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Microscope Potluck Blog

Feb 4, 2019

Alas, our romp through the fractal role-playing game Microscope has ended.  It’s time to take out those slides and call it a day. Here’s what we thought:


Charlotte thinks the layout and design of the book is great and easy to navigate. If you need to find a rule quickly, you can look at the tabs on the side and find it quickly. There are also some great essays in the back about the nature of the game and roleplaying. A physical copy is A+.


We love the idea of the palette. It can be about the players’ personal comfort, but also about pushing the story in interesting ways. You can mash up genres or subvert ideas by including or not including certain ideas. It’s a multipurpose tool.


At first we had a little bit of a hard time playing out of chronological order. However, once we had the basics of our world set up it was nice to fill in the gaps and set a roadmap. Noa pointed out that themes emerge organically the longer you play the game. But in the beginning you are a little adrift. Ray brought up the “tyranny of choice” we talk about oh so often, but it rings true here—there’s a whole world for you to choose from.


Microscope talks about how it forbids collaboration, or at least collaboration as we normally think of it. Being the lens is like being in the hot seat—no one can help you out. We got so into it that it was hard not to interject or try to help out. Megan had some trouble coming up with ideas but she eventually came up with some great ones. You can sit for a long time thinking, but people can really come out of their shell.


On that note, it feels like you can’t get to attached to a concept, because someone else can break it or destroy it, or just take it in a different direction than you wanted. Stepping on toes is slightly inevitable, but you should embrace it. You just have to keep building.


For scenes, the rule is that you must stop once you’ve answered the question that was posed at the start. It can be hard to stop when you’ve answered the question and it feels like things are just getting good, but the opposite can also happen, where you get distracted and get farther away from the question. In Microscope, it’s important to stay focused. However, because it was difficult, the game was better for it. There is a purpose to every scene.


The game supports all sorts of scenes. There are lots of action examples in the book, but we stayed away from that bc that’s not what we were interested in role-playing. And that’s okay! In addition, if you don’t like roleplaying, you can do fewer scenes, or do dictated scenes instead. There are lots of options.


We’d also like to point out a mechanic we literally never used; you can choose to “push” something in a scene. If you think you have a better idea than someone else in a scene, you can bring it up and everyone votes on the new ideas brought to the table. Megan pointed out it’s great for making a world everyone is happy with.


Microscope can be a fun, casual game to play with friends. However, be warned, you will need enough space for all the index cards. We want an official app, if there isn’t one already.


It’s a great game if you want to convert people to TTRPGs. You could play this game with strangers, old friends, new friends, etc.  You could also play this game to build a world to play another game in. Or you could play it with people who are new to games, or to get people out of their shell. The possibilities are pretty endless with Microscope.


The goal of microscope is simply to find out what happens. It’s definitely a one of a kind game, and we liked it a lot.


You can get Microscope: a Fractal Role-Playing Game of Epic Histories by Ben Robbins at