[Geiger Counter] Scarlet Chechnya

edited July 2009 in Actual Play
Since I discovered this game, more than a year ago, I had been craving for some good play. It wasn't until about a month ago I managed to introduce the game to my gaming group. The situation was the usual for this things: one of them was unable to attend to our gaming session, and I convinced my just-introduced-to-gaming girlfriend to join us. So a casual, one-shot game was ideal. I was really excited about trying this baby out.

We were four players:

Violet, my gf, who is a newcomer to roleplaying games (her only previous experience was with Emily Care's Breaking the Ice). A very creative girl, with some minor acting training.

Oscar and Fabi, a young married couple, just introduced to indie gaming. They had played pretty much only trad games up until a few months ago. Oscar had GM'ed many games before, and Fabi had just been a player.

And me, who discovered the indie stuff about two years ago, but have only been able to play with them a little. Just for the record, I have been studying game design theory and stuff since I came upon the Story-Games forums, and also had some years of minor acting training (and consider myself a Method actor).

We decided to go with a gorey vampires story, playing it more for the laughs. The setting was a snow covered ghost city in Russia, and we were playing an American soldiers-and-scientists team sent to patch things up. (We are Mexicans, so you can guess our takes on both foreign cultures.) To sum it all up in a few words, the game was a thematic failure (we played with 4 PCs, all of which survived at the end), but it was a blast. We had a great time.

It took us a while getting used to the rules. The married couple had to adapt to the "change of gears", relating player authorship, scene framing and stuff. At first they were sort of hesitant to introduce stuff to the plot, and I had to "push" them a little for they to exploit the fiction, instead of merely exploring the scenario. My gf was very interested in the content generation; so much that at first she barely allowed us to roleplay our own characters while she was the Director.

I was the only one that had read the rules before, and as such I was struggling to teach them to the group. At some moments I got a little stressed about making them "play by the rules", specially regarding the authority distribution, scene framing and stuff. And I was pretty much the only one drawing the map. -_-

The game (which took us about 4 hours) was full of (fun) chaos. At times I felt that those things that we failed at were mainly because of some of the ambiguous aspect in the text.

They were very protective of their characters, and they did not felt very competitive among each other. At times they were more interested in framing scenes that advanced their personal sub-plots, instead of hurting the other players with the menace. At one time my character was left all alone in a snow field near the airport, and I was the one that had to frame a scene so the menace would attack me!

In the end, so we could wrap up the story, they pushed for a "boss fight", so we could finish off the menace. With all 4 characters surviving and with less than 2 conditions in average, we crowded up against the vampires. Movie ends, we all survived!

We had a great time, and I think they all would be interested in playing again some time at the future.

Things I learned:

To be less concerned about "maintaining the "cinematic" pacing", and to focus a little more on "hurting" the other players. To try to use more the "acts" scheme, in order to have more plot-advancement control. That even "trad" players can get to enjoy the shared authority thing, once they overcome their shyness and reactiveness. That finding a lone severed hand in a pool of blood in the snow is a way cooler scene than facing a bunch of red-eyed vampires.


  • edited July 2009
    Thanks for trying out my game, Damian! I'm glad you had a good time, despite all the main characters surviving. I can definitely see how it would be hard to go from a background where you're really protective of the characters to a game where you're actively trying to get most of the characters killed, and this has been difficult for some players in some of the playtests that I've run as well. Also, being the only player drawing on the map is unfortunate, but it can be hard if you're normally the GM for the group and the other players are used to watching you handle that kind of thing. Also, Geiger Counter is just a really weird mix between cooperative and competitive play, and that can definitely be hard to get a grip on.

    What were some of the ambiguous aspects in the text that you felt led to some problems? I'm hoping to start writing the newest version of the game soon, so I'm very interested in whatever suggestions you might have.

    That lone severed hand in the snow sounds super creepy. I love small, powerful images like that, which is why I tried to emphasize them in the text.
  • edited July 2009
    Oh, drawing the map was not hard. I liked it. I just found it curious nobody wanted to "add" places like they were adding sub-plots and stuff.

    Basically the problem was with some of the suggestions. For example, the texts suggests (as opposed to "commands you to") that you should try to avoid framing scenes with your own character in them. They had a hard time with that, because they felt they were not allowed to do so, but they really wanted to advance their own stories. So it was kind of weird at times. "I want this to happen. Whose turn is it to Direct, so he can grab my plot and follow it?"

    Also with the advantage dice. Somehow someone narrated the 3 dice advantage as a potent radioactive anti-vampire liquid. Since the 3 dice advantage are supposed to be immovable, we had some weird moments justifying why they could not simply carry those cans around (the soldiers had some snow-jeeps and stuff).

    There was a strange moment too. My gf got the "captured" condition. They I was framing a scene for her escape, and she said "No! I don't want to escape! I want to join the vampires and convince them I am their leader." And I was all like "Uh... But... But... You can't join them. They are the enemy! You'd become the menace and would not be allowed to keep playing your character!" In the end, we negotiated that by allowing her to take the 1 advantage die in the location and narrate it being a "control medicine shot" she could carry around.

    The Act scheme was another thing I think would deserve a lot more focus. In the text it is merely a suggestion, but I definitely believe that by making it a little more standard, it would have been easier to implement.

    Now that I remember, there is another interesting thing we did. We used minis. The thing is that we didn't limit it to minis for characters. We used them for some NPCs and even for "menace sightings". Using little pieces of paper to represent the transports was nice too.

    Oh, that hand was sooo creepy. Then it sort of became a running gag. The next many scenes we kept finding bloody bodyparts. And the character that found the hand kept carrying it around (we even used a token for the map and the minis for it!). Our original premise was that we were there to find out what had happened (thus the hand being "evidence"), even while by the end nobody cared much anymore for that (the "let's fight them all" taking over as the main story drive).

    Another thing. We were too few players (4). I have the feeling more players would have enhanced the games. But, then again, I keep wondering what would have happened if instead we had more characters... I did not contemplate that up until I read about stuff like that in other APs.
  • Having players play more than one character is a sure fire way to break them of ownership-itis.

    This I learned back in my dungeon crawling youth where every player played 2 characters at a time...because someone was going to die.
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