Even though I have like a zillion other things to do, I got inspired to put in some more work on Magical Burst, which I’m sure a lot of you will be glad to hear. I have no ETA on when the next draft will be ready, but I’m in the thick of things working on it in any case. This post is a series of disconnected paragraphs on some of the different bits I’m working on.
I mentioned it in my last post on the game, but one of the big things I’m doing is more clearly writing out the procedures of play, which I think is really important. The big thing that I’ve kind of been groping towards is that the game and its source material are driven by “shocks.” In Madoka Magica the narrative has a constant escalation of shocking revelations, and in Magical Burst a lot of the rules are ultimately an engine for delivering similar kinds of shocks. I want to make it crystal clear in the text that this is the GM’s key tool for making things happen in the game. A whole lot of RPGs leave that kind of thing to trial and error, but I’m aiming for a fairly specific play style. There’s also the part about how my first playtest was kind of flat and I think not pushing the shocks was partly to blame.
In the 3rd draft I added Apocalypse World style moves to the game, especially for non-magical stuff. I did so kind of thoughtlessly, and now that I have some more experience with Apocalypse World (and Dragon World) I have a better idea what it is about the game that does and doesn’t work for me and the friends I play with. The big problem I’ve had with moves is that players tend to want to treat moves as push buttons rather than role-playing towards them first. (Doubly so for moves that use a highlighted stat.) My solution is to treat moves a bit more as a thing the GM brings to bear, and to remove them from the player reference sheets. Moves don’t have to be secret from the players, but I do think the game could work better if the moves weren’t staring the players in the face the whole time. I’m also going to be rewriting them a bit to better fit this GM-oriented approach. I pared down the Normal Attributes to Charm, Insight, and Tenacity too, and let players assign points for them (but with fewer points and lower values than Magical Attributes). I still need to dig into moves and such to get a better feel for them though.
My philosophy for revising the rules for youma this time around is basically, “Make them fucking MEAN, and scale back later if need be.” My experience and pretty much all of the feedback I’ve gotten so far as been to the effect that as written youma tend to get wiped out pretty quickly, which isn’t anything like what I’d intended. It’s surprisingly hard to make good “boss monsters” (or solos in D&D4e parlance) that can effectively fight a full team of PCs, and I think that for the purposes of designing such enemies I need to ignore some of the kind of advice that I think of as good sense in other circumstances, like being stingy with extra actions in a combat round.
I renamed Appendix 1 to “Instant Magical Girl,” and I’m working on expanding the tables enough to make it possible to generate a completely random magical girl. I had intended for it to be more of an optional thing for people to turn to when they’re stumped, but it’s pretty clear it’s become core to how a lot of people play the game. The folks from the Empire Tabletop podcast (who previously did Maid RPG) did a Magical Burst AP episode, and their attitude was basically, “Why would you ever NOT make a character randomly?” For attributes I’m working on a d66 table that gets you one of 36 sets of attributes, and I rearranged the tables so that they follow the same steps as the character creation rules. When I mentioned that I want someone to make an online random magical girl generator on Twitter I got three replies almost immediately, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a thing that will happen. I may try to get the youma rules to the point where you can generate one totally at random too.
I have a rough outline for a Magical Burst novel about Yuna and Makoto (from the intro comic script), though I’m struggling a bit figuring out how to get started and how to find the right tone. (Watching Brick the other day has me wanting to explore a stark noir style.) I like the idea of making it a tie-in with the game with game stats and info for the characters and such in the back, but first I have to, you know, write a novel and make it not suck. I’m actually worse at finishing novels than I am at games, if you can believe that.
I just finished re-reading Planet Guardian, a manga which hardly anyone but me seems to know. (Even scanlations haven’t gotten past chapter 2.) It doesn’t have all that much influence on Magical Burst, but I like it a lot nonetheless. The main character is Koyuki Kisaragi, a girl who got magical girl powers from a little critter named Pirosuke. Five years later there’s been no sign of the alien criminals that were supposed to show up, and Koyuki just wants to study hard and get a cushy government job (and Pirosuke has gotten so fat that he’s spherical). When the first bad guy shows up, Koyuki goes to fight it only after massive badgering from her brother Itsuki, who berates her for failing to be a properly cute magical girl like in anime. When another magical girl shows up it’s Ririka Saotome (real name: Yoshiko Yamada), an abject psycho whose desire to be the center of attention is potent enough to break the fourth wall at times. There’s also a boy named Shizuku, who treats being a Guardian as a serious duty, at least once he gets over his older sister’s attempts to dress him up in weird outfits. The story is kind of random and aimless, but I really like the differing attitudes towards being a magical girl (or boy) on display, as well as how Koyuki’s attitude evolves over the course of the story as she starts to take the responsibility of protecting the world seriously. But anyway. I may see about ordering the Madoka Magica novel, though it’s apparently over 500 pages.
AW style experience tracking pretty much just fails for us, though that’s more relevant for Dragon World. It’s also related to enough other things that rejiggering the rules to work differently in Dragon World is going to be… interesting.