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Flying Circus - Core Rulebook
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Flying Circus - Core Rulebook

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A simple airplane.Flying Circus is an in-depth, highly detailed Powered by the Apocalypse-derived roleplaying game of aviation fantasy, set in a world of machines and magic inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

In the aftermath of a massive industrial war, the world is slowly pulling itself back together, but danger still lurks in the skies of Himmilgard. The only thing standing between the world and chaos are the brave pilots of the Flying Circuses, indepedent mercenary companies known for the bright and unique liveries of their salvaged aircraft. No mission is too bold, no monster too big, no foe too dangerous... if you can afford it.

Flying Circus uses a unique system for air combat, eschewing top-down maps and treating Altitude and Air Speed as currency to be spent in daring and realistic dogfights. Climb to gain the advantage, dive to regain speed, pull your plane into dizzying turns to get on their tail. But you also face realistic limitations, as your engine burns out, your wings crack and break, and you lose consciousness in a high-G turn.

In addition to the powerful air combat engine, Flying Circus has robust systems for battles and daring escapes on foot, for pilots to blow off steam in between missions, and for the financial and social aspects of running the company. Pilots always live on the edge: between excess and stress, between riches and ruin, between victory in the skies and impact with the ground.

Flying Circus features ten unique playbooks, with both strong hooks to get started immediately and considerable framework for customization and progression over the course of a long campaign. The playbooks also come packed with 48 unique aircraft, both historical and fantastical, to populate your games, as well as a variety of threats, mission prompts, advanced rules, and GM advice.

Content Warning

This game touches on mature themes regarding violence, sexuality, and drug use. There is a degree of illustrated nudity.

Note

If you purchase a PDF now, you will get a discount on the print version when it becomes avaliable.

A group of pilots, including a witch on a broomstick, rob a sky-train suspended on cables.

 
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Reviews (9)
Discussions (16)
Customer avatar
Denis Z May 18, 2020 2:14 pm UTC
Since there's going to be a design manual for this, that, from what I've seen, would let you play the system for later era aircraft, how much "later" are we talking, if I may ask? My friends and I have been looking for a good system to play something akin to a pen and paper version of Ace Combat, and after hearing of the design manual coming up for Flying Circus, it's gone on my watchlist! So... would modern era be doable?
Customer avatar
Erika C May 18, 2020 4:08 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
Sooo... it's complicated.

The design system currently more or less does pistons airplanes out to 1950, and can also do pulsejets if you want to intercept V-1s. We're currently in the early stages of exploring how to build turbojet engines into the system and building supersonic rules with the hopes of doing jets from the 1970s for some Top Gun action, but we 100% expect the assumptions of this system to have broken down by then and for the results to be more movie logic than realistic. Don't expect accurate radar profile modelling or BVR combat.

Beyond that, though, the game's financial rules, abilities, routines, and foes are tuned for WW1 aircraft, and break down as you move away from it. As planes get faster and weapons more powerful, systems change, and while the base system has been designed to handle many of those changes organically, the specific implementation in core Flying Circus will not support it.

The next major Flying Circus release will be the standalone Flying...See more
Customer avatar
Denis Z May 18, 2020 5:47 pm UTC
I see!
Well, I wish you best of luck either way! Maybe I'll still be able to slap something together out of FCH.
Customer avatar
Calum M May 24, 2020 4:20 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I think the biggest issue you're going to run into for Ace Combat in the Flying Circus engine is not precisely mechanics, you can paper over the cracks there once the 70s-80s rules are out, but the lethality differential. Flying Circus broadly expects you to take on similar numbers of similar types of aircraft to your own, maybe at a marginal numerical disadvantage since you're a bit heroic. Ace Combat expects you to cut through dozens of enemy aircraft with capability similar to or greater than your own in the pursuit of your objectives and most of the time that isn't even difficult, just time consuming. Bear this in mind for your hack, although the core Theatre of the Mind dogfighting is really good at Ace Combat stuff for the same reason: You don't know where more than one or two opponents are at the same time and mostly you don't care, so there's no reason to waste the GM's time trying to track them. They exist purely in the abstract unless they're shooting at you or you're shooting at them.
Customer avatar
Desmond H May 13, 2020 5:40 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Hi, i'm really enjoying reading through this book so far. Today I noticed some stats that confused me a little though and was hoping I could get some clarification on how there supposed too work. Both of these stats can be found under The Witch playbook under there personal move, As the Crow Flies. Thrust and Authority. I looked through the rest of the book but can't seem too find much about how there supposed too be used. Thanks in advance!
Customer avatar
Erika C May 13, 2020 6:49 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
They are unfortunate artifacts of revision, and will be purged in the upcoming version.

(At one time, Thrust was the name given to Boost, while Authority was a substat of Handling that eventually got eliminated.)
Customer avatar
Desmond H May 13, 2020 6:53 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Oh that makes since, thanks for the quick reply.
Customer avatar
Michael S P May 13, 2020 1:30 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Any plans on making a quickstart to sample the game?
Customer avatar
Erika C May 13, 2020 1:41 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
That'll be really hard for this game because all the systems are very intricately connected together. You can't really take much of a vertical slice to introduce people with, because it'd cause the game to break down for missing some vital component.
Customer avatar
Morgan G May 10, 2020 12:08 am UTC
PURCHASER
Loving this game so far! The book mentions a free aircraft design document being available - but google has failed me. Is there a link to it?
Customer avatar
CHI HO P May 10, 2020 12:39 am UTC
PURCHASER
The document will be released with the 1.1 version, mentioned in the author's twitter
Customer avatar
James D May 09, 2020 3:07 am UTC
You mention a discount on the print purchase with the pdf... How much?
Customer avatar
Erika C May 09, 2020 8:35 am UTC
PUBLISHER
25$ worth, of course! Or as close as I can manage with the print costs.
Customer avatar
May 06, 2020 3:39 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Haven't had the time to work my way through all the pages yet, but yeah, my mind is already revved up to GM-mode. One peak at the planes in the playbooks had my head spinning with ideas for a session. i'm looking forward to writing a full review once we got a session together. The move mechanics might seem a bit intimidating at first glance, but then, you only have four core stats for your character and most of the rest will be handled by your chosen plane. I really love how much detail and realism was put into the flight mechanics and I also appreciate how much thought was put into the discussion of themes and (pseudo) historical context.

However, I noticed a few misspellings here and there - which is now wonder, considering this beast weighs 300 pages. Erika, if you should happen to read this, feel free to reach out to me in case you need help revising. I'd be happy to help.
Customer avatar
Erika C May 06, 2020 10:08 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
Here, you can use this document!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mb3F4Sn3vqqKvvs7Xle8OHn7Neom5U7lkBy3UGSZjX8/edit
Customer avatar
May 06, 2020 10:53 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Perfect! I'll have to read the whole thing top to bottom anyways, so I'll just update away.
Customer avatar
James L May 05, 2020 8:40 pm UTC
Getting mixed messages from "inspired by Hayao Miyazaki" and "mature themes regarding violence, sexuality, and drug use. There is a degree of illustrated nudity". These two themes don't seem to be compatible and seem like they would clash in the final product. I'm also confused about how this even makes sense. Everyone flying at 30,000 feet and dogfighting is going to be wearing heavy clothes to avoid freezing.
Customer avatar
Erika C May 05, 2020 11:09 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
I suggest you rewatch a few movies. like Princess Mononoke (decapitations, gallons of blood, violent battles, brief mention of brothels), Howl's Moving Castle (watch this beautiful town burn to the ground in a nightmare recreation of firebombing!), The Wind Rises (which, aside from all the blood and burning planes, also has the character literally witness the Gestapo hunting people through the streets of Nazi Germany).

Like, Miyazaki made more movies than Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, you know. If you want to read a fascinating epic, the manga of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a fascinating, complex, and deeply political look at a post-apocalyptic world, and Miyazaki also wrote historical manga set in the Second World War and the Warring States period. One of his hallmarks is being absolutely raw and unflinching on the subject of war, its horrors and its costs, and I tried to channel that attitude and honesty towards the subject matter as much as I did the love of landscapes,...See more
Customer avatar
CHI HO P May 05, 2020 11:50 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I was thinking of Porco Rosso, and even in that one movie it is not difficult to find all of those elements (except drug, I think)
Customer avatar
CHI HO P May 05, 2020 11:54 pm UTC
PURCHASER
And then there is the fact that going up to 30,000 ft you will need more than clothes, you need a pressurised cabin, the book mainly covers airframes made of wood, canvas and piano wires, with occational metal planes, and engines of low three digit output is not getting you there
Customer avatar
Calum M May 06, 2020 1:09 am UTC
PURCHASER
There's severe chain smoking and a good amount of drinking in Porco Rosso, and if you were to go frame by frame through the pirates on the island I suspect you'd find some more interesting stuff.
Customer avatar
James L May 09, 2020 4:41 pm UTC
Miyazaki is all about mature themes of violence, I agree. He's not about nudity, drug use, and sexuality. His movies seem to me to be much more focused on themes of revenge, violence against the natural world, the horrors of the industrial and nuclear age, and environmentalism. Is that in this game, or is just cool aircraft designs?
Customer avatar
Kai T May 10, 2020 12:54 am UTC
PURCHASER
here's a thought, maybe buy the game and then you can see what you think of it instead of trying to give the creator the third degree in the comments section of the storefront
Customer avatar
David C May 10, 2020 12:56 am UTC
PURCHASER
Yes. You can literally take the plot of Princess Monoke and run it in this game, replacing horses with biplanes, and barely need to change anything beyond that.
Customer avatar
Amelia V May 10, 2020 10:51 am UTC
PURCHASER
The main theme of the game involves living in the aftermath of a massive industrial war that has physically and spiritually scarred the world and juxtaposes the freedom and beauty of flight with the horrifying and stressful violence of early air combat.

Pilots indulge in vices, ranging from excessive physical training or prayer to alcohol abuse to casual sex as a way of coping with that physical, mental, and emotional stress.
Customer avatar
Lance H May 01, 2020 12:47 am UTC
This looks excellent. When will the hardcopy be available, and is there a mailing list I can join to be notified?
Customer avatar
Erika C May 01, 2020 11:04 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
I'm hoping the hardcopy will be available within 45 days or so?

There's no mailing list, but you can follow my twitter @open_sketchbook.
Customer avatar
Lance H May 01, 2020 11:29 pm UTC
Thank you!
Customer avatar
Michael S April 21, 2020 8:53 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I've had a chance to work with Flying Circus for a couple of days and worked through a couple of problems. The first was in creating characters. Be darn sure that you don't skim over anything. It's very easy to miss something, especially when it comes to Moves. Remember that you are not being forced to stick with the options offered, but it will help greatly if you have an experienced GM and other players working with you. The core book provides a lot of information, but it's not always in the same place and you may have to page around and follow links to get the data you need. The map of Himmilgard is beautiful, but lacking in detail. You are given options of home town for your characters, but just where are these places on the map. The section on geography provides a lot of hints and direction, but none of the rivers are marked and no towns or cities shown. I picked AltenhaBlau (High Blue?) for my character's home town, but other than somewhere to the north, I have no idea where it is. If Erika intended us to...See more
Customer avatar
Erika C April 21, 2020 9:12 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
Unfortunately, I don't learn well from examples in other games, and so am exceedingly bad at producing them. They are also pagecount hogs to a serious degree, which I could ill afford in a book this dense. I will see what I can do about mitigating this as best I can.

As for the map, as I said at the start of that section, nothing is set in stone. Players draw their own region maps, the world map is intended only to give people an idea of the shape of the world. The details and landmarks are up to them and their interpretations.
Customer avatar
Michael S April 21, 2020 9:16 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Altenhasslau is an actual small community in Germany. I still can't find the meaning, but Alten is Old, not High, and the rest is either Hates Luke or Blue. Hard to tell, but I'd go with Old Blue for a great place name.
Customer avatar
Michael S April 21, 2020 9:21 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Sure, Erika! Perhaps thumbnail sort of examples would do the trick. You are so right about the map, though I can see that you're going to have a lot of interpretations about what's what. I gave my farmer born girl a well to do farm to grow up on and then had the farm growing strategic crops like soybeans and castor beans. Then I read the map descriptions more closely and saw that there is a favored growing area north of the Great Mountains where such crops thrive. That pins down Altenhasslau near the middle of the map on the northern lower slopes of the mountains. YMMVOC.
Customer avatar
Erika C April 21, 2020 9:30 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
Yeah, exactly!

As for examples, I've been talking with playtesters and I think what I'm going to try and do is make a video example and post it directly to the page. That will explain things far better than a wall of text in the book trying to lay out a narrative.
Customer avatar
Jay M April 21, 2020 7:59 pm UTC
Any actual play reports?
Customer avatar
Kaia T April 22, 2020 8:30 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The creator has several quests she ran/is running on the forum Sufficient Velocity while she was testing her system.

The closest to a traditional tabletop experience you'll get is Whispers from the Deep and its sequel Secrets of the Abyss. You can find them here:
https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/whispers-from-the-deep-biplanes-bisexuality.44047/
https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/secrets-from-the-abyss-polyamorous-bisexual-airplane-adventures.54162/
Customer avatar
Michael S April 22, 2020 10:35 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I just played through a very quick air combat round. Die Fuchsin (The Vixen, 0,+2,-3,+4) is flying her Singvogel on patrol, scouting for enemy aircraft. She rolled 7-3=4 and failed to notice the Spinne bouncing her. Die Fuchsin promptly banked and pulled a Dogfight move to the right (+1 for Rotary Engine) to turn the tables. Roll was a 5+4+1-1=9 (roll 5, Daring 4, Rotary +1, Handling difference of -6 so -1). Committed 3 to the Turn, so Air Speed dropped from 17 to 14 and 2 gees were pulled. Since the result was not 16+, Die Fuchsin got shot at while whipping around. Taking Fire at Close Range, she rolled a 9-2=7 (with her Keen of +2). the spray of MG fire missed. Had it hit, it would have struck with 6 Hits for 12 Damage, no Crits. Having turned the tables, Die Fuchsin lines up on the Spinne and prepares to return the favor.

This was about as simple as I could make it. Neither plane climbed or dived and the 2d10 rolls were all abominable, but that's good for a test like this. Please check me, Erika....See more
Customer avatar
Samuel M April 24, 2020 11:50 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Close. The Singvogel only takes one Gee, since it has Speed Factor 1, but didn’t spend more than 10 speed.
The 7 on Take Fire means the attacker shifts two range bands out, using the hits and damage for Extreme range, which is 2hit 4dam for a pair of machine guns. A crit die would be rolled as a d20+2, with a result of 20+ meaning that some Vital Part was hit. Defender chooses the part.

This is especially fun with incendiary ammo, as crits will light whatever part is chosen on fire.
Customer avatar
Michael S April 25, 2020 4:25 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Thanks on the Gee correction. I missed that. I thought the fire was a miss because 7 is less than 11. Am I mistaken that all 2d10 rolls have to roll better than 10 to be successful? Can you point me to the proper page to elaborate this? Thank you, Samuel. It does help to have some assistance.
Customer avatar
Michael S April 25, 2020 6:01 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Okay, I think I found it. Under Open Fire on page 75, "On an 11-15, shift the Range farther by 1. On a miss, shift farther by 2. On a 20+, shift closer 1. Inflict Damage and Hits accordingly. So a roll of 7 does increase the range from Close to Extreme. At Extreme, 2xMG does 2/4. 2 Hits for a total of 4 Damage. Under Damage (page 60), this reduces the Singvogel's 13 Toughness to 9. Good enough! Die Fuchsin feels the strikes through her pursuit's fabric and finding nothing on fire or falling off, grins and lines up on the Spinne!
Customer avatar
CHI HO P April 19, 2020 11:25 am UTC
PURCHASER
I see great potential in the rules and the options in advanced rules thrills me (I am more of a WWII fan than a WWI fan).
I would like to ask, is it possible to, once the design manual is out, set the technology level to about 1930ish?
Customer avatar
Erika C April 19, 2020 1:01 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
So... yes, but.

The balance of this game is very much built around the 1910s planes: the abilities, player capabilities, and most of all costs all scale from it. 1930s players in a Crimson Skies esque world is doable, but will take some hacking with this core book.

Additionally, because the game is set up to naturally scale, a lot of things will not quite work as you go later into eras. None of the natural threats like dragons or wildlife will be threatening, and fights work very differently. As speeds and aircraft weights increase, and weapon power outpaces aircraft toughness, the game goes from attrition-heavy brawls to rocket tag while riding the edge between victory and passing out from G-forces. It's still fun as hell, but it doesn't quite match the pacing of the game as it exists in this book.

That said, the design manual will 100% allow you to make later era planes. Right now we're doing testing to make sure it can handle aircraft from 1945: it makes a hell of a P-51!...See more
Customer avatar
CHI HO P April 19, 2020 1:35 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I raised the question because I see aerial cannons in the equipment list and those are not the main stream mostly due to limited technology limitations until late 1930s, I was thinking the system might be able to handle designs in the Spanish Civil War era where 8mm caliber is still the standard but slowly showing limitations. Late WWII planes are in my opinion way too advanced to be fun to put in a fantasy setting: 75mm semi-auto cannons on attack crafts shooting HVAPs would probably make short work of most dragons. And IR detection and Radar technology reduced the difficulty in exploration and operation. Also, I see in the description that bombers travel thousands of kilometers to bomb industrial centers but strategic bombing was not carried by planes in 1910s I recall but Zeppelins.
So thank you for the reply, I'll study the manual once it's ready.
Customer avatar
Mark D April 20, 2020 3:52 am UTC
Several WW1 era planes mounted 37mm cannons, though we are talking single shot breech loading, not auto-feed ones. Mostly on light bombers but the SPAD XII was designed with one firing through the propeller hub (first flight July 1917). It wasn't a big success, but was workable. Required a skilled pilot (Georges Guynemer used it to good effect) but can be justified in this sort of game.
Customer avatar
Erika C April 20, 2020 6:08 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Indeed, the cannons in the current game are 20mm cannons fed by 10 round magazines and single-shot breechloading 37mms.
Customer avatar
Michael S April 17, 2020 3:04 am UTC
PURCHASER
I've been fiddling with, writing, and playing just about every aviation-based game ever made. I have to say that I'm rather impressed with Flying Circus and have already printed out the stuff to get started. I worked with a similar theme on In Harms Way: Wild Blue, but Flying Circus is the anime' mashup that is just crazy enough to inspire players to get off their asses and be creative. Excellent work, Erika!
Customer avatar
Jarosław R April 18, 2020 8:18 am UTC
Do you recommend any aviation-based game?
Customer avatar
Michael S April 18, 2020 5:08 pm UTC
PURCHASER
If you enjoy the Apocalypse format, Night Witches is very good and well organized. If you want the ultimate in table-top realism and crunchiness, I have to recommend Birds of Prey from Ad Astra Games. The In Harms Way series from Flying Mice Games includes the modern Wild Blue (based loosely on Area 88, BTW), as well as WWI and WWII eras. All three use an energy-based flying system and table-top air battle mechanics. Erika's game shows an astounding familiarity with the WWI era air combat and I can't wait to try out her "theater of the mind" dogfight design.
Customer avatar
Anton M April 17, 2020 1:42 am UTC
Do you recommend that players be familiar with PTBA in advance, or can I hop in and play with this book alone?
Also, how much finessing would need to be done to get this system working on, say, roll20?
Customer avatar
Erika C April 17, 2020 2:05 am UTC
PUBLISHER
You can play this with no prior PbtA experience! In fact, it might even help.

As for roll20... I have *no idea*. But I know some people have done it!
Customer avatar
Callum R April 17, 2020 10:46 am UTC
Currently running this over roll20 myself, it takes a bit of wrangling but not that much. The main thing is making sure everyone has a dashboard and enough engine/radiator/weapon cards for their stuff. Which is honestly easy to do. Have them upload tokens to their char sheet to use as markers for the various meters and you're good to go in my experience.
Customer avatar
David C April 16, 2020 9:59 pm UTC
PURCHASER
first thing first, I love this game so much it feels like I astrally projected into your dreams to help co-write it. Second: Is there a place we can down load a printable instrument panel?
Customer avatar
Erika C April 16, 2020 10:45 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
The playbooks include a printable instrument panel! Though thinking on it, I might make one thats just black and white entirely when I do the next update pass, to save people's printer ink.
Customer avatar
David C April 17, 2020 3:10 am UTC
PURCHASER
Thanks! I feel really really silly for missing it, it's very obvious now.

Where can I get the Aircraft Engineering PDF? Or is it not out yet?

I wanna design my vroomer!
Customer avatar
Erika C April 17, 2020 10:49 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Soon! We have to fix an annoy wing area - drag equation problem.
Customer avatar
CHI HO P April 19, 2020 6:22 am UTC
PURCHASER
Do we have an estimate?
I am more inclined to the concept of using the same type of craft for the entire party to make better logistics narrative.
Customer avatar
Calum M April 26, 2020 11:55 pm UTC
PURCHASER
This is completely doable in the current rule set! Most playbooks have enough budget in their "or another aircraft" section to equip the entire unit with a set of used mid-range scouts. Of course, it has no mechanical effect whatsoever but I appreciate for a certain sort of story it's quite neat. Additionally many of the aircraft are based on real designs so if you fancy an aircraft identification challenge you can present your players with a small selection of aircraft that share a common engine and let them pick.
Customer avatar
wayne B April 16, 2020 10:43 am UTC
Anychance of a "pure" world war 1 version or a historical aircraft manual being released? As the fantasy element is putting me off buying it.
Customer avatar
Erika C April 16, 2020 11:14 am UTC
PUBLISHER
There will in fact be a historical adaptation of these rules coming, though they are a ways off. That said, using these rules, you could pretty easily run a much more grounded game by restricting playbooks and selecting the historically-based aircraft from the playbooks (which are the majority of them).
Customer avatar
wayne B April 16, 2020 2:10 pm UTC
That's good to hear it just looks like I'll have to be patient for the ww1 version.
Customer avatar
Paul K April 16, 2020 7:39 am UTC
Ooh! Any plans for a Print On Demand?

(Also- a preview would be nice!)
Customer avatar
Erika C April 16, 2020 10:21 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Previews enabled!

Print-on-Demand will be avaliable once I fulfill the kickstarter!
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