Everyone should play Nobilis, really

I played in a short arc of Nobilis a while back. We had a good time.

We had a group of four, playing Nobilis of Christmas, Walls, Tomorrow, and the fourth I forget.

Our experience had nothing of Toon about it - it was a pretty serious, and fairly grounded arc.

I'm glad you had fun with it. As for it having or not having a Toon-like quality, here's a tidbit from the book:

Get the Deets! on...

Lirrane Adrimorphous

This is a Power made of a cloud of dust with the body of a train and the head of a bear. She is drawn to malevolently violated contracts, including fictional contracts broken within the context of the game. By all rights Lirrane should be easy to avoid. Her movements are preceded by minutes or hours by the appearance of her track; at best, she has two choices of direction at any given time. However, her track lays itself out so inconspicuously that a person may stand or lay upon it for minutes or hours at a time without noticing its presence. Once Lirrane locates a contract-breaker, she pursues them without relenting; they can earn a few hours, days, or weeks of safety by getting off the tracks whenever they notice them underfoot, but sooner or later they will look up to see Adrimorphous bearing down on them. Proffer a stale scone drenched in lemon juice to Lirrane as the full fulfillment of any debts or obligations remaining to you under outstanding covenants and she will depart, never to trouble you again.

If anyone made it through that paragraph, congratulations, and apologies. If you love the idea of looking up the number of miracle points required to... summon a lemon-juice-drenched scone, Nobilis is the game for you. A multiverse of exceedingly random bits and bobs awaits!
 

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MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
I've heard of the game before but outside of a few of the concepts didn't know much about it.

Based on your description it sounds like something I'd be interested in checking out and maybe playing if anyone ever does a play by post version of it.

Thank you very much for your write up!
Yeah the art in first and second edition is amazing.
I'm currently in a Nobilis campaign and I hate everything about it except the diceless resolution. IMO the setting is so incredibly detailed, unfamiliar, and non-intuitive—with tons of accepted protocols and rules your character risks breaking—that you really have to develop setting mastery. That means navigating the author's firehose of wacky cosmology, which includes an infinite number of dimensions filled with anything you can imagine—sentient toasters in one, cartoon devils in another. And PCs are the gods of anything, no limits, no thematic connective tissue. You're the god of swords you buy in the mall? Ok, I'm the god of people who love candy corn. What do we do during a given session? The sky's the limit, so really, who knows?

It's Sandman filtered through Toon, basically. I get the appeal for some, but I'd recommend checking out Jenna Moran's later games that use the same system, but are way more coherent about what PCs do, and that don't feel like you stepped into someone else's annoying LSD trip.

(Also there's a PbtA hack where you play mortals in the setting, which I think looks way more manageable if, unlike me, you really fall in love with Moran's setting.)
I think it very much depends on the characters the players make. The story I am currently running as a GM is fairly serious, for example, but I imagine the tone can vary a lot based on such factors (and GM style, of course).
I played in a short arc of Nobilis a while back. We had a good time.

We had a group of four, playing Nobilis of Christmas, Walls, Tomorrow, and the fourth I forget.

Our experience had nothing of Toon about it - it was a pretty serious, and fairly grounded arc.
I have the same experience. The premise seems to allow for a campaign to be extremely silly, but I feel it takes deliberate effort to go there.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I'm glad you had fun with it. As for it having or not having a Toon-like quality, here's a tidbit from the book:

I mean... flumphs, man.
Since flumphs and otyughs (and loads of other really wacky monsters) appear in D&D, does that mean that wacky toon adventures filled with poop jokes is how D&D typically runs?

I mean, yeah, I am sure lots of tables are wacky and have lots of off-color humor. But using the elements that way is a choice.

If anyone made it through that paragraph, congratulations, and apologies. If you love the idea of looking up the number of miracle points required to... summon a lemon-juice-drenched scone, Nobilis is the game for you. A multiverse of exceedingly random bits and bobs awaits!

Fairy tales and myths are full of tales of creatures that have pretty arbitrary desires or values. Fae creatures have weird rules they follow, or payments they will take. Many cultures have stories of celestial beings of weird, downright terrifying physicality when they manifest to us.

I think the point of many tings in the book is to get across the idea that in the world of concepts in which the Nobilis work, the GM should not be bound to orcs and dragons and things with physicality, behavior, and motivations tied largely to being organic, living beings.

The creature you mention, for example, is presented as an inevitability. Once it starts coming for you, it does so relentlessly. And you character probably doesn't know what will appease the creature. It sounds like the basis of an adventure that is a race against time, where the characters manage near miss after near miss by this bear-headed giant monstrosity, until it is established that eventually you will need to rest and it will get you. The character is desperately on the run trying to figure out why they are a target and how to dodge the impending doom. Eventually someone will have the lore you need... for a price.
 

I mean... flumphs, man.
Since flumphs and otyughs (and loads of other really wacky monsters) appear in D&D, does that mean that wacky toon adventures filled with poop jokes is how D&D typically runs?
I mean, I don't like D&D monsters either, or D&D, so I hear what you're saying but don't really get it. D&D is not my bag, including because of dopey stuff like flumphs.

My issue, apart from the cosmology being overstuffed to an insanely indulgent degree, is just the pure unbridled randomness:

These worldbuilding nuggets are everywhere throughout the book:
Get in the Know! on...

St. Angela of the Flail

In the blinking 12:00 of an unset clock are the “:” that are St. Angela’s eyes. If you would do unpleasant things you had best avoid those eyes; though she is bound to leave human free will intact, she has no compunction against physically scourging the unrighteous.

ProTip: St. Angela rarely acts on what she sees but shenever objects to being shown. If you need a quantum observer or an unbiased witness to something or you think someone’s going to do something unrighteous to you in front of your TV, try cycling the power on your VCR!

Or how about:

“It is my plan,” said the Littlest Excrucian, “to remove allknowledge of beer-can chicken from the world; then I shallcommand a secret worthy of an audience with Kings.”
“Do it;” said Prince Carl, affecting disinterest. “I shall takethe knowledge of beer cans themselves and render your powercontingent upon mine.”

There can be no negotiation between personages such asthese; their dignity does not allow it; their bluster stands in theirway. That is why we drink our beer from satchels, today, andcook our chickens therein; all of us save Prince Carl, of course,who molders in his palace, arrogant, chickenless, and alone.

—from the EXCRUCIAN WAR COLORING BOOK, by Indignity Press

If you think I'm cherry-picking some 1 percent of zany examples, please, read the book yourself. Again, these are everywhere. Sometimes taking up more collective real estate than anything else on the page. Not really story seeds, more microfiction meant to make you titter and then...what?

Individual GMs can of course do whatever they want with the material, change the tone, provide clarity for what characters do other than immortal navel-gazing and interacting with the high randomness that makes up the setting. A point that doesn't need making—we've all run games here. My issue is with the game as written, as presented by the author. We don't have to agree, but that's my take—that its reputation as an infamously hard game to actually play and engage with is fully deserved, and then some. I don't begrudge the audience that it has, but I'm not misrepresenting how the game is written. It has lots of creepy stuff, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a deeply goofy work that revels in randomness and quirk. The manic pixie girl of RPGs, but look out, she's got serrated teeth or something.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
I'm glad you had fun with it. As for it having or not having a Toon-like quality, here's a tidbit from the book:



If anyone made it through that paragraph, congratulations, and apologies. If you love the idea of looking up the number of miracle points required to... summon a lemon-juice-drenched scone, Nobilis is the game for you. A multiverse of exceedingly random bits and bobs awaits!
I did not make it through that paragraph, and what little of it I got through has cured me of any further interest in the game. Thank you.
 


Necropolitan

Adventurer
This feels like a game that would be amazing with the right group. Assembling such a group might be the real problem, though.
From what I've seen the game looks interesting and even with the flowery (pun intended) wording I think I understand how it works.

I'd be willing to join a game if anyone were willing to run one on here.
 

My favorite example of PC command of their Estate:

The Power of Humor can say “That’s not funny!” And make it so. It’s a minor miracle of destruction to make it true there and then, or a major one to make it always and ever true.

The problem is, how do you roleplay that? I mean, how do you even decree it to be true and make it mean anything?
 


MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
The problem is, how do you roleplay that? I mean, how do you even decree it to be true and make it mean anything?
That particular case makes more sense if you imagine using it against npcs. You could completely kill a comedic stage play, for example, by using that. Or ruining a joke told by some character to lighten up the mood.

Note that things that might sound niche from a D&D perspective are not niche in Nobilis.

Edit: It might be hard to imagine a comedic stage play being relevant in D&D, but in Nobilis it could be a matter of life and death.
 

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