Posts Tagged ‘Story Games’

Kingdom playtest: P2X-1138 Redemption-7

Posted: November 18, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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Our group spent a couple of Sundays playtesting a new game from Ben Robbins. The game, Kingdom, is similar in many ways to Ben’s Microscope but focuses on the fortunes of a community and its inhabitants. The players decide the nature of the kingdom and the threats it faces and then take roles of key movers and shakers within it as they meet those challenges. The game’s still in development, and will likely see some changes before publication, so I won’t go into any details about the rules here. Instead I will focus on the little bit of story that we created using the game. First, the kingdom we created:

  • Redemption-7 is a corporate-owned penal colony on a death world. Inhabitants include the corporate managers and other functionaries, a group of mercenary “security officers”, and the prisoners. The prisoners serve out their time until parole (yeah, right) improving the facility and engaging in the primary function of the facility: mining an unknown (to them anyway) mineral for the corporation.
    • R-7 faces a number of threats:
      • The environment is a constant threat, facing inclement weather, raging megafauna and dangerous flora. R-7 is not self-sustaining must rely on supplies or whatever it can gather from the planet.
      • There is unrest among the prisoners (and their sympathizers among the mercs and corporate personnel) that might erupt into open rebellion at any point.
      • Pirates, raiders, and a group of increasingly organized escapees known as the “Others” are a constant drain on supplies and personnel.
    • Important R-7 locations include:
      • The Cantina – A contract-run bar, open to all of R-7’s inhabitants.
      • Ops Center – Where the magic happens. Mostly corp types hang out here, managing R-7’s operations.
      • The Hole – Where recalcitrant prisoners spend quite a bit of time.
      • Dropzone – Sort of like a spaceport…but without the facilities. The mercs hate going out here on convoy security detail.
      • Mess Hall – Three hot meals a day, open to all inhabitants.
      • The Yard – Where prisoners, and people who don’t mind being around prisoners, spend some of their free time. It’s also where convoys and work teams form up go OG (outside of the gates). Tip: If you want to hang out here for long you might want to keep a lookout for Terrordactyls.
      • Council Chamber – Where the leaders of R-7 debate important issues.
      • Security Section – Where the mercs live and work when they’re not abusing prisoners, going OG to escort a convoy, or similar.

R-7aAnd then the characters:

  • Colonel Roy Jenkins, Head of Security (played by HG, pictured in camo at right).
    • Jenkins is the leader of the mercs.
    • He can most often be found in the Security Section or the Cantina.
    • He hopes the R-7 project will be finished soon and he can rotate back to somewhere civilized.
    • He needs Guy Kepplar (see below) to keep his people in line so he can focus on external threats.
    • He’s most concerned about weapons, ammo, and the other components that help his team function.
  • Clinton Gardner, Corporate Compliance Officer (played by MA, pictured middle foreground).
    • Gardner works for the Company. Nobody really knows what he actually does.
    • He can usually be found in the Ops Center or the Council Chamber.
    • He fears that things are going to get out of hand and that the Company will lose control of R-7.
    • He needs Col. Jenkins to keep a lid on what’s really going on at R-7.
    • He is most concerned about his position with the Company.
  • Matilda “Mattie” Rascomb, Teacher/Quartermaster (played by LL, pictured left foreground).
    • Mattie teaches the children of R-7’s staff and the handful of children that have been born to prisoners at R-7.
    • She can usually be found in the Mess Hall or in the Yard.
    • She hopes that R-7 will one day be a free and integrated community.
    • She needs Clinton Gardner to allocate additional resources for her education program.
    • She is most concerned about R-7’s children.
  • Guy Keppler, Labor Representative (played by PL, pictured right foreground).
    • Keppler is a former merc who broke the rules and became a “resident” of R-7. He has organized the prisoners and serves as a spokesman for them, looking out for their needs.
    • He can be found in the Council Chamber or the Yard.
    • He hopes that all of R-7’s inhabitants can one day become equals in the eyes of the Company.
    • He needs Mattie to educate the prisoners, many of whom are illiterate.
    • He is most concerned about the possibility of rebellion.

In Kingdom game terms, Col. Jenkins is a Power role, Clinton and Mattie are Perspective roles, and Guy is a Touchstone role. Power role characters make decisions about what the kingdom does. Perspective characters intuitively understand how decisions will play out and affect the kingdom. Touchstone characters know the will of the people and how they are going to react to events that affect the kingdom. Play proceeds by introducing a Crossroad, an important (yes/no) decision facing the kingdom, and then playing scenes related to that decision. After each scene the kingdom moves closer toward resolving the decision, one way or the other, or toward crisis, which could destroy the kingdom, or toward putting the decision off for a time.

Our first Crossroad, introduced by HG, was whether or not R-7 would build a secure Dropzone. Col. Jenkins’ mercs put their lives on the line with every convoy escort job and the colony loses equipment and supplies to the environment and to raids by The Others.

The first scene put all of our characters in the Council Chambers discussing the matter. Col. Jenkins and Clinton were all for it, though Clinton felt that directing the prisoners to help build it would definitely cause some problems. Mattie was for it too, and felt that building it would save lives and protect the colony’s goods and equipment. Guy also thought it would be a pretty good idea…but he was pretty sure that the prisoners would not be happy about risking their lives to build the thing; they’d rather let the mercs continue to take most of the risk.

The next scene, however, set that back a bit. Guy had a little informal meeting in the Mess Hall with Maddie, Joe Boehner (a secondary character created by PL), and Marcus Matthews (another). Guy talked a little about his growing concern that this project would upset the prison population and Joe, played by HG, seemed to agree. Marcus, played by me, wondered how the heck we were going to get the resources to build the bloody thing in the first place. Mattie offered that she thought that the company would definitely have to directly supply the colony with the needed materials.

The scene after that had the unnamed corporate head of R-7 trying to have security put Guy in The Hole. Maddie intervened and convinced him to back down, in the interest of keeping the people happy.

Then we saw Clinton conspiring with Col. Jenkins to manufacture a little incident that would reinforce the need to build the secure dropzone (Clinton’s Carter Burke is beginning to show). People were killed and equipment and supplies lost. Clinton was worried, of course, that he might get found out, damaging his position with the company. He filed some false reports on the matter to cover it up…but if he ever gets found out there’ll be a steep price to pay.

We learned that, if the secure dropzone did get built, the Company was willing to offer some additional benefits to the prisoners, including improved education for those that needed it. This is, of course, a key concern for Guy.

Because things had been stagnating a bit, Col. Jenkins decided to take action on his own. If the colony wasn’t going to build a secure dropzone then he’d just have to move a large portion of the mercs out there to sit on it and create a secured perimeter. Of course that would leave the colony itself more vulnerable. As the mercs were saddling up in the Yard, Clinton approached Col. Jenkins and demanded an explanation. He got one…and quietly agreed with the colonel but loudly protested that the colony would be undefended and vulnerable to attack. This caused a little murmuring from the crowd gathered.

By this time, Guy had begun to waver in his opposition to the project. Folks were getting scared about the loss of merc protection at the colony and had heard about the benefits they might receive if they didn’t cause trouble for the project. Guy talked over the educational opportunity a bit with Maddie and they both agreed that it would be a good thing.

Then came an important revelation, from the leader of the Others – the improbably named Augustus Octavius. He stealthily entered the colony and had a meeting with Guy and Maddie. They had come to depend on lightly defended supply convoys to keep themselves stocked and would suffer if a secured dropzone was built. His people simply couldn’t take the chance and, if the decision to build was made, they would be forced to make a pre-emptive attack.

In the end, Col. Jenkins got his wish. We began construction. The prisoners were relatively okay with the situation, thanks to the improved benefits they received. The Others did in fact attack the colony, though we survived it okay. We may have to deal with them in the future, of course. I’m pretty sure Col. Jenkins and Clinton would like to put together a mission to go out into the Badlands and take them out for good.

And that’s it. I’m not even sure we played it right but we managed to muddle through the resolution of one Crossroad so I guess we did okay. We sent off some suggestions to Ben based on our experience playing. Hopefully we’ll come back to Redemption-7 at some point. I think we did some good work here and I’d like to see what the future holds for the colony.

(NB: The images above are screencaps from Terra Nova, a TV show that aired for one season on Fox. I couldn’t help thinking of the show’s visuals as we were playing this game. When I was casting about for pictures for this post I saw the publicity shot of the cast and thought the main characters made pretty good stand-ins for our characters. The show’s not bad…you can see it on Netflix Watch Instantly if you have it. And, yeah, the military guy on the far right is the crazy Marine commander dude from Avatar. I guess they liked him.)


The Nakamura Legacy

Posted: November 12, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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The destruction of the Retreat

In the fourth session of our sci-fi Microscope game we exposed more background on Fleet Admiral Nakamura’s distrust of psions and where that led. If you need to catch up, read sessions one, two, and three. LL and I each took turns acting as the lens. My chosen focus was Fleet Admiral Nakamura, LL’s was The Psion Revolt.

Here’s a summary of the new history we created during this session:

  • During the Consolidation Wars, then Rear Admiral Omar Nakamura was commanding Task Force Altair, charged with bringing wayward border colonies into line. During the Siege of Neu Essen, the T.F. had largely destroyed the colony’s defenses and Admiral Nakamura was preparing to order the landing of troops to secure the colony.
    • As he spoke to his T.F. commanders via holo-presence from the bridge of his flagship, T.C.S.1 Heinlein we watched a final salvo being fired from the colony. The incoming fire struck the cruiser T.C.S. Asimov and penetrated its bridge, killing its captain and several other officers.
    • We learned some details about the psion that caused the destruction of Neu Essen: Asimov’s psionic navigator, Ensign Lucy Pietro, was engaged in a romantic relationship with Asimov’s captain. Her uncontrolled psionic reaction after his death resulted in the total destruction of the Neu Essen colony.
    • Back aboard the Heinlein, we see the hologram of Asimov’s captain wink out as status boards go wild and the explosion of Neu Essen lights up the bridge. Nakamura shouts for information from his crew and commanders, “What just happened? Goddamnit, who fired? What the hell just happened to the colony?” As information comes in and he assimilates it he issues an encrypted order to his fleet commanders telling them to keep all shipboard psions under close surveillance from this point forward.
    • The investigation of the destroyed colony turns up DNA remnants of the dead colonists and visitors. Among the casualties is John Nakamura, a member of the Separatist movement, who was visiting Neu Essen at the time. He was survived by his wife and infant daughter, Allison.
    • Despite what amounted to treason against the Terran Confederation, Admiral Nakamura loved his son dearly and had hoped to bring him back to the light of reason. After John’s death, Nakamura held a memorial service aboard Heinlein and invited several officers, most of whom had known John from childhood.
    • Later we learn that Nakamura around this time made a personal log recording that included the statement, “I don’t trust psions, and I never will. I can never forgive them for the death of my boy.” (MA: Sorry. Had to be done. Amirite?)

Consolidation Wars-era holo of Rear Admiral Nakamura aboard T.C.S. Heinlein

  • After the construction of the Retreat, Nakamura has put into effect the Omega Order and his forces are secretly seeking a source of the Omega Compound, the psi-negating substance known to those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG) as white-blank-curtain.
    • The scouts find an asteroid field rich in Omega Compound in an uncharted system and initial mining operations begin. After a quantity of the substance has been gathered and refined, Nakamura’s experts tell him that they can construct a starship using an alloy of Omega and standard hull materials to create a design that is proof against psionic detection and attack. A group of amoth engineers, now part of the conspiracy, have created designs that can elude TWSBG sensors. Nakamura orders the construction of a light cruiser designated CLX-0001, the T.C.S. Lamar, designed to these specifications. The Lamar is built and commissioned and its test cruise is a stunning success.
    • Nakamura institutes full-scale mining of the field, via a number of front corporations that are actually owned by the Terran Confederation government. In addition to Omega, the companies extract billions of credits worth of other ores, making the operation a resounding success…and a secret the corporations are willing to keep.
    • With Omega production running at full-tilt, Nakamura commissions and staffs a small but powerful fleet of Omega-shielded and TWSBG-stealthed warships.
  • An unknown, at the time, force attacked and destroyed the Retreat. The attack was a complete surprise and the facility was a total loss. Later we find that Fleet Admiral Nakamura and his collaborators were behind the attack.
    • The destruction of the Retreat wracked the minds of psions throughout the Known Worlds. All had visited the Retreat and had become interconnected with the galactic psi community…and its destruction caused what had become a tightly woven tapestry to disintegrate into broken strands. Many psions went insane, others devoted their lives to figuring out what had happened and, when they learned it was a deliberate act, to finding out who was behind the cowardly attack.
    • Psions throughout the Worlds just walked away from their lives. The first hints of this came as law enforcement agencies synched up on a sudden spike in missing persons reports to realize that all involved were psions. By then it was too late to stop the exodus as most had already gone underground. The Confederation, TWSBG, and amoth civilizations suddenly lost a mass of essential personnel in the areas of navigation, communications, and other vital roles.
    • From hiding, the psions continued their search for the Destroyers. When they found a co-conspirator they often took matters into their own hands.
      • Fleet Admiral Nakamura’s role in the incident was first learned by a psion called Tanner Bruce, who chanced into an encounter with Nakamura’s former adjutant on a world called Dessan. Captain Liam Stevens knew the full details of the plot and after Bruce caught a hint of Stevens’ guilty subconscious he went deep, probing for the information. Stevens did not survive the “interrogation”.
    • TWSBG psions began to suspect amoth involvement and tried in vain to wade through the minds of amoth they could reach. The amoth, due to their genetic memory and ancestral voices, have a natural defense against psionic attack and probing. The TWSBG psions, who had always simply maintained surface contact previously, tried to pry information from their amoth subjects and paid for it with their sanity.
  • The psions re-emerge, present their case, and Fleet Admiral Nakamura and his co-conspirators are brought to trial and convicted. The excerpt from Nakamura’s personal logs is heard across the Worlds by a now-sympathetic populace.
  • Later, the Psionic Suppression began. We don’t know much about the period yet but we do know that a key figure is “Colonel” Allison Nakamura, grand-daughter of Omar Nakamura and daughter of John Nakamura. She leads the Free Human Front against psions throughout the worlds.

Allison Nakamura, after graduation from the TCNA at Ganymede

1 – T.C.S. stands for Terran Confederation Starship.

And, there you go. Another exciting episode of our “Psionic Scream” sci-fi history game. You know, as much as LL and I try not to think about the story when we’re not playing, it’s inevitable that it crosses our minds and we think of some item or other that we’d expect to see emerge in the game. What is amazing is that, once were playing the game, most of that falls by the wayside and we take the history in directions neither of us ever expected.

Sure, I introduced Nakamura thinking he’d be a bad guy and that he might hate psions or maybe even all aliens for some reason. I never expected, however, that the reason for his hate might be the death of his son (combined with true fear of the power of psions). I do not think that when LL introduced the Psion Revolt focus she expected me to give Nakamura up so easily (I turned Stevens in to Bruce and brought Nakamura before tribunal). As the final move of the game, I introduced the “Nakamura Legacy” legacy and the Psionic Suppression period.

I’m interested in seeing how our little war between psions and normals turns out. I’m also interested in what the TWSBG are going to do about their amoth problem. Did the amoth sell them out? Did the TWSBG deliberately destroy the amoth home sphere to create a client race? Who knows? I guess we’ll find out as we develop our history further.

The Amoth Conspiracy?

Posted: October 29, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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The construction of the Retreat

Back at the Microscope for a third session exploring our expanding sci-fi history – to catch up, you can read about sessions one and two. Tonight we learned a little more about humanity’s neighbors among the stars. We started off with me as the lens and the focus of those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG), the aliens fought by humans during the Jump Point War. Then LL took over and chose to focus on the amoth, with whom the TWSBG already had an alliance by the time they met humans.

Here’s a summary of the new history we created during this session:

  • Some time prior to human discovery of the jump point network and the Consolidation Wars, TWSBG had begun an expansion into space by launching many huge generation ships travelling at a significant fraction of light speed (c). These ships were point-and-go affairs and were intended to send back data on what they had observed to those on the TWSBG home-nest-world.
    • Other species might have considered this a waste of time, as even the most conservative TWSBG scientists expected to make a breakthrough in FTL technology in the near term, but recall the fundamental nature of the TWSBG: ever since the discovery that there were worlds beyond their own they had considered emerging from their home-nest-world a species imperative, an expand or die sort of thing.
  • One of these ships, called the Look-toward-the-third-yellow-star-from-the-one-who-dances-in-spring, was 37 years into its voyage of exploration and had reached approximately 0.93c when it collided explosively with a heretofore-unknown Dyson sphere. The ship was vaporized instantly and the sphere was thoroughly decimated.
    • The structure was the “home-sphere” of the amoth, a species that had never discovered (or sought out, perhaps) the secrets of FTL and had used all the resources of its home system to build its expansive new megastructure home.
    • Why wasn’t the sphere detected by TWSBG scientists before the ship was launched? We’re not sure but it seems likely that the amoth were a bit obsessive about using every bit of energy from their home star and that there was very little leakage, even in the infrared spectrum. The ship *might* have detected it before the collision (we’ll never know) but, by the time it had done so, it would have been very difficult to alter its course to avoid an object 2 AU in diameter.
    • The amoth, likewise, had little warning of the pending impact (as the TWSBG ship was travelling very near c). They evacuated as many as possible, taking whatever they could with them.
    • In the aftermath of the collision, the amoth scavenged what they could of their former home and used those materials to build “lifeboat” habitats. At the time they believed they were alone in the galaxy; no help from the outside would have been expected.
    • The light of the explosion reached the TWSBG home-nest-world nearly four decades after the impact…a painful reminder of the destruction they had wrought on the amoth (see below).
    • The amoth possess genetic memories. Their inner thoughts are filled with the voices of their ancestors. This can cause problems during psionic contact, especially under stress, when their mental barriers are lowered (again, see below).
  • Some time after the ship was launched, but before its collision, the TWSBG had discovered and begun using the jump point network to found colonies. One of those colonies was quite close to the amoth sphere and they detected the impact just a handful of years after it happened.
    • Some TWSBG scientist put two and two together and realized that the event had happened along the course of one of their STL ships. The TWSBG mapped a jump point to the system and a survey team was dispatched. The ship found the amoth in a terrible state, essentially clinging to flotsam for the last several years.
    • The TWSBG finally put the whole thing together: their actions had resulted in the near-destruction of another species’ home-nest-world. The impact of this had a profound effect on the entire society and a tremendous relief effort was put into place, eventually relocating the remaining amoth to a nearby habitable system. (LL replaced her “psi connection” legacy with “TWSBG cultural anguish.)
    • The TWSBG and the amoth became close allies and the amoth were helped to expand beyond their refugee world. Though many of the nearby worlds had already been claimed by the TWSBG, the amoth were welcome to settle on any TWSBG world. They were highly valued for their engineering abilities.
  • Much later, at the peace conference that heralded the end of the Jump Point War between humans and TWSBG, the TWSBG introduced humans to their amoth allies.
    • At a reception following the opening of diplomatic ties, a human representative casually asked an amoth diplomat about his homeworld. The amoth dignitary instantly collapsed, babbling incoherently. After he recovered, he told the tale of the destruction of home sphere in the voice of his ancestor.  TWSBG diplomats at the function were aghast and silent.
      • When the amoth ambassador collapsed, so did several of the human psi translators at the event. They would later recall that they suddenly heard millions of voices simultaneously. They likened it to being a drop of water in a vast ocean. One of the psis never recovered from the experience.
      • Fleet Admiral Omar Nakamura was on hand and listened to the ambassador’s story with interest…his mind running through any number of scenarios. Here’s where it stopped: 1) TWSBG ship nearly wipes out alien species in a freak “accident”, 2) TWSBG relief efforts take in refugees and take them to “safety”, 3) TWSBG gains valuable “partner” with a particular aptitude for engineering.
    • After the ambassador’s tale, the function was largely shut down…the dignitaries taking their leave out of respect (human), grief (amoth), or shame (TWSBG). Some stayed, however, including several among the human and amoth military contingents. An amoth naval liaison and his human counterpart discussed history at length, with a full recounting of the tale of the amoth home sphere’s destruction. The amoth officer wasn’t quite able to prevent his own suspicions from leaking across to his translator. He just “happened” to mention the name and whereabouts of a TWSBG liaison officer that might be able to fill in additional details.
    • Adm. Nakamura ordered the subtle questioning of TWSBG naval liaison officer Speak-coordinate-with-human-navy. During an emotional “interview”, the TWSBG officer conceded blame for the destruction of the amoth home-nest-world. He later lapsed into madness and was subsequently relieved of duty. Nakamura’s suspicions had, to his satisfaction, been confirmed.
  • During the construction of the Retreat, the amoth engineers proved their value many times over. Their knowledge of engineering, especially as applied to megastructures, essentially made the project feasible. Humans have taken to calling them “The Engineers”.

Okay. So. That session took things in directions we had never expected. What an absolute barrel of fun. We’re looking forward to next Monday.

NB1: I let Microscope designer, Ben Robbins, know we had posted a “review” of sorts and some gameplay recaps and he tweeted (twittered?) about it the other day (see capture below). His comment made me smile a little. He also let us in on the playtest of his new game, Kingdom, which is currently in development. It’s similar to Microscope but focuses on the fortunes of a single community and the characters that make it up. We’re going to try it out with our full Sunday group and I’ll post any results here. LL and I also want to maybe give it a go, setting our kingdom in this sci-fi setting…maybe the Retreat.

NB2: LL suggested that we should give more context for how things developed during the game. Will try to do that in future session recaps. For this one I should note that, as in previous sessions, the history developed pretty organically. I chose to look at the TWSBG as the focus when I was the lens and then created a new period about their expansion, pre-Consolidation Wars. LL ran with that and came up with the idea that pre-FTL TWSBG would build these big generation ships and shoot them off in every direction. Hey, they “survive by going” so it made sense. They had no destination in mind…just go, send back data, and maybe the rest of us will catch up later. Reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide. I wonder if they had any telephone handset sanitizers onboard? I decided it’d be a good idea if one of these crashed into a Dyson sphere. LL decided it was the amoth’s homeworld and that it had a major impact on TWSBG psyche (her legacy). Then LL picked the amoth as the focus. I came up with the relief effort. She came up with the idea that they had a racial memory and then we riffed on that with the scene at the peace conference where the amoth ambassador comes unglued, I decided maybe that’s where Nakamura started getting antsy and decided to interrogate a TWSBG about the incident, and then she went back and added in the amoth military liaison with suspicions and connected him to the victim of the interrogation. We’ve been trying very hard *not* to ponder this setting when we’re not playing…but, even if we had been, neither of us would have come up with anything like this series of events. It’s possible that Microscope is the most useful fiction brainstorming tool ever. Ben Robbins should market it to fiction authors…

NB3 (from LL): We’ve played three sessions of Microscope in our current setting. We also tinkered a bit with other settings before we settled into our current work. If you are interested in playing Microscope, I have some advice:

1. Don’t over think the setting, just play.
2. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak.
3. Avoid thinking about the game in between sessions.
4. Passively scan the cards already out there as you play.
5. Have eagerness for the unexpected.
6. Always look at the Palette (allowed/not allowed list) for inspiration.

Here is a good example of what can come out of those six things:

MA: The TWSBG exploration ship collides with a Dyson sphere and both were destroyed. He mused about the math and science of the situation, but that was all.
LL: I thought about the amoth. We hadn’t delved into them hardly at all. Then it hit me…or them rather. The collison MA played is how the two races met. MA didn’t hint the idea in any way. I never would have thought of that on my own. This catastrophic event then captured both our imaginations.

By session’s end we had fleshed out the amoth and brought them into the bigger picture.

One result that surprised me is how the amoth and TWSBG are so different and yet so tangled:

TWSBG: They have a biological imperative to go and explore to survive. Their worst nightmare happens. They destroy a “home nest” of another species.
Amoth: They have a genetic/ancestral memory. They just built upon what came before. We don’t know why. But it was a very sad and haunting fusion of the two species. We also retconned the amoth into helping build the Retreat because it was a natural fit.

MA and I didn’t plan any of this beforehand. Incredible stuff that neither of us would have come up with separately. I have no idea where this all is headed next session. I was still smiling the next day thinking about this level of pure creativity taking solid form.

The Retreat

Posted: October 22, 2012 by mearrin69 in Gaming
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Scouts locate a planetoid rich in the substance known as white-blank-curtain, the future home of the Retreat

LL and I were back at it with some more Microscope tonight, exploring the sci-fi history we started last week. Last session we defined the big picture, historical bookends, palette, and took a first pass at history and then a turn with me as the lens. The focus I chose to start us off was “psionics”, left deliberately vague so we could go wherever we wanted. LL finished off my lens turn by picking a legacy and adding a scene about that legacy, then she became the lens and chose the focus “The Retreat”.

Here’s what we learned about our history during this session:

  • The psionicist who destroyed the Neu Essen colony emitted a psionic “scream” that was heard by many human psis for a great distance. It was also heard by alien psis from the race encountered during the Jump Point War. In a close-up scene, we see an alien psi, still shaken by the outburst, conferring with his nest-mates over the feeling-memory of the “scream”. He-she-it shared what he-she-it thought-felt-heard, and they likened it to an almost-death-time-feeling.
  • A peace conference was held some time after the initial psionic dialog between humans and aliens resulted in a cease-fire between the combatants in the Jump Point War. The discussion was mediated by psi delegations from both sides. Among the results of that conference was a decision to create a place where psis from all races could gather to communicate knowledge and ideas and new psis could learn to use their gifts. This haven, which later became known as the “Retreat”, would be located off of the jump point network and be psionically shielded to isolate it from the outside universe.
    • The aliens fought by humans during the Jump Point War are called those-who-survive-by-going (TWSBG, the nearest translation the psis could render) and are an r-selection creature from a harsh homeworld. They breed prolifically and have colonized the space within a wide range of their original world. Their thoughts make for odd translations when rendered into English. In addition to humans, they have met and befriended another race, called the Amoth.
    • The site for the Retreat was found by extensive scouting missions. It would be built inside of a moon-sized planetoid with a high concentration of what the TWSBG call white-empty-curtain, a substance that shields against psionic transmission. In addition to the material composition of the planetoid, other factors that lead to its selection were the fact that its system was currently unsettled and it lay approximately two weeks travel from any known jump point. Its system is low-value commercially and strategically.
    • During construction of the Retreat, aliens and humans worked together quite closely. There developed a slang-language-understanding between the participants that transcended psi-understanding-feeling. This might be the first step toward losing human distinctiveness in some sort of hybrid group culture.
  • Following the peace conference and prior to the location of the Retreat site, Fleet Admiral Omar Nakamura convened a secret meeting of top security advisors and experts to discuss the possibility of a future “psionic threat” to human security interests. The conference discussed the substance known as white-blank-curtain, henceforth referred to by these parties as the “Omega Compound”, and determined that acquiring and studying this material, and eventually laying in a stockpile of it, was an operational priority. Nakamura issued an eyes-only document called the Omega Order, detailing for senior naval personnel the standard operating procedures governing the Omega Compound.

LL and I really riffed off of each other this session. She came up with the Retreat concept and I went back to the peace conference to find its genesis and made it into a shielded psi haven. She came up with the special mineral and I made the humans nervous about psis and want to go get some of that for themselves. LL also, in her flashback to the psi’s memory-feel of the Neu Essen event, introduced some of the character of the aliens, which helped me imagine them as fast-breeding brood-raisers who have expanded quickly throughout their local space. She essentially created their weird speech…but I grokked it right away and jumped into that game with her. We don’t know jack about the Amoth…just made that up on the fly so we’d have another pawn on the table.

So. Yeah. Microscope sorta rocks! 🙂

NB: Check out what we pass around to keep track of who is the current lens. Yeah. We’re geeks…but I bet you are too!

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!