Under the Microscope

Posted: October 17, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve played a couple more sessions of Ben Robbins’ excellent Microscope RPG, once with LL, HG and MA and again, last night, with just LL and MA. Neither resulted in a complete history yet (and how could a history ever be complete?) but we hope to continue both games at some point. I’ll be sure to post the results here when they’re more fleshed out.

The Sunday before last I didn’t feel much like running Skull & Shackles so LL and I broke out Microscope and introduced it to HG. He seemed a bit skeptical at first but quickly got into the flow of the game. LL suggested examining a history centering around super-powered humans and their effect on the world. The superhero genre is something with which LL is quite familiar. HG is less submerged in it…and I’m just now beginning to gain an appreciation. We hoped it would make for an interesting experiment.

We started with the concept that an alien invasion of Earth, shortly following the devastation of WWII, resulted in the emergence of powers – the effect of a tailored virus that wiped out much of humanity but resulted in the manifestation of amazing powers for a small fraction of the survivors. This start point was suggested, I believe, by HG. The end point, we decided, would be “all humans are super-powered”. We didn’t specify how that happens, but we classified it as “light” so I guess the supers didn’t kill off all of the normals. One of our “no” palette items was “no campiness”. We probably should have made that “minimal campiness” because LL, as is her wont, has already slipped in a little under the table… 🙂

We added “first-pass” history items and then LL and HG took turns playing the “lens”. Some of the key elements that emerged:

  • In the rubble of post-war, post-invasion Europe several survivors with powers banded together and managed to destroy an alien ship and capture another. They went on to lead the human resistance against the invading aliens, driving them back. This group eventually became known as “The First Five”.
  • Later, the First Five Foundation was established. It apparently sought to control the creation of new super-powered humans and secretly hoarded various alien technologies for its own use.
  • At some point, distrust of supers overcame the gratitude felt by ordinaries and their governments for the liberation of Earth from the alien invaders. Governments sought to control and harness supers. This movement solidified after the assassination of the chairman of a UN-equivalent organization. The chairman was making a plea for the governments of the Earth to better control its supers.

We’ll learn a lot more about the events on this parallel Earth when we play another session.

LL and I started up a new game last night, with the hopes of creating a setting we might be able to explore later with our group using a full RPG system. We chose to do a sci-fi history where humans expand from Earth, meet aliens, and then (somehow) end up alone in the galaxy. In our palette we chose to include psionics, cheap power, and megastructures and exclude limitless FTL travel and communications, humans in alien suits, universal translators, and ancient “precursor” aliens. Here’s some of what we know about the history from our session:

  • Humans expanded beyond the Earth to found colonies on other worlds. We don’t know if they used FTL or not but do know that, at some point, they discovered “jump points’ and how to use them to travel much more quickly than before. This resulted in the Consolidation Wars, which brought many of the colonies together under one united banner.
    • Travelling via jump points caused psionic abilities to appear in certain humans. The mechanism for this is, as yet, unspecified. Many of these people were initially taken for study and experimentation, a legacy that will likely cause problems later on.
    • During the Consolidation Wars, a border colony called Neu Essen was psionically destroyed by a crewman aboard one of the warships laying siege to the colony. She was distraught because her lover, another crewman, had been killed during the battle with the colony and lashed out subconsciously. This was an unprecedented display of psionic power. The “echoes” of her psionic outburst were “heard” by psionics at a great distance.
  • As humans explored the jump point “network” they encountered an alien species, who also travelled via jump points. Communication proved impossible and a war ensued. Later, a psionic crewman aboard a human warship found he could speak with the aliens telepathically. At some point psionic communications enabled the negotiation of a treaty and the end of the war.
    • Later discussions with humanity’s new alien friends revealed that their psions had heard the Neu Essen outburst but hadn’t understood what had happened at the time. This is, no doubt, something we’ll get back to.

So. There you have it. It’s definitely a work in progress, having only gotten through one focus in our short session. It seems promising, though…and it has certainly gone in directions neither LL nor I expected when we started. That’s the beauty of Microscope, I guess!

  1. truckerjudd says:

    That sci fi history is pretty cool. -PL

  2. […] Psionic scream heard across the stars — Easily the most epic Microscope play report I’ve seen in quite a while. After the first session the story continues with the Retreat, the Amoth Conspiracy, and the Nakamura Legacy. See what I mean? Epic. And then to wrap the whole thing up they convert the entire Microscope history to a campaign setting. “Interestingly, LL and I were loathe to speculate much about things we hadn’t specifically covered either in the history itself or the Palette. We could certainly just make stuff up…but it seems somehow more fun to discover it with Microscope.” […]

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