2008 Mar 14

Trailers are an essential part of the way contemporary people experience movies, especially movies in the genres that Geiger Counter seeks to emulate. Most people, I suspect, don’t go see survival movies unless they have been enticed by the trailer or liked previous films in the series. And trailers do a great deal to set up audience expectations. The audience has seen images and knows a basic outline of the plot.

Take the trailer for the new movie, The Ruins. After watching it I know: it’s about a group of teenage American tourists getting attacked by an infectious plant monster in an abandoned Mayan temple, where the locals won’t let them leave, probably because they want the tourists to be fed to the monster. Also, I have in mind a couple of the disastrous things that will happen. At least one of the kids gets the monster’s tendrils inside of them. It looks like one kid gets shot with an arrow (an arrow?!) by the locals. And I have a few key images in mind, most clearly that gaping stone maw at the top of the temple. All of these build my expectations for the movie before I go see it (if I go see it).

I’m trying to figure out how to implement these in Geiger Counter. I remember that when I played in my first Primetime Adventures game, Dharma Thieves, one of the strongest parts of play was “Next time, on Dharma Thieves…” where each player described one image from next week’s episode. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure how we’d make sure those images actually happened (or if it was even necessary for all of those “predictions” to turn out to be true), but it was sure exciting. We never had a second episode, so I’m not sure how it would work. That’s the kind of thing that I’d love to have in Geiger Counter, as part of the pre-game.

One idea I’m toying with: every player comes up with a kind of general image / tagline that they’d like to have happen at some point in the movie. These get described as part of the “trailer,” written on index cards, and are placed in a row next to the map. These images / lines can then be grabbed by players at any point in the game and narrated in as appropriate, making them act as little narrative waypoints that the players play connect-the-dots with. I almost think this kind of thing could even replace the Fateful Mistake rules I came up with in the last draft (though Orthogonal Goals would stay), since I imagine most Mistakes are prime trailer content (“The electric fence is down!” “We’re trapped in here!” etc.).


4 Responses to “Trailers”

  1. ptevis Says:

    Regarding the index cards idea: I love this. It reminds me a bit of taglines in The Dying Earth RPG. We know what’s going to happen, but finding the right context for them is great fun.

    On a slightly different but related note, I’ve been thinking about the way I handle plot threads in long-running games. (This is in the context of trying to running full season of PTA over nine sessions at a convention.) One idea I’d hit upon was just writing them out on index cards and putting them out on the table for everyone to see and to pick up when they want to follow up on them. I no longer remember if this is how Capes works or not.

  2. John Harper Says:

    I’m doing this with a game design right now (using a “Previously, on…” setup before each episode to establish what the show is even about). It’s working very well in playtests. Writing the stuff on cards as people do their snippets is great. They can see that you’re listening and valuing their contribution, and then when you’re done you have a pile of building blocks to play with.

  3. Paul: Thanks for the link to Dying Earth taglines. I was completely unaware of those. Kinda like proto-Keys, in a way, but pure color. Interesting. Let me know if you try out the cards thing in your game.

    John: Is this your Flash Gordon game or something else?

  4. John Harper Says:

    Yeah, it’s for my Flash Gordon game (Danger Patrol).

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