It can be difficult to lead a role-playing gaming game as narrator or game master. Coming up with scenes, characters, and storylines for the rest of the players is a taxing job, but there’s a way to role play without anyone taken on that burden: collaborative role-playing games. This dungeon-masterless tabletop genre is all about crafting a story together, and you can’t start with a better example this style of game than Fiasco. The game was played in Overboard’s latest episode with Patrick Rothfuss, a renowned storyteller.
Fiasco’s structure gives you the perfect framework to create your caper without the need for a narrator. You’ll start by picking out a theme deck, which are like the canvasses you’ll paint your story on. The base game comes with a classic D&D style fantasy deck, a Coen Brother’s-esque Suburbia deck, and an “American mall that’s hiding a dark secret” deck, which is what we played with. But even this theme is only a guide. Our mall would be on the moon!
Your story starts with your characters. Unlike a typical tabletop RPG, you don’t create your ProprietaryYou should be a character. Instead, you establish relationships between players, using cards that say things like “siblings” or “backstabbed” or “hero and chump”. You decide as a team what the little prompts signify. Who’s the the older sibling? Who did the dirty deed? And which one’s the chump?
You’ll add more details to these relationships, with location, object, and “need” cards that will add further color to your characters, and importantly, motivations. It’s fertile ground for the drama you’ll create in the rest of the game. Fiasco is all about roleplaying these characters. On your turn, you’ll get to decide on a scene with your character. The scene can be either established or resolved, and the others get the option of choosing one.
Fiasco roleplaying can be approached more as a description of a movie scene. The camera is looking at what and the audience are seeing. What characters are there? What’s the location? The relationship details you’ve discussed should give you plenty to work with, but the fun of Fiasco is improvising with the ridiculous characters you’ve created and seeing where it goes!
After everyone’s had a chance to lead a couple scenes, Fiasco ratchets up the drama further with the Tilt. To set the scene for Act II, players use cards that they have gained by having negative or positive outcomes in Act 1. These cards contain short, ominous prompts like “Make a small error and you can end up in ruin” or “After a difficult struggle, death”, and two of these cards will become the themes for Act II. Even if you have had a bit too many characters in Act 1, the Tilt makes it easy to turn the tables and allow chaos reign.
Once your story has reached its conclusion, you’ll get the chance to explain the Aftermath of your characters choices. Think of this like the scenes we get during a movie’s credits that show us what all the characters are up to after the main events of the movie. It’s a fun and easy way to wrap things up… or set the stage for a sequel.
It was a great time creating the story and Patrick Rothfuss, a professional world-builder, joined us. His Twitch channel has more, as well as his charity. You can also watch previous episodes of Overboard on our YouTube channel if you liked this episode!
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