Annalise – Trying Not To Hijack the Game

So, hoping to get a session of Annalise together with my group (if I can corral those cats). Looking over the rules again, I’m trying to figure out how to avoid defining characters in a way that blows up the game.

For those of you who haven’t just spent a couple hours reading and re-reading the rules, Annalise is a round-robin storytelling RPG about a vampire (either literal or metaphorical). Everyone plays a character, and everyone takes a turn as a sort-of-gamemaster.

Mechanically, everyone has two stats. There’s vulnerability, a statement of a weak point in the character’s personality. When this drops to zero, the character risks becoming a servant of the vampire. The other stat is the secret, a fact that the character hides from everyone else in the game until an appropriately dramatic moment or when the stat drops to zero. Each of these stats pay for “satellite traits” which enable the real business of conflict resolution in the game.

However, you don’t get to pick your own secret. Everyone writes down two and then you pick from a stack. This gives everyone a chance to basically derail what everyone else is doing from the get-go if there isn’t an appropriate discussion of what sort of game we’re all expecting, you can end up with characters with all the following secrets:

  • “I can read minds.”
  • “I am a serial killer.”
  • “My foster parents locked me in a box for days when I was bad.”
  • “I am a space alien.”

And then we’re all over the place with our storytelling, like those old stories we wrote paragraph by paragraph on paper, leaving only the last sentence of each paragraph for the next person. I don’t think that’s going to be as much fun to play.

So, I’m going to, during the strongly recommended pre-game prep where all the players tell the other players not to do things that squick them out, try to get everyone on the same page.

If I have space aliens and superpowers in my gothic horror anyway, I’ll let you know.

Nobilis kvetch – Temporality

So, after spending a bunch of time tooling around with Nobilis, I’ve realized a major hurdle to the kind of deity-level campaign I want to run:

Linear time.

I was really hoping the “being a fundamental element of the universe” thing would stretch into fun rules about time and existence, but no. Like any other RPG, time runs in a straight line. Nobilis is basically set up like any other RPG, except your characters are “powers.”

What do I mean by non-linear time?

Fundamentally, that you don’t have to wake up tomorrow. You could wake up yesterday, next week, at the birth of the universe, or a billion years from now.

This might require specialized mechanics so that you can’t “re-roll” everything you don’t do successfully, even after leveling up. But it would allow for amazing kinds of adventures, where the basic tenets of existence are malleable.

The game would be like a never-ending denoument to a Bill and Ted movie, where changing the past and the future simultaneously are the key to moving ahead.

If I get bored with all 800 of my other creative projects, I might try to make that RPG. I think it would have a Chrononauts-style aspect that the history of the universe relevant to the characters is laid out on cards, but those cards change as the universe itself is changed.