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.


dave said...

my first result was:

• Mesoamerica
• Car Trouble
• Predator
• Mask
• Teenagers

Nice! A while back, Rob Donoghue extracted ~32000 keywords from IMDB and put them into a page on Abulafia - thats' at

Yours seems much finer-tuned, but you might consider having it throw the occasional curveball and pull from the other page.

Matt Sheridan said...

Oh, no kidding. I don't think I would've thought of this whole thing if it weren't for Rob's titanic generator.

But yeah, throwing in a wildcard result that pulls from the big list ain't a bad idea at all...

A Saint And A Sinner said...

I personally think for Geiger Counter I'd stick to 3-4 items. That way its evocative but leaves a lot of room for development.