Tag Archives: Retail Magic

Retail Magic Design Journal 2

Last night I ran my first Retail Magic playtest, and it went really well. Granted at this stage it’s basically a reskinned Maid RPG, but as my attempt at using those rules for a new version of Mascot-tan demonstrated, that wouldn’t have been a guarantee of success. For the game I rolled up a store I named Vanderveldt Bros., originally under the control of two archmages, but since they died (most likely at each other’s hands) their nephew Eric Vanderveldt (a talented young mage but largely clueless about business) inherited the store. Over the course of the game Axebeard (a female dwarf) held an interview that led to Red Maj (a little girl) being hired, while Wyrmsbane (a shiftless loser dressed as a wizard) slacked off. There was a bit of flailing around dealing with customers, missionaries, and so on before it turned out an ancient dragon was coming to burninate the city, and they had to gather the ingredients for a ritual in order to weaken the dragon enough to defeat it. It was fun, and very silly. It also felt a whole lot like Maid RPG at a magic shop, but then that was kind of the idea.

One thing I’m thinking about is writing a bit about how to approach playing the game. I have enough experience with running Maid RPG that I think I could put together some useful advice. I just discovered Craig Judd’s blog The Game Mechanic, where he just put up three posts about his experiences with Maid RPG as the first of his experiments with expanding his RPG horizons. It’s really interesting to read about someone else struggling to figure out how to play the game and ultimately finding their own style, which is apparently considerably more serious than mine. It’s going to be a challenge to find the right midpoint between offering advice while making it clear that people can do what they want, but I think very worthwhile. It’s probably going to end up looking a lot like the advice I wrote for Dragon World.

I came up with a small innovation, albeit one that gives me a lot of work to do. The idea is to have a d666 table that is in essence a set of six d66 tables with different themes. I’m doing this with the item table, which has different general types of items so that you can just make a d666 roll for any old kind of item, or make a d66 roll specifically for a cursed item or an outworld artifact. I’m also thinking of doing this with the random event tables, which will both give the game enough random events to hold up to more play, and provide event tables for more themes.


I finally started playing Recettear, which I’m enjoying a lot so far, plus it helped me figure out a general approach for putting together the “commerce rules” for Retail Magic. Assuming I can put together something workable, I think “store management” is going to be its own style of play, distinct from random event-driven, favor race, etc. Recettear, like a lot of Japanese simulation video games, uses a concept of “turns,” during which the player has a budget of actions they can take to try to pursue their goals. The system I’m thinking of will be a bit more abstract, without manually doing the haggling of every sale like in Recettear. I’m still in the earliest stages of designing it, and we’ll have to see how it works out.

A while ago I stumbled across Norm Feuti’s book Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook. He’s the creator of a comic strip called Retail, about the staff of a department store and the shit they have to deal with. It draws on his 15 years of experience working at various stores, and Pretending You Care is a more direct distillation of that experience, full of stuff that I wish I’d known during the one retail job I’ve had. It’s kind of depressing to read–and retail has if anything gotten a bit worse since the book came out in 2007–but it’s giving me plenty of ideas as I re-read it.

Anyway, that’s about where I am with the project. My next step is to basically write more material–items, events, etc.–and try them out. Although it’s getting way ahead of myself, I’m also thinking a bit about possible supplements. I don’t want to get quite as out of control as Maid RPG did, but producing stuff like, say, a collection of scenarios with some accompanying rules material could be interesting. For that matter a friend of mine had an idea for a hack that would basically be a zany fantasy version of Community.

Retail Magic Design Journal 1

I’ve been making good progress on the aforementioned Retail Magic RPG (though the Yaruki Zero book is still eating up a lot of my free time). Kamiya was amenable to the idea and and even impressed with the draft of the character creation rules I showed him, so it looks like I don’t have to worry about whether the project is feasible on that front.

The PC (employee) creation rules are done, though I need to take some time to refine the selection of Special Qualities. There are a few things I copied over from my draft of Mascot-tan that I should probably revise or remove, and possibly a few things I need to add. I also finished the boss and store creation rules, though that went faster because I decided not to write up a separate Special Qualities table for bosses. I had fun making the store creation tables a bit more expansive than the mansion creation tables in Maid RPG, so you roll for the store’s appearance, location, specialty, and special features. Let’s give those a try:

Alyssa Foxtail
Attributes: Athletics 2, Cunning 0, Guts 3, Luck 2, Presence 0, Skill 3
Boss Type: Obsessed Artisan
Boss Assets: Magical Power, Property
Favorite Employee Type: Weirdo
Boss Special Qualities: Fox Ears, Overactive Imagination
Stress Explosion: Making Corny Jokes/Punning
Colors: Hair: Gold, Eyes: Silver, Outfit: Red and Yellow
Stress Limit: 30

Alyssa is one of the fox people of the eastern forests. She started Fox Hunt Specialties because the only thing she could do to earn a living was to harness her innate magical talent. Although she looks fairly attractive, in a disheveled kind of way, she’s actually kind of annoying and unsocial, and tends to neglect her employees.

Fox Hunt Specialties
Store Appearance: Eccentric Construction
Store Colors: Teal and Violet
Store Location: Magical Mobility
Store Specialty: Material Components
Store Special Features: Arcade Game, Dimensional Interior

Alyssa’s store is the result of building a hut out of discarded glass bottles and then attaching a pocket dimension to the entrance. The store’s exterior is about the size of a small phone booth, but the interior is a full-sized store, with countless racks of merchandise, including an impressive collection of spell components in mason jars behind the counter. The dimensional enchantments on it are a little bit unstable though, and the store has a way of jumping around the city at random. A brief trip to Earth resulted in a Simpsons arcade game machine being delivered to the store by accident, and Alyssa was able to bind an electricity elemental to power it.

I’m also working on a d666 item table, though writing up 216 items is going to take quite a while. There are only so many zany D&D items to borrow from. I’m planning to take after the original Japanese Maid RPG rulebook and include two scenarios and a replay, though I need to get a bit further along before I can make those. I’m also contemplating hiring Sue-chan to do the artwork, since I think her style would mesh pretty well with the overall feel of the game.

Since so many of the people interested in the game have expressed interest, I’m also putting together a chapter for putting Retail Magic into a modern/urban fantasy setting, which is turning out to be roughly the same setting as Magic School Diaries. I’m still working out what actual new material it’ll require, but right now the “Memos from Corporate” table is shaping up to be my favorite part of it.

The big thing that has me stumped is how to approach doing commerce rules. It makes perfect sense to have optional rules for handling running the store’s business, but I don’t even know where to begin. Also, owing to the choice of rules systems, this will be one of my rare non-open designs, but I will be looking for people to do outside playtesting rather than posting it online.

Another Project: Retail Magic

After about 2½ weeks I finished the first draft of the Yaruki Zero book, which weighs in at a bit over 60,000 words. It’s like I got up to a certain speed with my writing and can’t slow down. Right now I’m having some friends look it over before I start on a second draft.

In the meantime, I got inspired to start on another new project. I’ve been wanting to do a new game using the rules of Maid RPG for ages now; I even came up with the idea to call the rules the M.A.I.D. (Maniacs Asymmetrical Interactive Delusion) Engine. I want to do this partly because it’s just something fun, and partly so the people put off by the maids might give the same rules a chance with subject matter that won’t freak them out so much. My attempt to make a new version of Mascot-tan didn’t work out basically because gijinka characters don’t mesh with random chargen at all. I may take another stab at it once I rethink the character creation rules, but a recent bit of renewed hysteria about Maid RPG got me thinking about it again.

My first idea was to do a game in the vein of Urusei Yatsura, about human and alien teenagers in everyday life. Except I don’t really want to rewrite Teenagers From Outer Space. My second idea, and the one I latched onto, was to make a game where you play the employees at a magic item shop in a fantasy setting. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for years–I ran a game with the same concept using Risus a couple times–but the moment I allowed the possibility of using the Maid RPG rules for it, it made entirely too much sense. Characters can be random and zany on the level of Dragon Half, and the store setup naturally gives you an authority figure NPC like in Maid RPG. I’m still working out what other kinds of rules I want to put into the game though. I’m definitely putting in a d666 random item table, and rules for generating a boss and a shop. On the other hand while it seems natural if not inevitable to put in some kind of basic rules for doing business, I’m not sure of the right way to do it, especially since it needs to mesh with Maid RPG type craziness. (Also, I need to sit down and play Recettear, since I’ve had it on Steam for a year now and everyone who hears about the concept says, “Hey! A Recettear RPG! Awesome!”)

I very quickly settled on the name “Retail Magic” (if you’re picking up an element of deep sarcasm, it’s because that’s what I intended), and since I had a good chunk of my attempt at a new Mascot-tan written up, it’s not so long a journey to a functional rules draft.

One of the things that’s changed between 2008 and now is that I started working in the video game industry as a localization editor, and that helped me shed a tendency to be overly literal in how I translate things. There are an awful lot of things in Maid RPG that today I would word differently, both to better fit American standards (it would’ve been trivially easy to change the “Lolita” Maid Type to “Cute”) and for simple clarity (like renaming “Spirit” to “Stress Limit,” which succinctly tells you what it does). Putting together my own game text from the ground up lets me get everything just how I want it, and lets me keep a close eye on content without having to rewrite or outright excise a bunch of stuff from an original version.

Since I finished the first draft of the employee creation rules (minus descriptions of some of the traits), let’s give them a test drive.

Angelina (Age 24)
Attributes: Athletics 3, Cunning 1, Guts 3, Luck 3, Presence 1, Skill 0
Employee Types: Adventurer, Weirdo
Employee Special Qualities: Pet (albino falcon), Eye Patch
Employee Roots: Under a Curse
Employee Weapon: Holy Magic
Stress Explosion: Hiding in a Box
Colors: Hair: Wine, Eyes: Amber, Outfit: Beige and Off-White
Stress Limit: 30
Starting Favor: 0

Angelina is a former cleric who lost her eye in battle against the Dark Lord’s forces. She works in the store solely because she fell under a curse that makes it so she can’t leave. She’s been adventuring so long that she doesn’t quite know how to relate to normal people anymore, and when things get to be too much she tends to hide in a box until it goes away.

So yeah, I think I’m on the right track. :3

Update: Here’s a few more attempts at making characters.