RPGs are scary – So play Fiasco!

So, you want to get your friends into tabletop roleplay games, but they are hesitant? Easy! Tell them you are going to play Fiasco! Hear me out, I recently ran two games of Fiasco for a table of mostly new players and it went fantastically and I think it may just be the perfect game for introducing the hobby to those who are interested in RPGs but might be a bit hesitant.

If you have never heard of Fiasco before then you too are in for a treat. Released in 2009 Fiasco is a role-playing game by Jason Morningstar, independently published by Bully Pulpit Games. All you need is 3 – 5 players, a handful of six-sided dice and a few scraps of paper. Most appealing to me is there is no GM and you don’t need to do any in-depth preparation. For those who know me, the no-prep bit is right up my alley!

The game is billed as “A game of powerful ambition and poor impulse control” and “inspired by cinematic tales of small-time capers gone disastrously wrong”. This is one of the great things to put new players minds at ease, how can you be playing it wrong when everything is supposed to end up disastrously? Saying that, in my first ever game of Fiasco one of the players ended up on a desert island with the loot and the girl, the rest of us were not so lucky.

There is no one standard setting, each game starts by choosing a “playset” which determines the setting of that specific game. You can get your hands on these playsets from the officially published anthologies but there are also a vast number of playsets for free at the Bully-Pulpit website or fiascoplaysets.com. This is also a great way of easing in new players, the vast array of playsets means you can easily find something that resonates with your group or is a setting that is familiar to your players.

Dice rolling is very sparse in this game and only needs one person, that’s you buddy, to be familiar with the rules, setup and rounds of play. Your new players won’t be bogged down with stats and feats freeing them up to relax into the scariest part for some, the roleplaying!

I’ve heard from many people that they feel self-conscious about roleplaying, afraid they won’t know what to say or that they might be doing it wrong. Well, fiasco is going to throw them right in the deep end. This is roleplay heavy and everyone is going to have the spotlight turned on them several times, in my mind it’s like ripping off a band-aid and after their first scene there should be nothing left to fear. This is where it might be good to have a player or two who have roleplayed before but even with totally new players, I don’t think things will be that scary for them either due to the setup phase. The setup of fiasco is a collaborative event where you all determine who everyone is, how they are connected to each other, what they all want, where they are and what items they have. Once the setup is complete everyone should have a pretty good idea what story is about to unfold and have an idea already of how things might go wrong.

The actual play unfolds like a movie with players each taking turns to be the star of a scene they determine. The other players will determine if the scene goes good or bad for them and people will hold grudges. This will only intensify as the game progresses with the midpoint of the game introducing a new element to the story designed to throw a spanner in the works.

The game ends with a montage of how things have gone for your own character, a simple dice roll and looking at a table will tell you how good, but most likely how bad, things have gone for you. You then have the freedom to determine exactly how this went down.

So while many might think that throwing someone wary of roleplaying into a game that is 99% roleplay is a bit mean and could be off-putting to a wary newcomer I disagree. Things are going to go so horribly wrong and everyone will be gunning for each other that combined with the simple elegant system your new players will instinctively be in character trying to get the win while the world burns around them. So next time someone hints at being interested in the hobby grab your d6 and a fiasco playset and get to the table before they change their mind.

Think this is the complete wrong game to introduce new players to the hobby? Got a better idea or just want to tell of your experiences? Join the conversation below.


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