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Looking at how DitV deals with conflict, it seems to me that group conflict involving multiple players is likely to break down really fast unless the players are explicitly opposing each other, particularly if anyone is left out of the conflict entirely. Due to this, I'm probably going to run my first game of DitV for two single players separately rather than for them as a group.

All of the writing in the rulebook seems to assume you will have a group of players, and the beginning explicitly calls out: "You’ll need some players — the game works well with as few as two". What's the issue/what are the issues with running the game for a single player?

My problems with group conflicts

First, when a party joins a conflict that has already started, they don't actually get to participate.

Occasionally a character will burst into a conflict already in progress. The player doesn’t get to roll dice — you can’t join a conflict already underway as a full participant — so instead you can treat the character mechanically as an improvised thing. Incorporate her into a Raise or a See for 1d8 if she’s big, 2d6 if she’s excellent, 2d8 if she’s big and excellent, 1d6 if she’s normal, or 1d4 if she’s crap. If you have a Relationship with her, that’s like a belonging written on your character sheet: roll your Relationship dice instead, no matter how excellent, big or crap she might be.

So if Brother John gets into a fight with my sister Martha, and I come down from upstairs upon hearing it turn physical to intervene, it doesn't matter that I have a pile of relevant traits and am packing a firearm, and it doesn't matter that I'm a PC: the GM, as Martha's player, decides how to incorporate my character into Martha's Sees and Raises for 1d6 (we're blood so we roll that instead of the 2d6 that would be more normal) once. Not only is 1d6 almost completely irrelevant to the outcome of the fight, I don't even have control of my character's actions any more. The GM might decide I try and shoot Jon, Jon might decide he defuses the situation by shooting me, whatever. If Jon reverses my sister's blow he may well respond with "I kill your sister in front of you". If the GM takes that blow, I'm dead. This seems very contrary to the way the rules are supposed to work and can't happen with a single player.

Second, conflicts don't line up well with things happening outside of them. Whereas in e.g. Shadowrun I have an idea of how long each round of combat is, in DitV a round of combat might by half a second or several days, depending on the kind of action described. If a blow takes place over several days player characters not involved in the conflict may cause problems by interfering with the ongoing events in ways that don't tie in to mechanical resolution.

Third, in group conflicts, everyone goes in turn. Lets say I raise by running downstairs, out the door, down the street, and quickly fetching the steward from his house. This isn't entirely unreasonable to do during a fight, but definitely takes longer than another PCs raise of punching our increasingly violently angry villager in the face. Nonetheless, according to the group conflict rules, everyone gets one Go per round, regardless. My next raise might be invoking the power of three with the fetched steward and the other PC while you just deflected the punch and returned one of your own. That's weird and problematic.

Fourth, in group conflicts it's not clear what's at stake. If the players are on one side and other stuff is on the other side that sort of works, but if people are representing a wide variety of interests and takes on what should be done then it's a lot less clear what happens when someone other than the instigator wins. "The instigator doesn't get what they want" isn't a very satisfying answer, especially when whoever won was mostly but not entirely on their side.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you specify what you mean by "break down?" \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Mar 12 '17 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I think there may be a misunderstanding, and it may be relevant to why the game says a minimum of two, so it may not be just background to the question. Could you unpack what your mean about group conflict? (Even guessing what you might mean, I can think of two opposite meanings you might mean.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 12 '17 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I mean 'group conflicts' as described in the rules on page 70 and referred to as such on page 72. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 13 '17 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant that too, but was referring generally to the existing comments in the question on the subject. Thanks for clearing that up though — I think there's enough material here for a DitV expert to dig into the issue. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 13 '17 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's still looking a bit incoherent to me. The initial question is very much "I know this doesn't work, so does anything break if I run DiTV as a solo game?" But the text of the question is all about justifying the assumption that DiTV conflicts don't work with multiple people (when, in fact, DiTV conflicts are designed to have multiple PCs in them much of the time). This doesn't feel like one question to me. \$\endgroup\$ – mneme May 11 '17 at 16:10
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There are three main difficulties to running DitV as a solo GM for a solo player.

1) Lore. Three stand in authority. Two Dogs can at least find a single Faithful person in a town -- and if they can't, the town's gone far beyond the Dogs' help. A single outrider is pride or foolishness or both. As a GM you might make up a GMed Dog to accompany them, but that kind of runs into the problem that your conflicts are going to be shadow-plays (about which more below) and also that you'll probably be playing both sides of the conflict, which is not always easy.

2) Experience. The question at the heart of DitV is "what is the right thing, and can you stand to do it?" The GM is encouraged in multiple places not to participate in this decision. If there are two players, even if they're agonizing over it, at least they're talking to each other. It's a drastically different experience to just sit someone down alone, pitch moral dilemma after moral dilemma at them, and never say anything about their answers.

3) Dice. Even two Dogs working together have a chance in the direst circumstances. They have relationships to each other, they can come at a conflict from multiple angles, they can help each other out. One Dog? Well, if somehow their relationships stay relevant and close all the time... maybe?

Answers on Group Conflicts

I'll run these down in an order that should help make sense of them.

In group conflicts it's not clear what's at stake. What's at stake is the ability to say what happens, same as it always is. "Whoever’s left at the end gets to decide the fate of what’s at stake.", p.54. You decide what's at stake before you begin the conflict, and there are tips on scoping through the conflict chapter. Basically, even though things are small-e escalating all the time, you want to make sure that the conflicts leading up to it are all scoped such that capital-E Escalating, taking Fallout from Taking The Blow, and Giving to set up for next conflict are all options worth considering.

In group conflicts, everyone goes in turn. Lets say I raise by running downstairs... That's not a Raise. That's a Give. You've left the scope of the conflict and are mustering forces for the next one, which is exactly what a Give is meant to accomplish. The conflict continues without you, or if they were just GM characters fighting, the GM will be the last person left and get to decide what happens.

Conflicts don't line up well with things happening outside of them. This is a matter for proper scoping. Like, at the start of a conflict that's going to take days, for whatever reason, work out ahead of time why it's going to take days and what everybody else is doing in the meantime. Then run the conflict to completion or maybe to some interesting break points, and flash over to everybody else. If they finish their business and break in on you halfway, they break in on you halfway.

When a party joins a conflict that has already started, they don't actually get to participate. True as far as it goes, however there are two caveats. "Anybody can suggest anything to anybody, but when it comes to that character, the buck stops with that player." p.6. Outside of losing a conflict where the stakes are for you to do something, nobody can make you do anything.

If Brother John is a fellow PC's Dog, stumbling in on a conflict halfway through and backing up your sister is something that only happens if you agreed to it in the scope of the conflict in the first place, and even then the GM can't decide to have you shoot Brother John or take a bullet for Sister Mary. You have to make that call. Ideally the scoping discussion would either include you as a full participant from the beginning or reduce the conflict down to Sister Mary trying to get your help and Brother John trying to resolve things without you. If that means shooting her, well, that's what Brother John did. What do you do?

If Brother John is also a GM character, then there isn't a conflict until you get there, because multiple people are not involved in that conflict. The GM is deciding what happens, not rolling dice back and forth between two dummy players.

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