What I like, what I don’t like, how I’m fixing it.

Yep, more Nobilis posting.

Warning, this is not really fun fictional crap, but me thinking out loud about the kind of game-design stuff that I do all the time… if you don’t want to talk nuts and bolts, don’t worry about it.

I’ve run Amber extensively (duh) and I’ve run Everway a few times, and I personally think Nobilis has a huge advantage in the realm of Conflict Resolution over both systems. Sustaining Damage aside, Both Amber and Everway hit the (DnD-like) problem of everybody expecting their PCs to put forth the maximum conceivable effort for every single action, because there are no PC resources to spend or withhold (and yeah, I’m guilty of this as a player):

“You’ve just walked the Pattern, twice, when the House Manticore Chaosite ambushes you… his first swing narrowly misses beheading you, instead drawing blood on your sword-arm.”

“WHAT? My Warfare HAS to be good enough to dodge that! I bear down, putting all my effort into winning, regardless of the cost”
“Just like you did for the last five opponents?”
“Yes, just like that.”

Sure, a GM can work through the system and either use a subjective internal system for dealing with this or tack on an objective internal system, but that doesn’t address the fact that said System is absent from the basic rules… it’s not a huge failing — like I said, it’s been missing since the First of All RPGs (and even in games where penalties can be applied as you gradually get hurt, they are generally ignored, especially as the night drags into the wee hours).
What I like about Nobilis is that you’ve got your ‘normal optimum’ and those lovely little Miracle points that can be used to stage things up to a Greater Effect if you need it… you can’t really said you’ve Given It Your All in Nobilis until You’ve dropped 8 MP’s on a Word of Command whose very invocation ruptured your spleen. THAT’S effort 🙂
What I don’t like is dealing with Penetration rules and Auctoritas.
Okay, I haven’t got the larp rules yet, but based on something R. Sean mentions about how the miracle contests work in the LARP rules game and something I’m not particularly in love with in the combat examples for the Tabletop rules, I’m going to implement a house rule regarding powers/combat and how it works with Auctoritas (read Nobilis 101 if you dont’ know what the hell I’m talking about… it makes this way clearer):
Way it currently works: An attack must have ‘penetration’ defined ahead of time or it goes poof if it hits any sort of Auctoritas (basically magic godling-forcefield equal to your Spirit), or if it hits an Auctoritas higher than the Penetration you decided to use.
Player one has Aspect 4, Spirit 1.
Player two has Domain (cold) 4, Spirit 4.
Way combat works now:
1. Player 1 punches player 2 as an Aspect 4 miracle. Player1 defines no Penetration on the attack, so nothing happens. Poof. P1 either has to declare (on the next action) that the attack was Aspect 0, Penetration 4 to get a crappy effect (and he probably has to make several attacks to “get the range”: “I try penetration 1… no? how about 2? no? damn…”), or spend miracle points to keep the attack high and still penetrate. Ugh.
2. Player 2 uses a Domain Cold attack on Player 1. Domain 4, but no penetration. It goes poof. There isn’t much Auctoritas there, but it’s enough.
The Way I want it to work: Auctoritas interferes with any incoming miracle, moving it down in strength to a degree equal to it’s strength… the remaining strength of the attack or effect gets through.
How it would look with the same characters:
1. Player 1 punches Player 2 as an Aspect 4 miracle. Player 2’s Auctoritas of 4 pushes the punches strength down to an Aspect 0 miracle, which is basically a competent Mortal’s punch, and that is what connects… a bruise at best, unless P2 is already hurt, and Player1 knows he’s going to have to ‘push himself’ (spend MPs) to do serious damage.
2. Player 2 uses a Domain Cold (4) attack on Player 1 (who has Spirit 1). P1’s auctoritas pushes the Domain 4 miracle down to a 3, which isn’t enough ‘miracle’ for Lesser Creation of Cold (need level 4), so it basically becomes a illusory ghost miracle within P1’s auctoritas, and P2 knows that he needs to pump it up a bit (but not by how much — since “Ghost Miracle” is a level 1 miracle, the guy could have a Spirit anywhere from 3 to 1… if he’d had a 4, it would have negated even a Ghost Miracle.
Anyway, this means the players don’t have to worry about declaring Penetration or crunching numbers at all. Here’s what they see:
“I punch him. Aspect 4.”
“His auctoritas is strong, pushing out against every hostile move you make in his direction… you’re landing punches, but they don’t have any more oomph than a mortal brown belt.”
“Damn… okay, time to push.”

“Freeze the area: lesser creation of cold… something like a sleet storm.”

“The area is rimed in ice and several of the mooks are knocked to the ground by the slippery conditions and the incredibly painful slivers of ice blasting through the air, but the air around your main opponent contains only ghostly images of the effect… nothing real seems to be reaching him.”

Both players know they have to spend MP’s to make their actions stronger against the Auctoritas, but they don’t have to declare penetration, just overall “Oomph”. The net effect on their MP’s is EXACTLY the same, but the combats play faster, with less focus on number crunching and less unrealistic ‘range finding’.
Okay… tech-design talk off.


  1. Also, definitely using the Over The Edge rules for ‘doing the same attack over and over’; I don’t remember the name, but basically the “That’s Boring” penalty 🙂

  2. Makes sense to me.
    (On a curiously related note, because I ran across a reference to secret doors in a book I was reading at lunch, I was just thinking how boring and unrealistic it is that folks dungeon-crawl from room to room, rolling the same damned “I search for secret doors” thing, with no penalty except for trivial time cost and petulent GMs rolling for Wandering Monsters. I mean, the ordinary person would begin to get tired, or distracted, or sloppy at it.
    I was speculatnig whether it would make sense for someone to have to make a the less-likely of a Will or Fort roll after the third time, or if you tried it more often than once every 15 or 30 minutes, or have the DC go up by 5 for each previous search you did within the last ten minutes.
    But I digress.)

  3. Doyce, this slight change is inspired.
    However, when it comes to artifacts or weapons, you might want to keep Penetration, since the overall effect level of the artifact might need to be “set” …while the feature of actually affecting Nobles would be a “set feature” also.
    I haven’t been playing… this is just a thought.

  4. That’s a good point, and definitely one I agree with — weapons and other gift-miracles should be static and actually have that feel.
    That said, I can see where their might be problems with this in the area of Realm and Domain miracles — with Aspect it works very well, since Aspect attacks pretty much just hit harder or softer if you move them up and down — domain/realm stuff doesn’t really work that way — if you move an attack down past the (minimum) of a level 4 miracle, nothing happens (well, not nothing — a ghost miracle ‘reflection’).
    I dunno. I’m going to see how it feels in the game… I still like it more than enough to use it, but as I play with it I can also see why R. Sean did what she did.

  5. In case it’s not clear, the doubts expressed above are with my idea, not Arref’s — I’m in the standard Game Design phase of doubting everything I do. 🙂

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