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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › A Journey (Microscope)

A Journey (Microscope)

Terry F.
user 27520232
Seattle, WA
Post #: 26
A Journey (microscope)

I wanted to explore a journey. As it is when I propose these things I try to not impose too much beyond the initial idea.

This game could have gone on for multiple sessions. When creating things out whole cloth, it takes us longer to define the world. Completely new worlds force us to operate on two axis of thought - world creation and (hi)story development. Which is tough. For one shot, short term Microscope sessions, working in the realm of the familiar will feel better. I've noticed this with Kaleidoscope; the game goes fast - we're operating in well known tropes, also inconsistencies are forgiven.

There was no mechanical changes to the game - I think applying a variant that I call Geoscope where we have locations instead of periods would have been more appropriate for the game.

The Players:

After our initial discussion, we vetoed space operas and other sci-fi type stuff.

The Pallet:

  • Horses - Journeys require horses.
  • Meddling Gods - Gods are great for representing strong views and archetypes.
  • Ships - Journeys require Ships.
  • Crime - personal conflicts
  • Horrific Monsters - no cuddly nicey-nice monsters .
  • Strange Cultures - people are weird. weird is fun.
  • Cyclopean Ruins - this world has an interesting past.


  • Direct Magic - no wizards/witches/sorcerers of practical ability
  • D&D Crap - kitchen sinks should be left in kitchens.
  • Aristocracy - let's focus on the people not the kings & queens
  • Aliens - we have to put that in it's required by law.
  • War is not the solution! - we didn't want a game of Peter Jacksonian battle epics.
  • Monotheism, Duotheism, Tritheism - we wanted gods to be small, not universal.


  • Warnings
  • Things we leave behind
  • Monsters of all shapes.

The foci were excellent, helping us dig deeper into the lives of the people of the journey. In warnings we saw many dire events: the People losing contact with divinity in their mysteries, some of the people rebelling against an ancient tradition and thereby create a schism that eventually gets them exiled. A founding member of the faithful vanishes in an abandoned city.

I loved the scenes in this game - Doreen is lured into the deserted city by Dermot the storm god to appease the demon that resides there. This demon had been keeping the people in the oasis making them fear continuing their journey through the desert beyond. Doreen walks out of the city pleasing neither the demon, nor the god. She convinces the people to move on. The god and the demon look at each other questioning themselves.

Things we leave behind spun up a series of poignant events. The people leaving all their belongings behind when faced with the prospect of an endless trek in the desert. A talented woman wanting to stay in the city that appreciates her when the people have found transport to their next destination. The leader of the people leaving something out of his revelation.

Monsters of all shapes. This is where we get introduced to not just the horrific monsters promised in the pallet but how monstrous people can be. We also do get a taste of the cruelties of jealous gods. Dermot in the end cannot let go of his people and wishes to destroy them. Only the god of dreams and a spirit of nature stay his hand.

Another scene I loved was one where while in the desert, a scout of the wandering people stumbles upon a bandit camp. Nels the scout has a short conversation with two of the bandits, a philosophical one, and a questioning one. The bandits greeted Nels with hospitality, but were repaid with suspicion, fear and rudeness. The scout at the end runs away, only to be followed by the bandits, who enslave the faithful. What was harrowing was that the bandits never showed their evil while conversing with the scout - but the threat was palpable nonetheless.

Names. I wish we had a names book. We were struggling with this: we used Celtic names - but that sometimes colored our story making. Something we didn't want to do. But this also lent a strange familiarity to some characters, Kent, Doreen, Dermot.

Contempt chits. We jokingly used contempt chits to show that we didn't approve of another player's action. It was fun.

user 11624621
Olympia, WA
Post #: 46
It was a thoroughly satisfying game.

I still have trouble finding the sweet number of characters to name. I was disappointed that we kinda just got the one god action, instead of many gods. Also, when we started the game, I envisioned the journey taking several SEVERAL generations. Yet, we had the same character from the first period come again into the third I think... How do people cope with the "how much time is between these periods" question? Is it as simple as just asking the table?

Also also, I learned that you're supposed to frame the scene before you pick characters! It's hard to frame the scene without saying what kind of person is invited!

Also also also, we never use the push mechanics anymore... What's up with that?

Anyway, rad game, wonderful RP and great contempt-ful moments.
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 350
Yeah unless you're doing an unusually tight history it's good advice to never have characters span Periods for exactly that reason.

The scene framer is totally allowed to include characters as part of their description of the scene (or even earlier when you state the question) but the required/banned tells the other players who they must or can't play. Two very different steps. You could totally describe a scene about the President ("does the President veto the bill?") but unless they're required no one is forced to take them as their character (they're secondary or off screen).
A former member
Post #: 33
Yeah. I think we established that the journey took at least 30 years, and probably not much more than sixty, since it happened within the lifetime of people who were children when the journey started. I think that has happened in every Microscope game I've played- somebody says, "I wonder how Jeremy from Period A responded to Period X" and now the gap between A and X has a maximum length. And often, someone will do it between the two bookends, thus restricting the whole game. It's a natural thing to wonder, though, because we like seeing how people react to change, and it adds torque to reuse characters.

The other thing I've noticed is that fantasy games seem to often have the problem that no one wants to take the lead in deciding how magic works. In this case, even though the game was about religion, we knew virtually nothing about our religion because we all punted every time it came up. I know it's not really the Microscope style, but I think we would have been better off taking a moment to get everyone on the same page about it.
A former member
Post #: 14
Hmm, that's interesting. In our psychic-horses-take-over-society game (SO excited for that writeup) we had a character live for two periods, but decided three was too far. I can definitely see how it would make sense to have a hard limit of keeping them in one as it keeps you from breaking the mechanics of being able to insert new Periods wherever you want. I think it's just so tempting to go "Oh! And remember that dude who signed the Peace Accords back in the Century Of The Fruitbat? Well he's here now and he totally broke the treaty with the Mole People!"

How long did Captain Kean live for? 2 periods, I think? That was just a ton of events and scenes though. Actually I will probably try and remember this "rule" for the future because now that I think on it, it promotes the creation of new characters ("Uh, I mean his granddaughter breaks the treaty with the Mole People! ...And she's a wizard!") as well as helping the history go "deep" instead of "broad", which I feel like is probably a generally good idea? I'll admit I had not seen a game with as few Periods as this Journey game, I was actually pretty impressed you managed it! (see that was totally relevant and not thread-hijacking AT ALL!)
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 351
In this case, even though the game was about religion, we knew virtually nothing about our religion because we all punted every time it came up.
Were people actually interested in exploring that? Sometimes there are vacuums because no one is really that interested even when the topic seems pretty central.

I'm generally more into "people" story than "physics" stories (meaning the broad realm of figuring out how the rules of the universe work) but even if no one wants to step on toes and take control you could easily ask a Question to invite people to step in. But you'd have to actually be curious about the answer.
A former member
Post #: 34
The problem was that, you're right, nobody cares whether widdershins dance steps are sacred to Nimzor, God of Thursdays, so scenes about the religion itself would have been dull. BUT, we were telling the story of a religious splinter group, so all the characters cared very deeply about it, and it kept coming up in conversation. And those conversations were awkward because the religion itself was a vacuum.

If we had established something like, "Mraeni the Goddess of Morning commanded us to build a silver city in her honor in the far east. We still believe in the other gods of our people, but we don't worship them anymore," a lot of conversations would have been more concrete. The old priests would have been yelling at us for something specific rather than "strange beliefs", we would have been able to talk about a goal other than "the plan", we could bring other gods into the picture without having them be weirdly ambivalent because we didn't know if we worshipped them, etc. Those two sentences of exposition would have helped attach me to the setting much better, and I felt the lack of anchor during the game. We could have fixed it any time. I'm kind of puzzled why we didn't.
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 352
Oh yeah, I totally get you. You're right, that's a "hey wait, can we establish what we believe?" time-out.
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