Posts Tagged ‘Dog Town’

The Air France Job

Posted: November 4, 2009 in Modern, RPG
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Following her little tet-a-tet with Sylvie, Danielle kept out of sight and started to heal, in preparation for the big job. Meanwhile events shifted focus to Sylvie’s girl, Sonia, to do her job and ensnare an inside man.

The chosen target was named Fred, and worked as the evening guard inside the Air France special proporties room.  If he could be made to turn a blind eye while Danielle did her job, that would clear the way for a full success.  Sonia started by following Freddy around for a while trying to establish if he had any regular habits or haunts, some way to ease the approach.  He didn’t seem to have any regular habits though, except for membership in a rather questionable church (some would call it an extreme cult).  Finally she decided that there was no good opportunity, so she’d need to try and make her own.

On a visit to Jack in the Box for an evening dinner, Sonia took her chance.  Taking the table next to his, she struck up a conversation.  He was open to talking, especially when she turned to his church and beliefs.  He expounded endlessly on his cult-concepts and finally when Sonia turned talk to comparing wiht a bible, he quickly agreed.  She suggested they go to a motel she knew nearby to check out the Guideons in the night table.  Fred when like a lamb to slaughter.  [in Dog Town terms this was a “coax, befriend” attempt by Sonia.  I said that she needed 40 points in half hour turns and gave her two hours to accomplish it.  Well one of her first rolls was an open ended 20!  She went from 4 points to 28 in one turn!  Talk about a quick friendship]

At the motel (owned by Big Mac and preped with appropriate photographic equipment), Sonia turned on her charm and did her best to seduce Fred.  He wanted to, but in the end it was up to her to make the first move, which she did with great success!  [again in Dog Town terms I gave her another befriend task, this time 20 points in 10 minute turns.  I said that when she hit 10, 15 and 20 points he’d get a balls test to see if he’d jump her himself.  And again, she got a 15 point success right off the top.  He took two rolls and failed both.  She got him to 20, he failed again, and this time she took the offensive.  That time he didn’t fail the balls test!]

After getting the photos needed, control turned to “The Milkman”, a favored runner of Big Mac’s, who was tasked with making contact and gaining agreement.  Milkman stuffed the envelope under the single man’s door and called him, asking what he thought of the photos.  Fred hung up on him with a nervous threat.  After letting him stew for a day, Milkman arranged for another set of prints to show up on Fred’s windshield at work and again at his “church”.  The next time he phoned, Fred was far more compliant.  He didn’t want these photos getting to his church and collegues.  He agreed to do whatever Milkman aksed.  And what he asked, was easy.

“Go for a smoke,” he said.  “At these times and for this length.  And if you think of growing a brain of your own, those photos go out to everyone.”

Finally the big night came.  Danielle was delivered to the secure room as a package being sent to France.  The manifest said “fragile goods, artwork”.  Danielle approved.  At the appointed times, Fred did as he was told, ducking out for a cigarette, letting Danielle climb out of her box and get to work on the lock.  In ten minutes she had the lock open, the parcel out and the contents in her pocket.  It was a chip of some sort, wrapped in sterile packaging, and Danielle was sure it was worth millions.  She hid back in the box, and at the appointed hour she was shipped out to the transfer terminal.

Out of sight, in the transfer terminal, she climbed out for the last time and sent the box on to a collegue in France with filler stuffed in.  She took the chip and drove off to see Big Mac.

He was thrilled with the acquisition and paid Danielle her fee, saying he’d gladly use her again.

“I’ll be back, for sure,” Danielle said, fingering the still sore bruise on her cheek.  “Bet on it.”

[All in all this was a very satsifying game and I was sorry to see it come to an end.  I’ll play Dog Town again for sure!  Now that I know the system better, it’s much easier to play.]

Dog Town – thoughts

Posted: November 3, 2009 in RPG, Rules
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Having played some Dog Town now, and having gained some better familiarity with the system, I thought I should probably put down what my opinions were and make some assessment of the game. My honest feeling is: I like it. But I’ll also say it’s fundamentally flawed, not in terms of rules so much, but in terms of layout and explanatory capabilities.

What do I like about Dog Town? I actually like the detail, I like the fact that there’s so much there it’s almost like a true simulation rather than just a set of abstracted game rules. I’ve found myself more than once in the last couple of weeks thinking of real world events in terms of those four aspect combinations that Dog Town uses for it’s skill values. I like the “realism” in the combat and the fact that characters (non-Psycho characters at least) need to test to see if they have the guts to make an attack. I like the sharp, short combat that has some really serious and realistic consequences.

Okay, so what don’t I like about it? I don’t like that the one hit (not even one round, but one HIT) of combat I played through took almost an hour to figure out, and I’m sure I missed rolls I was supposed to make. The problem was that I needed to flip backward and forward though the book to find all the areas where bits and pieces of the ‘how to’ were hidden. And it’s not even like they were broken into obvious sections. A few pluses and minuses on this page, a few forty pages further on, a short explanation paragraph fifteen pages before that…everything is spread out all over. And did I mention that there’s no index?  Less “jive patter” and more coherent editing would do a world of wonders for this game.  Also lots more examples of how the rules are implemented would go far toward explaining some of the more esoteric concepts involved.

If it was easier to learn, and/or once the GM and players finally learned the system and what all the rolls and such were for, then the system would play remarkably quickly I think. The fact that the core of the system is a vs. table that’s simple enough to memorize means it’d be a snap to use. Pair that with the fact that the multitude of skill values are the actual “what do I do” test values for that vs. table I mentioned, and figuring out what’s needed to be rolled is a snap!  But even now, after having been heads down on it for a couple of weeks already I still keep having to refer back to the book for some of the most basic information on a very regular basis.  It’s got a steep learning curve, but it seems to be one that rewards learning with faster play in the end.

Except combat.  That’ll always need the book.

Character creation is another painful process.  It’s so math heavy that it’s really daunting to create a character.  And after all the calcuations you need to double check your sums to ensure you’ve done them right.  And it’s the same process for NPCs as for player characters too. Luckily I’ve developed my own spreadsheet for character creation which greatly speeds the process, having the computer do all the accounting for me on derived stats and skill values.

Dog Town addresses an important niche in the RPG spectrum that pretty much nobody else has touched.  There are lots of hero oriented games, pretty much all of them.  And there are a few “criminal” games, but they tend to be violent, and nothing else.  Dog Town is smart.  There is the potential for violence there, but there’s also the potential for so much more.

Unfortunately, the system as written seems geared toward violence heavy stories.  The inspiration bits are from films like Goodfellas and Scarface and Reservoir Dogs.  But I think it’d be a great system for playing out stories like Ocean’s 11, or The Italian Job.  Real “crime capers” where the crime is the story, not just an excuse for criminals to get together and shoot each other while swearing.

The other thing I’d do would be to ditch the 70’s setting, which seems contrived and not a little overdone.  Plus the rules are strewn with references to “homies” and other modern slang.  Even the author wanted it to be a broader anytime crime game, not just locked into Barney Miller.  Heck, a few sourcebooks for expanding the game to other periods wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

So, final analysis?  I like Dog Town, I’ll play it again, I’m sure.  And you can’t beat the price.  If you’re interested I’d really suggest you go to RPGNow, download it for free and give it a try.

Dog Town, Fight Club

Posted: November 2, 2009 in Uncategorized
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As promised, here’s a short test out of the Dog Town rules…I’ve been playing out a scenario in my head, and this was a really good way to test the crunchiest bits of this “accounting heavy” system…

Danielle has been brought in to get something out of the “special cargo” room at the Air France cargo terminal.  This is the room reserved for valuable cargoes that need greater security than normal items.  The special cargo room is large enough to accommodate a variety of larger sized objects, though the item Danielle is after is a very small object, about the size of a ring box or so.  The package will be locked in the room for a total of three hours on an evening in two weeks, during the hours of 9 to midnight, which is the tail end of the evening shift (4 to 12).

The room is a walled area segregated from the rest of the warehouse by a chain link fence, the gate of which is guarded 24 hours a day.  There is also a cargo handler/guard stationed inside the room 24 hours a day.  All guards change on the same shift.

The plan is to get into the secure room by hiding in a large container, and then coming out, getting the object and leaving at shift change disguised as a pilot.  This will, of course, require that the man in the room be in on the job.  Always dangerous and always difficult to get the inside man on side.  To help with this task Big Mac has decided to enlist his mistress, Sylvie, and has asked her to provide one of her girls to arrange some compromising photos of the guard in question.  Sylvie has agreed, and has gone to Danielle’s hotel room to work out some of the details.  But Sylvie is also a psycho and has decided that Danielle is a threat to her relationship with Big Mac.  As such, she’s also come to teach Danielle a bit of a lesson…

Sylvie leads the discussion to where she wants it, to give Danielle the message about her man, and to punctuate the point, she starts over the table at the startled thief.  But Danielle hasn’t become a master thief by being caught napping.  She smelled it coming and is able to react, as Sylvie gets tangled up in the table.  [In Dog Town terms, Sylvie needs no “balls roll” to attack as she’s a Psycho, but both women have a reaction roll.  Danielle rolls hers with a -6 attached, and still passes by 10 points, giving her 8 slots for the round, minus three for being surprised.  Sylvie, however, gets a 0 ‘barely there’ success, for 4 slots.  Danielle has more actions available so she acts first.]

Danielle opts to use her Karate against Sylvie to try and shove her back into her seat before she can act. The attack cost is three “slots”, taking her down to 5. This is a “special attack” in Dog Town, but I can’t find anything about how to change things when conducting a “special attack”, so we’ll go with the norm. That said, we match Danielle’s Assault, violence skill of 8 against Sylvie’s Assault, protection of 10, for a roll of 12 or better for Danielle to even hit. She rolls a 1 for a 11 point screw up. But rolling a 1 in DT is a very bad thing, because it’s an open roll which means things can get much much worse. The second roll is a 20, which means it’s a 31 point fail!

When you fail this badly on a Dog Town fight roll, it means that the other person in the fight has deaked you out and done big damage. Fights and damage are handled by a series of tables that graphically describe the damage done. You always check fails on the other fighter’s chart. Sylvie’s a street fighter, which means that Danielle suffers:

The defender leaps to the right of a reckless charging attack and grabs the hair of the attacker as she passes. The defender then dramatically drops to her knees yanking the attacker off her feet with a powerful whiplash wrench to the neck. The attacker’s upper back and neck crunch into the ground and her face is then pummeled bloody by three swift clubbing punches. 9 IP, TV 10, PD -6, Offset loses 2 slots.

This last line means 9 injury points. Injury points are set up in 5 bands, each progressively worse. This blasts through the first of Danielle’s bands and straight into the second, meaning she’s classified as “battered”. She checks a trauma value of 10 against her trauma resistance of 0. She needs a 20 to avoid being stunned, and makes it! And because she’s now on the floor she has a -6 to any attacks she wants to make on top of the -1 she has from being “battered”. On top of all this she also looses two more slots, taking her 5 to a 3.

Sylvie with her 5 slots, can now act, if she so chooses as all this carnage was done on Danielle’s attack round! To see if Sylvie will carry on the brutality, we’ll make a “discipline roll” test. This is a test to see if she can actually control herself. Her discipline however is, unfortunately, -4; which means she’s unlikely to be able to control herself. She also knows that Big Mac needs Danielle though, so we’ll also give her a “suss roll” to see if she’s got brains enough to realize that it’s a bad idea to give his thief a whuppin’. Her suss is a pathetic 2, but she rolls a 14 for a success at 3 points over what she needed. That’ll give her a bonus for making her control roll. She makes her control roll by 6 points which is a “full” success, which means that Sylvie knows she’s made her point and is in complete control of herself.

Sylvie sneers down at Danielle’s bleeding visage. “Do your job, get it done and move along. Got it?” And she calmly leaves. Danielle however, now has another goal in mind. In addition to getting Big Mac’s package for him, she’s out to see that Sylvie pays a price.

Danielle Trottier, Thief

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I first got Dog Town as a steal on RPG Now…literally a steal. It was free. I got fascinated with Dog Town in the same way I get interested in driving past the remnants of big accidents. It was like I was seeing the remains of something that once made sense to someone, but now is just a mess. Dog Town is a lot like that.

Dog Town is a game of criminals and their crimes, set in the 70’s, but really you’re not locked into the 70’s if you don’t want to be. It’s a bit of a tribute to movies like The Godfather, Scarface, Carlito’s Way, and the real life exploits of high flying 70’s gangs and mobsters.

The game is extremely detailed and has a ton (or tonne if you’re metric) of things you need to track, record and make sense of throughout a game. Unfortunately, none of it is very well described in the core rulebook. I mean this game is crunchy. Crunchy with a capital K. We’re talking deep fried, breaded crunch with a crunchy centre. There are rolls and stats for everything.

Undeterred, I was absorbed and immediately began putting together a gang. My gang was, strangely enough, based on the people I worked with. There was Paulie, the boss, who was the man I worked for; Big Mac, his boss; Sylvie the psycho, the real life secretary, who in game terms was Big Mac’s mistress/girlfriend…the list just went on.

I decided this time I’d make a female thief (wait, is this D&D?) named Danielle Trottier. I want her to be experienced, but not a “one man army” as described in the rules, so I select the “Gangster” level of development. The Gangster falls between the starting level “Punk”, and the high level “Anti-Hero”. As such the Gangster is built with 30 development points for Attributes, 10 points for Special Talents and 75 Skill points.

Attributes are: Bulk – sheer size
Power – strength and physical presence
Toughness – resistance, balls and machismo
Reflexes – dexterity in any other RPG
Sense – sixth sense, ability to “read” the scene
Brains – intelligence in any other RPG
Control – self control, I like this as an attribute, and the concept of having characters who can’t control themselves
Style – grace, glamour, “look” – more useful than charisma
Experience – how many times you’ve been around the block and what you got from going there
Luck – pure blind dumb luck

Attributes range from -2 to +5 and are purchased on a straight point for point method.

My friend Danielle, whom I’m modeling the character after, is a wafer thin girl, so we go with a Bulk of -2, “catwalk model” 80-90 Lbs. Power can’t be more than two above bulk, so we’ll buy a 0 power for the descriptor of “Not bad. Not good.” She’s tough and can take a beating for a toughness of 2, and has “pretty nimble” reflexes, which is 1. Sense is where she excels, with a 3 or “paranoid or very perceptive”, and she’s smart as a good thief should be, with brains of 2 “you can plan jobs”. Control is a 1, meaning that she has some vices but nothing too bad, and a style of 1, low key as a thief should be. Experience reflects the character vision of an experienced thief, so we’ll go with 3 “Respected killer, thief or hustler.” Which leaves us able to buy luck at a -1 or “usually gets the raw deal or bad break”, not good for a thief, but makes for far more interesting role play.

Now at this point I need to work out the derived attributes, even though they’ll change later, but that’s what the rules say, so away we go.

Trauma resistance, the ability to resist getting injured from hits. 0
Hurt modifier, the ability to do more damage in hand to hand. -2
Injury points, hit points. 4 (this isn’t a thief, it’s a magic user), oh wait, I add that to the base value of 40 for a total of 44 points. We divide those into five equalish bands, of 4 at 9 and one at 8.

Moves, this is kinda the ability to do movement and running, jumping, that sorta stuff. But this one isn’t as simple as just adding stats together, oh no. This is an accountant’s nightmare of target values and modifiers to an ‘ideal’ total. So going through this mind numbing twister we get…straight speed: 3, climbing: 3 (same stats as speed, so why is it different?), maneuvering: 4, and balancing: 4.

Then there’s endurance, which is a similar sort of accounting nightmare but different. Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6. So She does well in endurance activities, far better than sprints and climbing.

Reaction roll next. This plays into the character’s initiative and that sort of thing. Danielle has a reaction roll of 8. The Suss roll follows. This is a kind of “inspiration” roll, or an “Idea” roll from Call of Cthulhu. Her Suss roll is a 10. Then we have the discipline roll, which seems to be the control ability bumped up, and also the “assabilty” of the crook…the ability to sit on your ass and do work, as my old math teacher used to say. Her discipline is 6. After this is the Know Streets ability which is the knowledge of the area that the criminal is operating in. Despite being French, Danielle’s Know Streets is 8. Next up is the “balls” ability. This is pure machismo, and how gutsy the character is. Hers is 10. Pretty ballsy for her I think. Then there’s the coping roll, which is more of a long term stress measure, and how well the character deals with it. Danielle’s is 6. Finally there’s the hostility roll. This is how cool the character can keep it, or how likely they are to blow and go all Scarface on somebody. Because her toughness is higher than her control, Danielle gets a hostility rating of 1, which means that she’s got a couple of enemies, but nothing excessive. The rules say that at a rating of 5 the character’s basically a dead man walking.

So now we get her “criminal type”. There are several to choose from, asshole, thug, pimp. For Danielle, we choose Thief. Dog Town lets you buy things from the criminal type, like skills, abilities and in the vein of good role playing, even vices. For Danielle I want to buy “Sense +1” and “Reflexes +2”. This then means recalculating all of those derived abilities, of course. The purchase of this costs me 10 of the freebie 20 points given for these purchases. With the last ten points, I’m going to pick up two talents: No Nerves, and Intuitive; and also two skills which then start at a +1 level, rather than the base -3. The skills are Break and Enter, and Shop (electronics). This means I’ve made a choice on what kind of Thief this character is. The game differentiates between B&E, which means casing a place, knowing how to get in, all that, and Stealing, which is more of a shoplifting or pickpocket type event. Both steal, but in very different ways.

Now I get to shop for special talents with the regular 10 points the character gets to buy them with. I’ll take “Supple Muscles” for 2 points, which means that she can do the Catherine Zeta Jones thing from Entrapment with ease; Total Recall, which means she has an eidetic memory; Focus, so she gets a bonus in studying targets; and finally Light Fingered, which gives her a bonus on picking locks and that sort of thing.

Next step is to see if she has any “flaws”. There’s a 50/50 chance for a flaw. Danielle rolls above 50 so no, no flaws. But we have to check vices. Danielle’s control of 1 means she has two vices, and may smoke also. Let’s check that first, 5+ on a d20, and yes, she does. Then her two vices: Greed and Spender, well don’t those two go hand in hand like salt and pepper?

After this I then allocate all of her skill points and go through the tedious but necessary step of figuring out all of her ability values. Each skill has a level, which is purchased upon a default. After that you take up to four base abilities, add them together, half that, add on skill level and bonuses and that’s the actual “ability level” for the skill. But each skill has two ability areas attached and they suggest you could have even more and each of these areas has a different calculation. For example, the Break and Enter skill there are two types of use for B&E: Plan and Execute. Planning is based on brains and sense. Execution of that plan is based on sense, brains and reflexes. The base untrained level for B&E is -3. With Danielle’s skill purchase of 10 points for a level 7 B&E, she has a planning ability of 12 and an execution ability of 16. She’s not a bad planner but man can she do her stuff when it comes to making the actual haul, as befits her ability as a master thief.

One last thing to put together is the impact of her “know streets” ability. This gives her some background in the area and helps tie the character to the place. Now, I’ve made Danielle as a French national who’s been brought in for a job, so I could as the “Director” (GM) say her contacts in the place are nonexistent. But it’s also totally reasonable that she’s been here before and knows people and places here. So I’ll go with what’s default for the game. Her Know Streets of 12 means that she has 3 good connections, knows 32 to 36 assorted punks and 4 gangsters and she’s aware of 8 to 12 others. She has knowledge of 20 to 24 hangouts. She has 1 quite powerful ally and 1 small material edge like stashed cash $500, or handgun. I think I may opt for the handgun, given that I suspect she’ll need protection on the mean streets of Dog Town. She’s also aware of 1 boss. I’ll guess this is “Big Mac”, the man who’s brought her in from Paris for a special job…

Next I think I’ll try some actual play to figure out how the combat system works.

It’s taken a week of spare time to figure out one character, but now with all that done, here’s the final character:

Danielle Trottier

Offender type: Thief
Nationality: French

Bulk -2  Power 0  Toughness 2  Reflexes 3  Brains 2
Sense 4  Control 1  Style 1  Experience 3  Luck -1

Derived Attributes
Trauma resistance 0
Hurt modifier -2
Injury points 40
Move – straight speed: 3, climbing: 3, maneuvering: 4, balancing: 4
Endurance – Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6
Reaction 14
Suss 12
Discipline 9
Know streets 12
Balls 10
Coping 6
Hostility 1

No Nerves
Supple muscles
Total Recall
Light Fingers


Assault 3 (Violence 5  Protection 5)
Awareness     3 (Active 16  Passive 13)
Auto Repair    -1 (Fix     6    Design     4)
Batting     0 (Violence     2    Protection     2)
Blade     5 (Violence     7    Protection     7)
Break & Enter     7 (Execute    16    Plan    12)
Cheat     -3 (Devise     1    Play     0)
Coax    -2 (Mooch     2    Befriend     1)
Conceal     -3 (Hide     3    Find     3)
Creep     4 (Sneak     10    Follow     10)
Deal     4 (Evaluate     9    Negotiate     7)
Drive     2 (Pursuit     8    Safety     9)
Drugs     -3 (Identify     3    Manufacture     2)
Escape     4 (Plan     9    Restraints     16)
Explosives     -3 (Rig     5    Diffuse     7)
Gambling    -3 (Bet     -2    Fix Odds     1)
Handgun     1 (Violence     7    Protection     10)
Heavy Weapons     -3 (Violence     4    Protection     6)
Impress    -3 (Hype     -1    Lie     3)
Investigation     4 (Inspect     13    Interrogation     10)
Language (English) 4 (Speak     7    Write     7)
Lifting     -1 (Carry     1    Lift     0)
Patch Up     -2 (Examine     4    Treat     2)
Perform     -2 (Act/Sing     7    Appraise     3)
Rifle     -2 (Violence     4    Protection     7)
School     4 (Comprehend     12    Knowledge     11)
Shop (electrical)    1 (Make     9    Design     6)
S.M.G.     -3 (Violence     3    Protection     6)
Stealing     5 (Boost     12    Pick Pocket     14)
Swimming     -3 (Sprint     -2    Distance    -1)
Threat     -3 (Menace     -1    Boss     0)
Throw    -2 (Violence     1    Protection     8)