Using Microscope to "re-write" pre-existing settings

edited June 2011 in Story Games
Yeah. That.

I haven't posted here much if at all, so a fine "Howdy!" from south-central Indiana - the heart of limestone country!

So I'm digging Microscope. Kind of a lot. Finally ran it with a new-cobbled-together/reunited group of gamers, and we all liked it a lot. We also all agreed we wanted to see if it would work to re-write an existing pop-sulture setting. I will not say which one, because I don't want to get into opinions on the setting. Also, in the spirit of Microscope, I don't want other people's ideas about the setting. Suffice to say it is one very well-known to our new group.


I'm fishing around for ideas about how, if at all, one might tweak Microscope to accommodate this approach. I think it can work, and may need no tweaking at all in the hands of an agreeable, amiable group (which I seem to have assembled). But I'd love to hear your thoughts.

With that, I beseech thee: opine!

(Oh, and here's what we came up with in our first Microscope session: Fun!)


  • RyRy
    edited June 2011

    If I were doing this, I'd be focused on making a good Premise and Palette document that everybody was into before play.

    If there was a THING that people decided was crucial to the setting, I'd give it a period and event card at the start of play (in addition to the bookends). For example, if I was doing Dragonlance, I can't imagine that setting without the Cataclysm, even though it's never explained to my satisfaction. So the Cataclysm only makes sense if there were great civilizations beforehand and dark times afterwards. So I'd probably bring this to my group:

    • Making of the World (bookend period, light)
    • Great Civilizations (period, light)
    • The Cataclysm (period, dark)
    • Dark Times (period, dark)
    • End of Time (bookend period, dark)
  • RyRy
    edited June 2011

    The palette would have

    • Dragons
    • Gods
    • Lances
    • Swords
    • Dragon Riders
    • Knights
    • Undead
    • Elves
    • Dwarves
    • Wizards

    and I would ban

    • Aberrations
    • Firearms

    because they're more of a distraction in this setting.

  • First off, rewriting settings = great idea. I like it.

    I think if everyone is sitting down at the table with the same idea ("let's redo Star Wars" or whatever, because who wouldn't want to reboot Star Wars), you should be able to just follow the normal Microscope rules and it should work. All the procedures of history setup are about getting everyone on the same page. If, like in Ry's example, there's something you absolutely want, then you just make it yourself when it's your turn.

    I suspect the Palette will be the critical bit, because that's when you'll decide as a group precisely what elements of the setting you want to keep or throw out. If your vision of your perfect Star Wars reboot (or whatever) doesn't match, here's where you'll find out and/or work it out -- which is precisely what the Palette is for.

    Once you've agreed on a Palette that says something like No Midichlorians, No cloned stormtroopers, No Sith race, Yes force ghosts, No casual force powers, Yes spirituality, Yes human-centric Republic, No all emotions = Dark Side, No omnipotent lightsabers… well you've already decided a ton about your new/retro Star Wars.

    Oh, and No Gungans. Did I mention no Gungans?
  • Okay, yeah, we're re-writing Star Wars. ;) And we're doing it in less than a week! I'll post a report on the results. We'll start the session by discussing how much of the original trilogy will be our canon, and this will segue naturally into our Palette. I don't think we'll have start and end points, but rather a couple-few events that we all agree must happen. Not sure. Maybe start and end points still make sense.

  • Star Wars really is the perfect target. I commend you.

    Bookends are vital. Vital! As is your one sentence history seed. If you eliminate those steps, you've lost the entire process of building from known big picture to unknown detail. I really would just follow the normal steps. It'll work great for what you're doing.
  • I would reinforce Ben's assertions, bookend frame what is in scope for your history. I would use them to really focus your remake, punch hard with the starting "Rise of An Intergalactic Empire" and ending bookends, "Intergalactic Empire falls".

    They need to be clear, this is were our story ends and begins.
  • edited July 2011
    Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I'll stay the course! Best not to introduce too many variable in a first experiment. Ben, thanks for the game and for your attention and interest. This SW idea may well tale more than one session, but I will post a link to the results, and add to it if we do in fact spend another session on it. Tonight's the night. Wish us luck. Or the Force.

    My next experiment with Microscope will be using my kids (7 and 9) as test subjects...
  • Wellp, here's what we came up with. Please note the "lessons learned" text at the bottom.

    I think we should have nailed down more what was and was not canon from the original movies, but we just got ick of chatting minutiae and moved into play.

    Our plan now is to continue playing Microscope with this setting, but doing it online so that we can start getting back to some actual rpg action. One of the Microscope players is going to run a game set in our new "Clone Wars" using Starblazer Adventures! And then I want to run something in our Jedi "pogrom" using Smallville.
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