Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Powered by Fate

It’s been too long since I updated this blog.

I’ve kept up a couple sessions of Known World but thanks to a move and the related serious stresses that caused to my life I haven’t been able to devote as much energy towards my creative projects. When I got back to running I realized that I needed to take a break from the DnD project and try something new.

I looked through my back catalog of in progress things and found something that pulled at my passions enough to warrant becoming the next ongoing series for this blog: Nausicaä Powered By Fate!

nausicaa poster
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Some History:

Nausicaä is my favorite manga of all time. It may rank up there with my favorite stories in any medium. I saw the original Warriors of the Wind back in 1985 on VHS when my parents rented it from our local video store. It was god awful. I was 6 and couldn’t follow it. The cover didn’t even have anything to do with the film.

I mean just look at this thing.

Warriors of the Wind Cover
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Horrifying. I mean the actual hero is as far in the back of the image as possible, there are no robots in the film, and a frigging Pegasus? Seriously?!?

My little kid brain didn’t really process more than the imagery and there was something in how the Ohmu were animated and how the whole world was just breathtakingly beautiful. Even the monstrous editing and dubbing couldn’t really hide that.

Fast forward to early 1998. I was working at a Barnes and Noble as a coffee jockey and stumbled across this weird set of manga. A girl on a flying wing, giant insects, and Ohmu. I imediately understood what it was and bought the whole series. I read the entire Perfect Collection in a single sitting.

It was magic.

The pictures seemed to move. It brought up emotions. It’s hard to really put into words. It’s human. It’s heartbreaking. It’s art.

Even back then I wanted to explore that world and bring it to life in my own way. I wanted very much to create a pen and paper role playing game out of Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind.

The Problem

Nausicaa_by_ohmu
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Turns out that there are some real hurdles when you want to adapt Nausicaä to a traditional party based pen and paper game system. Mainly that the really interesting stuff in the story all revolves around a single powerful protagonist. All the supporting characters are clearly just NPCs who react to her decisions.

The systems I was familiar with at the time, Dungeons and Dragons and The World of Darkness, both feature parties of powerful characters instead of a solo act.

Back then I just couldn’t get past that limitation. I just wasn’t experienced enough and the tools I had just weren’t advanced enough. I was also just so in love with Nausicaä that I couldn’t imagine a story in that world that didn’t feature her.

Other games over the years have done interesting things to address similar problems. The old Buffy game and Doctor Who both jump to mind. They both feature a single powerful protagonist and a “scooby gang” of less powerful supporting characters. Players trade off running The Doctor throughout the course of a campaign for example.

That could totally work for Nausicaä’s story. No problem. You could relive her arc and visit all the amazing places in the narrative. It might very well do the trick.

Only, there’s another issue. Turns out that’s not not really what I wanted. I’ve read that story dozens of times. I’ve seen those vistas over the Sea of Corruption. I’ve looked into the Heart of the Ohmu along with Nausicaä. I know what she’d do and that’s not the same as creating a brand new adventure out of the same world.

Powered by Fate

Powered by Fate
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Over the years the idea would crop up in my mind and I’d take another look at it but inevitably I’d run out of steam or barely get started. Back into storage it would go as other projects took up those mental cycles.

Then along Fate.

Fate does drama and action very well. It has a robust system for physical and emotional threats. Given that one of the core themes of Nausicaä is about empathy overcoming destruction it’s vital to have a game with room for emotional conflict as a central pillar. The characters in the manga are also vulnerable to mental stresses, including Nausicaä, so any game system needs to also include mechanics for that.

Fate can do that and, it turns out, it’s pretty low drag when it comes to making custom mechanics or tweaking the system to fit your game’s specific themes and moods.

So I think I’ve found a systems but I was still having trouble figuring out what kinds of stories I could tell with it. I didn’t want to tell Nausicaä’s story, it’s been told, but I also didn’t want to loose the themes and power of her tale.

What to do?

I think the solution is to set the game a generation before Nausicaä’s birth. Ancient flying machines, crumbling nations, desperate survival, distant hopes, unknowable insect monsters, and even deeper mysteries can all be found in that time period.

Horrible things have come to pass and the seeds of destruction that lead humanity to yet another precipice are germinating deep in the Crypt of Shuwa.

Let’s do this!

Squirrel Fox
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