"Microscope? I've heard of you. I heard you were dead."

edited February 2011 in Directed Promotion
For all of you who were certain that Microscope would never, ever get done, tear up your slip, because you just lost that bet.

Microscope is out. You can buy and download the PDF immediately. Books are on the way, and you can preorder one now.

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Oh, and if right now you're saying "uh, dude, what the crap is Microscope?" let me give you the scoop: It's a fractal role-playing game of epic histories.
You start with the big picture, the grand scheme of your history, then zoom in and explore all the nooks and crannies. The more you play, the more complex the history becomes. Your once simple summary becomes a detailed tapestry, full of meaning and surprises. It’s fractal gaming.

Want to leap a thousand years in the future and see how an institution shaped society? Want to jump back to the childhood of the king you just saw assassinated and find out what made him such a hated ruler? That’s normal in Microscope. You have the freedom to move around and examine whatever you want, defying limits of time and space.

You have vast power to create... and to destroy. Build beautiful, tranquil jewels of civilization and then consume them with nuclear fire. Zoom out to watch the majestic tide of history wash across empires, then zoom in and explore the lives of the people who endured it.
I haven't talked much about Microscope around here recently because I've been heads down getting it done, but there are about a zillion people here who deserve thanks for playing it and helping me finally finish it.
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Comments

  • Congratulations, Ben! Microscope is hot stuff.
  • And I said I wasn't going to buy any games for the 2011 until I had played all the ones I owned.

    Thanks for helping me break my stupid resolution, Ben. Congratulation on getting Microscope done and published!
  • I read the blurb on IPR, and this sounds awesome.

    Can you provide a little more info about the mechanics that facilitate this a-thousand-years-in-an-afternoon style of play? Also, does the game encourage you to get inside the skins of individual characters and explore their lives, or is it more of a distant overview?
  • Sweet. Congratulations, Ben. That's really exciting!
  • Congratulations!

    I am very, very curious about this game!
    ..but IPR? No way, please, it's too expensive! I hope it'll be available on Leisure Games soon...
  • Posted By: SunaCongratulations!

    I am very, very curious about this game!
    ..but IPR? No way, please, it's too expensive!
    You mean because of overseas shipping I assume?
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: whduryeaI read the blurb on IPR, and this sounds awesome.

    Can you provide a little more info about the mechanics that facilitate this a-thousand-years-in-an-afternoon style of play?
    There are three scales of time in play -- periods, events, and scenes. Periods contain events, and events contain scenes.

    Each period, event, or scene is represented by an index card, so you need a bit of table space to play the game. Players take turns dealing periods, events, or scenes onto the table. Each card must be judged as morally good or morally bad, which is very interesting, because it guides the fiction in surrounding cards and helps characterize the fictional people who are recording the history.
    Also, does the game encourage you to get inside the skins of individual characters and explore their lives, or is it more of a distant overview?
    Yes. :)
  • Thanks johnzo!

    I will definitely check this out, and make pick up the pdf in the near future.
  • Ben, I've been a spectator for part of a couple different games of Microscope, but I've never had the opportunity to play even though I've been really curious about the game. History enthusiast and recovering grad student here...

    I am browsing through the pdf now, (instead of packing moving boxes), and am finding myself even more eager to get this to a gaming table. Congratulations on this milestone.
  • edited February 2011
    Johnzo pretty much nailed it on the head. On each player's turn they decide what part of the history they want to explore (aka expand) and then pick a scale to build: do they create a massive new Period, create a new Event describing something that happens in a Period someone else already made, or drill down into the nitty gritty of a particular Event and make a Scene showing us what really happened, right there, right then, with those people.
    Posted By: johnzoEach card must be judged as morally good or morally bad, which is very interesting, because it guides the fiction in surrounding cards and helps characterize the fictional people who are recording the history.
    I should point out that Microscope doesn't presume any fictional historians -- the only people looking down on the history are the players. It seems like a minor point but it's actually kind of critical. What you add to the history is real, not the subjective viewpoint of some fictional observer.

    Of course within the history there are plenty of cases where people misremember, distort, or flat-out make up facts. We see a teacher tell her students how colonists peacefully settled this planet a century ago, but then we can zoom back and see what really happened. Is what she said true? No? Then maybe we'll zip back to the future and see if she was lying or just clueless. Wait, she lied? Why would the teacher lie to her students? Let's zip to another part of the history and find out.
  • Posted By: nemomemeCongratulations on this milestone.
    I totally read that as "millstone" for a second. Someone has been developing this game for too long!
  • I've been looking forward to this. Can't wait.
  • Congratulations, Ben! I've been looking forward to this beast's release and kinda forgot about it recently. Can't wait to get the book in my hands.
  • Posted By: Ben RobbinsPosted By: SunaCongratulations!

    I am very, very curious about this game!
    ..but IPR? No way, please, it's too expensive!
    You mean because of overseas shipping I assume?

    Yes, it's the reason why I've stopped buying from there. It's the most expensive shop I've ever encountered. I used to buy from the indie rpg unstore or directly from the developer of the game whenever I could because IPR's shipping costs are unreasonably high. Then I discovered Leisure Games which is located in the UK, which shortened shipping times very much too...
  • Posted By: SunaYes, it's the reason why I've stopped buying from there. It's the most expensive shop I've ever encountered. I used to buy from the indie rpg unstore or directly from the developer of the game whenever I could because IPR's shipping costs are unreasonably high. Then I discovered Leisure Games which is located in the UK, which shortened shipping times very much too...
    Even in the US/Canada, shipping is sort of ridiculous from them. I pay four or five bucks for UPS pretty much anywhere else, but there it's upwards of ten dollars most times. I paid $11 for two books last time I bought from IPR. I love the selection and the guys who run it, but I really hate the shipping costs...
  • Hooray!
    I playtested with huge fun (although never got back to send a constructive feedback. Yeah, I know.)
    As soon as it hits the EU shelves it'll be mine! Surely Sphaerenmeisters Spiele will soon have it.
  • aw, hells YEAH!
    I was talking about microscope with Ross last night before our AW game got underway, totally surprised that i hadn't already brought it to the table with him. This is a fabulous millstone, and i'm very excited to finally see a finished form for it. Good job, Ben!
  • edited February 2011
    Awesome. Microscope is such a fun game.

    After our crazy long AW game (30 sessions?), some of the players got together and told the story of the next era of our apocalypse world, using Microscope. I have all the cards in a pile on my desk at work, and sometimes I just browse through them and smile.

    I want to do the reverse, too. Play Microscope and then later choose a period from the game and play a regular RPG in that world and time.
  • I had never heard of this before, but I bought i yesterday solely because of the blurb, sat up reading it through when I should have been sleeping, and now I can't wait to find someone to play it with. The whole concept just rocks. In fact, a friend of mine made a setting-generator in which you play through the history of the world before you make your "real" characters and start off where history ended. It was great, but I think what was missing was breaking free from chronological order. This seens to be what we should have been using.
  • The games of it that I played on Wave were very fun.
  • Wh...what happened to tone debt? :(
  • edited February 2011
    Debt got the axe. It wasn't needed anymore. Now that Scenes use Push / finger-voting, the players can directly decide whether they think something makes sense. If they think it goes against the Tone, they can vote it down. If they think it makes sense even if it completely defies Tone, they can vote it up.

    This fixes the troublesome cases where Debt might say "there must be Dark!" and maybe the players agreed there should be more Dark but right now someone has a good Light idea that would fit perfectly, but they couldn't do it because the Debt blocked them. Not cool. Fiction is complicated, so there are always cases where seeming contradictions make wonderful sense to the players.

    I don't kid around when it comes to killing sacred cows. ;)
  • And then we keep light and dark around because judging fictional history in moral terms is interesting? Okay, that's fair.

    Though it makes me want there to be more than those two choices...

    Either way, this game was wonderful when I played it, and every change seems to be an improvement. Highly recommended.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: NickNovitskiThough it makes me want there to be more than those two choices...
    Only having two very polar choices (light and dark) makes players explain all those subtle nuances they have in mind when they justify their choice of Tone...
    Either way, this game was wonderful when I played it, and every change seems to be an improvement.Highly recommended.
    Thanks!
  • Ordered mine. Took a few tries as that site does not like Chrome... Firefox to the rescue.
  • We plaaaaaayed it. At South Bay Story Games Day II. It was great! I don't think we made our focuses specific enough, because we very rarely had cause to make Scenes and when we did make Scenes it was somewhat hard to nail down the question we were trying to answer. That being said, I'm excited to play it again with that in mind. It really does produce rad stories in a coherent, highly entertaining fashion. A+.
  • edited February 2011
    I just pitched the game over at Snail's Pace and there's one spot open.
  • edited February 2011
    Awesome Joey. Yeah, a tight Focus is definitely your friend. I usually start with a super-tight Focus right off the bat ("the death of Karas-X, leader of the mutant rebellion") even if I have no idea what it means -- the details emerge in play, and get everyone connected to human-level action.
  • Congrats!

    Going back to some previous comments, is there any way Microscope can be used to collaboratively design the world of a much longer, more traditional RPG? I'm about to start a classic hack and slash campaign, and went looking for published tools to help us design the world collaboratively. There are a few things, but not a lot, and I'm just wondering if Microscope could be added to that list.

    I understand Microscope is a complete game within itself - just curious!
  • Sweet! I'm excited about this!

  • I just played today. Not everyone was super-excited, and it didn't really lift off. I guess having someone teaching the game would greatly help, but it was fun anyway. What we really have to work on is the scenes, that is, asking the right question for the right scene. We ended up in a scene where it became established that noone saw the suspect at the time of the crime, and he was banned from the scene, and the question was "did he really do it?" We worked around it, but it felt like dragging the scene along slowly, going around a lengthy obstacle. Better scene framing next time.
  • Posted By: Jonatan KilhamnI just played today. Not everyone was super-excited, and it didn't really lift off. I guess having someone teaching the game would greatly help, but it was fun anyway.
    Disinterested players are tough. Were they not excited to try Microscope or about the history seed you picked? Was this online or a live game?

    Game facilitators of the world deserve merit badges. In any game, if you're the only one who's read the game, you're doing the lion's share of the work explaining the rules to everyone else.
    Posted By: happysmellyfishGoing back to some previous comments, is there any way Microscope can be used to collaboratively design the world of a much longer, more traditional RPG?
    Absolutely. That wasn't my goal designing it, but it became clear pretty early on that players were really tempted to play out linear campaigns within a Microscope history they made -- everybody knows and feels very attached to the setting. I've gotten numerous reports of people doing exactly that.
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Ben Robbins
    Disinterested players are tough. Were they not excited to try Microscope or about the history seed you picked? Was this online or a live game?
    It was live, and e was mostly disappointed about the history, I think. I should have pushed even harder on the "abandon your preconceptions" part, but there was so much important messages to get across... We all suffered from brainfreeze in the hot seat, too.
  • edited March 2011
    Ben-

    It will be available available via IPR so I can get it for my store, yes? It sounds awesome, and like something that'd go well as a one-shot for our monthly Indie RPG Night.

    For the folks who find IPR 'too expensive', it's because they're charging the actual cost to ship as opposed to a pro-rated amount that loses money for them. Certainly to Europe I understand the need for a more local source, though!

    IPR's main awesome is getting print copies into the hands of the small cadre of stores interested in supporting the small press. I urge you all to consider some copies for them in your print runs, as it's how retailers like me can have these great games on our shelves (assuming the authors don't live in town, heh...). I'm also happy to offer PDFs to customers how purchase print copies, either via Bits and Mortar, or just by emailing their names to you or emailing them a copy directly.

    -Jim C.
  • Posted By: Jim CrockerFor the folks who find IPR 'too expensive', it's because they're charging the actual cost to ship as opposed to a pro-rated amount that loses money for them.
    I mean, to the customer it's all the same. I feel bad for smaller companies, but the average Joe doesn't give a shit. Personally, I just don't have the money to give a shit.
  • Posted By: Jim CrockerBen-
    For the folks who find IPR 'too expensive', it's because they're charging the actual cost to ship as opposed to a pro-rated amount that loses money for them. Certainly to Europe I understand the need for a more local source, though!
    $21 is the "actual" cost to ship a thin volume USPS to Canada? That sounds pretty unlikely.
  • Halfjack-

    From the UPS web site, for shipping a 4-lb package with a declared customs value of $30 from a commercial address in my city (Northampton, MA) to a residential address in Toronto:

    UPS Standard
    4:00 P.M.
    Thursday
    March 3, 2011
    By End of Day
    Monday
    March 7, 2011 - Guaranteed 20.25 USD *

    So, yeah, that's actually right on the money, with some minor variation for weight, distance traveled, and shipping method. The USPS can be significantly cheaper depending on weight and shipping method, but it's harder logistically to use them if you're not proximate to a physical PO, and their tracking isn't as robust.

    Shipping is expensive, folks, and it's only getting worse. Most people don't realize just how expensive it is because so many online retailers eat a chunk of it in hopes that gobbling market share will make up for the loss.

    -JC
  • Sounds like we need a whole new thread to get to the bottom of shipping...
  • Got it today - brilliant game and I can't wait to play it.

    (Shipping is a big deal. I'm paying $30 in shipping at IPR but on the Unstore it is only $12 for AW. If the game isn't excellent doubling the cost will turn me off quick.)
  • Posted By: Ben RobbinsSounds like we need a whole new thread to get to the bottom of shipping...
    Done! Come check it out.
  • I just sent out the first shipment of books to IPR yesterday, so folks that pre-ordered shouldn't have long to wait. I've also confirmed that IPR will have Microscope on sale at PAX East next week.

    I'm not keeping up with demand yet, but I've got more books on the way. The spice must flow.
    Posted By: Jim CrockerIt will be available available via IPR so I can get it for my store, yes? It sounds awesome, and like something that'd go well as a one-shot for our monthly Indie RPG Night.
    Absolutely. And Jim makes a good point: if you want Microscope at your FLGS, and they buy from IPR, just mosey up to the counter and tell them to get it for you.

    And speaking of friendly local game stores, Gamma Ray Games in Seattle has them on the shelves right now. Because we love Gamma Ray and we play Microscope there all the time...
  • This sounds kind of like Shock. Is it?
  • I love Shock, but in a word: no, not very similar at all.
  • Ben-

    Excellent, I am running low on a few titles, so will be doing an order after I return from GTS. Looking forward to seeing it, it sounds cool, kind of 'Civilization: the Story Game'.

    -JC
  • Copies of Microscope arrived in the New York office of IPR this morning, so I can confirm we will have some on hand at PAX (and I'll bring a couple to GAMA as well for retailers to take a look at.) dw
  • just bought the pdf from IPR.

    LOVE IT! You done good son, you done good!
  • Ben, I'm really enjoying reading the game. Very intrigued as to how it will play out, being so different from so many Story Games that stress consensus-building and discussion / suggestion - and I see why you made that design choice, and I suspect it will be awesome.

    Will hopefully be facilitating this at Conpulsion in Edinburgh!
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Jim CrockerExcellent, I am running low on a few titles, so will be doing an order after I return from GTS.
    Awesome Jim!
    Looking forward to seeing it, it sounds cool, kind of 'Civilization: the Story Game'.
    Microscope can definitely do that, but it adds the twist that instead of just moving forward in time and building civilization, you're free to zip around, backward and forward, and zoom in on the parts that interest you. You might look at how global economies erode national power one minute, then jump back and see how tribes build the first city.

    Concept-wise, exploring the rise and fall of a civilization is always great fit, but Microscope can actually create a much wider range of games. We've played histories of God returning to Earth (literally, Biblical God), superheroes undermining the rule of law (Watchmen-style), Ragnarok / doom of the gods, the growth of a single corporation from its humble roots, and cold war political intrigue.

    One history I've really wanted to try is a "Curse of the Pharaohs" game, reaching from ancient times where we watch the intrigues unfold between temple priests and living gods, all the way to modern archaeologists exhuming tombs and awakening 'that which was better left unknown.' I think jumping back and forth from modern discoveries to the ancient events that explains those discoveries would be pretty cool.

    I think we're still just scratching the surface of what's possible.
  • We played Thursday. It went well, but beware of robots - they tend to accidentally float into the next/previous Periods, 'cause it's so easy to imagine them still working. Our history felt a bit too much like a long story... fantastic in any other system. :D I wonder if it would be good to just establish upfront "no character may exist alive in more than one Period". Did you ever try that as a rule, Ben, rather than a recommendation? It removes the option of that one immortal wizard or whatnot, but I think it may be worth it... As-is, any tiny moment of weakness makes our robots (or magical being) very long-lived.

    Maybe a dial... "at most 1 character may exist alive in more than one Period", etc.?
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