I'm starting a new role-playing group with some friends of mine. Most of my friends have little to no experience with RPing so I thought Microscope would be a good game to introduce them to the concept while at the same time lay ground-work for a more traditional game.

However, while reading the rules I found a section that recommends against playing with five or more players (toward the end of the book...), and my starting group will be 5 - 6.

What can I do to make sure everyone gets to participate actively and get their spotlight time even though this will be a bigger game? I'm willing to hang back a bit during most of the Scenes if that's what it takes, but I still want to play too! Options that are newbie friendly would be more valuable, given the make-up of my group.

Thanks for your help!

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Don't try to play one game with six players. It doesn't work, for the exact spotlight-time problems you're concerned about. Five is doable, but be prepared for it to be an incomplete introduction to the game.

Microscope is a wonderful game, but it does not scale up past five players very well at all. I have a hard time introducing the game to new people even with only five players — new players means slower turns, and more people means longer between turns — and it usually only results in one Focus being completed in an evening, and sometimes not even that. Partly this is because I take the game's advice to make Scenes early and often (I find that getting fewer history turns but more Scenes makes for a better introduction to the game than more turns and fewer Scenes).

For your group especially, jumping straight into a Scene during the very first player's turn (you, probably, if you're following the teaching-the-game advice in the back) is the best way to get right into the roleplaying that they're expecting to be learning about tonight.

I've found that the ideal for new groups is 3–4 players. Five is doable, but expect to get much less history made than you'd expect (or more history, but not much roleplaying of characters) unless you have in excess of three hours.

Split a large group into separate games

If you find yourself with a group that's six or larger, divide into smaller groups. Have the group you're in be the "demo" group, and have the other group(s) players watch the first group play through the setup and the first history creation by the first Lens. Then pause the first group and help the other group(s) get started for a few minutes. Now that everyone has seen how the game starts, everyone is able to start a game and you don't need to facilitate as much.

Be ready to leave your game for a few minutes when other games get to playing a Scene to help facilitate that for the first time, too. Since often a game can roll just fine without the facilitator once the idea of making history is understood, you'll have a bit of time to drop out and return without disturbing the flow of your game or them missing your facilitation at all, or much.

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    Hmm, that is disappointing. I was really hoping to bring the group together with a shared mythology. Splitting the group is a creative solution, but it runs contrary to my long-term goals. You don't think pulling myself out of the game to an extent would help? – HighlandRat Dec 15 '14 at 21:57
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    It could help to reduce it down to five, but then it's really hard to teach the game by example. You end up playing for them, just to teach them what to do, instead of letting them play their turns. Also, you may not end up sharing the mythology with them (and it will go way differently than you expect). If you really want to step out, do a "demo" as above, end the game after one scene, then step out and let them start a fresh game on their own (or continue with this one, per their preference). – SevenSidedDie Dec 15 '14 at 22:00
  • Oh no, that sounds terrible! I don't want to lead them by the scruff... is that what you mean by playing for them? Telling them what to do on their turns, and having heavily directed scenes? – HighlandRat Dec 15 '14 at 22:35
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    It's very hard to teach without showing, yeah. Teaching by playing and explaining what you're doing and why works much more. As for the shared mythology: that's what I was guessing you meant. Not being a player yourself risks having no investment in the setting that they create without you. – SevenSidedDie Dec 15 '14 at 23:25
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    I tried playing the game anyway and it was a disaster. The size wasn't the only contributing factor, but it definitely didn't help. I'm accepting this answer. – HighlandRat Feb 6 '15 at 19:41

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