Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Hunts Begin: A Microscope Playthrough

Saturday we tried another session of Microscope. Once again I planned to do a history set-up and then run a short campaign based on it. This one will be 6-8 sessions, likely using FATE. I'd set the premise and details up ahead of time.

Premise: A year of crisis for a fantasy world.
Starting Period: News of the death of THE EMPRESS arrives. THE EMPIRE splinters and divides. Beginning of THE YEAR OF MISRULE.
Ending Period: End of THE YEAR OF MISRULE. THE HUNT begins. (changed in play to "The Hunts Begin").

So this is a little different from your usual Microscope game in that we have a fairly restricted timeline. I was worried about that and thought about changing it to a decade, but Sherri talked me out of that. I stuck with the rule we'd used last time we played, with Scenes being dictated- you could set up a question and then have someone else answer it or you could. We had five players plus myself, two of whom hadn't done Microscope before. I added some things in, but didn't take a turn as the Lens myself. We went over rules, ate pizza and then got rolling. I'd say it took a little over four hours if you take out the eating time. In the text below (D) means a dark addition and (L) means a light.

* No guns & no magical firearms
* No "airships," though other means of flight allowed
* No Steampunk or fantasy technology

* Martial Arts
* All Magic Items have sentience: can be just a feeling of awareness all the way up to super-genius level. Power doesn't have any relation to this.
*Rare magical Unicorns
* Dragons as their own intelligent race, though uncommon.
* Night Elves- a race of Elves who only exist during the during the day, they just aren't there. To them they blink and it is the next night. (Note that we had an event added to the timeline which shifted this a little. Instead of this being a permanent racial trait, it was something that they were cursed with recently).
* Each race has a powerful relic magic item entrusted to them at the beginning of creation. Those have been lost for some time.
* Only evil fairies.
* Resurrection is restricted. It can be done within a year, but only with the sacrifice of many lives.

Turn One Lens: The Empire Legacy: The Tree of Menoc
Turn Two Lens: Betrayal Legacy: The Empress
Turn Three Lens: The Night Elves Legacy: Lord Agden
Turn Four Lens: Magic Items Legacy: The Twin Comets
Turn Five Lens: The Hunts Legacy: ???

News of the death of THE EMPRESS arrives. THE EMPIRE splinters. Beginning of THE YEAR OF MISRULE. (D)

1Agents of the Night Elves kidnap the Empress. They hope to avoid a prophecy which suggests the Empress will rule the world when she turns ten. They also hope to cause strife in the Empire and gain power. (D)
2The Luminous Council attempts to keep order by lying about the Empress' kidnapping. They wish to maintain order. (L)
3With false news of the death of the Empress being spread, General Greaves acts. He's suspicious of the reports of those events. He sends out his most trusted agents to gather information. (L)

PERIOD TWO: The Month of Mourning and the Betrayal: the real division of the Empire begins. Imperial Officials publicly announce the death of the Empress.

1The Dwarves of Hailfell leak false news of the location of the kidnapped Empress to General Greaves. (D)
SCENE: Why did the Dwarves leak the news: To create an incident and weaken the Empire in preparation for their own revolt. (D)
2The Siege of Neylan: General Greaves gets a report that the Empress is secretly held in Neylan, an important center of commerce for the Empire. He lays siege to the town, which quickly falls. The Empress is not there. (D)
3Forsworn Glen Burns: A fire sweeps through Forsworn Glen. The Centaurs flee from their ancestral home. (D)
SCENE: Why as Forsworn Glen burned? To eliminate the home of the Centaurs, who have long been a lone holdout group within the Empire. Agents of the Empire saw them as a prime danger in the coming conflict and potential civil war. (D)
4The Bow of Resolute: Rumors of the whereabout of the artifact bow send agents of Black Storm Assassin to the remains of Forsworn Glen. It has already been taken. (L)
5The Elves of Blackwood Forest, a realm outside the Empire begin crafting magic weapons and training with the news of the death of the Empress. (L)

PERIOD THREE: The Luminous Council moves to secure the Western side of the Empire before General Greaves can gather forces there. (D)

1Lord Agden, servant of the Luminous Council orders the death of General Greaves upon finding out about the General's investigation of the Empress' death.(D)
2Black Storm Assassins double cross Lord Agden and spirit General Greaves away from captivity. (L)
3The Aegis of Nirrien is discovered by Baron Tarnish among the Lost Blades of Aeos. (L)
4Baron Tarnish, with assistance from the Aegis of Nirrien, hides the Twin Empress with the White Dragons. Tarnish is the real father of the Empress and has secretly kept safe the Empress' twin sister since birth. (L)
4Mei-Ling of the Silver Blooded form's Hope's Flight, a group of mage-duelists who combine magic with their weapon fighting techniques. (L)

PERIOD FOUR: Mid-Year Revels at the Capitol. The Luminous Council orders the celebrations continue despite the rising tide of war and revolution. (L)

1Festival of Scarves: During the mid-year celebrations a scarved dancer uses the Veil of Sight to vanish after stabbing and killing Markous, Lord Agden's son. (L)
2The Sisters of Flame appear in the night sky. These are two comets that mark a time of woe. (D)
3The Tree of Menoc Awakens: An ancient prophet which takes the form of a great tree, Menoc rouses from his slumbers. (L)
4General Greaves accidentally kills the Empress in a rescue attempt at Ralkan Tower. He is wracked with grief and still hunted by the leadership of the largest fragment of the Empire. (D)
5With the death of the Empress, the Orb of Deception fails, revealing the Prince (the Empress cousin). The Luminous Council had been using the "false" Empress to convince their allies that they actually held the kidnapped Empress. (L)

PERIOD FIVE: Dwarven Revolt: The Elves of Aeos feed false information to the Luminous Council to assist the Dwarves in their movement toward revolt. While there have been battles and small uprisings, the Dwarven Revolt will be the first formal and large scale breakaway from the Empire. (L)

1Others follow the Dwarves' lead. The desert folk of Reckoning's Wall- one of the three human dominated districts of the Empire- elect More Luckturn, Bearer of the Sun-Axe, as their leader and declare independence. In fact they actually elect the Sun-Axe as their leader, given its intelligence.(L)
2The Crimson Signature, a faction of the Night Elves, breaks away from their alliance with the Dragons of the Amber Wing. (D)
3The Sunfade Assassins switch sides, leaving the Seven Masterless Killer Families and stealing the Elven Relic, Spelldeath the Hunger Blade. (D)
4Lord Agden breaks from the Luminous Council- seizing control of the one of the three human dominated imperial districts, the Jade Marches, in an overnight coup. (D)

PERIOD SIX: Week of the Crimson Moon: The Night Elves massacre the Dragons of the Amber Wind. (D)

1Shamsala, the sole survivor of the Dragons of the Amber Wind, sacrifices Chakir, the leader of the Crimson Signature to a curse spell. Now the Night Elves will literally only exist at night, vanishing during the day. Time will skip forward for them. (L)
2Isharok reaches the Tree of Menoc and receives answers about the meaning of the Twin Comet. He hears the first half of the tale: the Empress has a twin and only this twin can stop the Empress' future evil. The Tree withhold more of the story from Isharok until he has completed a set of ritual tasks. (L)
3The Night Elves gain Spelldeath the Hunger Blade, gifted to them from the Sunfade Assassins. (D)
4Fearing something of the power of Spelldeath, the Night Elves take the awful sword back to Kasteria, their capitol, for safe-keeping. (L)

PERIOD SEVEN: Dragon's Breath: Weeks of sand and dust storms sweep across the Empire. (D)

1General Greaves dies while resurrecting the Empress. Lacking access to the magical resources of the Empire, he turns to the Night Elves for aid. They provide him with a broken ritual. The Empress arises, but she has become something else. Her body has been possessed by Onyxsoul the Vengeance Spear. This horrible race-relic had been destroyed long ago by an alliance of other magic items. (D)
2The Fairies of Forlorn Shadow Forest betray the location of the Empress to the Demon King of the Black Dragons. (D)
3Master Seylim, the Mercenary Bandit, cuts down the Tree of Menoc at the behest of the Demon King of Dragons. (D)
4Having witnessed the awakening of the Tree of Menoc, the centaur Shaman Hrogar acts upon what the tree first said to him. He crafts the Horn of Avianna from the Tree's fallen form and leads the centaur exodus to Tonefallow. (L)
5The Mages of the Luminous Council still rule over the largest part of the now splintering Empire. They elect a new leader, Lord Vendmeer and push out those advocating compromise. (D)
6An unknown attacker drains all of the magic from Forlorn Shadow Forest, killing all those Fairies within. (L)
61The Lost Blades of Aeos (the only Elven group among the Seven Masterless Killer families) trade Night'sfall, Heaven's Lunar Bow for the return of Spelldeath. (L)
62Zoka Veyden of the Dragons of Burshing Marsh casts the spell of Neverending Light in an attempt to keep the Night Elves at bay. His mad intent is to completely eliminate night. (D)
SCENE: The Neverending Light spell did not work as intended. How? While the extend lengthens, creating shorter nights- the noonday sun now blazes white hot. It burns and scorches, forcing people into shelter for the midday hours. (D)
63Hayden Baynor stumbles across an acron from the remains of the Tree of Menoc. He plants the seed to regrow the prophet-tree. (L)

PERIOD EIGHT: End of the Year of Misrule. The Hunts Begin. (D)

1The Druids of Mosstone Falls stumble on the knowledge of an ancient relic. They begin the hunt for the Bells of Pelic, rumored to be able to fix the burning sun's new daylight. (L)
2The Dragons of Burning Marsh arrive to aid the Black Storm Assassins in their escape from Imperial forces. (L)
3Zoka Veyden offers the Blade of Stormend to anyone fighting against the new Empress. (L)
4Having emigrated to the Grove of Tonefallow, the centaurs blow the Horn of Avianna. Its tone summons those it deems worthy to begin the Hunt. (L)
5Called to the sound of the Horn of Avianna, the Tower's Candidate's arrive- a group of exiles from the Luminous Council who offer aid. (L)
6The Tower's Vandidates turn over their last magic items- which travel out to seek bearers who the items can wield. (L)
61Runei, a half-demon, betrays her father and with the Bow of Resolute in hand, she joins the White Dragons and begins the hunt for the secret twin of the Empress. (L)
62The once dead Empress, now the Empress of Vengeance, seizes control of the Luminous Council. She declares all magic items outside her control illegal. They are to be hunted down and destroyed. A massive bounty is offered. (D)
63Believing the sentience of magics to actually be the reincarnated spirits of deceased mages, Jonathan Harkin of the Tower's Candidates forms the Wardens of Runic Light, a group tasked with the preservation of magic items. (L)
64As rumors of false, twin and resurrected Empresses run amok, the Seven Masterless Houses disperse their base of operations to divide and conquer. The hunt for the Empress begins. (L)
65Empowered by the Empress of Vengeance, the Sunfade Assassins fall on their former comrades- slaughtering all but a handful from the Seven Masterless Houses. (D)
66Fateswind, a young Nightelf, tricks and slays the Demon King of Dragons on the stump that was Menoc. He does this as a sacrifice to the Night Dragons to gain knowledge of the location of the Bells of Pelic. (D)

Well I had a good time and I think everyone else did. People only got stuck a couple of times. I do think it is fun the first time, but even easier the second time. I managed to state things not clearly a couple of times, which meant going back and fixing some things. The shorter time period does mean you have to phrase your events fairly precisely. You can reference other things, but you have to state a specific thing. It was really dark at first and then people saw that and began to layer in lighter ideas to balance that- they didn't want the world they were going to be playing in to be hopeless! There was a lot of nice connection between ideas done by the players, many things fleshed out and other things left open.

I wasn't sure what the campaign was going to look like, but Dave made a joke about halfway through that really stuck in my mind. From that point forward, I added things to aimed at making that the focus- and it falls out really naturally from what we've created. Essentially the biggest of the Bads is a resurrected evil artifact which has taken control of the Empress. The PCs will actually be playing magic items who happen to have wielders- so the magic items all have distinct personalities and in addition to their attached users. They will be able to switch control between those from time to time. I think it will be interesting, and easy to model with FATE.

Microscope continues to be a joy and a pleasure to play. I'm looking forward to trying it with non-fantasy premises and set ups.