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!
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 dumpster fire:
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?!?
For those interested there’s a bit of a history as to why Warriors of the Wind is the way it is and I’d recommend checking out the blurb in the film’s Wikipedia entry. It’s the reason for the infamous “no cuts” message to Disney.
My little kid brain didn’t really process more than the imagery but there was definitely 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 it.
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. It took me a second to understood what it was but bought the whole series and ended up reading 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.
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. In doctor who, for example, players trade duty running The Doctor throughout the course of a campaign so everyone gets a chance to be iconic.
That might work for Nausicaä’s story. Shouldn’t be much of a problem. You could relive her arc and visit all the amazing places in the narrative. It might just do the trick.
Only…that’s 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 draw as a brand new adventure out of the same world.
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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 after a few flailing stumbles. Back into intellectual storage it would go to make room other projects.
Then along came Fate.
Fate does drama and action very well. It has a robust system for physical and emotional threats. One of the core themes of Nausicaä is empathy overcoming destruction so 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 system I’d use would need to also include mechanics for that.
Fate can do handle it and 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 thought I’d finally found a system 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 lose the themes and power of her tale.
What to do?
I’m going 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 lurk in that time period.
Horrible things have come to pass and the seeds of destruction that lead humanity to yet another precipice have only started germinating deep in the Crypt of Shuwa.
Let’s do this!