Archive for August, 2011
There’s nothing like having a deadline. After waffling about the details of Transantiago for over four years, I knocked this out in a few hours today. The rest of the play materials and rules will be posted before the end of the weekend.
Only 3 more games (Firmament, Super Farmhand, Geiger Counter) to prep after that!
Man, too much stuff to do before PAX. Here’s some pre-gens for Firmament, though they’re not nearly as ethnically diverse as I eventually want.
Catches Fire (cartographer)
In Geiger Counter, there are three sources of conditions. Collectively, we call these sources “the Menace.”
First, there’s pressures, which are environmental or circumstantial factors that place the characters in imminent danger, all by themselves. There’s a list of these and each one has 2-4 conditions attached to it. The list includes pressures such as being underwater, underground, in the dark, in space, in a research facility, on a ship, amidst ancient ruins, amidst hostile terrain, isolated far from civilization, or more specific things like being in the arctic, having some critical machinery just break, or facing an impending disaster like an approaching hurricane. Each game can involve more than one of these. After all, Alien vs. Predator takes place underground, in the arctic, amidst ancient ruins. That’s a bit much, but it’s a good example. The associated conditions clearly derive from the pressures, with the arctic being a great place for debilitating frostbite, for example.
Second, there’s ambitions that are unique to each character, often the reasons why they ended up in this pressure-filled deathtrap. A character might be here for thrill-seeking, science!, to rescue someone else, due to a poor choice of occupation, because they were forced at gunpoint, for the money, for the fame, to guide an expedition here, because they are an expert in something, to escape somewhere or someone else, due to desparation, because they are following orders, to do something impossible, to save the world, or for any other stupid or noble reason. Consequently, each character has a few conditions unique to their particular circumstances and hubris, recorded on their character card. Sometimes these conditions can also be given to others when that particular character is in play, since a character might carry a mysterious cursed artifact or expose others to danger through their recklessness.
Finally, there’s horrors, what were traditionally referred to as the menace, an abomination of science, nature, or the supernatural that stalks or swarms after the characters. Having horrors in your game is, in fact, completely optional. The pressures and ambitions your characters are saddled with are enough to doom them, but you can use any combination of pressures and horrors to form the external threats to the survival of your ill-fated band of misfits. Different types of horrors, of course, also allow for characters to be vexed with different types of conditions.
When it’s your turn to play the Menace, its your job to hit on whatever assortment of pressures, ambitions, and horrors makes the most sense to you and for the game. Bring on the storm, play up the captain’s self-loathing, or have the kraken pick off a crew member… or do all three. And there will be better guidelines — a cross between AW-style GM guidance and what I was already working on for Geiger Gamma — on how to do this in a really effective way.
Additionally, as you can already tell, breaking up the Menace this way makes it much more adaptable and open to hacking and new material, in the way that AW and Fiasco are. Creating new pressures, characters (w/ ambitions), and horrors is going to be part of the fun.
Starting doing some layout on one of the finished chapters of Magic Missile last night. it’ll be good to really nail that template down and be ready for the other chapters.
Here’s a sketch of what I’m thinking right now as far as character information for the new version of Geiger Counter. The game would include 30 or so of these characters, and I’d post the InDesign templates for folks to make more on their own. Playsets would include a list of the most appropriate characters to use for a particular premise (you might have Choi in an Aliens-inspired game but not in Jaws), plus maybe a couple new characters.
I just found these cards I made a while back, 3 years ago, probably. And I don’t think I’ve ever posted them, but they’re a good hint at more of the direction the current version of Gamma is going. It’ll look pretty different from this, but the seeds are here.
Check out the included stands for marking where your character is on the map and the abstract symbols to represent different characters! Several cool ideas here.
So… I’ve started working on Geiger Counter again. I’ve been away from it for a long time now, two years basically, but I think I finally have the perspective to let go of all the former trappings that weren’t quite working for me (though they apparently worked for a bunch of other folks) and make it into a game I can be really happy with and proud of.
Of course, a lot of things have changed since 2007-2008, when I first wrote it. Game design has moved forward and outward in different directions. There are other single-session GMless pick-up games now, like the one that just won the Diana Jones award and the one by that Ben Robbins guy. The release-early-and-often model of incremental publishing has gotten more traction through games like Lady Blackbird and Dungeon World. In general, everything has gotten better and looks to continue that way.
Geiger Counter is going to get better too. While the earlier versions will continue to be available — and I’ll probably end up slapping a Creative Commons license on them, in case some of the die hards want to release their own revision — it’s going to look pretty different in this next incarnation. That’s not a threat; it’s a promise.
More news when I have something to show.
Here’s an improved version: