Monday, February 25, 2013

End of a Long Week

So last Saturday I attended the funerals of two friends.

Doug Curry, a board gaming friend, died of a heart attack on Valentine's Day.  I met Doug through the Houston Boardgaming Group, which met monthly at a couple of different stores, based on space availability.  I stopped attending when the meeting place moved over to a place in far west Houston (about an hour from my home), but I saw him every year at the Lone Star Game Fest.  He may not have been one of my closest friends, but he was a solid friend and I one of the people I always looked forward to seeing at the con.  Next year will be...  I don't really have the word for it.  I'll keep expecting to see him and be disappointed when I don't.

The memorial service was at a cousin's place and was full of family and friends.  After folks had had a bite to eat (BBQ, because it IS Texas after all), Doug's cousin-in-law (brother in all but blood, really) spoke and then invited others to speak as well.  It was harder on me than I expected, even with the laughs from "Funny Doug stories".  I'll miss him every year at the con.

Steve Reed I've board gamed with, played RPGs with (table top and LARP), and war-gamed with off an on for the last 20 years.  Steve died of complications due to mucopolysaccharidosis, a genetic disease.  I don't know which version, but most people with it die before making it to 17 - Steve made it to 45.  He was in recovery from a hospital trip, but even so, his death was sudden and unexpected (long story short: he suddenly suffered heart, lung, liver, and renal failure and his body went toxic - his living will directed he not be kept on life support and his family gave consent Sunday, February 17 at 10:30pm).  Steve's memorial was at St. Bernadette's in Clear Lake and really hit me hard.  He was one of the people who were part of the inspiration for my novel.  I kept thinking I wanted to send him a copy of the draft while he was in the hospital, but wanted to wait for a "better draft" before sending it.  Now that window is closed.

Steve was a close friend and damned good to talk to on any topic.  He had a sharp mind without being acidic and was always upbeat.  

Damn this hurts.

Good-bye Doug and Steve.  See you both on the other side, whatever's there.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Microscope Experiment - Summary and Observations

So this week I played Microscope with my weekly gaming group again, finishing the round we started last week.  With five players (the maximum recommended number of players) we pretty much filled up the table with 3x5 notecards.  We did not do as many scenes this time, which seemed to drop the energy level at the table.  We also seemed to be reaching the point where players had definite ideas where they wanted the story to go and were starting to get a bit snarky when it didn't, which seemed to be a good sign it was time to stop working on this particular history.
  • We missed that Legacies could be used instead of the current Focus until after we were done playing.  I think this would have helped where players had no idea what to do with the current Focus but had things they wanted to add to the history.
  • Writing an Event requires a bit more conciseness than we mustered early on.  We got better, but it is something to keep an eye out for.  Events are more concise than Period and have a definite start and end, even if they are only implied.  For example, my Event "Open warfare between the armies of The Circle and The Purple Crown" should have said "The Circle and The Purple Crown field their steampunk mecha prototypes against each other for the first time, utterly destroying Townsville and each other".  That's what I was seeing in my head, but I had not yet learned to put that exactly down on the card.
  • Scenes are where the excitement is.  Do Scenes as often as you can get away with.  Really.
  • A good question for the Scene helps lots, but the Scene description is vital to getting started.  I found myself restating the descriptions for scenes to make sure I understood what the active player was trying for and getting them to state the exact starting point of the Scene.
  • I can see why 3-4 players is a better number - things go around faster and players have more influence on the history.
  • Microscope is designed for large periods of time, so it would be difficult to use for periods of time smaller than multiple decades.  But for grand scale creation, it works very well.
Next week we are building characters for our Burning Wheel game and will be doing a quick round of Microscope to establish some world history.  I'm not certain how that will pan out exactly, but it will give the players a better grip of the world and more insight into it, so that should be good.  I think I'm going to recommend the GM set out the periods he wants and have the session be a single round adding to that.  The end period for the game will be the starting point of the actual campaign.

I'm going to provide a (hopefully) concise summary of the outcome of our two sessions of Microscope.  I'll try to explain anything that seems unclear.  All cards played are defined as Dark or Light by the player, but this seems to be somewhat arbitrary.  I might need to read some more on this for the next game.

History Seed:
We started with by selecting a seed from a list of sample seeds in the back of the book.  The seed we selected was "Secret societies carefully steer the course of civilization".

The Palette:
This is a list of things players want or don't want to see.  The Yes options allow for the possibility of something, the No options specifically exclude things, making them forbidden to add.
subtle magic [This should have been defined better.]
reanimation is possible

timey-wimey stuff
joke conspiracies
non-humans (specifically sentient non-humans)
otherworld travel (allows other worlds to exist, but no travel to them)

(more, much more, below the cut)