What a Fiasco!

Following along with the previous blog post (and almost completely ignoring the fact that I skipped one last week), I’ll be talking about what is pretty much a pure storytelling game. So far as roleplaying games go, it has almost zero dice mechanic. What it does have is actually trading dice around. You roll two or three times the entire game.

Imagine those movies where they’ve got a plan, and it all seems so simple… and then it all goes horribly, entertainingly wrong. That’s Fiasco!, the game. I find this a great concept for a roleplaying game, as some of the most memorable moments in tabletop gaming is when the plan you spent hours in real time coming up with goes completely off the rails. With all that planning gone you have to react, improvise, and make do with what you’ve got. Makes you wonder why you bother planning at all, sometimes.

I’ve read somewhere that Fiasco(!) is really more controlled improvisational acting than it is a roleplaying game. I think I agree with that assessment. You don’t make characters in this game. You create relationships between blank templates, add objects and needs that inform those relationships, and figure out who everybody is afterward. It’s actually a pretty fun process, and at the end of it you actually have a pretty good idea who your character is and what drives them. You then have scenes, like in a movie, because that’s essentially what you’re doing – building that movie where everything goes gloriously wrong.

The game is broken up into two phases. Everybody gets two scenes in phase one. A fun part of the game is that you can either set up a scene, or choose to resolve it. If you set it up, you decide who’s in it (other than you) and where it’s at, etch. The other players vote whether this goes well or poorly for your character as the scene is in motion. You and those involved then get to improvise how it goes the way it goes. If you resolve, everybody else gets to set up the scene for you, and you decide how it goes before the scene even begins. Kinda cool.

Then comes the hand basket bound for hell, and everybody climbs on it. It’s call the tilt, which you roll randomly for. It introduce two chaotic elements that help everything devolve into self destruction (if the game isn’t already well on it’s way there anyway). Each player gets two more scenes, and then there are rolls to determine how things eventually pan out for your character. And that’s it.

As a storytelling mechanic, it’s absolutely brilliant. The random mix of relationships, needs, objects, locations, etc. interact with the players in some pretty great ways. My group had a blast when we played a scenario called “Boomtown”, set in a small town in the wild west. There was a madam who controlled the town from her mansion, a sheriff who wanted to clean the place up, a toady of a deputy, a family that was about to lose their ranch, a crazy ass plan to get the mortgage papers, glorious self destruction, and a giant explosion at the end.

The great thing is we could play the same scenario again and come up with a completely different story. We’re planning on playing another playset soon. This one will be Gangster London, which sounds like it will be just as entertaining. When we get around to playing it I’ll have to post a rundown of the story we come up with.

You can find Fiasco! at Bully Pulpit Games: http://www.bullypulpitgames.com/games/fiasco/

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