Sparks of Light by Doresh
PreludeOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
Sailor Rainbow is every colorist's nightmare.
So recent reviews here seem to call for a bit of a palette cleanser. Let's provide one with what appears to be a magical girl RPG that is not Meguca: The Suffering.
Sparks of Light is a magical girl RPG with a defined setting that seems to be taking a few cues from Princess: The Hopeful (as far I as can bother to remember that game) while using some kind of FATE derivative using a single d8 and hit points (or Hope Points, in this case). Thanks to the latter, it's just about 110 pages long, which is like 1/4 of Princess' Charm section (I think).
This game is kind of new ground for me here as it's the first rules-lite game I'll be covering. This is already obvious from a few "warning signs":
- The only die used is the d8, and the term itself only appears seven times in the whole book, out of which three are just headers for charts.
- Speaking of charts, there are maybe four of those, none of them particularly long.
- The term "die roll" is used exactly four times.
- There isn't a clearly defined rules section.
- Character writeups can fit on a beer coaster.
The art is overall pretty nice most of the time, if a bit random. Quite a few are also riffable, especially in the latter half.
For starters, I have the nagging suspicion that this picture right here is actually Touhou fanart.
As the game is very big on friendship (going so far as to make "Nakama" an actually game term). Let's hear some input on example PCs and NPCs. I'll definitely be making Doki Doki Happy Witch Puncher Punch-Witch-chan, defender of Earth from the nefarious forces of LucyDark. She may or may not team-up with everyone's favorite moon-themed magical girl.
Next Time: Nakama 4 Life.
A Magical Girl's LifeOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
A Magical Girl's Life
Magical girls are officially known as Sparks, though both the book and characters in this setting just call them magical girls, and I'll stick to that as well. "Spark" is also used as a verb to describe the process of being chosen as a magical girl. The name comes from the Light, the benevolent goddess who recruits magical girls by giving them a fragment of herself.
There do exist magical boys, adults and even animals, but they're not really the target audience for the Light.
A magical girl's source of power are Bonds, her relationships with other people. It's like the Social Links from Persona, except instead of allowing you to summon stronger gods and demons, it makes your witch punches stronger.
One can actively draw out extra power from a Bond in case of emergencies, but doing so will put a srain on it. Your former BFF might just downgrade you to a normal friend if you don't spend more time with him/her ASAP. In extreme cases, a Bond can actually shatter, and now your BFF doesn't remember you anymore.
The most important Bonds for a magical girl are those formed with her Nakama, which includes the Light itself, the other PCs, and whatever Court (aka splat) she is in.
I'm pretty sure the person in the background is a dude. I'm not so sure about the rest.
Light Armor & Soul Weapons
A magical girl's costume is known as Light armor, made out some kind of magical not-mythril fabric. These used to look like actual armor, but then those pesky anime came around and ruined everything for everyone - which is exactly how I would imagine this to happen. Or where the magical girl shows inspired by actual magical girls?! Hopefully not, cause the first explanation is more hilarious.
Additionally, magical girls have a Soul weapon, which can be pretty much anything, be it a buster sword, wand or electric guitar. Unlike Light armor, Soul weapons have to be earned, though every PC seem to already start with one.
The rest of the book seems to call these weapons Soul tokens, so I guess that's the actual term.
So, let's revisit our current roster for Soul weapons/tokens:
- Doki Doki Happy Witch Puncher Punch-Witch-chan: Armwarmers of Witch-Punching.
- Mysterious Masked Rider Megumin: A belt with a couple switches that all seem to revolve around powering up her kicks. May or may not come with an announcer voice.
- Rainbow (Seizure) Spark: A technicolor staff that definitely has an announcer voice and apprently thinks it's the onboard computer of a giant robot.
- Sanlossa, Emissary of Cuddlethulu: The Nekonomicon, which is actually just a binder for her Love Cards (I'm don't actually know anything abou the cards in Cardcaptor, but my extensive knowledge of early Yu-Gi-Oh! should be more than adequate)
The Bad Guys
When magical girls have to transform in order to save the day, it's usually because one of those guys: the Dark (dark magical girls and other villains), the Yomi (monsters who typically hang out with the Dark, though not always willingly), or the Twilight (which isn't explained yet, but I suppose they are Chaotic Neutral d-bags).
In a day and age of smartphones, Youtube and a celebrity culture that is pretty good at effing up child celebs, it has become paramount for the identity of magical girls to stay secret at all costs. They are therefore protected by powerful magic that messes around with memories and any kind of footage, and entire groups of magical girls are tasked with fixing collateral damage caused by monsters and essentially play Men in Black to convince bystanders that they really didn't see a girl in a pink dress punch a giant monster through an entire mall. Standard stuff for this kind of setup.
The GM has a couple choices when it comes to how serecy works with the bad guys. The default assumption is that it works for everyone, so neither the PCs nor the villains have an easy time figuring out who's behind the frills or leather, respectively. You can also go the standard magical girl anime route where secrecy only works on normal dudes. Sadly, there is no mention of the classic "The bad guys know who the girls are and which school they visit, but they don't actually do anything with it" trope.
The GM also has to decide on whether or not the Dark use a secrecy effect as well or if they don't care about it at all.
Good magical girls naturally use Light magic. It gives them the classic magical girl wuxia package (long jumps, being able to stand on light poles...), grants the vital panty shot protection buff, and allows them to pull off purifications, aka energy beams. More experienced magical girls get to teleport around and undo whatever stuff the bad guy has done.
One bit of this standard Light magic package is also my least favorite part in the book: magical girls age very slowly - or more specifically: They can decide each year whether or not they feel like getting older (and it is assumed they rarely do, though it apparently becomes ever so slightly harder to resist each time).
How can they still live a normal life if they spend decades in ther teenager years? Well, magic. Nobody in school will find it odd that the same group of girls as been in the same class for the last 20+ years, and if they used to be the firstborn among their siblings, their family just believes they were the youngest all along.
This is pretty odd in a game where the characters are powered by relationships. Maintaining a Bond with your former childhood friend who is now your teacher is just weird, not to mention the huge amount of reality-alteration necessary for this to work. I'd rather just go "Your magical girl persona never looks older than 18 or so" and be done with it.
The two main limitations of Light magic is that you can't do anything sneaky with it (so no good magical ninja girls for you; you have a cute dress with ribbons and everything and by God, you're going to show it off to everyone), and you can't heal someone or make him less of a jerk if he is not willing. Sure, you can apparently brainwash or straight-up reshape reality so you can stay in middle school forever, but you can't turn a bad guy good by punching or beam-spamming him hard enough (though isn't that the basic concept of Nanoha, and sometimes Pretty Cure?). Or maybe that's just for irredeemable villains, which makes sense I guess.
The Dark has two main forms of magic: Harvesting magic allows them to extract whatever kind of energy or MacGuffin they need from civilians, be it dreams, hopes, or metaphysical flowers. They also make heavy use of Shadow magic, which is all about sneaky stuff. Essentially, bad guys can instantly appear out of nowhere and flee just as fast if things don't quite work out as they intended. Other than that, the Dark can basically do anything that the plot demands.
The magic power of Yomi isn't particularly subtle, and they're mainly about causing natural disasters.
Next time: Pure Hearts - including those Courts which I think are inspired by Princess: The Hopeful.
Pure Hearts: The Morality of the LightOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
Pure Hearts: The Morality of the Light
The magical girl society has come up with a number of rules throughout the ages, though they can be easily summarized: The Rules of Grey basically amount to "Don't use your powers for selfish reasons, and maybe kinda sorta let yourself age a little every now and then", and the Morals of the Light are basically the Paladin code of conduct, except they can actually lie if it's absolutely necessary - which will probably happen quite a lot whenever they have to leave the house to beat up some monsters with their fellow Nakama. Fortunately for magical girls, the Light they are connected to knows when breaking a rule was necessary.
Now that's a much saner color scheme than the one on the cover.
The book is helpful to remind us that there is no grey morality to be found. The Light isn't an emotionless cosmic horror that screws everyone over to delay the heat death of the universe, it is a shining embodiment of good. The Courts aren't corrupt and will eventually ruin everything, they're just Lawful Stupid.
Speaking of Courts...
The Five Courts
Courts are your splats, describing what kind of magical girl you are what how you go about punching or shooting love into bad guys. They can be quickly described in D&D terms: Champions (Fighters, Paladins), Keepers (Druids, Elves, Rangers), Menders (Clerics), Seekers (Wizards) and Graces (Bards).
Now that does sound familiar, doesn't it? Well, that's because they're almost the exact same as the Callings from Princess: The Hopeful, with the major difference being that the Troubadours have been absorbed into the Graces to make room for the Keepers, which are nature-loving tree huggers.
The game also features Queens, but these are just linked to a Court instead of being a separate splat to pick from.
Each Queen and her Court hangs out in a Hall, a pocket dimension that is inaccessible to bad guys thanks to a magical crystal protection. Courts also have their own set of themes that influence the typical appearance of their magical girl's costume and weapons, and they often have a specific kind of good Yomi they like to hang out with.
The Grand Court of the Champions
The most paladin-like of all the Courts, residing in the fortress of Queen Dawn. They have a sun-theme going on, prefer actual armor (or bits of armor) and proper weapons like swords. It's the Rayearth Court.
Their favorite Yomi are lions [insert a Harry Potter or Narnia joke here].
The Endless Wood Hall of the Keepers
As the Green Peace of the Courts, they hang out in a jungle and love all Yomi equally. Their Queen Rona hangs out in a throne of living wood, so they might also be elfkin.
Aside from preferring hunting weapons, they also wear fur, leather or general amazon attire. So basically nothing you'd actually see in a magical girl anime which have influenced the appearance of real magical girls.
The Grand Temple of the Menders
These healbots in their silvery hall heal wounds (both physically and spiritually) in the name of the moon, under the guise of Queen
Their weapons are the most classic, as they prefer wands and other magical itesm. Their costumes are also extra glittery, and their Yomi of choice are giant white spiders. But don't worry, they're nice vegetarian spiders who weave really good bandages.
The Grand Library of the Seekers
Queen Sophia rules in her sky castle (or at least a very tall castle) for her nerd Court to research and records history and other forms of knowledge.
Their weapons of choice are books and pens, and their costume accessories are pretty weird and include stuff like hoods and blindfolds. Their favorite Yomi is the eagle.
The Grand Menagerie of the Graces
A bunch of villas and pavilions rules over by Queen Blanc. Her magical girls have a thing for asymmetric looks, and they like to rock out with electric guitars. Or a lute, if they're one of the boring girls.
Their Yomi of choce is the songbird.
Nobody actually knows when the Courts were originally created. The only ones who could tell that are some of the oldest Yomi, but they are a bit dickish and like to give contradictory answers.
What is more or less certain is that the war between Light and Dark - and even the concept of magical girls - is older than humanity itself.
The two sides were warring throughout most of ancient human history (Hannibal's invasion and Pompeii might be their fault) until one Queen from each side lost a daughter and they decided to call a truce and leave the world for good.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Dark spend the next thousand years to learn how to mind control Yomi and then managed to almost steamroll the Light if it wasn't for a Keeper newbie called Morgana who managed to get the non-brainwashed Yomi on her side.
Apparently, the Renaissance was caused by the Light almost managing to defeat the Dark for good and herald in the utopia they have always dreamed of. These connections to history are a bit weird.
Speaking of a bit weird: In 1925, the Twilight was formed as a bunch of magical girls went "Screw you, girls" and left the Light. And this was apparently caused by capitalism, as they felt the fast treasuries of the Courts should be put to good use.
The Grey Wardens are a group of magical girls who make sure that nobody goes Twilight or Dark on their watch. Depending on the GM, they can be just an informal gathering or an actual Internal Affairs organization.
Your typical magical girl group is known as a Troupe, consisting anywhere between two (oldschool Pretty Cure) or ten (Sailor Moon) members. Each Troupe leader reports to their Court leader, who in turn reports to the Paladin, the supreme general of the magical girl army.
As Queens are so closely connected with the Light that they tend to zone out, the daily affairs of a Court are usually handled by a Princess.
Ranks in the magical girl society are separated into Might (fighers), Wisodm (casters) and Hearth (teachers and trainees). An active magical girl can have ranks in both Might and Wisdom.
About twice per month, each Court holds a Chapel, which is a gathering of most (if not all) magical girls of that Court where even the family members who know their secret are allowd (if they pass the magic crystal test). Not sure how they are allowed to know with all the secrecy, but I digress.
When it comes to punishing magical girls, the Courts have learned that rehabilitation is the way to go. Locking them up just ends up having them join the "Screw you, girls" club, or switch to hot black leather.
Jobs for a magical girl is not always about kicking monster butt. Young magical girls usually start out as mere couriers (so you can play Kiki's Delivery Service), and there are other glamorous jobs like cooks and repair crew waiting for them.
Knights are magical boys. They make up maybe 10% of the Spark population, and instead of hanging out with a crapload of cute girls, they prefer to be brooding lone wolf who occasionally show up to rescue one of their female comrades by throwing a rose and spouting some words of encouragement. That's a bind odd seeing how Bonds are sources of power.
And bloody hell, this is pretty overkill for a magical girl setting.
Next Time: Let's look at the bad guys.
The DarkOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
Ready to turn you into a cigarette to harvest your soul nicotine.
Nobody really knows where the Dark comes from, but it operates much like how the other magical girls should: They act alone or in small groups, each with their own agenda and their own little pocket dimension to hang out in. Thanks to their shadow magic, they are pretty much impossible to track unless they make a scene, which for some reason always happens in places where a good magical girl is nearby.
The only time the Dark ever comes close to having a Court is when a Dark General or Dark Queen arises who manages to unite several dark magical girls for her cause.
Unless you're dealing with an evil Yomi or cosmic horror, members of the Dark are fallen magical girls (as the Dark doesn't seem to be able to create magical girls themselves). These can be either veterans who have been corrupted, or newbies that have been scooped up and brainwashed before they could be properly introduced to the Courts.
This talk about the main bad guys is a good time to bring up further GM choices, this time dealing with the overall body count of the game. The default assumption is that magical girls only really die as part of heroic sacrifices or fights against BBEGs, but you can just dial it up to Madoka+ levels or dial it down to some weird toon setting where neither side can bring itself to actually kill anyone. And if you're really weird, you can have the magical girls start WW3 and play Magical Mad Max-chan or something.
The GM can also change to grimdarkness of Harvesting magic. The default assumption prevents harvesting from doing lasting damage, but you can make the damage permanent or even fatal.
As dark magical girls are almost always outnumbers, they let Yomi and other monsters keep the opposition busy while they go about harvesting MacGuffins from civilians. Once their done or shit hits the fan, they generally make haste ASAP.
If the dark magical girl actually does succeeds, things can turn pretty badly. Maybe the entire area gets corrupted in the Dark's attempt to take over the world. Maybe good magical girls get a handicap (like having their Bonds be damaged), or the dark magical girl just succeeds at getting her MacGuffin.
Aside from being sneaky and harvesting stuff, Dark magic is also very good at corrupting or mind-controlling things. Another neat trick is Infusion, which allows a dark magical girl to pump one of her goons full of energy, probably while shouting "Make my monster grow!".
In tradition of the genre, not all dark magical girls are irredeemably evil and might just see the light again. But since we have this whole Court thing going on, you don't just convert your bitter rival after talking some sense to him over several fights. No, instead you bonk her over the head, track her evil ass to a Court and put her into a rehabilitation center, which totally doesn't sound like brainwashing at all.
Yomi are essentially all your supernatural critters: monsers, spirits, angels and other funt stuff. If they aren't already at least demi-human, they can often learn to become a human after enough contact with magical girls.
Yomi in any shape or form are primal forces of nature, overspecialized in their one gimmick or domain and often tied to a particular place (or type of place), from which they will revive if killed. Bringing a Yomi to join your side is not done by talking to one directly, but by going to his place, which for the Dark probably results in corrupting the area.
Whether they serve the Light or Dark, Yomi are very gentleman-like and never show hatred towards each other, evne if they fight. So maybe this whole war between Light and Dark is just some fun distraction for them I suppose.
I need to play more Maid.
The selfish d-bags of the magical girls. They are technically still part of the Light, but they don't care enough about this whole Good vs Evil affair to bother contributing much unless they really have to.
Joining the Twilight is very tempting for younger magical girls, as you can abuse your powers while not having to work for someone who wants to take over or outright destroy the world. Though the lifestyle of the Twilight does a number to ones Bonds, and it eventually leads to a downwards spiral to becoming a Dark. It is therefore that the number of magical girls in the Twilight stays relatively static.
They have Courts of their own, but the Twilight's nature doesn't make them particularly stable. The following are the biggest ones in modern day:
The Court of Mirrors
Magical girls of this Court are extremely vain. Each of them calls herself a Queen, and they use their powers to become stinking rich and live the part. They're probably the most likely to fight the Dark, because that's what perfect Mary Sue magical queen girls aught to do. They also like tiger Yomi.
The Court of Chimes
These magical girls believe that fate itself causes this endless war, so they try to change fate itself. They act as arbiters between the Light and Dark (not that this helps much seeing how the latter loves backstabbing), and they're willing to grant wishes at a price.
Their Yomi of choice are friggin' dragons.
The Court of Whispers
Seekers of knowledge who want to know what really makes the magical girl world go round. Though once they have their knowledge, they tend to hoard it for themselves because they have to fill their d-bag quota somehow.
They also really like sphinxes.
Next Time: The Wider World - stalkers, propaganda and romance.
The Wider WorldOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
The Wider World
This section is the last bit of setting information before we finally almost get to the actual rules of this game. Will we find other instances of "Let's port over concepts from Princess which exists solely because of arbitrary WoD conventions that have nothing to do with the actual source material"? Who knows!
Magical Girl Stalkers
Despite the charming name, these fellows are not creepy perverts who harass magical girls and dream of one day recording some HTYOMGA (Hot Tentacle Yomi On Magical Girl Action). No, they are the 1% or so of the muggle population who kinda sorta got wind that magical girls are real and want to find out the truth in a more or les professional manner. They organize on the internet of course, but they keep hanging out with conspiracy nutjobs and other weirdoes, which makes it all the more harder to be taken seriously.
These stalkers somehow appear to have a higher chance of becoming a Spark themselves. So if you find out that your best friend is a magical girl, just keep following her until you become one yourself!
Propaganda, Rumors, Romance, Scandal
Propaganda is a bit odd. Basically, the Courts own several animation studios to keep pumping out magical girl shows in order to cement the image of magical girls being kids stuff (mass appeal? What's that?!) instead of something real, kinda sorta prepare future magical girls for what's to come, and hope that a bit of nostalgia might help when the Courts might end up going public.
They should probably use more cash from their treasuries, cause there's an awful lot of this propaganda that never gets a wide release in the west. Or maybe the Courts also finance fansub streaming sites?
The officially sponsored propaganda magical girl anime and manga are sometimes at least paritally based on real events (especially if the creator or mangaka in question is a magical girl itself). The Dark probably also has its own studios providing shows with more depression and grimdark . That's right folks, Madoka was brought to you by the Negaverse.
Since having a bunch of teenage girls hang around in large numbers in a Court is just asking for catfights, the secret society of magical girls has come up with their own kinds of insults: "naive" for n00bs and "Dark touched" for girls who look too evil or something. These insults are lame.
Romance is also a bit odd:
Romance, on the other hand, is an extremely important subject. The magical girl world is host to strange combinations; this is a universe where a girl and a unicorn can fall in love. Conservative magical girls are going to have a hard time when they see just how common inter-troupe romances are.
The book doesn't answer what the Courts final stance on bestiality is, but they're perfectly fine with some sweet lesbian romances. Though despite beeing around for thousands of years and therefore having more than enough time for more or less scientific studies, the Courts can't make up their minds whether or not a lesbian couple in the same team is a hindrance or boon. Go figure.
Falling in love with a dark magical girl is strictly against the rules. This in turn means that it happens all the time because it's the cool thing to do or something. It's pretty much a crapshoot whether this might actually result in the evil girl getting good or the good one getting screwed over (in more than one ways).
Scandals happen whenever a magical girl gets hit with a case of the Twilight and does something selfish. It's almost like they're actual people or something.
Thise little section features a selection of example locations to set adventures in. None of these have all too specific locations, as magical girls can just teleport around thanks to the Courts.
Seacouver is that one city you see in every American anime dub that desparately tries to hide the fact that it's set in Japan. Located in the northwest coast, it has close enough ties with Japan that it features school uniforms and Shinto shrines. I also bet they sell a lot of rice balls which the locals swear are actually jelly-filled donuts.
This city also appears to be a stand-in of sorts for Haven (... City of Violence) because there's a weird turf war going on between the Light and Dark. The Courts hold the city center, while the Dark controls the harbor region and makes some sweet cash with smuggling. Each faction also controls one Yomi shrine while a third remains independent.
Waterfall City is essentially owned by the Courts, or at least all their important businesses have their HQs there. Naturally, the Dark is nowhere to be found, and its overall the most perfect, safe and boring city to set adventures in.
Sadly, no words about whether or not at least this place has a boarding school exclusively for magical girls.
West is the very creatively named place "where naughty magical girls go to become naughtier". It's a small wannabe Las Vegas on the outside, but its actually the earthly capital of the Twilight. It's a common place for negotiations between Light and Dark, since a bunch of rituals prevent fighting there (excluding the Twilight enforcers, naturally).
Outside of negotiations, West is a popular place for magical girls to party hard, and there's even a Harry Potter vibe going on as the same shady bar looks much better to a magical girl than a muggle. Naughty girls can even indulge in *gasp* capitalism, for West has the only magical girl bank.
Because of their sneaky nature, the Dark don't have whole cities on their own. They just indulge in turf wars with the Light, and the latter actually sends their "gangs" in buses, disguised as a school trip.
Also, apparently the Dark once controlled parts of the Soviet Union before the Russian magical girls curbstomped them. These historical anecdotes are really weird.
Astral paths connect the mundane world with the astral realm, where all the monsters live and the Halls can be found. There aren't big gates or anything leading to the realm. A magical girl has to attune herself with her current location to create a door that only shee can use. From the outside, stepping through such a door looks like teleporting.
The first step in a soldier's journey is an astral door. This is not a literal doorway, but a way of bringing her spirit into alignment with a specific place. Given time and patience, this is a simple ritual (See page 82, Rituals, and page Error! Bookmark not defined., Astral Jaunt), often taught and well known.
Once inside the nebulous astral realm, the Halls are so grand that they can be seen or at least felt from huge distances. If a magical girl keeps using the same door to reach the Halls (like say her own room), the distance seems to grow shorter.
Venturing blindly into the astral realm is a dangerous task. Not only are there a bunch of monsters lurking around, but the place also twists past, present and future into a confusing mess of visions. You might also accidentally step into someone's dreams.
If you venture far enough that you can no longer sense the Halls, you're in deep trouble. Luckily, you might stumble upon either a natural font (a I think one-way door from the astral to a specific mundane location) or a crystal relay (an artifical font) to get you out.
Also, apparently the Silver Millenium exists somewhere in the astral realm.
Locations and Aspects
A bunch of example locations and their Aspects. That's a bit weird to bring up seeing how we still have no idea about the rules and what Aspects do, but they're more or less self-explanatory (a suburban park has the Aspects "Happiness" and "Youth", while an abaondoned factory has "Forgotten" and "Rotten").
These offer a bit more inside information for the inner workings of the setting, provided as choices for the GM to pick and choose.
For the natura of Light and Dark, the GM can treat them like asbtract concepts, as two rivaling goddesses, or as the most WoD of all explanations: The big band god worm Yormungand wants to nom all of creation and end the cycle of reincarnation, and the Light and Dark are fragments of two gods he nommed before.
This section also presents the optional concepts of the Lightborn and the Dark Gifted. The Lightborn is more or less a magical girl chosen as the avatar of Light. As the most shining and pure of the magical girls, she is equaled to Superman - though I think Captain Planet is more adequate, as the Lightborn is a pacfistic pansy who can probably be stared into submission by Hitler through sheer hatred.
The Dark Gifted on the other hand... I dunno. Nobody has seen one. Just something about the Light granting a Spark to the Dark or something. Hopefully a bit more badass than the above "I become physically ill from fighting".
When it comes to powers, the Light and Dark could be seen as two sides of the same coin: the power of Light is the power of heart, and therefore only the Light can actually create Sparks. The power of the Dark is the power over the world and creation, and there's some stuff about how only the Dark could mend a broken world but there's nothing really to back this up, and seeing how the Light is perfectly fine and capable with fixing the Dark's fuck-ups, I'm not sure what kind of point this section is trying to make as this is a bit late to make the bad guys sympathetic.
How to defeat the Dark in four easy steps:
- Imprison or Seal every Dark girl.
- Purify Dark shrines.
- Destroy the Dark fortresses.
- Victory at last!
- Cake Party!
And if you're wondering what would happen if one side manages to win: Well, nothing good, really. The Courts become bored and eventually start a civil war or something, and the Dark just goes batshit crazy and lets the world burn in anarchy.
Weider and Wilder
This is just a continuation of the little note about how even dudes and animals can become Sparks. Essentially, you can just go wild. Body swap! gender swap! Crossdressing! Spontaneous age changes! Time travel!
Also included are a few plot ideas for general weirdness, like having the cute little mascot be the villain all along (though the book portrays this as more of a mustache-twirling villain instead of Kyubei), or maybe one of the PCs is trapped in a time loop while the others don't have any idea about not. Not sure how to implement this in an actual session.
Next Time: Making a character - just over halfway through, and we finally learn how to make our little punch witch and her friends. I wonder who she will fall in love with?!
How to Make CharactersOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
How to Make Characters
So this one doesn't really take to long to explain. Characters are created just like in Fate Accelerated Edition - or more specifically a kind of FAE Lite: There are no Approaches, there's no dedicated High Concept, and the only kind of Stunt you get is if you make your Signature Move (because of course those exist) or Soul Token an Aspect, which lets you invoke it for free once per session.
(Of course you also get to pick a Court, though that isn't actually mentioned in the Chargen steps.)
So basic character creation for our example cast is essentially already done:
Aspects: Doki Doki Happy Witch Puncher, Muscle Witch, Witch Punch
Trouble: Conflicted personality ("A witch which punches witches?")
Soul Token: Armwarmers of Witch-Punching
Signature Move: "Witch Puuuuunch!"
Aspects: Mysterious Masked Rider, Magitek Cyborg, Rider Kick
Trouble: Arch-nemesis of Dark Shocker (the guys who tried to brainwash her when she was just starting out)
Soul Token: Rider Belt
Signature Move: "Rider Kick!"
Aspects: "There is no kill like overkill!", Love and Peace!", Love Staff
Trouble: "Defeat means friendship!"
Soul Token: Love Staff
Soul Token: "Rainbow Heart Busterrrrrr~!"
Aspects: Emissary of Cuddlethulu, Non-Euclidian Strategist, Love Cards
Trouble: Obsessed with Cosplay
Soul Token: Love Cards
Signature Move: "I summon Cuddlethulu in Attack Mode!"
The Aspects themselves work just like in Fate, except you can't invoke them to make a reroll. In fact almost everything related to Aspects is copied directly from FAE, with maybe a few alterations to have more magical-girly examples.
Of course there's a somewhat bigger addition to the rules: the Bond Map. This is a web showing all the bonds and relationships the PCs have with each other, NPCs or locations. These Bonds all have a little description about the kind of Bond, and there might also be a few secrets and other twists attached to the connection.
The Bond Map is initially created by having placing the PCs in the middle and have the players go through several turns, during which they can place other elements onto the map or create a connection between existing connections.
Bonds are pretty important in the game, as the number of Bonds your PC has determines her Hope Points, which are Fate Points, refresh and Hit Points all rolled into one.
Of course this means this web will most likely end up looking like a wheel, as there's really no reason to connect NPCs or locations to anything but a PC.
If you're really feeling lazy, you can just skip the map building and have everyone start with 10 Hope Points. Though this doesn't actually get into details how this applies to other rules that require the Bond Map. Character Advancement (using the Milestone structure of FAE) is handled almost exclusively by playing through additional turns of the Bond Map mini-game (aside from the aspect renaming you occasionally get, which does mention the High Concept thanks to cut-and-paste).
There's also the little rule that lets you instantly recover to full Hope Points by fraying one of your Bonds. Doing so has some weird reality-alterating effect on the Bond: Friends don't want to see you as often, your parents suddenly have more work, your favorite karaoke bar is closed due to renovations, and the park you like to hang out with suddenly has a lot more guys selling drugs.
A PC has to somehow renew a frayed Bond to recover it. Fraying an already frayed Bond will remove it completely.
There are also some special rules for playing as a Knight, aka a magical boy, aka a Tuxedo Kamen dude, or "boy magical girl", as the book puts it. They get the additional Aspect "Natural Loner" and +5 Hope Points, and you really shouldn't have more than one of them in the team. They will also most likely be making out with at least half of the other PCs. At the same time.
I might as well also talk about the mechanics, as those are explained pretty quickly. It's basically like Fate in general structure, except it's all about Aspects as there are no Skills or Approaches or anything. Luckily, everyone's decked out with a lot of Hope Points.
The major depature from Fate is that the action resolution is handled with a d8: Everything above a 4 is a success (though 5 and 6 also come with a Disadvantage aka negative Aspect), and an 8 also nets you a Bonus (aka a critical success). Instead of a failure, anything that isn't a success is a twist. You are either failing forward or at least shaking things up. A natural 1 also gets you a Disadvantage.
On a neat note (though that might be from another Fate book I haven't read) are the Fan Mail rules: Hope Points spend to invoke Aspects or compel other PCs go into a pool out of which the players can reward each other for good roleplaying, which reminds me a bit of Tenra Bansho Zero.
Combat is a uses the same general resolution, though twists are just misses this time around. Monsters and other opponents are very passive in nature in this game: They fight until the PCs have scored enough hits to knock them out, and they automatically inflict a set number of Hope Point damage each round they are still standing. This does however mean that they can't actually invoke their own Aspects.
Next time: Rituals and GM stuff - aka original character, do not steal.
The FinishOriginal SA post Sparks of Light
Little something I forgot to mention last time: The book mentions how a magical girl's transformation can have noticable effects on her apperance, like the typical Precure standard where your eye and hair color - as well as your hair style - can change dramatically. It also mentions how the first transformation can have a lasting effect on her appearance even in untransformed state. Not sure where that comes from.
Oh, and the Light is not dickish enough to hand out costumes a girl won't like. What a bummer, my OCs (do not steal) have a tendency to go "The fuck am I wearing?!".
Rituals add a little bit of crunch to the rules, providing magical girls with what are essentially finishing moves and utility spells, like healing people or sprouting wings.
Learning a Ritual requires a bit of research and a MacGuffin - aka it's an adventure in and of itself. Once that is done, you just thave to spend time casting it and paying its cost in Hope Points, which can be shared by the entire group (which costs the donators a turn). The cost depends on the Ritual's Shard aka Level (of which there are three), and it can be cheaper depending on whether you're from the Light or Dark and it's currently a full or dark moon.
At no point is a roll of any kind required. Rituals just work.
Rituals are deliberately freeform in nature, but the book lists a few general effects to adapt and customize with a fancier name. These example effects are from the first Appendix a bit further into the book (aka 5 pages later), but I'll just put it right here where it belongs.
Spells of the First Shard: The Spark
The most basic of Rituals, with good use during combat at 5 Hope Points and a casting time of 1 turn. An attack Ritual deals about 3 Hits (more than you could normally do in one shot), while an utility spell might get rid of a disadvantage or create a Fate-like boost (aka free Aspect use).
Example effects are Astral Jaunt (teleport to any place you're attuned to), Open Astral Door and Pacify Yomi (which do just what they say).
Spells of the Second Shar: The Bond
The big guns. Harder to obtain, and harder to use as they require 2 turns and cost 15 Hope Points, so you better have at least one buddy ready to donate points. Attack Rituals of this Shard are however ever so slightly more useful, as they cause 10 Hits per cast. Healing Rituals can also get rid of major disadvantages.
Utility-wise, these Rituals are mainly there to get rid of problems. Mass teleport, polymorphing, or fix whatever havoc the Dark has caused. It also mentions how only the Dark can do Mind Control - but fear not, for even the Light can apparently Rewrite Minor History.
Spells of the Third Shard: The Web
Incredible hard to get, very expensive (30 Hope Points), and very slow to cast (several minutes). These Rituals are just there to alter reality and change an entire campaign. Basically whatever the hell Madoka did in the last episode.
Example effects include Resurrection, Rewrite Major History, and Time Travel. You can essentially do anything you want at this point.
I'm not exactly sure how the magical girl society makes sure none of the Third Shard users suddenly start rewriting world history. The game also commits the capital sin of kinda sorta introducing finishing moves without trying to emulate the "finishing" aspect. As it stands, it seems the best option is to alpha-strike any opponent with Attack Rituals, but lets wait for the example enemy statblocks for the final judgement.
Is anyone here familiar with DollDivine, this site that - among other things - has a Sailor Moon OC (do not steal) generator? Well, the creators of this book sure are:
There are four more of these, and they are the entire rest of this book's art.
The rest of this section is fairly standard GM stuff, with the added reminder that one shouldn't forget the slice-of-life part of a magical girl show.
We also get some information about transformation sequences (strange how this in the GM section). Basically, they are actually instantaneous, and the girl's protected during it anyways, so nobody has to worry about getting hit or anything. That's rather short and painless.
Hound on the Trail: Example Episode
This little example adventure starts with the magical girls battling a Yomi who has decided to hang around in the school gym - which has a good chance of the "combat" turning into a volleyball match. With that out of th eway, the real threat shows up: Toby, a wannabe investigative journalist who is dead-set on proving that magical girls exist. He only has blurry pictures of the party so far, but he did notice that the PCs were the only ones to leave the gym after the fight. And he might just get his hands at a better camera from a dark magical girl who wants to find out the PC's identities itself. Overall pretty basic stuff.
After that, we get a couple of typical scenarios (like bad guys trying to harvest stuff, or just mundane events happening), and a random episode generator to find out who is doing what in which location.
The game assumes that each magical girl will deal around 1/2 Hits per turn, which is of course drastically increased by using Rituals.
Interestingly, the example "bestiary" not only includes stuff like a Low Power Yomi and a member of the Not-Shintennou, but also a Noisy Reporter and a Crush on a Cute Classmate.
These example writeups have been done with a group of 4 magical girls in mind. So let's see how to alpha-strike the two strongest...
A Not-Shintennou deals 5 Hits per turn and tank 8 Hits before he goes down. Three 1st Shard Rituals are all that's necessary, and its both faster and more cost-effective (as one of the three girls casting can share her cost with the fourth). Not using Rituals will have this fight last around 4 turns on average, which results in a lot more Hits suffered by the girls.
The strongest opponent is called "The Endless", and he/she/it deals 4 Hits per turn and can take 20. 7 uses of a 1st Shard Ritual or 2 uses of a 2nd Shard one will do the trick. All of this can be accomplished in the second turn, before the enemy gets a chance to hit a second time.
Alpha-striking: It's good for you.
These are pretty much archetypes based on the Inner Senshi, though they can also be applied to a few Cures and Megucas.
(Though the weird part is how Sailor Mars is supposedly an exmaple of the "Fireball Heroine", who is very energetic and emotional. That's not quite what I'm getting from here, then again I've seen/read pretty much everything related to Sailor Moon except for the first anime, where she is supposedly a bit of a dick. I'm the weirdest Sailor Moon fan ever.)
Next Time: Who knows? Valor? That Returner RPG that's been threatened to be reviewed multiple times in the grand history of this thread? Or something completely different? Who knows, I'll take a short break for now, during which I might try to make my own magical girl game, then fail to stick the landing and end up with something that is more about the historically-accurate adventures of lawyers that happenes to include magical girls for some reason.