Digging around in the guts of Renpy’s included exmaple game is much less intimidating than I feared. Thanks to finishing Zed Shaw’s famed free Python guide Learn Python the Hard Way, I feel well-equipped. The example game is in addition to the tutorial that features Eileen in Washington DC for some reason.
Eileen also had the good sense to address my creeping fear that Renpy will not have the muscle for a simulation game.
So after dicking around on the Renpy developer wiki, turns out there’s an entire open source library of Python game tools called (duh) Pygame that Renpy fully supports. Wow, the depths of discovery you can reach when you don’t do your homework.
I can’t overestimate my excitement that this library exists. It seems that will drastically reduce the labor required to get all the mechanics in place, though tweaking will be necessary to get them all to play nicely together.
My thoughts now are that I should first write an introduction scene, with characters and setting and such, then work out all the mechanics stretched out over a calendar (and astrological) system, then go back and finish the story once it seems like everything works.
Estimated time to completion: 9 months