The Plot Point

A few weeks ago, Dave commented that we’ve been at this Nobilis thing for ‘about a year’.
I believe my immediate reaction to this was something like “you’re completely crackers”, but it turns out he’s right: the first Nobilis session was… well, I posted about it around the last week of April of 2003, so I suppose that’s pretty close to the first little half-session we did.
Looking back, I’m both pleased and annoyed, but generally far more of the former than the latter.

Of players, I am blessed, with group’s consisting of (a) Lee, De, Jackie, Randy and (b) Stan, Dave, Margie, John (since departed) — all of which company I could not hope for better. </grammar_massacre> This is all good.
Scenes, individual scenes, are strong, and sometimes very much so: June and Jealousy, interrogating the Spirit of a Contract with Punishment and Crime, Sian on the World Tree, Stan playing his hate-anchor, Death’s stuff with Entropy, Dave & Margie playing Stan’s daughter & her boyfriend, and more than I can easily list.
Some things didn’t work as well — the fight in Miami bugs me mightily, simply because it came out all wrong to me, felt like a Superhero game, and was probably the final thing that cost me a good player. Still, even that illustrated the idea that If You Fight, You May Have Already Lost, which is definitely one of the premises of the game.
So what’s bugging me the most is pacing — scenes transition slowly of late and it’s been bothering me, because that really wasn’t a problem in the first major story of the game.
Thinking about it this morning, I realized it was basically because I had a clear image in my head of the Problem for the first story, and I haven’t really had that at all in the following stories.

First story: You as a group have been accused of a serious crime and enforcers are working hard to find you and make you pay.

It works. It pops. It demands action. More to the point, it demands choices.

Second story: Hey, you’re a Noble. So… what’ya do?

… yeah. This one, not so much.
Which isn’t to say that the premise for a good stories/questions aren’t in there, it’s just that I wasn’t aware of them, so I wasn’t really playing to them.
I started thinking about this this morning, in an effort to get some clearer ideas about the story frame for both groups, and this is what I came up with:
Chancel C was easier:

You are a newly-named Inquisitor Chancel. What are you willing or unwilling to do/sacrifice in order to do that job?

Sometimes the answers to this question (or the question itself) is hidden behind a few layers for each character, but it’s like re-editing a novel — you go back, find the theme that’s already there, and tweak and modify a bit here and there to clarify that theme and bring it out more. For example:

  • In Sian’s case, this question was been asked and answered already — six hundred years ago, in fact — and the question now is whether or not Sian still agrees with her original answer.

    (I’ve realized in writing this post, that it’s more interesting to phrase a story in the form of a question than as a statement. “Will Sian still agree with her original choice?” is a more interesting statement of her story than what I originally wrote for the post: “Sian no longer agrees with her original choice.” From a simply writerly point of view, that’s a good rule to remember. Hmm.)

  • I’m going to have to tease this theme out of Mariska’s story. I think it’s there — I think I see it in Ofra/Noah’s thing and in her interaction with her Anchors and her chancel. Mariska’s gone to great length’s to isolate herself from everything else in her life — hedging behind a fence of subtle barbs and irony. There’s something there we can use.
  • Fungus is probably the hardest, since it’s taken me awhile to build any kind of connection to the character, but I think we’re getting there. We had a great scene with the Graf and healing one of her Anchors, so I’m very interested in some of the stuff there.
  • Though departed as a PC, Crime illustrates this question very well with some of the stuff that’s happened — being the person who’s answered the question with “Well, here is what I won’t do.”

Chancel A was harder:
What I finally settled on/worked out in my head as the ‘statement’ for this story is “You must decide who you are.” It seems to work for most of the characters in this story, since what a lot of folks are doing is finding their identity or solidifying it.

  • Donner’s working on combining his basic humanity with his Nobility, and trying to make compacts and arrangements with others. He’s all about the connections and frission and energy generated between things.
  • June’s exploring herself, in a way, and not really always liking what she sees, or what the decisions she’s making are saying about herself. It think it’s interesting that she’s somehow decided to hunt down an Excrucian when that’s nothing she’s probably ever done before — sort of facing the boogeyman where he lives. Inner demons and whatnot.
  • Terminus is definitely working on becoming something other than what he was — perhaps something bigger and better, or new, or maybe just a greasespot on Entropy’s bootheel, who knows?
  • Macy is my problem child here — introducing this question to a character with her kind of background (a brand-new noble who entered the World both cynical and naive) should be the easiest thing in the world, and it just hasn’t happened. I need to work on that.

    And ooh, I just thought of an idea…

Which is, as I say, good — just setting out the general goal of a story-arc really helps me envision ways to bring that theme out. I’m glad I engaged in the exercise — it was a morning well-spent.
Don’t know how happy my players will be… 🙂