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.
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.