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I've just played a character generation session of Dogs in the Vineyard with some of my friends. During the Relationships step of chargen we had an idea to make some relationships between each other - and so we did, ending up with all three Dogs having some relationship with each other, for a total of six differently diced relationships.

As a GM this sounds like a great idea to me, since it can ground characters in the group, facilitate interactions between them and foster healthy party dynamics. However, it also means that if every Dog is present in a conflict, everyone gets (at least) an additional 2d6 worth of dice. Whether that's a lot is debatable, but it certainly encourages everyone to band together in conflicts. This seems like something that would happen a lot nevertheless, possibly meaning easy dice.

Since I haven't played the game before and such a situation never came up in anyone else's game. The rulebook is strangely silent on this, neither encouraging or banning such a situation. During the actual game, what good can come out of it? What are the risks? should I be concerned?

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The players could do this, but it's not very interesting. Their starting relationships should color who they are as a person. They already have a trait or relationship about being a Dog. They should save the dice for new relationships that they can establish during play, because that's extraordinarily useful and powerful.

If you have unassigned Relationship Dice, you can put a new Relationship on your character sheet at any time. Just name the relationship and assign dice to it.

If you assign a new Relationship during a conflict, and the Relationship is with either your opponent or what’s at stake, roll the newly applicable dice right away.

The game is already centered around them as a group, and the differences between the characters will provide plenty of party dynamics when they start dealing with situations that they're inadequately prepared for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As much as I like your answer, I'd rather have several competing ones for peer review. Don't take the bounty personally, it might well go to you! \$\endgroup\$ – eimyr Apr 12 '17 at 9:38
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In general, such relationships are fine. I played a game where me and one of the other players were cousins and extremely close. I took a 4d4 relationship with their PC, they took a 1d10 relationship with mine (and I bumped mine up to LotsD4 with the fallout from the relationship when applicable).

Relationships only come up in play when a PC and one of their relations are fighting, or when the relation or the relationship is at stake in a conflict. In practice, this meant that only my half of the relation dice ever came up. I was the strong, silent, rifle-toting combat goddess with gender issues. They were the optimistic, charismatic, socially approved woman. Unfortunately, the sort of trouble she helped me out of wasn't the sort where our relationship or my life was at stake, while the sort of trouble I helped her out of generally was the sort where she would otherwise be dying, at least sometimes. Having the growing pile of d4s for such instances was fun because it helped pump up my probable fallout damage to the levels I wanted to reflect the intensity of the conflicts involved. Generally, I only used my d4 piles in that game on talking and punching or to complement higher dice in raises-- I wasn't too keen on getting shot-- so that was frequently a little bit weird; I'd get a bunch of dice because my cousin's life was in danger and then steer the combat away from this and towards this via the correctional nature of blocks, dodges, and reversals in the conflict system. It was weird, but it worked out okay.

Ultimately, the Dogs system relies on the players making up during play for failures in the game mechanics. As long as at least some players have at least some dice left over unassigned, no serious issues will arise due to the investment of relationship dice in this manner. I would advise against every player buying a relationship with every other player simply because that seems like a waste of relationship dice in most cases, but Dogs is not a game where wasted character resources matter and sometimes wasting resources in this way can help a player better model their desired PC.

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