Eric, thanks for the review man. I think I have some answers to some questions, but by and large the things you were concerned about were the same things I was concerned about.
First, the accent symbol...I blame my sources.
Before getting into specific things, I'll talk about my vision of the game in a general way and see if makes more sense. It may not, but maybe it'll prompt discussion that will help it get there.
I knew I was in deep shit with the whole "play a wolf" thing. I mean it sounds cool in theory, but unless you're playing intelligent wolves or magical wolves or something, it was just going to be plain difficult to give the players something to do with them. And I didn't want magical wolves or super-intelligent wolves; I wanted plain ol' real-world wolves. Even that I stretched a little, in that a took a sort of Disney-fied approach to my wolves; here, they're essentially good-souled creatures forced into contact with humans, and if they just act like themselves (don't give in and exploit their evil reputation, as signified by the La Bete score), people will love them.
On a side note, this whole "how do you roleplay a wolf" thing is what led me to borrow DitV's resolution mechanic. I stripped it way down because the only part I wanted was the part that broke conflicts out into a series of specific actions, as represented by revealing dice to your opponent. I figured that parsing out conflicts into smaller beats would allow for some simple in-the-moment roleplaying, and that it would be easier to latch on to than trying to roleplay a (almost) totally non-verbal critter in a big, broad sense. That's the only reason for this particular mechanic, and I only kept as much of it as needed (throwing in a few wrinkles of my own, of course).
So with all that in mind, I still felt like the "play a wolf" thing was a gimmick that wasn't going to pay off. And the thing is, that's not what the game was supposed to be about anyway. In general, I'm just not that interested in the "play a non-human" thing if that's all a game's got going for it. This game is actually about the people who would befriend these tragically maligned creatures; in my head, it was always about telling the stories of these frightened villagers who, by virtue of their friendship with the wolves, were able to put aside their fear of La Bete and move towards a happy ending for themselves. And I think the mechanics address that, in that what is always at stake in conflicts isn't just "does my wolf get driven away?" but "do I get to narrate how the scene goes?"
In fact, even though I don't make this point well in the text, scenes barely exist until after a conflict roll. A player calls for a scene and tells the GM what NPCs he wants in it. The GM frames the scene, including the requested NPCs and introducing the NPCs he wants, if any. Then the GM creates some situation putting the NPCs into conflict, and ostensibly its a situation and a conflict that the player won't want inflicted upon his beloved NPCs, so he fights for control of the scene. His method of fighting is his "wolf", essentially a handful of dice that he can use in several interesting ways.
Man, sometimes I wonder why it's so much easier to write about this stuff in forums rather than the game text itself. Does any of the above make more sense?
If you were a player, do you think you'd be able to consistently come up with cool scenes with cool NPCs, and does it sound like it would be fun? From the get go that's been my biggest concern, and I think Eric echoed it.
So that's the gist of it there, but I'll try to address a few more specific things...
since Dog and Wolf (THBDaW is just too much of a mouthful) lacks any clear way to define its ending other than in tragedy and the death of all the wolves,
The game is definitely tragic...there is no good end for the wolves. They don't get to redeem themselves or bring the real culprit to justice. The important decisions they make are always about the NPCs, and the game is really about remaining functional long enough to tell a story about those NPCs. Note that in the new revision, these aren't all going to be Disney stories; the option exists for you to choose an NPC, revel in hatred towards him/her, build him/her up as a real villain, and eventually destroy them (but probably destroy your wolf in the process).
One is that in addition to being mechanically identical, there is nothing done to distinguish the wolves in any other way, either; indeed, in many cases one might expect that the Companions wouldn't know one wolf from the other anyway.
Not true! You get to pick your wolf's coloration! The rules even say you should similarly colored dice!
Just kidding. In all seriousness, I considered adding a bit where the players could choose a "unique trait" that would give them some kind of bonus. I dig on the idea of one player playing the "old grizzled wolf" and another playing "momma wolf", or something like that. Ultimately I ditched that because I needed to work in a rules limitation, and "no character creation" was the easiest for me to achieve. As I revise the game (which has already begun...the updated version is available at my website), I may choose to include this (although I still haven't figured out what benefit it should provide).
Without a good deal of effort (essentially Drift) it looks to me like the players will end up playing sort of avatars of "Wolf" as a communal entity, as much as individuals in their own right. That doesn't appeal to me particularly, though it might to some.
Based on what I said above, I think you can see that Eric is close to the truth on this one. The wolves are essentially metaphorical catalysts for conflict resolution. I realized that wouldn't be appealing to many, and I was hoping to mitigate it by using the conflict resolution system I did. I think I could further mitigate it by adding in the "unique traits" discussed above, but ultimately the wolves are transient forces in this game.
The other thing that puzzles me is how the townsfolk's fear of wolves (plural) is a score which ostensibly varies from wolf to wolf;
The fact that the La Bete score sometimes varies from wolf to wolf kind of bothers me too. Eric's right in that it reduces the metaphorical punch. In fairness, the only time permanent La Bete changes is when a wolf goes ape shit and uses all of his La Bete dice, at which point it increases by one (he's essentially given in to "The Beast", enhancing his reputation and standing as one). I had considered requiring all wolves to share one La Bete score, just like they share one Companion list, and that way the actions of one impact the group as a whole. I really, really enjoy the notion that the wolves are in this together, and this is one more way to push that feel. I backed off of it at the time because it seemed pretty brutal, and because it further reduced the sense of indivduality, but I still kind of like it.
Having some before-play prep go into developing the townsfolk would be a big plus for this game; making sure that there are some preexisting faces to draw on, and extant conflicts to tap into.
This is spot on. There should be some pre-play preparation on the part of the players and the GM, but I don't necessarily think it needs to be done on the group level. Normally I'm in favor of group character creation and whatnot, as espoused most strongly by games like My Life with Master. In this case, I just want a player to come to the table with some NPCs in mind and an idea of what he would like to see happen to them; I want the players to thrill each other with their unexpected tales, so much so that maybe one player will jump in to help another win those vital conflicts, even if it means hurting themselves (and even the group) somewhere down the line. And like the players, the GM should come prepared to screw with everyone's plans. If everyone does this, hopefully that ennui will never set in. Hopefully. Like I said before, this is my biggest concern for the game, and I definitely should have at least paid it lip service in the text.
And for my part, I still have some reservations about the GM's role in the scene framing. As it stands, he can add anyone into a scene and make the scene about anything he wants. But I do sometimes wants scenes that feature just companions, and I don't want every scene to be about companions being placed in life or death situations. The latter is easy to fix; I think I'll just make it a rule that the GM can't threaten a companion's life (except with the real Beast). The former I'm still not sure about.
The differing payoffs for no, some, or full use of La Bête dice are golden, though I think prerolling the La Bête is in this instance a mistake - make 'em pay for rolling these, not for using them.
I looked at both approaches while I was writing the game and decided I liked the idea of having the player roll his La bete dice when he rolls his other dice so that he would have them sitting there staring him the face while he's engaged in conflict...just sitting there begging to be used.
The GM can introduce the Beast itself once per session. This is fairly well done, though the sequencing is off (since the GM introduces it after the scene starts, he rolls an additional 5d6, not "ten dice instead of five") and I find it odd that the La Bête score works strictly against the Beast - in that it's on the PCs' side. Thus the Companions' vulnerability to the Beast due to their trust is mechanically sound (the La Bête is lower) but the labelling is counterintuitive.
In my current revision of the game, The Beast works a little differently. It's actually more deadly, and the players can't use their La Bete scores at all against it (the idea being that while fighting La Bete, how could they ever hope to exploit his nasty reputation?).
There's mechanical time pressure in the form of Duhamel's Battues. Scott has set the hurtin' stick pretty high on this one. In a round of scenes (N players), the most that can happen is to increase an existing companion score by N. And that's if nobody uses his La Bête at any point in the round, nobody adds a new Companion to the list, and nobody jumps in to someone else's scene.
In my current revision I've decreased the wolves' starting La Bete from 5 to 3 for this reason, and also because I don't want the wolves to be able to kill NPCs right away (which is a feature of the new rules).
the option to trade a turn for dismissing a Companion is structurally unsound.
This is my favorite part of the game. To get to the point where you love that companion so much that you're willing to let them go, even though it's not in your best interest...I love that. And then they're not allowed back in the game, not even in passing reference...it makes me sad just thinking about it.
Even with those changes, my biggest concern about this game is that the friendship between villager and wolf is a slender thread upon which to hang a complete multi-session game.
You might be right, but I hope not. I love friendship stories. And I love stories about people befriending animals. And of course I love horror stories. This is all three! But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and if it turns out it's not the most playable game...well, it was a helluva lot of fun to write.
So, did I miss anything? Let's keep talking.
P.S....Eric, thanks for the reading recommendations. I'm off to Amazon to check them out.
Oh, and if anyone wants to see the updated version of the game (with even more pcitures!), go to:
And if you're a Miami Heat fan, don't read all those other posts! [/i]