Bookies, Druggies, Dead Babies >> Fiasco Game Reflection

Fiasco offered an experience full of tantalizing objects, needs, and people in the hands of a few dice and an online guidebook. This was a difficult session amongst the five players who played; one was replaced with another player, ultimately changing the social dynamics from the start. The frozen tundra pre-set game changed into a small-town scenario game. Primarily, the game relied on social relations and creativity. Immersion of this roleplaying game similar to Dungeons & Dragons required a re-telling of a story and its characters. Thus, the interactions and acting of the group led to a verbal form of text that followed conventions of writing techniques and referencing outer resources.

The session began with five players in a small town using “Main Street”. Five relationships were in play: bookie/gambler, former spouses, cousins, commissioner/mayor, and drug buddies. I took on the role of a young male office worker unlucky with women and was divorced to an older woman. Will was the former spouse and druggie, Shiela. Zamirah was the cousin and bookie, Z. Some inspiration transpired from Tabletop’s Youtube episode on Fiasco, and I was surprised to find similar relations from a previous session. Act 1 adopted slow build-up due to reorientation of players and scenario: five people in estranged, manipulative relationships try to get rich or get revenge for their fates. Rough drafts were significant in this portion as we would often revise how the story goes when the collaborative effort of the group explores down a narrative path. For example: Nate and Sheila dying from suicide generated and explored two possible endings as a group; discussion chose one. The constraints-the number of dice deciding relationships-led to a focus on relationships between players left and right of themselves. Thus, I found limited interactivity such as my character Nate not meeting Commissioner Jordan till the end of Act 2. The initial setting in Act 1 felt forceful as it occurred under the purpose and audience expectation of creating an under-ground crime hub in a small town with the mystery/tragedy genre.

The story unfolds slowly, starting with my cousin Z and Commissioner Jordan playing bookie and gambler. A mysterious suitcase comes in with drugs and money which from the start involved the mayor and Sheila in the majority of Act 1; all 4 meet up with a personal agenda, strike deals, and double cross others. A secondary narrative was created, because group criticism revealed slow progression due to the writing convention of narrative introduction. I was most active in the secondary where estranged divorcees Nate and Sheila deal with a dead baby, drugs, and an introduction of the mayor potentially having an affair with her. Initial build-up of character was determined at the beginning of the “Set-up”; thus, I went for the pitiful divorcee wanting his ex-spouse back and pulled much of the darker elements as the story transitions from mystery into tragedy. The naivety and pitifulness of Nate gave me a tragic role which supported the group collaboration of tragedy/mystery as Nate gets pulled into the fiasco by Sheila, manipulated by his cousin Z, and killed the mayor in revenge. The group has a habit of pre-determining outcomes in spite of limitations like dice, so I was not surprised by Nate’s eventual insanity. However, the purpose of the game changed due to the constraints. Act 2 invoked a hurriedness to elevate the tragedy; description transformed into acting and improvisation. As an audience member and player, the purpose changed to maximize tragedy for entertainment which required constant discussion in establishing one’s own scene and reference to the guide for endings. I found acting quite immersive with the finale of all 5 characters at a stand-off gun fight while yelling.

Ultimately, the set-up of Fiasco with its stages of “Set-up, Acts, and Aftermath” took on a literary form with our version of a slow introduction, a build-up of exposition through mystery to tragedy, and a twist ending where Nate received the “pretty good” ending, coming out forgiven in society, recovering from mental trauma with a caretaker, living as a hermit. The others included: Mayor Morris died with his grave desecrated (“horrible” end), Shiela locked up in an insane asylum (“savage” end), Z escaped with barely any fortune (not too shabby end), and Commissioner Jordan arrested and wounded (“bitter” end). References during the game session were the online guidebook and Youtube gameplay. The collaboration and editing of scenes after criticism of pacing were important. Given these points, the skills to build a Fiasco game allowed for the complexity of a collaborative and thoroughly explored literary work within the confines of a tabletop game.

LINK: https://eng101s20.davidmorgen.org/quests/fiasco/

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