Tag Archives: Shinobigami

Magical Burst Development Update 2

Matt Sanchez’s recent blog post on Adventure Planning Service‘s Saikoro Fiction[1] system got me inspired to finally sit down and read the rules of Shinobigami, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for way too damn long. It’s a really neat game, and the design of it makes me wonder how much is American indie RPG influence and how much is Kawashima just being that brilliant by himself. The rules are pretty short too–something like 70 pages including stats for NPC enemies and setting info–and about 2/3 of the book is taken up by a replay.

There are a ton of things I could gush about with regard to Shinobigami (especially where the combat system is concerned), but Matt’s planning to cover all of the Saikoro Fiction games in depth, so you can tune into his blog for more detail in the future. The big thing from Shinobigami that has me all inspired to work on Magical Burst after taking a bit of a break from it is the way it breaks the action into scenes. I’ve realized that on paper at least my problem with the current version of Magical Burst is that the rules do very little to guide the action. There are important bits of the narrative (like how the magical girls actually find the youma) that are pretty much handwaved. I know for a fact that the folks who’ve been playing the game have been able to work with that, but personally coming at the game I’m not sure I could actually do that good a job of running it.

Shinobigami is about modern-day ninjas, and while it’s possible to have the PCs all work together, the default assumption is that they end up in two competing factions[2]. With conflicting goals and secrets (established by the GM giving out Handouts[3]), the players basically take turns setting up scenes where they pursue information, relationships, etc. that can get them closer to their goal. You can also attack another PC on your turn, but you have to first figure out where they are. After a certain number of rounds of player-led scenes (usually 3), they arrive at the Climax Phase, which is typically an epic battle.

I think something similarly player-led is about what I’m looking for to make Magical Burst more like what I want. There can be other variations, not to mention a distinct possibility of failure or just ignoring the threat, but the base Magical Burst story is about the magical girls finding and defeating a youma and what it costs them to do so, so the kind of structure that Shinobigami uses makes a lot of sense for it. That’s going to affect how I approach a bunch of other things (especially relationship scenes), but we’ll see how it goes.

Aside from that, the things I’m looking at in this stage are going to be relatively small until deeper analysis and/or playtesting suggest otherwise.

  • I’m planning to make youma stats scale with the number of magical girls. It’s become a thing for me with both design and actual play that finding the right balance in terms of opponents that can challenge an entire group of foes while not being burdensome for the GM to keep track of is a big deal. On top of that, in Magical Burst a youma is (in D&D4e terms) normally a solo, and even the guys at WotC have had a hard time getting those right. This is mirroring some of the stuff I’ve been working on for Slime Quest, and I think “solo” type monsters need to scale not only stats but capabilities in order to keep up with a growing number of PCs.
  • In general I need to do a more rigorous analysis of the math to keep things on track. Luckily today a fan pointed me to AnyDice.com, which I think will become a very useful tool for that kind of thing.
  • Obviously, the Change tables need some work. Since I made the decision to switch from Magic uniquely producing Mutations to all three kinds of Overcharge producing Changes, I want to have three full d66 tables instead of one giant table and two half-size ones. I’ve tried to make the Heart and Fury ones be more derangements, but I’m thinking I’ll let them get more into the realm of mutations. Plus, I can prune the Magic Change table considerably, since I’m sure there are results in there that are at the far end of what I got from wracking my brains.
  • The magical girl creation tables were one of those “stumbling across the finish line” kind of things, and I do need to revise them some. The costume table in particular has a bunch of elements that belong (or are duplicated) in the weapons table. Plus I think “Key” is in there twice. (Did anyone catch on to how the names table is mostly taken from names of magical girls and other anime heroines?)

A Couple Other Things
Jake Richmond is going to be on the Yaruki Zero Podcast at some point to talk about the new Cel*Style games and such, but in the meantime you can listen to him on the Found in the Alley podcast. Jake and the podcast hosts are really entertaining, and I got really inspired listening to him talk about the new games. There’s also the full Panty Explosion head-punching story (amongst others), and it seems Jake is even worse than me for having his eyes glaze over from long rulebooks.

I’ve also been brainstorming for a new iteration of Raspberry Heaven, my heartwarming slice of life Japanese schoolgirls game. There will definitely be some other things at play, but it seems like it’s going to look a lot like a cute, happy version of Fiasco that uses playing cards. I really like Fiasco’s subtlety, and I think the trust it puts in the players is one of the things that Raspberry Heaven really needed. I have half a page of notes so far, but I’ll have to get into things to get a better idea what’s what.

Also, Raspberry Heaven is another project where I’d want the final product to have manga rather than anime style art.

[1]“Saikoro” means “dice,” and the logo on the back of the books abbreviates the name to “Sai-Fi.”

[2]The book also offers Battle Royal as a scenario setup (but warns it can be time-consuming) and hybrids of the various types.

[3]It’s an increasingly common thing in Japanese TRPGs that the GM gives players “handouts” that set up where their respective PCs fit into the story. I’m sure it would get mixed reactions from Western gamers, but it also seems like it’s one of the things that would make Shinobigami sing in actual play.

Ewen vs. Slime Story

Slime Story continues to be a game that fights against its own completion every step of the way. I tried to do a very simple test of the conflict rules by myself–let’s have Phoebe and Matt have an argument!–and it totally fell apart. But, as has been the case since the beginning, each step leaves me with a bit more usable stuff.

(Joe Hunter Archetype illo by StreyCat)

Aside from the fact that just because stuff sounds good on paper doesn’t mean it’s actually going to work (something every designer knows, or will learn very quickly), there are two Slime Story specific things I noticed:

First, making players spend their one action for the round on changing footing doesn’t work with the game as written. It works with the range map in 3:16, but then 3:16 works quite a bit differently. This led me to have “Full Actions” and “Maneuver Actions”, and you can take one of each (or two Maneuvers) during your turn. This lets players change footing before (but not after!) attacking, and lets me put some other nifty things into the game. Of course, it also makes the rules a little more baroque, and a bit more like 4e. This will hopefully alleviate the overwhelmingly optimum status of planting oneself in one footing and making an attack every round.

Secondly, the death spiral sucks. I originally had it as a -1 penalty for each point of Stress a character takes, but when you’re rolling 2d6+Attribute (ranks range from 4 to 10 or so for starting characters), getting hit with a -3 penalty from taking one hit is just too damn much. I need to find the right balance between giving players an incentive to avoid damage, and punishing them too severely for taking it.

Once I get the conflict rules down, I’ll have the proper chassis on which to mount the rest of the game. Probably the single biggest reason I’ve been procrastinating on working on the game more is that I have to get this one highly mechanical and game-y part of things all nailed down before I can really go any further. The Talent descriptions and monster writeups all depend heavily on interacting with the conflict rules, so I’d be wasting my time if I tried to work on them, even if they’re potentially more candy-like and interesting.

In Other News: Shinobigami
I special-ordered a copy of Shinobigami (“Ninja God”), published by Role&Roll Books, and designed by none other than Toichiro Kawashima, designer of Meikyuu Kingdom and Satasupe. The game is sold in the form of a small paperback, and it’s uniquely Japanese in that the book starts with a 160-page replay (littered with explanations of the game), and then has about 60 or 70 pages of actual rules. The game is about modern-day ninja with over-the-top powers having epic battles. I’ll be posting more about this when I’ve had a chance to read through it, which will probably take a while. I’m especially intrigued by the “Velocity System”, which involve a chart that goes from 0 (Mundane) to 7 (FTL).