I developed an interest in the studies of the various branches of magic and lore when I participated in my first Mage the Ascension LARP in my undergrad college days. This led to years of seeking more arcane knowledge from the tomes and resources collected. My studies started with European traditions. Eventually, I delved into research from both Chinese and Japanese magical systems. In a way, I have been studying the various magical systems like a modern mage, foreshadowing much? It was with a great and pleasant surprise that I stumbled upon Magonomia as one of the few RPGs that brings the historical context of magic and retain its integrity.
Most RPGs that include magic typically induce this imagery of high fantasy, robed figures casting fireballs or summoning elementals. There’s nothing wrong with that. I will never say no to throwing fireballs into a small enclosed room. What Magonomia does, is provide historical context for Renaissance magicians, the practices and studies that were performed, and truly make you appreciate your magical talents. Additionally, while everyone does play as wizards, there are many benefits and consequences for showing off your magical prowess.
The game is currently on Kickstarter, and you can check out the campaign page here.
What is Magonomia?
Magonomia is an RPG using the Fate Core system published by Evil Hat Productions. The game takes place in Enchanted England, specifically during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I during the Renaissance. A fantastic opportunity and time to blend history and myth. Players are wizards, there are five distinct branches of magic to study and explore, and the magic is based on European folklore from the period.
To quote the Kickstarter:
The Enchanted England setting combines the adventure and intrigue of Renaissance England with fantastic elements from the legends, folk tales, and literature of the period: the witches of MacBeth; the faeries of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; curses, prophecies, and invisible spirits. Enchanted England is a world of wonders and perils, ripe for adventure!
If you’re a fan of fantastical mixed with historical settings, this is a game for you. This is also a great window without all of the technical flutters from the 16th-century tomes. Think back to older medicinal practices which were extensively “burrowed” from Galenic concepts and traditions.
Starter Rules Available
A 160-page Starter Rules for Magonomia is available on DriveThruRPG (click here). The ruleset has enough information to run a complete game with your friends. Also, there is an adventure scenario with pre-generated characters as well (click here).
Impressions on the Starter Rules
In Magonomia, the five branches of magic are defined by five skills player characters can select at character creation, which in essence, represents the aptitude and mastery of a particular study. If you are familiar with Fate’s character creation, players can select (at the start of the game) one Great (+4) skill, two Good (+3) skills, three Fair (+2) skills, and four Average (+1) skills. Due to Fate’s narrative and mechanical flexibility, players are not required to make all of these decisions at character creation and can leave a few blank spots to be determined through gameplay. Within this framework, it’s nearly expected that a Wizard character makes one of their Magical focuses take the Great skill slot, with possibly additional concentrations using the other skill levels.
Additionally, wizard characters start with 11 spells in varying Degrees (this system’s equivalent to spell levels). In the playtest documents, only spells up to the 4th-Degree are present, with 5th, and 6th Degree spells available in the complete version of the game. There are allusions to the world-shaping 7th-Degree spells but stresses that such spells are more aspirational than practical. I enjoy the fact that the spells in the game provide the depth and practicality for a wizard existing with non-magical people in the Renaissance but also serves as a driving force for the narrative of the gameplay.
Most importantly, magic while it is a tool to solve problems or overcome obstacles, they are not treated as the absolute solution. Also, while the spells in Magonomia present descriptive components and requirements, they do not impede on the storytelling thanks to the Fate system’s ability to use Fate Points and compelling complications. Both issues are often present in many high-fantasy RPGs and become disruptive for the game experience.
With a lightweight narrative structure like Fate with the in-depth magical system present in the system, you get a game that is not cumbersome but still bring a complexity that does not feel overwhelming. As a history nerd and a lover of anything mage/wizard oriented, this game already has my interest, but I appreciate the nuances displayed in the spells and magic system employed without garnering any additional clutter to the base game mechanics.
May the Stars Align…
Magonomia is an RPG that presents historicity and fantasy to their Enchanted England setting with still plenty of maneuverability for GMs and players to craft their stories. If you and your friends love Renaissance Fairs (or Ren Fair, for short) and never want the magic to go away, this is the perfect game for you. Also, if you love playing wizards that are not grossly worldshaking and all-powerful, or play in systems where magic is limited by spell slots, you should definitely give this game a look. I’m a big fan of Fate, and I’m genuinely curious to see a full magic system can fit within the base rule’s framework.
At the time of this article, Magonomia is around 25% funded with just about 18 days left in their campaign.
Here’s the link to the 160-page starter rules on DriveThruRPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/12962/Shewstone-Publishing
Here’s the link to the demo playtest scenario on DriveThruRPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/278876/Curse-of-the-OneEyed-Witch
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