[Fiasco] Too many happy endings?

edited September 2012 in Play Advice
I've played 4 games of Fiasco so far and except for our first (3 player) game, we've been struck by how many happy endings we keep getting - even in this evening's Camp Death in which two players maxed out and another two did okay.

It isn't a particular problem as we're having a great time (tonight's game was awesome - in a very wrong way!), but it goes against what we were expecting; and bit more death would not go amiss. Do other groups have the same problem, and how have you resolved it?


  • Fiasco usually turns out well for those characters who got most of one kind of dice, black or white. The screwed folks are those with an equal-ish mix.
    It may mean the groups with whom you play it have intuited the trick and play toward their favored karmic goals.
  • Sema, I've only played it once, but what was explained to me is that you want to have an even number of black and white dice if you want to have harsher endings. Happier endings tend to happen when all the dice are the same color. So, anyone who got 0 dice (theoretically possible, I think) or even numbers of black and white dice would be the most likely to die in some miserably horrible way.

    Also, crap rolls on your higher color; I think I ended the one game with 3-4 white, and 1 black.. But I rolled a 6 on the black, and snake eyes on a couple of the whites, so my ending number was like, 2-3 white.
  • Make sure people aren't "playing to win", or challenge them to lose in the best way possible. Losing status in Fiasco is infinitely more interesting to the audience than maintaining the quo... so reward it in your group.
  • I've got about five games under my belt, and this hasn't been my experience. I've only seen one person "max out" a positive ending (rolling all black dice, ironically). For the rest of our games, most of the outcomes have been negative with some tepidly positive results thrown in. In my last game (Transatlantic), we all got bad endings.
  • edited September 2012
    They're right about it probably being them intuiting the trick. If everyone wants worse endings, just try to even out who's getting what dice.

    Though @Wolfe, it actually isn't possible to get 0 dice because you keep them in Act 2, and you always take 2 scenes in Act 2, so everyone gets at least 2 dice at the end. The structure also makes six the most a single person can have. EDIT: Not six, six is for my three-person games. It's two for every player in the game is the maximum a person can have.

    Both of our games ended with the guys playing more to the side of good winning out, but it was sheer dice coincidence that the aftermath supported our ideas. Both times we also got a player with a zero, so I think if you're transparent with the structure and they want to have a horrible (but entertaining) ending for their people, they can strive for that. And the other players will want the good dice for themselves too, so it's not like everyone's gonna give the good dice in the right directions all the time.
  • edited September 2012
    The point about playing toward middling dice totals for the epilog is right.

    Some of this is also a high-level issue: if you want more death or mayhem, have a pre-game discussion and let everyone know that you think more death and mayhem would be a good thing, and then aggressively frame scenes when it's your turn. Fiasco is a game where you really get out of it what you put it. The more the players use the pre-tilt play to fuck shit up (I think that's the official phrase), the more likely are messy endings.

    EDIT: Oh, one cool thing you can do if you want more death is to try to get your character killed. It usually makes for interesting and messy stories.
  • Or, you know, just say your guy is dead. "Okay, it's my turn, I'll frame the scene. You guys are all standing next to the wood chipper looking at a lot of blood and my character's legs sticking out."
  • Thanks for the advice. I don't think any of my group are playing to win (well, maybe one but she does it so well! :)), quite the opposite in fact. The problem with tactically ensuring everyone gets a good balance of dice is that what makes sense for the game doesn't necessarily work for the story. So, yes, it probably made sense to give E more black dice, but as we came to the ending, it worked to have her escaping the clutches of doom, etc. The key issue is that since no one is that invested in the characters in Act I, it isn't at all apparent how giving someone a black or white die at that stage is going to work out.

    Aside from Steve Segedy's point about players just being better at declaring themselves dead (in which case, no aftermath at all?), one idea at the back of my mind was to give all the players the option before the aftermath of giving one of their dice to one of the other players. Maybe that's just a hack our group should use to suit our own style of play.
  • edited September 2012
    My explanation before play includes a little digression into why die choice matters, and why giving a white die to a player who already has a black die is a flag that you would like to see his character ultimately suffer. New players need a little context, but not too much. I don't explain why you give away or keep dice in the two acts, which encourages genre emulation but is design wonkery. I just say "trust me, this is weird but it works."

    I think you guys are rolling lucky - the odds are not on your side, unless you consider fives and sixes "happy endings".

    If your guy dies, frames scenes as flashbacks or frame scenes where his or her reputation looms large. And make the aftermath about their public perception and reputation.
  • It's mechanically possible in Fiasco for a small number of players to almost guarantee they will have a semi-okay ending - even if they have evenly matched dice at the Tilt, the last two go-rounds they can choose to resolve and always give themselves the appropriate color. By doing this, they will either be winning or losing consistently in Act 2, and forcing everyone else to increasingly do otherwise. This means that their greed for their own good ending is normally going to make everyone else's ending worse. (It's possible for everyone to collude to make a fully-happy-ending possible for all characters based on who they give dice to in Act 1.) This is excellent, by the by.
  • I think we need to get better at killing off our characters who have clearly run out of road regardless of the dice, but I might try my idea of having a final round of dice swapping at the end to see how it goes.

    Thanks again everyone.
  • edited September 2012
    I was playing to win. I think everyone at the table would have been satisfied if my character had walked out of there with a happy ending. Instead, the guy who everyone hated, including the guy playing him, ended up with a victorious ending, and my character ended up as his soul-crushed arm-candy.
  • JDCorley -- that is probably true in a lot of cases, but consider these possibilities:

    * Even if you are rolling three dice of one color and one of another, it's still not uncommon to get a bad result. Even if you roll straight 4's (slightly above average result on each die), you'll wind up with an 8, which beats a 0 or 1 but is (literally) "nothing to write home about."

    * You may take a die of one color during your first scene of Act 2, but by the time it gets to your last scene, that die color may be gone, forcing you to take the other color.

    * Even if you get an Aftermath roll that is great from a numbers perspective, from a story perspective, you ate still bound by what's already happened in your character's life, much of which was out of your control if you are Resolving a lot of scenes created by others. Your fellow players could say, "Hey, JD, here's your Act 2, scene 2 setup: We are all at your funeral, spitting into the casket the undertaker really should have left closed since you died so horribly." (extreme example, obviously) But many other bad things can happen to characters which could still come into play even in a happy ending.
  • Sure, as I say, it's an "almost guarantee". Through concerted effort by other players you can get screwed. But if you're really determined and push hard, you can greatly increase your chances of an okay ending.
  • I usually tell people in demos to HIDE their dice so that people aren't influenced by what they have in front of them, because more often than not I see almost all the time people get a near-equal number of dice when folks can see what they have (the human desire to "balance things out?"). I ran three games of it last weekend, and between that and the last two times I played, I've only seen one single roll higher than a 7 (it was a 16). I'd almost create a thread saying "Too many bad endings?" :-)

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