Nausicaa-inspired Cloud Empress brings the eco-horror of Ghibli movies to sci-fi RPG Mothership
It’s not one for bug haters.
An upcoming supplement for sci-fi horror RPG Mothership plans to delve into the Ghibli-esque terror of a world blighted by pollution and exploited by humanity.
Cloud Empress: In the Land of Ten Thousand Cicadas designer watt openly cites Studio Ghibli legend Hayao Miyazaki’s manga-turned-movie Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind as a central influence on their vision of a world being reclaimed by nature following its ruination by human greed and climate change.
Cloud Empress’ setting of The Hereafter sees the remnants of humanity find a living among polluted farmlands known as the Breadbasket - or above the clouds of deadly smog, if they’re well-off enough to be among the world’s ruling classes living in skybound cities.
The game’s subtitle refers to the terrifying giant cicadas that emerge from underground each summer, consuming the bones of the dead in order to be granted psychic ability - as passed to the few humans left by their absorption of the polluted air, water and land.
While it all sounds rather bleak, watt insists that the RPG - which also counts Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Books of Earthsea and Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist as defining inspirations - is ultimately about recognising the ability of humanity to survive amongst hardship.
“I wanted to create a setting that honoured life’s resilience in the face of climate change, instability and unchecked greed,” they said. “The Mothership/Panic system RPG felt like a perfect way to place players in a deadly ecosystem that no longer allows humans to exploit it recklessly.”
In keeping with the love of nature seen in Ghibli films alongside recognition of its destructive power, the book also includes biological information on real-life cicadas and remarks on watt and Miyazaki’s fascination with the natural world. Oh, and the whole thing looks absolutely gorgeous, if the first illustrations from watt, pbbeta, Garin and Evlyn Moreau are anything to go by.
Cloud Empress can be played with the rules of Mothership’s first edition or by itself thanks to a hack of the sci-fi RPG's rules designed to better capture the eco-fantasy setting. The book introduces four additional player classes based in the world - the Lordling, the Sellsword, the Magician and the Courier - and numerous items, spells, panic responses and other material tailored to the eco-horror setting. The 80-plus-page release will also include details on five regions of the Breadbasket, including maps, adventures and lore, and over a dozen NPCs.
Cloud Empress is due to be crowdfunded in early 2023. Ahead of the campaign for the full book, an adventure introducing the world and its inhabitants, The Last Voyage of the Bean Barge, can be downloaded from watt’s Itch.io page now.