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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › Microscope - Raygun Lounge, Oct 4 2012

Microscope - Raygun Lounge, Oct 4 2012

A former member
Post #: 1
craftmike, Pat, sev (how she writes it; far be it from me to capitalize someone against her will)

We played Microscope (thanks, Ben!), which Pat and sev were already familiar with.

As the name suggests, Microscope is all about shifting the scale of the players’ perspective. Players collaborate, in turns, to create an epic history. It should be noted that Microscope is played non-sequentially, so the final table layout (uploaded to the Photos album here) does not show the gameplay in order.

We began by discussing what kind of time period we were interested in inventing. Genghis Khan was the basic idea we built from, and by teasing out elements of the Khan story we decided to describe the fall of a once-great civilization at the hands of barbarians, and the rise of the civilization that replaced it. We defined our Bookends as the Golden Age of the first civilization, and the codification of a system of laws in the replacement civilization.

At this point it became clear that we needed some proper nouns, and sev brought out a brilliant resource: a list of tropical storm names from places that aren’t here (I can’t find the exact list, but this is an approximation).

This established the Soudelorian Empire, doomed to fall and be replaced by the civilization of Krosa.

We built a Palette of the following elements:
Yes: Aquatic, Conflict Of Faith
No: Magic, Supernatural, Non-human Intelligence

Initial Focus: Bronze.

The timeline worked out to tell the following story:

The Golden Age of Soudelor was marked by fine craftsmanship and maritime expansion. Emperor Sanvu granted all artisans, scientists, etc. the noble title of “Maker”, establishing a new privileged class. Soudelor’s achievements were not all good, however; at the same time, the isolated mountain people of Krosa were enslaved as oarsmen on Soudelorian ocean vessels.

This was not to last, however, and the empire sank into decline. What followed was known as the Age of Forgetting. Emperor Morakat wrote prophetic scrolls vilifying a number of commonplace things, notably bronze. At the public reading of his prophecies, a prominent cleric discovered that they were the result of a long descent into madness, observed only by palace staff too timid to notify anyone outside the family. As a result of the prophecies, the bronzeworkers of Soudelor were compelled to destroy their own handiwork and then exiled. The High Counselor of Soudelor was now in a position not only to profit from the sale in distant lands of the locally worthless bronze, but from its inevitable replacement by iron, a metal his own family was heavily invested in.

Next came the Age of the Barbarian Kings. The keynote event of the age was the Joining Of The Families, where the heads of several warring clans were assembled to discuss the impending threat of Soudelor, and despite raucous protest from Kong-rey (who I like to think was later remembered by history as the Kongqueror), decided that an alliance against the greater threat of assimilation and complacency was the path to glory. Relevantly, the Soudelorian clergy declared that joint rule by leaders not related by family was anathema. Tragically, Rumbia, the youngest son of Emperor Tapah, was famously captured and executed.

Thus began the War Of Receding Tides. in which young Emperor Etau was slain and nothing else interesting happened at all. The end.

A Soudelorian Exodus followed the war. A young Krosan notable, Lisebo, becomes the first person in living memory to successfully navigate the treacherous Strait Of Paxai (which I quite wanted to be colloquially known as the Dragon’s Teeth, but may have forgotten to mention at the time). At this time as well, the once-great city of Pedring is sacked by barbarians and the entirety of Mad Morakat’s prophecies is consumed in a fire that devastates the Imperial Library. Soudelorian refugees settle far away, in the Wukong Archipelago. Lisebo of Krosa, now known popularly as Lisebo Of The Seas, manages to break a long-standing barbarian pirate blockade and rescue stranded Soudelorian exiles.

This enabled the Explosion Of Krosan Trade. The Krosans did not conduct themselves with much more nobility than their forebears, as they ruthlessly massacred an island full of Wukong natives in order to clear a trade route.

Robust trade enabled the Expansion Of Krosa. The Krosan civilization, while capable sailors, was still fairly backward technologically. They knew of a rare black metal called iron, used with great aptitude by the few Soudelorians who could afford it, but understood nothing of its origin or its use. A nomadic group of “sorcerors” appeared in the mountains during this time, descendants of the exiled bronzeworkers. Their devices appear magical to the Krosans, who sought to impress the sorcerors with a demonstration of the most magical thing they knew of: the lodestones, rocks which pull together when held in proximity, as if they desire to reassemble into the mountains that birthed them. The sorcerors’ eyes gleamed in anticipation of untold quantities of iron ore in the mountains.

Finally came the Rise of the Krosan Laws, when the pragmatic but merciless policies of the new Krosan Empire were codified and their civilization truly gained its own identity. A museum was erected in the capital honoring Lisebo Of The Seas. Its most famous exhibit, and the discovery on which it was founded, was the newly unearthed (and possibly newly written) Lost Prophecies Of Mad Emperor Morakat by none other than Lisebo’s own descendant. This seemed fated to occur, as the Prophecies were soon revealed to predict Lisebo’s rise to glory as the savior of her people. Based on the available evidence, Lisebo’s lineage was established as the new royalty of Krosa.

My final takeaway from the game was how perfect business-card sized blank cards are for this type of activity. It never occurred to me to try them, but now that I have seen their portability and the way they force players to distill ideas to their basic core, I’ll never go back to 3x5 cards.

Thanks for the experience, folks. My friends and I had a great time and hope to return soon.

-Mike
Pat
user 8415259
Seattle, WA
Post #: 45
Thanks for the great writeup, Mike.

I had a lot of fun with this game. I really like "mundane" Microscope settings (no supernatural, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.), and this one did not disappoint.

The business-card blank cards we use are blank SparkNotes Study Cards. They are available online, but are inexplicably cheaper if you buy them from a Barnes & Nobles. Unfortunately, B&N only seems to stock one box of the blank cards at a time, and Ben Robbins regularly goes around and buys them up from all the Seattle stores. It is rumored he even traveled to Pittsburgh solely to loot the local SparkNotes supplies. At any rate, I recommend you try stocking up before you move up here!
Ben R.
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 327
Don't let Pat fool you. He is a filthy card hoarder. I've seen him run cackling into the night with stacks of boxes clutched to his breast. Boxes that should have been mine!!!

Khan-inspired history = awesome. I'm with Pat: zero fantasy histories can be fantastic. It puts the focus back on the people, which is where the heart of the story lies.
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