I've for a long time owned a copy of Dogs in the Vineyard, the RPG where you travel around frontier villages trying to fix problems and work to enforce religious law. I've never gotten around actually running or playing it, but this essay about why the game is so great has me itching to play:

> Dogs puts the player-characters in a position of effectively absolute authority. Yes, they have to answer to the Dogs Temple, but that’s always Too Far to Matter. Yes, the exact manner of how stewardship works should mean that they don’t have a right to interfere with certain matters – but they might decide that they do, anyway. Yes, they’re all worrying about God, but they are also empowered to decide what God wants.

> This means that no matter how badly the Dogs fuck up, they’re ultimately only answerable to themselves, to their own sense of duty. They can shoot an innocent dead in the street, and the town will still have to accept their justice. The Dogs can make the worst mess in the world, piling lies upon evasions and murder upon mistakes, and then they can just pronounce their justice and ride on to the next town.

> And this internalises the punishment. These are characters who are given vast responsibility – the ability to interpret God’s will and execute God’s justice in a community ruled by godliness. They’re given vast trust – the pure strength of their faith is meant to guide them. And so when they fuck up, your players are going to feel terrible about it. [...]

> There are a great many stories that boil down to the idea – wouldn’t it be awesome if justice were administered, not by a complicated, ponderous bureaucracy, its hands tied by red tape and its ostensive ideals compromised by politics and institutionalism; not by angry mobs; but by a handful of super-capable, unregulated, highly virtuous, cool-headed individuals? [...]

> Dogs is the antidote to that idea. The PCs are almost wholly independent of their superiors, and their word is taken as unquestionable law: it’s their job to interpret right and wrong, to fix communities through decisive action, and they’ll usually fuck it up. They have no guidelines, no oversight, no support, no real accountability except to one another. They’re meant to be guided by the pure intensity of their faith, their unimpeachable status as Good Guys. And they’re kids, really. Foolish, well-meaning kids.
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