Source material as part of the social contract

Michael Meinberg on Goat Song recently wrote Game Theory Chat: Designing for the Social Contract talks about how a good system can, and must, shape the social contract of the game space. Several his thoughts certainly align with mine. The point about how the systems and supplementary elements of a game will shape that social contract, shape the flow of play, is one I want to reflect on.

My relationship with Nobilis is a complicated one. I loved the 1st and 2nd edition. Played it for years, did some lexicons, thought about it a lot. I reflect 3rd edition but find myself not interested in playing it, though very prone to steal this and that from it. But I agree, that this material very much shapes how Jess and I approach the game.

For me, I think there are five pillars of influence:

  1. The editions of Nobilis, the source books and the various writings of Jenna Moran. Great stuff here, some of which resonates, others I am indifferent from. All a source of constant mining.
  2. Past experiences of Nobilis. I’ve stated before how much Nobilis is a game with history in our relations. This is not our 1:1 game. We’ve played several games with groups. I hosted 3 different lexicons. All of this informs me.
  3. My experiences as a gamemaster. The things I am interested in.
  4. Jess’s contributions of a player.
  5. Our implementation at the table and through the podcast.

I can’t imagine playing Nobilis if it didn’t set up the type of game that it does. And for what it adds to diversity I shall always cherish it for. I think what a game system does is forms a constrained area in which social contract develops.

Michael furthermore asks the question “What elements do you like in your games?”

Well, the elements that Nobilis supports that I like are:

  • Emphasis on community
  • Complicated and deep span of scope
  • History as a playground

I think you’ll see all of them in play in our social contract and in our game play.