Hello and welcome to Only On Tuesdays! This week, I will be discussing the game Microscope, and explain why it should be the way you and your players build your next world. You can buy the game and support it’s creator here.
What is Microscope?
To put it simply, Microscope is a worldbuilding RPG. Created by Ben Robbins, this game seeks to create a world from nothing. You gather together a group of friends, and by the end of the night, you should have a fully fleshed out world, with a deep history, and complex characters. Microscope is an avenue to creating truly unique worlds, that only you and your friends will get a chance to play in. Anything can happen in Microscope, and the only limit is the imagination.
I have used Microscope multiple times to create worlds, and the greatest thing about it is being able to then use it for Dnd. Here are some examples of worlds my players and I have created using Microscope:
Floating continents drift pass each other, as Dragons jealously defend their lands. The Dragon Queen Tiamat has been slain, and the 5 Dragon Lords war with each other. The humanoid races band together to form the Coalition of Races in an attempt to usurp the dragons. Airships powered by the elements are the main form of travel, and the only hope humanity has against the dragonlords, is the MacGuffin, spread across the world.
Skyscrapers made of light loom over the world, as the Oligopoly exerts it’s control over civilization. 3 Corporations dominate the world. 1st: Cellular Soul, responsible for electricity, powered by souls, and is also responsible for the genocide of all halflings. 2nd: The C.C.D.S. (The Continental Cosnia Delivery Service) they deliver everything from half-baked chemicals, large military forces, and even slaves. 3rd: Dogaeg, the military organization, and the last one standing after his 2 rivals were defeated by the resistance. In this world, circles are a symbol of evil thanks to the solar flare from 300 years ago, wheels don’t exist, metal is a magical substance, and nature has evolved to try and kill humanity. And that’s just the surface of what we created.
Why Should You Use Microscope
As a DM, one of the most difficult tasks of preparing for a game is setting up a world. While worldbuilding is a really fun hobby, and one that I would recommend to everyone, it can be very difficult not only coming up with a concept for a world, but also one that your players will enjoy. Your players may just simply not be interested in the world you have created and will be far less engaged with the game. Microscope is a great answer to this, as it puts the power of creation in the hands of everyone. If someone is interested in playing in a world with dinosaurs, Microscope gives them the power to make that a significant element of the world.
Microscope also makes the actual part of worldbuilding much easier. One of the hardest parts about worldbuilding for me is coming up with creative ideas. By giving this power of worldbuilding to the players, they can easily come up with cool and creative ideas, that I can flesh out later as the DM. Worldbuilding then simply becomes a task of making more parts of the world come alive, and finding the next idea to cover, rather than starting with a blank piece of paper.
Overall though, my favorite part about Microscope as a DM is the amount of investment that players put into the world. Microscope makes the players care about the world in a way that nothing else could easily accomplish before the session. There is no need to hand out a page long sheet detailing what the world is, that players will glance at once and then throw away. Instead, what happens is when you say a name the players will immediately recognize it, and their characters will have already formulated opinions on these things without any further prompting from you.
Disadvantages with the System
As much as I love Microscope, it is by no means a perfect system either. As a DM, you have to relinquish a lot of creative control to the players which may end up resulting in less than ideal circumstances. When you give the players that much creative freedom if they decide to add something you don’t like, you cannot stop them from adding it due to the rules of the game. This can change the tone of worlds, and may make it something that you weren’t quite expecting.
In the case of the world with all of the dragonlords, and the floating continents, I was expecting a grand adventure defined by the struggle between good and evil. And then one of the players decided to name the biggest and baddest dragonlord Doug. Immediately, the tone of the world shifted, and the names of the rest of the dragonlords changed to things like Roberta, and Chad and the world became much more humorous. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it changed the tone I was expecting, and I had to change my plans as a result.
Microscope is an amazingly powerful worldbuilding tool for one main reason: you get to build the world your players want to play in. In one of my “Learn From My Mistakes Series” posts, I talked about how your world can change the tone of your campaign. (You can find it here) The main message of that post was creating a world for your players, instead of a world for yourself. This was before I discovered Microscope, and realized it’s potential for your players. Thank you for reading, have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!