Yesterday we ran the Microscope session for the Seekers of Lore campaign. All in all I’m very pleased with how things turned out, and I think we’ve got some very good material to use for the Lexicon session to follow.
A few of us would have liked to have continued, but most of us had other commitments and we wrapped up after four rounds.
I would like to thank again Andrew, David, Levi, Lowell, and Grey for coming out and taking part. We ended up with something I think is very, very good.
Next step… Lexicon.
Round by Round Play Report
Here I described the era we were describing, we developed the palette, and I described the start and end periods of the era. This provides some framework for us to work in.
This centered mostly on the Kreshtar (previously described on this site), but not entirely. It is arguable, in fact, that the Kreshtar weren’t the first civilization but the precursors of civilization… someone may want to look into this.
Some of the major historical figures really came to light here, and this turn illustrates some of the reasons “Age of Gods” has dark tone. The setting narrative is developing nicely.
Amorphia is primal, fundamental chaos. In its purest application it so radically changes things that they might as well have been destroyed. The filtering effects of the elemental planes — the whole reason the Prime Plane was created — softened this to large degree, so amorphia tends to make things “more what they are” rather than obliterating them.
This round discusses the role of knowledge and it place in the world.
Age of Gods Timeline
- By the Grace of the Gods [light]
- Kresh’s Ceasing Hammer [light]
- Sifting of the Plane [dark]
- Rise of the Tribes [light]
- Birth of the Jesophs [dark]
- Equilibrium [light]
- The Coming Storm [dark]
The following legacies were identified during the session.
- The bad blood between the Ssthar and the Toresh line.
- Alienation of gods and mortals.
- The harnessing of amorphia.
- The world speaks to those that awaken it.
Each of these could well be themes in what follows.
Or not, it’s up to people to write about them.
I went through the timeline notes I took during the session and marked those that seemed likely to end up with expanded information in the wiki:
Alfeur, Amorphia, Amorphia Storm, Band of Spears, Chieftain Toresh, Chieftess Shaeleth, Dwiran, Elorii, Elraed the Skyseeker, Ephael trees, First Scholar Herol, Hrundal, Idruit, Jesoph Anuless, Jesoph Novinderai, Jesophs, Kavasa, Kresh, Kreshtar, Maelstrom, Orospeal, Plains of Kresh, Selrichi, Ssthar, Tahibi
Some get mentioned more than others, of course.
Process and Postmortem
We ran the entire thing through Google+ threads. This was not as effective as I would have liked, mostly because post notification was slow and unpredictable. This really broke up the flow. Another communication tool such as IRC may have been more effective. That said, while Microscope is usually done face to face or via video conferencing, I think we gained a fair bit by keeping it all to text. It became necessary for people to explain themselves, and we were able to capture a full play report (which I’ve condensed and posted here).
The other thing that caused some difficulty was the philosophical differences between most games and Microscope. Overall Microscope is fairly simple, but it is quite different from most games. I think the biggest stumbling block was to do with the nonlinear chronology — you can add eras (periods, events, scenes) almost anywhere, regardless of what was said earlier, as long as they are on topic of the Focus and do not contradict something already written.
The first round or two were pretty rough. Between the technology and the different play style it was awkward. I noticed that after the first couple of turns things flowed better as people became accustomed to how things worked and what was expected. Those who had done Microscope before were able to apply that experience almost immediately.
I collected the eras as they were posted and updated a web page at the Seekers of Lore Obsidian Portal site. This became unwieldy as the session progressed because of the amount of material, but it was sufficient. More or less. I think that a more robust tool that presents the minimalist timeline (such as shown below) with links to the various era definitions might have worked better… but we did not have such a tool readily convenient.
Having all communication and discussion happen in G+ threads made it very easy to keep each term separated but available for reference. As described above it the notification difficulties caused us some grief, and the reference page could have been better done.
One significant procedural departure from Microscope was in declaring the palette. Normally each participant adds to the palette in turn, but this was annoyingly inefficient via the G+ threads. It worked much better when we abandoned that part and simply declared simultaneously, then reviewed and corrected any difficulties or conflicts. This did mean less interaction in the development of the palette, but I suspect that with only two passes there might not have been much anyway.
I would be entirely willing to do another Microscope session much like this, but with a different messaging technology. As mentioned above, IRC would likely do a great job, though it does lack the ability to create a new thread for each turn. I can live with that, just banner at the beginning of each turn.
I think with an adjustment to the technologies used and a bit of practice we could pretty easily double or even triple the number of completed turns. Looking at the material we developed even in just the four turns we completed, even with a couple of players having to drop out, I think I would definitely want to do this for almost any campaign I would plan to run in future. Spending the first gaming session collaboratively building the world, where each participant adds to the content and invests in it, will do a huge amount to help the players engage in the setting.