Microscope Game Thread

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AFancyQuestionMark

Microscope Game Thread

Postby AFancyQuestionMark » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:33 am

Microscope is a non-traditional RPG that lets the players create a history through collaboration.

In order to set up a game of Microscope, we first need to determine The Big Picture - a single sentence that describes the history we want to create in the broadest possible terms.

Here are some examples/suggestions:

An empire rises and falls.

A generation ship is lost in the vastness of space.

The remnants of a fallen civilization struggle to create a new society.

Humanity finds its' place in the broader interstellar community.

Every one of these "seeds" holds countless vastly different histories, one of which we will uncover during the course of this game. With this in mind, try not to develop any preconceptions of the precise details of history during this early stage of the game. Instead, these details should emerge in play from the interaction between players' ideas.

Feel free to pick one of the above or suggest your own. We will move on when all the players have achieved a consensus on The Big Picture.

Players:
* AFancyQuestionMark (Me)
* mwchase
* Supahewok
* Daemian Lucifer
* Lachlan the Mad
* dudecon
* PossiblyInsane
Last edited by AFancyQuestionMark on Sat Dec 19, 2015 5:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:27 pm

How about:
Meteors fall,everyone gets magic.
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Supahewok

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Supahewok » Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:16 pm

Sure. Should it be a bit more specific? Do the meteors have special radiation, or does their coming indicate a shift in universal forces towards magic? Is their coming part of a cycle? Do they bust open the crust and release a well of magic? Was there magic previously, and the meteors just opened it up to all the muggles?

I assume that any societal effects are gonna be handled as part of the game.
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AFancyQuestionMark

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby AFancyQuestionMark » Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:10 pm

The Big Picture is called that for a reason. As I have mentioned previously it should be as broad as possible.
For instance, the precise nature of the meteors in Lucifer's suggestion, the mechanism by which they provide everyone with magic, the meaning of 'magic', and even the setting where all of this takes place (Contemporary Earth? An alien planet? Some fantasy world?) are all details that should (if a player is interested) be uncovered during the course of the game itself. They should not concern us at this stage.
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:43 pm

Do we want to pull out further? I'm trying to decide whether I feel like "Meteors fall,everyone gets magic." is a singular event, or a large arc. Like, if it's an arc, then I'd think "everyone gets magic" is an endpoint, following a long series of... something, that results from the meteors.
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dudecon
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby dudecon » Wed Dec 16, 2015 11:40 pm

Here are some ideas I came up with:
  • A subterranean race discovers and explores the surface.
  • A rogue-planet ecumenopolis collides with a populated neutron star.
  • Higher beings conspire to weird out Frank Thurman and all his descendants.
  • The forging of the ultimate weapon.
  • Pre-language creatures encounter an AI.

Or, to open up DL's idea, "the arrival of magic to a primitive society"
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Wed Dec 16, 2015 11:49 pm

Broad sweep of history + the ultimate weapon reminds me of Shamus describing the Crucible. Not opposed to it, it's just that's where my brain went.

Here's another one to toss out: The descendants of a (large) group of alien abductees make their way back to their home planet.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Thu Dec 17, 2015 6:25 am

dudecon wrote:A rogue-planet ecumenopolis collides with a populated neutron star.


Youve been playing mass effect 2 again,I see.

dudecon wrote:Or, to open up DL's idea, "the arrival of magic to a primitive society"


I wouldnt use primitives there.Anything after the industrial revolution,to avoid th cliche dark ages fantasy.A modern day magical surge,but without the dystopia of shadowrun.
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Thu Dec 17, 2015 4:52 pm

To be honest, I was visualizing something like "The Flintstones meet Fallout, but with magic instead of radiation".

Let's toss out some more:
  • A race of artificially created beings take up the legacy of their creators.
  • A colonized nation becomes the center of a new empire.
  • A natural cycle generations long repeatedly divides and reunites a nation.
  • Three groups of higher beings draw humanity into a proxy war.
  • A secretive guild's power is broken when the natural resource they control is artificially replicated.
  • A divinely ordained cycle of destruction and renewal is broken when the world fails to end.
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dudecon
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby dudecon » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:15 pm

We could combine multiple versions of this, but it seems like there's a "cataclysm" vibe going on here. So how about we start simply, and work from there.
"An apparently mundane disaster has far-reaching consequences."
Could be an asteroid, could result in magic, might be the interference of higher powers, who knows! We'll find out together!
PossiblyInsane

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby PossiblyInsane » Sat Dec 19, 2015 8:00 am

I do fancy the idea of magic taking the place of technology and bringing us to space.

Ah, brainstorms. There are so many good ideas, it's difficult to choose just one! It seems that with the Big Picture, we should keep things as broad as possible, agreeing on the shape of the universe in which we can fit ideas, and draw inspiration for more ideas.

So far, the overarching themes seem to be magic, space, progress, and cataclysm. If we want to stick with those, it may be helpful to decide how the cataclysm shapes the story (as it is the only hard and fast event present among the above themes). Some examples would be:

-A cataclysm at the start of the story (which might lead to such stories as: upsetting the status quo leading to a new order, resourcefulness in the face of overwhelming adversity, reclaiming the power of the progenitors, etc...).
-A cataclysm at the end of the story (an empire metaphorically flying too close to the sun, deterioration due to internal pressures, drawing the attention of something far older, etc...)
-A series of cataclysms (cycles of growth and annihilation, gradually learning from the mistakes of the past, trying to upset the natural order, etc...)
-The threat of cataclysm shaping the story, but perhaps never actually happening or being successfully averted (the threat of mutual annihilation driving progress, reconciling and accepting an alien force, a prophesied event not being all it was cracked up to be, something becoming the monster they wished to stop, etc.)

Microscopes, after all, are all about gradually zooming in. Try to start with something close up, and you generally get a blurry picture.
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AFancyQuestionMark

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby AFancyQuestionMark » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:40 am

While we discuss the points raised in PossiblyInsane's post, I would like all players to offer their opinions on dudecon's suggestion for The Big Picture:
An apparently mundane disaster has far-reaching consequences.
In my opinion, this reflects the prevailing ideas in the thread while also giving everyone plenty of room to maneuver.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Sat Dec 19, 2015 2:10 pm

dudecon wrote:We could combine multiple versions of this, but it seems like there's a "cataclysm" vibe going on here. So how about we start simply, and work from there.
"An apparently mundane disaster has far-reaching consequences."
Could be an asteroid, could result in magic, might be the interference of higher powers, who knows! We'll find out together!


I wouldnt call an asteroid mundane.Mundane would be something like an earthquake,or a volcano.And the far reaching consequences of that could be the release of dragons.Dragons....wait a minute!Idea:

Dragons enslave humanity.

@PossiblyInsane
I prefer the cataclysm to be at the start.Much better to rebuild a society than to tear it down.
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:24 am

Cataclysm and enslavement, a seemingly ordinary disaster... I like the idea of something splitting the ground asunder and releasing an ancient magical race. In this scenario, "everyone gets magic" would be the end-result of a revolution.

I'm having trouble figuring out the right level of focus for this big-picture stuff. It looks like the rulebook says to come up with a general statement, then go one level of specificity in, as it were. Like, think of some kind of generic scenario, then make the salient details just a little more... detailed. Dunno if I'm doing that.
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Lachlan the Mad
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Lachlan the Mad » Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:42 am

Given this cataclysm + magitech idea, I really want a group of rich bastards to fly off into space early in the story, and then return a few hundred years later with a radically changed culture as a pseudo-alien race.
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Supahewok

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Supahewok » Sun Dec 20, 2015 4:25 am

Daemian Lucifer wrote:Dragons enslave humanity.


"Where did you come from? Where did you go?
Where did you come from, Dragon-Eye'd Joe?"

Dragons enslave humanity is neat, but it's a little too broad even for this. Are the dragons showing up out of nowhere the disaster, or are they the result of the disaster? Does their coming herald magic, or has there already been magic?

Personally, what I'm in favor of is: Society builds itself up by enslaving the dragons, only for a disaster to strike, allowing the dragons to turn the tables and become the enslavers. I really like that.

I guess that maybe they're space dragons if we want to keep the space element.

Daemian Lucifer wrote:I prefer the cataclysm to be at the start.Much better to rebuild a society than to tear it down.


I prefer the cataclysm to be at the 1/3 point. There's no point in conceiving of a society built from the ruins of another if we never establish that other. You have to have a before to make the after more meaningful, otherwise there's hardly a point in making the game post-apocalyptic. You can do it, but the post-apoc becomes only the barest window dressing rather than anything meaningful.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Sun Dec 20, 2015 4:33 am

Supahewok wrote:Dragons enslave humanity is neat, but it's a little too broad even for this.


Given that the point of big picture phase is to be broad as possible,its not.
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Supahewok

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Supahewok » Sun Dec 20, 2015 5:28 am

Yeah, you're right. Sorry. I guess I'm getting impatient to move on to the next step.

If "An apparently mundane disaster has far-reaching consequences," is a valid Big Picture, I say let's go with that and officially move on.
PossiblyInsane

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby PossiblyInsane » Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:32 pm

@AFancyQuestionMark: "An (apparently physics obeying) disaster has far reaching consequences." sounds like a good Big Picture. Seems like we can move forward to the next step.

@Lachlan: I really like that idea.

@Daemiean Lucifer: You thought the planet's core was metal, but it was really METAL DRAGONS ALL ALONG! But yes, I do like dragons.

@Supahewok: True, we will want to do a bit of work on making the world before asteroiddragongeddon. Still, the nice thing about Microscope is that you can hop around the timescape as much as you like. We can always more rigidly define it later.
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AFancyQuestionMark

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby AFancyQuestionMark » Tue Dec 22, 2015 12:13 pm

It seems as though we are all in agreement on The Big Picture being "An apparently mundane disaster has far-reaching consequences.".

It's time to move on to the next step of the set-up process - defining the Bookends, meaning the start and end Periods of the history that we will be exploring.
To define a Period write a sentence or two that describe it, like an overview one can find in a history book. Each Period has a tone of either Light or Dark, depending on whether it was a relatively negative or positive time in history.

Our choice of Bookends doesn't bind us to exploring everything in between them, but it does prevent us from exploring anything that happened before the start or after the end.

An example of Bookends in a hypothetical game with Humanity becomes part of an alien empire. as The Big Picture:
Start - The nations of Earth colonize Sol. (Light)
End - The conquest of Sol, the last independent human system, by the Verth'aki Dominion. (Dark)

In this example, the Verth'aki Dominion is introduced without any further elaboration, leaving it's nature to be explored in the actual game.

We will proceed once all players reach a consensus on the Bookends.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Tue Dec 22, 2015 4:04 pm

Well the start should obviously be the disaster.Making it the game about adapting to the new world.

As for the end,Im still going to push for magic and magical beings.And when magic is in play,the obvious ending is having the planet be sucked dry.But thats how dark sun starts,so lets not do the obvious thing.Instead,the ending should be a more positive one:

The planet becomes sapient and mobile.
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Tue Dec 22, 2015 5:00 pm

Well, if we want to establish stuff beforehand, maybe we need something that could precipitate the disaster. How about...

A new form of clean energy, with no obvious downsides, is discovered and deployed worldwide.
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dudecon
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby dudecon » Wed Dec 23, 2015 3:02 pm

Start: The Center City becomes self-sufficient. (Light)
End: The ruins of the Center City are re-discovered. (Light)
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Supahewok

Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby Supahewok » Sun Jan 03, 2016 11:23 pm

Well, the holidays are over (at least for me), so let's get back to it.

I agree with Daemian's ending. As for a beginning, I have:

A single faction begins its conquest of the world, using a strange source of energy (Dark)
Mystical creatures have begun to die out, and cryptic prophecies referring to "Cycles", "Death and Renewal", and "Apotheosis" have recently surfaced, sparking civil unrest (Dark)
God-like beings visit mortals, gifting them with seemingly innocuous and incomprehensible objects to "Prepare for the time ahead" (Light?)

Overall I'm feeling like having a world history where the disaster is the first, last, or middle step towards the planet's "awakening", and want to see a beginning book-end that plays to that.
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mwchase
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Re: Microscope Game Thread

Postby mwchase » Sun Jan 03, 2016 11:58 pm

Supahewok wrote:A single faction begins its conquest of the world, using a strange source of energy (Dark)

I like this one.

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