How to Play.   Posted by JaJH.Group: archive 1
 GM, 1 post
Mon 18 Apr 2016
at 15:35
How to Play
A short run through of how to play. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Any of the "Quote" sections are reproduced verbatim from the Microscope Rulebook.

In Microscope, you build an epic history as you play. Want to play a game that spans the entire Dune series, the Silmarillion, or the rise and fall of Rome in an afternoon? That’s Microscope.

But you don’t play the history from start to finish, marching along in chronological order. Instead, you build your history from the outside in. You start off knowing the big picture, the grand scheme of what happens, then you dive in and explore what happened in between, the how and why that shaped events.

You are free to jump backwards or forwards, zooming in or out to look at whatever you want, defying limits of time and space. Want to leap a thousand years into the future and see how an institution shaped society? Want to jump back to the childhood of the king you just saw assassinated and find out what made him such a hated ruler? That’s normal in Microscope.

You have vast creative authority. You can make whole empires rise and fall at will. Dream up a utopia or destroy one with nuclear fire. You have that power, but remember you’re not alone: everyone else at the table can do it too.

You create independently, but not in isolation. Each facet you add to history builds on what other players built before you. You expand on their ideas, and they expand on yours. History might not turn out the way you expected. Be prepared to think on your feet.

When you zoom all the way in to a particular moment in time, all the players share the stage and role-play together to find out something we want to learn about the history. Did the crew of the Icarus know the aliens were on Titan? Did the rebels really fake the government crackdown? Do the knights remember the original meaning of their ritual vows? We role-play and see. The more you play, the more your once simple summary becomes a detailed tapestry, full of meaning and surprises. History snowballs.

To start a new game, players first follow these fours steps:
  • Establish The Big Picture: Chose a genre or theme for your History, and a sentence or two that sums it up.
  • Bookend History: The History being built is divided up into Periods, large chunks of time decades or centuries long. Choose a starting and ending period for the History.
  • Set A Palette: A Palette is a list of ingredients that are either ok to include, or are banned from the History. Players take turns adding things to the "Yes" or "No" lists of the Palette. Once the Palette is set, it is always ok to add something from the "Yes" side to a history and never ok to add something from the "No" side. All players must agree to what's on the Palette.
  • First Pass: Group decisions are now over. For the rest of the game, each player makes decisions individually and has vast power to shape history. Each player may now add one more Period or Event to the History.

The person to start play becomes the Lens and play progresses in the following manner:
  • The Lense declares a Focus. The part of the history you're going to explore this round of play. The tighter the Focus (on a specific person, place, thing, event, etc.) the better. The history each player creates MUST relate to the current Focus in some manner.
  • Make History. Each player takes a turn creating either a Period, Event or Scene. On the Lens' first turn, they may create two things so long as they are nested inside one another. Note: Events are nested within periods, and Scenes are nested inside Events.

    After the Lens takes their turn, the next player goes, and may create one Period, Event, or Scene. In a two player game, the Lens and other player alternate in making history until three more things are created.
  • Lens finishes the Focus by creating one more thing or two nested things.
  • Choose a Legacy. In a two player game, the other player chooses a Legacy
  • That same player creates an Event or Dictated Scene pertaining to that Legacy
  • New Lens. The next player becomes the Lens and play repeats

The following concepts should have been underlined somewhere up above. They are terms that deserve a bit more explanation.

Making History:
On your turn, you can create either a Period, an Event, or a Scene (or two nested things if you’re the Lens). These are the building blocks that outline your history: Periods show us the big picture, the broad sweep of history, Events zoom in closer and explore specific incidents within a Period, and Scenes zoom all the way in and reveal what happens moment-by-moment within an Event.

When you make a Period or an Event, you have vast power to shape history. You can add anything you want as part of your description, spontaneously creating–or destroying–people, places, or things.

No one owns anything in the history. It doesn’t matter who created something: when it’s your turn you can do anything you want with it. The only limits to your creativity are:
  • Don’t contradict what’s already been said.
  • Make sure what you add relates to the current Focus.
  • Don’t use anything from the No column of the Palette.

A Period is the largest subdivision of the history. It is a very large chunk of time, usually decades or centuries depending feudal wars or stellar colonization.

To make a new period:
  • Decide when it is, by specifying where it falls between two other periods.
  • Describe the period as succinctly as possible, trying not to get beyond a short paragraph in length. So long as you follow the three rules in "Making History", you are always right in what you say, but other players may ask for clarification.
  • Specify whether or not a period is Light or Dark. You are always right about the tone of a period, but other players may ask you to clarify or explain your decision.

Events are specific moments within Periods. To make a new Event:
  1. Decide what Period it takes place in
  2. Describe the event as succinctly as possible, making sure to include a clear outcome.
  3. Specify whether or not the Event is Light or Dark

Scenes differ significantly from Periods and Events and can only be nested in Events. They seek to answer a specific question, and come in two varieties Regular, and Dictated. In a Regular Scene, you give up narrative control, and RP out the Scene. The Player who created the Scene decides when it takes place, specifying the appropriate Period and Event it takes place in, lays out the question the Scene seeks to answer, lays out characters in the Scene, and (pardon the pun) sets the scene. Each player takes control of a specific Primary character (characters specified by the Scene creator) and may introduce Secondary characters at any time in the Scene. In order to do something to another Primary character, you must have the controlling player's permission first. Secondary characters can be dispatched, and control shifted around, at will and as needed. As soon as the Question laid out at the start of the Scene is answered, RP stops, even if it is in the middle of some kind of action. Another player can return to that Scene, by creating one of their own before or after it, on their turn if they want to (or you can follow up on your next turn).

In Dictated Scenes, the creator does not give up narrative control, instead choosing to narrate the entirety of what happens.

After a Scene is concluded, the creator of the Scene summarizes it, and decides on its tone (light or dark).

Note: With Periods and Events, the creating player has full say in what happens and what they create. With Scenes, though, other players can "Push", and suggest certain things for the acting players characters to do, think, perceive, etc.

Legacies are common threads that may stretch through time and influence history. A Legacy can take many forms–an object, a person, a place, a blood line, an organization, or even a philosophical ideal.

You make Legacies to identify things you think are interesting and want to keep in the spotlight. Legacies are explored during a special phase of play between one Focus and the next. Because you aren’t restricted by a Focus during the Legacy phase, it is a broad opportunity to explore something that interests you. Just like anything in the history, a Legacy can also be brought into play or explored during normal play.

two player game
I found it useful to have a different example of how a two player game works. Let "A" be the Lens, and "B" the other player. Then play progresses as follows, with each "A" or "B" representing on Period, Event, or Scene created and a letter in a parentheses an optional Period, Event, or Scene created: A(A)-B-A-B-A(A)

This message was last edited by the GM at 17:18, Mon 18 Apr 2016.

 GM, 2 posts
Mon 18 Apr 2016
at 15:46
How to Play
Posting Conventions:

Microscope works very differently from conventional RPGs and I think it might be useful to set up a certain posting format to help me keep things organized.

When making History please use this format:

Focus: (if you are the Lens and starting a new round)

Time: (if a period, where it falls between other periods, otherwise specify what Period or Event the thing you are creating falls under)

Type: (Period, Event, Scene/Dictated Scene)

History: (What you are actually creating. If this is a Scene, please post the question you are seeking to answer here, and the characters you want to include in the Scene. You can come back and summarize what happened in the RP later.)

Tone: (Either Light or Dark. If you're creating a Scene, you can wait to add this until after the Scene is played out)

Please insert a line as above (If you don't know how, type < then hr then >) before any "out of character" discussion you want to include. If you are not making history, please feel free to just type up a post. No special formatting required.

Scenes will be played out in a separate thread.

This message was last edited by the GM at 17:18, Mon 18 Apr 2016.