26 October 2008

Geiger Counter: Total Eclipse

This game ran at the Fright Night 2 convention, 25 October 2008.

There were seven total in the group, some with almost no experience playing games with this much shared narration, and one person who hadbeen considering running it himself. As we got into brainstorming the film, things went smoothly right from the beginning. I had prepared some basic ideas - basically enough to guide where it went, or act as a fallback if people were short on ideas. This was plenty, especially as the game had been sold as an Aliens-inspired survival horror, which had everyone thinking in that mode to start with.

As we began to define the menace (a nano-machine based, infectious meme-complex) and setting (an asteroid mining facility with a population of about 13000), things really took off. The characters were a great selection of people from all over the facility, plus a couple of outsiders (a mining barge pilot and a military auditor). Inside we had a black market fixer, a prostitute, a soldier and an engineer. Relationships between all these characters quickly complicated things in a very satisfying manner.

Putting together the trailer was like a light version of the scene framing that comes up later, and I felt that it really helped get people into the right space this game. Also, I think we got almost everything from the trailer into the film - maybe we cut some of the exact quotes from the Colonel, but the spirit of the thing was there.

Once the film itself began, things just rocked along. The pacing seemed to work naturally, with everyone in pretty much the same space about how much horror to show in their scenes, and making an effort to include characters that hadn't had a scene, or waiting before returning to characters in trouble. I'd put together a soundtrack with a mishmash of spooky film scores and a few Darkest of the Hillside Thickets songs, and this managed to give us some appropriate music several times, and (even better) a few interesting contrasts... one was a kind of jazzy, romantic theme that came up just as things were beginning to fall apart.

We began losing characters as the menace got to eight dice (the first when it reached 7 or 8). Things began getting very tense as the nano-memes began infecting the whole complex. As their stories began to play out, we had some great subplots. The soldier shot the Colonel, and made a run for it, trying to rescue both his girlfriend and the working girl without them finding out about each other. By coincidence, those two were working together to escape to the very end. There were a few other subplots going on too, and they all got resolved satisfactorily (in a horror movie sense - the two-timer got his in the hangar bay as one of the women escaped in a rescue ship, for example). The barge pilot, was the other survivor, taking the ship out while getting her revenge on the (now meme-infected) Colonel who had wrecked her navy career, as they blew up the mining colony on the way out.

There were loads of great cinematic moments, too. Two characters who we thought we dead returned for some extra scenes, spaceships crashing, pursuit through tunnels and across the surface of an asteroid, the giant machinery that was crushing and cutting minerals out, and so on.

Overall, a fantastic game, and very smooth to run. This beta is noticeably more straightforward than the previous draft, used for my test run a few months back.


Jenni said...

that sounds like wicked fun :)

The Gamester At Large said...

Yep. I recommend it for all your 'cinematic game where most people will die' needs. Especially when it's a one shot and you don't want to bother with preparation.