A Further Update on Magical Burst

I think I’ve finally reached a point where I have a good roadmap for where to go from here with Magical Burst. Future iterations are going to be much more about refining what’s already there instead of ripping stuff out or bolting new things on.

After talking to a group of guys who’ve been playing MB on IRC a ton, I’ve realized that I’m not quite as dissatisfied with the combat system as I thought. It definitely needs refinement–youma are still much too easy to kill for example, and lots of people find specific crunchy bits unclear–but the foundation seems pretty sound. One thing I am going to add is an (optional) thing for narrating details much like in Wushu, as part of the general action resolution rules. I realized it could fit nicely into the existing game, and is easy to skip if that’s what you’d prefer.

I think moves and normal attributes just need general rejiggering. Some attributes are under-utilized, or very easy to under-utilize depending on how you play your character, and some moves (especially Sorcery) just need to be fixed up. I’ve just barely started working on this part, so while it’ll follow the same general concept, I can’t say how it’ll go exactly.

Feedback from playtesters has led me to reevaluate how Fallout will work. The IRC group strongly prefers for the GM to tailor fallout to the circumstances, which is totally the kind of awesome thing you think of while playing the game. I had originally intended for Fallout to purposely be senseless and random, but I think explicitly stating that fallout can be more deterministic and tailored will help encourage better play. With Changes in particular there’s the problem that it’s too easy for a random Change to be something a character can brush off.

The whole thing about Changes dovetails into the matter of what for lack of an established term I’ll call “character safety.” Magical Burst isn’t a very lethal game, but Changes can “damage” your character concept. I wonder if the fact that some people have expressed concern over that sort of thing is a difference in subcultures, but regardless it’s something to at least address in the text. I suspect that relatively few indie RPG types would be too concerned about character safety, whereas from what I’ve heard of the freeform RP scene it’s of paramount importance to some people. I think this is another thing to address textually rather than mechanically, both because it’s a social contract issue and because it’s trivially easy to (for example) re-roll a random Change that a player finds particularly problematic.

I’m also working on reorganizing and rewriting the text to better reflect the intended style of play and hopefully to be more accessible. I think the thing I was groping towards with Secrets was along the lines of the Bangs in Sorcerer, stuff that forces the PCs to react. Secrets, the presence of a youma, and Fallout are all ultimately aimed at pushing the story around. Madoka Magica basically runs on a succession of shocks as the characters learn what’s really going on and struggle to cope with its implications. That’s something I’ve done informally as a GM before, and I think that a big part of why the playtest I ran was kind of flat was that I didn’t particularly try to make the shocks happen.

You may have seen the picture of a Magical Burst character named Sumire by a very talented Taiwanese artist who goes by Len. His Pixiv gallery has tons of impressive artwork of his RPG characters (going by his artwork he seems to play a lot of GURPS and a fair amount of D&D), and he’s part of the group that’s doing a Chinese translation of the game. Torbadomy got in touch with me the other day, and it’s worked out that Len is going to be lending his considerable talents to producing artwork for Magical Burst.

Magical burst – Sumire by Len on pixiv

I derive far more amusement from meduca meguca than I really should, and I’m planning to write up something called “meguca borsht,” though I realized it’ll be surprisingly hard to do on purpose. I think it’ll look something like D02: Know No Limit though.

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7 thoughts on “A Further Update on Magical Burst

  1. In addition to moves and normal attributes needing a bit of work, I feel like the magical attributes could stand to be more meaningfully different.

    Regarding randomness in Fallout, my group’s been using the randomness, but the GM often modifies or describes the results building on the initial roll. That works well for us and I’m enjoying it. I think de-emphasizing randomness too much would be a mistake.
    Personally, I randomly became Moe, and it’s added a whole new aspect to my character. Another character randomly started throwing up rainbows and monsters, and at the same time became allergic to food. Shit like that brings new stuff to the table that only the most godly of GMs would come up with on their own.
    Not that my GM isn’t pretty damn good, but the game should be designed such that it isn’t absolutely necessary for a GM to display crazy creativity like that at a moment’s notice.

    Just a thought, you could allow a reroll on a change, but the player then takes 1d6 OC in the same attribute.

    Sorcery’s a bit of an odd thing, because depending on a girl’s magical power, how it should work can differ. I don’t have any feedback besides maybe adding a system whereby there can be some modifier to the sorcery mechanic based on simple parts that are listed in the table for that. But that’s easier said than done, especially since it could potentially turn the rules into a bit of a clusterfuck.

    As for character safety… I personally think it should hold no sanctity whatsoever in a game like this. The game is about little girls getting fucked up by magic, and if that alters their identity, that’s jut one more thing to roleplay about.

  2. I agree about the character safety thing as well, but it would be good to let the players know up front that shit happens. I do like the options for Wushu style conflict and more deterministic fallout. Players are strange creatures, some of them have no problem living and mutating with the dice, but others will freak out if their carefully constructed PC is radically altered.

    So, when’s the next draft? :-)

    [Tangent related to magical girls and bronies, they both have some really fancy ‘paper doll’ programs out there. And, I’ve see folks put some serious time and energy into crafting a very specific look for their characters. That’s cool and and all, but not everyone is deal with demon horns or donkey ears.]

    TAZ

    1. “they both have some really fancy ‘paper doll’ programs out there”
      Is that so? Would you care to link a fancy magical girl paper doll?

  3. Personally I wouldn’t give much thought to character safety for playing Magical Burst at my own game table, but my impression is that a non-trivial portion of the game’s potential audience considers that a very important issue, so I’m going to address it in the text.

    I’m really not sure when I’ll be able to make time for the next draft. I have way too many creative projects to juggle (amongst other things I need to get stuff moving on my end to bring my webcomic out of hiatus) and not a lot of free time to do stuff in. APE is out of the way (and I won’t be doing much of any convention stuff for a while), but I have another more pressing RPG thing to attend to that’ll eat up plenty of time.

  4. After having obtained a few Advances, the system for advancement starts feeling a bit inadequate. Picking more magic and finishers tend toward increased homogeneity, and the rest are numbers, which are mechanically a good thing, (and being able to take pure numbers is good when you’ve got a bunch of new combat abilities and haven’t had a fight in several sessions) but they get boring when you’re not also taking some other abilities along with.

    And a lot of things don’t scale well. Things like the difficulty of Binding Attack should be derived from stats in some way, I’d think. Maybe in that particular case, it could be double Support?

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