More peering into Microscope RPG.
Riding the feels of my previous, serious high school game, I asked we come up with something that explores the more fantastical for my next game of Microscope.
After a few ideas, we settled on "Post-apocalyptic Oregon Trail across the US" with a look at the downfall of civilization to the arrival of whatever into the promised land of "New Oregon." We didn't know why we're travelling to this New Oregon (or what/where it was). At this point we didn't even establish a palette yet, but we were excited to figure out what it all means.
The best part of Microscope is acknowledging the beauty of the unknown. Like a Lovecraftian character, you have to stare into that abyss and embrace this primordial fiction and whatever spawn that comes out from the palette.
We had zombies, giant monsters, necromancers, along with no modern firearms and guns and torture.
Fictionally, after a botched transport job of a Zombie specimen wound up at the White House, President Elizabeth Warren and her cabinet were taken to Area 51 where they shockingly discovered that America had been breeding giant monsters and having them sleep in the ocean as weapons.
Unwilling to use the monsters to prevent the zombies, America sat at a crossroads. What will they do about the zombie infested east coast? Well, with a great amount of help from the assistant chief of the Department of the Interior and the First Nations, America had a plan to deal with the zombie herds: Buffalo. A massive, corralled herd of over 1 million buffalo came down like the Roharim over the forces of Sarumon driving the zombies into the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, the combined zombie and buffalo in the Atlantic ocean woke up the monsters anyways! Dun-Dun-Dunnnn!
Thinking we spent enough time discussing the preapocalypse and the monsters, we started examining the trail West. We saw New New York founded on the ruins of St. Louis and Park Rangers continuing their duties in Monster ridden national park zones. Apparently monsters are attracted to major national landmarks!
Speaking of national landmarks. It appears that the last president of the US, Elizabeth Warren wrote a book and the book heavily inspired and formed the Constitution of New Oregon. New Oregon was still nebulous, but it was quickly becoming the site of many, many monuments.
Near the end of the game, we began exploring New New York City and the return of the Monsters. Apparently the monsters for a time were lulled away or grew weak. Humanity began rebuilding. Upon the return of the monsters, humanity was much more prepared to fight them. Towards the very very end we learned that other parts of the world were being attacked as well as telegrams came flooding in to the US!
My final thoughts are that this game was more true to your average game of Microscope than compared to my high school drama game. This game was 4 people each with the opportunity to be the lens and with such a wide palette, you definitely get a bizarre ending. The game felt less about the actual journey across the west that our concept was originally about and more about the monsters and pre-apocalypse. Is that a good thing? I think so.
Microscope continues to be my favorite game as of late because of how diverse the stories you make from it can be. It's a framework for fictional reverse entropy. You take anything and form it into an ordered mess of beauty. I cannot wait to play again.
Today I got to play Ben Robbin's Microscope RPG with a few buddies online.
Usually a game reserved for epic histories of galactic conquest, sword and sorcery, or vast travels, us 3 brave explorers zoomed in on the high school times for a single dude. I've recently explored the Swords and Sorcery as well as Space angles and was looking for something more intimate. My friends leaped at the opportunity and away we went! We played for approximately 2 hours before personal obligations took us away from the game.
Our palette was very barebones. We knew we basically only needed no supernatural elements. This will be more Degrassi than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Our football teams and cliques and other standards of American high school were available on the palette.
If our game were a TV show, here's our TV Guide description:
Fairhaven was your typical Middle American High School. It was a glossy exterior hiding a rat-infested cesspool. A facade of football, community, and togetherness. For those who didn't fit in, it felt like torture. For a few, at least they had music... and for a little while... each other.
You can go ahead and check out the Image of the game to see the whole story.
Our first pass established the periods of school year and summer as well as a few timely events such as Christmas.
So as first lens, I set the game with the first focus: Jackson's Guitar. I quickly went ahead and established a sort of "Battle of the Bands" in the Summer and a scene to determine that Jackson's band won it that Summer earning the recognition of his peers as well as a record deal. Very "Summer of '69" perhaps?
Following which, we learned how Jackson wanted to serenade his crush at Christmas with a song he personally wrote. A sort of "Hey There, Delilah" tune. The only problem was that Mary could never decide between Jackson and her best friend Esther. This was a decision to have grave repercussions. By Junior Year, Jackson is spreading rumors about Esther culminating in her Suicide! Yeah. Jackson is no longer a nice guy. Definitely "Teenage Dirtbag" material.
For a part of our game, we looked at Esther and her own band for a while. Was this originally in the high concept? Nope. Not at all. It only tangentially had to deal with Jackson's own life, but we all didn't care. We all were in sync and eager to explore it. Play on!
We learned about Esther's hard life. Her folks were poor. She was an outcast in her own family-- her star football player brother Ronald was the only person her father was proud of. We learned that one time he got so drunk he sold or destroyed Esther's music equipment. It also appeared that Esther's band got second in that Sophomore summer "Battle of the Bands". Even her love, Mary, wouldn't commit to her. Her whole life seemed to be a bummer train making all local stops. Her favorite band was probably Broken Social Scene. "Anthems for a Seventeen Old Girl" material.
We turned our attention at the end to Mary. We saw that Sophomore year, Mary and Jackson tried to make it work, but she just couldn't let go of Esther. Mary, after dating Jackson for a few months, was in the high school attic with Esther trying to end things once and for all with her, when Jackson came in, roses in hand for their 2 month anniversary. It ended with Mary losing both with plenty of "wait, hold on, and I never meant for any of this to happen." being said.
To make it even worse, we had Mary end up hooking up with Ronald, Esther's jock brother in Senior week, but we ran out of time before we could explore further.
Well that was about it for our game of microscope. Looking back on the experience, I know we violated about 900000 rules of the game-- our periods were not very distinct times. Folks were showing up over all the courses of the game, but we didn't care. It felt right. Ben Robbin's game allowed us to tell a very heartbreaking story in the span of a few hours.
In my next piece, I'll talk about my second game of microscope I played today. This one was a much different note involving a post apocalpytic oregon trail with Zombies, Giant Monsters, and President Elizabeth Warren.