Fiasco: A Game Powerful Ambition & Poor Impulse Control
The third event of RPG-or-Die!-Con last weekend was a session of Fiasco. We were all very excited to get this played, and it turned out really well. I won’t go into any detail here about the overall premise or general play of the game, because I’ve already covered that in the preview/review thingy that I did. Instead, let’s get right to the action!
It all started in a Nice Southern Town…
We all agreed that our first session should be using the “Nice Southern Town” playset, essentially set right here in Alamance County, the homeplace for three out of the five of us. We rolled all 20 dice and started picking elements from the playset to create our web of ineptitude. Here was our cast of characters:
- Junior Apple (Britt) – former racing pilot (in local, Red-Bull-Air-Race-like events) who lost his wife to a terrible hot-air-balloon accident, a chain-smoker and father to…
- Kandee Apple (Carol) – the proprietor of Rose’s Village Motel (convenient to the interstate) along with her cousin…
- Laurence “Red” Apple (Kenny) – who uses the motel as a hub for his illegal copper-thieving activities, which he performs with his buddy…
- Rufus “Tick” Turner (Tom) – who was obviously drug into a life of crime by his friend, and now has to report to his parole officer…
- Sergeant Nate Siler (Me) – who apparently doesn’t care much about his job, but carries a forbidden love for life-long friend Junior Apple
Other elements that were introduced included:
- Object: Junior’s old barnstormer racing plane (between Junior and Kandee)
- Need: To get Respect from the police, by turning in your own kin (between Red and Kandee)
- Need: To get Laid, to get it over with (between Tick and Nate)
- Need: Somebody Needs to Get Even with a family member (between Nate and Junior)
So things were pretty primed and ready once these were all chosen and we spent a few minutes talking about how they fit together. Unfortunately, since it’s been over a week now, I’m afraid that I’m going to miss some of the awesome that showed up that evening. I really need to take some kind of notes about each scene next time. But anyway, I hope to hit at least the highlights of the game (possibly even in the right order), and welcome any corrections, expansions, or clarifications from my fellow players.
“This might be a bit awkward, but…”
Since I grew up in the smallest “town”, I got to go first. The scene took place at work, but I made the mistake of letting the table set it for me. I therefore found myself showing up late (again) for an appointment with Tick (who I insisted on calling “Rufus” the whole game long). I ended up losing my job even though I whined and practically cried to my boss, conveniently named Lieutenant Dan on the spur of the moment.
We then witnessed a transaction going on between Tick, Red, and their criminal contact, Eli. At some point (either in this scene or soon after), Lieutenant Dan was patroling around and came upon one such encounter, and when he demanded to see what was in the back of the furniture van, Red clubbed him unconscious and threw him in.
Throughout the transaction and afterwards, we had the first running theme of the game show up when Kandee was trying to get Red to actually do some work around the motel. Over a few scenes here and there, Red was working on getting the drain unstopped in 7B, while Kandee sent its occupant on wild-goose chases across 8 lanes of interstate traffic to find a cup of coffee. It all sort of came to a head when, as the backdrop of one scene, Red was moving the furniture out of 7B in the midst of a flood of sewage, prompting him to tell Kandee, “7B is outta comission.” As the guest walked up and inquied about his personal effects, Red handed him a garbage bag and recommended that he not open it, ’cause “it’s best this way.” As the man stormed off and pealed out of the gravel parking lot, Kandee waved and said, “Come back and see us!”
Moving around the table, we soon learned that Junior owned back taxes on the house and his plane, and that he and Kandee were going to lose it all unless they did something dramatic to get some money. Since he couldn’t fly the plane anymore (like he used to back in the war, where he shot down all them Nat-zees), he demanded that Kandee had to enter the upcoming race and win it so that they could get the money they needed.
And then it happened; the event that would be the theme of the rest of the game. But before I get there, let me give you the setup. Based on Red’s need “to turn in your own kin” for respect and Tick’s need “to get laid, to get it over with”, a plan was hatched that Red would set up Kandee and Tick to have an encounter of a sexual nature, get it on tape, and then turn it in to the police as proof of the motel being used for prostitution (hopefully letting him take sole ownership of it as well). Kandee would be motivated by the need to get money to get the plane fixed up and out of impound as well, so things looked good.
As Red talked to Kandee in one scene, he just sort of popped out with the following request as evenly and matter-of-factly as you could imagine. To Kandee, obviously, “Now, this might be a bit awkward, but would you consider… having sex with Tick… for money?” He then turned to camera (this obviously being a Coen-brothers movie) and said, “Well, what d’ya know? That wasn’t awkward at all.” After several minutes of nearly pee-yer-pants hilarity, we all managed to compose ourselves, and since the table had control of resolution, we made sure that Kandee agreed to Red’s request.
“This might be a bit awkward…” showed up every scene or two for the rest of the game. It would definitely be the title of the movie, if anyone was stupid enough to actually make it.
Now, we still had Lieutenant Dan tied up in the back of the van, so Tick convinced Red that he could handle getting rid of him. He didn’t really have the stomach for it himself, though, so he thought that maybe his out-of-work, parole-officer buddy Nate would help him out. Sort of wanting to delay the inevitable and partly to butter up Nate, they started by going up to the Tank Museum in Danville (even though we thought it was in Martinsville) and making a day trip of it. As they got back in the van, though (with Nate wearing a foam, tank-shaped hat emblazoned with “Tanks for the Memories!” on it… which, unfortunately, they don’t actually sell at the Tank Museum gift shop), Nate heard bumping and moaning coming from the back. Tick took him around back, showed him Lieutenant Dan all tied up, explained the situation, and asked if Nate would take care of it. Nate, still pissed off about being fired, went along with it and took out Lieutenant Dan.
The next day, Nate went in to the police station to butter up their secretary (and her mentally challenged son Kyle) and find out if Lieutenant Dan had processed the paperwork for his dismissal yet. It was still sitting on his desk, though, and no one else knew about it yet, so he destroyed it and found himself with a promotion to Lieutenant when Dan never showed back up.
Right around in here, we used up half the dice, which ended up act one and introduced the Tilt. Britt and Carol won the little dice rolls, so they got to choose the two elements from the Tilt Table. It didn’t look too good, though, since two people were going to have to die in Act Two. One of them was a tragedy, “death, after an unpleasant struggle”, while the other was “greed leads to a killing”.
In the first scene of Act Two, we got an idea of what may have happened in one of the deaths, since Nate was interviewing Junior about Kandee’s suspicious death during the race. He had taken out a very large life insurance policy on her, and some of the important hydraulic lines on the plane had been cut by shears found in Junior’s back pocket. Junior denied everything (except breaking down at one point and admitting that he had never been in the war or ever shot down any Nat-zees), and Nate (given his personal feelings for Junior) wanted to let him go. Nate made a proposition when he placed a hand on Junior’s arm, leaned in close, and said, “Now, this might be a bit awkward, but…” as the scene faded to black.
We then had several flashback scenes. In one, we saw Tick and Kandee set up their “rendezvous” while Red conspired to have Junior bust in on them and kill Tick in a fury of defending his daughter’s honor. Later on, when it was time for the event to take place, Tick just couldn’t go through with making Kandee have sex for money, so he just gave it to her (the money, that is, not the sex). Junior had called Red and told him that he was tied up and couldn’t come over to kill Tick, so Red had to do the bustin’-in and shootin’. When he found that Tick and Kandee weren’t all nekkid an
d sweaty, though, it confused him a bit. In the midst of talking with them, though, there was a terrible accident involving the gun, the “magic fingers” vibration feature of the bed, and Tick’s noggin, which resulted in 7C being taken out of commission as well (and us finding that Tick was the victim of the tragic tilty element).
In another flashback, we saw how Kandee and Junior worked with Mike the Airplane Mechanic to fake Kandee’s death and split the insurance money. So she took her money and headed off to start a new life in Myrtle Beach.
At some point after the crash and in thinking that Kandee was dead, Red grew some semblance of a conscience. As the firetruck’s siren blared and he saw Junior looking dispassionately at the remains that supposedly contained his dead daughter, Red had a little flashback of his own when he remembered seeing Junior do something to obviously sabotage the hot air balloon that his wife Tammy was about to go up in many years before. Red put it all together then, and realized that his need was now to expose how evil Junior really was.
A big rainstorm hit the town, and Tick’s body was washed out of the shallow grave where Nate, Red, and Kandee had buried it. There was a proper funeral then, and Kandee felt like she had to come back into town because she did actually sort of love Tick, butt-ugly as he had been. Red recognized Kandee, though, and it got ugly.
We also eventually got back to the rest of the scene with now-Lieutenant Nate and Junior in the interrogation room. Rather than an “indecent” proposal, Nate was apparently in on the whole thing and was offering to kill off Red. After Red was killed, he set a scene that began with a video playing of Red laying out a case implicating Junior of the deaths of Kandee and Tammy, Red’s own momma, Tick, and maybe even a couple of other unsolved murders around town from the last 20 or 30 years. The scene then panned back, though, and we saw Nate and Junior sitting again in the interrogation room. Nate then pulled out the tape and dumped it in the trash.
Through the last few scenes and the Aftermath process, this is what happened to all of our personalities:
- Tick was still dead, but we found out that he was actually an under-cover SBI agent, and a statue was built in his honor just outside the county courthouse
- Red was also still dead. But in a weird twist of fate, Kyle, the mentally-handicapped son of Nate’s secretary, found the tape in the trash and gave it to his momma. Unfortunately for Red’s plan, she then used it to tape that week’s “Days of Our Lives” instead of watching it.
- Junior and Nate ended up in jail for something or other possibly related to Tick’s death. Junior suffered terribly, but they wound up as roomates, so it was the best possible ending for Nate.
- Kandee ended up pretty much where she started, though, running a crappy motel, but this time it was up in Atlantic City.
If you can’t tell by reading, we had a freaking awesome time with Fiasco! The story was fun, interesting, and absolutely hillarious. The setup “mini game” itself is a total hoot, and the game really does a great job of pushing the action after that. We were all affecting accents the whole time (often forgetting to drop them when we’d talk out of character), which is a little strange if you think about it, since most of us are “natives” of central North Carolina anyway. Of course, I guess that we all watched too much TV growing up to have much of an accent naturally, and the people we were playing were just beggin’ for more color in their speech. But anyway, there was a great sense of collaboration and building off of each other the whole game long, and I’m pretty sure that we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
As a group and as roleplayers still very new to the whole indie/storygame style of RPG’s, however, we had some issues with playing the game like it was “supposed” to go. First of all, we didn’t always do a great job of setting up scenes. In a lot of cases, we’d almost spend more time discussing what a scene was going to be about than in actually playing the scene out. We also pushed a little too quickly into resolving the plot of the whole story, becasue by the time we hit the official Aftermath mechanics, we already had most everything wrapped up.
And I think that it would have been better if we’d listened to the recommendations about how many needs and all to include. For 5 players, they suggested another need and then another location or object. Instead, we went with 3 needs, and I don’t think that we had the mastery of the game (or the dirty-hippy-roleplaying skills) to pull that off. So as a result, we ignored the third need (to get even with a family member), while another location or object (especially something cool like a box of naughty toys or a shrine about Junior in Nate’s apartment) could have added some other cool backdrop to the action.
But with as much fun as we had, I’m pretty sure that we would all be up for playing Fiasco several more times, hopefully being a bit more skilled with the system next time. I’m not sure exactly, but The Ice (Antarctic research station) and The Last Frontier (southeast Alaska fishing village) playsets are sort of calling to me. Of course, we also had an idea about a playset of our own (a local television station) at some point during our game, so maybe that would be a possibility as well.
Overall, I think that my little RPG game day went really well. Tom has said that playing and talking about Comatose has helped him a lot, and that even seeing Fiasco in play helped his design thoughts about making it GM-less. We all had a great time (with the possible exception of Gwen, who helped to throw the party but didn’t actually get to play anything), and I think that we’re all looking forward to the next time. Even if we had to wait a couple of extra months to get it done, I think it was worth it!
Now that I’ve gotten Fiasco and Dread played again, I think that I want to set my sights on actually playing Dogs in the Vineyard sometime soon. Of course, there’s a ton of other games that I want to delve into (including Diaspora, obviously), and I’d be happy with any of them!