Nobilis – Start of a Project

So, a week or so ago, I made an impulse purchase on and ended up with, among other things, Nobilis, 3rd Ed. The concept is fascinating: each player is something between a nature spirit and a demigod, having power and responsibility over a field as encapsulated by a single word or phrase, such as “clocks” or “first love.”

The actual rules of Nobilis, however, are a little dense on first read. Actually, let me revise that. The rules are bound deeply in the fiction, such that you can’t get a straight statement of “Jack fires his smartlinked handgun at Percy. Jack’s REF + Handguns + 1D10 + 3 Smartlink Bonus exceed the 15 target number at medium range, so Percy has been shot.” The fact that Nobilis is diceless doesn’t change that there’s no section where the flavor text has been dialed down so that a reader can just get the rules without having to also read how the Queen of Shredded Wheat is interfering with the affairs of the Herald of Low-Fat Milk. One of my gaming group, who has access to write on this blog so she can speak for herself, has much stronger words on this front.

Another blogger, had this to say about the 2d Ed. while reviewing the 3rd, but I find the statement still basically true for the latest edtion:

It was a really engaging read in a really pretty book that was really hard to wrap your brain around and actually use at the table. I managed a fairly long campaign, but only after getting to play a one-shot of it at a con that finally made it click enough to run. I suspect many others got it, read it, and left it on the shelf.

Another reviewer, who also really liked a lot of the game, said:

…there is no summary rundown of How to Play in Nobilis 3e; Moran really does take the entire 370-page rulebook to explain what the game is.

Or rather, to show how it feels. Or how it felt to her.

This is RPG design as literature, well and truly, but in aid of what? ‘Play?’ I mean: what, mine?

I refuse to be deterred.

This post starts a project where I’ll be, possibly with my gaming group’s help, figuring out how to play this game. I have experience in distilling games; when I need to start a new game quickly, I often generate handouts on the character creation process so players can get started fast without having to pass around a single book or a PDF-displaying device for hours. I’ll be posting two of those after this post goes live so you can see how they look.

No matter what, we’ll all learn together.


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