Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nobilis: The Conclusion

Yesterday was the final session of our Nobilis game! First, some thoughts (and I want to make clear that my problems with this game aren't problems with +Travis as a GM; he's lovely).

So, anyone who's played it or read it knows that Nobilis is weird (and to be clear, we're talking Great White Book here). It's diceless, but there's still a system and it's actually pretty intricate. Not a single word in that book is wasted, and is so different in structure from most RPGs that it takes a bit to get your brain around.

With all of that said, I was expecting it to be a little more like some of the other narrative games I've played, where players take on a bit more of the heavy lifting as far as guiding the action. And that happened, but it did feel like when push came to shove, the characters, despite being gods, weren't as effective or impressive or awesome (in the literal sense) as I was expecting.

Now, that may have been a function of what we were gods of. It's not like we had storms, war, love, and alcohol going on, here. We were the Powers of Blankets, Cephalopods, Independent Film, and Lavender, so it was always going to be subtle. Even so, I kind of felt like the action was a little understated given the game's premise.

That isn't to say it wasn't fun; especially this last session I enjoyed gaming on a more philosophical level. I'm happy, however, to be running Feng Shui on Monday because I do feel like punching some monkeys might be a nice palate cleanser.

Now then! Last time, having split open a goat and discover that we'd smothered a man and a butterfly with a blanket (this game is so goddamn weird), we split up, searching amidst the World Tree for a clue as to where the missing Shard of Rejuvenation might have gotten to.

Woolaroo went to Hell. No, seriously, she went to the Chancel of Indus, and wound up talking to Benjamin Brisco, Power of...Arms Dealers, I think? He wasn't immediately interested in helping (he made her an offer involving blankets and refugees, but she wasn't interested in killing a lot of people), and he suggested she talk with Radix, the Power of Greed.

She found Radix on the roof of the building. He was an immense gold dragon on a pile of riches. Of course, being Greed he wasn't going to do anything for free, but Woolaroo stretched out and covered him, but then retracted so a bit of him was always cold. He agreed to share information in order to have comfort, and told her that the Shard of Rejuvenation was in Ananda's realm.

Countess, meanwhile, swam into the dark, deep places, where the crawling things that predate humanity dwelled. She found a ship swarming with things eating the dead, and inside talked with Captain Barren, with emptiness for eyes and a lamprey's mouth. He directed her to the Power of Regret, who could tell her exactly where the Shard was, though she'd regret asking. The old lady told her, but Countess immediately felt bad for knowing - knowing it would come to naught.

Tommy figured they needed data, so he rode the information streams up to a sea of information, and spoke with the Power of Honesty. Tommy reflected on whether allowing existence to continue would really be the most satisfying conclusion to all of this, but decided that having everything peter out and become nothing was a little Von Triers for his taste. The Power of Honesty then directed him to Cody McAllister, the Power of Big Data, who knew almost everything. Cody told Tommy that the Shard was in the possession of Quisome, the Deceiver, an Excrucian. "Thought we killed that guy," Tommy mused. Cody told him to follow that doubt, it would lead to the Shard.

Isabel, meanwhile, sought out the most lush regions she could and found Sunflower, the Power of Radical Acceptance. She stayed there for a time, being a goat more than anything, realized that there was something the Quisome hadn't thought of in his plan. She couldn't focus on what that was, though, so she just remembered it, and the Familia met back up in Erewhon.

They first checked the realm where they'd killed the man and the butterfly; Tommy felt that the "note in the goat's liver" thing had been a bit too pat to be true. But the Imperator was, in fact, dead - the Familia realized that they killed the Imperator but not the Excrucian (which made Woolaroo feel a little bad). They knew from Radix that the Shard was in the Cityback, so they traveled there through a dressed room at the Gap in Seattle, made their way past roving hordes of shopping carts and mannequins, until they found Quisome himself, sitting outside a 7-11, sipping a cherry Slushee and holding the Shard of Rejuvenation like it was a basketball.

Tommy asked what the budget was like - was this going to be a Matrix-like final battle or more "talk the bad guy down" kind of thing? The bureaucrats of Cityback informed him that it was very much the latter, so they started talking. Quisome figured that by holding this Shard, he could run out the clock; either Lord Entropy would stick to his nature and refuse to concede, and everything would wind down and not rejuvenate, or Entropy would concede, thus going against his nature, and Quisome could destroy him. The Familia tried to talk him out of this, but his hatred for existence was just as endemic to him as, like, being pretentious was to Tommy.

Stuck for ideas, Tommy went into the 7-11 to get a Slushee and wound up talking to Martwon, the young filmmaker he'd met on Erewhon back when all this started. They talked about Ghost Dog and how Forrest Whitaker had gone from taking easy roles as thugs and cops to the much more challenging and nuanced role in Ghost Dog, and talked about how it was sometimes hard to the see the big picture.

Tommy went back out and pursued this line of thought a bit, and then Isabel figured it - and stopped thinking. She went full-on goat. Quisome become disturbed; without thought there was no doubt. Isabel, meanwhile, ate the Shard, and Quisome realized it and hurled his Slushee.

Tommy got in the way and the Slushee started to freeze him, but Woolaroo wrapped herself around him and warmed him up again. Countess grabbed Isabel up in her tentacles and started heading back to Erewhon, and Quisome stomped off into Cityback, confused and annoyed.

The Powers took the Shard into Zhuangzi's Realm and rejuvenated him (and his butterfly), and his Familia headed home, which is just as well, as Hugh tends to attract bears. They returned the Shard to Indra, and she retook her position as the Power of Rejuvenation.

So creation is saved! You're welcome.