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A little less than a happy high
Do not call up what you can't put down
I got off the train at Harvard Square last night and was confused for a few minutes until I realized that I told Pablo I'd chase down a book for him. I failed the last time he asked, mostly because I couldn't keep straight in my head which volume of Elektra Assassin he was missing. Addled but determined, I made my way to Pandemonium Books to fetch the Exalted Players' Guide. And Pablo, if you're reading? I sure hope it was the Players' Guide and not one of the half dozen other Exalted-related books that I was supposed to fetch, otherwise I will be sad.

Anyways, finding the book wasn't much of a problem. It took a moment to grasp the gaming-store mindset again, but once done, I found grabbed the sole remaining copy. A quick aside here - perhaps I've just become increasingly impatient in as an old codger, but man does geekery abound in that place. It's not even an attractive geekery. It's more of an awkward narcissistic geekery. I did manage not to say, "Oh honey, I know exactly where you're headed, and I'm pretty sure you're not going to like it there." I did not manage, however, to be terribly polite to the socially maladroit teen who was draped across the shelves I needed to get to while RPing on his cell.

Really, that's not what I was going to talk about.

Although my intent was to do a select-pay-go mission, I lingered. There's been some rumblings amongst people I know about RP nostalgia, and I can't say as I'm entirely free of that pull. I ended up flipping through some supplements for Call of Cthulhu (a game that was usually most fun when you were "losing") and then Paranoia XP (about which I'm probably safe saying the same.) It's not that unusual for me to do this if I get close enough to a gaming store. Sometimes I'll even have a look around to see if there's anything new that

[Holy cow! There's an eagle outside my window(!)]

catches my eye. Yesterday, my eye was drawn to Nobilis. I have to confess, I'm terribly attracted to good design, and this really is a beautiful piece. The core book is massive, unusually shaped, and unabashedly white. It looks like something destined to hold arcane secrets, and really, that's what you want out of one of these games, right?

The base concept is this - characters are personified representations of aspects of reality (picture Gaiman's Endless, and you've a fair idea of what it's about). It initially struck me the same way that In Nomine (which is about angelic beings) did, which somewhere in the realm of "Huh. That's kind of neat..." 'Course, then I read about game concepts like prosaic v. mythic reality, and the chancels that represent the spheres of influence of the characters. Reading about the cosmology of the system, my imagination began to run crazy with images forming one after another in my head. Transported is a word I could use. I was reminded of my occasional perception of reality-skipping, and even of the weird sense of the sweep of history I've gotten from places.

It was really quite fascinating, even if it's not translating that well. I guess what was so compelling was that there, in that moment, it didn't feel escapist so much as affirming. It was a creative moment.
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esmerel From: esmerel Date: July 15th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never met the person myself, but Merlin, and several other people I know, know the person who did Nobilis. :)
komos From: komos Date: July 15th, 2005 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's some fantastic writing there. If they'll reach that far, pass along my compliments.
whatifoundthere From: whatifoundthere Date: July 15th, 2005 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

from one curmudgeon to another

Nobilis is a magnificent game: sensitive to meta-issues (both narrative and social) without ever sinking into precious po-mo irony. It's beautifully packaged, as you noticed, and also beautifully written. I mean that the writing is genuinely beautiful -- rich, poetic, allusive, sophisticated -- as opposed to the "Sebastian stared wide-eyed at the blood seeping under the door as a blood-curdling scream rose inexorably in his throat" garbage that WoD has been jamming down our throats for the past decade. I've lost all patience with the gamers who confuse that crap for powerful writing. In the same way, I've lost all patience with the people who read nothing but paperback fantasy and think that just because a novel uses a metaphor from time to time then it must be "literature". Sometimes there's a reason that real writers don't take genre sludge seriously. Hint: it's not because we're all conformists who lack creativity.


What I'm trying to say is that Nobilis is one of the very few games that gives me hope for the future of role-playing. Burning Wheel is perhaps the only other.
komos From: komos Date: July 15th, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Heh. You said WoD.

It's been a while since I've been tempted to buy a game, but this seemed like it was worth reading for its own sake.

I've been suspect of fantasy/sci-fi since I had a few bad (and I mean "I feel grossly more dumberer for having read that" bad) experiences as an impressionable teen. Bad writing just doesn't engage me, and I've never been able to understand the appeal of some of the series that have had enduring popularity. Accessibility, maybe? Familiarity? I dunno.

I'll have a look at Burning Wheel next time I'm out. ^_^
c_m_i From: c_m_i Date: July 15th, 2005 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I have a copy of Nobilis floating about somewheres. At least, I think so. It being an awkwardly shaped book might have cost it in the move, or at least caused it to be packed somewhere counterintuitive.
komos From: komos Date: July 15th, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you can find it, I'd love to borrow it for a bit.
c_m_i From: c_m_i Date: July 15th, 2005 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
No problimo. My nerd skills are weak. I just bought this, after all.
komos From: komos Date: July 16th, 2005 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
That's a beautiful thang.
sinspired From: sinspired Date: July 15th, 2005 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I'm playing Exalted Wednesday nights now, but I haven't read any of the setting information. After about 8 months of D20 hell, I was desperate to get back to any D10 game... So now I've got that and a Friday night 2nd edition Werewolf game... And I used to RUN that one...

Those guys that were used to me not knowing any of the rules had QUITE a surprise. :)
komos From: komos Date: July 15th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pablo's Exalted game is online. I know next to nothing about the system because I saw something shiny got very distracted when I was at the store.

I haven't been in a game for years now. I kind of miss it.
sinspired From: sinspired Date: July 15th, 2005 11:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah. You need to find a store like we have here, with, like, decent people where they run the games THERE. :)

Don't worry. I see shiny things all the time. Hee hee.
komos From: komos Date: July 16th, 2005 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd much rather game at home where I've ready access to food and beer and can rely on minimal outside noise.

See? I said I was an old codger...
sinspired From: sinspired Date: July 17th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
One phrase:
Private Gaming Rooms

And they rarely run out of food and soda. I've never been much of one for beer and roleplaying myself.
komos From: komos Date: July 18th, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beverage really depends on setting. When we were doing the Late Renaissance game, wine was the drink of choice.
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