Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is set in Town, which is a nice laid-back little town in the middle of the howling maelstrom named the Outside. My personal visual inspiration is the town from Kamichu!, except for the howling maelstrom, which is more Damnation Alley.
China’s great firewall doesn’t like the idea of my looking at the wikipedia entry for Damnation Alley, because that could lead me down the garden path to disloyalty. So I’m kind of guessing here. I could just wait for ten minutes for it to give me google access again but what if by doing so I became vulnerable to Damnation Alley’s decadent bourgeois corruption and gave my life over to yearning for its blue jeans, rock and roll, and post-apocalyptic culture?
So, let’s say, the howling maelstrom is closer to my dim memories of Damnation Alley, and maybe that movie that I couldn’t look up even if I had google access where some people have a house that winds up hanging in the sky between dimensions or something.
Was that movie based on Moonheart?
I bet someone out there will know.
Town is divided into regions. This was originally to scope miracles, because there’s a concept of “local” in miracles that turned out to be a little bit important for defining the Investigator’s powers. Later it became for me a thing of independent interest. This is because dividing Town into Regions lets me specify Properties—world laws—for each. In the main Nobilis book the properties are kind of recapitulations of the metaphysics, useful and exploitable but not necessarily awesome. (There are some exceptions, like the Properties of the Cityback, and judging by playtest the Properties of your Chancel, but I have to admit that there’s nothing that screams ninja dinosaur about Ordinary World Properties like “Its events have causes.” In Hitherby, it’s well established that those causes could be dinosaurs, and that dinosaurs are like any other creature able to train as ninjas through careful self-cultivation, but in Nobilis these things are by default not so.)
In Town, anyway, I had a free hand to have fun with the Properties; and thus we have, e.g., the Properties of School Region:
- You can never experience the “middle” of a class unless extremely bored.
- Each person in the School must experience exactly three events between classes.
- Teachers must be crazy, evil, or both.
- People must accept what is happening around them as normal.
- People must have school spirit unless recently hurt or bullied.
- People must have some reason to worry.
- There must be delinquents, bullies, and cliques.
In local playtest, the Prodigy (a Russian emigré to Town) caught on to the whole “three events exactly” thing and freaked out. It was pretty awesome.
There’s also the Factory Region, which is kind of the L.A. from Joss Whedon’s Angel, with Properties like:
- People must want to climb up to the rooftops.
- People must make a mess anywhere that is completely clean;
the Big Lake with its ocean access, magical ferry, and its secrets; the Shopping Region, where you must have a good time; the Little Island, always in the sun; the fields beyond Town with their fairy-tale logic; the docks, the schism villages, the zoo, the underworld, the clock tower, etcetera, etcetera, and the sky.
I wanted to be able to tell pastoral stories. This is hard. I don’t know how well I’ll succeed, on an abstract level; I think better than I could have hoped for, but whether that’s 100% I do not know. Fortunately the game isn’t limited to pastoral stories, it’s mostly adventure and madcap hijinks and the like; it’s just that I think it’ll be possible to tell Miyazaki-style stories here as well as stories of the more typical RPG form. This played hard into the design of Town; on the whole, for all its problems (e.g., the major undead infestation in the School Region; the death of the sun; the siege from the Bleak Academy; the fact that half the playable characters are arguably evil and the rest are much too young), Town is a good and joyous place, someplace it wouldn’t suck to live.