Last weekend I had a chance to play Microscope for the first time with some of my gaming crew from way, way back. We’re talking veterans of Lorngard and my old AD&D campaign — that far back.
We started our history with a pretty basic fantasy premise: magic was perilous, and a eldritch war had nearly destroyed the world before we pulled back from the brink. Now magic was feared and suppressed — with good reason — but we knew that at the end of our history a great magocracy had risen, elevating the realms to new heights but probably setting them on the path to destruction once more.
In the Palette we agreed that magic potential was something you were born with. Later we decided that those with the gift were called “the Blooded”, both for the literal reason that they were sorcerous bloodlines, but also as a more bitterly ironic title, because as our history went on, we saw how they were horribly abused by the ordinary people who (rightly) feared their power. As players, it was wonderful how often we flipped from being sympathetic to the oppressed Blooded to seeing them as a terrible threat to the world. This was not a black and white history.
And speaking of atrocities…
Not That Kind of Human Sacrifice
Back in the Palette, we also established that to do magic, you paid a price. But it wasn’t until the second Focus that we really zoomed in to explore what that meant. The second Focus? The “Sacrifices”, the term for people that the magi exploit to power their sorcery.
That’s right: no one said the sorcerer was the one who paid the price, did they?
So, human sacrifices. Woo, edgy, right? Well no, it’s not that kind of human sacrifice. It doesn’t kill them, it just takes something… essential… out of them. The Sacrifice goes on living, but with some part of who they are missing, forever. Is it their capacity to feel joy, a memory of childhood, their singing voice or an appreciation of beauty? It could be any or all of the above, but they are left alive but more hollow than before. Just a little less human.
“That’s what I was going to make!!!”
So how did the old school do with the new school? They kicked ass, as I expected. We started off cautiously but by the end everyone was popping with ideas. There was a lot of “that’s what I was going to make!!!” which is always beautiful to hear, since it means we have psychically gotten onto the very same page.
We only got to play one scene, which is unfortunate because since you’re learning a whole new procedure (i.e. the scene rules) the first takes longer but the second and later scenes are the pay-off. But we were tight for time so we dictated more scenes than we might have otherwise.
And how did the Blooded do? By the end of our game it looked like it was actually some of the sorcerers who stopped the others from precipitating the apocalypse at the very start of our history. But did anyone remember or thank them? It sure didn’t look like it. When the Blooded were hunted down and persecuted, we didn’t see any exceptions for the “good ones” who saved the world…