Sunday, December 9, 2018

Microscope Initial Thoughts

Last Thursday I played my second game of Microscope, by Ben Robbins,  a very free-form storytelling rpg. I'd like to talk about my initial reaction to it,. Perhaps later, I shall do a larger review as I have a better grasp of the system.

The short: I liked it, if it sounds interesting you should buy it here.

The slightly longer:

Microscope is basically a extremely large scale group storytelling game, it feels like a writers workshop/improv game. I won't explain too much of it, as that would give the game away, but basically you create a beginning and ultimate end of a free form story, (so no dice rolls, no GM or referee) and then through the games' rules, flesh out major events, time periods, and act out small scenes along the way.

This is what it usually looks like.
Photo Credit
I explained the gist of it to some of my other table top pals who hadn't played it,  and a big question some had was: if it's so free-form, why have rules at all? Why not just story-board and create scenes as a group? While the rules are light, the ones in place are extremely effective in guiding play, forcing you to think outside the box. The order in which dictates who contributes to the story, what topics are going to be focused on, and who is going to be who in a scene is carefully laid out, forcing the group outside their comfort zones, creatively speaking.

It works well, I could see it maybe being good for collaborating on a world/setting with your players, and then using another system to enter the setting, but because after the initial discussion on the themes of the game and what will be focused on/banned,  you can add whatever you want, kill whoever you want, it can easily go off the rails. This is very much part of the fun, but unless your pals are die-hard dramatics, things are likely to take a silly turn, no matter the seriousness of the game.

Another note, I think this is a very good way to get someone who is not as comfortable with role-play or improv to get comfortable contributing ideas to a narrative, etc. I'd throw it on the pile of "great games to start a group off with" (other examples being Everyone Is John, and Dread)