Update & simplication.
This bug affects 17.10 & 17.04 with the current LTS support nvidia drivers.
This bug affects both my laptops with nvidia hardware.
External monitors are not necessary to reproduce.

Reproduction is simple. 
1. Activate the nvidia hardware using discrete mode. Therefore no intel 
graphics hardware is present. 

2. Enable the nvidia driver in modeset=1

make a file /etc/modprobe.d/zz-nvidia-modeset.conf
with contents
options nvidia_384_drm modeset=1

3. sudo update-initramfs

4. make sure gdm3 is your display manager

5. reboot

6. attempt to start a gnome session

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  gdm3 nvidia modeset=1 is broken, external screens don't work

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