Magical Burst 5 Update

Over the past couple weeks I got inspired to start working on the next revision of Magical Burst, and I’m really liking how it’s coming along so far. It seems somehow appropriate that the 5th iteration could be the one that actually works how I want it to. I think working on smaller games has been doing me a huge amount of good as a game designer, forcing me to finish and polish things, and maybe giving me a better eye for what does and doesn’t work. My designs in general have been leaning kind of heavily on Apocalypse World for inspiration, but that’s a pretty sound foundation at least, especially since I seem to be getting a bit less clumsy about using that framework. I also made a point to start a new document from scratch rather than revising from the 4th draft, particularly since my RPG prose has gotten leaner of late.

A lot of the changes I’ve been making have been in the way of simplifying things. That’s partly due to the influence of Jim McGarva’s Strike!, a game that started as a hack of D&D4e, but has since transformed into its own thing, with downright radical levels of simplicity that expose how much of the math in other RPGs is potentially just busywork. Having more detailed rules isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but given that you can role-play with no formal rules at all, it’s worthwhile and even necessary to take a hard look at what effect each rule actually has.

Although I find the idea of relationship rules appealing, they seem to be hard to make flow well in play. The system I came up with for Magical Burst in previous versions was cumbersome, especially during character creation. In the new version I replaced all of the relationship rules with the question, “What two things connect you to the world?” I realized that what I really wanted was for players to decide on how their characters fit into the world and what things in the world they care about. Madoka cares about her family and friends, Sayaka has her crush that defines her, Homura is obsessed with Madoka, and so on. It’s more open-ended (you could answer “My best friend,” or you could say something like “My music”), it serves the purpose of developing the character’s connections to the world around them, and it does so with a minimum of rules.

Overcharge, attributes, and the action resolution rules are simpler too. I pared the list of stats down to four (Heart, Fury, Magic, and Real), with ratings from 1 to 4, and made it so there’s only one kind of Overcharge, which works more like the Magic points in Magical Fury. The “Real” stat is a character’s ability to handle herself in the real world, and for example it’s what you’d roll with if you want to convince your mom that nothing weird is going on and you’re just going out at night to study. The other three stats become a bit more for what they sound like they’re for instead of being flavor text for Fallout. I’m also sticking a bit closer to the AW paradigm of having fixed target numbers and no opposed rolls (7 or less is a miss, 8-10 is a weak hit, and 11+ is a strong hit), the idea being that it should speed up every roll. Although magical actions still have the exploding dice, they only generate a point of Fallout if you roll a 15+ (a “critical hit,” which can also have additional effects for specific moves), which significantly cuts down the amount of bookkeeping you do when you roll dice.

A common theme in this is that I had a lot of game procedures that were more complicated than they needed to be, which would variously get in the way of pursuing story stuff or (as in the case of Fallout) jam the game with too much story stuff.

The combat rules are getting a pretty substantial overhaul, and I’m really happy with where they’re going so far. (It’s also where the game most emphatically parts ways with Apocalypse World.) The big thing is a split between “skirmishes” and “full battles.” Skirmishes work basically like in Magical Fury, and come down to more or less one die roll per PC and an evaluation of the overall outcome, so that you can resolve one in a matter of minutes. (And you could run a whole campaign using nothing but skirmishes if you wanted.) Full battles are going to use a simpler version of the tactical combat from 4th Draft. I’m drawing on Strike! in that it uses small numbers of non-random damage points, and dispenses with defense rolls per se. Characters will still potentially be able to make themselves harder to hit and/or reduce damage, but without the time involved in defense rolls. (Which is practical to do with the change to how Overcharge works.) Removing two steps from every single attack should definitely make tactical combat go considerably faster.

This also led to a significant change to how I write up Talents, since they need to be functional enough to be worthwhile even if the GM decides to only use one type of combat. Where 4th Draft had a lot of Talents that were only useful in combat, in the new version most Talents have at least some use outside of combat. I’m also cutting down on the sheer number of talents, which should make them easier to manage all around. (Likewise, not having 3 flavors of Fallout effects makes it easier to fill out a d66 table without stretching myself too far and running out of good ideas.)

I’ve been playing Persona 3 lately, and the distinctions between the two types of battles parallels (but doesn’t exactly match) the distinction between random encounters and boss battles in a JRPG video game. Although both types of battles use the same systems, a minor dungeon encounter has a substantially different place in overall gameplay, to the point where it largely becomes a matter of tapping the X button and watching your overall resources instead of a careful all-out battle. For Magical Burst there is also a distinction in simple speed, but I think this kind of division and prioritization of different types of battles is one of the more fascinating things I’m playing with in RPGs.

Starting and Advancement
Another change I’ve mentioned before is explicitly setting the game up to start out with the PCs as normal girls who become magical girls during the early stages of the game. Not every magical girl anime works that way, but the vast majority do. Even when they do become magical girls, they’re defined a bit more simply now, and gain their optimum abilities over time. In particular, they start with only one Talent, and can obtain a Specialization and other abilities over time. (Though a GM who’s so inclined could easily give PCs one or two Advances over the course of the first session to introduce those elements faster.)

Setting and Themes
I also made some tweaks to the game’s (loose) setting. Although previous versions allowed youma to have minions, this version names them “imps” and makes them an explicit part of the setting, as they are proto-youma that can eventually grow into full youma. Dark magical girls (which I’m calling “witches,” sidestepping the kind of icky “dark = evil” thing) are also a more explicit setting element, taking inspiration from how they’re presented in various magical girl anime.

One thing that I’ve been trying to do more is to explore themes of femininity in the game. It’s an important part of the genre (if perhaps a bit less so in Madoka Magica than in other series), and something that I’ve struggled with a bit for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here. One kind of ham-fisted but seemingly effecting thing is to add the “What does being a girl mean to you?” question from Magical Fury. The answers that playtesters (men and women alike) gave to that question have been really fascinating, ranging from statements of feminine power to lamenting the expectations society forces on women. I also made the small but important distinction that magical girls’ powers are not inherently flawed, but rather it’s the nature of the world around them that twists their magic in the unfortunate ways that are so central to the game.

I’m also trying to address transgender and non-binary characters in the game, with some help from some trans women who were very patient and supportive with my questions. Writing about transgender issues in an RPG in a non-terrible way is not easy, partly because the language itself works against you, but hopefully I’ve arrived at something that will work, by leaving the question open-ended while suggesting some possibilities. Magical Burst is about magical girls–issues of femininity do in fact play a role–but in real life there are lots of kinds of girls. On a practical level, since the tsukaima who recruit magical girls are alien beings, they generally don’t fully understand human notions of gender anyway.

Anyway, that’s where I am right now. There’s still quite a bit of work to do–and a ton of other projects I’m working on–but I’m pretty happy with the foundation I’m laying down here.

31 thoughts on “Magical Burst 5 Update

  1. Sounds like all changes for the better.

    Although now i wonder about transboys in the magical girl genre. Like, if i was a trans boy, I’d feel really horrible if this weird alien thing kept asking me to become a magical girl and help people. which now makes me feel really bad about dressing up one of my OCs into a magical girl costume

    1. Well, what I’m aiming for is more to say that the tsukaima have a better sense of whether someone is feminine in an internal, essential way than people do. A tsukaima would resolutely insist that a trans boy is a boy, no matter what other people say. But ultimately it’s up to the people at the game table to decide how they want to handle it.

  2. For some reason the reply that pops into my head is from The Police –
    “Every little thing she does is magic
    Everything she do just turns me on
    Even though my life before was tragic
    Now I know my love for her goes on”

    Double so if it a boy. It’s all magic. :-)

    So, when can patreons/fans/beta testers get their hands on the next draft? I promised myself to start up a new solo campaign this year and I had a blast with the MB 3rd edition rules. I would love to try my hand at it again.

    1. It really depends on how long it takes me to finish it. I have a lot of the fundamentals of the system figured out, but there’s a ton of things I still need to write up.

      I do want to keep having a free version of the game available, so if I do a Patreon release I would have to work out the right way to structure it, maybe as a deluxe version released sooner.

  3. These sound like some good changes, and I’m looking forward to the release of this edition. The idea of separating battles into skirmishes and full battles is interesting from the perspective of my group, since that sounds close to how we tend to do battles a lot of the time. I also like that talents have more use outside of battle now. Anything that cuts down on steps sounds good to me – starting to wonder what came over me when I offered to run Shadowrun for people.

  4. Definitely a lot of good change, relationships were a nice idea that didn’t work. “Real” seems useful which the other mundane stats kind of weren’t (and hopefully this means further differentiation between the other three stats as well) I’m a bit concerned about rating the stats only from one to four, since if it’s still on 2d6 exploding, character ability counts for proportionally a lot less. And if it’s being rebalanced for 1d6, those explosions are going to be substantially rarer – I think their current frequency is very appropriate. And I’m hoping the 4 limit is just for character creation, because MB games can go for quite a long time, and it wouldn’t be fun to hit the cap and just never grow (or, more likely, have to homebrew something) to continue after a few months of play.
    Reducing the kinds of OC is similarly a good idea, but I’m concerned it may impact the variability and thematic cohesion of fallout results.
    The un-opposed is a good idea since you’re normally fighting youma anyway, but the new critical results, I think, are addressing a problem that wasn’t there. Seeing a six and ticking down a point of OC is not really much book-keeping, and having a specific effect like that which generates the OC is a lot more fun than using an arbitrary threshold, especially since that threshold penalizes investing in a stat that you (presumably) are going to be using more. I can see the appeal of doing that I guess, if you want girls to drift further from reality, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it.

    Can’t really wrap my head around the combat stuff from this description, but I look forward to seeing it.

    Starting and advancement sounds like a good change, since it’s more mechanical things that you gain rather than the fun concept or aesthetic that your girl’s design hinges on. I can’t imagine playing a game where you get lots of advancements in the first session though; honestly imagining a game in which everyone makes a contract in the first episode seems a bit forced too.

    I like calling the dark magical girls witches, but then the specialization/role of “witch” needs a new name. Sorceress, perhaps? Although I don’t know how well the specializations cleave to the implications of their names in the first place anyway. And if a specialization is something you can gain over time, it might be cool to have a lot of them, do something like Fire Emblem class advances (although maybe not THAT much) to let a magical girl shape her nature over several tiers of play.

    Also, not sure about non-binary people in Magical Burst. Transfolk makes sense since it’s not an unheard of trope to have the boy who becomes a magical girl when he transforms (Ore! Twintails ni Narimasu did this last season, and it’s about the only part of the premise that wasn’t really played for laughs) but even then, these are characters with a clear identity or even more rarely who struggle with their identity within a binary worldview. Putting non-binary individuals into the game seems about as weird to me as putting boys in, and I’m not sure you need to go out of your way to address these things necessarily, although I’m not really speaking from a position of authority there.

  5. I’m really looking forward this edition. It seems like you’re really streamlining the system, and it looks like the results will be downright elegant. It’s also nice to see that you’re addressing trans and nonbinary characters! This kind of inclusion and visibility really does count for a lot, and I think a game about magical girls (which, as a genre, tends to tackle gender issues at least on some level) is the perfect place for that.

    While I’m a little sad that the relationship rules are going, I’m also VERY interested in the “connections” replacement. Will that have any effects on game mechanics, or will it be more of a purely characterization-based element?

    1. Tentatively the game has Hope and Trauma points like in Magical Fury, so the GM can assign a point of Hope or Trauma if the subject of a magical girl’s Bond is fulfilled or harmed.

  6. I know this has been here for a few weeks now, but I felt I should say something. I’ve actually wanted to try this system for a while, and I might get to soon. So I’m super excited that the 5th draft might support non-binary characters.

  7. Long post incoming. This is all opinion, so don’t take any of it too seriously.

    ***THINGS I LIKE***

    -The removal relation rules: These were literally the hardest part of character creation. In previous versions, I had always had a hard time declaring that my character had relationships with characters whom I had never even seen yet because the game hadn’t even started. I mean, some of them, like parents, were easy… but others like best friends were almost demanding that players come up with several characters and flesh them out… or leave them in the control of the GM, whom might play them completely differently than you had imagined and in a way that might make your character not even want to be friends with them. I’m not against relationships, but replacing their mechanical advantages with something much similar like passions seems to be a HUGE improvement.

    -Stats Overhaul: I very much like the idea of stats being used for more than combat. In my previous attempts to run the game, people would always combat-orient them to some extent, no matter how much they swore they wern’t min-maxing. Certain things like relying on the “Shield” talent for all your defense meant you could ignore whatever stat you set as your defense, for example. The system was very very heavily weighed in favor of Attack or Magic, depending on class.

    -Simplified Combat: I never had a problem with the previous combat system, and it didn’t really take me all that long to use, however I like the idea of tossing out defense rolls and making them static thresholds. Please consider giving the Knight Class (if it returns) some bonuses to this. For a class built around defense, in the last version of the game they had very little in the way of actually defending themselves that didn’t rely on pure luck. They were the least fun class to play IMO because you didn’t really feel like a shield, you felt more like squishy piece of shark-bait with some psuedo-priestess healing powers.

    -Starting: What you described is how I already played with my groups usually, starting them out as normal humans and having them gain their powers during some kind of crisis like a Youma attack.


    -Changes to Overcharge: I’m not sure what I think about this. I cannot argue with you that overcharge accumulated too quickly before. Furthermore, some of the effects, while they sounded cool, quickly became silly or impossible to RP around and ended up derailing games pretty quickly. I would almost always end up getting rid of their overcharge through the random event occurrences or temporary mutations, because the permanent ones just had too much potential to completely ruin people’s character concepts (especially the ones that changed you powers or gave you a mutation that was pretty much impossible to hide in any reasonable way).
    That being said… I don’t really want Overcharge to go, it was one of the main things that made the “slice of life” portions of the game interesting and kept things from just being combat, combat, combat. It was also an effective limiter on keeping players from spamming their powers over and over (although the majority of it seemed to come from exploding dice… which I sorta didn’t like because players couldn’t really make choices to “play smart” in those situations. I guess that’s sort of the nature of magic and it’s power though.).

    -Increased focus on “Witches” (AKA: “Dark” Magical Girls): I don’t know. Something being evil for the sake of being evil works fine with Youma because they’re necessarily human, they’re meant to be animalistic or alien… but when you start scaling up to human levels of intelligence, having people who are evil just to be evil gets into comic-book levels silly. I also feel it cheapens a lot of the emotional and moral content that comes from “normal” magic girls being capable of bad things. Part of what made Madoka Magica work was that none of the characters were blatantly labeled “bad guys” or “good guys” by some kind of dark power. They were just people, with all the complexity and conflict that arises from that.

    -Less Talents: I felt the number of talents was already kinda low for an Roleplaying game with magic in it. If anything, I let my group ADD talents if they sounded reasonable. Options are a good thing, as are allowing players to customize their characters. That being said… some talents were unquestionably more useful than others, with many of the movement abilities being relatively useless, and certain abilities like Link or Curse being EXTREMELY abuse-able when mixed with things like Amplify Magic or Life Drain or All or Nothing.There were also powers like Marionette, that seemed cool, but with only a single point of HP, were useless in battle (pretty cool power to use outside of combat though).

    -The Femininity Issues: I’m not completely sure how to approach this in a way that doesn’t sound reckless. Here goes anyway. I have nothing against people who are non-binary… I just feel that should be left to each individual group to work with. Trying to include it in the rules of a game itself almost always comes off like there’s some kind of agenda being pushed and gets into whole nasty “social justice” mess.
    The same thing sort of goes for the “what does being a girl mean to you” question when it starts to turn into social commentary. I’m not saying not to do it… just… I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say. I’m afraid it will come off preachy or something and miss the point. This kinds of thinks work better if they arise from the players thinking about it organically instead being instructed to by the rules.

    -Femininity Issues V2: This is more a question than anything. Is there a particular reason Tsukaima give mostly/exclusively teenage girls magical powers? I don’t recall it ever being answered in the last version of the book. I’ve always house-lore’d that a female body preparing to create and house life is more in tune with the creative forces of the universe for a period of time during those teenage years, and thus that’s the only time their magic can be awoken by a Tsukaima… but I was wondering if you had an official or head-canon idea of how it worked.

    Hurf… sorry that was kind of a text wall. I really do enjoy this game though, and I’m very much looking forward to the next version. Please keep us updated on how it’s coming along more often.

    1. I’m quite sure I made a million typos with that… like forgetting “of” in the very first point about The Removal OF Relationship systems. It’s probably still obvious what I meant though, right?

    2. Hey, thanks for writing. I’m actually fairly close to finishing enough of the new version to playtest, though I have a pretty ridiculous amount of freelance work and such to deal with just now. Here’s some quick thoughts on some of the stuff you mentioned though:

      * With the various specializations I was trying (maybe a little too hard) to make their abilities really interesting to engage, but in the next revision I’m going to try to have the base abilities hit the base notes (including making the Knight more of a durable defender) and make the more unusual stuff (like Curse and Reflector and so on) into optional talents. There’s definitely going to be room for expanding the number of talents in the game (yay supplements!), but I’m planning to start with a small number of them so that I can keep up their overall quality.

      * Fallout isn’t going away, but it is going to be simpler to handle and a bit less frequent. It’s very similar to what I did in Magical Fury, and I was really happy with how it turned out in that game.

      * The treatment of trans/non-binary magical girls is going to be pretty open-ended. Like a lot of other things, although I’m going to address the issue, it’s ultimately up to you to figure out how to handle it in your game. I’m planning for it to be a little more than just a “diversity paragraph” (probably including a trans character in the examples) but it won’t involve actual rules per se.

      * The reason why tsukaima recruit girls is another thing that the game leaves up to you. My own thought was along the lines of what you had, or alternately that magical girls are reincarnated space princesses who created specific powers when they were part of an ancient magical civilization from space.

    3. The character creation part of the relationships is something I sort of don’t hate. It is a bit unwieldy, but it’s also a great way to get a feel for how your character contextualizes interactions with other people in general, and it also provides the GM with a good stable of NPCs to draw on. For me it’s fun to have a character pop up a few weeks (or months) in and know that it’s someone my character knows, even if as a player I have only the barest knowledge of them. It’s a greater integration of the world, and also feels kind of like an “easter egg” by bringing up something you already recognize. I’m not sure it’s worth fontloading all the beginning-of-the-game work like that, but in my opinion it’s more positive than negative. The really week part of the relationship system in my opinion is how you can have a really major scene about building relationships and then the dice can say it does nothing. Or vice versa. In other words, relationships in play, rather than in theory.

      I haven’t found OC to rack up that much in the latest draft (it definitely did in 3rd) but I’m not sure how much of that is the combat changes and how much is my group; I’m with different folks now. We find it harder to find an appropriate time to burst than we do to perpetuate SoL without doing so, but that part is definitely group-dependent, and our SoL is basically freeform anyway so arguably not relevant to system design.

      In my games, dark magical girls have featured prominently pretty consistently, so rules for them is a good idea. As for what it means to be “dark”, it should definitely be possible that it’s just normal magical girls who are a little bit crazier (or, perhaps, less naïve) than you, or even that just disagree with you on some ideological grounds that doesn’t have a clear supernatural determiner of right and wrong.

      I find the list of talents to be more or less appropriate for the base game, but of course it’s true that specific examples could use some help. And I’m not sure they’re all salvageable concepts, which means in the short run it’s better to scrap the ones that suck, and let things that are good be added over time, up to the eventual future point of a non-draft release when there should be a decent quantity.

      Regarding gender issues, I agree. I’d really hate to lose players because they disagree with the creator’s politics, and this is an area where viewpoints can be very diverse, very nuanced, and very strongly held. The game is niche enough without getting into things like this.

      Don’t want to end on a potentially divisive note, but I’ll say that while I like your idea for tsukaima stuff I also like it not being defined in the book. A table to roll on for possible GM ideas is a good idea, and that could feature on such a table, though.

      1. Am I blind here? What were the ideas on Tsukaima stuff again? The last version was pretty vague about them other than they didn’t really understand human emotions like humans do (which is pretty easy to house-rule away if you really want to. I once ran a game where a Magical Girl from the past had spent her wish to give her Tsukaima emotions after the rest of her “team” died and she had nothing else to spend it on anymore (since we had also house ruled that wishes can’t bring back the dead, or more specifically, their souls after they’ve passed on.))

      2. There’s no reply button for you (K) so I’m replying to myself. I meant the tsukaima stuff you said under “Femininity Issues V2”, sorry if formatting was confusing.

      3. My experience with relationships was that while it’s definitely beneficial to get players to define some connected NPCs, the game was just calling for too many of them, and the mechanical rules added more work for not much gain. But that was my group, and we’ll have to see how Bonds actually work out in play.

        Fallout was a huge issue for me. It was just really difficult and disruptive to be constantly looking for places to fit it in, and I don’t think my group was rolling dice or using OC-powered talents an exceptional amount.

        The big thing with talents is that the way the game has been moving they need to be more than just a move you can use in tactical combat, so it’s easier to do that with ones that are more like special powers (like being able to teleport), and much harder with ones that are based on useful but obscure mechanical stuff.

        Dark magical girls are such a major anime trope that I want to do something with it, but it’s kind of tricky to balance. There needs to be something more to being a Witch than just being a magical girl who uses her powers to cause trouble for other magical girls, but I can definitely understand K’s concern about the danger of them becoming monsters rather than characters with agency. They’re one of the newest things to the game and I’m still figuring out what to do with the whole concept, but right now my concept is that they gave into some kind of dark instinct that gave them more power, but saddled them with a powerful Obsession.

        And yeah, the thing I was referring to with the tsukaima was that there are magical *girls* because the magic plays on (or maybe consumes) the creative potential of a female who’s starting to enter physical maturity. Coming of age and figuring out who you want to be are major themes in magical girl anime in general, whether it’s the happy aspirational stuff in PreCure or the angsty existential questions of Madoka Magica. But that’s still one possibility among many.

      4. Yeah, Ewen, I think there may have been too many for my group as well and the mechanics… Never really felt like that had much point.

        I have that same fallout problem with my current group, with another we just blew it whenever it got to a certain level, usually after a fight, but I’m not sure that really added a ton either.

        Teleport’s problem right now is mainly just that you can do a fast move using sorcery. Other things, yeah, the out of combat effect is harder to come up with. It’s okay to have some that are more combat-oriented than others I think, though.

        What I described is more along the lines of what I’ve encountered in-game, perhaps because darker magical girl games tend to put the protagonists in more shifty moral positions to begin with and those sorts of encounters both illuminate “slippery slope” potentials and can provide a mirror for PC behavior. Whatever mechanics you use to represent dark magical girls, I hope they don’t entail a metafluff that prevents this kind of implementation.

      5. Sorcery as a whole needs to be alot better defined. Right now a priestess with a high magic rating can do pretty much anything. You can pick skills from almost any class and have the sorcerer replicate them with sorcery. I mean, it doesn’t ruin games or anything, and the requirements on sorcery checks are high enough that it doesn’t always work… but I’ve had min-max’y players sort of abuse it a bit in the past.

        There’s also a bit of an issue where sorcery sounds really cool out of battle, but if you haven’t built your character around it (AKA a priestess), the checks are unmercifully hard to make and end up giving you lots of overcharge or sudden transformations. I actually sorta houseruled away alot of the penalties for sorcery outside of battle simply because I wanted my players to feel like they could use it during the “slice of life” sections. A player who’s magic is focused on physical abilities, for example, should have no problem using sorcery to cheat at a school sporting event, even if the player put all their stat points into attack and defense instead of raw magical power.

        Anyway TL;DR Sorcery should be less vague and less “all-or-nothing” to use stats-wise.

      6. I haven’t had that problem with sorcery. In my games, its been used primarily out of combat. It has seen less use in 4th than 3rd but the bonuses for taking your time still make it fairly okay… and taking OC to do some big magic seems perfectly appropriate to me. I think with the stats being reworked, most of the specific stuff doesn’t really have much bearing on 5th draft. However, I do like that it’s pretty freeform – particularly out of combat. It allows a lot more to be done. That it has effect in combat? Okay, it puts a lot of the onus on the GM (and things specified in the book, like teleportation, maybe need to be revisited) but sorcery isn’t really primarily a combat thing in my experience, and I don’t see much reason that it should be, so making it difficult with bonuses for taking your time seems good to me.

  8. Oh, I just wanted to poke around in Ewen’s head a bit and see how he runs a game. I figured it was left vague on purpose for other GMs.

    1. I’m hoping that the 5th Draft will be the last one, in which case it’ll need a good amount of playtesting, and from there I’ll get into publishing it… Sooo probably a year or more.

      1. 5th draft is changing enough that it would be foolish to go straight to publication from it, especially in only a year. If you’re getting ready to publish, there should be iterated drafts with much more minor refinements in between any major change and final publication; otherwise you’re bound to have weird idiosyncrasies and balance issues that get ossified into the physical copy.
        It would suck to put out fifth, playtest, make adjustments, put out a published version, and then discover that the edits either weren’t as wise as they seemed, were only a good fit for the groups that had tested them before publication (and the wider world had some other problem with them that you didn’t encounter) or that there was some interaction between rules that you didn’t anticipate, with overall negative repercussions.
        You should have a draft out that is playtested and doesn’t need changes (or if it gets changes, that they’re very very small – swapping out a thing or two on random tables, that sort of thing) and is generally popular with the playerbase.
        So far, there really hasn’t been a lot of detail focus from the drafts, after all, since they tend to have very large sweeping changes and it therefore is a lot harder to focus on granular mechanical changes even in the handful of cases where those could be relevant.

    1. It really depends on how a bunch of things turn out, some of which are beyond my control. Right now I’m starting a new job and it’s eating up a huge portion of my free time.

      1. I think a reasonable timeline for a hard copy publication, based on your previous rate of output, and comparing it to other games I’m following, won’t be within a year if you don’t cut corners you shouldn’t cut, and probably won’t be within two either. A major game is a long-haul project.

    1. I’ll be doing a little bit of playtesting first to find any really glaring issues, but the plan is to release the finished 5th draft on my blog, and anyone who wants to try it out will be more than welcome to.

      1. Perhaps a more apropos question then: How do you want playtest feedback to be sent to you? So far it seems like there really isn’t a clear and effective way.

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