Magical Burst: First Draft

The first draft of the aforementioned Magical Burst RPG is done. This is kind of an unusual thing for me in that I got a first draft done without lots and lots of wrangling, and in that I haven’t terribly over-written the book while the rules are still rough. (Hence the text is rather unpolished at this point.) The game is simple enough that at this stage I was mostly writing down and filling out the game in my head. The only major change from the concept I’d started out with was that I changed how the dice rolls work. It was originally a dice pool system, and I ended up changing it to a 2d6+Attribute type of deal, but with exploding dice. I usually hate exploding dice in RPGs, but the concept is eminently appropriate to a game about magic going dangerously out of control at random.

As I’d discussed in my last post on it, Magical Burst is a game about magical girls, adolescent girls who wield magical powers to fight monsters. This is a darker take on the genre, inspired in part by Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Magic is the only means to fend off the youma, but it’s also an unpredictable force that can disrupt your life in alarming ways. This is probably the single most “Forge-like” game I’ve ever done. Its rules are laser-focused on one kind of story, and it trusts the play group to work out everything not in the rules (which is pretty much everything that doesn’t involve magic) by free-form role-play.

I also wrote a script for a 6-page intro comic, which I’m inordinately happy with. Although writing for Neko Machi has been a great experience, I’m finding that writing for more serious comics is really interesting. It’s hard to say if the game will get that far, but I have a pretty solid vision for a manga-style look for the end product.

Anyway, here’s the file:

Magical World (First Draft) PDF Download

At this point I need to step back and actually deal with other stuff for a bit, but I can already see a few things I want to work on (notably, tightening up combat and possibly expanding the role of relationships). In any case, I would welcome any feedback on it.

15 thoughts on “Magical Burst: First Draft

  1. I’m going to be following this with interest. I’ve been working a magical girl setting. Dream Saviors, as the name implies, is magical girl stuff in dreams, though it deviates from the genre in some ways (such as not being all about teenage girls, though the recruitment process is pretty indiscriminate of age, gender, or other considerations other than having the right emotional qualities).

    I’d say that it’s somewhere between the lighter examples of the genre and the darkness of Madoka Magicka in terms of mood. There’re lasting consequences for becoming a Dream Savior (becoming integrated full-time in the Dream World one way or another) and some grim enemies. But overall hope and optimism would triumph, even if there might be some costs and losses on the way.

    Also, the main empowering entity is more neutral than anything, embodying the Dream World itself, both good and bad. Pleasant dreams and nightmares. The main threat is the domination of negativity and the collapse of the Dream World into complete hopelessness, with everyone losing the will to live. That suicide cult that popped up in Madoka? Something like that had already appeared in the game I’m currently running using Heroquest 2.

    An interesting unexpected direction I’ve been seeing in my current game was player characters basically becoming influenced by their archetypes/themes. The PCs with more emotionally biased themes (Love and Strife) have already been playing their characters as heavily influenced. Venus, the Dream Savior of Love, has basically been trying to collect a harem while Strife, the Dream Savior of Strife, is pretty bloodthirsty to the point where she’s kinda scary to the other PCs. This is something the players took the initiative for on their own and it’s unexpectedly cool. The other two that happen to be tied to more ‘neutral’ concepts, Star and Bell (Dream Savior of Music) seem less influenced.

    As you can tell, I’m going in a different direction enough that a roughly Forge-like game would be rather different from what you’re working on due to exploring different issues. But I’m still interested in seeing where you go with this.

    1. Likewise, I’m interested to see how Dream Saviors turns out. Anime in general is IMO drastically underrepresented in RPGs, so I’m always glad to see more people trying. Plus, being fond of the magical girl genre I would like to see someone do a version that’s not as depressing as Magical Burst is likely to be. Good luck!

      1. Right now, I suspect I could use mostly the same system for Super Fluffy Non-Dark Sparkly Magical Girls and for Dream Saviors, just with some specific customizations for Dream Saviors. I’ve been threatening to design a magical girl RPG anyway. The project kinda stalled, but you’re beginning to give me the impetus to get started on it again.

      2. Player of Strife here. This system looks awesome and I’m very much eager to try it out at some point.

  2. I like it a lot. There’s a lot of stuff in there (such as the magic girl vs magic girl chart and the different types of fallout) that put me very much in the magic girl anime mind set.

    The mechanics look pretty good, though I’m a little unclear on how battles play out. When you make an attack against multiple targets, can each of them hurt you if they roll better than you?

    I looking forward to seeing more of this, and to seeing the comic in illustrated form.

    1. Thanks! The battle rules are kind of… rough right now, and they’re high on my list of things to improve in the next draft before I start playtesting (along with having the relationship rules do more, including sample tsukaima and youma, and a few other things).

      I am lucky to be friends with C. Ellis, a very talented artist who is entirely too willing to draw comics I write (she does the art for Neko Machi), so if Magical Burst gets that far it’s very likely she’ll be doing the comic intro.

      1. That’s great, I really enjoy Neko Machi.

        As for the rules, there are only a couple paragraphs at the top of page 11 that I found confusing. The rest of the document is clear and looks playable as is.

  3. Trying to visualize a campaign for this is seeming a bit difficult, and in reality it looks that it would work best with only one player seen as magical girls by nature work solo occasionally coming together for better or worse. Though it may be good if the players decide they’d have one magical girl and the others will be mortal friends or even the evil little magical companion.

    Other than that it looks really good, looking forward to seeing its evolution.

    let’s just hope Madoka doesn’t get canned by the censors for being the best anime released in years.

    1. I think I’m going to have to take a look at how teamwork will fit into the game. I’ve been playing Don’t Rest Your Head a bit lately, and while I like the game overall I don’t know that I like how it’s designed to mostly be a handful of different stories told in parallel. Magical girl anime is weird in that it can involve teams of characters almost like sentai shows, yet it often comes down to one lead character making an attack. Where I like the use of teamwork in the game is in how it can be beneficial for the PCs, yet they can withhold that help, fight over the Oblivion Seeds, and so on.

      In any case, thanks for taking a look, and thanks for plugging it on your blog. :3

  4. Hey Ewen, we played this just night and I posted about it on Story Games.

    We also noticed the detailed rules for combat between magical girls and lack of same for them cooperating, but weren’t sure if it was intentional.

    I actually haven’t watched any Puella Magica Madoka, but we may try some this weekend.

    1. Oh yeah, and regarding your tweet, our extreme level of Fallout came from no one bleeding it off before it hit the danger zone, combined with some players being pretty free with accepting Overcharge to get extra dice. We had a couple Shock checks too. Our Magical Burst happened when Knight’s player made a Magic roll with 0 OC, accepted 3 points to get 3 extra dice, and then ended up rolling 3 sixes. Kabooom!

      I suspect that in a long-term game players would be more careful about mitigating Fallout in steady drips. We also didn’t have any Relationship scenes at all.

      Oh yeah, we also wanted more random tables! There should totally be a random table for pretty much everything under “Creating Your Magical Girl”, so you can get instant PCs for one-shots. The Maid influence was clear here, but it needs to go to the next level. We were actually considering finishing our characters with the help of Maid, but no one had a copy handy.

      1. To be fair, we also played the game in two hours, and we had one relationship scene (Momaru confessing his love for Hotaru and her sister, which was also a Crisis scene!). It was a lot of fun to GM, but some guidelines on Difficulties would be good. George suggested that unless a named character of some kind is involved (in which case they roll their own dice), that all difficulties simply be rolled with the Youma’s dice, which dovetails nicely into the idea of the Youma’s corrupting influence warping things… Anyway, it was a lot of crazy, crazy fun, and we may play it again if we get the chance. I’d love to see any further development you do!

  5. I very much like what you’ve got going here. The rules you’ve got set up and in particular your GM notes do a damned good job in setting the atmosphere of the dark magical girl series (and Kyubey is very much a textbook example of the evil bastard tsukaima in Madoka Magica).

    I especially love the secrets and how they just get worse and worse as you go further down the list, just like they did in Madoka, with quite a lot of them being primo story-fodder. And I love how you gave a nod near the very end about the urge to do violence to your tsukaima and what might transpire of it — if you’ve checked out the “Everybody Hates Kyuubee” pool on Danbooru, there’s a good number of people posting pics of the Madoka characters and characters from various other series doing just that (or about to do just that) to Kyubey. Christ knows the little bastard deserves it.

  6. I have been part of an ongoing playtest of this system over IRC and while there are a lot of things I love about it, there are some issues we have faced that I’d like your input on.

    –our party is of 4 magical girls working more or less in tandem, and our GM is having to inflate the youma to extreme levels of resolve to compensate. (we took out a 100-resolve draconic youma in three rounds, to show how powerful the party is) Should we be concerned about this?

    –our party has become almost blasé in taking various forms of overcharge, it’s almost becoming second nature and if we hit 6, so what? Should there be harsher fallout penalties for very high overcharge release, and is there cause to try and cap how much overcharge you can willingly take?

    –character relationship seems almost purely fluff related. Is there any work on having the relations have more in-game consequences?

    That’s all that has really come up, but I’m interested to see what you make of it.

    1. Those are all things that I’m substantially reworking in the second draft of the game, though apparently I need to try a little harder to ensure that youma are nastier foes. I’m totally redoing the combat system (which was kind of weak and cobbled together in the first draft), making relationships important in helping your character stay sane, and making Fallout more dangerous and permanent at higher levels.

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