Manaburst: Session 2 (Bastion)

Nika was struck with a moment of shock as she found herself being yanked away from the plane of Broken and through the borderpost after Ada. There was no point in voicing her complaint though – no one would hear her as she shot along through the Blind Eternities.

Surviving the trip required a small portion of her attention.  Her spark did most of the work, keeping her body functioning while the alien energies pressed in, but with a little effort she was even able to keep them from her. There was little else to do but wait for the trip to end.

As Nika felt herself slip from the Blind Eternities, she quickly opened mouth to voice her complaint.   But instead of a fresh breath of air to use to expel her curse, she nearly choked on a mouthful of brackish muddy water.

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Final Planeswalkers & Campaign Illustrations

The last two planeswalkers of our party joined the game after the first session. If you’ve been reading the Manaburst session write-ups you’ve already met Nero. Ibrand appeared in the following session, and is the final member of the group. I’ve also started doing something a little bit different with the planeswalkers’ images as seen below, so have included the original planeswalkers a second time with their updated portraits.


Ada’s original conception was that of a construct capable of aiding its master in research and ritual.  She quickly became  indispensable  to his experiments, able to observe and record all that transpired while his concentration was elsewhere.

Many years after her creation, Ada was given sentience when a powerful spell cast by her master  inadvertently  bound a being of primordial magic within her shell.  The reaction not only destroyed the ritual but also flung Ada from the plane, sending her careening through the Blind Eternities for the first time.

Concept of Magic: Flow of Aether

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FATE & Abstract Combat Mapping

FATE uses an interesting system regarding positioning in combat and the like, grouping areas into zones and adding borders to specify difficulties in mobility.  It’s a pretty simple system, but still one that can benefit from a physical representation on the tabletop when a large number of parties are involved.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of miniature use in role-playing games, but for our Manaburst game I wanted to try something different.  I was worried that if the players – who were new to FATE – saw the miniatures on the table it might distract from the looser, narrative way FATE designates location in a scene.  So I decided to try something new:

A sample combat zone setup for a boarding action.

Whenever a map is necessary, I sketch one out on a pad of paper and thumbtack it down to a couple cork tiles.  We then use straight pins to mark locations and move them around as necessary.  The pack of small push pins I purchased contained three different colored pins, which helps keep from confusing groups on the map.

For the PCs or  important  NPCs I use larger pins, with the PCs’ getting extra attention.  I had asked the players for pictures of their characters before the campaigns started so I could surprise them with their pins at the first game.  I cropped and resized these pics before printing them out as two .75″ x .75″ squares side by side which  were wrapped around pins and taped into place.  It makes it easier for each player to quickly see their own pin given the smaller size of the maps we use.

So far the only complaint has been that the maps can be a little small, but that could be easily resolved with some larger cork tiles.  Other than that, though, the process has been quick and abstract, allowing more room for narration.  Seems like a success to me.

Manaburst: Session 1, Part 2 (Broken)

Nero glided over the broken terrain like a shadow, moving with inhuman speed and catching Grrrk well before reaching the designated ruins. He snatched the goblin from his feet and tossed him into the deep shadows behind the wall before darting around to the sunward side where he danced up the stones as if he weighed no more than a feather.

As creatures followed, scrambling and seaching for footholds, Nero called back to Grrrk, who was effortlessly drawing up strength from the stones beneath him. The wall slowly began  toppling  over, while simultaneously the ground on the far side started to rumble uncontrollably.

Nero tried to leap free but had underestimated the goblin’s destructive capabilities and caught a glancing blow to the side, knocking the wind out of him as he tumbled away. The sunblights were not so lucky. The wall came crushing down, sandwiching them between the crumbling slab and the trembling earth.

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Manaburst: Session 1, Part 1 (Broken)

As the session began, the planewalkers slowly regain consciousness in a large domed chamber, lit only by a faint reddish glow filtering down a stairway through the chamber’s only entrance. After a few moments of recovery, Gaeleth illuminated the small room with divine radiance and the planeswalkers tried to get their bearings.

The only feature of the room to stand out was the circular engraving in the center of the floor, but before anyone could investigate they realized something was off. Torvolis was missing and another man had appeared – a planeswalker named Nero. Accusations were curbed when Grrrk and Ada vouched for him, having traveled with him before when they and a fourth planeswalker named Ibrand had attacked a plane under demonic control and decimated one of their strongholds.

The group started looking around for answers to where they were, how they had gotten there, where Torvolis had gone. Gaeleth followed Ada, illuminating the chamber so that she could examine the carvings and the two found the artifact Grrrk had swiped from the magnus on Whitesea laying against the wall, smoking slightly.

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Prelude to Manaburst

After finalizing the last few characters, our first actual roleplaying session  was dedicated to teaching the players the basics of the system and as a prelude, setting up the situation in which I wanted to start the campaign proper. In both regards the game was a success.

The campaign opened in media res with the characters on the plane of Whitesea, being ambushed by a herald of the demonic forces trying to invade the plane, and some of his forced-converts.  Our bold planeswalkers backpedaled initially but after Grrrk unleashed his destructive power in the area  indiscriminately, knocking the converts (and a companion) out of the fight, the herald fled.

While Nika and Ada helped get the companions back on their feet, Gaeleth took a moment to examine the fallen conscripts.  Under their armor she found the pale skinned faces of the denizens of the plane, eyes rolled back in their heads – vacant but alive.  Realizing there was little to be done for the conscripts except to end the Herald’s hold on them, the planeswalkers quickly chased after him.

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Here there be Planeswalkers

Last weekend our Manaburst campaign finally got off the ground.  The actual play portion of the night wasn’t too long – we spent a lot of the session going over rules and took our time with the scenes to make sure that all of the rules were explained as we went.  Slow-paced that it may be, the session seemed to be a success.  By the end of the night everyone had gotten the basics of the system and were getting into the flexibility it afforded them.

Character generation was slow at first while everyone wrapped their head about the phases and aspects that FATE uses, but before long we had a fairly diverse group of planeswalkers who, for the most part, had a united enemy and had met each other in their travels-at least in passing.


Ada’s original conception was that of a construct capable of aiding its master in research and ritual.  She quickly became  indispensable  to his experiments, able to observe and record all that transpired while his concentration was elsewhere.

Many years after her creation, Ada was given sentience when a powerful spell cast by her master  inadvertently  bound a being of primordial magic within her shell.  The reaction not only destroyed the ritual but also flung Ada from the plane, sending her careening through the Blind Eternities for the first time.

Concept of Magic: Flow of Aether

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Manaburst Research – Trappings of Magic

Although I haven’t been writing much about it, I’ve been making some notes on how I plan on using the Spirit of the Century system to run a  Magic: the Gathering-inspired  campaign  for my group that I’ve  previously  mentioned.  One of the unknowns I since the beginning is how to handle magic – a decision made harder since I really have no idea how magic works in MtG’s Multiverse.

Sure, that card game has its mana-powered magic, but it’s made for a turn-based card game and can be considered slower and less fluid than I’d like for our campaign.  I still had two questions to answer before I could design my magic system: how exactly does one gain and spend Mana, and does summoning pull a  preexisting  creature to the summoner, or does it create a  simulacrum.  To answer these I decided to ask WotC directly… so to speak

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Burstback: the Return of Manaburst

The members of my Saturday gaming group are all adults with busy lives so it’s no surprise that most Saturdays at least one person winds up being late for our weekly session. Instead of starting our sessions early and having to catch people up, we’ve recently started breaking out some Magic decks and playing a few games to pass the time.

During one of our games a player mentioned that he thought a role-playing game set in a heavily Magic-inspired setting would be a lot of fun, but that playing beings like planeswalkers didn’t seem like it would work. He was surprised when I replied that not only did I think it would work fine, I had done it before.

I’m not about to usurp the Earthdawn game we have running – I enjoy it too much. But with the interested around the table it seems like it might be time to break out my Manaburst notes and look at making some revisions.  I’ve already started getting ideas on how to improve over our first attempt.

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Renegade Horizon, the Rock Opera

A couple of weeks ago we wrapped up what was the current story arc in our Renegade Horizon game. It was a fun little campaign that ended with what our gamemaster described as a rock opera. It’s really hard to explain how this running joke ran throughout the session without disrupting things but everything just added up to a very enjoyable game.

As far as the session itself, we wound up tracking down the baron that had placed a price on our heads and kidnapped him from the compound of the cult he was heading up. After some discussion as to how to force him to remove the bounty he had placed, the idea of a psychic re-education was brought up. So that’s where we ended the campaign – as our characters were hiding out for a couple months re-writing the Baron’s psyche in preparation for when we return to the campaign later.

For now the mantle of the gamemaster is being passed off to another player who’s been prepping a SciFi game set in our solar system with an inhabitable Earth, no aliens, no “magic”, and no interstellar travel. We’ve settled on a basic concept for now – residents of a space station that has recently been invaded and occupied by an unwelcome power who have to form an underground resistance to drive them off. A couple of the players have come up with basic character concepts but we’ll be nailing down all the specifics at our next session. Should be fun!