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[Nobilis - OOC]The Recruitment Office and the Peanut Gallery

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The Yann Waters:
A legend has it that long before Heaven invented time and the stars rose to the skies, the Creator (whom the angels call Cneph) bargained with strange entities known as Excrucians so that he might purchase a tiniest fraction of their beauty for his great handiwork, the Ash of Yggdrasil and all the worlds which hang suspended from its boughs, with the Earth somewhere among the branches. It is not known what he promised in return for their favour, but he never kept his word; and so, five thousand years ago, the Excrucians led the armies of nothingness to the gates of Heaven, murdering their guardian with a blade named Atrocity and beginning the Great War of Valde Bellum, and with it the Age of Pain which continues to this day. This ancient enemy seeks to unmake all of Creation itself, erasing it from existence one concept at a time, and what they destroy is not only gone forever but has never existed in the first place. Should light fall before their swords and sorcerous rites, all would be dark from the dawn of history until the end of everything, and no one could imagine the outlandish notion of "sight". This is not an idle threat, either: over the course of the millennia they have achieved countless victories, and the mortal world cannot even remember what has already been lost.

Against the peril of these Dark Horsemen, a truce of necessity has been formed between the angels and the devils, the lords of the Light and the magisters of the Dark, the Wild and the Gods and stranger beings still: all those grand personifications of Creation collectively and commonly known as Imperators. For the most part, the War rages in the spirit world, an elevated plane of reality which lies utterly beyond all common comprehension, and only unwavering vigilance on the part of the defenders keeps the hordes of oblivion from engulfing the realms of unsuspecting humanity. And meanwhile, someone has to take care of the more earthly concerns...

Hence, the Nobilis.

As a precaution, an Imperator may descend into the material universe, claiming a piece of a world as a sanctuary for its body and granting fragments of its soul to a handful of lesser creatures so that these newly knighted Nobles may then serve as its guardians and emissaries, as a family of demigods bound together by spirit rather than blood. Humans are eminently suitable for this honour, although frankly anything may be enNobled: a clump of dirt would suffice in a pinch, and has in the past. The divine soul-shard holds a facet of reality represented by the Imperator, and this one concept (violins, violence, the colour violet, to name a few out of boundless possibilities) is entrusted to the Noble as her Domain which she is charged to rule wisely and protect at any cost from the ravages of the Excrucians and all other threats.

Of course, it's never quite that straightforward...

The dominion over the Earth has been yielded to Lord Entropy, the bloody-handed embodiment of destruction, desecration and scorn, due to an obscure prophecy which states that he may redeem all his sins and crimes in the final battle on the day of Ragnarok. In the meantime, his Code Fidelitatis is the legislation by which all Nobles are expected to abide, and its first law is simple: "Thou Shalt Not Love Another."

The world itself has been sundered into two distinct perspectives ever since the wrath of an exiled angel burned away the dinosaurs. In the Prosaic, the alternation of day and night is governed strictly by the measurable forces of gravitation and the rotation of the planet. In the Mythic, the night falls whenever the Sun can no longer can bear to look upon her earthbound son whose features from time to time resemble the face of his monstrous father. Both of these things are true at once.

Among themselves, the Noble Familias are engaged in a neverending "game of flowers", a web of rivalry and courtly intrigue in which occasionally the pettiest feuds last for centuries and entire nations become pawns, and in which the deadliest weapon is knowing what your enemies cherish more than anything else: an indiscreet love affair between the Duke of the Future and the Marchessa of the Past may have unexpected repercussions, and the Viscount of Individuality might have to take steps to protect himself against the clockwork assassins from the Domain of Progress, and perhaps the Regal of Lost Bric-a-Brac has just had enough of being everyone's laughing-stock...

And over all this looms the certainty that the end of the age draws near, and that all worlds too must once come to an end.

[links][*]Nob in Wikipedia
[*]The RPGnet Gaming Index
[*]Nobilis 101
[*]Amadan's References
[*]Sample Chapters
[*]Ash and Chrysanthemum
[*]A Very Very Short Summary
[*]The Nobilist
[*]Nobilis Florilegium
[*]Hitherby Dragons[/list][/links]

The Yann Waters:

As mentioned here, this thread is reserved for questions and answers about the setting and system of Nobilis, along with the process of character generation as well as miscellaneous OOC comments from prospective players and nosy bystanders alike. The mechanical aspects of the gameplay can be largely handled in any IC threads themselves, and marked as such by square brackets: "I hit him with my axe [A4]" for "I hit him with my axe as a level 4 Aspect miracle", and so on.

As we all know, the common problem with PbP games is the unfortunate tendency of players to drift away during play, and planning too far ahead wouldn't therefore make much sense. So, the first question is whether the game should begin with most of the background detailed in advance and independently of what the characters might turn out to be like (as in the dungeon example), or follow the usual conventions of Nobilis, with nature taking its course after the chargen as various adventures and mishaps result directly from the properties of the PCs and their Estates. In either case, that introductory scenario should probably be fairly brief: the next one can always pick up from where it left off.

Preferences and suggestions?


Character Creation, Briefly

(For further details, see "Nobilis 101" and "Amadan's References" in the link section to the left. At a guess the game could comfortably accommodate 3-6 players, out of which three have so far expressed a tentative interest: if you are curious, this would be a good time to join in.)

0. Choose a Concept and an Estate

To begin with, decide on a few basic details about your character. What is his Estate, that little slice of the universe entrusted to his care? Why was he chosen for this duty, and how does he feel about it? Who was he earlier, before entering the service of the Imperator, and what sort of connections does he still have to that past life?

After that, you are ready to proceed to the more mechanical aspects of creating your Noble. For all the purchases during this process, you'll have exactly 25 character points to spend. Note that strictly speaking the only mandatory steps involve choosing your Code, Bonds and Design: still, as any unspent CPs are lost before the actual play begins and cannot be saved until later, it might be smart to invest possible leftovers into increasing the miracle point pools or gaining cheap but effective Gifts.

1. Purchase Attributes

All of the four Attributes start out at zero and each further rank always costs three CPs, regardless of its current state. For Nobles, none of the Attributes can be raised beyond five; for Imperators, that limit is seven.

Aspect -- The distance between all the physical, mental and social abilities of a common mortal and those of a miraculous creature, such as your character. At zero, your body is still the same as it ever was, and your skills are little better than those of an ordinary human being on one of those good days when nothing seems to go wrong. At five, your body has been fully infused by the sacred essence of the divine soul-shard within it, allowing you to break the limitations of common flesh and blood with perfect ease. This Attribute governs all actions that anyone at all might perform, only exaggerated further and further until they reach mythic proportions, and determines the amount of punishment you can suffer before dying.

Domain -- The degree of power and control that you have over the Estate within your care. At zero, you are its servant rather than the other way around. At five, you have merged with it to such an extent that it's difficult to tell where the Estate ends and the Noble begins. This Attribute governs all the different ways of manipulating your Domain, from spying on others through some distant part of it to destroying every last bit of it from the face of the Earth.

Realm -- The influence which you have over the Chancel, the hidden miniature world ruled by your family of demigods, as well the social standing that you enjoy among the local population there. At zero, you are just another of the citizens, although usually still influential and respected. At five, you are true royalty and a veritable deity within the Chancel, and treated as such by everyone. This Attribute can be used to manipulate anything within the confines of the realm much like if it was an actual part of your own Domain.

Spirit -- The harmony between your mortal spirit and the shard of divinity within your heart. At zero, you remain fundamentally human. At five, you are either on the verge of burning away the last remnants of your humanity in a blaze of godhood, or else have reached an enlightened state where your two souls fuse together and remain perfectly balanced. This Attribute determines the efficiency of whatever magical rites you might perform, and also provides a considerable amount of defence against hostile miracles.

2. Purchase Secondary Domains

A Noble may hold more than a single Estate, although the original one will always remain more important than any other and even those lesser areas of influence generally are in some way connected to it, so that for instance the Power of Engines might also control the Secondary Domain of Oil. Each rank in one of these additional Domains costs only one CP, with the caveat that none of them can ever rise above the current rank of the Primary Domain.

3. Purchase Additional Miracle Points

Miracle Points measure the reserves of mystical energies coursing within the subtle bodies of Nobles and other supernatural beings: by spending these points, you can go beyond what would normally be possible through the Attributes alone. Each Attribute has a separate MP pool associated with it, and each of these four pools starts out at five. Raising any pool by a point costs one CP.

4. Purchase Gifts

"Gift" is the common term for any unusual skill or ability or power, from spells taught by ancient grimoires to transformations which might occur during a Noble's Commencement to literal gifts granted by gods. The base cost for such a talent is the minimum level of the miracle that it's based on (so that flinging fireballs from your fingertips might be a Lesser Creation of Flames, a level 4 miracle of Domain), and the following modifiers are then applied to that amount.

Activation: what does it take for the owner of the Gift to trigger it?
+1 CP if it's automatically activated whenever appropriate
-1 CP if the activation requires a simple miracle (which has no MP cost)
-2 CP if it takes a normal miracle (which costs 1 MP)
-3 CP if it takes a hard miracle (which costs 2 MP)

Area of Effect: what is the size of the area that can be affected by the Gift?
+1 CP if its power can be felt (almost) anywhere and everywhere
-1 CP if its effect is restricted to the local surroundings
-2 CP if it only affects a single target
-3 CP if it only affects the owner of the Gift

Flexibility: how useful would this talent potentially be?
+1 CP if it could solve all imaginable situations
-1 CP if it covers a wide variety of situations
-2 CP if it only has a limited number of possible applications
-3 CP if all it can do is a single "trick"

Rarity: if the Gift can be considered uncommon in the setting, the GM should include a further penalty of +1 CP.

The minimum cost for a Gift is always 1 CP. Additionally, for Gifts that affect a group of related Estates (say, "all living things"), the cost is doubled; and for Gifts that can affect any Estate (literally anything non-miraculous in the universe), the cost is tripled. The GM may also impose further modifications to the costs, depending on the circumstances.

(Note that picking any of the three basic defensive Gifts, "Durant" or "Sacrosanct" or "Immortal", is highly recommended. "Durant" especially may well be one of the most common Gifts among Nobilis.)

As with all miracles, supernatural creatures may be protected against Gifts by the strength of their Spirit, and any additional points of Penetration meant to overcome that protection must be added to the base cost when the Gift is purchased. Unlike regular miracles, Gifts cannot be boosted during play with MPs, only improved with CPs gained through experience.

In addition to any Gifts purchased while the character is being created, all Nobles by default start with three special abilities: Guising (which allows them to blend in with the local population), the Sight (which allows them to sense mystical influences and recognize supernatural creatures), and the Blessing of Tongues (which allows them to understand, and be understood in, any ordinary human language). Leaving your PC without one of them would qualify as a Handicap.

5. Choose Handicaps

Handicaps consist of various disadvantages and flaws which might cause problems for a character from time to time, but also yield him fresh miracle points whenever that happens since there is spiritual strength to be found in facing adversity... Limits are a constant nuisance, and therefore give extra MPs at the beginning of each new story: these include the likes of being deaf or dead. Restrictions come up occasionally and even then may be circumvented, and so they only give MPs when the character is actually hindered by the situation: these include being unable to cross running water or having some unnatural feature which must be kept hidden from mortals. Virtues are much rarer than the other two, and also beneficial as they render one aspect of the character's personality utterly inviolable: someone with the Virtue of Honesty can never be forced to lie, and someone with the Virtue of Cruelty can never be swayed to feel kindness.

Remember that while new Handicaps may later be picked at any time, even during play, they can only be removed permanently between stories.

6. Choose a Code

Each character follows a Code of ethics and morals by which he lives, either any of the five universal affiliations (Heaven, Hell, the Light, the Dark, and the Wild), or that of some True God, or a unique set of personal convictions. Write down three statements which reflect these beliefs, in the order of importance. Act according to them, and you may earn MPs for remaining true to what you believe in. Act against them, and you may lose MPs for struggling against your nature.

7. Choose Anchors

"Anchors" are humans or other commoners who have been taken into the service of a Noble and bound to him through a magical rite, so that the Anchor may at any time call upon the Noble who in turn may at any time act through his servant. Keep in mind that the ritual which creates the connection requires that the Noble must either love or hate the Anchor, and that breaking that connection more often than not would result in the death of the mortal. The maximum number of these Anchors any character can have at once equals his Spirit Attribute plus one.

8. Choose Bonds.

Emotional ties hold the Nobilis tightly, and in many cases attacking those causes more harm than any physical assault against the often invulnerable godlings. Distribute twenty points (not CPs, that is) between all the things that your character truly cares about, whether they are persons, items or ideals: the higher the score, the stronger the Bond, and more important to the character. Note that these points may be later rearranged at will, and that you may even lose Bonds entirely only to find new ones. Nobles can be fickle at times.

9. Decide on a Heraldic Design

Every Noble possesses a Design which combines a symbol of his Estate with a symbol which stands for himself, both portrayed against a stylized background that represents his Code. Traditionally, these symbols are flowers; however, other known possibilities include runes or images from the Tarot deck or even more common heraldic beasts. Anyone who knows this coat of arms can use its symbology to contact the Noble in question, and it also provides a measure of protection against malevolent magic.

You've got a lot of text on the Valde Bellum and really only a little text on the whole intrigues among Nobles.  I'm hoping that doesn't indicate the emphasis of the game.  My experience with Nobilis is that a "Let's fight the Excrucians tooth and nail" atmosphere leads to, frankly, a game that needs a different ruleset entirely.

Personally, I'd far prefer the social sniping and passionate peccadillos, with the Excrucians being a distant boogey-man.

The Yann Waters:

--- Quote from: TonyLB ---Personally, I'd far prefer the social sniping and passionate peccadillos, with the Excrucians being a distant boogey-man.
--- End quote ---
Well, the Excrucians are the reason why the society of the Nobilis in its modern form even exists since before the War Nobles and Chancels were much rarer, and their constant presence in the background defines the Age...

But that's precisely one of the matters that should be discussed before the actual play even begins: what does everyone expect from the game? It can be run as anything from a Matrix-inspired action extravaganza to a more cosmic version of Dangerous Liaisons, after all.

I'm sure it can be run either way.  What do you (the GM) want to do?  I mean ... you're the one organizing the game.  First priority should be to make sure you're happy with it, right?


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