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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Manaburst Actual Play, Session 3 (Final Session)

On the 16th of December we had what wound up being our last game of Manaburst. It wasn’t intended as such at the time but between holiday scheduling and the fact that the system and/or world wasn’t working for most of the players we recently decided to call the game.The session it self did answer a small number of questions but also raised many more. It’s revealed all of the constructs around the palace were apparently going through the motions of their jobs but not doing any real work – chefs cutting at empty cutting boards or servants carrying empty trays around. After the guards are dealt with the servant the group was following leads us to what appear to be the royal apartments. In four separate suits were what appeared to be the royal family, each tucked into their beds but clearly long dead.

A more thorough investigation followed and turned up some minor clues but nothing definitive. However we did eventually find the throne room and the king- and queen-bots located there. After talking to them (they were the first constructs to actually speak to us other than Failure) Failure tried to machine meld with the king and found what appeared to be a prison for the king’s consciousness, soul, or something of the like. He tried to break down the prison to free the king but that only succeeded in destroying the construct and suddenly all of the constructs turned aggressive.

We made a fighting retreat through a hidden passage in the throne room and escaped through the sewers, eventually making it out of the palace grounds. The game was called with the intent to pick back up heading to one of the nearby towns we found out about while investigating, though that won’t happen now.

It was an unsatisfying conclusion to the campaign, but moving on was probably a good idea. The system didn’t gel right for most of the players and some of them felt the setting was a little to over the top. But Manaburst was meant as an experiment to see how well the Everway-style worked for us and we found out it didn’t. It was just too ambiguous for us and strayed a bit too far from traditional task resolution systems. But now we know and can tailor future games around that.