I Swear I Never Meant for This

Fiasco is an interesting mix of extremely rules light and crunchy that I haven’t seen before. While the actual system is so simple you can write it on a single sheet of paper with lots of room for graphics, it requires input at the beginning, middle, and end from fairly extensive charts. These charts are largely “setting,” but they dig directly into the heart of the system. Given how many lightweight games don’t really have much utility to the book once you’ve gotten a firm hold of the rules, it’s pretty neat that Fiasco retains value as a repository of charts.

And the charts are really cool. They’re basically several hours of play (with a high degree of straight up replayability) in a few pages, which is a ratio that modules for heavier systems can’t beat. Particularly for nights where you don’t even have enough prep time to read a module, high-density playsets for games are awesome. Fiasco is right up there with Technoir in expandable, easily-digestible module content. I get the impression that, for groups that have played it, the game has become the go to system when you have a couple hours to game and no clear plan what to do.

Admittedly, it’s the kind of game that works best if you’re comfortable with a high-improv, cooperative, GM-free environment. There aren’t really many rules to keep a problem player from ruining your fun. Even someone that’s not trying to be difficult, but just isn’t comfortable without a clear GM, goals, and character stats could provide a drag on the game. So it’s probably important that you play with people you trust to provide a good time in such a situation. That said, I’ve played the game with the member of my group least likely to go in for freeform improv, and everyone had a great time: the setup phase really is good at getting investment from people you wouldn’t expect.

And, as noted previously, even if you absolutely can’t see your players enjoying rules light or GM-free games, there’s a lot of utility in the rules that are there. In particular, the setup phase (with the attendant chart structure) can be easily lifted and applied directly to other games where you want to shake the players out of their usual roles in the party or just want to help them come up with pre-game intra-party relationships.

It’s easy to read, quick to run, and can give you some new GM tricks even if you never play it again. So check it out.