Mytholder: Er…the fiction is presumably written afterwards, with the benefit of hindsight.
BlightCrawler: Actually, I believe the Example of Play is entirely fictional.
Both of you are correct. :)
A brief digression, on the way to explaining that. I have a slight time lag to my thoughts. This means that even when I'm together enough to have my characters do cool things spontaneously, and develop cool ideas spontaneously, I still can't do particularly good dialogue in a face-to-face game. This is not universal but it's pretty normal, I think.
So, er, well, there isn't even a chance that I'll ever *play* up to the level of what I *write*. It's almost definitionally impossible. So why do I bother building settings and environments that even I can't capture, much less other people who are sometimes better players but don't know said settings as well as I do?
My theory is this. The game play is not the story. The game and the story depend on one another, but they're not the same thing. Similarly, the setting isn't what the HG describes. The HG's verbal scenery and the game world depend on one another, but they're not the same thing.
The story is what you get out of the game when you look back on events during a lull or between sessions or after the campaign is over. You mentally strip out all the gaffes, oversights, omissions, memory lapses, and retcons. You pump up the things the characters said and did a little bit in your mind to match the ideal of what they should have been. (In part, by focusing on the coolest things they actually did.) And *then* you have the story.
When I think about rich, deep, philosophically interesting stories told with Nobilis, I'm thinking about *those* stories. Sometimes, that part is fun to play. But I have no expectation that that'll be the most interesting part. And, fortunately, unless you really like that sort of thing, you don't *have* to play it. The game play should be loose. It should focus on epic stuff and on the players having fun.
The reason you want the underlying story to be deeper than the play is that you then look back at game events-with hindsight-and you start to see coolness that wasn't necessarily overtly there during play. And that influences *future* play. It gives you insights about how your character thinks, maybe, or about how the world works, or maybe it just makes the setting seem cooler to you. You can then build on that for free during the game while still focusing on the fun. That makes for even more fun.
In this context, the transcription of a fictional game session represents a picture of how the game might play out with a good but otherwise typical player group—-sometimes silly, but not always; sometimes clever, but not always; sometimes metagaming, but not always. I left out the classic failure modes, but mostly because I didn't want to encourage them. :)
Conversely, the narrative fiction-primarily the interludes, but also a couple of the sidebars-represents the kinds of ideas and thoughts an HG and her players might have about the game after hindsight has done some polishing. It represents the underlying story behind the play.
I think this is kind of important. It's not the only reason I did it that way. But it's kind of one answer to the question that was already being asked back in the pink book version: "Can *I* actually play this game?"
To which the answer is, of course. :)
I'm bloody well not going to talk like Gygax and make decisions using random combat attitude tables when playing 1st edition D&D. But I can still play it, and it's still *that* game, the game written about in the core books.
Nor, when playing 3e, will I try to talk polyphonally like some three-headed Cook, Tweet, and Williams chimera, focusing my character on upgrading old gnomish artifacts so they function more intuitively and don't explode at random. But it's still *that* game. :)
I don't know. This seemed like a thought I haven't seen expressed very often-that game play and story are symbiotes, not host and parasite or vice versa-so I post!
P.S. Sick today. Please forgive some awkwardness in phrasing.