Magical Burst Development Update 2

Matt Sanchez’s recent blog post on Adventure Planning Service‘s Saikoro Fiction[1] system got me inspired to finally sit down and read the rules of Shinobigami, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for way too damn long. It’s a really neat game, and the design of it makes me wonder how much is American indie RPG influence and how much is Kawashima just being that brilliant by himself. The rules are pretty short too–something like 70 pages including stats for NPC enemies and setting info–and about 2/3 of the book is taken up by a replay.

There are a ton of things I could gush about with regard to Shinobigami (especially where the combat system is concerned), but Matt’s planning to cover all of the Saikoro Fiction games in depth, so you can tune into his blog for more detail in the future. The big thing from Shinobigami that has me all inspired to work on Magical Burst after taking a bit of a break from it is the way it breaks the action into scenes. I’ve realized that on paper at least my problem with the current version of Magical Burst is that the rules do very little to guide the action. There are important bits of the narrative (like how the magical girls actually find the youma) that are pretty much handwaved. I know for a fact that the folks who’ve been playing the game have been able to work with that, but personally coming at the game I’m not sure I could actually do that good a job of running it.

Shinobigami is about modern-day ninjas, and while it’s possible to have the PCs all work together, the default assumption is that they end up in two competing factions[2]. With conflicting goals and secrets (established by the GM giving out Handouts[3]), the players basically take turns setting up scenes where they pursue information, relationships, etc. that can get them closer to their goal. You can also attack another PC on your turn, but you have to first figure out where they are. After a certain number of rounds of player-led scenes (usually 3), they arrive at the Climax Phase, which is typically an epic battle.

I think something similarly player-led is about what I’m looking for to make Magical Burst more like what I want. There can be other variations, not to mention a distinct possibility of failure or just ignoring the threat, but the base Magical Burst story is about the magical girls finding and defeating a youma and what it costs them to do so, so the kind of structure that Shinobigami uses makes a lot of sense for it. That’s going to affect how I approach a bunch of other things (especially relationship scenes), but we’ll see how it goes.

Aside from that, the things I’m looking at in this stage are going to be relatively small until deeper analysis and/or playtesting suggest otherwise.

  • I’m planning to make youma stats scale with the number of magical girls. It’s become a thing for me with both design and actual play that finding the right balance in terms of opponents that can challenge an entire group of foes while not being burdensome for the GM to keep track of is a big deal. On top of that, in Magical Burst a youma is (in D&D4e terms) normally a solo, and even the guys at WotC have had a hard time getting those right. This is mirroring some of the stuff I’ve been working on for Slime Quest, and I think “solo” type monsters need to scale not only stats but capabilities in order to keep up with a growing number of PCs.
  • In general I need to do a more rigorous analysis of the math to keep things on track. Luckily today a fan pointed me to AnyDice.com, which I think will become a very useful tool for that kind of thing.
  • Obviously, the Change tables need some work. Since I made the decision to switch from Magic uniquely producing Mutations to all three kinds of Overcharge producing Changes, I want to have three full d66 tables instead of one giant table and two half-size ones. I’ve tried to make the Heart and Fury ones be more derangements, but I’m thinking I’ll let them get more into the realm of mutations. Plus, I can prune the Magic Change table considerably, since I’m sure there are results in there that are at the far end of what I got from wracking my brains.
  • The magical girl creation tables were one of those “stumbling across the finish line” kind of things, and I do need to revise them some. The costume table in particular has a bunch of elements that belong (or are duplicated) in the weapons table. Plus I think “Key” is in there twice. (Did anyone catch on to how the names table is mostly taken from names of magical girls and other anime heroines?)

A Couple Other Things
Jake Richmond is going to be on the Yaruki Zero Podcast at some point to talk about the new Cel*Style games and such, but in the meantime you can listen to him on the Found in the Alley podcast. Jake and the podcast hosts are really entertaining, and I got really inspired listening to him talk about the new games. There’s also the full Panty Explosion head-punching story (amongst others), and it seems Jake is even worse than me for having his eyes glaze over from long rulebooks.

I’ve also been brainstorming for a new iteration of Raspberry Heaven, my heartwarming slice of life Japanese schoolgirls game. There will definitely be some other things at play, but it seems like it’s going to look a lot like a cute, happy version of Fiasco that uses playing cards. I really like Fiasco’s subtlety, and I think the trust it puts in the players is one of the things that Raspberry Heaven really needed. I have half a page of notes so far, but I’ll have to get into things to get a better idea what’s what.

Also, Raspberry Heaven is another project where I’d want the final product to have manga rather than anime style art.

[1]“Saikoro” means “dice,” and the logo on the back of the books abbreviates the name to “Sai-Fi.”

[2]The book also offers Battle Royal as a scenario setup (but warns it can be time-consuming) and hybrids of the various types.

[3]It’s an increasingly common thing in Japanese TRPGs that the GM gives players “handouts” that set up where their respective PCs fit into the story. I’m sure it would get mixed reactions from Western gamers, but it also seems like it’s one of the things that would make Shinobigami sing in actual play.

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2 thoughts on “Magical Burst Development Update 2

  1. Ah, thank you. I’ll move over to this post then. I was thinking of something like your secrets table, but that only affected Youma, because the secrets table is such a great concept in the first place. I can go on about it another time, but seriously, it’s an amazingly good idea.

    I think some of the fun for the GM can come with explaining stuff. For example, no. 12 could imply that the world is just one big nightmare zone, constantly deepening, which is why there is so much unhappiness in the world. Things like that.

    Um. This will be long, sorry.

    1. Youma are unwholesome Lovecraftian beasts, totally out of synch with the appearance and themes of the magical girls.
    2. Youma are beautiful and angelic in demeanor and appearance, so much so that magical girls look dull and lifeless in comparison.
    3. Youma can speak, and they mock the girls for whatever real and imagined weaknesses they have
    4. Youma aren’t aggressive and appear to be frightened of the girls.
    5. Youma beg the girls for salvation when attacked and curse them by name when killed.
    6. Youma are soft spoken and cheerful, and say things like “I don’t blame you” when killed.
    7. Higher level Youma will say they know a way to grant wishes without oblivion seeds.
    8. Youma speak with the voice and manners of a person the magical girls know. Nothing changes about that person after the youma is killed (at least it doesn’t seem that way).
    9. Youma use the same symbols and elements as the magical girls.
    10. Youma must possess a human in order to interact with the world. Familiars don’t know how the youma can be killed while allowing the human to survive.
    11. Youma are made entirely out of candy. It’s really tasty.
    12. Nightmare zones made by Youma are permanent. Familiars don’t know how to erase them.
    13. Youma seek out and collect seeds just like the girls do. They might even cooperate with them.
    14. Youma create oblivion seeds by eating humans. You can tame them with magic and use them to farm seeds.
    15. Without duplicity or guile, youma completely and sincerely love the magical girls. The GM gets to decide how this makes sense (and how they express it).
    16. Create youma using the familiar table instead. They can do everything youmas can, but look and act like familiars. The “real” familiars will insist that the youma are evil impostors.
    17. Youma always attack humans over magical girls. They only fight back in self-defense, and will never kill a magical girl.
    18. Youma only attack and kill evil humans. They also attack magical girls by default.
    19. Youma eat familiars for sustenance. If the girls catch on and try and feed their familiar to a youma, well, that’s simply begging for unforeseen consequences, isn’t it?
    20. Youma don’t exist. Magical Girls drop Oblivion Seeds.
    21. Youma negate existence. They consign what they touch to oblivion.
    22. Youma are sufficiently advanced (to be indistinguishable from magic).
    23. Youma are quite obviously artificially created, either by humans or…
    24. Youma are colonists from another place or time.
    25. Youma are the incarnations of nature, seeking to correct the anomaly of magical girls.
    26. Youma are the true form of humans. It is the normal appearance that is a lie, and Magical Girls are the only creatures whose human form is their real one.
    27. Youma are the true forms of familiars. They need magical girls to process each other’s corpses into oblivion seeds so they can consume them and grow.
    28. Youma can be weakened and bound and their oblivion seeds extracted, but they can never be fully killed. Their numbers are also increasing.
    29. Every sliver of happiness experienced by a magical girl must receive an equivalent curse, delivered by a youma. They can be killed, but they will never stop coming until the curse is delivered.
    30. Youma are ultimately trying to replace the magical girls. They can assume human forms that are more beautiful, honest, intelligent and kind than the girls could ever be.
    31. Nightmare zones don’t exist. Youma attack in broad daylight and humans are becoming increasingly aware of their existence.
    32. Youma are hallucinations induced by familiars.

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