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What We Played: Gods and Moosetaurs (Microscope)

Sam Kabo Ashwell
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 1
Facilitator: Jannetta. Players: Emily, Sam. (Emily's writeup is here.)

This was Jannetta's first time facilitating, and the first time playing Microscope for the rest of us. We took a little time to get moving, in part because of how open things felt early on. Perhaps because of this, the tone ended up being more funny than serious; three of the biggest recurring elements (moose, the long-suffering moose-centaurs, the Coracle Philosophers) started out as throwaway jokes. Story elements mostly started out light and shifted increasingly to dark. For the most part we ended up playing in more or less historical order: the earliest scene at the beginning, the last at the end, although things were a little more varied in the middle.

Premise: The rise and fall of a religion.

No: theocracy, human sacrifices
Yes: gender-equality, multiple deities, multi-part souls, deities actually exist, moose-related imagery

The Enlightened Pilgrimage: The First Soul Receives The Assignments of Divine Involvement: Whose was the first soul to receive the assignment?
(focus: the great calling of the first soul)
The religion (we never did very well with proper names) started as the result of its more hierarchical predecessor giving up its role of interceding between gods and men. In a sort of Dred Scott case, the escaped slave Artia sought sanctuary at a temple; the jaded High Priestess, unwilling to choose between political disaster and sacrilege, ended up asking her god to deal with the slave directly.

The Period of the Splitting of Souls: The Invention of Herding-by-Spirit: The Argument at White Cliff Creek (How are gods to assign miraculous intervention?)
A shepherd looking for rustled sheep wanders inadvertently into the sacred grove of the God of the Thaw during the wrong season; the moose-centaur guardian of the grove is reluctant to kill for this minor sacrilege. After some inconclusive pleading and threatening, the God punishes the shepherd by forbidding him from herding sheep, instead conferring on him the miraculous ability to herd the naturally-unherdable moose.

The Rise of Coracle Philosophy and the School of the Great Raft: The Twelve-Coracle Battle: Who died in the Coracle Battle?
(focus: the book of Shal'adah is found)
One of the few times we went backwards, forming a prequel to the following period. The Coracle Philosophers, a highly abstracted and legalistic school of theologians, engaged in a debate about the theoretical possibility of incarnated gods: the debate was in effect moderated by the Stewards, responsible for taking care of the Philosphers' physical needs over the course of debates lasting many weeks, and thus able to influence the course of discussion through food. Although the Stewards were deeply conservative and institutional, their tactical mishandlings led the radical faction to inadvertently enact a ritual that they thought they were only describing, culminating in the death of the dimmest of the anti-radical faction from a caffeine overdose. The God of Swamps thus attained Living status, flooding the Philosophers' ampitheatre and turning it into the heart of his domain. (The ritual coracle-skirts of the philosophers allowed them to float safely away. The fate of the Stewards is not recorded.)

The Ministry of the Living God of Swamps: The Revision of the Dietary Laws: Which animals are permissible to eat?
(focus: the socio-ecology of moose)
This was where the Coracle-Philosophers got introduced, trailing papyrus rolls. A translation issue had been discovered in ancient texts that suggested that the events of White Cliff Creek actively forbade the faithful from eating any animals other than moose. In the God's swamp a humble mooseherd happens upon this debate, with an obligatory moosetaur serving as mediator between the abstruse Coracle and incomprehending bumpkin. As a test of the uncertain new principle, the mooseherd is offered the formerly-traditional staple of swamp food, the frog kebab; the moosetaur is tasked to observe the effect on the mooseherd's souls. The mooseherd promptly drops dead, and non-moose meat is declared off-limits to the faithful.

How do the goatherds feel about this?
(focus: the socio-ecology of moose)
In a rural town, the First Dietary Official is tasked with spreading the new dietary laws: locals have concerns that this will destroy their goat-based industry, and don't have land suitable for moose-based pastoralism. They're represented by the guildmaster of the local abbatoir and a mystic Coracle-Philosopher who had made great and unspecified sacrifices in order to attain miraculous powers in goat-cookery. It was pointed out that the Living Swamp God had been absent at the time of the rule's establishment. The Dietary Official was piously inflexible, left the town in a hurry, and was murdered on the road by a gang of burly goat-slaughterers, and was later declared apostate; the inability of the church to enforce its mandates became conspicuous.

The Period of the Moose Famine: The Legume Riots: Why was the town burnt down?
(focus: The Uprising)
The moose mecca, final destination of great moose droves, where faithful pilgrimages wait to ritually slaughter their moose. But the moose herds are thinning, few moose have survived the journey, and the mood is turning sour. When a naive worshiper bungles their ritual sacrifice, they're threatened by an angry mob: a moosetaur guardian tries to intervene, is interpreted as attacking and shot. An angry god punishes the offenders by instituting the sorta-cannibalistic tradition of moosetaur-barbecue; in the process the entire town is burned to the ground.

The Decadent Era: The Enslavement of the Appetitive Soul. (No scenes.)

The Fall: The Festival of the Moose: Can the gods be persuaded to return?
(focus: the different fragments of the soul)
After a period of decadence and divine detachment associated with the Moosetaur Barbecue tradition, a populist preacher organises a great festival to implore the gods to renew their contract with humanity (presumably doing something about those barbecues). But there's widespread disagreement about what this would involve: among the factions at the festival are the Whirling Barbecuers, who believe in commingling all a person's many souls through orgiastic frenzy, and a sect of ascetic nuns who have refined the art of partitioning the souls and isolating them from one's agency (they're kept in little bottles). One of these nuns, unnaturally incautious from the partitioning of her fearful soul, tries to evangelise a group of Whirling Barbecuers; a moosetaur guardian tries to prevent this inflammatory act, but only succeeds in exacerbating it by shattering the bottle containing her charismatic soul. The moosetaur is awed into helplessness, Whirling Barbecuers attempt to burn the nun, and the outraged gods send a small earthquake to disrupt this. Crazed by joy at this apparent return of divine involvement, the preacher fatally stabs the helpless guardian. The gods are doubly annoyed by this hypocrisy and withdraw the gift of Herding-by-Spirit; the released moose herds stampede through the festival, signalling the end of their contract with humanity.
Ben R
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 238
Oh those wily moose!

How many turns did you guys play thru?
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