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Nobilis RPG Overview
Some rpg’s are designed for the serious storyteller. They are more concerned with creating an interesting and invigorating story for player characters as opposed to getting bogged down in dice rolling and rule interpretation. Keeping the game flowing smoothly is the key. To this effect, few achieve this style of play as well as the rpg Nobilis.
Nobilis is a contemporary fantasy rpg that was created by R. Sean Borgstrom. Currently in its third edition, it is published by Eos Press. In the game, characters take on the role of “Sovereign Powers” otherwise known as the Nobilis. Each of these Nobles personifies an abstract concept or idea in reality such as time, communication, love, art, or even items like cars. Characters do not live just on the mundane world, known as the Prosaic Earth. They are able to switch back and forth between the Prosaic and the Mythical Earth. As if that is not interesting enough, the game is diceless. It instead uses a Karma-based system to determine results. It is definitely unlike most any other game you will ever play.
I am going to spend a bit explaining the game world because it is very involved and needs thorough explaining. In the game world of Nobilis, the Prosaic Earth resembles our own modern world but is actually not real. It is a lie the world created to hide the Mythic Earth, an animistic world that has influences from many mythical sources. In the Mythic Earth, the world is flat and hangs somewhere among the branches fo the world tree Yggdrasil. Besides Mythic Earth, there are many other worlds scattered amongst the boughs. At the top of the tree is Heaven and down among the roots is Hell. Surrounding Yggdrasil is the Weirding Wall which is a curtain of inpenetrable blue flames. This setting alone takes the cake for creativity.
In the game world, there are beings known as Imperators who represent different objects and concepts. These objects, ideas, and concepts are known as Estates and Imperators have complete control over their Estates, both on Prosaic Earth and in the spirit worlds. To help protect Imperators, they take a portion of reality to create a self-contained world of their own called Chancels. These Chancels contain the Imperators physical bodies and act as a relfection of the Imperators. All would be hunkey-dorey in the Imperators lives except for the existence of the Excrucians. The excrucians are terrible beings who live outside the Weirding Wall and seel the destruction of reality. Because of their struggle with the Excrucians, the Imperators have difficulty keeping up with their affairs on Prosaic Earth. In order to help out in their control over Prosaic Earth and the other worlds, Imperators invest a shard of their soul into a human which then becomes a Nobilis. Each Nobilis represents one of the Imperator's Estates. Typically, Nobilis are loyal to their Imperator and to the other Nobilis in their group.
There are five laws called the Code Fidelitatis that each Nobilis must follow which can cause conflict among the Nobles. The rule that is most often broken is the Windflower Law which states that no Noble is allowed to love another being. However, in order for a Nobel to have an Anchor, which is a human a Nobel can control, they must first love or hate that human.
Flowers play a very important role in Nobilis. Each Nobel and Imperator has a flower that represents them are are often used in their magic and in communication. Each flower on Prosaic Earth has a heavenly counterpart and a specific meaning.
Playing Nobles is not all abour representing your Imperator’s Estates. There is a lot of intrigue and political maneuvering among the Nobles. There are five main factions among Nobles and Anchors tend to play a big part in the lives of the Nobilis. Besides doing the Imperator’s bidding, Nobels must keep watch for falling Excrucian shards which can threaten Estates.
Nobilis uses a diceless resolution system. There are other games on the market that are diceless but nothing quite like this. It uses what is called a “resource allocation” system that is not as straight forward as other diceless systems and makes decision and task resolutions much riskier and uncertain. Most common tasks can be completed with little to no problem. However, characters can spend Miracle Points to perform other actions. Emphasis is placed on the consequences of actions. Overall, the system is simple. You compare your Attribute rank against another character’s Attribute rank or the difficulty of a certain action. If your rank is higher, then you succeed.
Narrative is preferred over combat. In combat situations, most Nobilis are capable of defeating a near unlimited number of mere humans so there really isn’t much point in that. In a fight with other Nobilis, Miracle Points can be quickly used up. Also, Nobles must take into consideration if their actions might anger Imperators. So there tends to be more socializing than fighting in Nobilis.
Characters in Nobilis are very close to being gods. Character creation is very flexible and is divided into four Attributes: Aspect, Domain, Realm, and Spirit. All Attributes are ranked from 0 to 5. O is at human level while 5 is miraculously super-powered. Aspect is a character’s physical prowess. Domain is how well a character is in tune with their Estate. Realm is the degree of influence a character has within their Chancel. And Spirit is the strength of a character’s magical abilities. Each Attribute has a number of Miracle Points.
There are Gifts and Handicaps which can strengthen or weaken a character. Gifts and Handicaps are related to each Attribute. Handicaps come in the form of Limits, Restrictions, Virtues, and Afflictions. In addition to all of these, characters can list their Bonds, which are things the characters hold dear to them, and can design their own coat of arms.
The Nobilis characters are responsible for creating their Imperator and their Chancel. Characters receive a number of points to spend on their Chancel. They may use these points to buy special properties or magical protections for their Chancel. Since a lot of the game’s story will revolve around a Chancel, it is important to spend a lot of consideration into its design.
The system is interesting because you can create virtually any type of character because there is a near limitless number of concepts and ideas that Nobilis can represent. But before you create your character, you really need an idea or concept of what you want to play.
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