Saturday, January 21, 2012

Under A Microscope

I'm going to try to post something even though...

Blogger is being horrible.
I said I wasn't going to bother.
I should be grabbing a beer and watching TV.

But no. Adam needs to ponder and blog.


I got the chance to play Microscope today with my friend Matt and a cool dude named Alex. Alex is developing a campaign world in association with his Obsidian Portal Project 'Bad Wrong Fun' which...well, just go over there and check it out.

I don't believe I've addressed Microscope in detail here before. I have read through it once or twice but never got the chance to actually play it until now. Initially some of the terminology took a a bit of focused attention to put to memory (even then I'm sure I got confused a few times) but the end result is an excellent excercise in world building and role playing.

I say excercise because Microscope is not a traditional RPG. It is indeed more an excercise in story development and even campaign design. Essentially (without ruining things to the point where you don't need to buy it - because you should), the players take turns analyzing and playing out various event in the 'history' of the world they are creating.

Collaberatively, the players in a game of Microscope determine the 'Palette' of story elements they get to choose from and what is right out for the purposes of their story/world. After that, they go around the table and create 'Periods' of time, 'eras' or 'ages' if you will, within the larger timeline. This is followed by 'Events', which are even smaller and more specific goings on.

The player whose turn it is is referred to as the Lens (Matt and I appreciated that from our positions as big E.E. Smith fans). The Lens determines the 'Focus' for the round. From that point forward, all periods, events and scenes much relate to the Focus that the current Lens has established.

The other neat element I recall clearly is the 'Legacy'. Once a Scene from an Event in a Period is finished (hope I got that right), one of the players (first player on the Lens' left? I think so) decides what the Legacy from that round is. A Legacy is an element that the player would like to see come up again. It's basically something from the event or in the scene that you'd like to explore further.

I am sure as heck not doing the mechanic justice. It was fascinating and created instantly epic moments in the chronicles of a world I was unfamiliar with as Alex, Matt and some other players had only created it the week before using a similar though distinctly different game called
Dawn of Worlds. Check it out too.

Anyway, this entire post reminds me of a post I want to make about Sandboxes, Settings and the nature of genre versus an established world but...well I don't want to push my luck with blogger. I'll save it for another time.

Thanks for the game guys! Hope to see you again soon,

Barking Alien


  1. Did someone call me? I could have sworn I heard my name being mentioned.

  2. Cool. But did you ever walk your TV? It might leave a steaming pile of reality show on the rug if you're not careful.

  3. @Erin Palette - Hey, you know full well that anytime you want to come to NY and engage in one of my New Age, Hippie-Dippy Indie Games you're more than welcome.

    @RavenFeast - Allen, that is odd. Me. I am saying that is odd. So, like, it's WAAAY ODD!


  4. I got Microscopey a couple of times and dug it.

  5. That sounds really interesting. It also sounds like something you could use to collaboratively create an entire world for a fantasy game, and then play a more 'trad' RPG using that setting.

  6. Dawn of Worlds is well worth a look - especially since it's free and only about a dozen pages!

    I saw Microscope when they first announced it but couldn't find a review. I shall see about taking another look...

  7. @Noisms - Many parts of the game are indeed collaborative, while other parts specifically say that whomever is the Lens at the moment can say what they want without any interruptions or counterpoints from anyone else.

    Interestingly, it would see that the best way to go about creating a world and then using it for more traditional play would be the way the GM, Alex, seems to have gone about it.

    Create the world from scratch using 'Dawn of Worlds'
    Explore it's key points in history using 'Microscope'
    Play the game in your favorite traditional system.

    The end result is, I believe, a campaign where the players really know they setting because they helped create it. Making players a part of the world building process in this way makes them more invested in the world and it's people then is easily attainable with a traditional approach, IMHO.

  8. Aw I was listening to a podcast this week with "west marches" Ben on it talking about this and figured I would pick it up this weekend. Kinda funny to see you post about it today.