Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fiasco: Play Report

Risus Monkey and Telecanter played a game of Fiasco with me last night via Skype. There were some minor adjustments we had to make, given the lack of a shared table with dice to draw from, but I don’t think it took away from the game overall.

I’d only heard about Fiasco through a post of RM’s and really liked the idea of a referee-less and rules light game. Having now played it, I agree that its spontaneity and near total reliance on improv can definitely take you out of your comfort zone (even if you're an experienced rpg'er). Our game never seemed to stall, although I think each of us had moments where we wondered how the hell we were going to move the scene along. In retrospect, it helped me relate a little bit more to my wife’s difficulty in playing Swords & Wizardry for the first time.

We decided to use the Dragonslayers playset. Risus Monkey facilitated the game, guiding us through setup, scenes, and acts. Telecanter played an alchemist named Gills Whalhamer, Risus Monkey played his guild brother, a skeevy alchemist named Krom Domlin. I played Vince Bearheart, a paladin. I figured playing a class that annoys me would suit this type of game. Plus, someone was going to have to kill the dragon, right? Little did I know, it wasn’t going to be me.

Some other relationships and details: Gills and Vince are drinking buddies. Gills wants to rule over others and impose his own sense of justice. Gills and Vince have a need for a mummy finger with a ring on it. Vince is linked to Krom by some kind of blood ritual - which we determined to be a blood oath of secrecy; Vince was actually a very ugly man, but with the aid of regular potions supplied to him by Krom Domlin, he’d become very charismatic and able to pull off being a paladin. Yes, it wasn’t lawful, and Vince was very conflicted about it, but he was willing to make this one sacrifice in order to have a career where he could help rid the world of evil.

Hmm, there are some other details, but my note card scribbles are difficult to read. I’ll share some vignettes that I hopefully won’t have misremembered or mixed up too much..

Our role playing actually starts at the scene of the dragon’s lair itself, just after the dragon’s demise. Gills is very distraught by what he's witnessed - a huge explosion that has brought down the beast (although the paladin is under the illusion that he delivered the killing blow himself). The reason for his distress becomes clear when he confronts Krom Domlin about what was in the flask he’d launched at the dragon. Krom admits that it did contain an illegal herb but that nothing bad had happened other than some small collateral damage in the form of many dead hirelings - hey, the dragon was dead, wasn’t it? “But Krom, the herb was made illegal precisely because of how it has a tendency to kill hirelings!”

In our next scene, Krom Domlin has approached the paladin at the inn of the Buxom Wench in the town of Pissant, where they’re staying before heading back to the King’s castle with the mummified finger. Krom knows that he has a lot of control over Vince due to the paladin being dependent upon a continuous supply of “make me pretty” potions. Krom asks if Vince can try to convince his drinking buddy Gills not to report him to the guild for violating their rules. In the end, Vince agrees to try to help, before going off with a wench who’s had her eyes on him all night.

Next scene: With their (surviving) large entourage of hirelings, the party makes its way to a castle in the distance. Their path crosses a stream, and the three find themselves standing at the top of a waterfall hundreds of feet high. Closest to the edge is Gills, then Vince, then Krom. The three begin to all talk heatedly about Gills wanting to report Krom’s crime to their superiors. He comes closer to Gills. The conversation is perhaps difficult due to the noise of the water. Or perhaps his approach is threatening. What happened next was unclear: Did the paladin push Gills off the top of the waterfalls? Did he accidentally bump into him and knock him off, trying to protect him from a menacing Krom Domlin? In any event, Gills falls - but manages to grab the paladin and drag him with him! At the top of the falls, it appears to the hirelings standing some distance away as though the paladin has murdered Gills and died as well.

There were some more scenes, but I'll skip to the outcome...

Krom Domlin ends the game penniless, the treasure having disappeared (hireling theft?) and he never has as great a chance at glory or gold again.

Gills comes out much worse. He is thrown out of the guild for (ironically) following the rules too closely and his hair is permanently dyed green as punishment and perhaps as a mark of warning to never employ him as an alchemist. Everywhere he goes, children point and laugh at him.

The paladin suffers the most though. Krom Domlin cuts him off from his regular supply of potions of enhansomement. Returning to his ugly state, he is no longer taken seriously by anyone and ceases to be a paladin. In a tragic turn, the wench he slept with takes her own life in mortal embarrassment at having been with him. Worst of all, the mummified finger he carried was cursed, and attaches itself permanently to the center of his forehead. Everywhere he goes, he seems to be giving the finger.


Unknown said...

I tried Fiasco for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was lots of fun, but pretty different from how I like to play RPGs. It's hard to build up any sort of tension / dread or have mysteries people are trying to solve when it's all improv. On the other side you can develop some pretty funny/interesting/memorable characters and situations very quickly. I'd definitely play Fiasco again, even though it doesn't scratch the RPG itch for me. :)

ze bulette said...

I agree with everything you said 100%. Telecanter has a report up that basically does too. It has its place - it isn't something I'd want to keep playing session after session like D&D, but as a very occasional thing, sure.

I wonder how well it would play out with a large group of people, considering flashbacks and the many plot details to remember.

Adam Dickstein said...

That was fantastic!

I've only ever read through Fiasco but want to play it so badly you can't even imagine. Honestly it sounds ridiculously awesome.

I am interested in possibly hacking it as well to add a GM who functions a bit more like a director or editor but still essentially leaves the various players to run the show. I've also consider the idea of a rotating GM. So many options and ideas.

Thanks for the review and recap. This thing is right up my alley.

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