What is Fiasco? Some might call it the best game ever. Some might call it a critically acclaimed crowd pleaser. It recently won the Diana something award. Great! But what does that all mean to the common man? A lot of malarkey, that’s what. Someone needs to bring the message to the people in bare bones speak, a language they can understand. That’s what actual plays were made for. Also, I promised I would write this, and I’m a real pushover when it comes to keeping promises.
I’m guessing if you are reading this you already know, since only indy game nerds would read a fiasco actual play, but I’m going to assume ignorance on your part and spell everything out for you, just in case. Feel free the skim over the next paragraph, but you were probably going to do that anyways.
Fiasco is a story game which stands on the basis that an interconnected web of interesting relationships stands as a good basis for a tragic-comic story about over ambitious people getting in over their head and causing a mess of trouble. You create those relationships by picking a playset, which is a group of themed lists of relationships, objects, locations, and needs. Each list has 6 categories and each category has 6 more choices. Each player has a relationship with the people sitting on either side of them. You roll a bunch of dice to get a random group of numbers, then take turns grabbing a number from the pool and using it to pick a category for a relationship, or if a category is already picked, choosing one of the options from that category. Pretty soon everyone has some interesting seeds to create their characters and relationships from, and a good backstory to start the game with.
I was facilitating a game with Jackson and Marcy, who had both played before so the game went pretty smoothly. Fiasco’s rules are simple and easy to understand anyways. We decided to use the Science Comics playset, written by Nick Wedig, which is a setting about third rate superheroes and villains, inspired by the likes of The Venture Brothers, The Tick, and Dr Horrible. After we all finished defining our relationships we actually had a set up that seemed to borrow a lot from Dr Horrible, but certainly different enough. Here’s what our relationships looked like.
Between me and Marcy:
- Relationship: Villains – Super villain team up!
- Location: The suburbs – Your friendly neighborhood strip mall.
Between Jackson and I:
- Relationship: Romance – Both are after the same woman.
- Object: Doomsday device – Dr Thunder’s weather control device.
And between Marcy and Jackson:
- Relationship: Family – Took in and adopted an orphan child
- Need: To get respect – By killing the indestructible Captain Victory
We talked about our relationships and came up with our characters next. Marcy’s character was a rebellious teenage boy named Jimmy, living with his single father Bill, played by Jackson. Bill adopted Jimmy while he was with his ex wife Valerie, who recently left him and the kid to be with Captain Victory, a celebrity super hero who spent more time in the tabloids and attending movie premieres than he did performing acts of do goodery. I played Doctor Crusher, a retired failed super villain who worked at the mall where Jimmy liked to hang out. Crusher was named after a malfunctioning robotic claw that he had built himself and used to replace his own hand. Dr Crusher and Bill were both pursuing the same woman, Sarah Thomas, who was also secretly Dr Thunder’s secret Assistant, working on his weather control Device. Bill had met her through online dating, while Dr Crusher suspected she had the weather control device.
In our first scene Bill came home from work to the sound of Jimmy playing loud rock music in his room. Bill goes to Jimmy’s room, which is a mess, and tells him to turn down the music and clean their room. Jimmy refuses and Bill resorts to shutting off the power in the house. Just then Sarah calls and talks about how she would like to arrange a second Date with Bill, when there’s a giant explosion on her end of the call. She curses and hastily ends the call without an explanation, after which a giant thunderstorm erupts over the city. Jimmy never does end up cleaning his room though, and the scene ends bad for Bill.
The next day Jimmy is hanging out at the mall, and spots Doctor Crusher on a cigarette break outside the mattress store where he works. He’s holding his cigarette with the claw, which he has to cover up while he works, and Jimmy sees and comes over to ask what it is. Crusher tries to hide it at first, but since no one else is around he shows it to Jimmy, describing it as a stupid high school mistake. The claw malfunctions a little and crushes Dr Crusher’s cigarette, making him grumble about how he loses too many cigarettes that way before lighting up another one. Crusher goes on to tell how when he was a teenager he used to want to be a super villain but he eventually gave it up, but using his mattress salesmen techniques he tells Jimmy that he would be a great super villain and convinces the kid to go for it. Good for Jimmy!
Cut to Dr Crusher sitting on a park bench wearing a fedora and sunglasses while peeking over a newspaper. He also has a fairly large and conspicuous microphone attached to a tree branch over his head. He’s spying on a date between Bill and Sarah, which is going rather sweetly as they take a stroll in the park, hand in hand. As they talk Sarah speaks evasively about some device she’s working on, and Dr Crusher figures out that she has possession of it. Just then crusher’s hand malfunctions and crushes and shreds the newspaper, drawing attention to himself. Bill walks over and Crusher panics, grabbing his mic and diving into some nearby bushes. Bill is not at all fooled and asks Crusher what the hell he’s doing. Dr crusher pops out of the bush holding a stray cat he just happened to find, and claims he was just looking for his cat, though the cat bites and claws to escape and obviously does not want to be held. Bill points out that it’s obviously not Crusher’s cat, so Crusher gives it to Bill, throwing the cat to him before running off. Bad for Crusher.
Later that night Bill is at home watching TV with Jimmy when Captain Amazing shows up in his fancy car and designer clothes. He greets Bill and tells him that he’s Valerie’s new boyfriend and it’s great to finally meet the ex. Bill is not so friendly. Captain A. tells Bill that Valerie decided she wants her stuff and sent him to come pick it up, specifically the flat screen and the rest of the entertainment system. Bill says he’s still working that out with Valerie, but Amazing insists that, being as amazing as he is, he was able to fabricate a meeting between his lawyers and Bills lawyer to work out who gets what. Bill says he doesn’t have a lawyer. Captain A says he took the liberty of hiring a lawyer for Bill already, then pulls the paperwork from his suit pocket. Bill tries to shut the door again, at which point Captain Amazing points to the cops waiting around the corner just in case Bill wouldn’t comply. He also assures Bill that he doesn’t need the cops, but he wouldn’t want to hurt Bill in front of his kid. He meets Jimmy them, and tries to be friendly, but jimmy tells him to fuck off. He tells Bill sarcastically that he’s doing a great job of raising the kid, then he pushes inside and takes the entertainment system singlehandedly, showing off his super strength. After that Bill and Jimmy both have a reasonable hatred for Captain Amazing. Bad for Bill.
A few days later, Jimmy holds a meeting of his new gang at a fast food joint. Jimmy put up flyers around town advertising that his gang is looking for members, but the only kid who shows up is a weird nerdy kid named Zach, who thought the posters were actually for a missing cat. Nevertheless, Zach is super into being a gang of super villains. Dr Crusher shows up and tells the kids to be a little more secretive, then asks them if they need any help. He tells the kids the next thing they need is guns, and he’ll get some for them. Good for Jimmy.
In the next scene, Dr Crusher has triangulated the coordinates of the location of the weather control device, based on the locations of recent bursts of strange weather, to a warehouse that he’s breaking into. He uses some kind of harness system of his own design with a controller, that automatically lowers him down through a rooftop chimney. Unfortunately, since Crusher built the thing, the device malfunctions and locks up. He tries getting it working with his claw but that malfunctions to and breaks the device, causing it to drop him. He catches himself with his claw just as he falls out of the chimney, clinging to it’s rim and hanging from the chimney. For better or for worse though, he’s wrong about the location of the device, and the warehouse is empty except for some workers cleaning it out. Dr Crusher claims he was working on the roof, cleaning the ventilation system, when he fell. The workers send a lift over to catch him and lower him down, at which point he pulls a gun on them and demands to know where the device is. The workers have no clue what he’s on about and someone calls the cops. He manages to escape with the use of a faulty smoke bomb which causes an explosion. Later, from reading the newspaper, Crusher realizes he gained notoriety from the crime because everyone thought that he had discovered the location of a different top secret project that was just getting started in the warehouse, but was cancelled after his intrusion. Good for Crusher.
At this point we had the tilt, which is where we pick two elements off another list that are generally themed around disaster that we add into the second part of the story. Now I’ll be damned if I didn’t lose the tilt card, so I’m not exactly sure what our tilt was. But I’m pretty sure it was sudden reversal of fortune, and blood and mayhem. The usual. Next time I’ll have to take better notes/pictures/recordings.
So in the next scene Bill had taken Sarah to dinner at a nice restaurant. It was raining outside and Dr crusher stormed into the restaurant and slammed a vase of flowers down on the table with his mechanical claw. He announced that he was in love with Sarah and showed open contempt towards Bill, asking Sarah how she could be with someone so unexceptional. Bill got upset and stood up to get rid of Dr Crusher when Dr Crusher pulled out a gun and grabbed Sarah. He held the gun to her head walked her out of the restraint, then took her hand and ran off towards the alley in back. Bill ran through the restaurant to stop Dr Crusher but only arrived in the alley in time to see Crusher shooting his metal claw into the air like a grappling hook, then zooming up along a cable with Sarah in his arms to the rooftops above. Bad for Bill.
Bill arrived home after talking to the police, and went upstairs to see his son. He caught Jimmy in the middle of writing up a plan to kill Captain Victory while he’s on live television on The Tomorrow Show. Jimmy also has a handgun. He tries to talk Jimmy out of it, telling him that he wants to get back at Captain Victory too but that this is the wrong way. Jimmy insists that it’s the only way for them to get their respect back, and ends up pulling a gun on his father to make him move out of the way so he can run off to carry out his plan. Good for Jimmy!
Cut to Dr Crusher holding Sarah tied to a chair in his basement, professing his love to her. He explains how much he respects her intelligence and tells her he thinks they could be an incredible force together, and get back everyone who ever did them wrong. Jimmy enters in the middle of it and Dr Crusher hastily tells Jimmy not to worry and that it’s just another part of his plan. Jimmy tells Crusher he’s going to kill Captain Amazing right now and Crusher sends him off to the TV station with his full encouragement. He turns his attention back to Sarah who seems to be succumbing to his charms and showing early signs of Stockholm syndrome. Good for Dr Crusher.
Meanwhile Bill gets to the TV station first to warn Captain Amazing that Jimmy is coming to kill him and that he needs help to go rescue Sarah, but Captain A. is once again an egotistical jerk. He laughs at Bill and accuses him of making up a lie in a pathetic attempt to spoil his interview just before he goes on air. Bill insists on his sincerity and Captain A flippantly acceded to helping bill find his girlfriend after his interview is over. He calls security to escort bill out and gets ready for the show to start filming. Bad for Bill.
Moments after the interview has begun, Jimmy and Zach run in wearing home made super villain costumes (actually Zach was wearing one from the Halloween store if memory serves correctly). They confront him on the air and Jimmy tells Captain A he’s going to show the world just how weak the supposedly “Indestructible” Captain Amazing really is. Captain A acts big and asks for the gun, telling Jimmy that he doesn’t want to do something stupid and spend the rest of his life in prison, but after Jimmy fires a few warning shots he starts begging, showing that he’s not so tough, and offers Jimmy money to let him live. Jimmy tries to shoot him but can’t will himself to pull the trigger and take a human life, so Zach takes the gun from him and shoots Captain Amazing in the leg. Captain A screams and wails in pain on live TV while Zach and Jimmy make a break for it. Good for Jimmy.
That night Dr Crusher stands on the roof of a building with Sarah, as she shows him how to use the weather control device. They target a storm over the courthouse, but Dr Crusher’s mechanical hand malfunctions and snaps the intensity control off after turning it up to the max. The weather quickly intensifies and becomes more and more dangerous. “We have to do something!” says sarah, but Dr Crusher grabs her and looks her in the eyes. “Do we?” he says, and they kiss in the midst of the raging storm as the courthouse is ripped apart. Good for Dr Crusher.
In the aftermath, Jimmy fled town and moved off to start a life of crime in the big city. Dr crusher and sarah were struck by lightning, causing the machine to explode. Bill mourned the loss of his son but eventually started his own plumbing company. Dr Crusher was saved in the hospital, but with pieces of the weather control device inseparably lodged in his brain, while Sarah was pronounced dead in another room. However it turned out Sarah faked her death to escape and marry Bill. Jimmy built up his gang of super Villains and committed higher and higher profile crimes. Dr Crusher was put in a High Security Prison for super villains, but had gained control of the power to control electricity thanks to the device lodged in his brain, and blasted his way out of prison, shooting supercharged bolts of lightning from his claw. Bill’s plumbing company did well and Captain Amazing ended up as one of his employees after falling from the public’s favor. Jimmy went on to form an evil empire and take over the world. And Dr Crusher was killed by Jimmy’s minions after they fought in an epic battle for world domination, the stormy sky above Doctor Crusher clearing as the last light of life faded from his eyes.
So who wants to produce the movie version? I always feel like that after a good Fiasco session. I love the playsets, they keep the game fresh every single time. This session was a lot of fun, I always enjoy playing the bad guy and getting taken down in the end.