(Bonus) Some Stuff about Natalia

The first thing I did when thinking about Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine was come up with a set of four Powers specialized in the four Attributes.

Aspect girl is Natalia Koutolika, the Prodigy.

You can also play Antony Koutolika, if you really want to play a boy and you want to be the Prodigy. The disadvantage is that as a boy you will have a Y chromosome searing its way through your genetic makeup, plus, additionally, cooties. The advantage is that you will be broodingly handsome, you will have an easier time persuading your father to share his vodka with you, and people will be less likely to make fun of you for being strong enough to punch out a bear. However please be advised that vodka is made out of old potatoes and even when you are a girl who can punch out a bear people will only make fun of you from a safe distance.

In any case, who is She?

Natalia Koutolika was the best of her human generation. The smartest. The strongest. The most altogether awesome.

Also she was a little Russian girl, and very clear on the fact that it doesn’t really matter how strong or smart or awesome you are. When you are a little Russian girl changing the world is off the table.*

She may or may not have had KGB assassin training. That’s ultimately a player call.

Either way her heart froze over by the time she was 10. There’s a lot of Chess in her, and an awful lot of Freddie in particular, and at some point she just stopped caring. It was all useless.

Her family decided that this wasn’t good for her.

So they took three trunks of luggage and they went down to the boats and they spent four days in a small, dark cabin, and finally they landed at the docks of an inland lake in a little place called Town.

They pretend that it’s normal.

They pretend that it’s just a normal move. They may even believe that. An Imperial miracle was involved, and mortals have a tendency to believe what Imperial miracles think they should.

But Natalia doesn’t buy it.

She knows that you can’t get from Russia to the middle of an inland lake that is not in Russia by boat. Also, there’s a woman who lives in the sun, the hands of the Principal at her School are always dripping with blood, everybody’s speaking a vaguely Sanskrit-like language she’s never heard of but can understand fluently anyway, and that’s before we even get into the whole thing with the vampires and their “pillow-teeth tea.”

She knows that something’s up, that Town doesn’t make sense.

But her family just laughs. “You are being silly, Natashenka,” they tell her.

It’s all right.

. . . you wouldn’t think it could possibly be all right, but it is. It’s better than all right. It’s awesome on a stick, in fact, and the stick is also made out of awesome.

Because everything that was awful and broken about the world, everything that made her say, “There’s no point, there’s no use in even trying” was premised on the idea that the world was less crazy than the idea of fighting for justice and goodness and hope.

By the time she’d gotten through orientation at School she was aware that, in her little world at least, this was no longer true.

Let’s See, What Else?

So if you’re playing the Prodigy, your blood type will be B. (Blood bees live in your veins. They’re not vain about it! They just live there. Vanity bees think highly of themselves but if they got into your veins they wouldn’t have the first idea about what to do with themselves. Then white blood cell bees would eat them. That’s just the way things happen in the wild blood wonderland frontier.)

This Entry is Not About Bees

Right!

OK. Um. You would like borscht, because it is a Russian food and I don’t really know many Russian foods. You would also like baguettes because it is easy to imagine you having a baguette at School, eating it there, having it stolen, having someone give it to you, having someone break it while fighting near you, and the like. For borscht this is possible but more difficult to imagine. You would also like iced coffee because that’s just how cold and black and bitter the Prodigy’s heart can be.

It is important to drink things that resemble your heart. For instance, if you really love the world, you should drink something inherently amusing, like beer brewed in the tomb of a dead comedian, so that no sooner will you take a sip then you will spit it out again in a loving message to everything around you. (There are actually multiple reasons why you might do this.) Or if you are a sweetheart you might want to drink partially hydrogenated corn syrup. However if there are other sweethearts nearby they might want to stop you from doing so.

But This Entry is ALSO not about what people with different kinds of hearts should drink

Your animal would be the Dragon. Unlike Chuubo, you are not a dragon in any meaningful respect, nor can you turn into one barring a prodigious use of disguise skill and a lot of papier-mâché—but you are awesome enough to claim the best animal for yourself anyway.

Powers

Functionally, Natalia is a Power with:

  • 5 MP (generic)
  • Aspect 3
  • Affliction: Frozen Heart
  • Affliction: Outsider
  • Bond: Hero in the Making

Not that anyone with Aspect 3 really needs mundane abilities, like, ever, but she has some anyway:

  • Skill: Martial Arts 3
  • Skill: Mathematics 3
  • Skill: Sailing 1
  • Skill: Student 1
  • Skill: Russian Émigré 0
  • Cool 3

None of her mundane abilities are Passions. This doesn’t mean that I took Passions out of the rules, for clarity. It just means that none of her mundane abilities are Passions.

Variations

The Prodigy comes in a wide variety of engaging, exciting variations, including:

  • Antony Koutolika, a boy
  • Natalia Cordova, from Spain
  • Natalie Coutourier, from France
  • Ms. Mithrida Koutolika, 28 years old, the newest teacher at School

The degree to which any of these variations actually changes anything depends wholly on the player. Presumably you will either play towards stereotypes, play against stereotypes, or pick the last name you like best.

* Strictly speaking, “changing the world is off the table” was Natalia’s opinion and not mine. Although I think that when you are 10 it is probably pretty hard no matter what.

(Bonus) Some Stuff about Chuubo

The main character of Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is the eponymous Chuubo.

It’s going to depend on your game whether he’s the protagonist or the Gandalf or the MacGuffin, starting with whether he’s a PC (which is the only way he’s ever going to make it to protagonist level) and moving on to the question of how many of the PCs are connected to him in some way. He’s probably going to veer towards the Gandalf figure, and that’s OK.

Who is He?

The character archetype title is “The Wishing Boy.”

Now, all the characters in CMWGE come with a set of variations, and at least one variation switches sex, because I don’t want the character’s sex to be a big factor in which character you pick. In games where the HG recommends or hands out characters, I definitely don’t want it to be a big factor—there’s no way that that wouldn’t eventually lead to someone somewhere not having fun.

So I don’t really like that the archetype title is gendered. If you’re playing Shokyou, instead, the Wishing Girl, it’ll probably seem a little weird.

But . . .

So, Geoff Grabowski redlined me once for using “crafter” instead of “craftsman” in an Exalted thing, because crafter is a sucky word. I mean, it’s better than craftperson and all, but I see his point.

Similarly, “the Wishing Child” is an awful phrase, even if it beats “the Wishing Underaged Personage” or “the Entity, Typically Something of a Youth, That Wishes.”

I gave some serious thought to “the Wisher,” and I have to admit that not wanting people to confuse it with Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist when I was giving spoilers like this was a big factor in choosing not to do so. So there’s a chance that when it comes to actual print material, I’ll make a last-minute veer to Wisher, because when you have the whole book, you’ll notice pretty rapidly that it’s not the WTF game, and also, the people who have the whole book are less likely than the people who read this post to know what Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist is.

So, anyway, that’s why he’s “the Wishing Boy.”

Right, but who IS he?

As Chuubo, you’ll be playing a very ordinary boy.

He lives in a rustic little Town. He gets ordinary grades, like Bs and Cs but sometimes a B+ or an A. He’s ordinary at sports. He likes to sit out on the sidewalk of his street and eat ice cream or play jacks or talk to his friends or pet the neighborhood cat.

He’s ordinary and he likes it that way.

But just because he’s not very strong, and he’s not very smart, and he’s not very fast, and he’s not even very charismatic—just because, in short, he’s pretty much all-around ordinary in every sort of way—that doesn’t mean that he can’t go down to the vacant house at the end of his cul-de-sac and go in and close the door and unroll his plans and get out his saw and hammer and nails and wood and build a Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine that grants wishes.

Because, obviously, in fact, he can.

He did.

It’s right there, just exactly like his hand-drawn Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine plans suggest.

Let’s see. What else?

Hm!

So, if you’re playing the Wishing Boy, your favorite foods will probably be teriyaki and ice cream. Your blood type will be A. Your animal will be the Snake, which doesn’t mean actually mean your character was born in the year of the Snake (because most of the characters are the same or of similar age) but is probably just me hinting slyly at the fact that if Chuubo really wanted to he’s pretty sure he could turn himself into a 108-mile-long snake.

Not—

and here I must be very clear on this to prevent any possibility of confusion—

that there is any circumstance under which doing so would help.

Powers

I’ll talk a little more about his powers at some point, but I’ll summarize them right now.

Functionally, Chuubo is an Aaron’s Serpent with:

  • 5 MP (generic)
  • Immortality
  • Affliction: Ordinary
  • Affliction: Hapless, and
  • Bond: Worrier

The last measures his general ability to stress out over trivial irrelevancies, such as the fact that he might not be flossing properly or not knowing what people do with the soda cans that he drunk from and then recycled. (Seriously, it’s a problem. Just for an example, what if they train sewer rats to chew them down and excrete them as part of the recycling process, and by recycling his cans Chuubo is indirectly kissing every last trained sewer rat? Or what if they’re not really being used for recycling at all, but for something more sinister? That kind of thing can happen, and it’s always extremely nefarious when it does.)

You’ll notice an absence of miraculous abilities. There’s a reason for this: I haven’t actually given him normal miraculous Traits. He can do Imperial miracles, which is to say, he can make wishes, or at least, one wish per day. He also has certain powers that I hypothesize will resemble the powers I’ll assign Aaron’s Serpents in a hypothetical Aaron’s Serpents book that is far enough in the future that it’s exceedingly unlikely I won’t have better ideas by then if it happens at all. So let’s say, instead, that his “certain powers” are thematic cousins of the powers that will be available to angels in the Royalty of Heaven, since that book is likely to come out before I change my mind or develop things much further, except that, much like the Noble and Excrucian characters in this book, he’s a bit understatted compared to the projected norm.

You’ll also notice the absence of mundane abilities. He doesn’t get to win mundane ability contests, being Gandalf and not Aragorn. If he’s left to work in peace he can accomplish any ordinary task in a praiseworthy fashion, but distraction, conflict, and things that take unusual skills will give him trouble.

Variations

He doesn’t really have very many variations. There’s Shokyou, the Wishing Girl. There’s the completely extraordinary version where instead of being a totally normal boy, Chuubo is a totally normal boy with GLASSES. Also, if you really absolutely can’t handle life without playing Haku from Spirited Away, you can play him as a mostly ordinary-seeming boy who is secretly a river dragon.

(Bonus) Some Stuff about Town

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.

I think.

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.

Anyway, Town.

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.

and

  • 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.

Best wishes,

Jenna

(CMWGE Project Summary)

So the first supplement for the new Nobilis 3e is looking to be

Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine,
or
Nobilis: Campaigns,
Volume 1: Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine
,
or something like that!

I haven’t formally decided to go all out with the colons and stuff. There’s still time for someone to stop me. I don’t really mean you, although a loud enough voice will matter, I really mean either Hsin or my own conscience. On the other hand, they may push me to do it instead!

You can’t trust consciences.

Their agenda is their own!

There are some key decisions that are yet to be made here. This is because I’m pushing them to the end. For instance, right now, Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is high school anime. I’m still considering pushing the characters older or reskinning the magic to high fairy tale, steampunk, or sufficiently advanced science. The amount of rewriting involved is high but not really much more than I do for any given draft of any project.

Still, we can say this much about what’s in the project.

First, it’s a setting. Technically Nobilis already has a setting, which makes this a variation instead. But where the default Nobilis setting is pretty heavy on the metaphysics and pretty light on the who-lives-where and does-it-have-bus-service, the CMWGE setting is a nice little Town where things like that become defined.

Second, it’s a bunch of characters. That’s not really a big thing. It’s not like Nobilis characters are hard to make. But it’s a nice set of characters for days when you’re feeling lazy or when you want to sit down at the table or stand up at a LARP with a bunch of gaming or Nobilis or CMWGE newbies, hand out the characters, and go.

Finally, there’s a story infrastructure based on the old Projects capsystem, which is basically designed to make sure nobody ever finds themselves going “agh wtf do I do now I can’t think of anything” again, or, at least, that you never have to do it longer than it takes to find the right page in Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine.

You know how once you have the broad outlines of what you’re trying to do, a typical task or conflict resolution system will tell you what to roll to attempt it? This is basically the other side of that, a tool linking the obvious details of what’s going on or what you’re focusing your attention on to its place in the story.

I suspect half of you have now decided it’s some kind of Story Now thing and the other half of you think it’s fruity and/or non-mechanical, but it’s not! It’s not any of that. It’s just a useful tool for knowing exactly what to do, because I wanted to be able to run this thing no-prep in the time it takes for people to familiarize themselves with their character sheets.

Oh!

Though, speaking of character sheets, I should admit that they have gotten pretty long. I realized that if I lowered the power level a bit and took away “every character has every Attribute” for the space of just one book, I could just write down what each character can do instead of their Traits, and with a minimum of redundancy and/or “see pg. XX for the full rules on this.” So on the one hand, when I say “familiarize themselves with their character sheets,” I really do just mean that; on the other, it’s really closer to a “character packet” than a character sheet.

Best wishes,

Jenna