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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, Session 5

When we last left our heroes…
Kermit, Jason, and Nicky were in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with the Big Man in an abaondoned factory.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, Session 4

When we last left our heroes…
Kermit and Nicky decided to go and poke around the old Factory where “Nicky’s Ghost” seems to be tethered.

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Actual Play

Dogs in the Vineyard, first group chargen

Justin and I have been messing around with Dogs in the Vineyard a bit. I really like this game.
Anyway, last Sunday while Jackie and Justin were out of town, I was hanging out at the Consortium and several possible activities were proposed (many of them chargenish, since that seems to be the mode we’re into right now). What we settled on was working up PCs for Dogs in the Vineyard.
Margie worked out Destiny.
Randy designed Eli.
Dave created Suzannah Paulson.
The links are to wiki pages for the characters (some of which need a few things filled in by their respective players (*coff*Randy*coff*), but all of which are quite entertaining.

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Actual Play

Solo DitV with the Boy: Chargen

Every other Saturday, Jackie attends a game that I’m not involved in, leaving me and Justin to bang around the house for about six or seven hours. Lately, he’s gotten into the habit of requesting that we play some kind of RPG. Paladin was his first request, and following that I pitched the idea of Dogs in the Vineyard, since there’s a bit of a thematic similarity (at least on the surface).

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, Session 3

I’m actually combining two sessions into one actual play, since they were each relatively short (poor planning on my part, but there it is).
Okay. When we last left our pre-adolescent heros…
[crickets chirping]
Right, that was quite some time ago, so for Katelyn and Nicky’s previous events, I direct you here, and for Kermit, Aloysius, and Jackson’s exploits, go here and here. Jason Remkiewicz is new.
Note: yes, that’s quite a lot of people playing in a Sorcerer game. Due to the weird nature of the dual sessions, it actually was only four people playing initially, and five later, but that’s still a lot. There are upsides to this, but mostly downsides, and I’m glad I’ve set this up to be a pretty short story arc this time around. For more information on the rules of this particular game and background info, just go to the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki.
Now then…

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Actual Play

Notes on Sorcerer play (not the game transcript)

Actual Play reports will come this evening when I have more time, but there are a few thoughts I wanted to get down:

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Actual Play

Things to do in Denver when your PC’s Dead

Doc’s Blog … Confessions of a Game Addict: Game Dream 14: He’s Dead, Jim!

Many “traditional” RPGs incorporate the possibility of the irrevocable death/disabling injury of a player character into their basic mechanics, yet often skirt the issue of what happens to the game in such a case, instead encouraging the GM to “fudge” the results if the GM doesn’t want a given PC or PCs to die.
How has your gaming group, current or previous, handled character deaths due to system-legitimate causes, i.e. combat or traps (assuming no intent on the part of another GM/player to kill a given PC or PCs)? Which methods worked well, and which didn’t?

I’ve actually had a fairly high rate of PC death during the DnD game — I think Whisper’s been killed two or three times… Gebbet two or three… and Grim was basically vaporized like a baloney roll in a Hellraiser movie, just last session.
The group as a whole has been pretty okay with such things when they come up — to use Grim’s death as an example, I really couldn’t have asked for a better bit of in-character decision-making leading to his untimely demise — it was pretty brilliant (assuming you can can be “brilliant” while playing someone who’s INT just dropped to 2… anyway).
In a system like DnD, where you’ve got multiple pet-doors leading back through Death’s Gate, it really doesn’t have a huge amount of impact. Gebbet’s running about a half-level behind the rest of the group, maybe, but that’s it.
I think the group’s putting off resurrecting Grim for about two or three more encounters, because then Whisper will be able to do a resurect with no downsides (she’ll have access to level 9 stuff) — mechanical OOC motivation, but I do like the fact that no one’s in a HUGE hurry to get him back on his feet (or, considering how he went down… I guess that would be “get him feet to be back on”).

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Actual Play

Record Breaking

Just because I feel like it — here’s a list of noteworthy or record-setting events from some of the games I’ve run.

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Actual Play

[Sorcerer] Bibliophage, Session 8: Aristeia

So, Friday the 30th was the last session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer campaign. There was gunplay. There were demons. Candelabras were swung in anger. Some people even used naughty words. Details below.

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Actual Play

[Sorcerer] Bibliophage, Session 7: Whiteout

We had our seventh session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer story Friday night. The whole thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was an interesting, but kind of “in-between” session, mostly because so much had happened in the previous session and folks were still processing it.
Right, on with the show.

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Actual Play

Grim Therapy, group 2, actual play

As mentioned in this post (where I talk about the characters), the DnD game didn’t occur a couple of weeks ago, so we played a session of the “Grade School” sorcerers set up, as seen in the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki.
Here’s what happened.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, group 2

The DnD game looked to be short a couple of players on Friday, so we decided to try something else. I ran a session of the “Grade School” sorcerers set up, as seen in the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki. (The first time I swapped in Sorcerer for the DnD game we did Clicking Sands — this might have been the perfect time to get back to the story, except that it wasn’t the same group of players that could make it this time. Someday… someday…)

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Session Six, The Big Chill

We had our sixth session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer story Friday night. The whole thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was an interesting session, mostly because everyone was getting hammered with some relatively urgent priorities and were basically trapped in a small(ish) area with one another. That they don’t really get along just made it more interesting.
Right, on with the show.

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Actual Play

That didn’t take long

Lee couldn’t make the Nobilis game tonight, so Randy, De, Jackie and I started what will be a short “Grade School Sorcerers” riff.
Notes to follow regarding character generation, opening kickers, and some observations on playing kids in a game that’s designed to create people in dysfunctional relationships, but for now, you can check out the wiki page for Grimm Therapy, which has the PCs, their demons, a fun little customized character sheet, and the One Sheet that describes the game’s customized Humanity and Descriptors.
Update: Here’s the rest.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Session Five (Bibliophage): Complex Conflict

We had our fifth session of Sorcerer last night. The whole campaign thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was a really interesting and challenging session — there was one metric assload of combat (something like six or seven different fights spread out in one long stretch of room-to-room warfare). There were a lot of interesting variables (Shannon was already a bit hurt, and no one in the reasonably well-armed group was particularly skilled at using guns on anything other than a firing range), and tons of currency exchange going on.
On with the show:

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, Session Four: Lexigrams

Our fourth session of Sorcerer ran per normal on Friday. All in all, I was pleased with some of the Humanity Issues that came up as well as (what amounted to) my One Big Bang of the night.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity is defined as Empathy (connection to your fellow man).
First session is here. Second session is here. Third Session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is getting quite bad — freezing sleet has devolved into the front end of a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, let’s see how well I can do without having taken any session notes at all (cringe)…

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Actual Play

The good side of bad things

Interesting quote from Mike Holmes re: Sorcerer on the Forge:

that [story] is what Sorcerer is about.
Not about character success – you’ll note that once you start playing that the dice mechanic makes characters fail in their stated conflict goal all the time, no matter how superior they are. It’s about what the characters decide to do that leads to their successes or failures.

I was just instantly reminded of the game tonight, in which Ken Osato needed to feed his demon’s Need for suffering. He did it neatly, quickly, very efficiently, and he used other people to accomplish it.
And I had him check his Humanity for it, because in this particular game, Humanity = Empathy for your fellow man, and using your fellow man “neatly, quickly, and efficiently” to elicit Suffering is simply not Empathic.
He rolled and his Humanity dropped a notch.
Question: did he fail? Personally, I think what he did perfectly illustrated the character’s goals and priorities at that point in time. Given time, he might have preferred to handle the Need in a more subtle, somewhat less directly callous way, but time was important, so Ken made a choice.
Good choice, bad choice… it was his choice, and that made it really cool, so of course it was a success.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, part 3 — Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Our third session of Sorcerer, which normally runs on alternating Friday nights, was preempted by previous commitments all around. Unwilling to give up the game momentum for another two weeks, I asked the players to meet up on Thursday night instead — a shorter session due to everyone having an early morning the next day, but certainly better than a four week hiatus from session two. All in all, I’m very glad we did it and quite impressed with how much we got done.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, roughly, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity = Empathy (Connection to and investment in the people in your life)
First session is here. Second session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from Harvard campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is bad and getting worse — torrential rain is quickly freezing to sleet and the weather service predicts a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, on with the show:

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Actual Play

Clicking Sands: Dramatis Personae

This short post will be followed by a bit more in the way of observations and a recounting of Actual Play, but for now:

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Actual Play

Clicking Sands note

Re-reading, I found some excellent stuff on working Possessors-inside-the-Sorcerer (and also parasite demons) in Sorcerer’s Soul.
Like most everything in the Sorcerer line (or, really, everything by Ron Edwards in general), it made a vague sort of sense before but seemed quite obfuscated — then we did some playing — then I re-read it and it all seems terribly useful, insightful, and crystal clear.

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Actual Play

Proving ourselves right

It was an interesting thing, when I wrote about the game session that Jackie and Randy did with the Sorcerer rules — Margie had read the game session and commented to me about it, but at that time Dave hadn’t read it yet.
When he did, the first I heard about it was a fairly determined “I want to play this.”
As I understand it, when he mentioned this desire to Margie, she shook her head, smiled and said “you go right ahead, dear.” The setting, the disfunctional relationships, the ‘take me to the brink of destruction and see what happens’ set up… it just wasn’t her cuppa.
Completely understandable. Heck, I can look at most of my games and think “this person will like this… this person won’t”, and I’m usually right — I never expected Margie to enjoy Sorcerer the way she might, for example, enjoy Trollbabe (which interestingly is written by the same guy).
Anyway, my point is, we both knew that about the game at first glance.
Now, we didn’t do the normal DnD game tonight, and I’ve been talking about trying out some other games when that game finished up, so I jumped on this opportunity to run… something. Whatever. Dave G and Robert were into the idea of the far-future, apocalyptic, sword-n-sorcery style “Clicking Sands” set up, so we decided to make up some characters and give it a try. Robert, Dave G, Jackie, and Margie, that is.
Well, with the session over, I can say that Margie and I had our intuitions in the right place.
Sometimes things don’t click. Sometimes you just can’t seem to get to the point where the upsides seem like they outweight the downsides. Sometimes the mechanics or the feel or the outlook just rubs you the wrong way, and sometimes it’s all of those things put together.
When the night was over, three people enjoyed their stuff and one didn’t and I feel kind of bad about that.
But, as the subject line implies — we both basically already guessed it would happen. Still, it’s too bad, since there was a lot from all four players that I really liked — I hope everyone still interested gets a chance to try that setting out again.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, part 2 — The things on the Doorstep

Our second session of Sorcerer.
The Premise as defined by the group is, roughly, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity = Empathy = Connection to and investment in the people in your life.
Previous session here.

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Actual Play

…make the worst actors.

“Hello, my name is Doyce Testerman, and I’m a Bad Player.”
A painful revelation I’ve come to in the last few months, but true nonetheless. I’m still trying to figure out why, because it makes me very unhappy with myself.
I’ve realized that what I really don’t want to do any more of is be a player in games that use specific systems. D20 is one. ADRPG is another, for different reasons.
In the case of d20, there are problems stemming from the simple fact that I know the rules system pretty well:
1. Being the ‘answer guy’ is irritating, which puts me in a fouler and fouler mood as the session progresses.
2. Being party to a ruling that I know is wrong… well, my hubris and OCD are both too strong for this, and I end up correcting the GM. This gets particularly bad in combat scenes.
2a. I can avoid this in Con-games because, if the GM’s wrong, I can just vote down on their rules-knowledge, scribble in a few notes on rules they should look up, and move on to play with someone else. Long years of dealing with ‘canonized’ incorrect rulings in home campaigns has, however, made me very sensitive about making sure that, for an ongoing game, the rulings are “right”. I hate retconning stuff because a rule was wrong and I hate rules that constantly change between sessions because someone finally looked it up.
Call it survivor’s guilt, whatever.
The worst situation for me right now is the game Jackie’s running. She’s a really fun GM and should be having a good time with her first ‘real’ campaign. She offered to run a game where I could play, but the original concept wandered… pretty damn far afield from “low-level, standard tropes, traditional game”. It’s her first campaign-length… anything and she’s dealing with with weird, high-level, non-standard d20 stuff — she’s struggling with all the weird rules that have to be remembered for all the wierd situations, running 15 NPCs in a fight, all of which are tweaked out… and I can’t seem to shut my goddamn mouth when I think we’re getting a rule wrong. Usually this means that we end the session with her feeling miserable and me hating myself — with good reason, I should certainly add.
With the other d20 game I play in we started at low-level, so the GM can learn about the characters from the beginning (like the players) a little bit at a time… also, it’s not in a genre I’ve been GMing weekly for 3 years, which means I’m (a little) less annoyingly all-knowing. The worst thing I do in that game is try to inject narrative control into the game, which is not what the system or scenarios are set up to deal with. It’s a spy-sim, and if I could get into that a little more instead of trying to lay out scenes and camera angles like I’m playing Wushu, I’d be better off.
I’m working on it… in maybe not perfect ways — I frequently try to ‘turn away’ from scenes I’m not directly in because my gut instinct is to interject with meta-interpretations which it is NOT MY JOB to provide and I’m trying desperately to do less of the things I’m ashamed of doing — cutting myself off cold-turkey seems the best thing — hopefully it’s not coming off passive-aggressive, but I can’t say for sure. I flat out told Jackie that that’s what I was going to do to try to curb my bad habits… I should probably mention it to Dave as well. (Then again, I probably just have. 🙂
Maybe it’s simply that when you’re used to doing one thing (GMing) all the time, you don’t really quickly step out of that mindset. Sure.

  • I’ve been playing some kind of RPG since I was ten.
  • I can still count the home campaigns I’ve been a PLAYER for on one hand, and I’ve been playing for twenty-three years. (If I don’t count the ones that aborted in < 4 sessions.)

I really feel that, at least as far as I’m concerned, I would be a better player in more narrative-style games like… well, Nobilis and many things that have come out of the Forge spring to mind — really anything where the players contribute more than an actor’s portrayal of one character.
One character is… well, doesn’t matter how much I love the guy, one guy is going to get stale when you usually play “everyone else”, and handle behind-the-scene plotting, and the scenery, and the descriptions, and the rules.
They say that most directors make lousy actors. Living proof, right here.
So what does the GM do to deal with the problem player when the player is himself?

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, part 1 — the Action

(See also my previous post detailing the PCs.)
With the Sorcerer characters completed no later than 8pm (!), I wanted to do something that would introduce us to all aspects of the system with a minimum of fuss and complication. To that end, we used the Training Run from the main Sorcerer book.

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Actual Play

Sorcerer, part 1

So, with the Consortium out of town for the second weekend in a row, I found myself starting to suffering from gaming DTs. (You can’t just cold-turkey from three-to-zero per weekend, nor do I want to).
Anyway, by Saturday afternoon I was quite ready to do something. Randy has, as a result of my raving, already picked up a copy of Sorcerer and was interested in playing, and Jackie and I had gone through most of character creation, excepting naming the character, her demon, and coming up with a kicker.
Here’s the characters they came up with:

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Actual Play

Trollbabe, 2

Played a little Trollbabe tonight, because I feel like I understand the conflict system better than I did during the first abortive attempt to run it… so we had… another abortive attempt to run it (we started too late, which was the problem the last time, as I recall).
Somewhere in the near future, I need to establish the rule that the games with small rulebooks to not get commensurately smaller time-blocks in which to run them. Then I put that reminder up where *I* can see it clearly. Oh well.

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Actual Play

Actual Play: InSpectres

So I got to run my first game of InSpectres on Friday when Jackie called off Necropolis (pleading no prep time due to imminent departure to France). Now, I didn’t prep either but with InSpectres it hardly matters — everything went like gangbusters — the group took to this style of play like veterans and made me want to cancel every regular game so we can to squeeze in Trollbabe, My Life with Master and HeroQuest alongside InSpectres. Terrific stuff.

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Actual Play

Weekend review 1

Friday: DnD. Talked about what we might like to do as a sequel game with a smaller group of players. Beat the crap out of everyone (killed the party thief, in fact), for which they earned a measely 2k in xp. To get big xp at that level of power, you have to pull out the world-shattering stuff.

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Actual Play

Summary of the OA campaign

When the OA rules for d20 came out, I snapped them up — I’d always wanted to run a proper Oriental campaign back when Oriental Adventures came out for 1st edition AD&D, but the whole thing had never really gelled, and I was really psyched to do something with the new rules.
On the other hand, I really didn’t have time to mess around with writing out a whole new campaign in detail, so what I opted to do was the (slightly) less time-consuming solution of using “Living Rokugan” modules from the RPGA, coverting each of the ones I used from the original L5R rules into d20, while modifying each module to fit the “unifying story” at the same time.
The result is a bit more heavily influenced by Japanese themes than I’d originally envisioned (due to Rokugan’s setting), but on the whole it seems to work pretty well. The group consists of:

  • Hiruma Gu – Gu is a Crab-clan berzerker-fighter who owes Menho his life and serves him most willingly as a yojimbo and manservant. (Gu was originally envisioned as a clone of Number Ten Ox from Bridge of Birds.)
  • Shishiko – A cat hengeyokai (essentially a benign bakeneko) who was caught stealing Menho’s wakisashi by the samurai of Otosan Uchi. Menho saved her life by claiming that he had given Shishiko the wakisashi as a sign of her service to him. Shishiko functions as a sort of ‘eyes and ears’ for the samurai, as well as a sort of defacto eta.
  • Kakita Mushiyamma – ‘Mushi’ is a female Crane duelist of the famed Kakita school who met Menho during his time in Otosan Uchi. She responded to his (unspoken) request for aid in the matter of his inheritance because she is (secretly) in love with Menho (something blatantly obvious to the ‘commoner’ members of the group, but utterly hidden from the upper class members).
  • Kitsu Fenshen – a sodan-senzo (spirit talker) Shugenja-ko of the Lion clan. Fenshen’s alliegiance to Menho are still a mystery.
  • Tycho – A young member of the Ise Zumi monks, Tycho enjoys relative immunity from social conventions as a member of the monastic class: he occaisionally travels with the group for a period of time to ‘enlighten himself’, then vanishes again with just as little warning as before.

For the sake of clarity, I’m summarizing the scenarios the group has played through so far.

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Actual Play

Game summary

Friday, the DnD group continued to wander aimlessly through a deadly forest that drives people insane, rots your food, and attracts things that go *munch* in the night. Huge surprise, there was combat, and lots of it.
Saturday was Jackie’s “high level” Necropolis game. (I put that in quotes because the group is three levels lower than the Friday night group, and smaller. Dave encountered first-hand one of the truisms of the d20 system:

In a module designed for high level characters, assume that all or nearly all encounters will factor in that level and be a threat to you, logic be damned. Bad guys, even in obscure little towns, will all effectively be 12th level, too, and be ready to deal with 12th level characters, even if that makes no sense. Consider yourself 1st level, and be appropriately cautious.

I think that might be a trifle overstated: it may be more accurate to say that the ‘lesser’ threats are simply so minor that higher level characters don’t notice them — what they do notice are the things that can hurt them — thus, from their point of view, “everything that happens” is stuff that can kill you.
Or, using a rule that applies more directly to the situation that brought Dave’s anthropomorphic elephant barbarian/fighter down: “If the bad guys see how big you are, they put more poison in the glass.”
Not that I haven’t said as much before. Once upon a time, I wrote:

it does not matter that a 15th fighter can crit and do 45 points of damage and a first level fighter can crit and do 16: the chunk that they take out of their opponents will remain roughly similar.
In fact, swing-by-swing, the amount of damage done by the hero vs. damage sustainable by the bad guy goes DOWN as you level — this is made up for by giving higher-level folks more attacks to bring the ratio back up.
Number of rounds to take down the main bad guy at level 1 or level 15 doesn’t change — number of hit points left on the fighter when the fight is over — almost exactly the same… about five.
The only things that change is that the costume budget for the main heroes goes up, and the bit actors run around inside bigger monster suits.

I was pointing out that the variations between power levels is largely cosmetic in ANY game (it’s not just d20 — in any game system, as you get tougher, the bad guys get tougher as well). The only real reason to begin play with higher-power characters is so you can play concepts/critters that don’t balance out at first level (or, if you’re thinking inside the box, you want the higher level to justify extensive character history).
One danger of the higher level game is that some folks who look for that sort of power level expect the skill/power of the character to counteract a certain level of player laziness.

Player: “I question the people in the bar.”
GM: “Who?”
Player: “I don’t know… the barmaids.”
GM: “What are you asking them?”
Player: “I don’t know… I’ll ask them what’s going on that’s interesting in town. I roll a 33 Gather Information, can we find our Secret Contact guy?”
GM: “Umm… with those questions, no.”
Player: “But… it was a 33.”

Or to use an example of my own laziness, allowing an NPC to partially get off the hook during a “Truth Serum”-style interrogation, because I asked one my big wrap-up question so poorly that he could, in essence, lie by using an easy loophole.
Anyway, live and learn: higher power characters still have to be careful and think: it’s an obvious rule that we missed, simply (I think) because we jumped right in at high level and expected, looking at our character sheets, to waltz through things — if we’d started out at lower level (which wasn’t really an option anyway), we’d have already been careful, and just continued to be careful.
Sunday was one of the two Nobilis games that I’ve created by splitting up the original group and adding a player. After the mess of Imperator and Chancel (re)creation was finished (taking a mere hour and a half :P), things got underway.
Most of what I have to say about this is very positive: I was really surprised and pleased by the Chancel and the Imperator that the group came up with — it immediately gave me ideas for any number of interesting stories — and I like the possibilities in the tension between some of the characters. It’s not exactly “Locus Partytown” by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still an interesting group with some great players. We’ll see how far that gets us.