Remember how last week I asked for suggestion of free games to fill a two week gap in our gaming schedule? We had some good ideas but nothing was quite what we were looking for so I had a good rummage on The Free RPG Blog. Eventually I ended up choosing Geiger Counter that “aimed to replicate the fun of watching movies like Alien and Scream, but Geiger Counter can also create play that feels like Jurassic Park, Dawn of the Dead…”
What drew my attention was that the game was aimed at something you could just pick-up and play. This was important as none of us has the time to learn a new system or create adventures. A quick skim of the rules gave me the idea that it was a rules light game but still required dice, figures and a map. It wasn’t until I had told the rest of the group what we were playing that I read the rules in detail.
It turns out the games is far more a story telling game than I first thought. (This was my mistake and not the game mis-advertising itself). So I was slightly worried how our group of old-school D&D players would take to take something more abstract. However, I should not of been worried. Everyone rose to the challenge brilliantly and the game flowed well.
The first part of the game is pre-production. This is were the players (and that is everyone playing, there is no GM), define the style of the “film” they are in. After a few minutes of vague suggestions, we ended up with the idea of Post-Apocalypse Steampunk. An alternative-past where London has been destroyed by a Tunguska style asteroid strike and the world has turned to madness with chaos, riots and cannibals.
This idea seem to click with all four of us and we all became a lot more comfortable about suggesting ideas. The basic outline of the film was established all of us pitching to describe the trailer. An airship (the Leviathan IV), packed with rich refugees, is fleeing to safety but a storm causes it to crash at an isolated country estate. The crash kills most of the passengers and crew but more importantly, breaks down the wall protecting the house from the cannibals. The survivors run to the house and are welcomed by a 7′ tall robot butler and a beautiful woman but soon the survivors realise that their biggest danger is not the cannibals outside but the strange robotic creations of the master of the house…
Once the trailer is done, we began the film proper. In turn, each of us would direct a scene with the other players playing their characters or chipping in with ideas. As the film progressed, the Mence (the mad scientist and his creations) gets more defined and grows stronger whilst the survivors are slowly whittled down in numbers. The Mence is not the only threat either, confrontations between the characters are common and desirable. The rules covering the confrontations are simple, flexible and basically come down to seeing who rolls the highest on 2d6. The rules note that the main purpose of the dice rolls is to keep an element of the unknown in the game. As players, we are both the makers of the film and the audience which requires that the outcome of some things need to be as surprising to the players as it would be to a viewer.
In the end, we all died. A few minor characters managed to escape on the hastily repaired airship but all the major characters came to a sticky end.
This is a good game for those times when you want a one-off game that requires no preparation. It helps to have seen lots of films and know something of how they are structured but that isn’t vital. More important, you need a group of people who are willing to put forward ideas and listen to other people’s ideas. This sort of game could easily be ruined if one player was very negative and spent their time criticising everyone else or simply tried to bull-dozer their own ideas through.
All in all, an evening well spent and a great experiment with a different type of gaming.