Nostalgia: The Nomad Fleet Dev Diary – Episode 1
Enrico and I have known each other for almost 20 years. In that time, I’ve developed a healthy respect for his fervent imagination. His stories are best defined as “balls to the wall”: they’re the weirdest, most disturbing mixtures of the sacred and profane that you can think of... except that he thought of them ten years before you.
Last summer we were walking around Suomenlinna, an island not far from Helsinki’s city center. Enrico was updating me on some script ideas he was toying around with for Hive Division, a video production & VFX studio run by a mutual friend (yes, they're the guys behind MGS Philanthropy). Having a brain that’s teeming with ideas can be frustrating in the movie business -- you need to submit 20 scripts for every one that’s green-lit. Also, lots of good scripts are simply too expensive for an indie budget. With this in mind, I asked Enrico, "Why don't we do something together? Instead of a movie, we’ll create a world and see what we can do with it.”
My question wasn’t exactly spontaneous. I knew I wanted to write a role-playing game, and I wanted Enrico to help me write it. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s leaving a good idea unfulfilled. Almost a year has passed since that conversation, and we’re close to attaining our “world creation” dream. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re working hard. All we needed was an original story and a very original ruleset, and voila – that’s how Nostalgia began.
Tabletop RPGs offer far more creative freedom than movies and video games. With tabletop RPGs, we can imagine whatever we want and create numerous playable situations. The only limits are our writing skills and how well we refine a gameplay system that fits our world.
We both agreed on a sci-fi theme, with an emphasis on originality (obviously) -- so we started with a simple idea: “phantom-binding”. Characters would belong to a special taskforce able to control phantoms, work in teams, and explore a world that resembled a remixed version of Blame!, Ergo Proxy and Romantically Apocalyptic. However, after sleeping on the concept for a while, we decided to do it right.
Above, a scene from Romantically Apocalyptic by Alexander Gromov.
What we really wanted was to create a saga spanning thousands of years, and our initial concept wasn’t strong enough to support such an endeavor. So we devised a macro-plot that encompasses several different settings, all representing a cycle in the evolution of certain unfathomable cosmic events extending from the present day to an indefinite future millennia.
Nostalgia, the name we chose to represent the entire story arc, implies longing and yearning. It might seem like a peculiar title for a sci-fi saga, but for now let’s just say we have our reasons. More to come in future updates.
One thing we decided early on was to start in the middle of our narrative arc because, well, starting from the beginning would have been the obvious thing to do – and we shun the obvious.
The Nomad Fleet -- the setting we’re currently developing -- is the “central cycle" of the Nostalgia saga. I use quotation marks because we have ideas for as many as 3 - 4 cycles if all goes extremely well. In an upcoming Dev Diary, I'll let Enrico discuss what “The Nomad Fleet” actually is.
I’ll close this first blog post by mentioning a few ideas we’re trying to integrate into the MONAD System, which is Nostalgia’s underlying ruleset and, in our plans, a generic framework for governing future games. It’s worth mentioning that we’ve learned several lessons from the various systems we’ve used over the years, such as Nobilis, Sine Requie, Numenera, Dragon Age, Wraith: The Oblivion, and others. None of these does exactly what Nostalgia requires, but all of them have provided plenty of inspiration.
- We want a role-playing game where role-playing matters; where interpretation is not something you can just do, but rather something that affects every outcome.
- We envision a game where resource management is as important as rolling the dice. This allows us to infuse the game with a very strategic pace, without sacrificing any of the exciting old school randomness. Awaiting the “make or break” results of a dice roll is just too much fun to completely remove it from the equation.
- We seek a system where not only is the GM not omniscient, but where he or she can even be surprised by the players. In other words, the MONAD System emphasizes co-creation between the GM and the players.
If this sounds like something you’d dig, stay tuned for future updates!
[continues in the next episode]