Magical Burst: Second Draft

A while back on Twitter I posted, “Magical Burst is going to be like if Sorcerer and Don’t Rest Your Head got a civil union and adopted a beautiful baby girl from Japan.” In my head there’s this godawful idea for a one-panel cartoon with caricatures of Ron Edwards and Fred Hicks on either side of a Japanese schoolgirl. Ron is saying, “How far would you go to get what you want?” while Fred his holding up some oversized dice and saying, “What’s been keeping you awake?”

Anyway, on Story Games Christopher Kubasik linked to Steven Pressfield’s book Do the Work, which is a sort of manifesto for creative types, and available as a free Kindle e-book (and given the range of platforms you can get a Kindle app for, you have no excuse for not reading it). I’m about halfway through it (it’s pretty short), but so far the most important thing it preaches is to just fucking get in there and create stuff. Don’t obsess about research or fuss with getting everything right–that can come later–just start creating and create passionately and honestly. I mention this because I think that Magical Burst is working in part because that’s about how I’ve been doing it. I’m going to have to get into some more serious analysis and playtesting and whatnot, but I came up with most of the really critical ideas behind the game when scribbling the first broad strokes. Not obsessing over polishing the text is really liberating, though from here on out I think my process is going to have to become much more rigorous.

Is there a way through this pain and sadness to a better conclusion? You'll learn soon enough.

I got a ton of really great ideas from a thread started by Judgment on 4chan’s /tg/ board (you can see an archive of it here). I wouldn’t even know where to begin listing off all of the ideas I got from here, but while I have been, let’s say skeptical of 4chan in the past, I’m not exaggerating when I say this thread has some of the very best feedback I’ve ever gotten on one of my games. The major things I got invaluable help on here were Overcharge and the combat rules. As I mentioned before, Kurt, who sent me several pages of notes, was likewise immensely helpful, and the folks on the #becomethemeguca channel likewise had some helpful comments.

Again getting way ahead of myself, I’ve put a bit of thought into the potential final appearance of the game, which would have a very deliberate manga style. This is a bit different from “anime” style (which is what you usually see when people do anime/manga-inspired RPGs), with use of line weight and screen tone, but not all that much shading per se. I am very lucky to be friends with a fair number of talented artists, and all the more so to be friends with C. Ellis, who (amongst other things) can do great manga-style comics (check out her portfolio!) and is really enthusiastic about my creations, perhaps more than I deserve. Of course, the graphic design of the overall book is going to be an interesting challenge too, since I want to channel some of Akiyuki Shinbo’s use of patterns, abstractions, and typography. That in turn could involve stuff like digging through BibliOdyssey for visual elements to adapt, plus I want do do something similar to the runes from Madoka Magica.

Update: I posted up the third draft for your enjoyment.

Magical Burst Second Draft (2.1a)
Magical Burst Character Sheet (kind of kludgey, but functional)
Magical Burst Battle Cards
Magical Burst Overcharge Tokens

[1]And in the case of D&D4e I find those potentially fun to play, but tedious to set up and run.

24 thoughts on “Magical Burst: Second Draft

  1. I still have the Universal Rune/Alc Gen Rune set available. If anything, that’s a base for experimentation that already looks nice in print.

  2. “Your magical power creates a severe distortion in the fabric of reality. Something unmistakably magical is happening, and people nearby cannot dismiss it as being their imagination at all.
    You can remove up to 4 Overcharge points by causing something that”

    …I thought you might like to know that the draft is missing something in the fallout section.

  3. Hey Ewen, second playtest report incoming! We played again tonight, with three of the five from the original group, though I GMed instead of playing this time. We had a lot of fun.

    First off, we love all the random tables; we generated two PCs, their familiar, and two youma totally randomly and they turned out great. We’re really digging the Smallville and Bliss Stage DNA you mixed in with the relationship stuff. Also, the Overdrive tokens and initiative markers were surprisingly fun to play around with.

    So we ended up with Beautiful Lunar Witch Blossom, innocent wielder of the power of Nothingness, whose mother didn’t love her and wishes for her unemployed father to be successful, and Magical Melody Rainbow, an arrogant queen who thinks magic is just awesome and fights youma with stardust until she can wish for them all to vanish forever. Their tsukaima took the form of a clockwork doll, who periodically needed to be wound up, and the direction the key is turned influences its personality towards vengefulness or friendliness. Blossom’s Crisis was waking up covered in blood in front of a dead body, and Melody was caught in an anti-youma military op, which influenced the relationship map– Melody established relationships with a couple members of the JSDF strike team, and Blossom took her mom and dad. Melody pulled off a pretty awesome power stunt early on; she was being escorted out of the strike zone by a well-meaning trooper, and used her color-changing power to blind his futuristic heads-up-display so she could slip away after the monster.

    The actual fight with the Youma flowed well. We had a surprising amount of ties, for some reason, so the defense stat tiebreaker came up a lot. They kind of demolished the monster (no one lost any Resolve), but it was two magical girls against one PL3 youma with no attack or defense powers (it had Minions, who were too puny to be a real threat, and Overcharge Radiation, which caused plenty of fun but didn’t help it actually survive) and the PCs took full advantage of team-up attacks, Magic Strike, and sacrificing Relationships.

    The general level of Overcharge and Fallout was about the same as last time. Rainbow managed to score four points during the Challenge to escape the soldier evacuating her, and burned it off as a temporary Change (rubbery limbs) during the next scene as the youma’s shadowy minions stretched her arms like taffy. During the battle with the hypnotic youma Blind Piper, Blossom began with 1 Heart Overcharge, gained another from using her finishing attack, and chose to add 3 OC dice to the roll, taking her to 5… but when the youma died and the Oblivion Seed dropped, the battle scene ended and she was sickened by its Overcharge Radiation, adding another 6 OC to Heart, bringing her to 11 and an immediate Burst! She doubled over with nausea, and vomited up a PL5 Heartspawned youma in the form of a twisted parody of her mother, which snatched up the Seed and raced off to kill her father. We decided that was a pretty good place to break.

    Some minor questions & nits that came up:

    Who decides what stat Overcharge Radiation affects? I piled it onto whatever stat had the most OC, just to cause maximum havoc.

    Do youmas’ dice explode, even though they don’t take Overcharge? I assumed so, but can’t actually find a statement on it either way.

    I’m not entirely sure why you’d ever use a passive defense, since you’re almost guaranteed to roll better than a 3 on 2d6 (though the youma actually managed it!). The only reason we could think of was to avoid having to make a roll and potentially generate more Overcharge on a stat already soaking in it.

    We weren’t entirely sure how to parse the rules on attacking multiple targets. Are you meant to stack the penalties and apply the same result to all targets, or stagger the penalties so each target takes a different amount of damage? And along the same lines, do you take -1 to your defense per target, or just a flat -1 penalty for multiattacking at all?

    1. One more thing I forgot– does the GM establish the stat of a Relationship he inflicts on a PC during character creation? I was pretty free about letting the PC decide, since I was already forcing them to deal with this character.

    2. Thanks again for trying the game out and asking questions and everything. So:

      1. For Overcharge Radiation a youma is supposed to cause one particular type of overcharge determined when you create it. The first draft had just Magic Radiation, and the idea was that the GM could create a youma with Heart or Fury Radiation instead.

      2. Yes, youma’s dice do also explode without Overcharge. I’ll have to make sure that’s clearer in the text.

      3. The idea is that you get to see what the attacker’s Result is before you decide what kind of defense to use, so for less successful attacks you can do a passive defense and not have to risk Overcharge. Stat+3 may be too low for it to come up often enough…

      4. I’ll have to figure out how it should work for game balance purposes, but I believe for multi-attacks it’s meant to be a single attack roll that each target has to defend against, and -1 to defense per additional target.

      5. I hadn’t thought about choice of stats for relationships, but I think it would be best to let the player choose regardless of who establishes it. The attribute listed on a relationship on a magical girl’s character sheet represents her view of the other person (which also means that where there’s a relationship between two magical girls they can in fact pick different attributes).

  4. I am Chinese…
    Can I translate your work and play with someone?(I think I should tell you before I do it that shall be better.)

    Presumptuously…(Google Translate, so there shall be some mistake.)

    1. You are welcome to translate the game if you wish, though keep in mind that it is a round draft and there will be new versions coming later. Also, someone has already started a Chinese translation. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the game!

      1. I’m not a good translater…I’ll translate it with my friends who shall play with me.

  5. Hi! Just wanted to say, excellent game you’ve put together there. I finished Madoka Magica myself a few days ago and decided to throw together a Magical Burst game with my Maid/Nobilis RP group. As the namesake promised, the game was a real blast. I thoroughly enjoyed GMing it and I believe the players had plenty of fun too.

    In case you’re interested, the setting was a perfect, idealized world (based a lot on Academy City from both ‘A Certain Magical Index’ and ‘Mahou Sensei Negima’) with the magical girls being members of their school’s rock/pop band (Ala K-On’s ‘Houkago Tea Time’ and Angel Beats’ ‘Girls Dead Monster’. In fact, I used Girls Dead Monster’s ‘Crow Song’ anime music video as the opening concert vid). An opportunistic Youma hijacks the concert goers at its climax and things just spiraled away from there. The battle went quite well. It was a little slow as we were still picking things up but I think with some repetition things will go much, much more smoothly. I’ll probably program a few macros to automate things for us in the future.

    We’re considering continuing the game. While tinkering with plans for a possible new session, a number of things occurred to me and I thought I’d share it with you, the developer, if I may. They’re mainly just musings on my part and I’d be glad to hear your opinion on them.

    1) The relationship system, as it stands now, encourages people to make as many relationships with new people as they can, no matter how shallow they are. However, it does not reward any effort put into deepening existing relationships. I’m currently toying with my own houserule to give my players more incentive to deepen their existing relationships rather than go out to seek thousands of random new strangers. I’m considering adding a level system whereby each new level in a relationship increases the maximum strain a relationship can take by (Lv x 3) strain. I’m also considering having relationships add bonuses to attributes ala Bliss Stage, but I’m not yet sure how I’ll go about that.

    2) The magical girls in Madoka Magica had to deal with a lot of psychological strain as well. I’m considering houseruling a Stress system Ala Maid/Trauma system Ala Bliss Stage/Sanity system Ala Cthulhu that increases with exposure to Nightmares/Youma/revelations from the Tsukaima. This would then require relief. The lesser ones could be relieved by returning to day-to-day normality – school life, eating lunch with friends, club activities, etc. The greater ones would require some interaction with close friends/family. This could work well with the relationship houserule whereby higher level relationships relieve more stress/trauma.

    3) I’m not 100% sure on this third point but I’m thinking my current campaign might benefit from rules governing conflict resolution in day to day activities.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the game. :3

      1. One change I’m definitely making is to change it so that new relationships aren’t as good as fully-formed ones. Assuming I stick fairly close to the current rules, it’ll be along the lines that brand new relationships effectively start with 2 Strain that have to be worked off, so spending a scene on forming a new relationship is at least equal in value to repairing an old one.

      2. I’m looking into how to deal with mental trauma as well. I’m hesitant to toss in Sanity Points or what have you, but we’ll see where it goes.

      3. I have decided to try adding a set of “Normal Attributes” for dealing with non-magical stuff, with the added fun that magical girls always have the temptation to risk using magic (which is more potent than normal human abilities) to get what they want. The whole thing is still a work in progress, but I like how it’s looking so far.

  6. I’m in the process of gearing up for a game that I’m running over IRC (tl;dr Magical Girls fistfighting with god), but I thought this might be helpful – a two-page cheat sheet PDF that I ran up that covers Magical Effects, Finishing Attacks, Combat Actions, and Overcharge results.

    1. Thanks! I’m definitely planning to have a similar reference for the final game, probably something like the playbooks from Apocalypse World; I’ve basically been waiting for the game to be a bit more finalized before I get into making one.

      1. Well, that went well. The game is a rather casual ‘we run when we run’ thing, so tonight was mostly doing the chart (which you may observe here and set up. The cast is… eclectic, to say the least; Maria is determined to be a singer (since Lucy, the tsukaima, is a Kyubei-type – fulfills the wish at contract but then you’re his bitch forever), Shinigami is convinced *she is one* (Death Aura), Mitsuki’s memories of her parents up and vanished and for some reason didn’t come back when she wished for them, Eri is doing the parlor-trick thing with her ability (shadow control) instead of actually worrying about anything, and Ciar is actually playing as a Potential (I hope to god her player decides to take the plunge soon or that Double XP is really going to stack up… or that a youma randomly zeroes onto her and wipes her out).

        We haven’t done combat *yet*, but I’m going to attempt to steer it in that direction next week. Should be interesting to see what happens – one of my players absolutely loves abusing elemental powers and the like, and he’s playing Maria. I expect to see buildings destroyed by resonance.

  7. Also i notice i havent found a way to determine Initiative. I’m sorry to those, i’m new to this, but i hope you can help

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