Having trouble with [Fiasco]

Why do I have so much trouble with the white die/black die that determines how the scene goes for my character?
Should I be excited about seeing bad things happen to him? If not, is Fiasco the wrong game for me?

The kind of trouble I have is basically I feel directionless; whatever I might want for my character is going to be success (failure can be fun or exciting, but only when it comes from dice or someone else), so it's really bizarre for me to decide that I fail. Having to cover a whole scene instead of a particular action is even tougher.

Storygames, I implore you: what am I missing?

Comments

  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: Zac in VirginiaShould I be excited about seeing bad things happen to him? If not, is Fiasco the wrong game for me?

    I'm inclined to say "yes".

    But that might not be overly-helpful advice. Have you seen a lot of the source material? I always go to Guy Ritchie when I'm explaining it—nothing good ever happens to the main characters in Guy Ritchie movies except by accident, and you're really happy to see them suffer.

    ETA: In Fiasco, I think it's fair to say that you're not advocating for your character—you're making a fun story of everything going to hell.

  • Man, I may just not be cut out for Fiasco. Hm. I do enjoy Guy Ritchie films, but I feel like Ghost/Echo danger dice, being random and coming from outside of myself, get the same thing going for me much more readily.
    I guess I like the push-back that dice (or another person) provide? I think the issue is that I need more structure than Fiasco gives.
    The set-up rules are amazing, though! Wowsers ^__^
  • I often find myself framing my scene just so I don't have to decide what die I get.

    I understand the desire to pick white dice, truly I do. So I remove the temptation sometimes.
  • Posted By: Zac in Virginiawhatever I might want for my character is going to be success
    It's positive or negative relative to your character, not relative to your desires as a player. Within that framework, it can still be a bit fuzzy, and what "positive outcome" and "negative outcome" mean is a decision that needs to be made on a case by case basis. When I played, it sometimes translated directly into whether something the character was trying would succeed or fail, sometimes we just roleplayed out the scene and I said, "yeah, that went poorly for my guy, I'll take a black die." Sometimes my guy got what he thought he wanted but it was obviously (from an audience POV) going to lead him into trouble, so I took the black die. If making this decision is your big hangup with the game, the easy solution would seem to be always choosing to establish rather than resolve your own scenes. If it's really the lack of structure that's getting to you, then Fiasco probably isn't the game for you. I can enjoy Fiasco, but I generally prefer more structured games.
  • Maybe I will try framing from now on!
    One more shot :)

    Thanks, Harley and Dan!
  • Posted By: Zac in Virginia... I feel like Ghost/Echo danger dice, being random and coming from outside of myself, get the same thing going for me much more readily.
    Funny that you should mention it, I'm playing in a PbP and essentially GM-less version of Ghost/Echo. I also get that vibe. Through poor impulse control and ambition, the G/E players manage to get themselves into plenty of trouble. :-)
    --
    TAZ
  • Also, there's nothing to stop you picking white dice for your character every time. You are allowed to want your character to win.
  • Close your eyes when you reach toward the dice.
  • These are good suggestions, but the best is to always say "I frame the scene", and leave it to everyone else to resolve. Do that 100 percent of the time and you never have to concern yourself with what "should" happen.
  • The one time we played, the only real issue was with scene framing -- for most of the first act, I'd say, scenes were often framed without an obvious or inherent conflict, which made resolving it positively or negatively difficult, or at least feeling very vague. Eventually people got it, and we had more definite conflicts happening. In most games, IME, when you frame a scene, you're usually limiting it to where you are, who's there, what the atmosphere's like, and so on, so adding "What's the problem?" to that mix proved a bit challenging at first.
  • edited May 2011
    My tip would be to play dickish characters, the sort you'd want to see fail. My favorite character from a Fiasco game was a corrupt town official who worked hand in hand with the religious authorities and organized crime to crush the gay pride march that other PCs were organizing in what was probably the most benevolent possible interpretation of "Need: to get even with this town".

    I wasn't one bit reluctant to let him fail repeatedly and spectacularly, lose a kidney to Russian mobsters, get chased, pummeled, fired and severely burned. I was even dismayed when he actually managed to stop the march, and when he got the best epilogue of all the PCs.
  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: Zac in VirginiaShould I be excited about seeing bad things happen to him?
    Gods yes. For me Fiasco is a breath of fresh air, since my characters usually end up in horrible spirals of crappy dice, even more horrible luck and my own tendency to make people that get into all kinds of s**t through their own misdeeds/foolishness/character flaws. A game that embraces, fosters and rewards this made me tingle with girlish glee. Since I am a huge unkempt English bloke, this was terrible to behold.

    Embrace the suck, it's what makes Fiasco so awesome for me.
  • Posted By: zircherPosted By: Zac in Virginia... I feel like Ghost/Echo danger dice, being random and coming from outside of myself, get the same thing going for me much more readily.
    Funny that you should mention it, I'm playing in a PbP and essentially GM-less version of Ghost/Echo. I also get that vibe. Through poor impulse control and ambition, the G/E players manage to get themselves into plenty of trouble. :-)
    --
    TAZ

    Yeah, Ghost Echo really does give you more than enough rope to hang yourself, albeit in very cool ways with the right group. I've only gotten to play once at MACE but it was tres magnifique!
  • edited May 2011
    Hi Zac,

    It's a weird line you have to walk - your character thinks they are a badass who is making really solid decisions, but you, the player, know they are an idiot setting themselves up for terrible failure. This is one trope and often a tricky one. What's best for you, what's best for your guy, and what's best for the emerging fiction can be at cross purposes in various combinations. If you aren't sure, Establish all the time and you'll be fine. Your friends will tell you what's best for the fiction and probably what's best for your guy and you've taken care of yourself.

    Also, sometimes the Setup tells you that:

    1. Your guy is the hapless innocent. You are essentially a good guy in bad circumstances. This is easier, but as a player you still need to be mean to him. And you can never predict who - if anybody - this will be.
    2. The fiasco isn't about your guy. As a player, your first and sometimes only goal is to make it about your guy. This is perhaps the easiest position to be in, but once it is about your guy, you are back to one of the cases above, usually.
  • Hey isn't there also a long-term angle to this, too?

    About how many dice you end up with for the endgame?

    Is picking all white dice whenever you can the best strategy in that sense, as well?
  • edited May 2011
    Posted By: Paul T.Is picking all white dice whenever you can the best strategy in that sense, as well?
    Lots of the same color is best, white or black. Being the guy who does nothing but fail is as potent as being the guy who only wins. The "just Establish" thing will work against you hard in Act Two, because your friends are evil dicks.*

    *Not your friends, Paul, everyone's friends.
  • Posted By: Jason Morningstarbecause your friends are evil dicks.*
    Thanks for the suggestions, Jason!
    Also, I read the above quote as saying "evil ducks". Just sharin'.
  • edited May 2011

    This is a picture of all my friends:

    image

    So, one wrinkle to remember in all this: in Act 1, you don't keep the dice you get—so all your best-laid plans will gang agley, because you have little-to-no control over the dice you accumulate there. Which means if you end up with more black dice, by chance, then in Act 2, you'll want to get crushed to assure your having more one color than the other.

  • I am reading the Game Of Thrones books, and am struck by the sheer number of reversals the characters experience:

    One day you're married-off to Prince Charming, the next day you're in his dungeon. But you escape. To a whorehouse. Where you learn ninja skills. Too late to save your pet dragonwolf. Or yourself. Aftermath: ghost-puppies hatch & avenge you.

    According to those books, the folly of human existence has a Fiasco-like rhythm to it. But the ups & downs are all fleeting. No failure or triumph lasts, until your own-personal Endgame.

    (Yeah, I know, this is true of all dramatic fiction. But it's so pronounced in those books.)

    The above pattern is a bit different from the prevailing Forge/StoryGames way, in-which characters are supposed to be confronted with meaningful choices and then Have The Power to act meaningfully on their surroundings. And yet Fiasco works fine. It does what it does. It gives power-to-influence-the-fictional-world to the players, but not to the characters. Expecting it to do otherwise can lead to confused head-scratching, however.
  • edited May 2011
    Zac,

    I have similar problems with Fiasco. I'm very much in the players are there to passionately advocate for their characters. The GM (or other players) are there to bring hard adversity and the rules are there to resolve the clash. Assuming that these elements are properly "charged" with emotionally engaging content the result will be a thematically punchy story.

    The problem is you have no idea what kind of story. For some reason a lot of people don't like playing like this. They don't like being able to rely on genre or archetypes or any other pre-play assumptions about how the story is "supposed" to go. The point is that at any given moment there is no "best" for the fiction (in terms out outcomes). Each conflict simply leads to a *different* fiction.

    In that regard Fiasco is much more like Call of Cthulhu than Sorcerer. Pre-play we are committed to this being a disaster. We don't know the details in terms of whom or when but we are committed to this being a train wreck. Much like how in Call of Cthulhu if you aren't committed to going insane or dying in the name of pushing back the outer dark just a little longer than the game won't work. For Fiasco, that means that at any given moment there is a "best" for the fiction choice - the choice that will push us closer to disaster.

    So yeah, if you're like me, the simplest thing to do is simply always setup your own scenes and let others resolve. Then you don't have to worry about it and it's really not different than rolling dice. For me, the problem comes in about the last 1/4 of the game. Eventually there is only one color die left and now rather than playing the character from the gut, you're angling towards situations that make sense given the dice remaining. I really don't like that shift. The game loses all tension and energy at that point for me. But fortunately, it's usually only a few scenes and usually only one scene for yourself.

    The aftermath part is generally fun for me. I don't mind system driven editorial constraints. Particularly since the ones in Fiasco are so vague.

    That's my take on it.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: JesseThey don't like being able to rely on genre or archetypes or any other pre-play assumptions about how the story is "supposed" to go.
    Did you mean, "They like being able to rely on genre..."?

    I don't think the problem for me stems from committing to it being a disaster - I really like Polaris, in part because it's tragic, not in spite of that. It's definitely a mechanical-level problem, not a premise-level problem.
  • Posted By: Zac in VirginiaDid you mean, "Theylikebeing able to rely on genre..."?
    Bleh, effectively, yes. I was trying to say, "They don't like NOT being able to..."

    As for Polaris, the "fixed" outcomes issue is an interesting one. Comparing Polaris vs. My Life with Master vs. Grey Ranks vs. Fiasco is interesting because they all involve a degree of fixed assumptions about where things are going.

    I would suggest that in Polaris you are still largely fighting *for* your character against an unstoppable avalanche. It's a bit like going into a Duel of Wits in Burning Wheel you know you mechanically can't win. You aren't trying to win at that point, you're trying to score as large a compromise as you can. You don't need to *make* tragedy happen in Polaris you're playing against a stacked desk you can't hope to win against.... but you fight anyways.

    If you really and truly fought really hard to make things turn out "okay" in Fiasco I don't think that would work.

    Jesse
  • Is it considered bad form to try to 'win?' To try to get all of one color die for yourself? By letting others set your scene and choosing dice for people with the intent that only the colors you want will be left for yourself?
  • Posted By: jdfristromIs it considered bad form to try to 'win?' To try to get all of one color die for yourself? By letting others set your scene and choosing dice for people with the intent that only the colors you want will be left for yourself?
    It's bad form to let your friends get away with that for sure. Your friends should set things up so that taking a die of the color you want means that your character suffers mightily. If you can't figure out a way to make someone want to take the black die, it's probably a good time to pause and have a fast brainstorm - think back to all those Coen brothers movies where everyone would have been better off failing before they got so committed, think of a bad idea that might conceivably seem good at the time, think of the worst possible person to be sleeping with, think who the most damning witness would be, think about the kind of plan that appeals to stimulant abusers and winds up featured on Cops. Then go back and say, "OK, honestly, the capo's wife is pretty hot. And the capo is pretty old." Give them an excellent reason to want the black die, like an idea too terrible even for their idiot guy.
  • Posted By: elkinMy tip would be to play dickish characters, the sort you'd want to see fail.
    Totally agree here. I spend the first half of a lot of Fiasco games setting up a character so terrible that I can't wait to see how he falls.
    Posted By: JesseI have similar problems with Fiasco. I'm very much in the players are there to passionately advocate for their characters. The GM (or other players) are there to bring hard adversity and the rules are there to resolve the clash. Assuming that these elements are properly "charged" with emotionally engaging content the result will be a thematically punchy story.
    This is very much a "story first" game, and it helps to step back from so much ownership over "your" character. Try playing the relationships hard, instead and see if that helps. Regarding adversity, it's everyone's job at the table to bring adversity to the relationships. Not just to the other characters.
    Posted By: jdfristromIs it considered bad form to try to 'win?' To try to get all of one color die for yourself? By letting others set your scene and choosing dice for people with the intent that only the colors you want will be left for yourself?
    To be honest, I only tried to "win" once and that was only to see what would happen. It was pretty unsatisfying having to worry about that. Now I just pick dice for me and others based on how the scene is playing out, and maybe on who seems to be short of dice. Sometimes if I see someone with three white dice already in front of them, I'll pile on and give them a fourth white die.

    But really, looking that far ahead with the dice ends up like someone thinking ahead too much about how the story is going to progress. Try living in the moment and making the "right" (which from the character's perspective very well may be the "wrong") choice at any given opportunity. This is not a game that min-maxes well.

    And definitely the end of the game, between the time where there are a few dice left and the Aftermath, can have a little system wonkiness. It's okay to squint your eyes at the dice and choose something that makes sense for the story or for the relationship. Don't get stuck in the "well, they gave me a white die" trap. People want to see the characters fuck up. Let them fuck up.
  • Try and brag about how badly your character is going to implode a few times before you play. Pretty soon you'll get over good and embrace the fun.
  • We played last night and there was a friendly dice-grubbing vibe, where people would wheedle and beg for the die that would help their character toward a happy ending, or groan and sigh if they got a bad one handed to them. Perhaps tellingly, I think it worked - of the five characters, only mine had a truly hideous outcome. I don't think this actively made the session worse, but it did make it a little different. The guilty went unpunished and the stupid were venerated.
  • The whole beauty of one shot games is that interesting pain is ok, but gamesmanship is ok. The first time I got this was playing in a With Great Power game with Kat at GenCon. At one point I had to let the proximate result be that my character accidentally destroyed a nursing home. That allowed for me to be able to make the ultimate result the transformation of the villain into a hero.

    In Fiasco though I don't worry about the gamesmanship part. I just delight in the pain of my character, broken leg, strip club burned down, arrested for two crimes he didn't commit. Awesome!
  • (I see I'm chiming in only about a month and a half late... ahem...)

    I've played Fiasco three times thus far. The first time I played to win, trying to get as many white dice as possible.

    The second time I played to break even, just trying to get as many of one particular color as possible, but not getting TOO worried about it.

    The third time, I played to lose. I deliberately tried to stack up as many black dice as I had white dice.

    I've got to say, for me playing to lose was the most fun option, and the one I'm probably going to be trying for in all my Fiasco games from now on. :)
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