Saturday, December 13, 2014

Returning to life

It has been over three years since last I posted anything.

2011 was a very bad year for me. I won't go into details, but just know that it sucked. A series of personal issues, as well as employment concerns, combined with the fact that I wasn't getting to play a lot of games at that time in general meant that I had little to say on the subject of gaming even when I felt I had the energy and creativity to try to write anything.

Over the last year, however, I've been able to get back into gaming. Not as heavily as I'd like; life is still pretty complicated. But I've joined a weekly tabletop gaming club, and have acquired some awesome new board and card games, as well as discovering the game Fiasco.

So I'm hoping that, for a while at least, I'll be able to post more. I have a few ideas for updates already, and hopefully, my continued participation in the gaming club will provide fodder for more.

So let's start this week's entry with a discussion of the above-mentioned Fiasco.

Fiasco is published by Bully Pulpit Games. It was written by Jason Morningstar, and has received several awards, including being featured on Wil Wheaton's webseries Tabletop.

Like most roleplaying games, Fiasco is not so much about players competing to see who wins, but about telling a great story. Unlike other roleplaying games, however, Fiasco is not about the players and their characters working together to defeat a common foe (or find a powerful artifact or rescue the princess or whatever), but about the entertaining disasters that result when petty people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control interact.

The game was inspired largely by films such as Fargo and Blood Simple. It is designed to help you create a series of characters in a situation where everything will go wrong. The Set-up involves choosing a playset, which is essentially a setting and several lists. The lists normally include Relationships, Needs, Locations, and Objects (some playsets tweak this by replacing a set of lists; for example, I know of at least one that uses Events instead of Locations). Players roll a bunch of dice and use the results to set up their relations to one another, as well as what motivations the characters have and what locations, objects, events, or other elements are important to the characters.

Once that's done, the players flesh out the characters and their relationships to one another before starting Act 1. In Act 1, each player acts out two scenes with the other players, sometimes asking a player to take the role of an 'NPC,' so to speak, to fill out the drama. During the course of each scene, the players decide whether it's going to end well or poorly for the player whose turn it is. Everyone involved in the scene finishes the action moving in that direction, much like improvisational theatre.

After everyone's had two scenes, you roll some more dice and consult the Tilt Table. This determines what sort of disaster is going to befall the characters in Act 2. They take a break, discuss the story so far, and what they expect to come. Then they sit back down to act out two more scenes each, in much the same way they acted out the scenes in Act 1, except now they're driving the story towards the calamity determined at the Tilt.

The game finishes with everyone rolling some dice to determine how the story ends for their particular character. They then resolve the drama, vignette style, and sit back to marvel at the incredible story they've wrought together.

This game appeals very strongly to the Storyteller player types (and, to a much lesser extent, the Method Actors). As such, it's right up my alley. I've played many games using a variety of different playsets: I've done superheroes, WWII, Renaissance Italy, D&D style fantasy, suburban Hollywood, Elizabethan London, wuxia China, and several others. I've even written a few playsets, one of which has been entered into a playset-writing contest (voting ends tomorrow night, so I don't yet know how it did).

It might not appeal to the Butt-Kickers, Power Gamers, Tacticians, or Specialists out there. But you never know; maybe you should give it a try!

Anyway, I think that's enough for this week's installment. I will look to make another entry next week, and until then:

Game on!