Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Microscope Experiment

The weekday group I’ve been gaming with (the semi-infamous “Super Rat”) is switching campaigns at the moment from a Mouse Guard game to a more general fantasy campaign using Burning Wheel. We are very pleased with the stripped down rules set in Mouse Guard and are very interested in trying out the full Burning Wheel rules.

But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

At the end of last week’s session, I suggested we try an experiment and give Microscope a spin to give the GM a bit more time to prep.  I read them the blurb on the back of the rules (same text in the link) and they were willing to give it a try.  Last night (Monday) we gave it a spin.

The start was a bit slow as I explained the rules and we went through setup. I followed the advice in the back of the rules for running a teaching game with me as the teacher (the only one who had a copy of the rules).  The teaching advice was good as it had several read aloud bits to emphasize points, notably that just because I'm teaching the game does not give me any extra authority.  By the time we had to stop for the night, everyone was into the game and really wanting to keep playing.  If it had not been a work night, we could have easily gone for several more hours.  My wife even took photos of the card lay out at the end so we had reference pictures when we play again.  (Even though the layout of the cards is done so that picking them up properly makes it easy to lay them back out later.)  If we have the same mix of players next week (we were down one player) we will play Microscope again, expanding more upon our history.

Learning to role play the scenes as opposed to narrating them was tricky to remember to do.  We didn’t do it very well the first time, but we got better about it as we went.  The other habit that is hard to break is offering advice once the game is started.  There is a natural tendency to want to help and supply suggestions, but that is really against what the game is trying to promote, which is giving equal creative time to each player.  This is one of my favorite aspects of the game.  I tend to have a strong gaming persona as a long time GM, so having a mechanism to rein me in a bit is good.

We played with five players, which is the upper recommended limit on players and I can see why. Having five actors in the scenes was sometimes a bit tricky when it came to getting everyone equal time in the spotlight.  I think we need to get a bit better at crafting the starting point of the scenes, but it was an experiment and we were learning the system.

I strongly recommend giving this game a try. It is worth the $10 for the PDF. Make sure to have a good 3-4 hours set aside for play with maybe an extra 30 minutes for rules explanation. Otherwise the game will end just as people are really getting into it, which can be frustrating. This game would clearly work well at a convention in a standard 4 hour slot, new players or not.   I'll do a sort of session note later this week to outline what we did, but that's for a separate post.   Later!

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