jpdonaghue: Calling the GM a Hollyhock God. Sure it is common to do that in RPGs, but I hate it equally everywhere. Dumb terminology just to be different is how it appears to me (owner, player, and GM of many systems).
Secretly, I figure most people will probably call them GMs anyway. After all, I only call my D&D GM a DM about 10% of the time, my Storyteller GMs Storytellers about 20%, and really, I only strive for consistent use of HG when I'm writing game material *myself*.
As for why I used it … well, I figured, what harm is there? People who like it can use it. And it's a useful bit of terminology for me. When I feel comfortable with using game terms, which is pretty often, I use HG or PC. When I want to keep the mood more focused towards the setting, I can write "characters" or (with a little more work) "Powers" for PCs, and "Hollyhock God" for the person running the game.
Admittedly, I have a lot of private, intuitive rules about the use of terminology. They aren't necessarily bulletproof. I like to have multiple terms for key game concepts, for example. Sometimes, it's 'right' to call, e.g., Nobilis by that term over and over and *over* in a single paragraph. Other times, I need to be able to switch among Powers, Nobles, Domini, and Nobilis within a short passage. This might keep it from reading monotonously, pin down subtle distinctions between the sentence subjects, or, well, whatnot. The benefit: such things let me write at my best. The drawback: some people can't keep track of the terms very well, or just don't like them.
*giggle* Yes, I hear that a lot.
Here's how I see it. Flowers are a pretty useful symbology, with lots of shades of meaning and an endless list of symbols to use. The modern American (and Western?) mindset has devalued them into purely romantic/feminine symbols, though almost everyone still *knows* about the language of flowers.
I figure that gamers are more or less used to accepting odd symbologies. It helps if they're reasonably well ingrained in their culture's psyche -the Tarot means more to most Americans than the I Ching, and both mean more than the symbology of gems. I think. But, again, people haven't really forgotten the language of flowers, just set it down for a while. So it's not *that* kind of brain strain-I'm sure that almost all my readers *understand* the floral symbology.
So the issue, I think, isn't that flowers are locked into people's minds as nothing *but* romantic/feminine symbols. It's just that they're nailed down so firmly *as* romantic and feminine symbols.
So … then I think, what's really wrong with that in a game? It means that people who care will have subliminal inspiration to draw on those associations to enrich their gaming. People who can't take romantic or feminine symbols seriously will ignore them. So it really comes down to whether 'romantic' or 'feminine' are ideas that intrinsically clash with a game of high-powered incarnate concepts in an animistic universe. And, while they'd certainly clash with Conan- or Fafhrd- or even Cugel-style adventure, I don't think they're a problem here.
What *are* the romantic elements that it might invoke in a setting? What *are* the feminine behaviors it might evoke in PCs and NPCs?
As to the former, romance is obviously tied to love; but there's a reason we use the same word for:
2. A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful: "These fine old guns often have a romance clinging to them"
3a. A long medieval narrative in prose or verse that tells of the adventures and heroic exploits of chivalric heroes: an Arthurian romance.
3b. A long fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events, usually set in a distant time or place.
In other words, I assert that romance is in its underlying form about wonder and mystery. Romantic love, complete with flowers, is just love seen through the lens of wonder and mystery. And that lens is a fine thing for the game in general.
As for feminine behaviors … well, to be honest, I have no particularly strong definition of what that means. (I could dig out my anthropology notes and *give* a decent multicultural definition, but won't.) But if the notion reeks of inefficiency and frivolity to you, you probably have the wrong idea about women :)
I guess if this idea and symbolism means anything in the Nobilis context, it means 'even mighty-thewed male heroes in this world don't *have* to abide by our social norms for masculinity if they have better things to do.' Or, looking at that another way, 'Nobles are more likely to develop their own ideas of general power, male power, and female power than to borrow them from their culture's concepts of masculinity and femininity.'
If this section reads as confusing, connotative, and non-descriptive, then I have in fact failed. The style used for the introductory fiction was not the standard Nobilis style. It's loosely based on the approach I use for any long speeches by Imperators or Excrucians. It does use metaphors and flavor when describing experiences outside the normal human range, but aims for concision and tries to say exactly what it means. Or, more precisely, exactly what the viewpoint character experiences.
For example, the section you refer to …
"My tongue dissolves. Blood flows into my throat."
… means that the viewpoint character's tongue dissolved. Blood then flowed into their throat.
I can offer some other interesting notes on this passage. One can safely assume a causal connection between the tongue dissolving and the blood spurting. After all, if *your* tongue dissolved, the stump would probably bleed. But it was stylistically inappropriate to mention the logic of it. The character experienced the blood. They didn't really experience the logic. It *might* have been stylistically appropriate to mention hideous pain, but overall my feel for the scene was that the viewpoint character wasn't processing things like that-too much shock. The character developed that way because the theme of the opening story wasn't really about suffering.
"My body is sick, vomiting out seawater. There are pieces of kelp in it."
… means that the character's body is sick, vomiting out seawater, with pieces of kelp in it. The term "I am sick" is not used because the character does not feel a strong association with their body at that time. It would therefore be misleading.
Let's consider a case that I think might confuse some people into believing that the character thinks in metaphor and allegory.
"A miracle sweeps across me like rushing water, and I fall to my knees. For a moment, I can sense nothing else; apprehend nothing else; think of nothing else. I can only feel the tides of change wash through my soul.
I could not have understood the wonder of it before this moment. It makes the joys and sorrows of my life seem transparent and hollow. It rings louder than any bell and burns brighter than the sun. It is as beautiful as the sea, and far more greedy."
The character experiences the change in their soul as something that washes over and through them. It feels louder than any bell and also seems to burn brighter than the sun.
This isn't something literally washing over them. (Although a movie version might have it do so.) Nor is there an actual clangor or burning light. Instead, the character expresses how they process the experience: something rushing through them, and a feeling of sensory overload.
One can, of course, extrapolate backwards from this. The character's processing is nonliteral once; can one trust anything else they say? The miracle is not actually "louder than a bell"; does that mean their tongue didn't really dissolve? Or that their body wasn't really sick or vomiting?
It had been my intention that Occam's Razor alone would be enough to navigate people through this. I'm sorry that, for at least one reader, it wasn't. I would find it useful for future work if you went into more detail about why it threw you.
P.S. I use "they" because the sex of the viewpoint character is deliberately unspecified. Or, more precisely, the viewpoint character is the same sex as the reader. :)