The premise of Dogs in the Vineyard is that this is the Old West, more or less. You got trains, miners, Native Americans (though we call 'em Mountain Folk), and a bunch of small towns scattered across the land tryin' to get on. Most of these towns belong to the Faith. This ain't the case Back East, but out here, most of the towns are Faithful. Normally, a Faithful town goes along pretty well. There's enough rain, businesses go ok, nobody gets too sick. Sometimes stuff happens, but that's the way it goes. But, sometimes people fall off the right path. The first sin is always Pride -- somebody thinks they know better than they know, or they're better than they are, or a whole class of people is better than they are. Pride leads to Injustice. After Pride comes Sin. This is where things start getting bad, because when someone in town Sins, that opens the whole town to Demonic Attack -- crops start going bad, people get diseases, bad stuff starts happening. If nobody stops it, Sin leads to Corrupt Doctrine -- people start making up things about what the laws of the Faith are in an attempt to control the problem, and -- and that causes Corrupt Worship. When enough people adopt the Corrupt Doctrine, then you get a False Priesthood. That's getting scary, because at that point they're working with the demons, knowingly or not, and they got some powers -- we call that Sorcery. Finally, the False Priesthood leads to Hate and Murder, as sacrifice to the demons, to silence the opposition, or just out of revenge. At this point, the town's practically gone to Hell -- or at least it's practically under the controls of the powers of it.

So what's your job? Why, to fix all this, of course. See, every year, the King of Life calls some people to be Dogs. They go to the central city of the Faith, and they get trained up for a couple years -- they get taught to shoot and ride and read and write, if they don't know already; somebody makes them their special Dog's coat, and then they have their initiation. And then they're ready to ride. Dogs get sent in groups from town to town, doing marriages and baby-namings and settling disputes, carrying the news, and, most importantly, rooting out Sin. Dogs have the absolute and total right to dispense justice among the Faithful, both legally (at least by the Faithful's laws -- the country has some other laws, but whose do you think really apply in the towns of the Faithful) and morally, because the Dogs know the will of the King of Life. This is totally dictated by the player -- if the player says their character is acting in accordance with the King's will, they are, and if another player says theirs is, they are too, and if they're in conflict, well, they better work out what's up. Dogs can dispense justice anywhere from words of praise to shooting a guy in the street. Whatever's necessary to get rid of the Sin, because when Sin is gnawing at the roots of the town, eventually the whole thing is going to die.