Magical girls get to wield magic powers, to fight to protect the people they care about. You’ve seen it in your favorite anime shows again and again, and when a real talking bunny came to you it seemed like a great idea. But somehow those shows never mentioned the cost. They don’t talk about how keeping a secret eats you up inside. About how some magical girls get killed fighting monsters. About how magic can have consequences.
Magical Burst is a role-playing game about a different kind of magical girls.
Players: Recommended for 1 Game Master and 2-5 Players, Age 16+ Play Time: One or more sessions of 3-5 hours Materials Required: Paper, pencils, six-sided dice, and pawns or miniatures
It took far too long, but the fourth draft of Magical Burst is here. Seriously. It’s happening. This in turn is a step towards finalizing and publishing the game, which will hopefully take a lot less than the 3 years it took to go from the 3rd draft to the 4th. In the time since I started working on Magical Burst, Madoka Magica ended and then got a trio of movies, Sailor Moon is making a major comeback, and I got Channel A and Golden Sky Stories published. Magical Burst has evolved considerably as a game, but it’s much closer to being the game I want it to be, a hybrid of my eccentric gaming and aesthetic influences, and generally something no one but me would’ve made.
The biggest change is the implementation of a tactical combat system inspired by Meikyuu Kingdom with bits of D&D4e and a few other games. It’s still serves the same fundamental purpose of generating Overcharge to fuel the story, but it’s a more detailed system, and it in turn involves a considerable number of character trait selections and such. Although the fundamental concepts are about where I want them, it’s in the nature of such things that there’s a whole lot that will need to be examined and tested. Also, a friend of mine is working on an online character generator thing, so that will be exciting and coming soon.
This version is not completely there yet, but it is a functional game that I’m going to be developing more as I playtest and get feedback and such. There will be future versions, but they’ll be 4.1 and so on rather than a “5th Draft.” I’ve done some playtesting, but there’s still a lot more to do before the game is fully ready. I want to further refine the youma rules, and I’m wondering if the rules for Fallout and for setting up relationships need some more work. Still, the things I’m happy with outnumber the things I’m unhappy with. In any case, here are the PDFs:
I already started working a little bit on the follow-up, Most of My Friends Are Potential Supervillains (Subtitle: A Book of Humor, Almanackery, and Darkness), which will cover such diverse topics as villainy, board games, sports, more Secrets of Silicon Valley, places I have never been, and possibly that mini choose your own adventure thing I never finished for the first book.
i.hate.everyone My weird tasteless party card game, i.hate.everyone, is up for sale on DriveThruCards. Since it’s print on demand and the came has 380 cards, it’s pricier than I’d like, but them’s the breaks. I got Clay to do graphic design for the fronts and backs of cards, and I used InDesign’s Data Merge feature (following Daniel Solis’ great tutorials on the subject) to automatically slot the text into the cards. I currently have two core sets: i.hate.everyone (the normal version), and i.hate.fandom (the geeky version). I also made free print-and-play versions of both, and they’re in the little 2″x2″ format so you can shuffle them into your homemade CAH set if you really want too.
For now the plan is to keep doing it as a POD (with free PNP) thing, and to expand and experiment. Professional publication is a possibility, but it’s not something I’m going to actively pursue until I get several other projects out of the way.
Golden Sky Stories
On the general GSS front, apart from a tiny handful of lingering shipping issues, I’m first and foremost trying to wrangle the remaining PDF material, while my business partner Mike is working on going to local conventions and looking for interesting new avenues to sell the book and otherwise reach people.
The big thing that will doubtless make some non-backers happy is that we’re actively working on getting a bundle of stretch goal material ready for retail sales. I decided to combine the five new character types, two of the scenarios, Allen Varney’s “Henge Sweets” piece, and the two prose stories into a PDF product called “The Colors of the Sky.” The quantity of material puts it about on par with the Japanese GSS supplements. Other stretch goal material will depend on when it’s done and what form it makes sense to put it into.
I also got back into translating the remaining supplements. I’d gotten a good amount done (including the Elder Henge rules), but between Hitotsuna Komichi and Kore Kara no Michi there’s five or so scenarios, a replay, another character type (a more detailed writeup for humans), and some stories that recount the history of Hitotsuna Town. (Which is really interesting so far, but also a lot of work to translate.) I already finished translating Mononoke Koyake a while ago, but editing is taking time.
The big new thing I did with Fantasy Friends was to finish up the set of 36 magic items (enough to fill a d66 table). Making magic items for GSS was a major challenge both because I was breaking new ground with the system, and because through fiction and RPGs magic items that aren’t meant to cause harm in some way are the exception to the rule. I went through all 1600 pages of the AD&D Encyclopedia Magica books, the GURPS Magic Items books, and lots and lots of Wikipedia pages. The big thing I started doing that created more work for me but also made the whole thing better overall was to include a few Story Fragments with each one. The easier those flowed, the more sure I was that I had a promising idea for an item.
I’ve also found an artist for the book. I’ve already sent him a set of instructions and sketches for the designs for the six signature characters, and I’m hoping he can give Fantasy Friends its own distinct feel, a little different from core GSS, but still just as heartwarming.
For Faerie Skies meanwhile I’ve mainly been doing some tweaks, especially those based on backers’ feedback on making its depiction of the English countryside a bit more authentic (but still idealized and idyllic, and taking a few liberties with the mythology). We’re still trying to find a suitable artist; if you know (or are) an artist who might be a good fit please feed free to contact us.
Magical Burst The fourth draft is nearly ready for release. I decided I wanted to do some playtesting first, and this turned out to be the right idea, since I found several small but important changes to make. One of the smallest in terms of the word count involved but big in terms of its impact on play was that instead of players being able to take up to 3 Overcharge to get extra dice on every magical roll, I turned that ability into a “Boost” move that’s limited to 3 times per scene. Giving everyone so many second chances was cumbersome in play, and limiting how often a player can use it seems to be a good way to keep that element without making it so overwhelming. The youma rules still need some more work too, mainly in figuring out how to give them abilities that are both interesting and make them into good “boss” enemies.
Surprising no one, the most recent additions is yet another table, for stock NPC archetypes to use when setting up relationships. I’m also putting in a series of “strategy guide” sections, with tips to help players better understand the whys and hows of the rules, and play more effectively. That covers a variety of topics, including stuff on how to more easily keep track of stuff at the table. One thing I came up with is that since the game uses the Marvel Heroic style initiative system (where the current person passes initiative off to someone else), I started giving each player an “action token” (and as many tokens as the youma has actions per round for it), which they turn in when they take a turn, so that it becomes much easier to keep track of who has and hasn’t gone.
This will easily be the biggest revision to the game, but it’s also much closer to being the game I want it to be. The game has enough subtleties and moving parts that need fine-tuning that it’ll need some fairly intensive playtesting to fully finish it, but I’m hoping to complete it and in 2015 make it Star Line Publishing’s first fully original RPG.
In PDF form. I’m tempted to see about getting the actual printed books, but (1) they’re not cheap these days, and (2) I really have way too much stuff and I’m trying to at least get more digital rather than physical stuff.
The lack of thought about that kind of thing is one of my big criticisms of D&D4e, which I otherwise like a lot.
I’m getting fairly close to finishing the 4th draft of Magical Burst, which as I said will hopefully be the last major revision before publication. Naturally when I could’ve been working on it I instead blathered for 1600 or so words about working on it.
One thing that’s been on my mind a bit lately is the thematic underpinnings of magical girl anime. Anime is a weirdly skewed window into a particular culture, and magical girl anime straddles at least two distinct segments of that culture. There’s magical girl stuff aimed at little girls, which is more likely to have women in creative roles, but at the same time is extremely mainstream. Sailor Moon was the queen (and in some ways the originator) of this phenomenon, though Precure pretty clearly holds the crown right now (at least until Sailor Moon Crystal starts up). There’s also magical girl stuff aimed at adult male otaku, and while Madoka Magica is unusually restrained in a lot of ways (nary a panty shot to be seen for one thing), it’s still mainly a show very much by and for men. Where the show displays a lot of restraint, the merchandise and the fandom certainly don’t, and if for some reason you decide you want plastic figures of the characters in swimsuits, there’s official merchandise for you.
The shows aimed at girls are hard for me to fully take in. They present a lot of ideas about femininity, and those are grounded in a foreign culture and put through the filter of a show for little girls to watch in the morning. The actual style of storytelling is in my experience pretty similar to sentai shows, with the bad guys doing stuff that twists a characters’ desires in order to do evil. In magical girl anime stereotypically girly stuff like clothes and jewelry and dancing can be the focus a lot of the time, but they’ll also feature things like chess tournaments and martial arts where it fits the characters. Sailor Moon has the brainy Sailor Mercury and the tomboy Sailor Jupiter among the heroines, for example. As Lauren Faust put it, “There’s more than one way to be a girl.” Magical girl anime for girls tends to treat femininity as a virtue, but it presents many different kinds of femininity. It also has an aspirational streak, showing the characters striving for various notions of happiness and success. Sometimes this comes off as shallow and materialistic, and other times it can be pleasantly altruistic or otherwise noble. I’m reminded of the thing that being girly isn’t anti-feminist, only the notion that all girls must be that way rather than being free to choose.
The issues with male-oriented magical girl shows are more apparent in titles like Lyrical Nanoha and Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Ilya, which although not without substance, have some pretty gross male-oriented fanservice at times, compounded by rather young characters. The stories tend to have very little to do with femininity, and instead play out a lot more like other genres of anime. Nanoha has a female protagonist and most of the major characters are also female, but in a lot of ways it’s more like an unusually succinct shounen fighting series. There’s a greater than usual emphasis on themes of friendship in Nanoha, but then that’s true of, say, One Piece as well. Friendship and striving to accomplish things and so on are really important values in Japanese culture, and very popular among boys.
Magical Burst belongs to the Madoka camp more than the Precure camp. For starters, the game is by an adult male designer, and if I were going to make a game aimed at anything like the girl-oriented magical girl anime and its original target audience, it’d look very different. I’m certainly not going to put deliberate fanservice into the game, but I have no illusions about what gender the majority of the audience is going to be. It’s also an RPG, which means that a certain portion of the thematic content comes from how the particular gaming group comes at it.
I also took some influence from Superflat. Superflat is an art movement from Japan that’s a bit pretentious and hard to explain, but the core of it is exposing the absurdity of certain aspects of Japanese culture, in particular expressions of powerlessness and the lack of distinction between product art and fine art. As a result, Superflat art shows include a lot of outright bizarre stuff that uses imagery from anime and such. Magical Burst’s use of a zillion d66 tables that put a kaleidoscope of weird images and tropes in front of you is very much from Maid RPG, and even more so Magical Burst asks you to take a disparate mass of images and try to make some sense out of it. Although it doesn’t perfectly line up with Madoka Magica (on purpose), I want it to help foster some of the feeling of strangeness I and doubtless many others felt in the first episode when Madoka and Sayka find themselves inside a witch’s barrier. Looking at my introduction to the setting I see a lot of stuff about alienation, about lacking answers, which I think has a bit to do with how I feel about real life. So there’s that.
The world is a vast place, but although mankind as always told stories of magic, to their tribes, to themselves, to the night sky, men have never held it in their grasp. Magic is real even so. Magic is dangerous and terrible and beautiful. Magic is our only weapon against magic. Perhaps someday the world will forgive you for using it, but for now it hates you for it, hates your good intentions as well as your base desires. That is the world you will live in, a magical world.
On the design front, I wound up doing some major streamlining of the Fallout rules. Naturally this involved making a bunch more tables, since among other things I decided to make d66 tables for the two levels of Distortion type fallout. (My favorite particular entry being “Small candies rain down from the sky.”) A big part of the point of having tables is to provide inspiration so that you’re less likely to get stuck trying to think of something on the fly, so it made sense to have tables rather than just giving a handful of examples. It was really fun to come up with Magic distortions, and very difficult to come up with ones for Heart and Fury that would be impactful but not too out there. That also means that so far the game is up to about thirty d66 tables in it. So yeah. I also revamped the Change tables, trying to keep them from being overt fetish fuel, overly contextual, or any number of other problems. They’re still really out there, but hopefully better overall. I’m definitely liking how the Fallout rules are looking in general.
The three Specializations and the related Magical Talents are now done, albeit in a first draft kind of way. The Witch, which specializes in Attack, was probably the easiest to design, since “does more damage” is a pretty simple thing to accomplish. For the Knight (Defense) I really want to make sure such characters can be active enough to be fun to play, and absolutely not MMO tanks. For the Priestess (Support), D&D4e’s leader classes provide a lot of inspiration, though there’s also potential for doing some interesting things that are specific to this game, like playing around with Overcharge. I want the roles to be relatively flexible, with the ability to do some stuff outside your specialization’s role. The Priestess has a better healing talent, but anyone can get a healing talent, for example.
The big thing I’m trying to figure out right now is how to work the Sorcery rules, which essentially means coming up with an improvised magic system (or a stunting system if you prefer). The core idea at the moment is simply that you make a Support challenge with a target number depending on the effect you want, plus some stuff to make your life interesting if you fail or don’t succeed quite enough. Threading the needle of making something that can cover a huge variety of possible magic effects without being too complicated is proving a really interesting challenge.
It’s hard to say how soon I’ll get it done–I certainly don’t have any shortage of other things I need to get done, not to mention my day job having some tumult–but assuming I can untangle the remaining knots there’s not too much left to do. From there I’m hoping to launch into some pretty intensive playtesting, because I feel like I need to really learn the ins and outs of the system I’ve made, make some important refinements, and collect and communicate knowledge of how to play. Also, it’ll motivate me to get back into role-playing proper, which I haven’t been doing anywhere near as much as I’d like due to scheduling issues.
Sentai shows are very similar to magical girl anime in this respect, which makes sense since they’re the early morning show for boys. Some day I really need to finish my Tokyo Heroes RPG, which covers both sentai and Sailor Moon style magical girls.
My friend Aaron Smith is in fact working on a game aimed at more traditional magical girls, and it’s looking quite good and totally different from Magical Burst.
The other day I got to be one of the very few people outside Japan to see the third Madoka Magica movie. It was at a crappy little theater in San Francisco, and we got to wait in the cold until 15 minutes before the showing started. On the other hand we actually got to see it. When they had the double feature of the first two movies they had about two showings total here, which sold out before I could get a ticket. Madoka Magica has always been the kind of show that’s hard to talk about without giving spoilers, and short of watching a fansubbed camrip, most people aren’t going to get to see it until some time after the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release, so I won’t go into detail about it except to say that it was quite good, but really, really weird, and I think it will be very controversial in the fandom.
Although I haven’t really had time to actually work on Magical Burst, watching the movie did give me some ideas, and inspired me to start watching more magical girl anime, which in turn gave me other ideas, so at the rate I’m going I’ll hopefully get back into working on it before long. As much as I liked the third Madoka movie, I feel like it helped me mentally decouple Magical Burst from the franchise a bit more, so that I can look at other magical girl titles more clearly and openly. Although Madoka was a prime source of inspiration, MB was always its own thing in many very important ways, especially with the central conceit of Overcharge and Fallout, which is both very important to how MB works and very different from Madoka Magica. In particular I’ve been watching Day Break Illusion, Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya, Fresh Pretty Cure, and the live-action Sailor Moon series. These haven’t really inspired me to change Magical Burst rules-wise, but they have definitely got me thinking about the genre quite a bit more.
I also ended up having a pretty solid idea for what I want to do for a “Magical Burst Companion” book to eventually follow the core rulebook. This is me getting way ahead of myself as usual, but it helps to have some kind of outlet for concepts that are extraneous to the core project, provided they don’t get totally out of hand. There are several possible alternate takes on magical girls that would make interesting rules options. I want to do something with a dark take on the reincarnation element in Sailor Moon, both as a rules option and in a story. Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya also presents the idea of magical girls having cards they can swap out to get different magical abilities (and of course there’s Card Captor Sakura). Pretear presents a variation on that concept where the different powers come from different people, but using them means risking those people’s lives. A “corruption” system more in line with Madoka Magica could make a nice replacement for Overcharge and Fallout.
The other major part of the Companion would be a set of three alternate settings, which use the same basic rules (with some key changes) to tell some very different sorts of stories.
Angel Project has heroines who wear skimpy sci-fi power suits (as seen in Galaxy Fraulein Yuna and a few others) and fight the forces of darkness and occasionally each other. Taking a cue from the Yuna PC Engine games, the setting involves destinations like the Water Planet and the Fancy Planet.
Helix Academy is about students at a school for people with special powers, heavily inspired by A Certain Scientific Railgun. I’m not sure how I would really approach this one yet, but I’d like to try something along the lines of Adventure Planning Service’s Elysion RPG, where you have to manage your schedule and take turns doing different things towards your goals.
Zero Hour would basically be Persona with the serial numbers filed off, concerning people with special Avatars that give them powers they can use to fight threats to humanity in the un-time. And now that I think about it, the time management type system would be pretty appropriate for this one too.
Anyway, I just wanted to share where I’m at with Magical Burst. I’m thinking over the course of 2014 I want to make a push to complete the new revision, do a bunch of playtesting and refinement, and then move towards publishing it by 2015. And from there avoid having quite so ridiculously long development cycles for my games.
I had started writing a design journal post about Fantasy Friends, and then I realized I had made such a post before and I was mostly rehashing stuff I’d already written about. In a way that kind of typifies a lot of what’s been going on with me in terms of game design: there are a lot of things I have more or less figured out in my head but still need to finish doing the actual writing and such. I think that has a lot to do with the Golden Sky Stories Kickstarter eating up so much of my time, but the good news is that for the purposes of the actual shipping of physical goods part my own work is very nearly done. All of the many physical items are variously already at the warehouse, on their way to the warehouse, or will be going to the warehouse once printing is done. All that’s left for me is to post some updates and handle letting backers update their mailing addresses when the time comes. After that we still want to get the remaining PDF stuff done in a reasonable amount of time, but it’s not going to be nearly as much pressure. Anyway, I decided to write a blog post about what I’ve been generally working on.
One of my major projects right now is Friday Knights, a playset for the currently-Kickstarting Costume Fairy Adventures RPG, the inaugural product from David J. Prokopetz’s Penguin King Games. The game is about cute fairies who wear costumes that give them magical powers (there’s a deck of costume cards) and how they generally get into trouble. I’m writing a scenario/playset where your fairies wind up in a house where there’s a D&D game going on. I’ve made a good start on it, but there’s plenty of writing left to do.
Adventures of the Space Patrol
The other day while googling to see what people were saying about Golden Sky Stories I came across something that gave me pause. Someone had pointed out that in describing the Space Agents I had portrayed the male characters in a variety of ways, but managed to talk about pretty much all of the female characters in terms of being young and pretty. I’ve generally been trying to be better about inclusiveness and diversity, both to better serve my audience and to challenge myself to break dumb cliches, so it caught me off guard that I’d managed to do such a thing without even realizing it. On the plus side, that promptly gave me the idea to make Billy Smith’s mother a playable character, which is a dynamic that you pretty much never see in RPGs. Generally tweaking and playing around with the other characters is also going on my to-do list for the next revision of the game, whenever I can make time for it.
I’m also planning to include more robust rules for creating original characters. While I like having premade ones in many different ways, it seems pretty clear that a big chunk of the RPG audience wants the ability to make solid original characters. I also picked up the Fate System Toolkit. It’s packed with all sorts of ideas, but the one that interests me most is Conditions, though I’m not at all sure whether they’re really the way to go. Something to experiment with in playtesting.
A few people have been asking about Magical Burst. It’s another one of those projects where I’ve pretty much figured out what I want to do, but need to find the time to actually do it. That puts it pretty much at the top of my list of things to do when GSS isn’t eating up quite so much of my life. I also need to find time to sit down and watch more of the magical girl anime that’s come out (the Madoka movies, Day Break Illusion, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, and I’m sure I’m missing something). Of my many neglected projects Magical Burst is easily the one I most want to make happen, and a Kickstarter is a very distinct possibility once I get the rules nailed down. (Though after my experiences with GSS, I’m definitely going to keep extras and stretch goals on a tight leash next time around.) As I mentioned before I want to continue having a free version of Magical Burst available, something along the lines of how Anima Prime has a no-frills free version and a fancy book with illustrations and such.
I haven’t gotten around to posting it, but I did a revision of America’s Next Top Reality Show, making it so that each card has two title words, plus a demographic listed between. That way the game has 144 title words out of a 72-card deck, and doesn’t need for the players to have dice on hand. The game is working pretty well, though it has a very different energy from Channel A, plus we tend to feel kinda dirty after playing it, in a way that doesn’t happen even with Cards Against Humanity. ANTRS parodies something really prevalent in our culture right now, and potentially in a pretty cutting way, since sometimes it does feel like reality shows use some kind of randomizer.
Fighting Fighters Coliseum is the title I’m tentatively giving to a game that’s going to be a kind of successor to Channel A, still a party game, but with a little bit more in the way of rules. The idea is that instead of titles, you assemble your final attack name from words on cards. The game would also have a set of character cards, which double as both player avatars and opponents, with different special abilities for both. There’s still some details to work out, but putting together a list of words from special attacks was pretty much just a matter of culling through lists of such.
Something’s going to be happening with Maid RPG soon. Nothing earth-shattering, but something. I should be revealing it in about a month or so.
Needing to step away from Beyond Otaku Dreams, I ended up getting back into Magical Burst. (Also, making some notes for the alternate settings for Golden Sky Stories.) Getting away from Magical Burst (I was last seriously trying to work on it in October of last year) was apparently the right thing to do, because I feel like I’m coming at it with fresh eyes, and making some important changes that feel just plain refreshing.
One thing that’s been on my mind lately, something that I think not very many people would be in a position to notice, is how different designing and translating games are. As a translator I get very intimate with the actual text of the game. While I don’t remember every word of Golden Sky Stories, I’m exceedingly familiar with the contours of the text, with what goes in what sections. In contrast, when I have my game designer hat on I have an image of the rules in my head, and it’s a struggle to update the text to fit that image as it changes over time. Last month I had a bunch of ideas for Magical Burst (while I was at an anime convention as it happened), and coming back to the actual text is weird because the game in my head has changed so much from what’s in the Word doc. It feels weird that I come across references to relationships taking Strain when in my head I have the much more straightforward system of them having levels that can be gained or lost.
The single biggest thing is that I’m significantly reworking certain key aspects of combat. I decided to implement a “Battlefield” system inspired by Nechronica and Meikyuu Kingdom, basically because it’s something I really, really like. I was never quite happy with the combat system in Magical Burst before, and this gives me a place to implement one of my favorite new game mechanics to come along in a while. I had been thinking of trying an Engagement system like in Arianrhod and 13th Age, but I find the Battlefield map approach far more interesting, and easier and more fun to hang mechanics off of. (It’ll also be a bit of a trial run for implementing a similar system in Slime Quest, which is going to be an altogether more involved project.) I’ve talked about it at great length before, but the core concept is that combat takes place on a semi-abstract map with a small number of positions/areas arranged in a line, and stuff like range and movement is in terms of this set of positions. This provides a potentially fun element of tactical combat while vastly reducing the overhead of having map-based combat at the table.
I also decided to make Magical Attribute assignments semi-permanent. I never really liked the concept of swapping them around on the fly, and it was really an attempt to solve a problem (how to go about tying Heart, Fury, and Magic stats to something meaningful) rather than something I like on its own merits. I’m changing it so that you can rearrange them only when you take certain advancement options. This in turn reverberated through a bunch of other elements of the system, so that it was no longer necessary to have the rule that no two Magical Attributes could have the same value, and didn’t make sense to have relationships follow those types. (And the concept of Fury relationships was throwing people off anyway.)
That’s in addition to the other stuff I was talking about previously with specializations (which give characters more special abilities to emphasize Attack, Defense, or Support), and making Magical Effects into Magical Talents, of which there are a lot more available. One of the things I really like about Magical Burst overall is that it puts my diverse RPG inspirations on full display all at once. It’s traditional, hippie, and Japanese all at once, combining elements of games like D&D, Don’t Rest Your Head, Nechronica, Smallville, and Apocalypse World. The tactical combat aspect might seem a weird approach to the game, but it’s making me a lot more excited to play it.
At this point I’m thinking I’d like to make it a goal to finally publish Magical Burst in about a year or so, though of course I don’t expect life to be so straightforward. The part about how I want the tie-in novel to be ready is going to be a big deal, since that thing is still a first draft and needs a ton of work. On the other hand a new draft of the rules shouldn’t be *too* far off, and I intend to keep a free version available regardless.
The main inspiration for this was the fan-made “Magical Burst ReWrite,” which I’m trying to borrow ideas from (there are several that are too good to pass up!) without plagiarizing.
One of the issues with the 3rd and 4th Editions of D&D is that while doing stuff with a grid can be a lot of fun, you have to put a lot of effort into what is normally a single-use set piece to make it that way. A Battlefield map is both totally reusable and relatively easy to customize (just attach special effects to certain positions).
I had kind of hoped that my next post about Magical Burst would be the release of the next version, but I’ve wound up setting myself up with a lot of work to do before it’ll be ready.
One thing I’m doing is a lot of writing in general, filling in advice and even setting information in more detail. I’m trying to better articulate the aesthetic for magic and the youma for example. In Madoka Magica, it’s as though characters don’t have spells so much has colors of paint they can use to scribble all over reality. Mami uses magical flintlock rifles, but that goes anywhere from hauling out a single one to making about a dozen appear to creating a giant cannon version for her finisher. I also want to dig into the characterization of the youma a bit more, about how destructive they are emotionally. I’m also filling out tables of Secrets and Youma Motivations, and I expanded the magical girl costume tables. More importantly, I’m trying to properly clarify and nail down a lot of things that had been entirely too vague in previous versions of the game, like running out of resolve, stealing Oblivion Seeds, when Fallout kicks in, etc. There’s also the stuff with Shocks that I mentioned previously.
I have quite a bit to do in the way of digging into the actual rules. Overall I’m doing more refinement and less adding novel elements, but there are a couple key things I’m now planning to add.
Looking at one of the /tg/ threads I found out about someone’s “Magical Burst ReWrite Edition.” I don’t want to steal from it, but I do really like their idea of giving magical girls different specializations similar to D&D4e’s roles. I myself like games that give characters a decent amount of mechanical differentiation, so I’m hoping to pursue this route, though I’m not totally sure what I want the specializations to be.
That dovetails into some stuff I’m doing tinkering with the combat mechanics. I’m adding something like the Movement and Engagement rules that have appeared in numerous F.E.A.R. games. I really like semi-abstract movement and positioning type rules, but for Magical Burst I need them to be a bit more fluid than the Meikyuu Kingdom style battlefield concept allows, on account of magical girls can potentially do so many different kinds of things with magic, including the most outlandish modes of movement. (It also gives me an excuse to get printable cardstock magical girl and youma minis made.) 13th Age does have something kind of similar to this, though without the “engagement” vocabulary. I think it does a good job of creating a distinction between melee and ranged combat, which I’m hoping will make magical battles a little less like a series of attack rolls. I also like it for how it gives me some more things to hang crunchy bits on, and I think it’s going to be really helpful in terms of the aforementioned specializations.
With NaNoWriMo I’ve tended to go to extremes of not trying or cranking out the requisite 50,000 words, if just barely in time for the end of November. This year I had originally been planning on trying to do a sci-fi comedy story (“Tiny Aliens”), but with magical girls on the brain I decided to make an attempt at the Magical Burst novel I’ve been wanted to do, Magical Girl Radiant Yuna. (Which will indeed concern the same Yuna and Makoto from the intro comic script.) If I manage to do NaNoWriMo it’s going to put work on the game itself on hold throughout November, but it’ll be a strong step towards getting the one tie-in thing I really wanted to do for it. As I mentioned earlier, I want the novel to have full game stats and such for the relevant characters in an appendix in the back.
Another really cool thing that a fan did was Rabbit Eclair went and made a magical cipher. Madoka Magica makes extensive use of a special “rune” alphabet, which fans managed to deciper despite the text spanning English, Japanese, and German (with many quotes from Faust) and three different variant fonts, and I really want the final Magical Burst book to have a similar magical script of its own. I hadn’t been able to find anything quite right, but the “Magical Burstnary” is just about perfect. (Plus it obliquely fits what I want to do with the backstory for the novel.)
I based the sample tsukaima in the book on the Seven Deadly Sins, and I was looking for a comparable theme for the youma. I wound up going with basing them off of the tracks of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral.” I’ve been wanting to do something with the pictures that album puts in my head for ages now, though I never would have guessed that I’d find the perfect place to do so in a magical girl RPG.
That also means players need to decide if their Magical Weapons are melee or ranged, which in turn leads to the realization that it’s rather arbitrary. You could have a magical girl who magically throws swords instead of doing actual melee combat with them, and if your Magical Weapon is a car or tea set you can potentially go either way.