Microscope on the Stars

Tonight we played Microscope by Ben Robbins to create the story of humans venturing into the stars to escape the ecological disaster they had created on Earth.

Our story begins during the bioengineering crisis when Dr. Isabel Caldwell creates hydrocarbon eating bacteria that she uses to clean the oceans of spilled oils and plastic detritus, and the new genetic modification technology spawns a body-mod industry. But the HCE bacteria become a plague on our planet, destroying the fossil fuels that our economy depends on faster than we can replace it. In despair, Dr. Caldwell commits suicide after handing over her bacteria data. After this, humanity enters a period of limited resources when people return to small local farms and live a more sustainable, subsistent lifestyle. On these farms the Gratz family grows corn for the husks, which are bacteria resistant, and marry into the Caldwell family, whose youngest, Susie, becomes a famous singer.

In the Lunar Years, humanity begins to settle within the moons of the solar system, establishing Gratz station as the first permanent lunar settlement. L.U.N.A (Lyrical Universe Navigation Agency) tests an instant bio-dome project on the moon, and then humanity builds settlements on the moons of Jupiter & Saturn. Before long, the Great Migration begins, when humanity sends fleets of generation ships to distant stars likely to sustain life. The Luna gets separated from it’s fleet due to a navigation glitch and is lost. Another Dr. Caldwell discovers a habitable planet and joins a mutiny aboard the Phoenix when Commander Nikolai Luna refuses to allow anyone to explore or attempt to settle there.

Eventually, families do leave the ships and begin settling the planets they find, founding dome cities to protect them from the harsh climates. One enclave learns to domesticate creatures they call space whales, with a magical ability to bear untold burdens and travel through the vacuum of space. When a supernova threatens life on the new system, the people of Caldwell City escape with help from the space whales, which leads to the loss of technology and technical know-how, as life among the space whales takes on a clannish nature. People have already begun to learn the songs of the whales before the various clans join in a great Conclave to reunite and bring order to the disparate human diaspora.

Our story ends as humanity begins to settle together on a New Eden, a planet in which they can live without their technological protection, but under the sky as their ancestors did. The children learn epic songs telling how humanity, and their own families, came to New Eden, and a shrine is built to Dr. Isabel Caldwell, the primeval god who set in motion humanity’s liberation from technology.

No Casino Boundaries

Tonight we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs in a bookstore inside the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. We arrive in the morning for New Year’s Day and commiserate about our evenings. Aspiring model and store cashier Nick had gone to a swanky party. Former soccer pro and store gift wrapper Raul had stayed in watching a replay of an old Man U-Chelsea match. Ivanna, the store’s storyteller and a would-be YouTuber, had stayed home with her family. Secret revolutionary and cashier Beatrix had spent the evening monitoring the police scanner. And receiving clerk and weight-lifter Xander had gone to a working class party with the other gym rats.

We start the year off learning that corporate wants us to push a membership card program with the national winners for best sales winning an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas for an awards ceremony. In preparing the store for sales, Xander pumps boxes of books over his head helping a store shelver to create book displays above the shelves. Beatrix spends her breaks complaining about the capitalist inanity of the program, but Ivanna convinces her that they should promote a Book Con to improve sales. Raul convinces Nick and Xander to create a viral video of them wrapping books as a way of promoting the memberships. Nick and Beatrix keep escalating their sales techniques with one shopper who is looking to get a Harry Potter book for his daughter and eventually sells him 10 cards for less than the price of one. And Ivanna can stop chattering about how beautiful Nick is while they put up displays for Book Con together.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Corporate’s next big idea is to cut down on expenses as they start charging employees for using electricity and toilet paper and clamping down on bathroom breaks. Beatrix starts off complaining with Ivanna and Raul about the new rules, but Raul shrugs it off by suggesting they use his wrapping paper or pages from old paperbacks instead. Nick goes out to the loading dock and takes a workout break with Xander, and they share their concern for the well-being of everyone under these new rules. Ivanna catches Raul taking her lunch again after a smoke break and, after much debate, agree to split and share the meal prep, with Ivanna taking the first month and Raul the next. Raul next goes to talk to Xander honestly about how upset he was when Xander wrestled him to the floor because he’s still rehabbing his knee and hoping to return to the pitch.

Before Raul has to cook any meals for Ivanna, the store closes down and everyone goes their own way. Before we do, Beatrix confesses her secret desire to become a modern-day Robin Hood and bring down the capitalist swine who run the casinos. Ivanna ends up on unemployment, crying at home. Raul returns to soccer as best he can. Nick decides he needs to improve his legs if he wants to make it as a model and joins a gym for some legwork. And Xander sneaks off with a couple of boxes of books that he sells for money to throw a beer party on New Year’s Eve.

For the Crown

In the Amago nation, Queen Diana has ruled over these forested hillsides and valleys riddled with gold and silver mines for several decades. In recent years, she’s suffered from the corona genetic defect that afflicts her bloodline and several figures vie for position to succeed her. Sir Reginald has been the chief administrator for Her Majesty and been running the country for a few years as the Queen convalesces. A member of a reptilian species named Leona claims to share an ancestor with the Queen and to be free of the genetic defect that afflicts the Queen. The Queen’s uncle Joe King has served as her jester but is of the royal line and never showed signs of the genetic disease. The Queen also has a much-younger adopted brother named Minos who has just returned triumphant from a far-off war.

Screenshot of For the Crown game page with description of the game.
Image from For the Drama.

Our story begins with Sir Reginald arranging a carriage accident in the forest to kill Joe King, but he survives and now knows to fear Sir Reginald’s power. Joe is resentful of Minos for having taken the ancestral sword that Joe once wielded with him to the war, but that doesn’t stop Minos from bringing the three of them together to conspire against the reptilian Leona. The trio plan to have the Queen send her into the far northern mountains to get rid of her. Leona left her family behind to serve the Queen and often regrets life in this cold place, but knows that if she can regain the throne for her people that it will all be worth it. Minos learns that Leona plans to rule alongside humans when he converts the high priest who had been her ally to his cause.

In retribution for the assassination attempt, Joe King forges an alliance with a neighboring kingdom to undermine Sir Reginald by disrupting the trade routes and raiding our caravans. Sir Reginald is too busy running things to spend time with the Queen or notice the machinations around her. Leona argues that the matrilineal line must not be broken, but Minos counters that times have changed and so can our traditions. Minos hides his guilt over the death of the Queen’s son, who should not have fallen protecting him. Joe was long the Queen’s favorite at court because he was so jovial, but he made too many jokes about regicide and the Queen became more enamored of the chef who cooks such delicious food for her. Leona spends much time reminiscing with the Queen about her visits to the reptilian homeland far to the south.

Reginald moves again and frames Minos for failing the protect the ore shipments raided by Joe’s ally. Joe’s rivalry with Sir Reginald goes back to their youth when a stupid mistake on a trade mission costs Joe’s brother his life. Leona makes a bold move by kidnapping Reginald’s niece and forces him to teach her the affairs of state. It’s been so long since the people have seen Her Majesty that they believe Sir Reginald holds her hostage, but he allows it to keep her illness a secret. Joe remains resentful toward Minos for his military experience and grandeur, but Minos refuses to return the royal sword to Joe because it belongs to the crown and not to any particular wielder.

Leona believes that the kingdom is in decline since the Queen fell ill. Joe appoints the physician attending the Queen, but cannot bring himself to ask the doctor to hasten her death. Minos seeks an alliance with Joe to support his claim since they two are the only true relatives of the Queen vying for the crown. And at last the Queen passes, and each of our contenders makes their moves. Sir Reginald tries to continue manipulating the levers of power as if nothing has changed, Leona makes an impassioned plea based on her people’s legends and family tree. Joe just wants to a power player and supports Minos’s claim. And Minos plays the war hero and rallies the people and military to proclaim his name. He assumes the throne and becomes the new ruler.