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4.29  ·  Rating details ·  273 ratings  ·  33 reviews
What is Microscope?

Humanity spreads to the stars and forges a galactic civilization...

Fledgling nations arise from the ruins of the empire...

An ancient line of dragon-kings dies out as magic fades from the realm...

These are all examples of Microscope games. Want to explore an epic history of your own creation, hundreds or thousands of years long, all in an afternoon? That'
Paperback, First, 80 pages
Published 2011 by Lame Mage Productions
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4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  273 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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"You can also use Microscope to build settings for other game systems. Play one session, and you have a world that everyone at the table knows and likes. Make up some characters and go exploring."

This quote, from nearly the end of the book, neatly defines Microscope's purpose. Mr. Robbins' work is not a "game" so much as it is a "generator of collaborative history."

DESIGN: The design is well laid out, with the concept laid out, the rules in a neat order after that, several diagrams and then a "h
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: roleplaying gamers who like storytelling
I've just become aware of the new trend in roleplaying games: "Storytelling games." The basic idea is not really new, of course - there have been experimental, GM-less RPGs before, but it seems right now a lot of people are publishing games explicitly designed to be collaborative efforts between players to create worlds and "run" games without a GM.

Microscope seems to have the advantages and flaws of all such systems - it would probably work best with a group really willing to commit themselves
Michael Burnam-Fink
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, rpg
Microscope describes itself as "a fractal role-playing game of epic histories." This is a big claim, perhaps insanely ambitious, but Microscope might just be able to pull it off. I haven't had a chance to play Microscope, so this based just on reading the text, but that said:

I've theorized roleplaying games as about Structured Negotiation. In that regard, Microscope gives you a very powerful and elegant way to narratively generate histories. The nested structure of Period-Event-Scene intuitively
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
OK, this is fascinating.

Microscope claims on its cover to be a role playing agme of fractal history. I'm not sure that RPG is the right label though. I can see how starting with veteran role-players (and I mean character- or story-driven role-players, not crunchy-bit or min-maxing roll-players) is a good place to start.

OK, start over. What's the idea? To create a fictional history. Kind of like being a GM or author doing your world building.

Cool, so a framework to build worlds around, allowing c
Shannon Appelcline
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rpgs
One of the best roleplaying games (story games) of the 21st century. It's very innovative in both its idea of using a game to create a history and in the way it approaches it by moving back and forth in time and "fractally" creating periods, events, and scenes.

Though it's fun just to play on its own (and I could see regularly revisiting the same histories again and again) what I really love is the ability to use it to create histories for other mediums — be it a novel or a tabletop roleplaying g
Gunnar Bangsmoen
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Presents itself as a game, but would probably only work in the most forgiving of game groups. What Microscope has got going for it, however, is an excellent exercise in world building. 4stars as the latter, 2stars as the former.
May 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Something I've noticed about reading a great deal of role playing games is that one of the best parts of them is the initial premise. Roleplaying games tend to come at you with promises: experience a world of adventure, relive tales of heroism, build worlds like your favorite book/TV show/movie only this time you get to be the main character, so on and so forth. This is the hook that draws us in, makes us want to read through the numbers and find out what really lets us live in worlds composed o ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Genius! This is the story game I have been looking for - thanks!
Josh Storey
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This game is simple and so complex. Frankly, it's amazing, and I'll be mining this thin edition for new ideas for years to come.
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As usual, I am late to the party of awesome things, and Ben Robbins's Microscope is most certainly an awesome thing. The game itself is of course incredible, but this is a review of the text, so I will just say that the book is exactly as long as it needs to be and not a page longer. The presentation is clear, indicating not only what the players should be doing during their turns, but how to make those actions as powerful as possible, providing clear examples all along the way. The extra advice ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book lays out the rules for an interesting form of role-playing games. It's played with pens and notecards and imagination. It's called 'Microscope,' because the game works by changing levels of action during play. At the largest level is the central idea for the game, and then come, 'Periods,' which act as distinct time periods. Then come 'Events,' which are major events within a, 'period.' Finally come, 'scenes,' where the players dramatize a major scene within an 'event.'

I confess that I
Mark Austin
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
★ - Most books with this rating I never finish and so don't make this list. This one I probably started speed-reading to get it over with.
★★ - Average. Wasn't terrible, but not a lot to recommend it. Probably skimmed parts of it.
★★★ - Decent. A few good ideas, well-written passages, interesting characters, or the like.
★★★★ - Good. This one had parts that inspired me, impressed me, made me laugh out loud, made me think - it got positive reactions and most of the rest of it was pretty decent too.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaming, role-playing
A great little game (80 pages) that is more of a collaborative world building game than an RPG, although it does have moments of role-playing built in.

After establishing some basic facts about the setting, players take turns establishing Periods, Events and Scenes that help flesh out the history of the setting they are creating. The mechanics force everyone playing to contribute and prohibit 'alpha' gamers from dominating the turns of less assertive gamers. The result can be quite interesting a
Matthew Galloway
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a really fascinating gaming system -- more a very structured, yet open, system to tell a story. You create a structure to base your grand, sweeping history on and then bounce back and forth throughout it to explore any little bit that interests you. As the writer is fond of saying, this means that no matter what happens, you never have to forget about a character or place or event because there's always some other question you can explore within it.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rpgs
This is a fantastic game. It has the perfect balance between giving its players a firm foundation and clear rules with which to play, while still allowing them the freedom to follow their creative impulses. I'd highly recommend this to both new gamers and those with a lot of tabletop RPG experience.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a gaming book which designer and writer Ben Robbins describes as "fractal" worldbuilding. No GM, you take turns around the table establishing a timeline for the world and fleshing out that timeline, in any order and any level of specificity. You can do eras, or you can do scenes. It seems like a lot of fun, and he's got an inherent knack for storytelling, but I haven't played it yet.
Day New
Sep 20, 2015 rated it liked it
A very interesting game where your group writes a unique history of events. The rules seem very well thought out to enable everyone to contribute equally. I will update this reviewer after I have played it.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Are you a nerd? Are you into roleplaying or storytelling? Do you like literature, history, improv theater, or anything at all that engages your creativity? Do you want an awesome activity to spend an afternoon on with your friends?

Yes? Boy have I got a recommendation for you.
Cintain 昆遊龍

Can't wait to try it out. The concept of cooperative storytelling at the heart of every RPG is brought to the fore elegantly and powerfully in Microscope. The rules are terse and easy to explain, and the gameplay offers intriguing possibilities.
Aug 16, 2012 added it
Very much looking forward to playing this.
The rules are well written and well presented with lots of examples and a good exposition of the spirit in which the game should be approached. A single read through and I'm confident that I'll be able to get stuck in with a minimal amount hassle.
Wythe Marschall
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This game is simply... mindblowing. The prose of the game-rules is a pleasure to read. I've read limitless nerdcore game-rules in my day, and this is the clearest of them, for the most abstract (and therefore most potentially confusing) game yet: the game of history, *all* of it.
Jeremiah Lee
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic idea for getting collaborative storytelling to have some rules making it truly collaborative. Really excited to play this again, having now read all the rules.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Unique and fun.

Not something I could play over and over, but worth the buy.

Great primer for a co-operative storytelling game like fate or any of the apocalypse engine games.
Jim Sensenbrenner
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaming, 2015
Rating based on reading alone. This might change after actual play.
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Easy to understand and well organized. I can't wait to play. It read similar to Fiasco, if you are interested in that kind of RPG.
Jamie Sue
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rpgs
Great game! Looking forward to reading the supplement Explorer.
Adrian George
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-rpg
an interesting RPG. I think it would be fun for a session or two then use it as a setting for another game.
Allison Lara
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sounds like a really interesting concept for diceless role playing. I don't know if I have any friends that would do it, but it seems like a fun way to flesh out a campaign world beforehand as well.
Interesting concept. I'm curious to see how it works in play. At the very least it could be a useful tool in world building.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Solid concept, eager to see how it works in practice.
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