A Thousand Years Ago
The Story Of Roleplaying is Magic
The Roleplaying is Magic project began on November 19th, 2010; the air date of the sixth episode of the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, between two friends and (at the time) roommates--James Weimer (Tall Tail) and Samuel Hanson (Know-It-All). Over a year earlier, they had decided to go into business together creating games--and in the process, learn how to go about creating games; like many others, they had the drive and the passion, but little experience with or knowledge of the process of actually making their dream a reality. During the previous year, they had created their first board game together; Coreworlds, a space conquest strategy game which was not ultimately picked up by a publisher. Having been discouraged by this initial failure, they had been regrouping and conceptualizing a few other game ideas until they (like many others) found My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic one day by accident. The positive messages and themes of the show resonated with them, and they decided to move forward with a tabletop pen & paper RPG based on the show.
After doing some research into what other, similar projects were in development, they found that while other creators had developed (or were developing) modules and conversions for existing game systems, very few--if any--original game systems were in development based on the show; and furthermore, that those that were, seemed to be focused too much on the classic tabletop pen & paper RPG themes of combat, wealth, and power, instead of on the show's themes of friendship, compassion, personal courage, and positive morality. So, after having a long discussion solidifying their vision for the project, identifying the challenges ahead, and committing to giving it their absolute all, they began work on My Little Pony: Roleplaying is Magic, Season One Edition.
Bringing People Together
The vision for the game was very ambitious: Create a new and original tabletop pen & paper RPG from the ground up, designed to appeal to both beginner and veteran gamers, with mechanics which would be innovative and not be bound by tradition, would be simple enough to allow parents to play with their children, with enough of a focus on storytelling over mechanics so as to appeal to freeform roleplayers, which would focus on emphasizing the show's messages and themes, would adhere to the show's canon and lore as much as possible without unduly prohibiting the inclusion of fanon by individual play groups, and which would be lightweight enough in terms of materials so as to be conducive to being played over the internet. Furthermore, the aim was to produce a new edition of the game following each season of the show, incorporating new lore, and trying to expand in terms of content, as well as improve in terms of quality.
Season One Edition
The result of this first attempt was a Google Document around twenty pages in length, outlining and detailing the backbone of what would eventually grow into future editions. After gaining an initial spot in the limelight thanks to a feature in Equestria Daily's Nightly Roundup the summer after season one of the show ended (thanks to Phoe, one of the EQD staffers), they were contacted by Daniel Oakley (Artsy Heartsy), a programmer, web designer, and graphic designer who had taken an interest in the project and had produced a PDF version of the S1E rules, with pictures, a logo, and a better layout. Artsy had had some initial trouble contacting Tall Tail, due to a typo misspelling in Tall Tail's email address in the initial document. Who knows where the project might have ended up because of that typo, if Artsy had been any less persistent in finding a way to make contact!
Season Two Edition
After discussing it together, Artsy decided to join the Roleplaying is Magic team as they moved forward into S2E, as web designer and layout artist to produce the next edition. This was the first new member of the team, but it would not be the last. A call for artists and illustrators put out on Equestria Daily yielded the second new team member, Caytlin Vilbrandt (Pixel Prism), joining just in time to produce several original illustrations for My Little Pony: Roleplaying is Magic, Season Two Edition. Furthermore, a third team member, Michael Simpson (Sketchbook), a personal friend of Tall Tail and Know-It-All's, joined to create watercolor paintings to be included in the new edition. The combination of original artwork and illustrations, full book layout and design, and a new iteration of the core game system made S2E much more popular than its predecessor; and the initial website for the project, mlprim.com, was launched to celebrate S2E going live. Another feature on Equestria Daily's Nightly Roundup brought in the first traffic to the site, and an interview on the highly-touted Bronyville podcast with Apple Cider and Chef Sandy gave the project yet another bump in its popularity. It was no longer just an experiment between two friends; Roleplaying is Magic had evolved into a full project with a team, a production schedule, a small but growing community of fans, a website, publicity--and, as people began to play S2E, feedback and opinions on its direction. A user named Almafeta on RPGGeek.com even reviewed S2E as part of a list of reviews of Brony RPG's, awarding a score of 7.00 and providing some of the most honest, informative, and helpful criticism of the game up to that time.
Season Three Edition
Moving forward, some time was taken to re-center the vision and direction of Roleplaying is Magic in preparation of S3E. An open call was put out for additional team members to help in some of the areas which had been identified as lacking or were badly wanted by the fans of the game, as well as a call for official playtesters--something the game had not had up to that point. The response was far and away better than expected, with Shannon McMurtry (Kindle Bright) joining as Community Manager, Casey Hayes (Emerald Dusk) and Dominik Makowski (Serious Business) joining to form the Content Creation team, Matthew Hollatz (Blue Bolt) joining to produce vector illustrations, and Alexis Baker (Silver Lining) joining as Editor--doubling the size of the project's team and greatly expanding its capabilities. Furthermore, nearly twenty dedicated playtesters lent their time, effort, feedback, and analytical skills to help make My Little Pony: Roleplaying is Magic, Season Three Edition the best version yet. With a renewed emphasis on simplified and streamlined mechanics, a plethora of new original artwork and illustrations, a new layout, and with the addition of content such as a bestiary, example spells, premade Episodes, character sheets, and a custom-designed GM screen, S3E was a considerable success--and led to an invitation from the Bluescreen Bronies (who had interviewed the team on their podcast) to have Tall Tail join the Games Ponies Play: Making Games That Players Enjoy panel at the 2013 Everfree Northwest convention in Seattle, Washington.
Season Four Edition
During the summer after S3E had launched, feedback and fan mail came in from all over the globe; Roleplaying is Magic was now being played by at least one game group on every inhabited continent, from Japan to Russia, South Africa to Israel, from Germany and France to Argentina and Australia, and had been fan-translated into multiple languages. Praise, criticism, and feedback came in from every angle.
Deciding not to take the customary summer break for the design team, work continued straight through from S3E's launch, again redesigning the core system in preparation for S4E. A further focus on simplification and emphasizing player freedom was implemented, and another call was put out for playtesters--seeing some old favorites return to lend their hand once again, and the formal addition of Eugene Elzinga (Baker's Dozen) to the team. By the time season four of the show began, Roleplaying is Magic: Season Four Edition was finished with alpha-level development and was into beta. The team was brought back together to produce what was hoped would be the best edition yet--and what was planned to be the final official edition of Roleplaying is Magic.
On July 1st, 2014, Roleplaying is Magic: Season Four Edition launched as a web-only release as part of this website; a web-only release was decided to be the best way to ensure the project's longevity, creating a permanent home on the internet where any future updates or inclusion of community-created supplemental resources could be organized. Because of this, S4E was launched with very little artwork, instead focusing on core systems and design, as well as web readability, in preparation for the retirement of the official Roleplaying is Magic project.
Roleplaying is Magic had always been a project based on learning and growing, both in its mechanics and for the team behind it; starting S1E had been a way to experiment and learn how to make games, and as each edition came out, the team strove to extend a similar opportunity to everyone brought onto the team. But a volunteer project with a goal of being a stepping stone for its team members has a limited lifespan built into it; core team members for Roleplaying is Magic had begun to produce their own first independent projects and companies, or had used their experience gained to get jobs and begin their dream careers. This had culminated in early 2014 with the formation of Roan Arts LLC as an indie game and entertainment media studio, and the development of several original games over the course of the year.
Luckily, this had been identified early, and S4E had been planned accordingly--so that while S4E would not go out with a bang, it at least would not go out with a whimper. Reducing the focus on illustration and supplemental content creation, a renewed focus was given to the community of creators and players who had supported the project throughout its run. Each edition had brought questions about what would be included, and several ambitious community creators had modded earlier editions to more suit their groups; thus, it was decided that S4E's focus should be on being easily modifiable--once the official project stopped, it would be important to make it as easy as possible for others to pick up where the official project had left off, if they chose to.
A Fond Farewell
And so, this site was created. Here, all previous editions of the Roleplaying is Magic project are collected, and the full text of S4E can be found here, easily navigated using the menu on the left. While the original homepage for Roleplaying is Magic was shut down, the original creators committed to maintain access to this site and these materials for the foreseeable future--and the official team of friends and creators went their separate ways, to pursue their dreams and future goals.