Designing a Ghibli RPG

All Ghibli films

© Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli and its most famous director, Hayao Miyazaki, are known for their remarkable animated films. Their stories emphasize pacifism, intelligence, kindness, and respect for the natural world. While several of their movies could be labeled “action movies,” their protagonists (mostly girls) are usually not warriors, and they wrestle with complicated, multi-faceted problems rather than simple good vs. evil fights. There is rarely any combat in a Studio Ghibli movie.

What would a role-playing game like this look like?

I can think of a few design goals:

  • The system should encourage group collaboration and consensus.
  • The system should resolve conflict at a high level, rather than using blow-by-blow dice mechanics.
  • Conflict resolution should be less about success and failure and more about many outcomes.
  • The system should have minimal combat abilities.

Let’s look at existing systems that are close to what I’m looking for. The first that comes to mind is FATE. Thanks to the Fudge Ladder, Aspects, and Skills, characters can be described using personality traits and beliefs than as physical abilities.

So, let’s define characters by giving them a bunch of aspects. How do we keep track of them? One convenient method is cards, so we’ll assume that each character is defined by a set of 10 personality traits, each written on a card.

(Some people are, apparently, very anti-card. Those folks can just as easily write down the cards’ information on a sheet of paper.)

Some cards will be more useful in some circumstances than others, and we want a mechanical way of representing that. For now, we’ll put keywords on the bottom of each card, indicating the kind of situation that the card is particularly suited for.

How do we handle conflict? Let’s take a few pages from the recent Marvel RPG, by establishing scenes and conflicts, and letting players build dice pools. But instead of facing off against just opponents, let’s also add possible outcomes to the mix.

So, each conflict is made up of a mixture of Dangers and Futures. Players bid their cards on a particular Future, which adds dice to a dice pool on that Future. When all players have bid, the dice pools are rolled. Dangers must be neutralized by assigning dice to them.

How to prevent players from just throwing low-rolling dice on the Dangers? We’ll give each Danger a value, so you must sacrifice a die that rolled at least as high as the Danger’s value to neutralize it.

That’s a first stab. What do you think?

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