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.
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.