Like so many activities, writing is more fun if you can find a way to share it with friends. This weekend I did just that, having my second go at the Microscope world building game. More accurately, I had my second and third goes at it, as Everwalker and I spent all day Saturday inventing imaginary worlds with friends. You can read about what Everwalker made of it here.
So what new things did I learn this time?
When you’re inventing a fantasy setting, or even a story within one, it’s easy to spend time on the details and take big picture things for granted. Halfway through our first game Dr Nick upended this by revealing that our world revolved around its moon, as did the sun and stars. None of us had seen that coming, but it made that world a lot more intriguing.
Our second game was a vast space opera, spanning humanity’s settlement of the stars and the eventual overthrow of an evil empire. This setting got pulled in some very different directions, as Everwalker played up the tragic elements, Dr Nick (a naval architect) filled it full of AI warfare, and I crammed comedic outlaw monkey men into every available space. That might sound like a mess, but it worked really well. These thematically distinct strands played off each other well, and gave our universe a sense of depth, with the absurd and the overwhelming going hand in hand. It felt like a real place, full of inconsistencies and contradictions yet all interconnected, like the real world.
Go with your guts
We almost had a misfire starting the second game. We started talking about a post-apocalyptic setting, but then we struggled to even complete a pallet of elements to include and exclude. It clearly wasn’t stirring anybody’s enthusiasm. We scrapped that idea and the resulting space game created much more energy. It made me realise what a mistake it is to push on through with a story I can’t get passionate about, as sometimes happens. It just leads to a lack of creativity, going through the motions instead of getting fired up.
Whether you’re playing Microscope or planning your epic novel, don’t be afraid to ditch an idea if it doesn’t feel right, if it doesn’t fill you with passion for the task. You just won’t commit to it in the way that it needs.
Under the lens
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Microscope is great fun. It isn’t really a roleplaying game, and in our second story we skipped the roleplay entirely. But it’s a wonderful creative activity to share with friends, and a great way to generate unusual ideas for stories or roleplay settings.