Indie RPG ‘Flying Circus’ Let’s You Design Your Own Fantastical Airplane
Flying Circus is a Ghibli-inspired aviation adventure game that asks you to design your own plane and then go protect world peace.
Have you ever sat down to watch one of the Ghibli movies that heavily feature aviation combat? Porco Rosso most immediately comes to mind, but we also see this theme play out in Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, just to name a few. If you’ve seen more than one or two Ghibli films, there’s a good chance you noticed the inclusion of quite a few now-antique planes.
And even though they are almost always included for some war or combat reason, these are Ghibli movies we’re talking about here. Somehow they manage to make the fight look aesthetic similar. Well, 2020’s Flying Circus took that exact strange appeal to the next logical place by building an entire tabletop RPG around the Ghibli-inspired aviation-based fantasy and adventure.
This is a game with a setting that is equal parts specific and easy to put your own spin and story on. The basic premise follows a world where a massive industrial war has just recently concluded and the world is rebuilding… Albeit slowly. But there is still danger out there in the form of lingering hold-out enemy forces from the sky.
In response, mercenary companies and their unique salvaged aircraft must take on the missions nobody else is brave enough to take on and maintain the current strained peace.
It’s a little kitschy and old-school, a little hopeful, and full of that very specific kind of aviation adventure aesthetic. But it’s also a more mature game than you may expect. Flying Circus doesn’t shy away from focusing on some of the darker aspects of war, battle, and that mercenary/soldier life. So adult themes like violence, sex, and drug use can be known to pop up from time to time.
Of course, specifics like this can be pruned out of your own game as the DM. But this isn’t your parents’ tabletop RPG… Nor is it for your niece or nephew who you’re trying to introduce to RPGs as a hobby, no matter how cute the Ghibli inspiration is.
Character Creation & Gameplay
This is another Powered by the Apocalypse system. And by now you’re probably familiar with the various Apocalypse games, and you’re probably also familiar with the fact that I tend to enjoy them. Using just a couple of D6 for every move, very simple mostly pre-made character sheets to fill out, and a pretty limited number of stats, these games are relatively easy. Character creation is fast (depending on how focused and distractable your players are), and gameplay is generally quick to teach and learn.
That said, Flying Circus has another layer to it that may make it a little more challenging than your average Apocalypse system game. While the characters are primarily working off of a standard set of ten unique playbooks, there are also planes. Up to 48 planes to be exact, ranging from the practical and historical to the wildly fantastical.
And of course, there’s a wide variety of planes for players to choose from, that’s pretty much the point of the game. And as an Apocalypse game, the mechanic for building your plane isn’t terribly complex or challenging. But it does add another layer and another thing to keep track of. That said, you know it’s going to be entirely worth it.
If you’d like to check out Flying Circus for yourself, you can pick up your own copy here.
Have you played Flying Circus? What is your favorite Ghibli film to feature this style of aviation adventure? Did you assume this was going to be some sort of Monty Python system at first? Let us know in the comments!