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Cloudbreaker Alliance brings together Final Fantasy and Star Trek in an RPG about discovery, cooperation and cowboy orcs

Built around four-part kishotenketsu story structure.

Image credit: Don't Stop Thinking

A new RPG looks to channel the utopian spirit of exploration and collaboration seen in classic sci-fi series Star Trek, combined with the vast fantasy worlds of the Final Fantasy series of video games.

Cloudbreaker Alliance’s “counter-apocalyptic” setting sees a world formerly divided by cloud walls - which also happen to be infested with monsters - able to break through the walls and reunite after thousands of years apart. Like Star Trek’s discovery of diverse new civilisations, players’ cloudbreakers will spend the game meeting with the isolated communities of the world, looking to form an alliance against the remaining monsters.

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Those peoples and species range from fantasy staples such as orcs, goblins and trolls, to angels, masked oni, plant-people and other inanimate objects given life by powerful souls. The creators cite a range of both Eastern and Western influences that include the likes of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and manga/anime series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, alongside the key inspirations of Star Trek and Final Fantasy.

In contrast to the rigid classes of traditional RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, Cloudbreaker Alliance allows players to freely combine combat abilities as provided by 32 classes and characters’ equipment. Among the possibilities mentioned are cowboy orcs able to fire off ki blasts and magical-girl samurai angels, able to switch into Sailor Moon-like transformations from their already powerful form. In total, the RPG touts 256 available levels across its classes, with characters able to meld together two active classes alongside their gear.

Image credit: Don't Stop Thinking

Built into the game’s combat and collaborative storytelling is kishotenketsu, the four-part story structure particularly popular in East Asia, which introduces characters and sets up plot elements before developing them and introducing a twist before concluding. The structure differs to the classic ‘setup, confrontation, resolution’ three-part structure typically used in much Western storytelling in that it doesn’t necessarily rely on direct conflict to create tension.

This philosophy is embodied in combat situations that don’t simply rely on whittling down health totals. Making use of certain skills or equipment can instantly eliminate enemies - reflecting the twist element of kishotenketsu - or cause damage to morale rather than physical harm, leading to non-violent victory as foes retreat.

Image credit: Don't Stop Thinking

Players can similarly avoid combat altogether, with dedicated mechanics for chase and escape events allowing tension to arrive via evading or avoiding dangerous traps and other such hazards by working together as a team, rather than direct combat.

The game’s task and combat challenges are resolved using a simple use of two six-sided dice, with the roll’s total and target difficulty modified by relevant skills, equipment and situational advantages or disadvantages.

Challenges can also be overcome by making use of spirit tokens, earned during each combat encounter as a representation of the group’s close bonds and friendship. The tokens appear to function like a version of Final Fantasy’s powerful limit breaks, here known as spirit bursts, allowing the group to use tokens collected during a battle to unleash more damaging attacks, or alternatively choose to re-roll a failed challenge or evade an incoming attack.

Image credit: Don't Stop Thinking

Cloudbreaker Alliance comes from a team of designers, writers and artists led by CJ Leung, known for popular YouTube channels Don't Stop Thinking and Cool History Bros. Joining Leung is Avatar Legends co-designer Daniel Kwan and Fallout RPG editor Jacky Leung, along with character designs and illustration from veteran Japanese artists Sunohara and Hagak1.

Cloudbreaker Alliance will launch a Kickstarter campaign on August 1st, with the core rulebook accompanying a series of animated tutorials and a conversion chart for using D&D 5E monsters in the new RPG. Playtest materials are currently available over on its official website, outlining the basic rules and mechanics without detail on the game’s fantasy setting.

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