Review of Magonomia: a FATE rpg of Renaissance Wizardry



  • A large ( approx 380 pages) RPG ruleset based on FATE (Core but with Condensed additions)
  • Published by Shewstone , available as a PDF and physical book on Drivethru RPG. There is also a pay-what-you-like intro scenario and a free set of starter rules.
  • This book covers Elizabethan England and all PCs are some form of wizard.
  • I consider this to be a great introduction to FATE with many of the trickier concept of that ruleset explained clearly. As a bonus several aspects of how to play and collaborate are covered including safety tools this is all done is a pragmatic fashion
  • The layout and art are good, and I had no problem reading the text against the manuscript style background - YMMV
  • Bottomline: although I haven't played it yet, I am very glad I got this book.
  • I aim to revisit this initial review as I learn more!


A few things about me which may help you discern if this review will help you.  I love RPGs but don't get to play them that often.  I prefer story-telling RPG to crunchy ones, and as such I like FATE.  I have many FATE rulesets.

I love the Elizabethan period of history - it was a time of great changes as England emerged from the Middle Ages and started to enter a more modern era. Culture, politics, religion: all were in great flux.  John Dee (astrologer), Francis Wallsingham (spy master), Sir Francis Drake (adventurer) are just some of the larger than life characters of this period. Plus Shakespeare and what did happen to Christopher Marlowe?


All the player characters are wizards and there are 5 styles of magic, 5 Sciences: Astrology, Alchemy, Sorcery, Theurgy and Witchcraft. Wizards specialize in just one ( though there are overlaps).

FATE has a wonderful Bronze Rule: you can treat anything as if it were a characters, with its own Aspects, Skills, Consequences etc. There are things called Extras  which are controlled by a character - well, spells are Extras  and follow the Bronze rule. I think this is wonderful; I suspect this is one reason why FATE was chosen to underpin Magonomia.

FATE RPG intoduction:

This ruleset takes the time and space to introduce role playing games, give advice on how to help the group enjoy themselves, but also how to collaborate, run a campaign and may other things which will help groups new to RPGs in general and to FATE in particular. Hence, despite being a big book it is a good introduction. 

In addition, there are chapters for the Games Master including plot hooks.

Other materials:

To round things out there are chapters on the background of the era, the country, a grimoire, and magical Lore

Around the internet:


Setting up mu4e for gmail for emacs

I am doing this in crostini on my Chromebook
  • Setup your gpg certificate if you don't have one (I used the instructions here)
  • setup pass if not installed
    • pass init <userid>
  • Get an application specific password for gmail here
  • Add this password to pass
    • pass insert Mail/MyGmail
  • Then setup ~/.mbsyncrc as per this link (Thank you SystemCrafters!)
    • Change userid
    • Use pass Mail/MyGMail to retrieve the password
    • I also added MaxMessages to the local channel as the crostini container is small!
    • Check the certificates path for your distribution (it was fine for debian)
  • Initial sync
    • mbsync -a
  • Setup mu4e
    • Note that the instructions in the previous link are now out of date...
    • After installing
    • mu init -m ~/Mail --my-address=userid@gmail.com
    • mu index
  • Then follow these instructions to use mu4e-org



Hopefully this web site is now verified on keybase!



Test post/publish


Minimalist Running

My running history

At school I was a sprinter and loathed cross-country runs.  In my low 20s (and sporadically thereafter) I tried jogging which I found a) boring and b) gave me shin splints.

To address the shin splints I went to specialist running shops and was given heavy pronation (anti-pronation?) shoes - but promptly got injured again.

Many years later I am still struggling to run any distance.

Enter minimalist shoes

I noticed the 5 fingers shoes and wondered about trying them.  I didn't find any locally and then I saw this post on G+  by Tim O'Reilly: he caught his little toe with painful results.  Down in the comments someone mentioned "Vivobarefoot"; I did a search and found a pair on amazon for a special offer.  It was obviously "a sign", so I got some:

I went off for a walk/run: 30 seconds run every 3 minutes (though it was just walk after the first 20 minutes!).  It was great - I felt really good, the birds sang in the sky......
For the second walk/run I went out with my wife, who runs 3 times a week. This was a mistake - pushed a bit too far and had terrible Achilles pains the next day. And basically that meant walking only for 4 months - every attempt to run triggered the Achilles again.

Minimalist walking

So I felt it was time to do a gentler form of exercise for a while: walking. Where do I do most walking?  At work: to, from and around the park at lunchtime.  The Airmesh above were fine but after a while I felt the need to have something less showy (and reserve the Airmesh for the gym); enter the Vivobarefoot Ra:

I now have 2 pairs of these: blue canvas and black leather.  Both very nice and usable at the office.  I had to "sugru" the inner heel of the canvas pair as they chafed a little.
So now I get to gently stretch my achilles for hours a day.

Back to running?

Right now I am going back to walk/running (60-90second run, 3 minute walk) - so far so good.  To do that over the winter I got a pair of Vivobarefoot Trails which I use when walking the dog.  Again excellent: nice broad toe box, more traction, highly waterproof (which surprised me).  I my look at some Breathos if summer ever arrives.


Did I mention summer?  Towards the end of last summer I got a pair of Vivobarefoot Achilles:
A distinctive design! I find them comfortable but I have not used them much yet!


I know the above will make me appear a Vivobarefoot fan boy - this would be correct!  Their shoes are great, they have varied designs, I like their efforts to be green and to provide education to help people transition to minimal footwear with less chance of injury

Xero Shoes

That said I have just got a pair of Xero Shoes  huraches (from Xero Shoes UK actually):
Again a summer shoe.  I have assembled them, and learned to tie them - which was fun.  Getting the tension right is a bit of an art but I think I am there now.  As with the Achilles I look forward to more sunshine!


So that was a whirlwind tour of my growing minimalist shoe collection.  Important points:
  • Transition carefully!  I have found being able to wear minimalist shoes at work and mainly walking to be a great way of training my feet.  This is especially important for the older ones, and those who do a lot of running miles in heavy-weight running shoes.
  • You don't have to have the 5 fingers! Vivobarefoot and others make relatively normal looking shoes (Achilles excepted) which are easier to fit and can cut down on one form of injury.  That said many people love VFFs.
  • The minimalist shoe community is great.
So hopefully this will be the summer where I complete my transition to minimalist running and not just walking - I'll  let you know!


Emacs Conf, 30th March 2013, London


So a slightly belated write-up of my Saturday jaunt up to the Big Smoke.

Just so you know, I really use Emacs mainly for org-mode but I am also playing with Common Lisp ( is slime/swank) and Clojure (via nrepl).  I am not a power user, and have not done any elisp except twiddling with init.el.

Why did I go? I fancied a day out, hoped to learn some new stuff and to be at the first Emacs Conf so I could tell my grandchildren (for the record my children didn't care!)

Did it meet those expectations (except the last!): yes, and more!


I can claim another first - never been to Mornington Crescent tube station ( which is just north of London's Euston (main station for the North of the UK).

The venue ( 2nd Floor, Centro 3) belonged to Forward and was great: auditorium, canteen area with a plentiful supply of beverages.  A big shout out to them and @Jon_Neale in particular for supporting this conference.

There were issues with the streaming so not all talks were recorded for posterity; there is an explanation here.  As someone said on that thread - this was a free conference done by a first-time organising team, so these things happen...  That said people are pulling together with audio, video from phones, and (obviously) the side decks ( or org files!) etc.- all is not lost!

Alex Simic (+Aleksandar Simic) led the organising team and was the MC.

The weird internet life 

A couple of odd things:
  • At work I know only one other person who uses emacs - but here everyone was taking notes in it!  (except me who thought he'd be smart by just taking the Galaxy S3, when I could have completely re-engineered my init.el by the time I left!!)
  • This was the worst case for me so far of meeting people who I have seen on vimeo/you tube, read on Twitter/G+/blogs etc. but you have never spoken to before. I felt I knew them, they wondered who I was. Luckily nearly everyone was very approachable so I felt they were best buddies by the time I left.


Sacha Chua and John Wiegley did a joint Keynote. 

Sacha did a a fantastic "Why Emacs is so great" presentation to an emacs conference - everyone loved it and everyone around where I was seemed to learn something new from it; no mean feat to 100 emacs experts (well, 99).

Sacha is a person of boundless enthusiasm!

John did a history of Emacs and its antecedents together with personal anecdotes of his own.  Sounds as if it would be a dry topic but I learned some new stuff and he delivered it in an amusing and engaging way.

A great start to the conference!
(Audio here)

Other Highlights

Nic Ferrier talked in his usual entertaining and unique style about loads of stuff: emacswiki, elnode, the nature of lazy collaboration and more! Oh and he used org mode for his notes.

Dimitri Fontaine spoke about el-get which is the package system I tend to use as a preference - partly because I found it first, it worked on Emacs 23 and it can use other package systems as methods.  Dimitri, Nic and Steve ("Luna Sandles") Purcell also gave an interesting panel on package managers and resisted over complicating the domain!

Sam Aaron talked about emacs-live (pointer to foundation packages). As one of the oldest people there I needed to get home for an early bedtime, so I missed his emacs driven music performance (with free beer and pizza!) later on.

But really there is almost too much to mention (sorry if you didn't get an explicit mention) - a very good day!

Other information

Sacha's sketch notes: http://experivis.com/collection/emacsconf2013/