Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My problem with Fiasco

I have read so many times, and heard on so many podcasts, that Fiasco is a great game. Having listened to some actual play, and detailed rules explanations, I find that this really isn't a game for me. I kind of wish it was, though.

Not every game is for everyone, and you don't have to love every game. Just move on, right? Kind of true. The thing is, the kind of play that Fiasco supposedly is all about is one I think sounds interesting. I also think the multitude of play sets are really cool, and some are kernels to really cool games. Maybe there's something to learn from Fiasco, or maybe there's something that can be found to make it work for me? I'll start to nail down what I don't like.

Playing the game is, unless I have misunderstood something completely, basically done in four phases. First you roll the dice and distribute them using the play set, then you make shit up until you run out of dice, them you roll them again and you make more shit up until the end.

What I don't like about that is the "making shit up" part. In that part, you for each scene get to decide how it ends or how it's set up. That's what's rubs me the wrong way. If someone else is deciding what happens, why should I sit and waffle about what happens? This, I feel, robs me of "player agency" or if you like, the point where I think rpgs really shine. That thing, I think, is going into a game ready to gamble some resources not knowing the outcome, exploring a secondary world. If someone sits there and just makes shit up, why should I then play out that scene? I'd like to turn that on it's head.

When I listens to people playing Fiasco I don't hear people play. I hear people just talk. Making shit up without any relation to effort involved, traits involved or chance just don't a game make.

This makes me think of another game I have read but know played, and listened to and becoming confused. That game is Burning Empires. In that game you do one thing differently, though. In BE you have one trait that is the one that determines success in that scene, and after the talky part you actually do the game bits. You roll dice and "make your bets". I'm wondering if that retrofitted to Fiasco would suit me better?

So, what do I like about all this?
I really like the idea of the setup for the game in Fiasco. Coincidentally, in Burning Empires you also start the game by generating the setting and framework for play. That part I think could be really cool to explore in a game of a more traditional bent. Maybe that part is why I come back to Fiasco again and again, and even bother to talk at length about a game which looks like it will bore me to tears. But, the system for building a city in Dresden Files looks interesting! There is a system based on that in the new shine FATE Core book I own. Maybe there is a way...


  1. I describe FIASCO as a game where you play a script writer in a story conference with an eccentric show-runner who makes you dice off to include your ideas in the script.

  2. Not a too bad description. More mayhem than an ordered game! :)

  3. It's improv for people who are scared of improv. Fiasco uses the same rules as improv but packages it as an beer'n'pretzels RPG.

    One of my face-to-face PRG groups wrecks every scenario it touches. Fiasco is the ideal game for that group. We get to "play a game" without anyone really worrying about playing a game.

    And, while you can just make stuff up out of whole cloth, the scenario pays off best when you make stuff up within the realm of whatever is reasonable for that scenario.

  4. I think that might be part of my problem with it. I feel cheated when it's really an improv exercise, while I'm looking for a game. I hadn't thought of it that way.

    Makes me wonder why anyone would "play a game" without anyone really worrying about playing a game. But, it works for you. Win win, I guess.

    Sometimes a lot can be gained by understanding what you are unconsciously looking for.

    Thanks for that nugget of insight!


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