Between Heaven and Hell

We’ve been playing Nobilis for some time now. It is a campaign, led by me, about the diplomacy between Heaven and Hell. The players have two sets of characters: one working for Heaven and one working for Hell. This being a somewhat typical game of Nobilis the characters are Powers, being bossed around by angels, one of which happens to be fallen.

Typically a session has consisted of either the Powers of Heaven or the Powers of Hell running errands for their demanding angel-bosses, in a recurring cycle of trying to gain the upper hand for the negotiations. I designed the first four sessions as a prelude to the actual negotiations, and last week we played the negotiations.

I tried something different, mostly because I thought it might suit the mood of the game and how it is designed, and partially because I thought it might be fun. I divided the players into two teams, two for Hell and two for Heaven. The two characters that did not participate were present, but did not intervene.

Both sides presented their cases and then argued for the side they were assigned to. This got a little more heated than it was supposed, and we finally called it of and had a break to cool the mood a bit. This happened also in the game. Then we got to the challenging part: the players had to abandon - one side at a time - the arguments they had presented and jump to the other side. They played first the discussion the Powers of Heaven had in their own group, evaluating the arguments of the other side. Then we repeated this with the Powers of Hell. All players had to switch sides once, so they all had to discuss their own arguments critically. Not very surprisingly, this wasn’t easy.

But I have excellent players and it ended well. I wrote down the conclusions for both sides and then tried to envision the compromise that would be made based on the convictions of both sides. More negotiating happened, but this time during the downtime. There was one big question that I left to the players to decide for me; it was basically “Which side won this issue?”. The next sessions was designed so that it would change depending on the answer. It will also affect the storyline on a larger scale, but how, I’m not so sure yet. (But this is not a problem, since I create the storyline based on what has happened during the sessions.)

The experimentation on negotiating both sides was interesting and definitely worth doing, but I’m not so sure I would do it again. It was a bit problematic to try and change sides mid-negotiating, and I’m not so sure it was that fun for the players.