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Science Fiction Microscope: the RPG

Discussion in 'Role Playing Forum' started by Saintheart, Feb 14, 2012.

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  1. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    [image=[url]http://edu.glogster.com/media/9/47/66/57/47665787.jpg][/url]

    Welcome to ... well, that?s the thing, isn?t it? You can?t say where you are until you know where you are. Or when you are. Or who you are.

    Microscope is a game where we create a saga, a story, a universe together. There?s no GM; only players. There are no character sheets; you don?t play one character. There?s no end date; we can go as long as we want or as short as we want. This is a very different RPG.

    By ?we?, of course, I mean the four people who are together in this thread: darthramza, DarthXan318, LordTroepfchen, and ? well, me.

    Consequently there are no other positions open for play in this game, but I encourage anyone who wants to do their own completely unique game to pick up the Microscope RPG by Ben Robbins from Lame Mage Productions, available in print or PDF format. It?s not that hard to work out, and there are very few mechanical rules to remember. And you'll create a game that's unique to you.

    What is Microscope?

    Microscope works differently than some other role-playing games you might have played, so let?s abandon some preconceptions: You won?t have your own character. You won?t play the game in chronological order. You may know all about the future, but be surprised by the past. You?ll build the story from the outside in. You?ll decide the big picture, the grand scheme of history, and then burrow down and carve out the details.
    It?s fractal gaming.
    So think big: you have a massive chunk of history to play around in.

    Humanity spreads to the stars and forges a galactic civilization?

    Fledgling nations arise from the ruins of the empire?

    An ancient line of dragon-kings dies out as magic fades from the realm?

    These are all examples of Microscope games.

    In Microscope, you build an epic history as you play. Want to play a game that spans the entire Dune series, the Silmarillion, or the rise and fall of Rome in an afternoon? That?s Microscope. But you don?t play the history from start to finish, marching along in chronological order. Instead, you build your history from the outside in.

    You start off knowing the big picture, the grand scheme of what happens, then you dive in and explore what happened in between, the how and why that shaped events. You are free to jump backwards or forwards, zooming in or out to look at whatever you want, defying limits of time and space. Want to leap a thousand years into the future and see how an institution shaped society? Want to jump back to the childhood of the king you just saw assassinated and find out what made him such a hated ruler? That?s normal in Microscope.

    You have vast creative authority. You can make whole empires rise and fall at will. Dream up a utopia or destroy one with nuclear fire. You have that power, but remember you?re not alone: everyone else at the table can do it too. You create independently, but not in isolation. Each facet you add to history builds on what other players built before you. You expand on their ideas, and they expand on yours. History might not turn out the way you expected. Be prepared to think on your feet.

    When you zoom all the way in to a particular moment in time, all the players share the stage and role-play together to find out something we want to learn about the history. Did the crew of the Icarus know the aliens were on Titan? Did the rebels really fake the government crackdown? Do the knights remember the original meaning of their ritual vows? We role-play and see. The more you play, the more your once simple summary becomes a detailed tapestry, full of meaning and surprises. History snowballs.

    The author of the game says I should read this part to you because it?s really important:

    ?All of us sitting at this table have equal creative power. At times we?ll have different roles and authority, but we?re all equal participants and authors.

    It may sound like I?m running the game because I?m going to be explaining a lot about the rules, and I may interrupt and
    Last edited by darthramza, Sep 4, 2012
  2. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    First Step: The Big Picture

    First, we need to brainstorm a simple overview of the history we want to play. If we were looking in a history book, this would be the one line that summarizes what happens, but leaves out all the details. It should be no more than a single sentence. We do need to agree on this part.

    An ancient empire rises and falls.

    Cavemen at the dawn of time found the first civilization.

    Mankind leaves the sick Earth behind and spreads out to the stars.


    Pick something big. You want a lot of time and space to work with. Don?t worry if your idea seems too simple or uninteresting. That?s normal at this stage. Fleshing out the interesting details is what the rest of the game is all about.

    Here's a big bunch of seeds for inspiration...

  3. Long-separated branches of humanity stumble upon each other again in the depths of space

  4. Explorers settle a new land, displacing the native people

  5. Secret societies carefully steer the course of civilization

  6. Primitives leave their caves and found the first cities

  7. Superheroes protect society, undermining the rule of law

  8. A race of machines unearth their organic origins

  9. How the West was won (alternate history America)

  10. Gods play with heroes? fates until Doom takes them all

  11. The teachings of the Prophet are embraced by many, but bitterly rejected by others

  12. Technology brings humanity into a golden age

  13. The ancient Enemy spreads its dark hand across the land

  14. Battle of the Planets

  15. Renaissance: society shakes off the shackles of ignorance and embraces art and learning

  16. Colonists tame a new world, but are cut off from the old

  17. The health of the kingdom is bound to the life of the king
  18. Atlantis sinks and her secrets are lost with her
  19. Evolution of a species

  20. Captains of Industry: corporations dominate society

  21. A brilliant world-conqueror leaves behind a fractured and feuding empire

  22. Scattered refugees struggle to rebuild after the Apocalypse

  23. The last Magic passes from the world


  24. Me, I like the idea of rebuilding after a nuclear war, or doing a sort of "humanity has FTL and knows lots of other alien species" like Mass Effect or something, but I'm open to options.

    What's everyone's thoughts?

    TAG: ramza, Xan, LordT
  25. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    I'm a sucker for warring states settings, so I really like the "A brilliant world-conqueror leaves behind a fractured and feuding empire" seed.

    Although it's possible to combine those a bit. "Nuclear war leaves humanity in warring factions" or something to that effect.

    TAG: Saint, Xan, LordT
  26. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    We don't have to pick one of those seeds, they're just for inspiration -- although I like your ideas IN SPACE. :D

    TAG: ramza, Xan, LordT
  27. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    Okay, my take: A nuclear war on earth leaves the colonies of mankind throughout the solar system behind as fractured and feuding factions.

    Got factions, war, nuclear war even and building up after "the event". I would read the novel :p
  28. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    [image=http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ln8s1mVBTB1qax2xho1_500.gif]

    IT... COULD... WORK!
  29. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
  30. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2002
    star 6
  31. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Second Step: Bookend the History
    Seeing as we're agreed on that, we next define how the history starts and ends. We do that by creating two Periods. From the book:

    Each Period is a very large chunk of time, probably decades or centuries. Describe how your history begins and ends. These are your starting and ending Periods, the bookends of your history. You?ll add more Periods later on, but everything will be between these points.

    1) Agree on a short description for each Period, just a few sentences or a paragraph at most, painting a clear picture of what happens during that time.

    2) Decide whether each description is Light or Dark, whether what happens during that Period is generally happy or tragic. This is the Tone of each Period. The Tone of the starting and ending Period do not have to match. You can describe either Period first, as you prefer. Sometimes it?s easier to pick Light or Dark for each Period, then see what ideas emerge.


    How about we consider the tone of the two periods first?

    Really, it being binary, there's four choices: either the beginning is light and the ending light (implying a catastrophic struggle in between?); the beginning is dark and the ending dark (nuclear war bookends both periods - we don't learn from our mistakes?); or the beginning is dark and the ending light; or the beginning is light and the ending dark (the very definition of It Got Worse, perhaps?)

    EDIT: Bear in mind this is describing the general tone of an entire period, not necessarily the events within it -- you average "hope spot", for example, seems to be a Light event inside a Dark period, and I do like the idea of at least having a little hope if we're going down the It Got Worse path. :D

    EDIT THE SECOND: Quick thoughts on the starting period -- perhaps the colonisation of the solar system at large is the commencing period? And consequently a period of light?
  32. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    Okay, our scenario doesn´t sound like we begin on a high note, do we? So I suggest we begin with a dark period and end with a light one, just to see how we manage to do that!
  33. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Okay, I've got it:

    IT IS A PERIOD OF CIVIL WAR. REBEL - wait, crap.

    I have to initially disagree completely with LordT: I'm thinking I'd like Light beginning, Dark ending. There are some initial attempts at reconciliation, perhaps an accord is almost reached. But they ultimately fail, and eventually mankind destroys itself. There are no heroes left in man. That sort of thing.
  34. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Bear in mind you will be able to stick dark periods (or light periods) inside these two bookends, guys. Save your best stuff -- it's a bit like poker, if we know what's going to happen ahead of you posting it won't be quite as interesting. For my part, how about starting with Light: colonisation of the solar system and ending with Dark: the colonies are united under a single, despotic ruler.
  35. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    "Everyone dies" is kind of a bookend thing, in my defense.:p
  36. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    "Rocks fall" is an intriguing starting bookend, too! :D
  37. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    Well, call me arrogant, but my gun is still fully loaded. No ammo problem, I think. But don´t we have to pin down an ending first? Including the content of it? that´s how I understood it. The dark beginning would be easy. the first post could something like:

    All contact with earth comes to an abrupt end. Last reports indicate a nuclear war. The colonies are on their own.

    Kind of the birth moment of our scenario. I have an idea how hte last post could look like, but not sure if I wanna give that one away [face_laugh]



  38. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Ooo, we could take that one and go dark to darker. Earth is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust -> Stuff -> Mankind destroys itself.
  39. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    All I was saying is that at this stage you're not defining the commencing and final event of the history-- just the beginning and ending periods and whether they're light or dark. There's plenty of room for light events inside dark periods and vice versa. Just sayin'. :D
  40. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    OHHHHH! So, something like War begins -> Stuff -> War ends?
  41. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    As an example, here's one from the book:

    Our concept is ?mankind leaves the sick Earth behind and spreads out into the stars.? We decide to have a Light starting Period and a Dark ending Period.

    Start Period (Light): Earth is in sad shape, but mankind unites to face the challenge and make a new life among the stars. It?s not easy, but it?s a time of hope and unity.

    End Period (Dark): Humanity is scattered across a myriad of star systems with no central connection or core identity. Isolated and alone, humanity fades into stagnation.


    See? It's more about overall tone for the historical era, not a happy ending/sad ending as such.
  42. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2002
    star 6
    I'm for a dark beginning and a light ending.

    (apologies for the quick posts, sneaking on at work)
  43. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Okay then...[face_thinking]

    Start Period (Dark): The earth is lost. The space colonies, forced to fend for themselves, are overly susceptible to mistrust - backstabbing and shady negotiations rule the day. The threat of open war is ever-looming.

    End Period (Dark): Generations of hardship have pushed mankind to the breaking point. Adrift in a cold, uncaring universe, is there even hope for survival?
  44. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    Those two would actually work for me. :) I think a nuclear war in the end limits us too much. We must have all of humanity within our reach. What is the fun in that, when we play in space! The final frontier and all that!

    My original idea:


    Beginning Period- Dark: The colonies of humanity fight like hungry dogs for the remaining ressources when earth falls.

    End Period- Light: Humanity transcends and all of humanity finds peace in the untied existence of a hive mind.
  45. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    ramza, In answer to your question, yeah. Rather like that. It's not a decision about what events happen inside those periods as such. For example, with the dark ending period of Humanity blows itself up you could easily have a light event like Zefram Cochrane launches the first FTL drive, bugging out of the solar system and alerting the Vulcans to their presence to end out the game, if that's what we want to do.
  46. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Also, I vote for Dark beginning, Light end period. Personal preference, I guess -- I like the idea of being upwardly mobile. :)

    I also take it we're looking to generalise our concept as more like "Earth falls, the remaining colonies of the solar system struggle to fend for themselves?"
  47. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Gaaaaaaaah... okay, fine. I'm just not as in the mood for optimism since I just got done with the almost sickeningly upbeat ending to Gundam X. But I'm clearly a one-man minority on this one.
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