Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Geiger Counter plans for C2E2

So, a couple months from now, the wife and I have got like four webcomics friends staying with us for Chicago's brand new comics convention, C2E2. Naturally, a captive audience--especially a bunch of artists--makes me want to do some kind of one-shot RPG thing.

Since we're not going to have a lot of time, that means either pre-gen characters or a zero-prep game, and I don't really dig pre-gen. The zero-prep game that immediately came to mind was In a Wicked Age--someting I love the hell out of, but have still barely even played--but then I thought of one that I haven't gotten to play at all: Jonathan Walton's Geiger Counter.

The deal with Geiger Counter is that it simulates the sort of movie where most of the characters are killed off, one by one, until finally a few survivors maybe escape or defeat the threat. Something like Alien or Nightmare on Elm Street, generally. Maybe it's because a friend of mine has been screening cheesy monster movies for fun and derision, but that just sounds completely awesome, right now.

I've got a few plans on how to enhance the game with additional coolness, too.

One of the coolest parts of Geiger Counter is the fact that all the players get to come up with the setting, the tone, and--best of all--the monster for their movie. Just in case we need a little inspiration, I grabbed whole mess of plot keywords from IMDB, added some custom stuff, and threw them into Abulafia. I think the resulting generator actually works pretty well. Almost every time I hit refresh, this thing suggests a perfectly believable movie to me. Like this:

• Africa
• Human Sacrifice
• Eclipse
• Egg
• Desert
• Space Travel

Or this...

• Full Moon
• Giant Bug
• Mental Institution
• Surgery
• Old West
• Whispering

Or this!

• Serial Killer
• Book
• Bones
• River
• Small Town
• Exsanguination

Anyway, I think I'll only bring this thing out if people are having trouble coming up with an idea by themselves.

Another extremely cool aspect of Geiger Counter is the idea that, as you make up characters for your horror movie, you can actually cast them all, choosing Hollywood actors who seem appropriate. I love the hell out of this, and I intend to make it easy by producing a pile of cards with photos of various character actors on them. This will probably be a real pain in the ass to produce, but it's definitely something I could use for a whole lot of different games (Primetime Adventures, for example!), so I figure it's worthwhile.

Finally, I already happen to have an ungodly huge collection of movie soundtracks--with a particular focus on just the kind of movie that Geiger Counter sets out to emulate--so I'd be a fool not to make a quick playlist and just leave iTunes playing the whole time.

If all goes as planned, this ought to be pretty cool.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

[dream blog] The Hug

I was working in a spacious, swooping, almost airport-like place made of glass and steel. It had workstations for just a few people with no cubicles or walls separating them, just a lot of open space. It was the kind of unreal, inefficient space they use to shoot business-related stock photography. I think it might have been the workspace that came with some kind of hotel suite, rather than a regular office building.

The walls were all glass, and I'd been seeing strange vehicles drifting through the sky in the distance. Sci-fi stuff. Big, unwieldy metal things with no obvious means of staying aloft. I couldn't believe it. I kept watching them sail over the city, waiting to wake up or to see the strings or to hear about some movie being filmed, or an advertising stunt. I checked around on the Internet, and all I found was more evidence that these things were new, but completely real.

Then there was an explosion outside, and flames in the distant city. One of those air vehicles had crashed, or been shot down, or maybe launched some kind of attack on the city below.

Someone told me about a scientist who'd made a prediction years ago that explained all of this. I think I'd heard of it, too, but written it off as crazy futurist stuff, like almost everything said about the "singularity" towards which our technological development is supposedly heading.

He called it--and this was probably the name of his book or his Wired article or whatever--"The Hug". This was the phenomenon of a single naturally-occurring machine intelligence--a thing just born out there in the primordial soup of infinite information and escalating computing power--awakening to self awareness and grabbing ahold of every computer into which it can transmit its message.

The upshot of all this, or course, was that the entire human race was in a lot of trouble. Maybe not tonight, or even this year, but soon. And things were going to change fast. I wondered if I should unplug all the computers in the office. I wondered if the world was going to turn into that Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive, with cars and ATMs rebelling murderously against humanity. I wondered if some of that sci-fi technology that had apparently been released onto the market just ahead of the Hug could be helpful against it. Could I get a ray gun? Would it be effective against killer robots?

Surely everything would turn out okay. Surely someone would figure something out.