Lexicon and Microscope: Project Proposal

Seekers of Lore
Seekers of Lore

I think this is getting  pretty close to having a framework for adapting Lexicon– and Microscope-based techniques to collaboratively develop setting information for my Seekers of Lore campaign.

According to the Campaign Cosmology, the gods created the Prime Plane as a safe haven against the ravages of amorphia, raw chaos. This grand project was disrupted when an amorphic maelstrom swept through and shattered Paradise, the home of the gods, and scattered the gods among the remnants of their former home. The Prime Plane was resilient enough already that it survived, but it was not yet strong enough to survive the long-term presence of the gods.

The Prime Plane survived the maelstrom, but was greatly changed. Much that had previous existed or been known had been lost. The Seekers of Lore campaign is centered on exploration and rediscovery of the things that had been lost.

Strangely enough, we’ve concluded that probably the best area for us to focus our attention on is not the world as it is now, but the world as it was before the maelstrom. This will provide a description of the world that was shattered and outline the sorts of things to be discovered, without actually revealing much overtly to the players. Whatever they may learn from this activity may or may not still be valid.


I see two stages to this exercise. First is a variation on a Microscope session, second is more Lexicon-oriented.

Microscope Session

I propose that we start with something of a Microscope session. I think at this point I am primarily interested in the period from the rise of civilization to the Maelstrom that shattered it.

At this point I’d like to see if something similar can be done with places (nations and historically-significant regions or places) and peoples (nationalities, races, and what have you, and identifying historically-significant subgroups or figures).

This should be pretty low-detail, and will be further developed in the next step. This is primarily to give some very loose context so we have some names and major events to build on. I’m guessing even a hundred words would be freakishly long, twelve to fifteen would be sufficient to describe the elements we’re dealing with. “Elves settle in Fiirlandia”, “Elven prince Elinaarl usurps the throne with the king’s blessing”, that sort of thing. Two layers per turn, and perhaps have each turn provide a new era/period/event, person/related person, place/smaller or less significant place.

Because of the low detail and loose cohesion, perhaps a turn per day or two (likely with a gap around Christmas). It’s December 11 today, if we can get a dozen turns in before the end of the month it would probably be a pretty good start for the next stage. These would all end up collected in a single page in the wiki, and likely included in the book (see below) as an appendix.

Lexicon Session

From yesterday’s post:

  • One turn per week, for three months, for a total of twelve turns. Probably kick off at the beginning of January and run through the end of March.
    • Turn ends Saturday midnight (Pacific time, since that’s where I live… and Saturday night I’m usually in a game until 9:00-10:00 PM Pacific time).
    • Posts are live by Sunday morning and ready for review.
    • New topics identified or ‘reserved’ by Tuesday midnight, if we want to avoid collisions. We might not; two Scholars duking it out academically could be entertaining… but it might work better as a special event thing.
  • At least two articles per week.
    • One article is net new and is whatever is of interest to the Scholar. If you want to write about the sacrificial magics of the Shawloon savages, despite there really being nothing else about the Shawloon in the wiki, or of sacrificial magic anyway, go ahead. It’s a bit of obscure knowledge and it seeds some ideas.
    • At least one article that expands on, adds to, or otherwise builds off an existing article — written by someone else. If you talk about the sacrificial magics of the Shawloon savages, I might pick up on the Shawloon element and start talking about the geography of their homeland and just why they are savages, someone else might explore sacrificial magics across the realm.
    • Note that graphical elements (maps, pictures, etc.) are entirely welcome as well, but not required.
    • Each article is signed by the Scholar who wrote it (though it would be cool if the Scholar were evident on reading).

I think this would start at the beginning of January (the ‘new week’ starts Sunday, January 5, so first turn ends January 11 midnight). We’ve got the loose information at the beginning to start from, but I expect we’d fill that in (or deviate from it) pretty quickly.

Where the elements created in the Microscope session would likely be perhaps a dozen words each, I would think these articles would start around a hundred words each, and if they start reaching around a thousand the Scholar should consider splitting the article into two. Each article would be presented in a separate page in the wiki, and in the book would be an entry on its own.

Further Symposia

To follow from Andrew’s suggestion yesterday, we might have ‘symposia’, faster-paced mini-sessions to explore specific topics. These would be much more tightly constrained and each focus on a single topic or tightly-bound set of topics. Such things might be used to expand on a particularly popular area of information or to brainstorm for an adventure idea, or for some other purpose that could make use of more detailed information.

I mention this because they may happen in parallel with or as part of the normal sequence of turns described here. They might even displace a turn (spend a week where we have one turn per day exploring a topic — shorter articles but more focused)… but at this point I think they are mostly to be kept in mind as a possibility rather than something actively planned.

Exploration Phase

In an earlier article I discussed an ‘exploration phase’ where adventurers explore the world to try to answer the unknowns and resolve the ambiguities presented in the earlier stages, but I think that is no longer relevant to this project. This project is primarily to establish baseline information to be used in further development, both of the pre-Maelstrom and post-Maelstrom (Seekers of Lore) period.


While we will be using a wiki to manage the information while we develop this, in the end I’d like to see this wrapped up a little more tidily.

I will create a PDF of the content at the end of the process, and it will be distributed to the participants. After that, however, there are several things that can be done, and I would welcome discussion of these options (or suggestions of other options).

  • Release the PDF to the public, likely under a Creative Commons license. This is a shared world, I’d like to see it shared.
  • Release the PDF, explicitly allowing commercial printing so people can get a nicely-bound hard copy.
  • I do the prepress and print testing, and make it a private product for Print on Demand. Participants can buy a copy at cost.
  • I do the prepress and print testing, and make it a public product for Print on Demand, at nominal profit that will first be used to reward deserving participants (say, those who complete at least ten turns, or eight, or some other number to be determined).

I really don’t want to be perceived as trying to profit from other peoples’ (unremunerated) work. It’s not a polite thing to do, especially since I do aim to do other work for commercial purposes — publish books to make money. At the same time, though, right now I can’t afford to provide physical copies to all participants, unless something happens that allows this to become self-sustaining. Or I start making a bunch more money in my day job… but I don’t see that happening any time soon — the people who can vote on the collective agreement (I can’t, I’m excluded) are considering an offer that would see my next raise be 1% two years from now.

Closing Comments

I think a core of five or six Scholars might be sufficient. A dozen would be even bigger. Twenty would be amazing, and probably lead to an immense tome of setting information.

Let’s see… if articles average 500 words (after discussing with Andrew I am convinced that 200 words per article might be on the small side, but 1,000 words would be pretty big, and 500 is a middling number that is convenient to work with) and each Scholar completes twenty articles (ten turns of the twelve), that means each Scholar produces about 10,000 words over the three months, or perhaps 25 pages of material assuming 400 words per page. Five or six Scholars would thus lead to about 50,000-60,000 words (125-150 pages), a dozen might be 120,000 words (300 pages), and twenty might thus be about 200,000 words (500 pages).

That… would be a hell of a campaign book. Even if each article was only 200 words it would still be around 4,000 words per scholar, or 20,000-24,000 (50-60 pages) for five or six Scholars, 48,000 words (120 pages) for a dozen Scholars, and twenty might be around 80,000 words (200 pages).

If you’re interested in taking part, please leave a comment below so I know how to get in touch with you.


    • Thanks Emily. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

      Come to that, once the setting is in play, despite being one of the GMs I expect I’ll still get to be surprised at how things turn out. Great way for it to be.

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