Fiasco, or how I returned to roleplaying

January 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

In the last few months, I have got excited about roleplaying for the first time in a decade.

It’s thanks to Fiasco. Fiasco is the most fun, creative, simple roleplaying game I have ever encountered. In fact it seem weird even to call it ‘roleplaying’, considering how different it is from the complex combat heavy rules of Dungeons and Dragons and the like. I’ve even take to describing Fiasco as a ‘storytelling game’, to avoid scaring away potential players. My experience is that people can play through a game and have a great time, without ever associating what they are doing with the word ‘roleplaying’.

Fiasco takes place in a single setting. There is no Game Master. There is no plot prepared in advance. Everything is collectively improvised. The only seed is the ‘playset’, a bare-bones list of possible places, objects, motivations and relationships. These are designed to nudge you towards a black-comedy caper style of play. Fiasco describes itself as a game of ‘people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control’, and names Coen Brothers movies as a major influence.

You start just with a list of 36 possible relationships between characters, and similar lists of places, objects and motivations. Through a semi-random process of selecting them, you collectively sketch out your characters.

The main game is a series of improvised ‘scenes’. Each player in turn is the protagonist of a scene. She sets up a situation and acts it out. Other players perform their own characters as required, or switch and take on minor roles. At some point the other players decide whether it will turn out well or badly for the protagonist (symbolised by handing them a white or black die), and the improv moves seamlessly towards its end.

A game of Fiasco feels something like the roleplaying equivalent of a jam session. You aren’t trying to beat the world, or overcome the obstacles placed by a game-master. You aren’t even trying to get the best outcome for your character. You are trying to have fun.

We found ourselves stripping down even the minimal game mechanics which existed. Provided everybody is on the same wavelength, the stories create themselves, and the rules become just a background rumble.

Fiasco claims to be for 3-5 players. My experience is that 3 works better than 5. That’s mainly because Fiasco lacks a mechanism for time-keeping, and would definitely benefit from having one. It’s very easy to get caught up in a scene and lose track of time, with the effect that any players not involved in a scene get bored. With 3 players, it’s likely that every player will be involved in a scene. With 5, there are likely to be a couple of bystanders.

Even with 3 players, Fiasco tends to go on much longer than its theoretical 2-3 hours’ playtime. I’ve found myself often cutting games short, to avoid people drifting off into exhaustion. Being a single-session game is a curse as well as a blessing — I can’t imagine stopping a game of Fiasco in mid-flow, only to take up the chaos the next week.

January 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Marina Abroamovic:

The underlying question in all of this is, of course: why? Why put yourself though such suffering in the name of art? Abramovic has no easy answers to that question. “I am obsessive always, even as a child,” she says, suddenly serious, and, for the first time, pausing for thought. “On one side is this strict orthodox religion, on the other is communism, and I am this little girl pulled between the two. It makes me who I am. It turns me into the kind of person that Freud would have a field day with, for sure.” She hoots with laughter again and reaches for the English tea.

“The brother of my grandfather was the patriarch of the Orthodox Church and revered as a saint. So everything in my childhood is about total sacrifice, whether to religion or to communism. This is what is engraved on me. This is why I have this insane willpower. My body is now beginning to be falling apart, but I will do it to the end. I don’t care. With me it is about whatever it takes.”

compare: the Hunger Artist, Ashley Z’s ‘private performance’, pornography

Chinese art in Germany

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Sign and Sight, in its weekly guide to the cultural pages of German newspapers, is keeping up a relentless focus on Chinese art. I’m struggling to figure out how much this is a reflection of a genuine trend in the German media, and how much it’s just the interest of S&S’s writers, editors or backers.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with art at Dan O'Huiginn.