Pondering the flow

So, we’ve had a few players cross-over from one Nobilis game group to the other now, and someone asked one of the ‘crossers’ which one of the groups stayed on track better.
His answer, to say the least, surprised me a bit, so I set about the Saturday session with the goal of getting the thing in focus a bit better. The result (as summarized elsewhere):

Nobilis seemed to be focused and on track and yet somehow ?off?.

That’s just how it seemed to me, at any rate. Wasn’t really sure if anyone else saw it that way.
Dave chimed in:

Re Nobilis, I thought the session went well, too, but I agree that it was “off.” May be because folks are scattered here and there, and not necessarily pulling toward a common goal. Or maybe not.

There’s a magic formula there, somewhere, with the Nobilis stuff. People are all addressing the story but…
Hmm… I’m not feeling like everyone’s gears are engaged? Everyone’s addressing the problems at hand but not always involved at the same time.
Case in point: as much as I liked the scene with the Wyrd sisters from from last game, the scene where everything really felt ‘right’ was Sian visiting Meon.
Could this be because it was a personal project… er… rather, a personally-devised solution to a problem? I think maybe so — it felt much more player-determined, which is a point at which a game like Nobilis or Amber really seems to start to hum, I think… when the players have their own projects to work on, or are coming up with their own solutions and actions.
The scenes that have, thus far, worked really well, since the split of the group into two (in no particular order):
– Lust and Crime disposing of the Excrucian weapons.
– Sian and Justice in general.
– Sian and Meon in general.
– Death traveling back in time (by Gating along the ‘path’ of his own lifeline) to collect his former ‘tribe’ as warriors.
– Donner and Cities making a private arrangement of mutual benefit.
Things that haven’t really clicked:
– Most anything where someone said ‘I need you to do this’, especially when the ‘how to do it’ part is defined at all… giving them leeway to solve the problem in whatever way they feel like always seems to work better (though that still comes in second place to the scenes that are completely self-determined.
So I’m not sure that ‘common goals’ are really what’s missing… just need to get to that point where everyone’s engaged in their private idaho’s, I guess. This isn’t new ground or discovery for me (or anyone else reading this, I suspect) — it’s just something I need to remind myself of from time to time.


  1. Chiming in again …
    I really liked the Sian/Meon encounter, largely because (a) it was my (Sian’s) idea, not an assignment, and a particularly clever one at that, even if it conflicted with the plans of the others, and (b) I (Sian) totally goofed up, not in some arcane Nobilis-metaphysical way, but simply not following previous clear instructions (granted, it was no more than 24 hours later in Sian’s world, and a few months in my own).
    The Wyrd Sisters piece was fun to read watch. I like GM set pieces like that, and you do them well. That said, I always have a problem being in them as a player because I’m never quite sure how far to push without knocking down the props and backdrop that you’ve so carefully crafted (oversensitized by my own set pieces that have been knocked to flinders by headstrong players doing what came naturally). So there’s much more a sense of observing than of acting.
    Not that I don’t want to know what comes next, mind you.
    (Also part of that problem is that I’m not sure what role Sian wants to grow into. The monomaniacal-angry-woman-with-a-stick is what she’s growing out of.)
    Enough rambling …

  2. Would it help to know that:
    a) When the tree told you what to expect, I was ad-libbing?
    b) When we did the wyrd sisters, I was also ad-libbing? Like… all of it?
    I don’t mean to destroy the suspension of disbelief by pointing out the man behind the curtain, but at the same time I want to say Don’t respect those ‘carefully crafted’ set-pieces too much (although you may not want to touch them, since the paint’s usually still wet). 🙂
    I’m glad it seemed as though it had been prepared in advance for your arrival, since the part that pleased me the most about that scene was that, when it was over, I thought “wow, that actually had some good imagery in it… I hope someone wrote it down so I know what I said.” 🙂
    I particularly liked the transparent, water-thread tapestries, blowing in the breeze as they played through their depicted stories.

  3. I wasn’t sure if it was ad libbing or not, to be honest — you did say that you’d realized Sian’s gaffe the night before, and I know you’re capable of detailed fabulizing in a quick fashion.
    But, yeah, I need to push back a little more. 🙂

  4. As log keeper, I noticed a couple things: Lots of notes for Sian, very few for Guilt. In fact, the extent of Guilt’s session was pretty much waiting to take Billy Bob Carlos to see Tomas for questioning and briefly speaking to an underling or two. Maybe toss in a bit more plot aimed Stan’s way would help. Fungus also was hitting the proverbial brick wall in her/his/it’s investigation and that can get a little frustrating after a while I imagine..
    From my view, we were at times more focused but the amount of digression is still far higher than I am used to. That tends to make progress slow.

  5. I liked the Wyrd sister bit. Mostly because it was interesting to see what Dave would do with it.
    And the line between a good GM pulling stuff out of his ass and trying to remember where he is going with the plot is very fine.
    I thought it was all stuff that you had in your mind but were trying to get the “feeling” just right.
    I think the off-ness was due to the fact that this was the first session that everybody qas going in different directions and almost no interaction between the players. Prior to this, we were always at least paired up when going in some direction.
    The communication fungus should clear up some of this.
    (hmm…”fungus” and “clear up” in the same sentence…only in RPG’ing)

  6. One of the nice things which I finally got a chance to work with this last session was the opportunity to play with Anchors, where people actually get to get out of their ‘main’ character’s head and run an anchor or other NPC. I plan one doing some more of that as we progress. Stan’s progress was glacial — not sure why that is, except that Guilt seems to be pretty passive at the moment — need to do something about that… ideas are percolating.
    Stan as C. Spender perhaps gets a lot more done than Stan as Mariska during a session… who knows. Maybe Stan as Christopher might, or maybe simply playing one of those for a few minutes will energize the whole thing in general.
    Later, as we introduce people sometimes playing each other’s anchors as well, there’s even more interesting possiblities.
    Fungus suffers in part from taking on the very hardest part of everything that’s going on. I think it was interesting in that the problem was essentially a mystery (which Margie is quite strong with), but people got so wrapped up in solving the question with some kind of Domain miracle that they hadn’t realized that the answer was right there. — One of those situations where, when you have this BIG HAMMER… etc.
    Again, one of the nice, interesting bits with Margie was taking her outside of Fungus to play Moonbeam for a little bit… her interface with the Archbishop Leon was also fun.
    Re: Digression — compared to most games I run right now, this last session seemed pretty focused, but that’s at least in part because my GM group consists of lots of married folks with young kids (a factor) who have lots of stories to tell about their kids (at least as much of a factor) — compared to something like Cry Havoc… well, there’s no way to compare it to something like Cry Havoc — Nobilis is made up in large part by people who do a great number of social things with one another outside of the game, and that stuff leaks in everywhere.
    In (convention) games where the participants are largely single gamers, the digression ratio drops sharply.
    I’m trying to be more aware of this, since we are mixing up the groups pretty heavily between the marrieds and not-marrieds (at least partly in an effort to get people into groups with folks they haven’t played in before), but that of course leads to the acclimatization period.

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