Taintedweald: Designer’s Notes

Since last year I was toying myself with the idea to write a setting inspired by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece. The first attempt was last year to submit for InPlay #3 (then never issued, alas), but I was not able to meet the deadline.

The idea stuck in my mind, for merrier times. Then other project came, fatherhood and everything connected to it.

Until Yochai Gal launched the *Forest of Another Name” Cairn Jam last month. The original deadline was March 31st and I know it was totally impossible for me to meet that deadline. Then it has postponed to April 15th and I was able to start writing my submission in time.

The result is Taintedweald, a mini-setting in a 24 pages zine. Let’s see it in detail!

  • The title is a portmanteau because they sounds good and Dolmenwood was already taken (and there will be not such a good title as that). I had to figure out something that not sounds awful and recalled the Sea of Corruption. At first I was thinking to use “Toxic Jungle” (the original Italian translation for the Sea in the 80’s adaption of the anime), but it was not that evocative. I am satisfied with Taintedweald.

  • The general concept takes off the world of Nausicaä, but it is only a loosely inspiration. There is the post-apocalyptic feel to it, there is the poisonous forest and a general feel in the names and technology, of course. That’s it, everything else is vague enough to allow a total conversion if someone wants to, but something completely different either. The Nausicaä Fandom Wiki was a unrivaled source of material and inspiration to make this setting.

  • The general outline has been taken from The Gygax 75 Challange by Ray Otus. I made it in roughly 5 days instead of 5 weeks. That’s not an achievement, more of a reckless stunt. I did not through week 5 consciously, because that’s a mini-setting, not a whole long-term campaign gazetteer. I find Ray’s workbook amazing in every way possible: it’s concise but thoughtful and it gives a solid framework to kick-off a campaign. I needed such a framework due to my known inability to focus on worldbuilding and also to time constraints.

  • Equipment list was written by mixing the lists on the Nausicaä Wiki and my common sense. It had to give an idea of implied setting and that sense of “Future Middle Age” but with increasingly rusty technological remains from the past. I hope I’ve given this idea.

  • The regional map was generated with watabou’s Perilous Shores, an amazing tool for people like me, totally dummy with drawing. It’s highly configurable and gives you a nice art and prompts.

  • For Vennanto I followed Gygax 75 Week 4, starting with a map generated in watabou’s Medieval Fantasy City Generator. I studied as a Regional Planner at University and I’ve maintained a certain “professional bias” that is, it is easier for me to “comment” (and thus fill in the blanks with my imagination) on a pre-made map than to think of one from scratch. It was enough to follow the workbook and think of something sensible about the setting. It was a lot of fun to think about landmarks, patrons, and hirelings in a way that would provide a base for the party to get operations going but not necessarily focus on woodland operations only.

  • The Lost Vault (not a very clever or original title, I know) meets Gygax 75 Week 3 guidelines of course, but with some spice added. Ground Level started as a dice drop on a blank sheet of 9d6. I used the disposition of dropped dice to determine every “bubble” position, than used the value to size them accordingly. Then I drawn a Tarot card for every bubble and tried to contextualize each card with respect to the general theme (weird forest) and the particular one (wealddweller), outlining the “room”. Same for Undergound Level, but here I just drawn every room in draw.io and then let the app rearrange everything “organically”. For this second level I was more comfortable, because a science fiction theme is more congenial to me than the forest or fantasy one. The airship in the last room is a common trope in Miyazaki’s works and anyone who follow the great mangaka recognized it for sure.

  • I added the vehicles later, when I was rightly pointed out that two pages were missing to get a regular booklet. One was the back cover, the other was not meant to be trivially an illustration. I had pending the need to include a mini-system for the vehicles and I have taken, simplified and adapted that of Plerion (Systems becomes Gauges, however, given the mechanical nature and not electronic technology of Taintedweald). I also statted some example vehicles, almost all of them airships, because fuck yeah.

  • Bestiary is adapted from Nausicaä creatures, of course. Ostrichorses are Claw Horses under alias and so many of the Great Bugs. Wealddwellers are adapted from Forest People (even if wealdnant are a wicked creation of mine) and Wormasters are the Worm Handlers, nothing more.

It was a heck of a ride to write and layout the whole things in less than a week, but it was so much fun! Hope you’ll find fun too in running or playing it!

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