Time Is A Tentacle

Microscope game recording on the Roll Play Game podcast. They’re expanding on an existing published setting, so there’s a lot of negotiation and discussion at the very start about what fits, but after that they get down to proper Microscope-business.

Storm of Whispers – Prologue I: The Origins of the Race

And when they say “origins of the race” they mean a race like vroom-vroom! I missed that at first, leading to some hilarious misunderstandings on my part.

Ben Robbins | July 30th, 2023 | ,

Beware False Prophets

A digital Fahrenheit 451 meets Twitter. Censorship, online connectivity (or the lack thereof), and everyone winding up miserable.

That’s the history I got to play with some folks who had never tried Microscope before, or hardly any story games for that matter. Playing with new folks is — let’s not mince words — always a fucking treat. It shakes up your habits and keeps you on your feet.

At one point in our history, after people disconnect en masse to defy the terrible terrible tech overlords, true believers compile the Lexicon, a digital “all book” with all the knowledge that could once be found on the net.

But for *waves hands vaguely* fantasy technology reasons, the Lexicon can be transferred but not duplicated. Only the one true Lexicon can exist. And because people have gone offline, the sole Lexicon is downloaded into someone’s brain. That person bears the sacred book hidden within them, until they pass it on to another carrier.

We had already introduced the “World Saviors”, a secret society that, as the name implies, is determined to save humanity from the pit it has found itself in. How? Neural nanotech, of course! The common people can’t be trusted to figure this out themselves, so the World Saviors are going to make the decision for them. Totally cool dudes and not patronizing at all.

From the World Saviors point of view, the Lexicon is just out there somewhere, not in their control, hidden yet venerated, and that simply won’t do. So what’s their response? They create a bunch of *fake* Lexicons and embed them in people to go forth and claim to be the one true bearer.

False prophets wander the world, preaching Reconnection and the benefits of neural nanotechnology, while the true Lexicon remains hidden. At some point the true bearer dies before passing it on, removing the real Lexicon entirely until someone finds their grave years later and digs up their body to resurrect it. In the meantime it’s nothing but false prophets.

And did I mention that the Lexicon is almost certainly haunted by the spirit of its first creator, the rebel daughter of the original tech lord? Yeah, that hasn’t been a problem *yet* because we only found out towards the end of the game, but it puts everything that is going down in a very different perspective. Not just the Lexicon is being hunted: *she* is being hunted.

Hindsight is a powerful thing in Microscope.

Ben Robbins | July 24th, 2023 | ,

Barbie x Microscope

Barbie x Microscope

Yes, that’s Barbie Microscope.

There are close ups of the timeline in the thread which are just loaded with golden moments: “Ken is good at taking orders.” “Why does Ken have big feelings???” I can *see* the story arc unfolding.

I have… no words. Just infinite love and respect.

Ben Robbins | July 16th, 2023 | , ,

You got Kingdom in my D&D!

How do you introduce a big mysterious enclave of druids to your D&D players without a boring info dump? Well if you’re a bold experimenter, you have the whole group play a game of Kingdom to create the enclave, so the players already know all about it. Oh and maybe you have to do that with seven players, just to add another wild wrinkle.

How did it go?

In short, it was an incredible experience, met my needs, and is highly recommended. So long as I, as a GM, was able to give my players an untouched section of the lore for them to be free in I was able to achieve:

  • An epic, complex history that my players all understand out of experience rather than memorization.
  • A plethora of characters and events more diverse and complex than something I could have easily generated on my own, especially ones that break with traditional tropes and cliches
  • A series of meaningful explanation as to WHY that organization has its particular quirks and characteristics (now my players understand why the organization is paranoid about outsiders and humans without just seeming arbitrarily weird or racist, for example)
  • Best of all: my players had a great time, and really enjoyed themselves

There’s two posts, the first preparing for the game and the second reporting the results. There’s a lot more detail covering both the good and the bad, so I highly recommend a read.

And yeah, this is all in the new /r/gmless forum…

Ben Robbins | July 12th, 2023 | , , ,

A Place to Talk About GMless Games

I’m trying a little experiment.

Role-playing games with no GM are… let’s face it, a tiny weird niche in the tabletop RPG universe. So when you try to talk about GMless games in a forum that is 99.9% about games with a GM, it’s hard to generate any useful discussion density. Lots of people have zero idea what you’re talking about, or are concerned with the kind of things that only matter to GMed games.

We need a place to talk about GMless games specifically. So we made one:


It is brand new, hot of the presses, new car smell, the works. I will take time to get traction. I doubt a single person is in there yet. But that first single person could be you.

I don’t intend this as *my* forum for *my* games, but as a place for everyone who is into GMless games to talk about our weird and brave little hobby. I’m definitely looking forward to other people taking the reins as mods, etc. And yes, in a perfect world it would be a standalone site, not owned by some external corporation, but right now it feels like the best bet is to go where the people are.

Ideally it will become a really great place to ask questions about how to play and have fun with GMless games. A place to share what we know and make our games better.

Now get in there and say hi!

Ben Robbins | July 2nd, 2023 | , , | 3 comments

Just Him and His Dad

From an email I’ve been meaning to post. Today seems like the right day:

Just wanted to let you know – I introduced a friend of mine to Microscope with a 4-person game a few months back, and he enjoyed it so much that I bought him the rulebook. He texted me yesterday saying that he played a 2-person game the other night, just him and his dad (a first-time Microscope player), and that:

“I haven’t had an interaction with my dad like that since we played first edition D&D together when I was a kid.”

It really meant a lot to him as an adult to be able to sit down with his dad and just kind of “play catch” with their imaginations like they did 20-some years ago. Thanks for such a cool game.

Stuff like this makes being a game designer feel pretty great. Happy Father’s Day.

Ben Robbins | June 18th, 2023 | , , | 4 comments