Noblis Essentials: Field Guide to the Powers by Tasoth
Intro/FluffOriginal SA post Formatting?!? We don't need no stinkin' formatting!
A review of Nobilis Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers
If you have ran into Nobilis before, then you know what the game is about. If you are like me and your first introduction to it was others discussing it, then you should know this is a game about playing divinity infused mortals, your actions as such individuals and their outcomes. Indeed, what hooked me was the statements about how Nobilis handled being a divinity well enough that the player copped the rules into other games and used the Keys (a feature we will get to later) in other games as wells. So I did some digging, found more info and bought it.
The book itself is hardbound, the same size as most D&D books and, at least mine, came in a cardboard dust sleeve you can slide it in and out of. Both the sleeve and the book both are have an image of a woman walking down a sandy beach as a serpent crawls from the waves and the setting sun melts away. Cracking the book and leafing forward to page six, we run into the table of contents. There are no chapters listed, instead the specific headings of the sections of the book, such as: Lord Entropy, The World Ash, Let's Play a Game, etc. If you're like me and you prefer more structure to your game books, this should be a flag. But we continue on.
After the contents, we run into a short blurb under the title 'Welcome!'. It pretty much lays out that this is a game, yes, a game about magic and spirits and how everything around you is alive but you just don't notice it. How you might become a power and be granted reality bending powers yet not be able to love. Ever. It is about the threat of the Excrucians and how they need to be stopped. But just enough to get a hook or two in and get you to proceed further.
The next section is the Intro. Imagine, if you will, that you are driving on the way home from work and you see a flock a birds. You really like birds and oh, right there, is a plumed red billed duck-plover! And as you're staring, BAM, out of the blue you are hit with an energy and a fundamental truth: I am now Flight. Or, you're out with your friends for a drink when all of the sudden you suddenly realize you are Pop Music. Or, while effortlessly floating through the Jovian environment that is your home and trailing your arms behind you to catch sky-fish, you are overcome by knowledge that you are Bicycle. This is how one becomes a Noble. You're doing your own thing, minding your business and all of a sudden you've been invested with an idea- here called an Estate- and now you are divine. You know what you are as soon as it happens and you know exactly what you've been invested with. You also don't have to be human. Apparently.
After that, we're introduced to the concept of Imperators. They are living, acting, fundamental constructs of reality. They are Flight, Pop Music and Bicycles at the most basic level and all the things that they oversee are mere shadows of what they are. They have souls, the book states, and you can do anything you do with another mortal, with them: love, hate, fight, ignore, etc. But you can't judge them because they aren't as you and me. Again, they are the primal concepts of a thing and so act according because it is what they are. You are also supposed to feel adoration and awe for them, but I find it hard that running into the Imperator of Rape, Sodomy and Sorrow would lead me to feel those emotions.
Then onto Chancels! If you played any game with an elseworld, this is what they are. Home to the individual Imperator that your character has hooked up with, it is the Noble's home and base of operations. They can be anything from old European fairy tale environments, full of brave knights and fair maidens, to Wuxia tableus and even technological utopias. The appearance of the Chancel is completely dependent upon the Estates owned by the specific Imperator that lives there. So that Imperator of Rape, Sodomy and Sorrow from above? You can bet your sweet ass that its Chancel would be something you'd never want to end up in.
(A short aside, the Imperator that I keep mention? It doesn't have to be a Devil or a Dark Magister (more on that later). It can be an Angel or Light Magister.)
Finally, to end the section, we get another blurb about Excrucians. They are 'the bleak and pretty gods of emptiness'. The want to remove the names and primal nature of all things in creation and the Nobles/Imperators don't want this, since it would mean the end of everything. They are described as riding black horses, wielding cruel weapons and having pitch black eyes that are alight with falling stars.
At this moment I would like to make a digression. The topic of it is this book and its relationship with art. When I first heard of it and when I bought it, I expected it to be set up like most game books. The cracks in this expectation started when I received it, opened up the package and noticed the Japanese writing down the back of the book. I thought I had been accidentally shipped a copy in the wrong language. But that was not so. As I flipped through it before reading, it dawned on me that Nobilis Essentials is an art book first and a game book second. Most pages feature at least one image, many multiple or a full page one with a single blurb of text. This drives the number of pages up in the book by quite a bit. As for the quality of the art, it is a hit or miss thing. There are some amazing pieces in it, but there are quite a few mediocre illustrations and they often go from one to the next on adjacent pages. This is quite jarring at times. That being said, I can understand that this was an indie book, so getting dozens of top notch illustrations is going to be expensive. So I assume she (being the author) had fans help supply the art, and that's awesome because it makes the fan community feel more invested in the game. There is another thing I like and that is whenever something setting related is mentioned in the text, there tends to be a tarot card-like image that explains the image associated with it. I really like this for some reason. So, in summation, lotta art in this book, not all of it is good. But it won't make you toss the book away.
After our short tour through the introduction, we hit Ananda. We learn here that the Nobilis are governed by four Imperators that go by the moniker The Council of Four. Ananda is the first we get to read about. He's super-pretty. Like outrageously pretty. He's so pretty, he caused an entire town (plants, animals and even the objects in it) to come alive and sing praise to him when he came to visit. Most of the things that were alive died by exalting their hearts out and the grass turned to crystal just to tinkle like chimes in the wind for Ananda. Did I mention he was pretty? So you may ask what, exactly, is Ananda the Imperator of? It ain't Beauty. It is Murder and the Infinite and his Chancel is called Cityback. Yeah, how those make him Ur-Pretty is beyond me and the author goes on to say she doesn't understand either, but it could also be that the third principle he represents is responsible. I think it is just that the author wanted him to be super pretty and not that he is the God of the Fourth Age, a time where all will be exalted, being responsible for this trait. And I believe the Fourth Age is a human concept, which bugs me because I've read enough of this book to know that it doesn't view humans as anything special, yet here is an example of where human belief is true. Where stands Ananda as a member of the Council of Four is that he's the weakest member because he won't stand up to Lord Entropy and votes for Entropy's rulings or, if he is feeling ballsy, abstains. It's hinted that Ananda does this because if he ever opposes Lord Entropy, shit is going to get real, bad things are going to happen and we're headed right for an apocalypse before the Fourth Age.
Next is Lord Entropy and the title page to this section gets a full page piece of art work that, if this was the only thing you had to base your views on him on, designates him as a major shit wrecker and you really shouldn't mess with this guy. Lord Entropy is Evil. So evil, in fact, that his hands constantly drip blood, even if he were doing such things as just shootin' hoops for fun. His evil is the Ur-Evil, so infectious and destructive that even a passing glimpse of him will lead you down a path that will put you with the likes of Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Kim Jung-Il. And this is without him trying. When this guy is being a jack-wagon, he likes to scoop up mortals at random, throw them into the Locust Court and charge them with crimes they never did or send out his ogres and nimble jacks to fuck up anything good, bright and just in the world. He is also a tyrant, running the Council of Four unopposed by the other Imperators and doing what he will. Whether he is trying to do a good job or not is completely unknown, only that he likes to be feared. What he dislikes is love, and as an author aside here, no one can feel love for him, although it is implied he's handsome. So it looks like this is a project hook! Oh, this guy is also supposed to be the individual who saves creation and defeats the Excrucian threat once and for all. Well, that is if he doesn't betray it first. Lord Entropy is the Imperator of Destruction, Desecration and Scorn. We also are told there is another Imperator of Destruction that is an angel, but he represents destruction as a cycle of life. Entropy is just out right annihilation. He has a Chancel called Evil World and three Nobles: Meon of Desecration, Joktan of Scorn and Baalhermon of Destruction. All of them look human but have these weird ass names. He also has an army of ogres, nimble jacks and human slaves as well as running the Cammora in the mortal world. The Cammora secretly runs eeeeverything in the mortal world and is a vehicle Nobles can use to skirt the laws that Lord Entropy has set down. What are these laws? They are: No loving, no hurting people who haven't wronged you and you can't do more than seven times the harm they did in your vengeance, never let a mortal get the better of you, Do as your Imperator says before fighting in the war; fight in the war before doing what you want, and protect no Noble who has transgressed against the code. For mortals it is simple: Be what I say or die.
From Lord Entropy we bounce to Surolam, an Imperator with the head of a cute, fluffy, white puppy. Not shitting you on this one. Surolam is the goddess of the ordinary things and also a part of the Great Boundary. This is a giant wall of fire that separates Creation from the emptiness beyond. Her Estates are Willpower, Law, and the Broken-hearted. We find out here that being mortal and witnessing miracles is a bad experience, causing us to doubt our reality and have everything start to fray around us. She can make us forget these experiences. To do this, we just have to seek her out, find a gate to her temple marked by a pair of dogs that flank it, and enter. These gates are everywhere, even in the hearts of all things. Once there, we wait until she can give us an audience. She loves us all, that love growing with how broken-hearted we are. So she can heal us, make us forget when we leave, and if you're lucky, she might even give you aid. She's leery of doing this because every promise she makes becomes precedent for future requests. Her Chancel is the Locust Court, so named because insects can enter and leave without forgetting and it is home to sites that bind things into law. If you're sick, you can enter he realm and be healed of your affliction, or you might just leave carrying something terrible with you.
The last is Ha-Qadosch Berakha. He treats the world as his playground. No, literally, that's all it says beneath an illustration of a guy in a chinese gown type thing with a sword surrounded by swirling winds.
And that is it for now. That's 30 pages, or roughly a third of the fluff.
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the layout was lost.
CommencementOriginal SA post
You didn't ask for it, but here it is:
Nobilis The Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers review part 2
I apologize for the images I am about to post because I lack a flatbed scanner and had to resort to my camera for them, but I felt they must be seen.
What do you mean I can only pick one?
So begins Commencement ! This is when an Imperator walks into your life and fills you full of one of its Estates (one of those things it is). We get some examples. One is a college geek who is suddenly adopted by the Serpent of Radar and told he gets to rule a quarter of fairyland and take it to the Excrucians in battle , and the other is an elderly woman who gets shanghaied by a Devil and now has to deal with being the agent of a rebel angel. Note how they refer to the Devils here. It's not the same later.
Anyhow! We find out why the Imperators make Nobles: So they can go kick Excrucian ass up around their ears in distant places. We're told they're invincible and powerful, but they need Nobles to protect their bodies while they are away fighting. But they stick their bodies in Chancels where they are safe. Really, it all comes down to the Imperators giving their responsibility over to Nobles and then fucking off to parts unknown while some poor schlub has to take care business. We also find out that just because an Imperator picks you doesn't mean they change who you are. Remember the Imperator of Rape and such I postulated in the last post? Just because it claims you doesn't mean you have to act as it does. You could start projects to prevent or stop such things that belong to its Estate if you want. Also, the making of Nobles by Imperators used to be rare, and then the Excrucians showed up and changed everything.
So they give us a breakdown of what your Imperator can be and a short amount of info about them. The shortest serving of text is given about Aaron Serpents. I already ran ahead and looked up more info about them. They're colossal serpents born of the World Tree, but they are laid back and more about experiencing life and the many worlds of Creation. Next up, in the same paragraph on the page, are Angels and Light Magisters. Should you get snagged by one of them, you get to look forward to a service of writing wrongs, healing the wounded and making the world a better place non-stop. Forever.
The Devils and Dark Magisters get the next paragraph, and the Devils the two following it. It pretty much lays out that you would be the servant to entities that will delight in your suffering, show you all that is wrong with existence and how wretched the choices of your life make the world. This theme continues through the next paragraph, leading to a bunch of emo writing about how terrible it is to be a servant of the dark and the paragraph after this one goes into how there are Nobles who belong to Devils who buck the nature of their masters and make the world a better place.
True Gods are Lovecraftian. The book will claim there are no Lovecraftian entities, but Gods of Amoeba, Insects, Fungi and Bacteria definitely fall under the term. Especially when it is stressed that they can't be related to by humans on the level one does with another person. There are also Magisters of the Wild, entities that didn't arise in Creation and just kinda popped in there. The rules that govern them are diverse, personal and have no real rhyme or reason. We get examples of a Goddess that returns any deed or favor done/asked of it three times as strong, an entity that can't be capture, contained, touched or accurately described and one that raises the dead just be being in their presence.
The section wraps up listing all the different types of Imperators, notifies you that you will be part of a Familia Caelestis , which are other Nobles invested with the different Estates of your Imperator and telling you that adventure is in your destiny. Now onwards, onto the different Im-
The Layout strikes! You'd think a section describing the Imperators as a whole would be followed with the sections that break down the individual groups of Imperators. But you'd be dead wrong. What is next is the section Ordinary world.
Let us be blunt: the world as we know it is a lie.
This is the opening line of the section. I had just started reading Purple's review of Kult when I made it to this part and it immediately flashed into my mind. But, it turns out, we killed reality. Well, we killed the Gods behind everything that happens, and the magic of the flat earth, and spirits of the synapses. We took reason and objectivity and beat the living forces behind all things to death. And why would we do that? To get away from Karma. Things don't happen because we are good or bad, they just happen and we're cool with that. And our reality changes with every 'discovery' we make, changing history to make it fit with our new beliefs. Of note is that the Magisters of Light and Dark back our view of reality over the truth of the World Tree/Creation and that it is becoming harder and harder for reality, which is an Imperator itself, to keep up with the illusion. I have a feeling the author drew most of this from Gnostic beliefs just like Kult did.
Oh yeah, and after all that, don't forget humans aren't special. Or anymore special than other mortals from across the world tree.
From there we go to Cityback. This is Ananda's Chancel, and why they didn't just introduce Ananda and Cityback in the same section is a mystery. If this were Kult, it would be Metropolis, only instead of dark and foreboding, everything is alive. Cityback is sustained by the murder of one mortal a day and it is the reason why cities, and everything in them, exist. The city is comprised of two groups of spirits: Infrastructura and Urbana. The former are living spirits of public infrastructure and the safest to be around. They won't kill you out of the blue. The latter are more varied and dangerous, running the gamut form living supermarkets that feed off detritus that humans bring in with them plagued by shopping cart commensalists to Man-O-War-esque zeppelins that drift through the skies.
The Locust court is literally two pages long, a paragraph to each page and just reinforces the fluff about it being a sanctuary and place of law.
Then the Evilworld. An evil world on the back of a gargantuan, evil, fish monster. You get there by noticing evil parts of the evil place bleeding over into the normal world. It is home to Ogres, which are creatures of rending and tearing, and Nimblejacks, which Lord Entropy stole from a fellow Imperator. We get a general topography of where Lord Entropy and his Nobles live in regards to each other as well as little bios on his Nobles. Again, I feel Lord Entropy's section and this one should have came as a whole instead of being broken up. We also get informed that Lord E keeps lovecraftian beasts and ruins from civilizations older than man beneath his home, and also that these things are complete BS because these things never existed before man.
But mankind isn't anything special.
The Border Mythic is next. We get a description of Creation here. Imagine a great expanse of black void. Now put an immeasurably grand and vast Ash tree into it and cup it with blue flames. At the bottom is hell, in the boughs heaven and from the limbs of the world, billions upon billions of worlds.
And around all this, outside trying to get in, are the Excrucians, a locust like swarm that wants to end it all, and for those that have made it in, are trying their best. Around and alongside our Earth is another world we can visit where the spirits still live and drive things. All phenomena here are driven by spirts and karma, and the greatest things here are owned by Imperators. We also run into the first reference of something other than mortals and Imperators: The Ogdoad. These are big time spirits, but not quite Imperators. A Noble could rough 'em up, but this will most likely get you blacklisted by them. Spirits are also hard to notice unless you explicitly look for them, then a specific one in the whole mass of them comes into focus. We get a name for the wall of fire around creation, The Weirding Wall (MUAD'DIB!) and that there are seven gates on it that would allow the Excrucians to pour through en masse should they fall and that the wall has a metric ton of smaller holes in it. The final bit of info that is dropped is that, to something from the World Tree, outside of Creation is vast emptiness, but to those from that void, it is full of sights and wonders, much as the world tree is.
Which makes me wonder: Did the Imperators kick off a war with the void and the Excrucians are just taking the offensive?
Anyways, that's from pages 25 to 66. I'm calling it a night.
Poet, who guidest me, look if there be worth in me sufficient, before thou trust me to this arduous layout
Good/EvilOriginal SA post
Today's objective is to blow through the last third of the fluff so we can get to chargen.
So here it comes! It's...
Nobilis The Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers review part the Third
I should probably had put this one in with the last post, but eh. This section just really gives us examples of what chancels are. We have an obligatory Arthurian based one complete with all the components of that trope, one that is home to TV shows and is mutagenic, an Olympus where you get to by getting kidnapped by cloud dragons, a flying manta ray that poos the gemstones of the world and a house that is in every city of every world and can be used to travel. Most of the pages are just illustration with a paragraph at most and the chapter is ended by a short blurb saying that an Imperator/Celestial Family has its own Chancel.
This is where everything really starts to shine. Most Imperators have an upside, such as the Angels and Light Magisters making you a true 'Good Guy', while at the same time they bear a downside. I'm really keen on this concept.
About four pages or so on them, so this will be wordy. Angels are grace personified and not grace asked for, but just present. They show up even when we don't want them and make everything beautiful. The Excrucians also gun for them the most in the War because they go out of their way to make existence echo with the glories and beauty of Heaven even while the war goes on around them. As Imperators, they supercharge all that is good in you, turning you into resplendent beings of benevolence and righteousness. But at the same time, you can't be human. You can't stand by and let even the mildest of sins or misdeeds go unnoticed. You have to act, you have to make the world a better place. You cannot stop. The next cluster of paragraphs loses to layout and wording. The text uses flowers as a symbol of Angels and this clump of text goes oooooofff the rails with zero mentions of Angels and babble about how flowers can be used to cure things and make the world better. And then how if Angels were common knowledge, the price of knowing that would bring devastation to everything. Yikes. And it ends with it straight out telling us that working for the Angels is not something just anyone can do. You will be judge. You will most likely be found lacking. And you will have this held against you. The Angels also require that justice be present at all times, and not your definition of justice, but theirs.
Ms. Moran has managed to make the Devils both heart breaking and touching. After reading this section, I was almost certain the Imperator for the chargen section would be a Devil. So here's why.
You are never alone, not even in your lowest points. The Angels, the Magisters and what not may have abandoned you, even Cneph, the Creator, may have. But not Hell. The Devils will be there for you, even as Hell twists their being. Hell is not evil, not by a long shot, it is just impure. Corrupt. It is the fallen place we seek shelter when all hope is lost and all we want is to not exist. It is that last island of salvation when we have given up on any. I'm just going to quote the last page because, well, it is probably my favorite piece of writing throughout this whole book.
Ms. Moran posted:
The work of Hell is holy in this life.
I will say this even though I fear the Devils and even though I fear the flames. I will say this even though I idolize Heaven and its given grace; even though there are times I am angry, and more than angry, at what Hell has been and done.
But the first work of Hell is to honor and bear witness to the things that would otherwise be entirely unloved.
They will come and sit with you if you have to die alone. The Powers of Hell. The demons. The flames and rotten flowers, at least, if nothing else; maybe even a Devil. They won't do it to hurt you, even the Devils. They might hurt you, they might hurt you terribly, they might even steal your soul, because they're just that broken. But it won't be why they're here.
They'll be there because if they were not there, you would suffer and die, alone, and with no witnesses; and for someone to die in such a fashion is anathema to Hell.
They will come and visit you, now and then, if you live in the mountains, isolated, with no one else to know.
They will come to watch you, to listen to you, to know you, if you are thing so horrible and broken that no one else would dare.
They love the evil things, maybe, best of all, it's evil that needs Hell most. If you want to know how the Devils have gone so horribly wrong, it may be that; that , as much as the corruption and their own suffering; that they spend all their time in the company of the worst of us, and so they've come to exemplify that awfulness themselves. But to love the evil things is not their duty but its expression. The work of Hell is to love whatever needs them the most; whatever would, without Hell, be alone.
Hell's eyes are open to you.
They will not turn away.
The first time I read that, I felt my emotions knot in my chest. Transposing it into that quote brought me to tears. First time any piece of writing has done that. But let us take a moment to boil down that whole section into why the Devils were cast down.
The Angels kicked them out because they chose to love unconditionally. To love the things that the Angels felt were beneath them.
Fuck. I'm game to take a Devil as an Imperator.
Here is a quick rundown on the World Ash that expands it is vast and near infinite. Also, only about 250 worlds are known to the Powers and most of the Imperators and that the planets in our solar system are separate worlds on the world tree. This makes for an interesting plot hook as mankind steps outwards and begins sterilizing otherworlds of karma and spirits with their coming. The Imperator response to this would probably be nasty.
Light and Dark
Right off the bat, the Light is goodness and human exceptionality without regard to the individual. You are a cog in the exalting of humanity. The Dark is you. The dark, bestial urges, the want to be free to do what you want, even if it brings harm to others. That's okay. The Dark wants you to exalt yourself, to soar skywards on wings of your own devising. And then, when you've hit your peak, it is gleefully cackling as the wax melts and you plummet earthward to your demise. Then we get hit with the creation of the Light and the Dark. Brace yourself. It was the Garden of Eden. When Eve ate the fruit, she became the bearer of the Light. When Adam did, he spit the seeds out and became the bearer of the Dark and proceeded to name up a storm. Eve turned down immortality because she wasn't ready for it, and Adam was too wrapped up in his power to realize he could become immortal. It works for the setting, but it aesthetically doesn't sit with me. Meh. Moving on.
The section title gets a piece of rockin' art of a Vishnu/Shiva-esque Magister of the Wild brandishing blades and other items. These Magisters are self creating. And after they create themselves, they realize they don't make sense in context of the world. So this is how they are. They are creatures of law, but a law they enforce on all . They don't favor the just and righteous, or the ugly and sinful, or humanity. All are subject to them, and they are subject to themselves just as much, if not more. The Wild Magisters break reality, by the way. Think of them as walking manifestations of chaos, but not destructive. They break down all the rules and constructs and let things be their true, alien selves.
The Deep Mythic and Spirit World
This is, apparently, home to the True Gods. Gods of mold, amoeba and bacteria. Gods that arose when the Earth had cooled sufficiently and life had begun. The consuming, murderous gods of what early life was. Eventually the other gods arose from this morass with the advent of empathy, but the True Gods were left behind to continue fighting, devouring, being boundless in context of self and others. And then they started fucking, and the True Gods became the basement of existence, those fighting, feeding, fucking things that drive everything forever onward. The True Gods are the interconnected gods of forms and things, housed in cathedrals made of their own, or maybe another's, flesh, served by agents birthed from them or another divine line. They exist and that is enough. And beneath them, where chaos lives as a shadow of life, exists the battleground of the Imperators. Here, the Imperators are greater than any Excrucian, here they build their fortresses, ride worth and lay low their foes, this place serves as the bulwark against the threat from outside creation and limits the Excrucians that get through in power. It is the battlefront. It is the waiting victory.
And that's the fluff. Next time, we'll do chargen.
Through me is the way into the doleful city; through me the way into eternal pain; through me the way among the layout lost.
Edit: Grammar and such.
Avatar CreationOriginal SA post
Today we're going to hit chargen. I am going to break it up into two sections: Using the Keys and then Statting. For all the problems with layout, and art, this section easily makes up for it.
Nobilis The Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers review part 4
Before we make it to the keys, we have the standard 'What is an RPG?' chapter. And it seems to combine the typical chapter that would give you the brief overview of the game system. Fun. I'm just going to glaze over the stuff most players should know and will throw in interesting bits.
GMs get the fantastic name of Hollyhock God , which I don't know the origin of. We are told the basic thing for a GM and players to remember is, if you want to do something that is reasonable, then go right ahead and do it. No need to seek resolution. If it is something unreasonable, opposed or difficult, then go to resolution. The way miracles work is based on a scale of 0-9, with zero being able to do ordinary human things extremely well, and nine getting the example of treating mountain ranges as topiary.
Still not out of the section yet, but it switches to resolution for a moment. Your character has a rating in a stat. This represents the base level of miracles you can work for free, and this can get pretty potent (assuming it can be raised through experience, haven't made it that far yet). Additionally, each stat has a pool of Miracle Points that can be spent when you use the appropriate stat. They are spent in groups either 1, 2, 4, or 8. This raises your stat by the appropriate number of points spent, and if you spend eight at once, you take health damage as you flood your body with the power divine.
More jargon. Miraculous Edge is something that penalizes opposing miracles, Auctoritas can be thought of a blessing that protects a target from miracles and Strike can be used to reduce the effect of the prior two effects. Also, any act that is done with a miracle automatically beats anything mundane, even if that mundane effect was done by someone at max level for the skill/passion.
Discussion of Projects, which is done in more detail later, some actions that most players should be familiar with (PC actions and GM actions). Some interesting stuff, such as Reflexive Actions , which you or the GM can have you do whenever it is deemed appropriate (Instincts for those familiar with BW), Sustained Actions , which can be held indefinitely and reflect something such as driving or running while doing something else, Flurries , which is an exchange where the players can adjust their actions in response to other character's actions until everyone is happy or no one can counter what is going, and Interrupts , which a PC can call for when something goes down they feel they really can't let happen and play goes back to the start of said action and begins a flurry. So far, I like all of these options, especially Flurries.
Then we get to the rundown of points for character building and what they can be spent on. I'll go into more detail in the next post with this as we'll be in the appropriate section.
Get amped, because this is disturbingly fun. Right now, we're going to build our character's background. Or at least the skeleton of it. To do that, we're going to use Keys . What is a Key? Take your favorite protagonist, or even antagonist, from a story. Boil away all the concrete detail of their history, physical ability and quirks. When you have nothing left but the archetype they represent, then you have the Keys that make them, or one at the minimum.
Additionally, each Key has several features. It has a name, which is a flower and I have a feeling the flower is symbolic of what the key represents, a Roman numeral from I to XVI, a title of what it represents, a brief run down of what it actually represents, a Heart , which is the driving force the Key gives the character, and a Shadow , which is something about the character that challenges the Heart. These last two provide bullet points of the players devising on the Avatar Creation sheet, which I made one of to give an example and to use while building the char.
It may look confusing now, but it works extremely well for this.
So before we hit the Keys, a concept is needed for the character. So I sat around and picked my brain. It may have been because it was at that time where 'late at night/early in the morning' are interchangeable, or other factors, but I decided the character was going to come from a world that the Excrucians hit and were driven off of by Imperators before they completely destroyed it. Then, in order to save what little was left of the world and people in the aftermath, some Imperator converted the world into a giant machine and the individuals who live there were forced into bearing mechanical parts and fusing to the machine to drive it. So concept created.
From there, I read through the Keys and decided on two I felt would apply to the character. They were Lotus Flower (I) and Star of Bethlehem(VII) .
First off is Lotus. It is the Key of the Descending Angel . It's all about changing people around you to better suit your Estate, and I feel this is a great concept for a character from a planetary engine. In the Heart of our first box, we write 'My Power' at the top and a bullet point of our choosing. So I put 'Mechanic' to reflect that Nameless here works on making machines. We travel over to the first Shadow box and put 'My Nature' in it with the bullet points 'Glorious' and 'Set Apart', On the line between, we put the Roman numeral I to show what Key we used.
Star of Bethlehem is the Key of Something Changed Forever . I picked this because our character comes from a place that was a normal world at one point that was shattered and put back together into some alien thing. In the second Heart box, we write 'What It Made Me' and the bullet point about what we are when we think about the event. So I write in 'Driven' to reflect some form of dedication to the change and what he is. In the second Shadow box, we write 'How It Changed the World' and the bullet points 'I can't let go' and 'I'm committed'. Between these two boxes, we write the Roman numeral VII and beneath it we get to write the name of the event that caused all this. So I scrawl 'The Mechanization' and call it a day for that part.
The start of our Noble
Now we have a start. As we move on, we find the rest of the section is dedicated to helping us build the character through explaining the different facets of our background and giving us a table with each part. These tables give us a few choices, and each choice is linked to one or more Key. If one of the Keys used in chargen is under an entry, we get to put another bullet point in the appropriate Heart. If both Keys are there, we make a box linked to both of them and put a shared point in there. If not, we have to put a bullet point to a shadow of our choosing.
We start with More than Anything Else, You Are... which helps us define what the character is. I choose Something Cool . This makes us more or less human, with all the flaws and strengths found therein, and also tells us that we have a few powers or beliefs that set us apart. It is also linked to the Lotus Key, so I look at my Heart for it and think. We have 'Mechanic' under here to reflect that Nameless works with machines/systems, and to build on this idea, I stick 'Curator' under it. Not only does he work on the components of a machine, he makes sure everything is in its place.
Now we get to pick our Estate. This, if you remember, is the concept our Imperator stuck in us, the thing we represent and have a link to. This is a no brainer. I scribble 'Machines' down in the central box on our sheet and look to the table. We get asked Your Estate is From the... and some options that reflect whether it is from human experience or worldy, and either a good thing or bad. So I look back at the world our character comes from and what I have so far and decide this is from The Dark Side of Human Experience . Nameless' Estate is one of the Machine as a negative aspect of humanity. No Keys here, so I write 'Everything has a place' under My Nature to reflect that where Nameless comes from, everyone has a specific function and that is it. We also get asked Your Estate Is... and options that range from a physical function to an abstract state. Again, reflecting on what is written down and the Estate I have chosen, I choose Something You Live . The Estate of Machines we have is the concept of mechanization gradually replacing the organic and the world with thundering pistons, whining servos and power laced conduits. Again, no Keys, so I slap 'We are all cogs' to reflect that everything in the world to him is replaceable and only there to drive the machine/system.
Starting to get a little grimdark over here...
Next is about our origin. We get four choices, and since I read this entire section before I made the char, I choose Extraordinary Life in regards to the question You Lived A... . This nets us three options for Contacts instead of two, as I felt there were several pertinent to the character concept. This choice represents our character being born into a destiny that was grand and truly important. It also has the Star of Bethlehem Key beneath it, so I go over to its Heart. I think and come upon a great idea. 'Born to drive the machine' is what I write down and decide that this character was from a caste of 'Processors', these are individuals who plug into the machine and make sure it does its arcane function, as well as tend to the parts that are broken, mortal or otherwise. We can also go to the charts linked to the other three choices from this initial table and pick from there for shits and giggles. Browsing them, I decide I want Alienation... from Humble Life . I want it to reflect that Nameless hates being merged to a machine, the gray iron protruding from his back, the gears and pistons that move inside him. He hates it and he begrudges the rest of mortal kind for not having to suffer his affliction. This tacks 'Machine Master' on under My Nature, as Alienation lacks a Key I possess.
We get mollywhopped by layout here. Back by the first table we looked at for this section, there are two side bars dealing with whether your character was human or something alien and the Keys linked to each. We now get the side bar from something near human, which is to say Star Trek alien level of near human. This fits Nameless here perfectly. Looking at the Keys, we get a surprise: both of Nameless' are there. So we draw a box between both Hearts, link it with line and write a bullet point in there that relates to both. So thinking about what I have for both Hearts, I choose 'The key component'. Nameless makes things work, plain and simple, and he accepts this happily.
There is little joy in this character's life...
Next is Contacts. They represent groups or individuals in our life. Most characters get two, we get three. If we want, we can make them separate, distinct entities, but I don't want to. From the list, I pick Ghosts , Manufactured Army , and Disciples . It was a toss up between Disciples and Aliens, but I went with the first. Of these three, Ghost fits the Key of Bethlehem. So, under its Heart, I write 'The world lives in me'. As a Processor, he carries inside him the memories, knowledge and art of his world prior to the fall, and these memories help keep him going. The other two do not relate to any of the Keys the character has. So for Manufactured Army, I stick 'Servitors extend my reach' under My Nature to reflect that Nameless just doesn't build systems out of people or things around him, but can make flesh into mechanical servitors. For Disciples, I write 'The cogs look to me'. I write this to reflect that he has individuals from his home that follow him, and while they can be useful in some instances, for the most part he has to take care of them.
And we're coming up on the end. The last table shows us the Keys affiliated with which group of Imperators. I really wanted to go with a Devil as Nameless' Imperator, but it doesn't mesh with the concept of his Estate. So I went to An Independent Song and the idea that Nameless here is the agent of a True God, one that has a facet that represents living machinery. And we finally pick two of our boxes to represent unanswered questions about our character and draw an arrow from the Estate to them. So I stick 'Will the affliction spread?' beneath My Nature and 'Can I make the machine autonomous?' beneath What It Made Me. I write the first to represent Nameless wrestling with the fact that he makes flesh into machines, thereby destroying individuals and making servants and the second to show that he wants to free his people from having to be cogs. I also strike on a name for him, Processor 05337 'Null-disius'. Yeah, it's pretentious, but I can do what I want.
Yeah, I just realized now I had the page setup wrong the whole time.
And I am subjecting you to terrible character art. Eat it.
And since I want to make a Celestial Family, I will accept two suggestions for characters. Give me a concept, some ideas based off what I've said above and an Estate you want a True God to have. And I'll try and make them.
Example CharacterOriginal SA post
Alright, I've dicked around enough in this thread. Let's continue chargen.
A review of Nobilis Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers part the something
Here is where we will put numbers to the characters and see what they mean. Before we do that, though, I am going to discuss the resolution system of Nobilis.
Nobilis uses a diceless resolution, and this is the second one I've seen. The first was Amber, and it was in this thread. Of the two, I feel that Nobilis' system is the better one, and here is why. The GM sets a difficulty, the player looks for the relevant trait on their sheet and if it is equal or better to it, they pass immediately. If it is below the difficulty, they have the option to spend one, two, four or eight points from the related pool to raise their trait. Raising by eight points at one go results in the player taking damage. If you have bonuses you can apply to an action, you can only use the highest one, stacking them isn't allowed. This is the core of resolution and it clearly delineates who is successful and who isn't.
So onwards to statting our main character. The first section is Mortals . Mortals get Passions and Skills . A Passion is an idea that your character embodies on a human level, such as 'I help the poor', 'I volunteer for the community', or 'I love to dance'. These are things your character does that they enjoy and makes their life better. Skills are things the character has learned how to do through practice and entail a package of abilities learned. They are such things as 'Writer', 'Famous hot shot daredevil' or 'Private Investigator'. Even though the game revolves around demigod characters, they all get a set of Passions and Skills, which are paid for on a one-for-one basis from a pool. They may also not have more than five in a starting skill, but you may have Passions or Skills at zero. Zero traits can represent things your character finds important or wants to do, but really has no aptitude for at the moment. So signposts for character development.
Here we get our first difficulty table, and I am not going to reproduce the whole thing. Buy the game, see what it is, enjoy the rest of the book. But I will toss you a bone. Zero difficulty (or a zero Passion/Skill) reflects that when a character attempts it, they botch it somehow and everything goes skittering out of control. A five represents your character being able to do something that improves their life and nine or above means you do the right thing, even if the definition is vague or abstract.
Everyone gets 8 Will points, and as previously stated, can spend them in batches of 1, 2, 4, and 8. When you spend 4 or 8 points, it is suggested the GM gives you damages against your Tough health levels, which aren't explained until around page 320.
We're at 153.
Fuck you, layout.
Anyhow, whenever we spend Will on a task, we create an Intention . Intention combines the Passion/Skill you decided to use with your Will expenditure and lets you write a short blurb of text describing what you are doing. So, if we faced a challenge that we chose 'Passion: I look after the community.' with a Will expenditure, we could write a phrase such as 'Patrolling the streets', 'Chasing off the vandals' or 'Volunteer at the market' and use the combined level of the Passion and Will to meet the difficulty. Mortals can also do two actions at once, either a sustained Intention or use of a Passion or Skill. You gain Will back when you resolve an Intention, fall asleep for a set length of time, suffer a huge shock to your psyche or finish the session. Nobles, though, can just do something miraculous and do better than any human could ever hope for without tiring. There's specifics, but buy the book to see them.
There are two things that can further modify a roll: Cool and Shine . Cool is a difficulty penalty for anything acting against the person/object with Cool and Shine is a bonus to anyone acting with said Shine. Further elaboration of how the Skill/Passion/Intent with the higher rating wins and the loser has to adjust their character to be on the losing end of the situation. Obstacles are anything, either physical or behavioral, that inflicts a penalty to actions. Magic, itself, is a Skill, but a strange one. It doesn't get used like normal skills because it isn't normal, but it can be used to allow your mortal character to do things one couldn't do, such as dodging bullets, using flowers for wondrous effect or creating illusions. This typically taps a mortal's will rather quickly, so they tend to develop Bonds, which will be covered shortly. Mention of tools and associates, stating that most will give you a +1 or +2, and +5 is the max anything could give you, but it would be post-scarcity technology or something divine. Edge is used to lower the effective rating of whatever your opponent is doing. One can also take [i]Superior Quality or Skills[/b] to reflect your character having access to a Skill or Passion that exceeds human norms. And that's it for mortals.
So, when I started statting out Odysseus, I had not read the part about Cool or Shine, so I put all my points into Passions and Skills. Looking at the bullet points from the Keys, I started to think. My first Passion is 'I Protect Life (2)' to reflect his role in his society. Continuing on, I write down 'I see the inner workings (3)' since he is supposed to keep his homeworld running and 'I culture living things (0)'. The last one is meant to be interesting and a story hook, as the idea I have is that he has tried to raise plants and other various things but has failed miserably every time and it is something he wants to do immensely. I feel this is enough Passions and jot down some skills. 'Mechanics (2)', 'Leadership (2)' and 'Speech (0)' to again reflect his role back home and also to show that he is terribly bad at communicating.
And now onto the demigod part as we enter The Laws of Your Nature . As a god, your old dharma is a non-point. You still carry it with you, but you're free of it as you've been drafted to do more important things. As a Noble, you are subject to Bonds , Afflictions and Properties . Bonds and Afflictions are bought from a shared point pool and cap out at 5 during chargen. Bonds are player decided things, much like Beliefs in BW, but they can have a supernatural effect. They can be things such as 'I can't eat meat', 'I can be where I am needed' or 'I must greet the sun'. When you use a Bond to perform a mundane action, its value counts as the intention level. If you are in a conflict and invoke a Bond, you gain Strike equal to your bond. This is used to counter any Auctoritas that may be on the action (divine difficulty penalty). Additionally, if your Bond is used to create more drama in a story or get you into trouble, it gives you a Miracle Point bonus dependent on how the GM feels. When you break Bonds, you take damage. While a five point Bond may let you do some spectacular things, if you break it and you or the GM feel that it matters that it has been broken, you're in for a world of hurt. Going to glaze over the point that gives you tips on how to use Bonds to complicate the story and head straight for Afflictions.
Afflictions are decided upon by the player, but the GM decides when exactly they apply. Afflictions are neat because they can do rather spectacular things since the GM applies them. Options of 'I appear whenever someone chants my name', 'I can't be burnt' or 'Shadows lead me to new places' are all possible. Afflictions are reflexive actions and produce an Auctoritas when you are targeted by a miracle. So, if an Excrucian bushwhacks the Noble with the 'Shadows' Affliction above, not only would the attack face an Auctoritas, but the Noble may suddenly disappear through their shadow or a nearby one and end up somewhere else. Afflictions can also be broken, but it only happens when the Affliction runs into an instance where it can't work, at which point the Noble takes damage and gets to rewrite the Affliction. The section ends with about four pages of example Bonds and Afflictions.
So back to our main character. For Bonds, I decide on 'I must preserve life (3)', 'I use the servitors for war (3)' and 'Learn from my disciples (3)' using some of my Bond/Affliction points and some I get from Treasure later on. These tie back into our bullet points on the key sheet and the first one is a primary bond designed to show what drives the character while the second and third will help when bringing those two NPC groups into play off of our character sheet. For Afflictions, 'Flesh becomes components (3)', 'I spread the machine (2)' and 'I break promises (2)'. The first two reflect that Odysseus carries what happened to his world with him and causes it to infect new worlds he visits, and the last puts me into trouble with NPC and other characters if I have made a promise in game.
Next is Properties. Ms. Moran comes and states plain as day that these are important because they define the meaning of your Estate. Aside from defining what you have power over, Properties can also be used when you use an Aspect miracle to take on a trait, to gain MP back or for opponents to attack and destroy your Estate via using the Properties against you or perverting them. The section is significantly smaller than the prior ones. Oh, and Properties are built from a point pool, cap out at five and there is no explanation as to what the numbers actually represent.
So, time to take the Estate of Machines from nebulous to defined. Off the bat, I jot down 'Machines replace flesh (2)', harkening back to the decision that the Estate was something from the human dark side of experience and something lived. Thinking ahead to what would be useful as an Aspect, 'Machines do work (1)' and 'Machines thunder and grind (1)' go down. To round out the Estate, I put the last points in 'Machines can't be stopped (2)' and 'Machines never cease (1)'.
Onward from here we hit the main stats of the Nobles: Aspect , Domain , Persona and Treasure . These, as before, are capped at five, draw from the same point pool and also have the added caveat that any Gifts bought come from the same pool. They also operate on a scale of zero to nine and I'm going to glaze over the details of the levels in hopes that you're curiosity will get you to buy the book.
Seriously, buy it. It's worth it.
First is Aspect. This is how miraculous your character is without taking into account there estate. The earliest levels get you an inherent bonus to any Passion or Skill used, and higher levels completely do away with the need for Passions/Skills and modify the duration of the effect/how spectacular it is. You also get a level of Cool equal to your aspect.
Domain is what your Estate means and how it affects the world around you. Low levels just tie you into it so you know when it is endangered or pulling off little tricks with it while high level miracles let you completely overrule reality and change things related to your Estate on a grand level.
Persona is how your Estate affects you and living things around you. Through it, you can see the link between things to your Estate, bestow properties of your Estate on yourself or others or remove it from things. You also gain an amount of Shine equal to your Persona.
Treasure reflects on the things you possess, called Anchors . Anchors are things tied intrinsically to you that you can use and even incarnate through with a high enough miracle. Basic Treasure miracles just reflect mundane things, while the next step up gets them Edge, frees them from the rules of Intent (much like a Noble) and a bonus as a Tool. High end Anchors become Miraculous and can match the power of Nobles and such. So if you want a magic sword that can bridge distances in its reflection, invest heavily here. Also, each level of Treasure nets you a Bond/Affliction point to spend on Bonds/Afflictions related to your Anchors.
Each attribute has 5 Miracle Points that can be spent in the usual fashion. These pools can be raised temporarily through the use of Bonds, Afflictions and Properties and at chargen, they can be increase by one acrossed all pools at the cost of one character point.
So, the time for decisions on Odysseus' attributes is now here. I feel that the character isn't too far above human, but his condition of being half machine and a demigod elevates him a bit, so I buy a point of Aspect. He also doesn't click well with his Estate as it relates to the world, so I again buy one point for Domain. Buying 2 in Persona feels right for the character as he is all about how people function as a unit. Lastly, Treasure gets 3 because of his use of Servitors, so having access to Wonderous Anchors without MP expenditure seems appropriate.
Gifts are intrinsic miracles. They let your Noble do something at a higher level with more frequency than what they can do with their attributes and point expenditure. There are, indeed, example ones and there are rules for making your own by taking the base level of the miracle the gift uses and decreasing or increasing the price based on set criteria that it meets. In all, it works pretty well.
For our character, I work out Servitor Conversion and Machine Talk, tapping out all of my remaining character points to get them. Servitor Conversion is a high end (level seven) Persona miracle of Greater Enchanting, letting Odysseus enforce the Estate of Machines on living things in a manner that overrides a greater portion of their dharma. I imagine that he turns things into Servitors, but when not being employed by him, they do broken pantomimes of acts from their prior lives. The second is a lesser Domain miracle and I chose it to reflect that he doesn't use machines like a normal person, they just act for him when he touches them.
Once all of that is done, you jot down two Normal, One Tough and Two Divine Health levels. And we're done!
I do have the other two characters all statted up and what not, so they'll be in a forth coming post. We also replaced our old all-in-one printer with a new model that has a flatbed scanner, so I think next post will be full of art. I'll try and get a spread from the sections passed so far.
ArtOriginal SA post
AH HA! I figured that image might confuse everyone. And now, it's time for...
Art you glad I followed through?
A review of Nobilis Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers 's art
So I've made mention of the art in this book, as have many other posters. And I have decided to do a special entry on the art alone. If you're expecting a parade of mind boggling images and low quality terrors, you will be let down. This entry will have both good art, and I mean really good art, and bad art, which isn't bad as far as art goes, but does not mesh well with the other art in the book. Selection for the images was based on me flipping through the book and marking pages that caught my interest with a card before scanning.
This is reality.
This bad boy greets you a couple pages in once you open the book. This is the Nobilis' cosmology rendered as a photo. It's a not-too-terrible photo collage. It's got the cup of flames, the tree, the worlds, Aaron's Serpents, and all that fun stuff. Those gears, I presume, belong to something mentioned later in the book, which we'll get to.
The next series of photos are going to be the Council of Four that is in charge of human reality.
This is Ananda. I think. It's from the section on his chancel waaaay later in the book then the section on Ananda himself. But I assume it is him because it matches an image from the first section on him. He is a pretty embodiment of the Infinite, Murder and Bishies. The cart is an inhabitant of his chancel, where everything is alive. They plague giant alligator supermarkets.
Remember Lord Entropy? He's that guy that is Evil. Evil evil, not that 'Evil that is necessary' sort. You'd think he's a bad ass from the way the book hypes him up, and if you saw just...
this image, you'd believe it. But not three pages later we get...
Lord Entropy, Bubblegum Bandito
Yeah. And this is kind of the problem I have with the book's art. It goes from high quality stuff to... Well, it's certainly not bad, but when compared to the 'I'm so fukkin' bad ass, Akuma stole this pose from me' back shot, it just doesn't fit. There's even an image between the first one and the bishie brigand that, while it does make Lord E look a bit pretty, it still kind of carries the mood of the first image. And then we run right into that card.
By the way, I do like the card idea for little asides to toss at readers. Instead of having a huge series of chapters on plot hooks and characters, they're sprinkled throughout.
So that's two of the four down. Next is Surolam.
And it's hodge-podge of images tossed together to form this. This style of 'fill a page with (vaguely) related art' pops up every so often. Some times the styles are different enough that it clashes. While this doesn't match some of the better pieces of art in the book, I don't mind it.
I told you that Ha-Qadosch Berakha was a page spanning image and nothing else, and here it is. That's everything the book has to say on him. I can't tell if that is a cane or a sword, but the jacket is definitely Chinese. Which is odd, because the name sounds Semitic. And after a quick google, it is! An angel from the Key of Solomon! Beware my righteous hair stripe!
Next up are chancel images!
This is one of two images from Surolam's chancel. It's not a bad image and it is mainly in here to showcase the wildly divergent styles used through out the book.
But that's not uncommon in RPGs, you say. Yes, you're correct, but even then, the level of art quality tends to be roughly on terms with one another. Usually. Here in runs the gamut from professional pieces down to really good amateur pieces and they often can turn up on opposite pages from one another. This phenomenon itself is jarring, for me at least.
BURN LIKE MY POWER, SINESTRO'S MIGHT!
While I don't find most of the images I've posted too terribly bad, this one I can't stand. This is one of the shit quality images in the book and there is another one of similar quality on the page facing it. I feel a bit bad about making that statement because someone was probably really amped they managed to get one of their drawings published in a game they liked and it probably brought congratulations from friends and family. But this image is fucking terrible. It is also one of Lord Entropy's Nobles and from the section on his chancel.
This is another chancel you can go play in. It, in and of itself, isn't a bad picture. But it isn't of a quality that feels appropriate for a professional publication. Honestly, I like it, and maybe if all the other art in the book was done in a similar fashion, it would work wonderfully. But there are pieces that completely blow the back of your skull out with how awesome they are and this image shares the same book with those ones. It clashes.
The next string of images I pulled from the image soup that is the section on the border mythic. I believe. It literally looks like the image placing machine had its 'image putter' lever knocked into 'ZOMGDRIVE' and images of various quality where place everywhere, multiple ones per page.
I wanted to make a joke involving the word 'clash' and Queen's Flash Gordon theme, but I couldn't make it work. : C
I included this whole bad boy for the simple reason that it sums up the art layout in the entire book. You have a flat colored piece with an interesting subject idea next to a super detailed image of bishie FAST AND THE DISNEY MO-Oh god I just noticed his arms...
Uh, where was I?
Then it finishes up with a high quality image of spilled milk.
Yeah, imagine this kind of setup, everywhere. Only sometimes limited to facing pages.
And then some muthafukkin' sweet art. These are two of the Ogdoad, who are big bad spirits that aren't quite Imperators but still p. frikkin' badass. The left one is Grandfather Influenza, the right one is Lady Midsummer (I think.). And like I said, the image quality bounces back and forth, with the ones like this completely throwing off everything when compared to many of the other images.
This is included because I like it. Screw you. I think it is a pretty good piece, I like the whole thing. And, again, if all the other art had this kind of mood/look, you could completely make it work. Also, I think this may be an image of the author. Quite possibly not, but it is very similar to all the lil' animu images of the author that pop up with side notes throughout.
BOOM! First page of the Angel section. All the other art in the section is of this caliber, although most of it features more flowers, less angels. But again, this is a great piece of art. And it's one of the guilty parties responsible for making the not-so-great art hurt.
SUPER KAWAII DEVIRU-SAMA!
Uh... I like the section but this... Fuck...
I WILL MANDATE ALL THE COOKIES!
This is someone who works for the Magisters. Which Magisters? Fuck if I know, they're both a group of assholes. The entire section is more or less done in this style. It's not bad and it would work if the entire book had similar art, but I point you to some of the art posted around it.
I'm not a funny person, so I'm running out of snarky thinks to say. So I'll just let this image say it for me.
BOOM! Does this image not rock the taste right out of your mouth? It better be. No? You're lying. There's actually a little bit more to it, but the scan was iffy and I cropped off the bad areas.
Womp, womp, there goes the wind from six limbed, Hindu Imperator's sails. It's not a bad image, but if you compare this with the previous one, it's lacking.
The rest of these are cards from the section explaining the attributes.
This was included to contrast the art styles. Again. I can't tell if a base image was traced over to produce it with details added in, or what. But it's flat. Sooooooooo flat.
Some more the staple anime style imagery. Again, this isn't bad, it just doesn't fit in with the other work at times . If it was all done like this or similar, I would probably have almost zero to no complaints about the book's art.
The image is 'eeeeh' in the face, but I mostly scanned it because of the card text. I like the cards idea, and stuff like this is why.
Same with this card. BishieBishieBishie, but the card text is amazing. I like how this Noble is completely callous when it comes to human life, so long as it leads to an Excrucian being taken down.
And that, dear readers, is the last of the art I scanned. Look at it, ignore my posts, and make your own decisions.
Something Something Nobilis Something Something Familia CaelestisOriginal SA post
Don't expect much, it's just some character stuff.
Something Something Nobilis Something Something Familia Caelestis
So the first character was just an attempt to make a broken, horrifying character with godlike powers. Characters two and three were designed to reflect a person who wasn't cut out for being a Noble but adapted and another who is someone that is more or less unaffected by the whole deal.
First up is Bootstrap Beefstud's suggestion. Looking up the fancy words they used, the Noble they suggested represents opposition for the sake of reinforcing the prevailing belief. A devil's advocate. For this, I chose the keys Vervain and Oak, representing something powerful and someone who is solid in the face of adversity.
Avatar creation sheet
Working through the boxes from left to right, top to bottom we have:
The Heart of the Vervain key is My Identity, reflecting who the character is. They're obviously an Opponent , someone who challenges a view. The components Make 'em See the Problems... and ...Make 'em Deal With It represent a character who drags the problems it finds out of the dark and throws them in the face of who they're challenging to make them deal with it.
The Shadow of Vervain is Burdens. Bound by Duty reflects that the Noble can't stop and must always do what they have to, even if they don't want to. Set Apart is there to show that they stand out no matter where they go, most likely becoming the head figure of whatever ideology they spearhead. During working out the keys, I decided this character needs a rival Noble, so we have Opposed by Magda . Who she is and what she represents is undefined at this point, only that she is arrayed against our Noble. Their relationship is also undefined, so it may be a hate filled one, a friendly rivalry or business.
The Heart of Oak is My Identity. Given both Hearts share the same header, that means they automatically get a shared box between them. Since it is a Heart, I tack in Prove 'em Right . When the Noble drives home that the point they are opposing is valid and right, they're doing their job. Agent Provocateur is there to carry the theme of this character as opposition. Cherish the Family represents this character has a loving relationship with its family and most likely views families as right and proper things. Activist is why they do what they do. They oppose to make everything better. Joel's a Good Kid is someone that has followed the character from their prior life to this one, so we have a NPC that looks up to this character and tries to emulate them. Finally, Make the World a Better Place is pretty self explanatory.
The Shadow of Oak is My Crisis. It only has the bullet point of Push to Hard , meaning the character has a penchant for taking their activities way too far.
To finish it out, we add the projects in. Under the Shadow of Vervain, I scrawl 'What are Magda and I?', reflecting a want to explore what that NPC and this character's relationship really is. Under the Heart of Oak is 'Do I really have to do this?'. There are doubts in this character's mind about their activities and if they really need to do them.
Stats. Decipher, suckers.
Passion: Causing a scene 2 Passion: Championing a cause 1 Passion: History 1 Skill: Stealth 2 Skill: Writing 0 Skill: Athletics 1 Cool: 1 Shine: 4 Bond: Oppose the status quo 2 Bond: Watch out for my family 3 Bond: Keep Joel on the straight and narrow 1 Affliction: I can't be idle 2 Affliction: I must be seen 2 Affliction: Leave no good cause unchallenged 3 Estate: Opposition Opposition strengthens the status quo 2 Opposition is never completely gone 1 Opposition breaks weak ideas 2 Opposition gathers followers 2 Aspect: 1 Estate: 2 Persona: 4 Treasure: 0 Gifts: Unblemished Guise Shapeshifter The Sovereign's Gift Health: 2 Divine 1 Tough 2 Normal
The third char will follow shortly.
Something Something Nobilis Something Something Familia Caelestis part deuxOriginal SA post
Over the Edge posted:
I always wondered what Over the Edge was about, but Jesus. For a second, I thought I was reading a Robert E. Howard RPG. Shiiiiiit.
I really want to move on from this, so here's the last character.
Something Something Nobilis Something Something Familia Caelestis part deux
CountChocula suggested a Power of Rockstardom, so here goes.
Avatar creation sheet
The two Keys I choose for this character where VI Wild Oats and XIII Mimulus . They represent Destiny Denied and Something Restless, respectively.
The Heart of Wild Oats is Hunger , representing who you are and what you do that keeps you from living up to your destiny. For the free bullet point we get for picking it, I put Hedonist . Our Rockstar lives for pleasure, plain and simple. Beneath it are My Life is Stimuli , See the Beauty of it All and Everyday is Something New . All are there to build on the base Hedonist aspect of this character's heart and give them positive reasons for fulfilling the heart.
The Shadow of Wild Oats is Why It Feels Empty . This represents what in the character's life makes living as they do a wearying experience. The first bullet point is The Simple Joys. I figured that a Power of Rockstardom would be so jaded to physical stimuli and means of feeling pleasure that they would lose sight of little things that make people happy. Pictures of Broken Lives follows and represents the memories and mental scars left behind by all of the people our Rockstar drove passed their limits and caused to breakdown, mess up and become tragedies. Ending it is Dead Inside . The Rockstar seeks pleasure through extreme stimuli because they won't feel other wise. I just realized this Shadow is kind of heartbreaking.
The Heart of Mimulus is My Path . It represents what the character is doing when they are wandering the world. Pretty simple here: Rock-Star . Everything need for moving around constantly is right there. The entry Shredding Since Birth represents that the character was always going to be a Rockstar, Imperial favor or not.
The Shadow of Mimulus is Why It Feels Empty and it is just now that I realized there should be a box between both Shadows that is connected to them. Oh well. This key comes with Self Doubt and The Things I've Left Behind . Keep the Crew on the Road reflects that our character feels bad for preventing the crew working on the tour from being with their family and getting time off. Elevate the Gypsies is a fun one. One of the options for characters/organizations in the life of the Noble is a Mystery Cult, and that's what this represents. Our Rockstar is being trailed by a group of individuals who have gained miraculous abilities through meditating, using and believing in what our Rockstar does. This doesn't sit well with the Rockstar since they are now an object to be used by them.
Passion: Rockstar 4 Skill: Guitar 2 Skill: Sing 2 Cool: 2 Shine: 1 Bond: The show must go on 2 Bond: Watch out for the crew 3 Bond: I will not stop rocking 1 Bond: Keep the music in my heart 2 Affliction: Push the limits 2 Affliction: Show the way past the veil 2 Affliction: I am an addict 3 Estate: Rockstardom Rockstardom is sensory stimulus 2 Rockstardom is ceaseless adoration 2 Rockstardom is heavily emotional 2 Rockstardom is about the music 1 Aspect: 2 Estate: 2 Persona: 1 Treasure: 1 Secondary Domain: Drugs 2 Gifts: Bardic Music Health: 2 Divine 1 Tough 2 Normal
So that's all the characters. Next post will pick up where I left off.
EDIT: Oh, and Yes. There will be more art.
ArtOriginal SA post
In this update, we learn s'more about Chancels, Imperators and the organization of Nobles. Might even make it to the Excrucians!
A review of Nobilis Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers part bacon.
I swear to christ that this is Loony Tunes Quail fan art...
So my biggest hurdle was making those damned characters, now that that is out of the way, let's press onwards.
Every Chancel that exists originated on Earth before an Imperator ripped it out. They range in size from a single building to the size of a subcontinent, with the average being city sized. In order to make a Chancel, an Imperator must undergo a ritual that lasts a hundred days and either requires a sacrifice of vitality on part of the Imperator, the draining of Actuals or a human sacrifice per day. So think about what your sanctuary costs. Every Chancel has a theme. This can literally be aaaaannnything, even unrelated to your Imperator or the Noble's Estate. It can even be a mish-mash of different themes in one Chancel. Each Chancel gets 3-7 Properties . These are bullet points that define how things behave inside the Chancel. Such things as 'Time flows backwards', 'Solid is gas, gas is liquid and liquid is solid' or 'Machines are the new flesh.' Entrances and exits into the Chancel are also completely up into the air for players to decide. They can be few or many, in a small area or world wide, and be pretty much anything you want, although a large number can lead to limited security for the Chancel. Chancels also grants a 3MP discount for any miracle worked in its boundary, Noble or Imperial. They also get an Auctoritas of 1-5 for free to use against miracles going in or coming out.
I can't help but seeing the person in this as a turnip puppet...
Chancels get some interesting things, too. Banes are realities final 'Fuck you' for ripping a chunk out of it to form the Chancel. They're creatures and entities that stalk the Chancel in question and seek to do harm to anything inside it. You can never be rid of them because they are tied to the Chancel, but they're not really a threat since they only get Skills and Passions, and your average Noble can best them simply with an Aspect of 1. But still, I like it. Also a great hook for a Noble: former Bane set loose upon the world. Erus are Chancel stewards. They only have power inside the Chancel and that's it. They also tend to be dicks to Nobles. And that's it for Chancels.
Imperator creation is a group activity, even including the GM. First you choose what type you want, then everyone discusses what they want from the Imperator and the GM pulls a phrase or so from everyone, even themselves. And then we get some behavior and bullet points for each Imperator type.
Angels can show up at any time and they like to do it when you're on the cusp of failing to live up to what the Angel's want. Devils can always be found when you look for them, no matter where you are. They also tend to be quiet since they start to be hurtful and destructive when they engage themselves in a conversation with a Noble, even though they don't mean or want to. So they just stay silent. Mostly. Magisters of Light are just out of touch with individuals and focus on the long term goal. They also will grant you audiences when you need it and they set up meetings with you whenever the hell they feel like it. Magisters of the Dark are the opposite. They're focused on the individual, but all of them. They push you to push yourself and will help you if you're seriously in trouble. But they're distracted by everyone living around them. Magisters of the Wild are like puppies. Giant, world shattering puppies that will be all over you begging for your attention. This is because they're learning about themselves through the Noble, and if you're not around them, they can't learn a thing. True Gods are embedded in their Nobles, at least a part of them, and they really don't talk but send you gut feelings and such. They can also do anything a human can, better. They just don't want to. Aaron's Serpents are hedonists. They honestly give no fucks about the Excrucian War and simply want to enjoy themselves, which is what they teach their Nobles. Of course, if someone should actually threaten the World Ash from which they were born, all bets are on them laying down a thunderous asswhooping.
You laugh, but Giardia ain't no joke. Let alone a divine form of it.
Nobles with new Estates or an Imperator someone doesn't like can be changed to fit, but if someone is just picking up the Estate recently vacated by a death, there should be no change. And a small side bar on rules to ease dealing with Imperators. Sneezing apparently puts them completely off their game. I like to envision it throwing them into an infinite loop until you manage to get away.
Next is a section that gives us the goods on what Imperators really are. I'll use an analogy to describe the Noble/Imperator relationship. Imagine your average Noble is some jerk in the street throwing snowballs at people in the middle of summer. Their trait scores represents the size and type of snowball they have ready access to throw and MP represent the type of snowball they can get if they put some effort into finding one. Now an Imperator is fuck-off massive glacier sliding right down main street to which man, nature and artifice yields against. Imperators don't pop up and do quick and fast miracles, they change the fundamental structure of reality with what they are and everything eventually yields. Nobles can benefit form Imperators and the miracles by gaining a MP/Will discount for an action or Auctoritas to resist something that goes against. To continue the above analogy, if our Jerk Noble is standing on main street throwing snowballs, the MP discount is based on how easy it'd be to just grab snow from the glacier and throw it and the auctoritas is the fact you'd need something huge to stop that glacier's advance. For a Noble, resisting an Imperial Miracle obliterates your divine health levels and undoes them. And to wrap up the section, we get some info on how to stat Imperators and, honestly, most Nobles could take them in a fight. Neat.
Now is Orders of Nobles! We get a short blurb about the Mesenchronic Engine, which is the physical manifestation of the laws the Nobles abide by when dealing with each other. The Web of Khedeb Neret, which is used to keep things that are fading from creation intact.
The Order of Fallen Stars is an organization of Nobles who are on their last legs and fading from the world. Bound to the Web and sworn by the Engine, their sole purpose to find death battling the Excrucians and for this, they get access to the Loathsome Armory, a collection of weapons that should not be and should never be used.
The Green Snake Order go through a similar process as the Fallen Stars with their oaths, but instead of becoming disposable soldiers, they exist to heal. It's a tough job and most don't last long, but they seek out those Nobles who are falling and lost and bring them back.
The Gray Order of Functionaries make things you need. Not things you necessarily think or know you need, but things needed none-the-less. And they're usually oddities. But they give you an MP boon when you get them, so there's that.
Curators are Nobles who get hoodwinked by a decree from Surolam and become neutral arbitrators for Nobles. There's reference to some minor Orders that get a whole sentence or two and then there are Ravens . An Order powered by the knowledge of six great secrets, they sell information and acquire (by hook or by crook) the wealth of the Nobles and redistribute it. There are nine forms of currency and they're more or less based by abstract things you really can't control. Like dreams or receiving a tiny amount of pain.
This appeals to the inner printmaker in me...
To end it all, as a Noble you can either agree to play by the Accords of Babylon or do what you will. The Accords are pretty much a handbook of etiquette and social behavior amongst Nobles and a codified method of gaining prestige. If you agree, you won't go anywhere if you don't play along.
And that's it for now. Guess I didn't make it to the Excrucians, but we'll start with them next time.
Fake Edit: I have seen the ending of the World and it is full of bishies...
END PHASEOriginal SA post
This is it, the last entry for the review. We'll cover The Excrucians, Zhu, Actuals, some rites, explanation on miracles and rules that should have cropped up earlier in the text (FUCK YOU LAYOUT) and finally health levels.
Nobilis The Essentials Volume 1: Field Guide to the Powers END PHASE
The Excrucians are a force from outside Creation. They are living beings of negation that wear the bodies and faces of our dead. They are the Children of Haruamph and they ended the Second Age. They assaulted Heaven, broke through and were held in check at cost by the Angels. They broke time and would have pushed for more had Attaris Ebrot Appeka, the Imperatrix of the Third Age, not shown up and stalled them by being what the war is about : Pain. So now the fight stalls out, turning into a siege between Creation and Nothingness.
There are four classes of Excrucians: Deceivers , Warmains , Mimics and Strategists .
Deceivers hate the world and us. They hate it because they think it is a great, big fat lie to hide what we really are. They have no clue what that 'are' is, but they're sure it's there and they are in love with it. The idea, the people they think are hiding it, everything. And that love will get you to betray damn near anything. Deceivers can also pull a trick where they become someone else. They don't physically become someone else, but spiritually, and gain everything that person has: personality, passion, skills, memories. Everything. And it works from Mortals all the way up to Imperators. But if you call them by the name of the thing they are impersonating, you can lay a whammy on them. You get one (1) command that they have to follow or damage their essence. They can resist and it fades rapidly, but its there.
Goofy named example Deceivers: Scelto the Provenance, Coriander Hasp
Warmains are mother fuckers. They don't want to undo Creation. Doing that would mean Creation has value. Oh no, they're going to fight, slaughter and destroy their way through finding people worthy of being their opponents. And once they find them, they will unmake them as an act of love, as a way of saying 'You were worthy. You were everything you could be. You existed.' and then wear their dead form as a means of commemorating your existence. Mother. Fuckers.
Goofy named example Warmains: Orderic Neustry, Raginhart Tribunas
Mimics are a great way to fuck with your table. You see, they're Excrucians made from the remnants of Imperators that have fallen at the hands of the forces of Uncreation. They have and can do everything a normal Imperator can, but buried inside them like a bomb is a blasphemous truth that will be loosed into the world when they are destroyed. So you can have your table working for the Excrucians the entire time.
Strategists are Excrucians who have somehow taken a part of Creation into themselves and it is poisoning their minds and bodies. They slowly fade until they return to nothing and then they come back. You'd think this would make them push overs, but no, you're completely wrong. See, in becoming a diseased being, they gained The World-Breaker's Hand . The other Excrucians have to physically destroy shit, Strategists can wave their hand and obliterate anything. And I do mean anything: ideas, colors, people, places, emotions, events, Imperators. Anything.
Goofy named example Strategists: Malakai Mesmer.
Each group has a little blurb on the side about the points used to build them and common gifts. High end Excrucians can carry a five in every stat and several good powers, or just dump a seven into Aspect and take lower and mid-tier characters to school like it is nothing. So yeah, if you ever catch yourself playing a game of Nobilis and your GM dumps an Excrucian on you early into the story arc, take a wiffle ball bat to him. There's a good chance you're going to get mauled. But there are also things called Shards. These are effectively Nobilis spawned from the Excrucians. The invaders actually break off a piece of their life force and set it loose on the world, where it is both a separate entity and part of the Excrucian that spawned it. They are also more on the level of Nobles power wise, so they'd make a good face for the war.
Some details about the Excrucians. They look like the dead, and you'll probably recognize one of them. They ride pale horses and their eyes are pitch black and full of falling stars. When they kicked down the doors of Heaven, they came bearing a huge volume of weapons that are capable of destroying Imperators. There are Excrucians currently waging war on multiples worlds of the Ash, Heaven, Hell and the Ash itself as well as several embedded within Earth and others trying to sneak in. One of the Abhorrent Weapons is actually a torch from Creation that proved Creation was worth existing which the Imperators ditched into the void to keep the Excrucians from kicking off the war earlier in the First Age. And that wraps up Excrucians.
The Zhu get about two paragraphs. They are mortals studying on a mountain secluded from Noble, Imperator, Excrucian and damn near anything else. They study martial arts and seek personal enlightenment and they are apparently powered by something that existed before the Imperators. I literally read this section and went 'WULIN' in my head and really, really wanted to play a warrior-monk that has Excrucian busting kung fu. Because that's what these folks are.
So, Actuals. Go google some Geiger landscapes. Now imagine that as being alive, soulless and the foundation from which all of reality is based. Yeah. They were Creation before it had a soul, kind of like the chemical state that life came from but on the spiritual level. For the most part, you don't deal with Actuals because they're components to reality. But sometimes, something really bad happens when miracles are involved and one them ends up infecting reality. And they spread. And spread. And spread, moving from host to host in search of what they are, but in doing so they bring the host closer to being and Actual, and therefore, completely useless for its purpose. So the infection continues. And that's Actuals.
Now for rules clarifications! We already know you can sustain one action and do a second. Reflexive Actions don't count towards this limit and neither do some gifts. Aspect affects both mind and body, and at higher levels you break reality through motion and what knowledge you can learn from watching something. You can dump a miracle from another Trait into being sustained with Aspect if it relates to your body (i.e. animating telephone lines to be tentacles from your hands, wielding a wondrous weapon, etc.). Words about what Persona/Domain miracles actually represent. Words about Treasure, anchors and how miracles are acts of the soul flowing as an extension of will and want. And to end it, there are four things that Nobles cannot do with miracles: Make your life conflict free, no giving yourself a dharma that makes life easy and peaceful, no making miracles that a target can't or won't resist and undoing miracles of your level or higher. That last one runs the risk of drawing Actuals or Excrucians to you through the paradox is generates.
Words about miracles and what the GM can do. You can't flurry into a flurry and the GM needs to be able to end a flurry if it is dragging on, you can always counter a miracle, even if imprisoned, lost somewhere in Creation, etc and you can take the properties of a world you are on as a two point Bond for working miracles as long as it goes along with the property.
RULES! Alright, so every Noble can take on a Divine Mantle . You get it by expending MP (any) up to your Domain rating. For doing this, you get Miraculous Edge up to the amount you spend and it works like normal Edge except against Miracles. This is also a reflexive action (so you can fuel an Aspect miracle to hand out an ass-beating, throw a treasure miracle to summon up an army of gummy bears and bring up your Divine Mantle). It's also totes viewable by anyone looking at you.
Persona gets a similar ability called Auctoritas Magister . Works the same way, only it gives you an Auctoritas when someone is targeting you with a miracle. It is a standard action, so you can't bring it up while doing a bunch of other things. And to round out the chapter, you can just spend MP to gain Strike on an action to overcome someone's Auctoritas. This Strike stacks with Strike you get from Bonds. Which is good shit.
And now wounding. So, you have Normal, Tough and Divine Health Levels. These reflect Surface, Serious and Deadly Wounds. When you fill up a level of wounds, any wounds at that level go to the next one down. If they're all filled up, you don't take wounds. When you have a level below you filled up and you fill up the level above, you refresh the lower wounds. When all your wound levels are filled, you croak. Miracles drop either bonds (Surface) or afflictions (Serious/Deadly) and these go away when you refresh the wound level. If you lose your character, discuss with your GM if you can get them back and how. A table about miracle level and what the wound level reflects to different characters. How different types of affects can be resisted with the Elusive and Immutable gifts, a table on healing times and how channeling 8MP fucks you up. The Affliction you take from doing such an act is defined by you and reflects the miracle you attempted. If something is done to you you think is cool, you can take the health level or work something out with your GM to reflect the outcome. If someone is divining info about your character, you can take a wound to protect that info if: your char knows they're being investigated, they made the attempt to hide the info before hand, you are offered it by the GM or the information the person is trying to divine is something the player creates. And yeah, you can have your buddies nail you with miracles to fill up all your tough and normal health levels to make you pseudo-invincible, but this gives the GM the option to bump one of the bonds/afflictions you'd get from it to place one of their own on if you get damaged.
And Rites! All Nobles have access to the following rites. They can make people they feel strong emotions about into an Anchor if they put a bit of their physical self into them. They can use Auctoritas to link themselves to a symbol (flowers, tarot, etc.) and make people using divining on them get a face full of fuck-all in the shape of their chosen symbol. You can temporarily shuffle MP or trait points around at a cost and speak any language they need to and survive anywhere they are automatically. They can also track miracles back to their source and gain MP for dicking over another Power by using their bonds against them.
Projects are way you can change Creation/your Imperator. You start with the main story and draw circles leading off it. In order from highest yield (10) to lowest it is: Complicating the Destiny (making Lord Entropy repeal his law about no love for Nobles means many will fall for Excrucians), Failing, Victory, Trivial Victory/Failure. When one of these pops up, you fill in a circle with something related to what happened, write down a value and move on to the next part of your Destiny. Once you hit 15 Destiny, what you were working towards is loosed upon Creation and you get to start a new one.
You can also earn Destiny for personal events. When your character goes through a big change, you and the GM work together to figure out how it affects the character and you net 10 Destiny and some MP points. Struggle nets you five, Futile struggle less and just going 'Naw, not gonna deal with this' gets you two. And you can use 15-75 Destiny points to buy trait levels, gifts, etc and it is GM fiat for how much it costs. And that is it for Nobilis.
I'll wrap this up with a one of the little side texts I find really interesting.
Do we fight a war we started? posted:
Cneph did not come to Creation empty-handed. In the void where its world would be there struggled three forces.
N'mosnikttiel, the fire that swallows worlds, raged in the emptiness. Its faces chanted words of destruction. The creatures of the void trembled in its heat. Yet the Creator caught N'monskttiel in his net and shaped the angels from its flesh.
Azbogah, the radiance that destroys the unrighteous, shone with fell beauty. Its raiment was the jewel named Structure. Its sceptre was the staff called Strength. Yet the Creator caught Azbogah in his hand and planted the World Ash in its heart.
Narsinha, the lightning that dances on the surface of the abyss, fled the Creator; yet Cneph stood at the end of its every path. Narsinha's face was a mask of hatred. Its hands were twisted claws. It spat naked fury. Yet Cneph tamed its heart and wrapped it around Creation to form the Weirding Wall.
This is how the universe came to be.