Nobilis is a roleplaying game written by authoress Jenna Katerin Moran, A.K.A. Rebecca Borgstrom (the second edition cover credits "R. Sean Borgstrom", supposedly because the author feared that RPG players would be prejudiced against an RPG written by a woman, but this was dropped for third edition).
It has been published 4 times, but only has three editions: the first edition in a salmon-coloured trade-size hardback by Pharos Press; the second edition in a white-coloured art-book sized hardback with an attached marker ribbon by Hogshead Publishing, and then later by Guardians of Order (the colour of the marker ribbon varies between the printings); the third edition in both a full-colour trade-size hardback and PDF by Eos Press.
The game's theme is that the godlike figures who created the Earth and other worlds, ("Imperators"), have found themselves in combat against invading forces aiming to destroy everything ("Excrucians"). In their stead, they appoint humans ("Sovereign Powers" - or "Nobilis") to rule over the aspects of reality they have control of. Player characters may be the Noble of just about concept desired- Steel, Guns, Blood, Technology, Cats, Communication, Trees and Lightning are a few examples.
The game is based on a diceless system with a very unusual stat block. In the first two editions, characters have only four basic stats: Aspect, which defines how well they can accomplish mortal tasks; Domain, which defines how much power they have over the thing they are a Power of; Realm, which defines how much power they have over their Chancel (a particular place where the Powers reside); and Spirit, which defines to what extent the Power is defended against hostile actions of others. As a guideline to the power level of the game, a character with Aspect 0 is an average human in all respects; at Aspect 1, they are as good as a bronze medalist at all imaginable physical, mental and social feats without trying. Scores for stats may range up to 5, and a starting score of 5 in a stat is entirely feasible.
Third edition has a different set of stats: Aspect means much the same as it did in earlier editions; Domain defines how much power they have over the substance of their estate; Persona defines their power over the conceptual properties of their estate; and Treasure defines the power of those people, things or ideas that represent them. All operate on the 0-5 scale.
Because of the tremendously high power level, the difficulty of working out a logic that can be used to establish behaviour in such a highly mythical setting, and the highly florid writing used in the second edition book (for instance, every level and every stat is described by a short fable!), Nobilis is renowned as an exceptionally difficult game to run and play; it sparked the origin of the term Borgstromancy. There are still circles in which the announcement that a player or group has successfully played or run Nobilis is still cause for gasps of admiration or even applause. However, those who have played the game tend to regard this reputation for difficulty as unjustified. The second edition book itself contains 13 chapters of advice for GMs, interspersed throughout the other chapters, as well as a sample campaign and another chapter devoted to a two-session example of play.
The first supplement, The Game of Powers, contains live-action rules and an example story.
A second supplement, titled A Society of Flowers, was released in PDF format as announced on the RPG.net Tabletop Roleplaying Open forum, with a hard copy version to be released in 2008. Further supplements to come were implied, and it was outright stated that a new edition of the main rulebook was to be expected sometime in 2009, including the material from the previous version and the Live Action supplement, The Game of Powers.
In the event, the third edition rulebook was released in 2011, rewriting the mechanics and setting from the ground up. The first supplement, A Diary of Deceivers, provides expanded rules and information on one of the Excrucian groups, the Deceivers.
Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is an associated transmedia project.