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Some Friendly Advice About Your Fiasco Game

Fiasco Scene Tips

Fiasco is a great story game by Jason Morningstar. As a part of gameplay, players setup scenes. Since the game is open-ended and does not use a gamemaster, setting up a scene can be daunting for some players. Below are helpful tips for setting up scenes but not rules or requirements. You can do anything with your scene but that can sometimes be daunting. This Cheat Sheet gives you some guidelines when you get stuck.

Setting Up the Scene

What and Who to involve?

You don’t want to keep complicating the same characters over and over. It is best to spread the love.

  • Which characters do not have enough complications?

  • Which player has not been in a scene for a while?

  • Which object or place does not have enough complications associated to it?

  • Which character relationship is not complicated enough?

  • Which two characters have not been in a scene together?

Timing

Your scene does not need to take place right after the last scene. It can, of course, but don’t get locked into linear thinking.

  • In Medias Res – Have your scene begin in the middle of the action. You don’t need to explain everything that happened in-between. You can assume a lot of stuff happened between scenes as long as you are creating complications and building logically. For example, begin the scene with a gun pointed at someone’s head or they are in a car and being chased by the cops. It should relate to previous scenes but you don’t need to explain everything step-by-step.

  • Jump Ahead – If things are moving too slowly, jump ahead any amount of time. If the previous scene was the robbers planning a heist, the next scene could be days later on the night of the heist as they break into the museum. You don’t have to explain what happened right after they planned the heist unless you feel it would help the story. Note: Jumping Ahead is less likely to happen in Act 2 than in Acts 1 or 3.

  • Flashback – You could go back in time. Something in the past could put a spin on current events. For example, after the robbers plot the heist, you could flashback to before the heist was planned when one of the robbers met with FBI agents and was told to wear a wire.

How to End/Resolve a Scene:

  • Bad to Worse – End your scene by making a complicated situation more complicated. This is the general guideline. Most of the time, you don’t want to resolve a problem as much as you want to escalate. (The Aftermath is the exception to this.)

  • Dramatic Irony – End your scene in such a way that we (as players) are aware of some danger but the characters are not. This could also be if two or more characters are setup to be on a collision course with each other but they do not yet know it. For example: two or more robbers on their way to rob the same bank, two or more men on their way to propose to the same woman, the characters make it safely to a boat but it is the Titanic, etc.

  • Dangling Clause – End your scene with a new, unexpected question that is left dangling. This mystery is cliffhanger, not resolved as part of your scene. The answer to the dangling clause usually holds the promise of further complicating the situation. For example: the robber gets away with the robbery but when he enters his run down apartment someone is sitting in the dark waiting for him… , the character is finally victorious but the doctor says he is afraid he has bad news… , the woman agrees to marry the man but states that she is not who he thinks she is….

  • Ticking Clock – Introduce a deadline or time limit. A “Ticking Clock” does not need to be a literal clock. It could be anything that introduces a time limit, like a crack in the dam or a gas gauge that is running dangerously low. For example: a time bomb is set under a car, Mom is on her way home and the party is in full swing, or a character is told he has 24 hours to get the money to the mob boss.

Dramatic Tension – At the end of your scene, introduce a new goal. Someone (specific) wants something (specific). This could be two or more people making a plan of some kind. You don’t want to be vague (like someone wants “respect” or “love.”) When all else fails, use objects or character names. For example: Charlie vows revenge on Floyd, Sheriff Jones swears he will thwart Senator Wilson, or Mac decides he wants his green sneakers back.

What tips do you have for new Fiasco players? Let us know in the comments section.

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John Miewald is Editor-in-Chief (and some time cartoonist) at Roleplaying News. He has worked for Sony Computer Entertainment of America and Konami of America.