Sunday 25 December 2011

Fiasco with Adults

Had my first game of Fiasco with adults - my relatives. None of them are role-players, but they're all actors (I'm the odd one out there) and they're quite spontaneous.

The characterizations were hilarious, especially from my sister-in-law (a professional actress), and for family at least, unexpected risque: webcams hidden in tanning beds and the resulting porn was a central element.

The setup was a little confusing to them, mechanically, and there was a lot of uncertainty about what it all meant, but it was neat to see people starting to get inspired and leaning forward as the details started to click together.

In hindsight, we could have gone over some conventions of the genre, as we shied away from the outrageous and produced a sort of soap opera. Both in terms of pacing and general content, it felt a bit like Twin Peaks without the surrealism. Our characters were far too sensible!

A number of scenes focused on trying to get others to agree to do something, rather than plunging forward with screwball schemes (getting promises for goods rather than breaking in and taking them ourselves). As a result, 'bad result' resolutions didn't move the story enough ("he says no") rather than snowball the fiasco ("he catches you in the act"). A couple of scenes were spent essentially revisiting conflicts ("Hey, why haven't you done that thing you said you'd do yet?"). This really put the brakes on the central Need, as even modest plot advances were undone.

By the time I twigged to this we were well into act two, and it was revealed to all when we got the aftermath results which were way more brutal than the tone we'd set. (The worst that had happened to a character in play was being charged with a crime.)

We were exhausted and out of ideas by the very end, but the aftermath montage was really fun, perhaps because it was so clear just how much license we all had to set scenes (decades later). We went die by die and I found it once again unexpectedly poignant. My character's last die was a white one, where I got to move back to the town decades later to find that nobody remembered me (some victory!)

Can't wait to play again!

Friday 23 December 2011

Fiasco with Kids

As I hadn't managed to get my relatives together to play Fiasco yet, I figured I'd give it a whirl with my kids, and it was surprisingly fun and accessible to them, despite their young ages (5 and 8).

Creating the character relationships went very smoothly - rather than having them browse the playset lists, we just took turns rolling and took what we got. (Although I did edit out the untoward objects and the needs about getting laid!)

By the time we were done, Leah (5) was a veterinary surgeon (Dr. Daisy), locked in a rivalry with Morgan's character, Dr. Eggnog. (A certain gonzo element creeps in with kids!) My character, Burt Cummings was a vet school wash-out, having left when bowel problems made it impossible for him to afford tuition. Now, he's getting illegal surgeries done via Dr. Daisy (professional/client relationship). Our location was (of course) the Animal Care Clinic on Center Road.

We kept the scenes super short and punchy, so the whole game was done in less than an hour.

My girls play 'pretend' all the time, and what's neat about it is the constant out of character negotiation they do about their roles and the upcoming events. As a result, Fiasco's scene framing seemed very natural for them, and they rolled easily with whatever Resolves were handed to them.

After the end of Act One, we rolled two Twists, "Dangerous Animal (Perhaps Metaphorical) Gets Loose" and "Ugly Struggle Ends in Death". The former we played literally; Dr. Eggnog accidentally releases a rabid dog while hunting through the vet clinic for some dirt on Dr. Daisy; later Burt runs into it and gets hurt. I then showed up at Dr. Eggnog's place with a shotgun, looking for revenge (long story) and Eggnog ends up biting it, which Morgan was totally into.

We still had a few scenes left, so we followed the game's advice and played Eggnog's last scene as a flashback - Burt and Eggnog back in vet school, just chatting. There was no real conflict, but I found the juxtaposition between their mortal struggle and their earlier friendship surprisingly poignant.

Fiasco is a very lean game, and the mechanics are a lot simpler than the rules make them out to be, somehow - there's so much advice about how to apply them that the learning curve looks steeper than it is, partly because the rules are spread out through the fairly long text. The summaries are handy, but only as memory-joggers - "do some dice math". The whole game (playsets aside) could probably be printed on three pages, with all the advice following.

All in all, it was slightly too involved for Leah, whose interest waned when there were about three scenes left but Morgan said she'd play again without hesitation. Fun!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

NPC Dysfunction Table

Are your hirelings too cooperative, but you don't want to make them outright villains? Roll on the NPC dysfunction table to spice them up a little!

d10NPC Dysfunction
Martyr—The NPC will help the players too much, helping or giving to the point of self-sacrifice. He secretly hopes to be recognized - even pampered - for this effort, but will never say so or let on in any way. Unless this happens, the NPC will feel resentful, and eventually come to feel utterly betrayed and neglected by the PCs.
Authority Issues—Though he doesn't realize this, the NPC is deeply mistrustful of authority figures. She will feel that attempt to suggest a course of action, however gentle, is an attempt to impinge on her freedom.
Passive Resistance—The NPC is resentful of any attempt of the players to push their own agenda, but won't speak up for himself. He will agree to anything, but whatever he's said, he'll privately do it his own way - or not do it at all. No issue is too small, or too important (e.g. ensuring the rations are packed) for him to take a stand.
Fully Entitled—It never occurs to the NPC that other people might have wishes other than her own. She blithely assumes everyone sees things her way, even when meddling in others' affairs. The NPC is quite comfortable with the resulting conflict, and sees others as oversensitive.
Unheard—The NPC is secretly furious that nobody asks his opinion. He will never offer it unsolicited. He will hold his tongue, even to the point that the group fails. Only if pressed will he reveal that he had foreseen this disaster and that somebody should have asked him.
Insecure—The NPC is desperately insecure. He perceives any contrary opinion as an attack on him personally, a deliberate move to either undermine him, make him look stupid, damage his reputation, or pave the way to pushing him out the group.
Blaming—The moment he is inconvenienced, or anything whatsoever goes wrong, the NPC will immediately blame anyone plausible - preferably someone nearby. Their fault could have been something done wrong, something not done, something they didn't anticipate needing to do.
Controlling—This NPC must be in control, and views this as the only possible route to success and failure is not an option. Independent action is at best an annoyance, one more thing for her to keep track of, and at worst, a first step to disaster. She will resist this with great determination. No detail is too small for her to have an opinion; plans too complicated for her to track in her mind are a non-starter.
Indirect—No matter how urgent the information, this NPC will always try to communicate through an intermediary. "Can you talk to him? It'll sound better coming from you." If he doesn't like someone in the group or their behavior, he will speak to the others one on one, trying to turning the others against his target. If confronted directly, he'll deny that he has any gripe.
Explosive—The NPC holds a grudge and keeps score. Any annoyance, perceived slight, failure to recognize her contribution, or infringement of her rights will be endured silently - but every last one is stored up in a mental logbook. Then, at the least convenient moment, she snaps. Maybe it's one slight too many; maybe a player needs a favor.

Monday 14 February 2011

Plastic walkers beach party

This morning, still lying in bed, Danielle said to me. "If you have a big Hallowe'en project this year, now would be a good time to get started."

Then my boss shows me this!