun to imply a threat in a heated debate does not escalate it into a gunfight. It's just part of the discussion.


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