Fiasco: Identity Crisis

Yesterday, I played my first ever game of Fiasco. I’ve wanted to play Fiasco for a long time, not least since I saw how much fun Will Wheaton made it seem in his videos. Unfortunately, I’ve been living a good distance away from most role-players, so it’s been sort of difficult to get any kind of role-playing going. But yesterday, at a “Birthday Con” at a friend’s home, I got to sit down with Peter, Ole P., Troels and Nis to play a game of Fiasco… which was no fiasco (consider that the obligatory “fiasco”-joke).

Setup of the game

We settled on the “Fiasco High” playset. Most of us thought playing a teenage/high school game would provide many an opportunity for Weltschmertz and half-baked schemes. How right we were…

Set-up for a game of Fiasco has you roll a number of dice (four per player, I think), then use those dice to “buy” certain aspects of the relationships between characters. First you define the nature of the relationships between all neighbours – meaning you’ll have a relationship to the player on your right and the player on your left – then you define some characteristic of that relationship: a need, an object or a location. With five players, the game recommended two needs, two objects and one location. We might have liked one more need, but maybe that was because one object didn’t really come into use for us, and the location didn’t take full effect either.

Anyway, here’s our setup, as I recall it:

Peter and I were BFF’s (Best Friends Forever) by “Imperial Mandate” (what that meant was open to interpretation), and had a need “to get away with the Big Lie.”

Ole and I were “connected for life” as “identical twins,” and shared “our place”: the “D&D basement.”

Ole and Troels were “the richest kid in school and their devious minion,” and had “dirt on the Vice-principal’s son.”

Troels and Nis were “a searching soul and a Christian zealot,” who shared a need to get romance from “the incomparable Mike Tabuno.”

Finally, Nis and Peter did Community service together, and had a phone that had some sort of sexual connotation (I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I do remember how it played out).

 

From this we created the following characters:

Peter was Joey, the vice-principal’s son, who was doing community service, because he had been paid to take the fall for…

Kindra Flannaghan (me), who had DUI into a statue of the Reverend Mike Tabuno, who had donated a new science building to the high school. My mother had paid Joey to take the rap, and I was tutoring him to be able to pass his high school exam.

My sister, Keira Flannaghan (Ole) knew that Joey had been paid, but not for what. She was the GM for our girls only D&D group. The other player in the group was…

Mary Tabuno (Troels) – yep, she was the daughter of the Rev. Mike Tabuno. A punker and roleplayer, she was the rebellious daughter of a powerful, local church figure. She had been with Joey at the time of my “accident,” and had a… revealing video of him, also showing the police cars going by in the background on their way to the crash – thus proving that Joey couldn’t have been driving the car.

While Mary disliked her father, Lucy Bell (Nis) was one of his biggest fans. A poor girl, she was a devout member of Tabuno’s congregation, doing community service to prove her devotion. Her partner? Why, Joey, of course.

The plot, very briefly

(Brief aside: our story, by the nature of Fiasco, became quite multi-stringed and rather convoluted. I am trying to summarize from memory, but I don’t have a scene by scene go-through, so I’m trying to reconstruct it here.)

(Another aside: A number of times I’ve experienced feeling more satisfaction from playing an npc than from playing my own character. This was one of these instances: I played the Rev. Mike Tabuno, and enjoyed playing the very stoic, almost inhumanly calm, but somehow deeply disturbing, community figure.)

The game started with a clash between the devout Lucy and the unfocused rebel, Joey, with Joey drinking beer in the car while delivering meals to old folks. From there, we flashed to Kindra asking if Joey could join their role-playing group (which would not have been popular with the Rev. Tabuno).

Later, at the Tabuno residence, the Reverend has had a bright idea: his wayward daughter should join him on his Christian summer camp all summer. When she refuses, she is instead instructed to attend a bible study group the coming Wednesday – right in the middle of the weekly D&D-night.

But there’s a solution for this: Lucy, who is a part of the study group, really wants to go to bible camp – but she needs a scholarship from the Reverend to be able to afford it. Mary is of course more than willing to oblige – if only Lucy will help her skip bible studies. Lucy reluctantly agrees.

Lucy’s not the only one with money troubles. Joey has already spent the money he got to take the fall for Kindra, and now he wants her to get more money out of her mother. Meanwhile, while the girls are waiting for Joey at the D&D session, Kindra suddenly discovers that Keira and Mary have a video of Mary and Joey together at the time of the accident, proving that Joey didn’t do it. She panics, tries to kill Mary’s phone with spilt soda, only to discover that Keira has a copy. Kindra can’t destroy the evidence – what to do?

Meanwhile, Keira knows what to do. She knows that her mother is paying Joey, but not for what. Never the less, she wants in. She tries to pressure Joey into giving her some money, and he panics and sort of agrees.

At the Tabuno Community Center, only Lucy showed up for bible studies. When the Reverend shows up to check on the girls, he starts talking to Lucy about the coming bible camp, and the role she might play in it. Flustered and charmed, Lucy follows the Reverend into his office – God only knows what is going on in there (but it ain’t pretty).

Tilt

At this point we had the “tilt” – a complication that happens in the middle of the game. We got “Guilt: Somebody panics” and “Failure: you thought it was taken care of, but it wasn’t.”

Act 2

The next day, Lucy and Joey are in their car driving out food, when Lucy receives a message. Joey grabs her phone to see what it is – and finds a photo of the Reverend’s nethers. Lucy is quite flustered, and drives into a tree while trying to get it back. Joey decides to blackmail Lucy, not realizing that he could potentially blackmail the premier man in town.

Kindra is shocked to find out that she didn’t wipe out the video, and sits by stunned while her sister and Mary suddenly realize the significance of what they have, and consider what their next step should be.

Keira tries to find out why Joey hasn’t given her any money. Meanwhile, Mary seeks out Lucy (“who has a strong moral compass”) to help her figure out what to do with the video. Mary mostly figures it out on her own, while Lucy is stunned to find out that there are videos of Joey and not just of the Reverend. Later, she goes to see the Reverend to tell him about Joey’s blackmail, and the Rev. Tabuno promises her that he will take care of it. He is friends with the police, and can get them to take care of Joey.

…which they do the next day, when Joey comes to see his parole officer, and is charged with blackmail. He is very surprised, and immediately starts to blabber, in order to get out of this unscathed.

…which means that later the same day, the police knocks on Kindra’s door, and wants to take her in for questioning. Kindra is first shocked, then she pulls a low blow: she indicates that it was really her sister driving her car that night.

The aftermath

I’ll be honest to say that there are a few of the last scenes that I’m forgetting here. I think Mary goes to confront her dad, then meets up with Lucy somehow. Anyway, then we got to the closing montage. In Fiasco, you accumulate dice throughout the game, some white, some black. At the end of the game, you roll them all, tally the blacks and the whites, then find the difference. The lower the difference, the worse your fate.

Now, two of us, Kindra and Keira, got 1: The worst possible – probably worse than death. This ended up with an aftermath something like this:

After play, Keira was arrested, and imprisoned through her sisters perjurous testimony. This is backed up by help from the Rev. Tabuno, whom Kindra has joined – we see her burn her D&D books under his supervision, and later, she is teaching at the Summer Camp, pregnant and married to Tabuno’s son (but who the actual father is, is more than questionable).

Joey serves time inside, and comes out to start over from the bottom of the pile.

And finally, Mary and Lucy both leave the clutches of the Reverend Mike Tabuno, and go off together into the sunset (more or less).

Closing thoughts

The game was a lot of fun. I wasn’t entirely happy with the amount of escalation we had – I think we were a bit too cautious, and we weren’t that good at driving towards conflict. Despite that, we had some cringe-worthy moments, and the story was very good. Fiasco is particularly good at giving a great starting point, and the tilt was a bit abstract, but good.

I think Fiasco is a game that needs some relatively experienced story gamers. But if you have that, you have the basis for a great story within approximately three hours. A great game what I can heartily recommend.

Advertisements

3 responses to this post.

  1. I must admit, I was a bit dissatisfied with the amount of escalation with our game as well.

    We did have a bit of difficulty finding the pace of our story, and we did have a few scenes with no dramatic payoff.

    I also think we might have had a few instances of “No, because” instead of “Yes, and”, when coming with suggestions.

    The bigger issue, as I see it, stems from the playset itself. I think for what we were expecting, maybe High School isn’t the best fit. We could have played more to the teenage-“Oh my GOD!”-ness of the situation, but I do think the playset didn’t entirely fit in with our expectations of Fiasco.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, though, and hope you want to play along another time.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Elias Helfer on April 15, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I would like to play Fiasco another time!

    I think you may have a point with the playset: we were thinking high school intrigue when we selected the playset, but when I think of Fiasco, I think of something far more catastrophic.

    It was perhaps symptomatic that we often had a hard time telling whether a scene really had a good or a bad ending, and whether the scene really had resolved. If we had been pushing harder, it would probably have been more obvious how the scenes had resolved.

    Anyway, thank you for setting up the game – it was fun.

    Reply

  3. […] på falderebet vil jeg lige pege jer mod en session rapport fra den gode Elias – den er på engelsk, men er fra mit sidste spil Fiasco, der var super sjovt. Wil Wheaton har […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: