[Geiger Counter] I'll get this fish to fly!

edited September 2008 in Actual Play
We played Geiger Counter this weekend: Six players, me inclusive, in my summer house. We played for something like 3 hours (or 4 before we stopped talking about the game and let other topics enter the conversation). All of us experienced gamers wrt. scene framing and shared narration rights.

Three of us had read the text prior to the game. I pitched the game and directed the setup. I had made no preplay prep (other than reading the text and taping size sheets of blank paper together). I actually forgot to print character sheets and had one player hand copy some. I used the variant of coming up with characters collaberatively before each player had a pick from the list.

This was great:
  1. Drawing the map. It gave such a great focus both during the setup brain storm and later during the game.
  2. Hitting the scenes from the trailer. In PTA "Next time on..." is great to invent but hard to hit with dramatic punch. In this game we had an all time high when our heli pilot sat in the rescue vehicle 30 meters above sea level on the burning oil rig and said his quote: "I'll get this fish to fly!"
This gave us a bit of trouble:
  1. Controlling the Menace. At first we had a fair amount of scenes without the menace, just introducing characters and setting the stage for conflicts. Then we had almost too much focus on the menace. And then when we started fighting back, it had two unlucky rolls and was suddenly down to 6 dice fighting three joined characters with advantage dice for a very easy kill (and just two dead protagonists).
  2. Defining the menace. We had let it open just agreeing on cthulhuoid but with inuit shamanism words. First it was a shadow, then it had horns, then they were many, then they had oily skin and could be burned by fire. It did make it a bit fuzzy about how it was a threat.
  3. Coming up with good conditions - especially in protagonist vs. protagonist conflicts. Early in the game there was a fairly unviolent pvp conflict that ended with one being "Alone". It seemed a bit drastic to have a social conflict have fairly big consequences - but maybe that is actually more a feature than a flaw.
  4. Sometimes outcomes of scenes were more brainstormed than narrated. When scenes were framed more as a group effort (brain storm) than from a single director then when it came to narrating outcomes, I sometimes found it noisy and fuzzy with too many contributions from eager players.
The map was such an effective gimmick that I reused it for our dogs session the day after (Twin Bridges - a town with two stewards).

Thanks to Jonathan for a very effective game.

Comments

  • I played in the same game.

    I remember the fight against the menace a bit differently. I don't think we ganged up on it before it was down to 3 dice (and I think we did so to make it go fast, so it didn't have time to be dissapear slowly).

    I think it's a bit sad that the menace looks a bit weak when first it begins to lose dice (few dice on the table = weak opponent, even though it in fiction may be more threathening than before), and would probably prefer that the menace was able to damage players easily until the last moment. Then the menace would go from very menacing to dead in a single conflict.
    Damage to the meace would have to be tracked in another way of course.

    Concerning the nature of the menace I had no problem with it changing shape, but in the end when it was a legion of menace it kinda lost 'omph'.

    Other than that I agree on the above (and had fun!)

    /Uffe, who loved the map
  • Yea, more Geiger Counter!

    Re the menace seeming easy, I think it's an important part of the design that the menace is immune before it reaches 8 dice, so all conflicts during that period are (at best) escape, at worst damage to protagonists. If you don't create conflicts with the menace until after it's full grown it does change the odds a bit, but ties should still hurt both sides, and the more dice on the table the more likely a tie.
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenComing up with good conditions - especially in protagonist vs. protagonist conflicts. Early in the game there was a fairly unviolent pvp conflict that ended with one being "Alone". It seemed a bit drastic to have a social conflict have fairly big consequences - but maybe that is actually more a feature than a flaw.
    This was discussed a bunch in one of the other Geiger Counter threads, but basically going to dice in a protagonist vs protagonist conflict is a much bigger deal than in some games. By shining the spotlight on an important moment of character development you are also absolutely shortening the plot lifespan of one of the characters (maybe both).
  • Hey Frederik and Uffe!

    Thanks for playing my game. Yeah, figuring out how to run and pace the menace as a group can be tough. It sounds like what you folks decided the menace would be and what it ended up being had a bit of a disconnect, yeah? Or, at least, folks were throwing in all these traits that didn't necessarily seem to fit well together? That happened in many of my early Geiger playtests too, which is why I stuck in more suggestions about trying to build more of a consensus beforehand in the current Beta edition, but maybe I need to emphasize that even more.

    Honestly, I like the harshness of PVP conflicts in Geiger. If two or more characters have a fight and one person storms off by themselves, ending up Alone and easy prey for the menace... that's awesome and very fitting this genre, I think.

    Hmm, on the brainstorming outcomes part, that can be tough and a real play-killer for any games that involve a lot of shared narration. It ends up feeling like you're describing what happens instead of really playing it out. I would suggest, in those cases, trying to pull back into a more "players play PCs, Director plays menace" kind of style once you've rolled and figured out what Conditions are being gained or if the menace is losing dice. Then you can play through the resulting events with the outcome already known, without feeling like you're just saying "ok, the menace falls down an elevator shaft" or whatever.

    In general, I'm still a bit miffed that a few bad rolls can still disrupt the pacing of the game in a significant way. I know this happens, because I've occasionally seen it in my own play. Usually play groups can manage to come back from such disruptions and make the game work well, but it definitely throws everything off in a less-than-ideal way. Honestly, I'm not sure how to fix it aside from ripping out the game's guts and replacing them with something less random (or even non-random). I like designing non-random games, but I'm a bit loathe to do that with Geiger, for a number of reasons.

    As for the menace not seeming as dangerous in the end, once it starts losing dice, that's definitely an interesting point. The "everybody team up" thing is something to avoid, I think, but I'm not sure how else to push it aside from Goals. It may just require player to intentionally put their characters in harms way more than many people are used to doing, but that can be a difficult hurdle to overcome.

    I'm glad everyone seemed to dig the map. You didn't take a picture by any chance, did you?
  • It sounds like what you folks decided the menace would be and what it ended up being had a bit of a disconnect, yeah? Or, at least, folks were throwing in all these traits that didn't necessarily seem to fit well together?
    The challenge was to fit the initial hints with the later reveals. This gave some disconnects.
    I would suggest, in those cases, trying to pull back into a more "players play PCs, Director plays menace" kind of style once you've rolled and figured out what Conditions are being gained or if the menace is losing dice.
    What I did when I noticed this was to cut through and give the word to the directing player. However, coming up with conditions is a bit of a brain storm.
    In general, I'm still a bit miffed that a few bad rolls can still disrupt the pacing of the game in a significant way.
    The math for the final confrontation was: Three players, one with a survival die, and then two or three advantage dice. This is 8 or 9 dice against a weakened menace.
    As for the menace not seeming as dangerous in the end, once it starts losing dice, that's definitely an interesting point. The "everybody team up" thing is something to avoid, I think, but I'm not sure how else to push it aside from Goals.
    I think we hit one goal - which also weakened the menace.
    I'm glad everyone seemed to dig the map. You didn't take a picture by any chance, did you?
    I think one of the players did. I'll check.

    With regard to the strength of the menace, we had a discussion after play: Some suggested that the menace would always roll 8 dice, even though it was weakened. You'd need some other means to count down, though. Another approach is to limit the advantage of or the possibility to gang up on the menace. E.g. individual rolls against the menace, allowing some characters to lose and some to weaken it. There is not much ganging up on the monster in survival movies - more often one character sacrifices himself/herself to let others escape.

    Another minor issue: The -2 consequence from "Overrun" and "Injured" - there was some confusion of whether this meant to remove the two highest dice or (correctly, I assume) to apply the modifier to the sum of the two highest dice, leaving 10 as a maximum.
  • Frederick & Uffe, do you remember what dice the menace was at during the first confrontation? Did you have any menace conflicts before it hit 8? From your first post it sounds like they all happened afterwards.
  • I think we had a few menace conflicts before hitting 8 dice - and some pvp conflicts. But it took a while before the menace started going for the main characters. Nobody had died and I'm pretty sure that nobody had taken 2 conditions.
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