Nobilis 3e: A Small Rant

I have a bunch of stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Get as much of my novella for Timid Pirate done that I can before NaNoWriMo. Finish prep work for the novel I want to work on during November. Prep for the games I’m running at AmberCon Northwest.

But in the end, I feel obliged to grouse a bit about Nobilis 3rd Edition.

At Ambercon Northwest, I’m playing in the sequel to a very awesome Nobilis/Sandman mashup that I played in last year. It was everything I would have wanted from either a Nobilis game or a game about Sandman. This year the GM announced that she was running it using Nobilis 3rd edition instead of 2nd.

I love Nobilis. I bought both the 1st and 2nd editions of it, and it has long stood as the game I most want to play but have rarely had a chance to do so. I also really love Jenna K. Moran’s contributions to other roleplaying games, especially Exalted. When pre-orders for 3rd edition finally became available, I pounced on the opportunity to get it as soon as humanly possible.

I tried looking at it when I got the free PDF, but the anime-style art was so overwhelming and poorly done that I just couldn’t stand it. When I got the hardcopy of the book I tried starting at the first page and just reading it, but found that I just couldn’t get into it. While Nobilis 2e had a certain stark and non-human beauty to it, 3e seemed both cloyingly sweet and painfully bland. It was like eating far more cotton candy than you’d like.

In preparing for this game I’m playing in, I decided I should just skip ahead to character creation. That should expedite my ability to see the meatier changes Moran made to the rules. Instead what I found was everything I disliked about the beginning of the book only worse. Because I was trying to find the straight character creation rules, I managed to miss the one-page summary of them. So I found myself slogging through these twee, over-long explanations of very simple point distribution. Mixed into this was frankly horrible page layout.

Then I got to the point where it gets to the more 2e like rules where it tells you to spend Character Points. But at that point it stopped telling me how many points you had to go with. So then I sort of flailed through the pretty unhelpful Index and Table of Contents. It was only through luck, I think, that I finally found the character creation summary.

In the long term I think I will just mine as much useful mechanics as I can from the book, summarize it for my players, and then just store my book next to my Amber Diceless books that I only use under duress. (I play a lot of Amber, but have little use for the rulebook at this point.)

From what I can tell, there’s a lot of really great rules in here. But the packaging, both visual and verbal, is just so eye-bleedingly bad that it pains me to even try and read the book. And yet it is pretty rare to find any negative reviews for the book. I’d really love to see a “good parts” version, where it strips out almost all the art and the side commentary that isn’t the microfiction. Because otherwise, this book just leaves me disappointed.

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