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How Humanity was Saved by Giant Space Whales

I want to say interesting things about last night’s game of Microscope RPG, but honestly what I *really* want to do is go hit some thrift stores before games day this afternoon and women’s book club tonight. I’m going to write up a narrative of the history we built when I have more time to devote to it, but for now here is the broad outline of the history we created. Hopefully this will leave you curious and wanting to know more!

The Fall of Galactic Civilization

Named characters/places:
Lem Empire
Mongol Empire
Jay Edwards, scientist
Mary Parks, scientist
Officer Jackson, campus security
Peter, Mary’s finance
Leslie, Mary’s colleague
Danny, a five year old child
Malak, mystic
Isabelle, revolutionary, descendant of Jay Edwards
Ogadeh
Dina, lives on Mongol Prime
Dr. Stalinov, research scientist
Pedro, badass lab assistant
Rosie the Gorilla
Servitas, a planet
Cervantes, revolutionary
Janet, pilot
Stefen, commander


Allowed:

Magic
Interspecies Genetic Engineering
Space Whales
Empire
Environmental Destruction
Secret Societies (of humanoids, not of space whales)


Disallowed:

Religion
Nuclear Weapons did not cause the fall
Mythological Creatures
Faster than light travel
Superheroes (ie one person cannot singlehandedly save/destroy civilization through superhuman means)

Period One (dark):

Civilization is on the verge of collapse

Event (dark): Humanity mines the last warp crystal

Scene (dictated, dark):
Q. What happens when a galactic cruiser (The Titanic) runs out of fuel?
A. A catastrophic implosion, known as the “Great Implosion”

Event (dark): Great Implosion consumes Earth’s sun (dark)
Event (dark): The Great Implosion causes water to become scarce

Period Two (dark):

Water is so scarce it becomes a highly limited and valuable commodity

Event (light):
A team of valiant explorers travels into the center of the Great Implosion

Scene: (light)
Q. What does Mary Parks see in the Great Implosion that she writes into her notebook?
Setting: An exploration vessel traveling into the Great Implosion.
Characters: Mary, Dr. Stalinov, Janet, Stefan
A: The secret to (creating) water.

Event (light): Jay Edwards investigates a water-purifying animal (light)

Scene (dark):
Q. Who betrayed Mary?
Setting: Leslie and Mary’s lab.
Characters: Peter, Leslie, Pedro, Time, Rosie the Gorillia
A. Leslie and Peter

Scene (dark):
Q. How did Jay Edwards manage to steal Mary Parks’ ideas?
Setting: Mary’s bedroom/house. Characters: Officer Jackson, Leslie, Peter, Jay
A. Jay Edwards takes Mary’s journal from her bedroom during a homecoming party.

Period Three (light):

Mankind grows, having become reliant on Edwards’ space-faring purifying class of humpback whales

Event (light): Jay Edwards is imprisoned for treason
Event (light): Jay Edwards pioneers/discovers Mind Travel/Communication (while in prison)

Scene (light):
Q: How does The Mind work?
Setting: Jay’s prison cell, Leslie’s office, The Mind, Mongol Prime.
Characters: Guard, Leslie, Doctor, Jay, Dinah
A: Can only be accessed while sleeping/meditating; requires focus to interact visually with others; can affect into physical reality while in The Mind, but requires training/practice/skill; physical space inside the mind is a gray, formless void, much like fog. Language barriers still exist.

Period Four (light):

An era of creative expression flourishes as Mongols and Humans share idea via The Mind

Event (light): A Mongol shares his technique for removing traumatic memories
Event (light): The Great Implosion, which sucked most of the water from the galaxy, is contacted by the multitude of the mind, creating a dwarf planet that houses the Cave of Power (…. huh? I guess it was pretty late at that point…)

Period Five (dark):
The First Galacitic Civil War

Event (light): The people of the planet Servitas isolate themselves via The Mind
Event (dark): An ancient secret society known as the Falling Star rebel against what they consider to be the tyranny of The Mind
Event (dark): The creation of the mental dagger used by Isabelle to kill the Great Khan

Period Six (dark):
Lem Empire scours dissenting planets

Event (dark): The Lem Empire (“Lempire”), via the Mind, diverts water whales from Servitas

Period Seven (dark):
The New Mongol Empire nearly reconquers the galaxy

Event (dark): Mongol Prime mysteriously vanishes and only one person remembers it ever existed

Scene (light):
Q: Why does a five year old (Danny) remember Mongol Prime , which disappeared when he was one year old?
Setting: In a cave of power in some indeterminate place. Characters: Time, Danny, Malak, Jay
A: Jay Edwards (who is trapped in the pool inside the Cave) can project memories into people’s minds

Event (light): Death of the Great Khan
Event (light): The Mongols elect Jay Edwards’ descendant as their new Queen

Scene (light):
Q. Why did the Mongols elect Jay Edwards’ descendant as their new queen?
Setting: In a mental/astral space.
Characters: Unnamed general, multitude of generals, Isabelle, Khan
A. Isabelle killed the Khan, then his highest ranking general, and showed supremacy over the horde

Period Eight (light):
Mankind returns to its primitive roots

Event (light): Cervantes, last member of the Falling Star and the last one to know of the mental dagger, uses it to kill himself.
Event (light): The Lem Empire is intentionally, methodically disbanded from inside
Event (dark): Primitive man discovers long lost notebook

The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow, Part 2

This is the continuing story of the children of Raven’s Hollow, who are terrible bullies and not very bright. A relatively faithful record of a game of The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow that I played with friends on 5/13/16. You can read Part 1 here.

The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow, Part 2

“Hey, Benny! Bennnnnny!”

“Oh, hey, it’s No-Butt Sally! How’s it feel, having no butt?”

Sally pouted. “I do too have a butt!” She was wearing a pink dress that had once been pretty, but now it was torn and bedraggled. Her blond hair was pulled up into two ratty pigtails, and behind her she dragged a ratty blond-haired doll by the hair. Her face was smeared with dirt.

“Uh uh,” retorted Benny, who was leaning against a rotting fence, chewing bubble gum and kicking at some stones by his feet. “The other kids told me you stick a pillow down your tights to just make it look like you have a butt.”

Sally wrinkled her nose, lifted up the skirt of her dress, and turned around, wiggling her behind at the boy, who looked away in disgust. “Ew, that’s gross!”

“See, told you I have a butt,” she said, turning back around. “Hey Benny, I”m bored. I have an idea.”

Benny eyed her suspiciously. “It had better be a good idea, or I’ll tell all the kids about how I seen your no-butt with my own eyes.”

Sally ignored his insult. “Oh, it’s a great idea. You know how old man Withers takes his medicine at the same time every day?”

“You mean old man Smithers’ twin brother, the pastor?”

“Yeah, that’s the one! So, you should sneak into his house when he isn’t looking and switch his pills with some of Mrs. Harkins’ horse pills. I hear that she uses those pills to turn herself into a horse at night. Can you imagine the look on the old man’s face when he turns into a horse?”

Benny looked dubious. “But how am I going to get the horse pills?”

Sally grinned and procured a handful of monstrous pills. (I have no idea where she was keeping them. Maybe in the same place she keeps the pillow to hide the fact that she has no butt.)

“Whoa, how did you get those??”

“She just keeps them lying around! Are you gonna do it or what?”

Benny looked down the street where Mr. Withers’ house loomed large and foreboding. “I don’t know….”

“Oh, come on. I’ll keep guard. He won’t even know you’re in there.”

Benny nodded. “Okay, I’ll do it. Better than kicking these dumb stones around.” He pushed himself away from the fence and they walked down the street to where they could see Mr. Withers watching TV through his open front door.

Sally hid in the bushes outside the bathroom window while Benny snuck in through the front door. A raven settled itself on the porch railing, cocking its head to one side as it watched Benny disappear around the corner into the hallway.

“Watch out!” hissed Sally from the bushes a few moments later. “Mr. Withers just got up from his chair. He’s headed your way!” She heard a loud crash come from the bathroom, and hid even further down in the bushes, groaning.

“What was that? Who’s there?” asked the old man as he waddled his way to the bathroom. At that moment, though, the raven let out a loud shriek, and Mr. Withers turned around. He stepped out onto the porch and waved his hands at the bird. “Shoo! Get away from here, you filthy beast!” While he was distracted, Benny ran out the front door and away from the house, Sally following him.

“That was a stupid idea, Sally. I should know better than to listen to any more of your dumb ideas, No Butt.” He ran off, leaving Sally to cry about her stupid nickname.

***

(This is about the point where I’m losing interest in making this an interesting story. So I’m just going to record the details without being particularly concerned about literary quality.)

Later that afternoon, Benny found Laurie outside Town Hall. He could hear adults yelling loudly at one another inside. Laurie was drawing in chalk on the large statue of a horse that stood in front of the building. The statue was very creepy, posed in an unnatural position and with teeth bared.

“Laurieeeeeee. Laurie! I have a fun idea. You should go draw on the rooster on the roof of the old windmill, instead! If you do, I’ll give you your shoes back!”

The door to the old windmill was pretty much hanging off its hinges, so Laurie had no difficulty entering the building. A raven settled itself on the sill of an upper window that had long ago had its glass smashed out. Laurie climbed the rotting wood stairs, and the raven flew away as she pulled herself out through the window, cutting her hands on some jagged glass in the process. She carefully made her way to the roof, stuck her tounge out at Benny on the ground below, and began coloring in the rooster’s eyes and giving it green chalk hair. Benny, true to character, ran off before she could retrieve her shoes from him.

Benny’s fun ruined once again by the other children having far too many dice for their own good, he found Sally sitting outside the town’s one-room schoolhouse, playing with her doll, Mini Sally. She was brushing the doll’s dirty hair out with her fingers and tying it up into pigtails with a few pieces of twine, then taking it out and trying again.

Benny’s dare for Sally involved climbing in to the crawlspace in the back of the schoolhouse (don’t ask me why there was a crawlspace there) and getting one of the rats for him that had recently nested there. “I’d do it myself but you know, I’m too big to fit, so you need to do it for me.”

Sally succeeded in retrieving a rat… a baby rat. Which she flung in his face and ran off. Stupid boys.

***

Next, Benny found Jack sitting in the town’s gigantic Gothic cathedral. Why is there a Gothic cathedral? Why not? Jack was sitting near the altar with a Bible open in front of him, praying.

“Hey Jack! Guess what I found? An empty barrel. And you know what we should do with it? We should put you in it and roll you down some stairs!”

“No, Benny. Mr. Smithers is really mad at me for using his ladder, so I’m mad at you for getting me in trouble.”

“Aw, come on, it’ll be fun.”

“No, Benny. I won’t do it.”

Benny was annoyed. None of the kids were any fun. He grabbed Jack’s Bible and threw it in the font of Holy Water before running off to find a new victim.

***

A: Benny b. Sally. Sally is relaxing in a sailboat in the middle of the pond, reading a comic book with Mini Sally beside her. Jack reels her in by tying one of Laurie’s shoes to a rope and throwing it into the sailboat. Don’t remember what dangerous thing he dares Sally to do, but she tucks her comic book into the back of her tights, scandalizing Benny. And succeeds at the thing. Poor Benny.

R: Jack b. Benny. Jack finds Benny on the roof of the grain silo behind Mr. Smither’s house. He has a pigeon trapped under a plastic bucket and is trying to feed it some grain he stole. Jack has decided he now hates Mr. Smithers because he gave him a beating for being disobedient, and dares Benny to kick out the leg of the grain silo to knock it onto Mr. Smither’s house. (“It’s secretly weak!” “I don’t know, it looks pretty sturdy to me.” “That’s why it’s a secret!”) Ravens cause a ruckus, prevent the boys from carrying out their dangerous plan.

Ca: Benny b. Laurie: ride one of Mrs. Smith’s horses bareback. She succeeds, and decides to just stay on the horse indefinitely.

A: Benny b. Sally: Sally is building a house with sticks in a muddy section on the side of the road. Benny tells her to climb down into the gorge. If she falls, it’ll be okay ’cause it’s full of brambles that’ll cushion her fall. They’ll hurt a little but only as much as a bee sting, and those don’t hurt so much. Then she should get some brambles to build her house with instead of stupid sticks. Sally does it, ripping a strip of tulle off the bottom of her dress to protect her hands as she pulls up some brambles. (“Whoa, is this a stripping game now?!”)

C: Benny b. Jack: Jack is playing with his sailboat upriver from the dam. His sailboat is called the HMS Awesome. Benny: I’ll lower you down over the dam with this rope so you can catch me a fish. They get caught by an adult before Benny and Jack can attempt to do the stupid thing.

R: Jack b. Benny. Start a stampede in Mr. McGregor’s cow pasture. They’ll trample the mean old man. It’ll be great. Ravens prevent them from doing the stupid thing.

Ca: Benny b. Laurie: Using Mrs. Smith’s horse to smash Mr. McGregor’s pumpkins is dumb. Jump the gorge to prove how cool you are. She does so, to Benny’s dismay.

A: Jack b. Sally. Jack finds Sally coloring with a single yellow crayon in a pirate coloring book. “Hey Sally, did you know there are adults who pretend to be your friend, but they’re actually just the devil in disguise?” “Nuh uh. You’re just a dumb… um.. devil foot!” “Am not, my foot is aweseome! …. I named it after my sailboat.” “Sure, THAT foot may be awesome, but what about the OTHER foot?” Jack tells Sally to push Mr. Smithers out the library attic window. (“Can you imagine how mad it’ll make him?”) Mr. Smithers turns around at just the wrong moment, catching Sally in the act.

Epilogue:

The adults are horrified that Sally would try to push an old man to his death, and decide to send her away to the Institute to get “help”.

Horrified at the growing darkness in his soul, Jack drowns himself in the river.

Benny wanders into the woods in search of more animals to torture, and is never heard from again.

The adults realize that something is seriously wrong with the children in their town. Jack’s body has washed up on the shore. Benny has disappeared. Sally is being treated in the Institute. And Laurie, the wild girl with no shoes, has stolen Mrs. Smith’s horse and smashed Farmer McGreggor’s pumpkins and squashes. The adults decide to confront her. She shoots one of the adults’ horses in the eye with her toy bow and arrow, spooking the horse. It throws its rider and then tramples the poor man to death. Laurie escapes victorious and rides off into the overcast evening.

***

Would totally play this game again, but the conflict resolution mechanic wasn’t really working. I don’t know if we were all just rolling extraordinarily well, but it was much too easy for children to accomplish their dangerous deeds. I suppose they were occasionally rescued by adults or ravens intervening, though. I was just expecting more grim deaths. And a lot less dumb name calling. It was pretty cathartic to spend an evening with my friends calling each other variations on “buttface”. I think my favorite was “Butt Ears. You have poop coming out of your ears. And when there’s a weird smell it’s because of the poop.”

Also apparently when you’re in love (like Benny accused Laurie of being with Jack. Ew! (Casey and Chris are married in real life)) you can see the outline of a heart beating through your shirt. Unless you’re not actually in love. Then it’s just the outline of a butt.

I’m looking forward to playing this at Gamex and seeing how the card-driven version is different.

The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow, Part 1

Last night was a busy night at Math Haus. My housemates had friends over to play Pathfinder in the living room, and while they did that, I had a few friends over to play The Extraordinarily Horrible Children of Raven’s Hollow at the dining room table. The designer is running a session of the card-driven version (in development) at Gamex this coming Memorial Day weekend, but I found the original dice-based version on their website and it sounded like fun.

I now present to you….
The No-Good Children of Raven’s Hollow

A tale of mischief and bullying

Characters:
Benny, 6 1/2 years old, played by Ron
Laurie, undeterminate age, played by Casey
Jack, 8 years old, played by Chris
Sally, 7 years old, played by Me

Part 1

In Raven’s Hollow, the sun never shines.

Today was a day like any other. The adults of the town shuffled around, doing whatever boring things adults did. The sun did not shine, and the children entertained themselves as best as they could in the brown and gray world of ancient trees, mud puddles, tangled thickets, and decaying buildings.

Benny was in a foul mood, and was taking it out on a snake he’d found by the side of the creek. He wore a baseball cap (turned backwards, of course, like all the cool kids he saw on TV), and he was wearing a pair of dirty sneakers. They weren’t the cool sneakers he’d asked for, so instead he had drawn lightning bolts onto the sides with crayons. The shoes were stained strange colors from where he’d emptied the contents of a glow-stick onto them, trying to make the lightning bolts glow. (It hadn’t worked, hence the foul mood.) In his grubby hands Benny held a stick, which he was trying to poke in the snake’s mouth. The snake was having none of this, and kept snapping at the stick with sinister-looking fangs.

“Come on, snake. Just open a little wider, like that… no, hey! Not like that… Now, just stay still for a second…”

Just as Benny lunged forward with a decisive jab, a rustling in the brush surprised him, and he missed, stumbling forward. The snake made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snicker.

“Hey Benny, what are you doing?” asked Laurie with a sneer as she emerged from the bushes.

“Oh, it’s just you.” Benny rolled his eyes. “Go away Laurie, I’m busy.”

Laurie was a tall, gangly girl with ratty ginger hair. She was wearing shiny patent leather shoes (still shiny because she’d been careful to avoid any mud puddles) and in one hand she was carrying a bright red balloon.

“I’m not doing anything,” she answered snottily. “What are YOU doing?”

“Trying to get this snake good,” Benny answered, scowling. “But it won’t stay still long enough.”

Laurie scoffed. “Only little kids poke at snakes with sticks. I dare you to poke the snake in the mouth with just your finger! You’re not scared, are you?”

Benny eyed the snake, which eyed him back. He looked at his finger, then looked back at the snake’s evil-looking fangs. He gulped, started to move toward the snake with one pointer finger extended, then thought better of it and shrugged.

“Nah,” he said. “That’s dumb. Who cares about a dumb old snake, anyway?”

Laurie snickered. “Oh yeah?” She took a few quick steps forward, grabbed the snake by its tail, and before Benny could do anything about it, she spun it in the air and flung it downstream into the creek. “I guess you won’t care if I do that, then.”

“HEY!” Benny shouted in protest. He scampered into the stream, but the snake was no where to be found. He turned back to Laurie, who was lost in laughter. “You’re just a dumb girl. Stupidface.”

“Whatever, Benny. You’re the stupidface.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of a stupidface carries a balloon, anyway? Balloons are more dumb than snakes.” He walked over to where Laurie was standing and narrowed his eyes at her, then reached forward and grabbed the balloon out of her hands before she had time to react. He released the string, thoroughly enjoying her shrieks of dismay as the balloon climbed up, up, up before getting tangled high in the limbs of an ancient, decaying tree.

“There. If you climb that tree and get your balloon, I might believe that you’re not just a stupid girl. And I won’t tell all the other kids how stupid you are. Stupidface.”

“Okay, I’ll do it,” said Laurie without a second thought. She carefully took her shoes off and placed them on a pile of dry leaves at the base of the tree. “I’m not going to get my shoes dirty, though.” She looked up at the tree, which was swaying in the breeze and making loud creaking noises. A large raven settled itself down on a branch not too far from her balloon. The branch seemed far too thin to support the weight of the massive bird, but Laurie thought that maybe it meant the tree was sturdier than it looked.

After another moment to gather her courage, ignoring the irritating taunts of Benny behind her, she squared her shoulders and started to make her way up the tree, carefully placing her hands and feet on the sturdiest-looking of the decaying branches. After a much shorter time than either child had expected, she was almost within reach of the balloon. The raven, still eyeing her, flew down a few branches and almost as though it was helping her, plucked at the balloon string with its beak, conveniently untangling it from the branches and dropping the end down to where Laurie could grab it. She tied it around her wrist and descended back to the ground.

“See?” she said, brushing the dust off her dress. “Easy.” She smiled smugly, reaching for her shoes. They were gone. She frowned.

“Are you looking for these?” Benny dangled them in front of her eyes, then snatched them away cruelly. “Finders keepers!” he said, and ran off into the forest, ignoring Laurie’s shouts behind him.

***

Jack was the largest of the children of Raven’s Hollow. Maybe not the oldest – it was possible that title went to Laurie, but none of them were entirely sure how old she was. No, Jack was simply the largest. Tall and wide. He would be intimidating except that he was a good, quiet child who preferred to spend his free time surrounded by books. Today he was working his shift at the library, pushing a rickety cart around and shelving books. In his back pocket was a copy of his favorite book, which he occasionally snuck out to read a few pages, tucking it away again quickly before the librarian, Mr. Smithers, caught him. Today, Mr. Smithers was no where to be found, so Jack was taking a longer than usual reading break. This is where Benny found him. Benny snatched the book out of the older boy’s hands.

“Hey, what the…?” Jack said, startled. He looked up, and sighed. “Benny! Give that back!”

But Benny was too quick for Jack, and tossed the book high onto the top of one of the bookshelves, laughing with glee.

“Who reads books, anyway? Why don’t you ever play outside, Jack boy? Books are for sissy girls.”

Jack decided to not point out the sissy girl shoes that Benny was wearing at the moment (Laurie’s shoes, in fact). Then he looked sadly at the top of the bookshelf. There was no way he could reach that high, despite being the tallest boy in his grade.

“Aw, Jacky boy lost his book! Hey Jack, I dare you to climb the rickety old ladder to get your book back.”

Jack hesitated. “But Mr. Smithers will be angry. I’m not supposed to use that ladder….”

“Are you… scared?”

“No!” Jack responded a little too quickly to be convincing. “But Mr. Smithers is my friend. I don’t want to make him mad.”

“Sounds like you’re scared to me. I’m gonna tell everyone else what a scaredy butt you were, can’t even climb a ladder without an adult…”

“Okay fine! I’ll do it!” Jack cried. He stormed off, and when he returned he was wheeling the old library ladder around from where the librarian kept it in a dusty corner. He placed it at the base of the shelves where he thought the book had landed. He grabbed the sides of the ladder, and climbed one rung, then another. The rungs creaked in protest, but they seemed to hold his weight safely. He successfully climbed to the top, retrieved his book, and on the way down, “accidentally” dropped a heavy hardcover book on Benny’s head.

“OW!” Benny shouted. He wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tounge. “You’re just a dumb butt face. Butt eyes! You have butts for eyes!” He ran off, rubbing his head and shouting insults behind him at poor Jack.

***

You can read Part 2 here!