Magonomia Development Update, June 2018

Shewstone Publishing just celebrated our two-year anniversary of being in business. We're still in the startup phase, working on our first product, Magonomia. Many people are starting to get interested in and excited about our game, which is great! It's time for an update on how development is going.

Even very recently, I have been trying to predict when the game will be ready for its Kickstarter. I'm going to stop talking about dates until I can reliably predict them. Ultimately, it's hard to forecast when a big and complex project will be finished, especially when it is the company's first project. We have every intention of completing Magonomia as fast as possible. Whether that will be six months, twelve months, or twenty-four months, I can't say. Instead of making every blog post a litany of excuses why we didn't hit the latest arbitrary, self-imposed deadline, I much prefer to write about what we have accomplished and what we are doing.

We have a solid, playable game that consistently delivers a fun experience. The FateCore System is a very solid foundation to build on. We found that to make the game accessible to first-time and casual gamers -- making it easy to play is a big objective for us -- we had to re-organize and re-phrase most of the Fate text. Fate is a great system that has become my favorite. As written, Fate Core System is a construction kit for building your own RPG, and that's a very different focus from teaching how to play a single game about Renaissance wizards. This is on track: three weeks ago I had a chance to play Magonomia with an old friend. His first piece of feedback was, "it's user-friendly!"

The magic rules are solid. I went through thirteen iterations already and I'm about to get started on version fourteen. We're down to working out fine points, interactions of spells with each other, and edge cases. The magic rules are already more complete and tested than the first edition of many RPGs I've played. That's not good enough for me yet: Magonomia  has to be able to hold its head up alongside the current editions of games that are popular today. I don't consider the magic rules Kickstarter-ready yet because although they're very playable, it's unknown how much work remains to make them robust enough to handle most of the weird, unpredictable stuff RPG players will want to do. I want all the known schedule uncertainty resolved before I launch the Kickstarter. My work is cut out for me here.

The Grimoire, our chapter of spells, is a lot of fun. I'm amazed at how playable a game you can get just by writing up game statistics for the crazy stuff you find in real-world Renaissance books of magic.  We have 148 spells in the current draft. The good news is that the spells work well. I thought historically inspired spells would seem weak and low-magic but when we actually play, that's not the case at all! The bad news is that I learned in the February-March Alpha test that I needed to heavily revise the spells to add more details so players can just read how the spell works and not have to figure out the edge cases for themselves. It takes me an hour (or two) to revise a spell to get it up to Kickstarter-ready standard. There are 148 spells. I've revised 16 so far. I've seen how easy and fun it becomes for players once the spell is written in the right way. It's very much worth the effort to do these revisions!

Some of those 148 spells are going to be cut. Some spells are going to be added. I would expect the final count to be well over 100 but under 175. Some of the magical Sciences, particularly Astrology and Theurgy, need their spell selection expanded to make them well-rounded choices that are as much fun as Alchemy and Sorcery.

The most surprising, and one of the most satisfying, parts of the manuscript is the Spirits chapter. My co-author Christian Jensen-Romer has done a wonderful job researching folklore of the period. If you look at Shakespeare's plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream comes to mind), the fairies and spirits didn't live in some separate, parallel world. They inhabited the same world as us, sleeping in hollow trees or under the mysterious fairy mounds (which modern people know are Neolithic burial mounds). Ghosts aren't transparent apparitions: they have corporeal bodies! And, of course, spirits power the majority of spells. The Spirits chapter was well-received by playtesters. It really sets Magonomia  apart from other fantasy settings. I look forward to telling you more about it in a future blog post!

I'll definitely be ready to run the two demo games scheduled for Gen Con in August. After that, the next milestone is to get a complete, playable manuscript ready for limited external playtesting -- games where one of the authors of Magonomia isn't going to be there. That is a big step and it's what we're working on right now.

If you want to participate in the Beta playtest, let me first say I'm honored by your support! I just gave up making promises based on arbitrary deadlines so I'm afraid I have to ask everyone to just wait for the announcement when we're ready. It won't be before September 2018.

What I will do is start sharing more information about what the manuscript looks like, what the play experience is like, and how people are reacting to Magonomia™. Watch this space!