I sort of “accidentally” wound up working a bit on Moonsick, one of the games in my planned trilogy of Superflat-inspired RPGs, we are flat, owing in part to having finally bought Takashi Murakami’s Little Boy book, and in turn getting inspired to pull out Junko Mizuno’s Pure Trance (which is very unlike any other manga I’ve ever seen, and a bit weird even compared to her other works). The thing with Moonsick is that I’m finding it surprisingly easy to control my writing style in the same way I do when writing pure prose. I think reading Schauermärchen and especially Lacuna Part I did a lot to help me get there.
Lacuna does certain things that could put off a casual browser (some of which I intend to avoid), and I didn’t bother checking it out until a forum post tipped me off to why the game is the way it is. It’s called Part I even though Sorensen has specifically stated that there will never be a Part II (Second Attempt notwithstanding), it was the inspiration for the unfunny (IMHO) April Fool’s joke that got him banned from RPG.net, and everything describing the game is full of vague, leading questions and almost nothing solid. Nothing about the city in the collective unconscious or that there’s a fascinating set of game mechanics dealing with heart rate that’s central to the game, just cryptic stuff about Spidermen and the Blue City. The thing is, reading the book doesn’t actually answer all that many of those questions. There’s no such thing as a “right” way to play any given RPG, and in the case of Lacuna Part I that’s even more true than usual because it very deliberately forces anyone who plays it to fill in some gaps on their own. The back of the book gives hints, but even the GM doesn’t know what the designer intended the true nature of the Girl to be.
Moonsick is about girls who can’t grow up, who live on the moon and look down at an irradiated earth and wonder if the world was ever something different. It’s about feeling powerless and having a hard time making meaningful choices. The works of Junko Mizuno, Aya Takano, and Chiho Aoshima (amongst others) inform some of the game’s feel. The wording of the text, which stays rooted in this fictional world as much as possible, treats readers of the players’ section like children, and the game mechanics force them to make several choices right off the bat that seem pointless and aesthetic but are potentially significant in a purely arbitrary way. The number 28 matters in Moonsick for the same reason it’s significant in Akira.
The other thing with this game is that I’m winding up wanting to use visuals in very specific ways. The “rabbits” the game constantly refers to are not cuddly leporids (I’m not 100% sure what they are just yet), but the game text is not going to explain what they are, period. Instead I’ll have an illustration of one. Similarly, the fact that the girls on the moon all wear the same kind of white slip will only be shown in pictures, and one of the choices in character creation will be to pick out a hairstyle from a chart. I’m considering doing something similar with the various mutants on earth (like the Meltyplane and Prettyhead), purposely making it so the GM holds up a picture when the thing appears in the game, because it’s as close as he’s got to a description himself.
I have some vague ideas, but I really need to sit down and think about what rules the game needs, and what I want them to do. I think I’m designing a narrativist game, but I also suspect that simply designing a game about girls who live on the moon with rabbits that aren’t rabbits would be a better use of my time.