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Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

Wednesday 3 December 2014
Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is an enchanting and heartfelt roleplaying game from Jenna Moran, creator of Nobilis. If your favorite parts of any RPG are the down times between missions; if you could easily spend an entire game session just talking to folks in-character; if you’ve ever wanted to wrap yourself in the fantasy world of a game or TV series and just stay for a while — Chuubo’s is your game. It can handle many moods and genres: heroic adventures, strange fairy tales, or languid years growing up among friends. You may play as mere mortals, or as gods incarnate. But the story will always fundamentally be about individuals, their relationships, and their personal journeys.

A setting for every story

Technically, Chuubo’s has only one setting: Town. Town is the only real place left on Earth after the first Sun went out and Nothingness swallowed most of the world, the part we now just call Outside. But Town contains multitudes. Just beyond the docks of Big Lake, where all new refugees come in, is the stable, pastoral community of Fortitude. Downtown, you’ll find the Arcadia shopping district and the London-esque Horizon with its School, while further out is the wilderness of the Walking Fields. And that’s just a sample. Each setting contains its own atmosphere and is best suited for a particular kind of story. Chuubo’s has eight modes of storytelling, eight moods/genres to evoke. You might be in Fortitude telling a lazy Pastoral, where the years roll by in peace; or perhaps yours is a Fairy Tale, a yarn of weird transformation in old Soma Village. The genre you’ve chosen is more than just window dressing, as it directly influences what kinds of actions will win you XP (experience). And that’s not to mention the inhabitants: talking rats, shop foxes, the spirits of inanimate objects, ghosts and vampires, robots, and more. If you’re looking for a comparison, think of Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service), or the Adventure Time cartoons. A new wonder waits at every corner, and even where there is danger, there is beauty. Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is a beautifully-written RPG that reaches out and yanks at your heartstrings.

Player-driven, cinematic adventures

In Chuubo’s the players drive the story forward, maybe without even realizing it. Each character has at least one quest going at any given time. Slaying a dragon could be a quest, but so could taking up a new hobby, adjusting to life as a parent, or getting through a period of depression. Characters make progress on their quests by doing XP actions (a bit like hitting Keys in other popular indie games). The actions that will earn you XP are something pretty new in RPGs. Sure, you can ‘practice tennis’ if you’re on a tennis quest, but you also can do some in-character emoting, converse about certain things with other main characters, or try to provoke a genuine emotional reaction from other players. So, even if the character is just passively going about their business, the player is always proactively looking for XP actions. This mechanic pushes the story forward without the GM even lifting a finger. When the GM does step in, it’s to structure the narrative by beginning and ending scenes, commanding the flow of time, and calling for cinematic sequences: Rituals and Transitions. These are powerful tools for when “I do this, then that, then the other thing,” or “I start here and go there” don’t really cover it. For instance, a courtroom scene when law isn’t your campaign’s focus, or falling asleep and dreaming of a strange land.

Conflicts, resolutions, and characters

Like its spiritual predecessor Nobilis, Chuubo’s is played without dice. When an attempt might fail, a character’s inherent Skill and applied Will determine success. The Will system encourages players to conserve their efforts for truly important challenges and maybe take a loss now and again, but still keeps narrative momentum in players’ hands. Campaign power level can be set to “Mortal” or “Miraculous.” Whichever you choose, characters will still have the same basic concerns, like relationships, inner feelings, and getting along with the world at large. Mortals can still wield great power, and Miracle-level beings still have everyday lives, but at the Miraculous level, you’ve got something world-changing in your back pocket. For instance, you might have a marvelous wish-granting engine in your basement. Just as an example. Besides quests, character development is also represented through Issues. These aren’t what your character is working toward, but what they’re working through. It might be a physical issue like a sickness, or something like a crisis of identity or some kind of emotional baggage. Issues can range in size from “just another little thing to deal with” to “I really need to find a way to move on from this.” You don’t start with Issues, but develop (or discover) them during your campaign. They’re part of what makes your character well-rounded, both affecting and affected by the world. Read PK Levine’s marvelous Marvelous review at