Magonomia Starter Rules by Shewstone Publishing (@ShewstoneLLC)
Magonomia, the roleplaying game of Renaissance wizardry!
Magonomia is a game about magicians living in the England of Queen Elizabeth I. It
is a time of swashbuckling heroes, sinister intrigues, artistic and literary genius, and
deadly conflicts. It’s a time of adventure, opportunity, romance, and horror. In short,
it is a world that makes and breaks heroes. The sword, the spell, and a ready wit and
charming smile can take you to the royal court, or see you languish in the dungeons of
the Tower of London awaiting the executioner’s axe.
The magic your character wields is based upon real Renaissance magical ideas. The
world of Enchanted England is inhabited by the faeries, creatures, and spirits of sixteenth-
Time to get your Renaissance Wizard on!
After seeing how inspired and different this game is, I am incredibly excited to see this being crowdfunded for a full release (https://www.gameontabletop.com/cf297/magonomia-core-rules.html), as well as the passion and love for the world that is clear in the risks to their minds and immortal souls trawling through many a forgotten tome of ancient lore. Gronosky et al have done their research, devouring libraries of ancient occult, spiritual and esoteric knowledge. Plus, they’ve done their history and folklore homework, a whole lot of it! I had the pleasure of having a session run for me by Gronosky and his passion and joy for this game was palpable! I will talk more about my magical experience a little later in this review.
This whopping 164-page free pdf gives a wonderful glimpse and enough to get started and play, but it’s a huge tease for the mighty grimoire their full game book will be. Included within are a taste of the Enchanted England historical fiction setting, the FATE rules and core mechanics of Magonomia, discussion of magic and its place in the setting and game, the Sciences (‘classes’), a great many spells and their descriptions and casting information, the kinds of themes and subjects the game lends itself to, some NPCs to get you started in the form of Adversaries, a full pregenerated character for each Science and some suggested further reading and watching to get into the tone and setting of the game.
This supplement is gorgeous, emulating the style of an ancient tome, complete with beautiful illuminations and design. With Domille’s Wondrous Works as the art director for the full release and the teasers I’ve seen, things are only going to get more resplendent, weaving the Renaissance je ne sais quoi, old woodcuts and illuminations (like those found in this starter rules), with new artwork in-keeping with and invigorating the mystical old world style.
The tone of the writing is warm and inviting with a jolly welcoming voice. It feels like you have been invited into the warm and musty study of an excitable and wise Wizard, been given a comfy stool by the hearth, while they light their pipe with a snapping of fingers and begin to share their secrets and induct you into a world of wonders over a steaming cup of honeyed tea. This makes the painting of the world and explanation of the rules of Magonomia ridiculously accessible and a rich, enjoyable experience. This is no dry and crusty shopping list of a rule book. Literary and historic quotes throughout reinforce this tone and reflect the topics at hand.
Your wizard will wield one of the noble Sciences of magic: alchemy, astrology, theurgy,
sorcery, or witchcraft. Powerful spells let wizards perform many wondrous feats.
They might fly through the air or turn invisible – or even forecast the future!
In Magonomia all players control Wizard, which is a gender-neutral name for the magic-wielding character specialising on one of the Sciences of Magic, within or beyond the realm of Enchanted England, a mystical reimagining of 16th Century England. This wonderful world is a beautiful blending of history, myth, folklore and fable with the science of magic, philosophy and spirituality deeply grounded in 16th century magic and occultism. Famous figures of the such as Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake or even the illusive Dr John Dee can be found and may well star in your adventures!
The word Magonomia was created for the game, “derived from the Greek words magia (“magic”) and nomia (“laws”), as a unified name for the “ultimate, mystical truths” magicians spent their lives searching for who may have called it “occult philosophy”.
Magonomia uses the Fate™ Core System, which is “a lightweight but endlessly flexible rules engine that encourages creative thinking and narrative”. The uncertainty and complications inherent in Fate's mechanics portraying the mercurial nature of Magic perfectly. While being a Science, the Schools of Magic are not always exact and Fate system allows for all manner of marvellous and bizarre outcomes reflecting the far more grandiose, mystical, mercurial and dangerous nature of Magic in Magonomia.
The starter rules include the fundamentals and how they relate to Magonomia, so the Fate Core System is not necessary. Each aspect of the Fate system is described with an illuminating example of how they relate and play out in Magonomia.
One aspect of Magonomia, “The Platinum Rule: All players share responsibility for making the game fun for everyone” is wonderful and should be at the core of all roleplaying games. This point is expanded upon brilliantly, both in the examples of the mechanics and regarding the problematic aspects of the time in history the game is set and some people’s interpretation of ‘historical accuracy’ taking precedent over the comfort of other players. I felt this point was handled really well, driving home that everyone having fun is the primary goal of playing any game and explicitly saying:
It’s not fun to witness, much less vicariously experience, prejudice and harassment. Feel completely free to downplay or simply change historical attitudes about women and minorities (whether the minorities are racial, religious, LBGTQ, or others).
Magonomia is clear about the wide-ranging kinds of adventures the system and setting are designed for: tales of Magic, Power, Treachery and Espionage, Romance, Privateers and Pirates, Murder, Drama and mystery! Each of these topics are briefly explained with a variety of seeds to give you inspiration to create your own adventures.
Throughout the document great advice can be found, whenever it might be needed, showing understanding and engagement with prospective players. This again speaks to the tone of the starter rules and the open welcoming attitude emanating from Gronosky et al.
After the core rules, the bulk of the book is dedicated to the weird and wonderful spells and how they work. There are so many different spells, with even more coming with the core book, of which there is some crossover between the sciences, though the bulk of each of the science’s spells are unique to their ‘class’ making each feel distinct. This is very clear in the pregenerated characters provided and the titles they have chosen and the roles they play. Having access to the spells without any worry of spell slots or sunning out of juice is very new for me, coming predominantly from D&D, and truly makes you feel like one of the rare few immensely powerful Wizards in Enchanted England and beyond.
The Magical Sciences in Magonomia are:
• Alchemy, the magic of transformation
• Astrology, the magic whereby people and Nature are connected to the stars
• Theurgy, the magic of commanding spirits and Nature through mystical names of power
• Sorcery, the magic of binding spirits into unwilling service
• Witchcraft, the magic of the common folk, combining elements of all the other Sciences
I had the absolute honour and privilege of getting to play an adventure using the pre-generated characters included in the Starter Rules, ran by Gronosky himself! All of us at the (virtual) table had a phenomenal amount of fun in the world of Magonomia! There is something truly wonderful about the opportunity to tell and build on the story using the skills, aspects and spells available to you with everything having the opportunity to succeed, which is something that sets FATE and Magonomia aside from many games. There is still chance of failure, but it is much more organic and can be forced into all manner of successes with interesting costs.
I had the time of my life playing Lady Wensley Daleford of Cheddar, Dorset, an Alchemist Spy whose talents for disguise saw her get half-way through a costume change into the Colonel, alas only getting one ginger mutton chop on before it turned out we weren’t in danger, and later successfully impersonating a groomsman called Phil to gain access to a suspect’s solar to find evidence. She let sleeping guards remain lying with a sleeping powder and covered a timely escape with a thick fog!
The other characters had a wide range of abilities that covered a wide range of applications and we combined our abilities and skills to crack the case in style; ruthlessly efficient and rather silly definitely got the job done and gave us all a good laugh and a thoroughly enjoyable session. We were all clamouring to find out when we might play again, which truly is the litmus test of any game!
I seriously cannot wait to play again and to get my hands on the Magonomia Core Rules and heartily recommend you check this out and then go and back this awesome crowdfunding project for a spectacular game!
Lead Author: Andrew Gronosky
Author: Christian Jensen Romer
Author: Tom Nowell
Author: Vesna Gronosky
Design and Layout: Rick Hershey