One of the things I bought myself for Christmas was Microscope by Ben Robbins. It’s my first foray into the realm of story-based RPGs. My son Christopher and I sat down and played for about an hour and a half, trying to get a handle on the rules and concepts behind the game. It was interesting and entertaining, albeit a bit confusing here and there. Still, I don’t regret the purchase. With more play time, I’m sure it’ll click, which is good since I want to use Microscope to establish character backstories before I start my next Man Day Adventures campaign.
Here’s what Christopher and I came up with:
Matthias lived in a small town with his mother Yandella. The young man loved Julia, the daughter of a money-seeking patriarch. He was also troubled by strange things happening in his vicinity whenever he was emotional. Objects would move. Fires would start. Things like that.
Matthias walked into the kitchen where Yandella was chopping vegetables near the fire for the evening stew. Matthias was upset, teeth clenched, agitated. He had asked Julia’s father for her hand in marriage, and he had been rejected. Not only rejected, but he discovered Barlow had beat him to the punch. Barlow, the son and heir of the town’s wealthiest landowner. Matthias tried to change the father’s mind, but to no avail. Rage overwhelmed Matthias, and arcane power burst forth uncontrolled. Barlow was injured by bolts of lightning.
Yandella could see her son’s agitation, and she noticed the inexplicable movements of several small household items. What she didn’t know was that Julia’s father had summoned the town guard.
“What’s the matter, son?” she asked.
Matthias sat down, trying to calm himself. He told his mother about what had happened, sparing no details. “It’s not fair! She doesn’t love Barlow. She loves me.”
“Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe, when people have calmed down….” Her voice trailed off. Did Matthias see the fear in her eyes? Did he see how hard she was trying to keep her hands from shaking?
A shadow moving past the kitchen window caught Yandella’s attention. Another shadow, and this time she could see the livery of the town guard. Her grip tightened on the handle of the knife. They’d not take her son. He was all she had left!
The guards burst in through front and back, yelling, barking orders. One of them knocked over a table. Yandella started to move, to protect her son. Matthias leapt from his chair. It flew across the room to smash against the wall.
“No!” he screamed.
White hot flames exploded from the fireplace, enveloping Yandella. Her hair burnt. Her flesh bubbled, curling back from her bones.
“Mother! Gods! Mother!”
All fight left Matthias. He collapsed to his knees, sobbing, horrified eyes locked on Yandella’s smouldering corpse.
There was a trial a few days later. Matthias stood on the platform of the accused before the judges and the jury. Witnesses were called. Barlow’s family used its wealth and influence, demanding the severest punishments possible. Only one person stood to defend Matthias: the young man’s best friend. The confrontation grew heated. Matthias watched, helpless, increasingly angry. Barlow’s family threatened Matthias’s best friend.
“Enough!” Matthias yelled. Arcane power crackled across his body.
But it was too late. The energy had started to flow, and Matthias could not control it. In a flash, lightning raged and thunder crashed. People screamed. Many fled, but one could not flee. Could no longer do anything, for he had caught the brunt of the arcane fury. Matthias’s best friend was dead.
“Seize him! Kill him!”
Matthias recoiled from the second loved one he had killed. And then, the young man vanished. Under cover of invisibility, Matthias fled into self-imposed exile.
Time passed. Matthias had learned to control his arcane powers, and he had even made some friends, several young adventurers eager to use their talents to make the world a less safe place for the forces of evil. Matthias viewed his association with these new friends as a way to atone for the deaths of his mother and his best friend.
When word reached Matthias and company that his town was in the path of a rampaging orc army, the adventurers threw caution to the wind and journeyed there. Julia learned that Matthias was back in town. She snuck out of the house and went to the inn where Matthias was staying. She threw several pebbles at his window. Alerted by the tapping, Matthias opened the shutters and peered outside. There, in the moonlight, was his love.
“Julia,” he said, “you shouldn’t be here.”
“I had to come. I had to. Come with me. Quickly.”
Minutes later, Julia and Matthias stood in shadows by the river’s edge. Julia confessed her love for Matthias. He reciprocated.
“Julia, after my friends and I have defeated the orcs, come with me. Be my wife.”
Julia’s eyes brimmed with tears. Seeing the tears, icy fear touched Matthias’s heart, but then the cold melted into joy.
“Yes, my love!” Julia said. “By the gods, yes!”
What neither of the young lovers knew was that further in the future, their dreams would turn to nightmares, and Matthias would eventually turn his back on life and light to become a lich.
(The picture below is what the “game board” looked like when we quit to watch Iron Chef America.)