Microscope Needs Playtesters

The new playtest draft of Microscope is ready (version 3 for those keeping score), and I’m looking for some brave souls to put it through its paces. Could that someone be you?

I’m specifically looking for people who will play the game and provide feedback, not just read it. The first two versions were playtested by the brave and beautiful gamers of Seattle, but I’ve been always directly involved. Now it’s time to see how the game does when I’m not sitting at the table.

It’s no-prep, no-GM. All you need is a few fellow gamers, your brain, and a mess of index cards.

Definitely bring your brain.

Interested? Leave a comment here and I’ll get your address from the (hidden) email field and contact you. Or just send an email to microscope-playtest + lamemage.com.

And while I’m at it, major thanks to everyone who has already played Microscope and helped get it where it is now: Tony Dowler, Ryan Dunleavy, Mike Frost, John Harper, Robert Haskell, Jem Lewis, Kevin Lewis, Ching-Ping Lin, Trey Marshall, and Paul Riddle, plus additional feedback from Stephen Scholz and Jonathan Walton. You guys rock.

    Ben Robbins | June 10th, 2009 | | hide comments
  1. #77 Eric Logan says:

    I’d be willing to give it a go. I’ve got a regular group that I could probably spring it on. I’d want to review the PDF first to make sure that I understand and could arbitrate the current rule set.

  2. #76 ben robbins says:

    Frank & Jeffrey, I’ll let you know as soon as the new version is ready to go.

  3. #75 Jeffrey Hosmer says:

    Sign me up for playtesting, I’d like to spring this on my players. :)

  4. #74 Frank Krivak says:

    I’ve been hooked on your site ever since PA linked you and I’ve been cobbling together my own “West Marches” style game to fill the summer gaming gap. Microscope though, sounds like just the ticket for our game night… we get together about once a month and like to try new games and this might be just the thing to steer us away from boardgames. Any chance of getting in on the playtest?

  5. #73 ben robbins says:


  6. #72 Peter Borah says:

    This summer we’re going to be doing a ton of rpg-related stuff, and I think playtesting Microscope would be an awesome addition. Add me to the list?

  7. #71 ben robbins says:

    Cool Peter, I’ll add you to the list when the next playtest release is ready.

  8. #70 Peter Usagi says:

    I’m interested in play testing microscope. Send me a line if you still need feedback.

  9. #69 ben robbins says:

    Great Eisenhorn, I’ll put you on the list for when the next version is ready.

  10. #68 Eisenhorn says:

    I’d love to get a chance to fiddle with these rules. We love new systems and meet twice a week, might be great for our alt game.

  11. #67 ben robbins says:

    John & Frans: I’m working on another major tweak to the rules, so I’m going to hold off on sending out more copies until I get that ironed out. As soon as I have those changes ready, I’ll send you the package.

  12. #66 Frans says:

    Hi if you still need any testers I would be interested in giving it a try with my buddies, when job and university lets me….

  13. #65 John says:

    I am interested in trying this with my gaming group.

  14. #64 ben robbins says:

    Fantastic! I want to hear all about it. There’s a whole thread for play reports:

    Many Shades of History: Microscope Actual Play

    One playtester was talking with a teacher about playing it with kids in her drama workshop, but I haven’t heard how it went. Suffice to say, if anyone tries it, I’m really curious to hear how it works.

  15. #63 Spoon says:

    Ben, I played last night with Justin Alexander and our crew, and I love the game. I want to play again as soon as possible. Has anyone tried playing with children?

  16. #62 Matt says:

    Sounds interesting. I’d like to try it with my gaming/writing group

  17. #61 Rabbit says:

    And another latecomer expressing profoundest interest on playtesting this, if possible!

  18. #60 ben robbins says:

    How can I resist such enthusiasm?

  19. #59 James says:

    This sounds AMAZING. Can I get in on the playtesting?

  20. #58 Nigel says:

    I’ve been following this for a while now, and I’m definitely interested in playtesting if you still need people to try it out. I swung the ideas by my group and everybody sounded really interested and excited by the idea.

  21. #57 Twillik says:

    I’d be interested in playtesting Microscope, if you still need more testers – it sounds like something my group would enjoy playing.

  22. #56 ben robbins says:

    Welcome everybody! You should have your playtest instructions in email.

  23. #55 Ktrey says:

    I’m also interested in playtesting Microscope if you would still like additional playtesters. It sounds like it would work very well with the group of people I currently play with.

  24. #54 Steve says:

    Definitely looks like an interesting game – I’d love to playtest it if you still need testers. I enjoyed your West Marches posts immensely, to the point where my own West Marches style game is kicking off on Sunday with a player roster of 15 right now (and growing!). I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

  25. #53 Mada M says:

    This seems like an interesting game, if you’re still doing playtesting on it, I would love to get one of my regular groups together to give it a try – we haven’t really done anything without a GM before, so this could be an interesting experiment!

  26. #52 Ian H says:

    Microscope sounds really interesting (I’ve just recently discovered your site and read through your playtests and other blog posts about it), and I’d love to get a few of my regular gaming group friends together and give it a test run! It looks like something different and unique to try, and we don’t have an ongoing campaign at the moment.

  27. #51 Jason Love says:

    Thanks, Ben!

    Kazz: I also had the forums in mind when I requested this. Check your email.

  28. #50 Kazz says:

    I wanna play! I wanna play! I always force my friends to play weird things, and this would be no exception. No offense.

  29. #49 Jake says:

    The group I’m in has been experimenting with different play-styles and systems lately… This sounds like the direction I’d like to be headed! I’d love to playtest it.

  30. #48 ben robbins says:

    More Microscope packets sent out. Go forth and play!

  31. #47 Jason Love says:

    Hello! Our group plays a lot of Champions/HERO system, with a couple members dabbling in D&D or White Wolf products, but lately a couple of us have been trying out more indie games—we just had a lot of fun with Lacuna, for example. I’d love to see how we do with Microscope!

  32. #46 ben robbins says:

    I’ve sent you the link Justin.

  33. #45 Justin Alexander says:

    I’d love to give this a playtest, Ben.

  34. #44 ben robbins says:

    You should see a welcome email in your inbox Bruce. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

  35. #43 Bruce Anderson says:

    I just heard about Microscope via the You Meet in a Tavern forum. I had been trying to figure out how to do a “future history” campaign with Savage Worlds. If you are still looking for playtesters, I would certainly like to give it a try with my group.

  36. #42 ben robbins says:

    More playtest packs sent out. If you volunteered but didn’t get one, let me know.

  37. #41 Trinkit says:

    I’m interested in giving it a test, have read a few play reports here and there and I’d love to know more.

  38. #40 Rani Sharum says:


    I’d like to participate in this playtest as well, if there are still openings.
    Either way, the game sounds great :)

    Best of luck with it.

  39. #39 Benjamin Key says:

    If you’re still doing the playtests, I can get a group together with a little effort.

    All these hints and partial examples have been driving me MAD! MAD, I SAY!

    Anyway, here’s hoping that you send a copy.

  40. #38 d7 says:

    Life is interfering with my desire to playtest microscope. I wish I had some of that furious storm. On the bright side, microscope being very nearly a pickup game means that any crack in my schedule can be jumped on.

    Aside, good job on the writing in the playtest copy. It’s a clear and pleasant read.

  41. #37 ben robbins says:

    Absolutely! Lots more welcome emails have been sent out, and the feedback I’ve already been getting is awesome. It’s going to be a furious storm of playtesting.

  42. #36 d7 says:

    I’m late to the party, but: Oh my, yes. If you still want playtesters, I’m more than game and I know at least some of my group would be interested. “No prep” is music to my ears these days.

  43. #35 Aaron Sapp says:

    If there is still need, I would like to be involved.

  44. #34 ben robbins says:

    You can email me at microscope-playtest + lamemage.com. There are some Microscope threads at Story Games, so that’s also a good place for discussion — start a new thread in the Actual Play forum if you want to write up a summary.

    I’m going to send out an email today or tomorrow with some guidelines about feedback. If you post before that, you can just fill in those spots (if necessary) later on.

  45. #33 Myst Walker says:

    So I’ve managed to have a couple (messy) sessions so far, and we want to finish this world off with one more before we start a new one. My question is, how do I give you the feed-back we’ve got?
    Is there a forum, or do we send it to you via email? And in what format do you want it?

  46. #32 Tom says:

    I read the one-paragraph explanation for this game. And I loved it. I’d love to playtest it, see what my group thinks!

  47. #31 Villim says:

    Since it looks from the storygames thread to be playable by two players, i’d love to playtest microscope. might also be able to get a bigger game together, but have been looking for fun two-player games

  48. #30 Brennen Reece says:

    I’d love to playtest Microscope. We just finished Geiger Counter, and it would be great to keep that GMless thing going for awhile.

  49. #29 Ryan C. says:

    Sounds just like the kind of game I could run on a forum. Most games on the aforementioned forum die out because everything is dependent on one person (a player or GM) to move things along. It’d be interesting trying this out PbP.

  50. #28 Daniel Taylor says:

    See what you meant; preconceptions duly abandoned, but the idea still fits well. The concept is to do an SF universe with Machiavelli politics, treating planets as city-states run by rival noble families. I still suspect we’ll be doing very much the game I originally had in mind.

    Of course, I have said things like that before… I’m sure there must have been _a_ time when it actually happened.

  51. #27 ben robbins says:

    @ zozeer — Actually time travel isn’t part of the concept. The players are seeing history from different angles. Characters in the fiction aren’t. You could tack on characters “watching” events that the players are perceiving, but that’d be a somewhat different game.

  52. #26 zozeer says:

    I would love to give microscope a shot. It looks like the perfect storm for the time travel game I’ve wanted to run or play in since Back to the Future came out….

  53. #25 ben robbins says:

    Lots more playtest emails sent out.

    @ Daniel — Keep in mind it’s not GM’ed and the other players have just as much creative control as you do. It’s a very good idea not to start with a rigid idea of the history until you sit down at the table and everyone has a say. Of course you can suggest starting points, but it may turn out very differently than you expected. Be prepared to abandon your preconceptions. You’ll see more when you read the rules.

  54. #24 Daniel Taylor says:

    I’d very much like to give this a go; I need a game for a one-off slot in mid July, and I have an idea for something I want to do with long-term noble-family politics in an SF setting.

  55. #23 Jeremiah says:


    I’d like to take this to my game group, if you still need playtesters.

  56. #22 Matthew says:

    I’d love to give it a try, my group is always open to trying new games.

  57. #21 ben robbins says:

    I’ve sent out the next batch of playtest emails. Welcome aboard everybody! Looks like we’re going to have a really great spread of participants.

    There’s already some initial discussion on this Story Games thread. Feel free to join in.

  58. #20 DainXB says:

    I’d love to run a playtest of this with my group!

    We’ve been using Starblazers (FATE 3.0) as the system for a campaign, and the collaborative campaign sessions are often more fun (at least for me) than the ‘regular’ PC-centric parts of the session. We also tend to get side-tracked in Universalis, with more world-building than story-driving, so that may not be a big surprise…

    Microscope sounds like just the thing for hitting that sweet spot.

  59. #19 Matthijs says:

    Sounds fun, I’d like to try it out.

  60. #18 Owen says:

    I’m be interesting in helping if you still need more people.

  61. #17 Dorquemada says:

    I’d love to run a playtest. I’m part of a regular gaming group in the Baltimore area and we’re always looking toward the horizon of gaming.


  62. #16 Asmund says:

    I don’t know if I will be able to run it this summer, but I would like to try.

  63. #15 ben robbins says:

    Emails have been sent out to the second-wave of volunteers, so if you didn’t get it let me know.

  64. #14 Adam says:

    I’ve been talking about this with my regular gaming group, and we are all interested in playtesting. If there’s still room for more people, we would love to try it out.

  65. #13 Gumby says:

    Oh Microscope, oh baby, let me test you. I shall put you through your paces and work your body!

  66. #12 ben robbins says:

    The first wave of emails with download links have been sent out. If you don’t get an email, post here and let me know so we can figure a workaround (it probably got blocked by spam filters).

    Thanks in advance to everyone who volunteered. There’s still room for more, so if you’re interested, step up!

  67. #11 Myst Walker says:

    I’ve followed your blogs for a while now, and I find your insights fascinating.
    I would be honored to test out your game with my friends and give you what information we can glean.

  68. #10 bats says:

    I’m definitely interested. It’d be nice to get rid of the maddening-ness previously complained about. My group has been between games and I’ve been stuck in GM-development-hell, so it’d be nice to go no-GM on something.

  69. #9 Mark Townshend says:

    Microscope sounds like something my group could really go for, and we’ll be between games soon.

  70. #8 timeLESS says:

    Hi! id like to playtest Microscope with a group of new players here in the netherlands

  71. #7 Jonathan Walton says:

    Looking forward to seeing the new version.

  72. #6 Maitresinh says:

    well, i’m quite far away from seatlle (…) but i’m very interested by the fractal concept and would love to make a test here…

    i will need to translate it, or at least make a sum-up of rules in french…

  73. #5 Chris Ogden says:

    Microscope piqued my interest some time ago and I’ve been checking back nearly every day since for more information. I’d like to playtest.

  74. #4 Foster Ranney says:

    I stumbled on this blog a little while ago, and I’m really curious about Microscope. I don’t know whether I’ll have a chance to run it this summer, but I’d like to try.

  75. #3 Indagator says:

    I’d like to playtest – my group is just starting an Alternity campaign that I could postpone for a couple while.

  76. #2 Adam Drew says:

    Yes please!

  77. #1 Brian Ballsun-Stanton says:

    Yeah. I’m running an Uncampaign here in Sydney where we play around with various indie systems. I’d love to playtest it. I’m running… Don’t rest your head tomorrow… Dogs in the vineyard next week… and this seems like a good thing for the week after.

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