We've been playing Dogs in the Vineyard for some time, and while physical to gunfight conflicts are quite clear, the non-physical conflicts are still tricky.

Every verbal conflict scene has seemed fake, with the characters saying nothing or boring stuff, until dice run out and someone gives up or escalates.

I’m looking for some clarifying examples on possible talking scenarios, to understand how it should work.

So far the non-physical conflicts seems the weak point of the conflict system, but I hope I’m wrong about that…

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If characters are saying nothing or saying something boring - how is there a conflict? \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


A lot of game design water has passed under the game design bridge since Dogs came out. While this advice may not be grounded in any hard part of the Dogs rules specifically, when possible I've tried to make it flow out of the GM advice.

But to start-

Yeah. That's kind of by design.

When the Faith thinks they're ready for you to set off, they'll have given you these: a few seasons of instruction in doctrine and ritual. A copy of the Book of Life. A jar of consecrated earth. These are all, it should be said, weapons, at least in their own way and time. But also: a blessed coat. A horse. A gun. And they won't insist on those last two, but they will try to impress on you the importance of taking them.

From the beginning, the Dogs aren't setting out to solve problems that would go away just with talking. So if you're feeling the temptation to let your other two stats and your "I'm a good shot 3d6" and your "holy smokes that's a big knife 1d8" out to play, well, that's only natural. You're the Dogs. People will tend to believe in whatever you decide is right.

Still and all, in the pursuance of general play satisfaction, and because really, not everything has to come to blows when you get right down to it, here are some important things to consider.

As a GM, play more blackjack than poker.

One of the points of advice in the GMing chapter is that the GM shouldn't have secrets. Or, like, the GM should have open secrets? Like, when the townspeople aren't talking about what's behind the general store, they're actually constantly talking about how they say behind the general store there's a-oh, didn't see you there, sorry, what was I even saying, mind like a sieve, I'll just be off.

So in the spirit of no secrets, while you have the same choices during a conflict that the players do, you should play more like the house in blackjack - in an expected way, so the players aren't hedging their bets about how you're going to play your side of the conflict. Specifically:

  • bring all your relevant traits and relationships into the conflict right in the beginning. All your NPCs are local folk and their attributes should be obvious and well known.
  • limit the ways in which you tactically Take The Blow. Are any of these people even going to be in the next game session? What does it matter if they lose a die here or there? Mechanically you have, like nothing to lose. And conversely, narratively, you have everything to lose. What they're showing up to the conflict with is, like, everything they have.
  • if you're in a conflict that you feel you'd be likely to Escalate, like, say that, and just go an exchange or two of leisurely conversation to build up the tension before you ramp it up.
  • otherwise formally define for the PCs how you'll act. Like, set aside a die or two for in case of reversals, See with two dice whenever you can, use your highest two dice to Raise when it's time.

As a PC, play more blackjack than baccarat.

So with the GM's general actions known to you, you can probably look at your own dice pools, at least when they get small enough, and suss out whether you're likely to win or lose. Specifically:

  • don't just Raise with smaller and smaller dice when that's not going to get you the win. Escalate if you've a mind to or Give if you don't.
  • if you're in a conflict the other side doesn't seem likely to Escalate, oh brother, Take The Blow. Take, like, two Blows if you can. That's d4 fallout dice, which are basically XP in a pointy little hat. Raise just enough to not get Reversed, at least to start with, or even to bait out a Reverse, and save your good dice to Raise decisively. Stumble your way through the conversation, be an awkward teenager trying to find themselves, but at the end of it find something in your faith or experience that still seems decisive.

And they call it Escalate, but:

So you know that old joke about how escalators don't really break down and any "escalator out of order" signs should say "escalator temporarily stairs"? Yeah, Escalating is like that. There's a clear progression to fallout die size, but Escalating doesn't mean you move inevitably up the progression. Escalating means you move from one kind of conflict to another one with different controlling stats.

So, if you want to have a conversation, a meaningful conversation, a decisive conversation with a lot at stake?

Maybe have it after the big knock-down drag-out fight in the half-built barn, instead of before.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for all that. Are there some actual play of non-physical? Real conflicts are a powerful way to understand the others’ point of view on DitV \$\endgroup\$
    – Radioleao
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, don't have any to recommend right now. Most of my Dogs is convention play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 13:34

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