Microscope Session – New Force Changes Society

Microscope End Session

Microscope End Session

This 4th of July, I went to Nick’s house. I had previously met Nick once before, we we got together about 8 months ago and played Fiasco. Both of us didn’t know if there would be 3 players or 4.  I packed accordingly; I was prepared to run a Dungeon World conversion of Temple of Elemental Evil. I also brought Fiasco and Microscope.

As it turns out, we had 3 players (self included). And as I was thumbing through my binder, both Nick and David noted that I had Microscope. Having both purchased the PDF, they were interested in playing. I figured why not? After all I had packed it.

We spent a bit of time reading the rules, but eventually I said “Lets just get started.” I think that was the best decision.  Microscope’s rules are very simple, and are there primarily to provide a better collective experience – One does not power game Microscope.

We decided to simply focus on one of the three Quick Start History Seeds – we chose “A new force changes society, wiping away the old values.” Magical conduits had been discovered and changed the course of history.  And with that we were off.

Our bookend Periods were:

  • Mankind discovers ancient conduit to magic-inflused plane – Light.
  • The mundanes are crushed in their struggle to overthrow the magocracy – Dark.

Our Palette was:

  • Sacrifices
  • Airships
  • Plague
  • House armies
  • Magic-immune bloodline
  • No dragons
  • No 20th century technology
  • No widespread literacy
  • No gunpowder
  • No non-human sentient races


  • The Granter
  • Pax Magica
  • King Roland Gunnar

The Flow of History

  • Mankind discovers ancient conduit to magic-infused plane – Light
  • Pax Magica – Light
    • The council of kingdoms expands their shared knowledge of magic in order to cure the plague – Light
      • What has to be lost in order for this resolution to be achieved? Characters: King Randall Gunnar, King Gerard V, Ian envoy of the Old Druidic Orders, Head Master of the Collegium. Answer: The voice of the old ways withrdaw, and the new ways proceed unchecked. – Dark
    • Sid uses magic to create the first airship – Light
    • Death of King Randall Gunnar at the hands of Roland Gunnar, his son. – Dark
    • King Roland Gunnar breaks the peace by assaulting nation’s city with forbidden use of magic…an airship – Dark
    • Roland’s airship goes down over the northern woods for no apparent reason. – Light
    • Competing lore on the Granter rises through lack of literacy. These rival stories believed by different peoples give rise to the houses. – Dark
  • The Houses of Magic – Dark
    • Ethatakos is orphaned as the result of the plague. He is  adopted by House Hector. – Light
    • Each house claims lineage to the Granter, and each claims the others’ claims are illegitimate. – Dark
      • How are sacrifices used to claim lineage to the Granter? Characters: Matriarch Violet of house Achilles, Ethatakos nephew of matriarch of house Hector, Captain Triam of house Achilles. Answer: Matriarch Achilles, mortally wounded, offers herself as a sacrifice to the conduit for proof.
    • House Thersites celebrates peace with house Hector by building monument/magical battery to King Roland Gunnar – 
  • Rise of the Airships – Dark
    • The Roland Gunnar, an airship of house Hector, lays waste to House Achilles, having sabotagued the Achilles airship fields – Dark
      • How were the agents of house Hector able to so easily infiltrate the airship fields of house Achilles? Characters: Private Cedric Langstrom of house Achilles and Sharon Aktos agent of house Hector. Answer: Sharon is a descendant of the druids, and has an immunity to magic. Her bloodline is preserved by house Hector. – Dark
  • Return of the Druids – Light
    • The airship Mermas crashes in the woods, where druids assist the survivors, showing a successful society without magic. – Light
    • The Basillica to his Emminence, Emperor Roland Gunnar, is sacked in an uprising of the disgruntled mundanes.
      • Who has Roland Gunnar’s remains? Characters: Ked – ringer of bells, extinguisher of candles, and descendant of shattered house Achilles; Vinnie – one randome mundane; Rielle – leader of a militant circle of druids. Answer: Rielle accidentally kills Vinnie and claims the bones for the cause. – Dark
  • The mundanes are crushed in their struggle to overthrow the magocracy – Dark
    • The Granter returns, reuniting the houses and utterly destroying the mundane rebellion. – Dark
    • Who is the Granter? Characters: The Granter; VInnix – leader of the Sons of Vinnie; Ked – the ancient sage, He who Opened the Gates. Answer: The Granter is Roland Gunnar reincarnate.


  • Ethatakos – Nephew of Matriarch Hector
  • King Roland Gunnar
  • Druids


The pace of the game was deliberate, but engaging. We kept things at a relatively high level of abstraction…never dwelling to long on a Scene, and instead choosing to create more Events than Periods and Scenes.

I love the fact that Microscope creates tangible artifacts. Ferreted away in my backpack are the cataloged Period, Event, Scene, Flavor, and Legacy cards.  I have a written, albeit abbreviated record, of the game session.

We ended up playing Microscope for about 3 hours…with a handful of phone call interruptions. Personally, I had a great time, and can see Mircoscope as a valuable tool for creating a collaborative campaign. Both to start the campaign at an end point, or to dive really deep into one of the events.

We used the Microscope game to lay the foundation for our one-shot Dungeon World adventure. There were airships and conniving members of both House Achilles and House Hector.

RPG Bucket List Or Gaming Resolution for 2012

Recently, I subscribed to the Evil Machinations blog and read through Jade’s RPG Bucket List.  The idea is to list the RPGs that I would like to play or run. Below is a list of RPGs that I have not played. There are others that I’ve only played once or twice and would love to play again (Fiasco and Do for example).

  1. Technoir – A gorgeous presentation with the awesome Transmission concept.  I’m still working my way through this book, but it’s at the top of the list, especially given it’s high marks.
  2. BattleTech – This is certainly influenced by Fear the Boot‘s rabid fanaticism, but I’ve always had a soft spot for miniatures combat.  Throw in a feudal society and I’m seriously interested.
  3. Burning Empires – I love Burning Wheel and am fascinated by the concept of a truly adversarial game master and rules to enforce it.
  4. Lacuna Part I –  Role-playing agents who delve into the shared “dream world” and unraveling what it means.  The dungeon is the waking world? Or is it the dream world?
  5. Apocalypse World – 2011 Golden Geek winner for best RPG, the systemic layering of moves is fantastic.  I’ve played Dungeon World and really enjoyed it.
  6. Dogs in the Vineyard – The conflict escalation pressure cooker is very intriguing.
  7. Lamentations of the Flame Princess – D&D stripped to what I consider to be it’s core. Many of the obscenely powerful spells have been stripped away.
  8. Microscope – Collaborative world/epoch building engine.
  9. Reign Enchiridion – I love Birthright and the idea of having agency at the macro-level.  Reign appears to handle this quite well.
  10. Inspectres – A Ghostbusters type RPG with the confessional couch.

I should probably lay out a plan for making this happen, but knowing is half the battle.  Of the above Microscope, Inspectres, and Lacuna Part I appear to be the easiest to bring to the table.  Followed by Technoir, Dogs in the Vineyard, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Apocalypse World.  Then Reign Enchiridion, with it’s unique mechanics. And finally BattleTech (no minis, no rulebook) and Burning Empires.

And herein lies the challenge.  I want to play in long running campaigns (8+ sessions) that see characters develop and events unfold.  I also want to experience via play the different game systems.  All of this is in tension with finite time for my hobby.

So my New Years Resolution for 2012 is to play two of the above games face to face with my friends.