Saturday, February 23, 2013

Microscope and Doctor Who

Our Thursday night gaming group has been playing some sessions of Microscope. It's a storygame which I first learned about through the Diaspora RPG listserv. I have now played it twice. This week's game was particularly fun. We decided to do a game about Space Vikings. Real Space Vikings, the kind who use longships with oars and sails to cross the foamy ether-seas to other worlds.

Our future history (the creation of which is the game of Microscope) began by establishing the beginning era and the end era for our story - the bookends for the timeline as it were. The beginning was the launch of Ragnar's fleet into the ether; the end point was the establishment of a democratic Viking space commonwealth.

The game's mechanics structure play in such a way that players take turns interpolating additional eras between the bookends, and/or specifying events that happen within specific eras. Players can choose to play out certain historical events so that the group can answer a specific question, and determine how historical events moved forward.

In our case, one of the key events that was played out was the question of "What did the Vikings take away from Mars?"  Individual players have a lot of say about what happens when it is there turn to be in the spotlight, but the mechanics establish some preliminary groundrules at the beginning of play (examples from this game were "I want this to be fantasy"; "I don't want this to be SF"; "I want there to be real Vikings with longships"; "I want there to be a Barsoom").

So I had an epiphany tonight about how to bring a bit more time travel to the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG. Why not use Microscope to create a world timeline for a campaign? The bookends would be fixed points in time. Maybe what happens between these bookends would be more fluid. Its an idea worth exploring a bit more with the gaming group. Maybe something interesting could come from it.


  1. after the microscope game, perhaps, but read the cautions in microscope about allowing time travel in the game.. (it often changes the focus from the history to the exploits of a traveller, for example.)

  2. Thanks for the cautionary note, Koigami. I don't own the game - another player does - so I was unaware of those cautions.

  3. The language does tell us cautions can be thrown to the wind, but then I don't know much about Microscope except that I want to know more. I wonder whether it really could work for time travel, even with the change of focus. I'd hope so. A problem like that solved well enough with an off-the-shelf product would be something good.