Bully Pulpit Games' Fiasco
August 14, 2012 11:18 AM   Subscribe

TableTop’s Fiasco episodes may be the greatest roleplaying documentary made to date. ... Not only are the two episodes it takes to show their session a joy to watch (and they are a pleasure) but they succeed in something that is really difficult to do: capture the essence of a game session. (previously)
Fiasco is inspired by cinematic tales of small time capers gone disastrously wrong – inspired by films like Blood Simple, Fargo, The Way of the Gun, Burn After Reading, and A Simple Plan. You’ll play ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. Lives and reputations will be lost, painful wisdom will be gained, and if you are really lucky, your guy just might end up back where he started.

Fiasco is an award-winning, GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust. It’s like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it’d take to watch one.
posted by Egg Shen (32 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really enjoyed watching the Tabletop episodes of Fiasco, especially since I haven't been able to play it yet. Really neat to see how the game works.

And Tabletop in general is an awesome watch.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:26 AM on August 14, 2012


Part 1.

Part 2.
posted by zouhair at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


These episodes were amazing. I highly, highly recommend watching if you have any interest in storytelling or roleplaying games.
posted by nolnacs at 11:39 AM on August 14, 2012


They even made their homebrew Fiasco scenario available for download!

I've been enjoying TableTop since it debuted, and even wound up getting a couple of the games they've introduced. My favorite epside so far is when they played Munchkin with Steve Jackson himself!
posted by Gelatin at 11:40 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I baffled that I would enjoy watching someone else play a game. And yet ... I enjoyed it mightily.

I was entertained that the professional writers were better at coming up with good plot points and the actress was better at acting.
posted by feckless at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2012


Tabletop is pretty good, shockingly high quality for YouTube (except for that table, Wil's wife almost smashed it with her bare hands one episode). The Fiasco episodes are really entertaining but I have a feeling playing Fiasco with non actors and writers just wouldn't turn out that way. I am imagining 2 hours of "umm ummm .. umm .. ummm . umm so . umm.", if I tried to play this. Wil playing a game where he acts is like me playing a game where I surf the web looking at cat pictures. They are all obviously in their element there. Anyone play Fiasco? How did it turn out?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:42 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Going to have to sit down with these soon. Been hankering after a Fiasco session for quite some time.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:44 AM on August 14, 2012


I haven't watched the Fiasco episodes yet, after being told by my semi-regular gaming group that they're boring as hell and that: "Fiasco isn't really a game; it's more of an improv sport, which I guess would be fun if you're an actor."

I'll get around to them eventually, but if someone can tell me why my friends are wrong (please, give me a reason to tell selenized that he's wrong about something; I so rarely get the opportunity), I'll probably watch them much sooner than I otherwise would.
posted by asnider at 11:45 AM on August 14, 2012


I love TableTop! I am amazed that I can enjoy watching people play games but it only makes me wish that there were like minded people in my own neck o' the woods to play with. This from someone who has never considered herself a gamer of any type in many many years.
it's more of an improv sport is probably what attracts me to a game such as Fiasco.
posted by Isadorady at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2012


Fiasco sounds absolutely fascinating ... and is unique to me in that it's the first game I've ever encountered that doesn't have an entry on Board Game Geek.
posted by jbickers at 11:51 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am amazed that I can enjoy watching people play games

I think a big part of the enjoyment, at least for me, is in finding new games to play. And being able to watch someone else play it through before I attempt to play it myself allows me to judge whether or not I'm likely to enjoy the game (and, equally important, whether or not the people I usually play with are likely to enjoy it). I may also just be weird. My wife is also a board-gamer and, while she will occasionally watch TableTop with me she tends to find it really boring and would rather actually be playing a game herself.

Fiasco sounds absolutely fascinating ... and is unique to me in that it's the first game I've ever encountered that doesn't have an entry on Board Game Geek.

For anyone who doubts jbickers, he's right. This is not the Fiasco under discussion in this thread.
posted by asnider at 11:57 AM on August 14, 2012


Jason Morningstar, creator of Fiasco, is a good friend of ours, and my husband participated in many early games of Fiasco, as well as many many GM-less games over the years that inspired it. Jason was pretty tickled that Wheaton liked his game when he talked to him at DragonCon last year, and the TableTop thing is just kind of awesome all the way around. Jason is the real deal: a neat guy with an MLIS and a day job who writes amazing games in his free time.

As to "Who the hell could actually pull this off, it's probably really boring in real life":

My husband and his friends love GM-less games. Yes, they can be akin to improv or story telling sessions (and lots of his friends are current or former actors or improv folks). As a sometimes spectator from the next room, the main thing I've observed is that these are people who go ALL IN when playing games, that they enjoy taking on wacky characters and making big decisions that will ruin everything and playing that out to see where it goes. They are by and large people who are not self-conscious or worried that other people will judge them for their in-character play. That's probably not for everybody.

If any of this sounds interesting and like something you would like to know more about, they hang out on Storygames.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:57 AM on August 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


Anyone play Fiasco? How did it turn out?

I've played fiasco (and although I've been an actor in the past, none of the other people participating were) and it was pretty amazing. The plot hooks you start out with do all the work of creating a plotline for you.

What the game really excels at is nailing that black comedy that is a staple of the Coen brothers movies. It always seems to start with something small (like a traffic ticket, or a casual comment at the breakfast table) gradually escalating through a series of misunderstandings into robbery, murder, and arson (which almost ALWAYS goes awry).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:58 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Fiasco scenarios, Bully Pulpit Games has released a bunch of them, with themes ranging from Latin American revolutions to film noir to a zoo that's fallen on hard times.
posted by Gelatin at 11:59 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Fiasco isn't really a game; it's more of an improv sport, which I guess would be fun if you're an actor."

I think it probably comes down to where you are coming from as a gamer; Fiasco is a lot more improvisational than most tabletop role-playing games and (from my perspective, after reading the rules) is very focused on the mutual creation of a memorable, fun story. Most of the tabletop RPGs I've been involved with focus more on the characters and their progression, with the story there to support that process. At least, that's how I'd describe the rule set and the mindset of the players at those games.

So, from some perspectives, Fiasco wouldn't look like much.
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:00 PM on August 14, 2012


I haven't watched the Fiasco episodes yet, after being told by my semi-regular gaming group that they're boring as hell and that: "Fiasco isn't really a game; it's more of an improv sport, which I guess would be fun if you're an actor."

I'll get around to them eventually, but if someone can tell me why my friends are wrong
Well, your friends are right and wrong. Fiasco is closer to an improv game than to what's usually called a role-playing game. With people who think that sounds like a bad thing, I expect it would prove to be a bad thing.

But with people who think that sounds like fun, it probably would be -- it always has for me.
posted by Zed at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Farador D&D is a very accurate depiction of a typical tabletop-rpg session
posted by Authorized User at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a very good reason why Fiasco's not on BGG: It's not a board game.

Very interesting that this thread is here. I just returned from my Friendly Local Game Store semi-empty-handed. They didn't have a copy of Fiasco for sale.. but I did pick up enough six-sided dice to play. Next step, to buy the rule book PDF. Only $12, which is such a steal it makes me feel guilty.
posted by blue t-shirt at 12:35 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If $8 isn't a deal-breaker, splurge for the Fiasco + Fiasco Companion bundle for $20.
posted by Zed at 12:38 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, here's Fiasco on RPG Geek, where it belongs.
posted by blue t-shirt at 12:46 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My group played for the first time last night, and the four who played had a great time. The game didn't appeal to the more shy/intellectual members of the group. They played other games, but by the end, were watching how ours turned out. We had a great time and laughed a lot.

We learned a few lessons: the more you commit to the game and your character, the more fun you'll have. You can play with a mix of full out improv and just describing what happens in the scene, but keep scenes short. The less you plan out the scenes, and how the relationships, needs and objects are going to be used, the better.

I thought we could have used more scene setting and descriptions to add atmosphere, things like, "I bust down the door and stand in front of you, panting heavily and covered in sweat and blood."

We all agreed we couldn't wait to play again.
posted by jayb3369 at 1:04 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem: "Anyone play Fiasco? How did it turn out?"

My weekly group has played quite a few sessions in the past year or so. It's become our standard pick-up, no-prep game for when the GM doesn't feel up to GMing that week. (I keep wanting to play Shab al-Hiri Roach, but we haven't been able to figure out the rules yet -- Morningstar's writing isn't always that clear.) My most vivid memories are of our first session, which used "The Ice" playset from the original book. It was like The Thing mixed with a Coen brothers' movie. Just as the game says, everything went horribly wrong and we had a great time.

asnider: "'Fiasco isn't really a game; it's more of an improv sport, which I guess would be fun if you're an actor.'"

As Zed said, Fiasco certainly isn't in the usual mode of RPGs. Specifically, there's not as much identification with your character as in most RPGs -- you're heavily encouraged to screw your own character over, and narrative control bleeds through into other people's characters in ways that traditional RPGs don't do. A lot of RPG traditionalists consider Fiasco and games like it to be storygames (see hydropsyche's link) rather than RPGs. I disagree with that idea, but I can see where they're coming from.

Regarding the Tabletop Fiasco play session:

There are also things about the videos that annoy me. For one, they fall into the standard "women aren't gamers and have to be hand-held by the men" trope. For another, see my usual rant about the rise of geek celebrities.

But I also really enjoyed watching the videos, because I find it interesting to see how another group plays Fiasco. The way they do the resolution/set-up thing seems very different from how my group has done it, for example. And I think watching someone play Fiasco is much more likely to draw them into wanting to play it than seeing it on a shelf. If it results in more people having more fun playing games, it's good.
posted by jiawen at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a hell of a lot of fun watching these, and developed a gigantic crush on Bonnie Burton (even though IMHO she pushed it a bit too far at the finale).
posted by edheil at 1:48 PM on August 14, 2012


And though it might be hard to run out of playsets on the Bully Pulpit wiki, Fiasco fans should know there are a million other playsets out there. It makes me sad that I still haven't played Bookhounds of London.
posted by Zed at 2:00 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn it, now I want to play RPGs! Any one in Guelph looking for a geek to fill a seat around the gaming table?

Good show.
posted by dazed_one at 2:05 PM on August 14, 2012


I've been enjoying the show since it debuted as well (I've never had much of an opinion of Wil Wheaton until recently, but he's darn engaging on this show)

Without giving anything away, I'll just point out that the episode "Ticket To Ride" has one of the most hilarious endings* imaginable.

* not quite the end, but a few minutes prior to the end
posted by ShutterBun at 2:33 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've played Fiasco once (using the Flyover playset) and it went well, with my character a twink-ish 17 year old who desperately wished to escape to California living with his single mom, the town's sheriff (it ended in a shootout). It was as part of a meetup group, though, and I'd prefer to play it with friends (although that's my feeling about all tabletop games).

Even though I'm not the biggest Wil Wheaton fan, as others have mentioned this was amazingly well-done (as might be expected of actors and [screen]writers). It's been the catalyst for me to get to actually start on a Westeros playset, using this story-games.com "proto-playset" and this extremely evocatively written playset set in the Italian city-state of Ferrara as the basis.
posted by Gnatcho at 3:02 PM on August 14, 2012


Wil grows on me more and more, I wonder if he ever joined after we dissed him so hard that one time. Someone should email him and he might show up.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:13 PM on August 14, 2012


I really like Tabletop! I've been getting back into game playing recently and this show is a super great way to scope out new games. Wil Wheaton is a little over the top, but that's best type of person to play with! It sucks playing with people who are all "These are very serious games that we use our very special grown-up brains for." I kind of adore his shit talking. It makes the show a lot more fun.

(Also, I noticed Fluxx in with the other games shown below the video for purchase. I'm really hoping that an upcoming episode features the Star Fluxx themed deck. Because that would pretty damned awesome.)
posted by troublewithwolves at 5:15 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish I knew enough people who are OTT enough to actually play games like this. As it is, I kind of wish there was a Tabletop spinoff that was just different groups going through playsets of Fiasco so I could vicariously enjoy it.
posted by catch as catch can at 9:19 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've played Fiasco a number of times, and sat in on a late pre-release playtest (might be one that hydropsyche played in).
posted by no relation at 7:37 PM on August 15, 2012


One of my actual play reports is posted here at Story Games (scroll to the top).
posted by no relation at 7:40 PM on August 15, 2012


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