Dogs in the Vineyard
One of the most well-known and influential of early 2000s indie games, Dogs in the Vineyard places player characters in alternate reality inspired by the beautiful, harsh terrain of mid-19th Century Utah. Their job: to travel this unforgiving land, moving from settlement to settlement and dispensing the Faith’s justice on its followers.
This is a strongly narrative game, focused on telling a rewarding story within narrow boundaries. It’s a game of morality and relationships, and reviewers sometimes suggest that for this reason it is best played with people you already know.
Here’s how the publisher describes Dogs in the Vineyard:
Does the sinner deserve mercy? Do the wicked deserve judgement? They’re in your hands. Sometimes it’s better for one to die than for many to suffer. Sometimes, Dog, sometimes you have to cut off the arm to save the life.
Three Things About Dogs in the Vineyard
- Narrowly-Focused: Player characters are Dogs, dispensers of judgment in a frontier wilderness, and they have well-defined responsibilities.
- Morality-Driven: Characters have to make moral decisions, and not all characters will come to the same conclusions, which often puts them into conflict with each other.
- Relationships Have Power: Relationships with people, places, and elements in the story have direct, mechanical effects in conflict situations.
- “Dogs is more about solving puzzles and interacting with NPCs than it is about killing things and taking their stuff. With the group of players we had, that worked very well.” — Andy Slack, Halfway Station
- “Overall, play seemed to be everything the game promised on reading. I cannot recommend this game enough.” — Michael Sands, Gamemaster at Large