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What The Heck Is Nobilis (3e)?

Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:31 pm
by mwchase
Over in my Let's Codethread, I'm currently trying to make a GUI application for Nobilis 3e character creation and owning myself hard.

But, because I'm focusing on the code, spec, design, etc, I didn't explain the larger context of what Nobilis is. That question seemed best suited for this forum, hence the new thread.

Highest-level overview of my knowledge: I've never played a game of Nobilis.
By edition:
  • I know nothing offhand about the first edition. I assume it exists, given the properties of ordinal numbers.
  • I haven't read the second edition through to completion. In particular, I only have any idea about how task resolution works because I've read vague descriptions from external sources.
  • I have read through the third edition, and some small supplements.

As such, most of what I say about Nobilis will be intended to refer to the third edition, but I might accidentally say something that I believe to be true of the second edition. Oh well.

What is Nobilis? The second edition tagline is "The Game of Sovereign Powers". So it is a game, about "Powers", which are "sovereign" over something. The Powers are the player characters, and they are sovereign over an aspect of reality. In terms of the game, several Powers serve under an Imperator, to protect reality from the Excrucians. The setting and characters are this crazy gonzo thing. Normal mortal actions are assumed to basically work out, and the conflict resolution tends to take the form of elaborate semantics debates; imagine if the syllogism "you can designate others as your allies, with their consent; that which is not an ally is an enemy; therefore you are your own enemy" was an entirely cromulent application of the rules, given that the prerequisites are considered true. Basically, through miraculous actions, the player characters have the ability to manipulate the manifestation of their Estate, and its properties in other things. Player characters further have a variety of "gifts", not directly related to their Estate, but to the fact that they're simply really powerful.

Character advancement is carried out through basically extending and putting tokens on a mind-map representing the plot of the game. A recommended starting point for players is the Lifepath system, which builds out from a simple template, and helps the player choose an Estate. (I briefly tried to figure out if it'd be possible to hack this into some kind of sphere-grid-esque monstrosity. I failed.)

Anyway, the Lifepath system is where the Let's Code is currently focused on.

The Lifepath system is basically a series of related options, where the choices in one section can have some effect within that section, or on subsequent sections.

The first section is the choice of two Keys. These choices, named after flowering plants, influence much of the structure of the Lifepath, because every subsequent choice is associated with multiple Keys (except the Contacts, which are each zero or one Key). The Keys represent the structure of the Power's soul, and each is divided into an opposing Heart and Shadow. Making choices associated with one or both of your Keys strengthens the associated Heart (or a shared Heart kind of thing), and making choices associated with neither strengthens a Shadow. The rules suggest favoring the Hearts, but it seems to me like the character is kind of threadbare if it doesn't have the Shadows strengthened a little bit; I don't know how this shakes out in practice, though.

Following the choice of Keys, the book has you describe your Power in broad strokes, work out their Estate, describe the details of their mortal life, create some minor characters associated with them, and pledge them to a set of ideals. In a set of three sidebars, it also provides the ability to customize your Power's mortal properties outside of "was human"; the choices look pretty mutually exclusive to me: mundane animal; highly exotic being; or somewhat exotic, but still human-comprehensible.

There we go. A whirlwind summary at a very high level of an optional part of the character creation rules; I left out a lot more than just the obvious. Nevertheless, is this enough to contextualize what I'm posting in the Let's Code right now, or is there more that needs to be covered?