Actual Play – News Channel Six (4/15/2017)

Players: February Keeney, Matthew Klein, and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: News Channel Six

The Big Bad Con board of directors meeting for the month of April has commenced. Minutes for the meeting as follows.

Roll Call: Board Members in Attendance

Megyn Beckerdale, trophy wife of Howard Beckerdale, owner of News Channel Six, and political climber (Megyn, not Howard). The new station anchor, much to Howard’s son Glenn’s dismay. (Played vapidly by M. Klein).

Alison Glasslighter, a film buff with an incredible eye but no desire to on screen herself. The News Action Six camera operator with an restraining order filed against her, or by her, we’re not quite sure yet. (Played earnestly by Febz).

Glenn Beckerdale, the heir apparent to News Channel Six, at least until Megyn with a fucking “y” showed up. Bitter rivals with Action News Eleven and trying to patch things up with Alison and his father. (Played ineptly by Snit).

Meeting Minutes

Here’s our meeting notes


Megyn got what she deserved. A divorce from Howard and fired from the station. Alison became station manager and the best thing she did was facilitate the merger between Action News Eleven and News Channel Six. Glenn got advice on a “career arc” (and ongoing joke throughout the game) from the much more attractive and successful ANE Anchor Robert.

Meeting Adjourned

That was a delight playing with Matt and Febz. It was the first game we had all played together. It was also the first time I played Fiasco in four years, so it was great to get a refresher.

We had some confusion about who had a retraining order out on who, but it all worked out in the end. Some of my favorite moments:

  • Glenn not quite getting up the courage to propose to Alison and then everyone jumping out from the condom demonstrator to yell “Congratulations”.
  • Allison blocking Megyn’s shot so she was standing right next to the raging river we were reporting on, and then fell into the water behind her.
  • Howard having a stroke while he was telling Glenn how to be a “real man”. Okay, stroke’s aren’t funny, but Howard was a real shit heel.
  • Megyn thinking she had Robert completely framed for assault and then finding out there were cameras recording it all.
  • Allison creating indie films, only to keep having them rejected.
  • On a meta level, the glee and good-nature “thanks fucker” we had when giving each other bad outcomes. So many smiles.

Room for improvement

As mentioned we had a few things (like the restraining order) that we waffled on a bit not sure how they came to pass or who filed it against who. We worked it out but it did involve a bit of retconnig.

February pointed during one scene that Matt had both opened the scene and set both of our character’s agendas, which was encroaching a bit on our own agency and direction. We had a short but super productive discussion about boundaries of narration and a month later when playing a totally different game (yeah, this AP report is really late), I spotted the same thing happening and was able to draw from his discussion to address it, which was great!

Actual Play – Fiasco: Dallas 63 playset 50th anniversary (10/4/2013)

Playset_Dallas_63Players:  Jason Morningstar, Morgan Ellis, Ezra Denny, Sean Nittner
Facilitator: Chris Bennett
System: Fiasco
Setting: Dallas 63′

Game Description:

It’s November 22, 1963, and the President is coming to Dallas, although he really shouldn’t. And for a group of people with boundless ambition and poor judgement, you could run quite a scheme while everyone else is paying attention to JFK’s visit.”

We will be running three tables of Fiasco with 3-5 players each, all using the Dallas 63 playset. At the mid-point of the game, each table will swap interesting pieces of content from their games with the other tables to incorporate in the second half of their game. A triangulation of sorts.

This session does not assume any knowledge of Fiasco or the events of 1963. Just a willingness to show up, have fun and make your own history! You understand this will probably end badly for you, right?

Dallas 63 was playset of the month on Bully Pulpit Game:

Lured in by the pretties

I walked by Bennett’s room and he asked me if I wanted to play (he had a no-show). I would have refused but then he showed me the table with a missing player had Jason, Ezra, and Morgan at it. I was in!

We were terrible, and betrayed each other left, right, and center. But JFK lived!



Thoughts on this game

We hit a few points of confusion in this game. Wait, if I have the gold, why am I trying to smuggle it back to Cuba? Huh, why does the Cuban vixen need to kill the patriotic soldier she’s been sleeping with. It was a series of disconnects where I felt like we were following the tropes of the genre but the story itself wasn’t quite holding together.  This may have been due to some confusion at the table (wait, who owes who money?) or to disconnects with how hard we should play (I remember a point where Jason called me on letting someone off early, when I should have pushed for more, which probably would have escalated the tension rather than relieving it).

I think Archipelago giving players specific prompts to say during scenes like “go harder” and “try that a different way” are great and should be used in all collaborative games. A bit more of that I think would have smoothed out these wrinkles.

Bennett’s Mega-Fiasco game concept works really well. Three tables play three separate games all with the same playset. During the tilt they each write down a few elements from their story and put them on a shared table, then they each take two from the other tables and add them to their games. Hilarity ensues!

Bennett had another great rule. You die, you get a cookie. Like a real cookie, that you get to eat. And eat it Jason did!

Actual Play – The Zoo (8/17/2013)

playset_the_zooFacilitator: Jeremy Friesen…er Sean Nittner
Players: Three other fine folk
System: Fiasco
Playset: The Zoo

I was excited to play in a game with Jeremy and when I noticed he had a Fiasco table running I signed right up. We picked The Zoo setting very quickly (almost no debate at all), which is a great sign.

The Setup

The other players were new to Fiasco, but they took to the setup quickly. We had the follwing

Lawrence Chinn – An old hand at the zoo, who had been working there “too long” and was always “getting to old for this”. Lawrence was a good guy who never got a lucky break, and was modeled very closely after my good friend from college by the same name. He was a zoo keeper and because of his tenure, also a board chairman.

Relationship – Board Chairman and Zoo Custodian
Object – Administrative. Lease to the original zoo grounds.

Danny Iago – Danny was the custodian who should have lost his job years ago when an attendee slipped and broke his leg because water spilled on the floor of the bathroom. The zoo owner, however, had a soft spot for Danny, and so, after a big cover up, Fred Hicks instead took the fall…for the fall.

Relationship – The Past. Haven’t really spoken since the case was closed.
Need – To get respect from the one who left.

Abby Normal – Abby was a State Farm workman’s comp insurance adjuster who couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. She knew that Danny should have been fired and she was determined to make sure justice was served. When she got word that another claim had been filed against “Anytown Zoo” she hopped on it faster than ninjas on hot apple pie.

Relationship – Illicit animal smugglers
Location – Around town… train tunnel behind the zoo, or as it was in Anytown Zoo, the mini train the zoo offered for tours.

Karl Dobson, Wolf Keeper – We established really early on that Karl and Lawrence were the only two actual keepers at the zoo. All the other work was done by usually well meaning but incapable volunteers. Karl, however was the wolf keeper, and that was it!

Relationship – Keepers. The only two actual keepers at the zoo. Lawrence has way more seniority and was effectively Karl’s boss, but he end up doing most of the work (and whining about it) away.
Need – To get out…once your favorite animal is secure. Karl wanted to “rescue” his wolves from the zoo. Lawrence just wanted to retire.

Lawrence Chinn – as above


Disaster strikes

True to the game we were playing, Games on Demand had a Fiasco of it’s own and Jeremy (who was coordinating) had to run off, which was a bummer because I wanted to play with him, but it worked out fine. I facilitated the play and we had an early romp through Anytown Zoo.

Karl started the action quick, with a tiger getting out of it’s pen. Hilariously, we didn’t actually address the tiger for a few scenes, so when it did show up, it was licking a little kid’s ice cream cone, while the child’s mother first freaked out and then threatened to sue. No harm came to any children or tigers in the making of this game.

The great part of that was that it really gave Abby something to sink her teeth into. The tiger go out during Danny’s shift, and she was hoping to leverage that investigation into re-opening the old case that got Fred Hicks fired.

Lawrence started off really passive. He didn’t want to be bothered by Abby, and he couldn’t stand Karl, but Karl was his only keeper, so he wasn’t going to fire him (even though he ignored the tiger on account of watching his wolves). Lare, as I depicted him, just wanted to be left alone and make it through his day. He felt perpetually harassed by the people around him. That all changed when sifting through paperwork to give to Abby, he stumbled upon the Lease to the Zoo, which listed him and Danny as the somehow inheritors of the property. HELL YEAH!

The Tilt

Folly – You can’t afford to lose it…but you just did.

Deception – The mighty fall…exceedingly hard.

Oh these were so good. Unfortunately, with a two hour slot, we were running out of time, so we decided to just do one more round of scenes instead of two. The lease was lost (and I don’t think ever found, even in our epilogues), Abby overly aggressive investigation techniques got her put under review by state farm, and Karl continued heedlessly forward to “rescue” his cubs.


Oh, it was all bad. Abby was fired of course. Karl was caught by the police with the mama wolf half in and half out of the hole he had dug for her. Lawrence had to run the zoo by himself and personally deal with the “a tiger almost ate my child” lawsuit. Danny somehow got away reasonably well, it turning out that he was Karl’s accomplice all along and made off with a truck full of stolen wolf cubs, abandoning Karl to the police and his fate.


Thoughts on this game

We talked a lot about, going for the most banal idea possible. Abby wasn’t an FBI investigator, she was an insurance claims adjuster. Just the same we ended up with some pretty gonzo action like chipping a whole in the concrete wall to free the wolves, and a tiger roaming the zoo. It worked though. The mixture of zany with mundane mashed up nicely.

The first scene was one of my faves. It set up a relationship that was later flipped on it’s head. Lawrence and Karl were together in the warthog pen arguing over who was going to feed the temperamental one. Karl didn’t care if it was his job, he was the “wolf keeper” and he wasn’t going to do it. The scene set up the status dynamic early on, that Karl was a pain in the ass, and nobody liked him. This paid off really well when it got tilted later. He had just assaulted Abby (by taking the badge she was waving in his face away from her) and when she came to Lawrence demanding that he be fired, I had this great realization that yeah, Karl was a pain in the ass, but he was my pain in the ass. Maybe it was a common enemy bringing people together, or just that Abby irritated Lare even more than Karl did, but I loved the switch when suddenly Lawrence was defending Karl!

Our aftermaths were brutal, as they should be. I don’t remember all the details now, but trust me, nobody was happy. And the zoo, it was a wreck!

Actual Play – The Beast of Sucker Creek (7/13/2013)

Sucker CreekFacilitator: Sean Nittner
Players: Colin Fahrion, Mia Blankensop, and Tim Sanders
System: Fiasco
Playset: The Beast of Sucker Creek

After another great Improv for Gamers workshop we sat down to play a little Fiasco!

Our goals (beyond having fun) were to find the emotional connections between the characters, to find the beat and cut the scene, and to open scenes jumping into the action.

I threw out a few playsets that caught my fancy, but Tim won us all over with the Beast of Sucker Creek. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like a good big foot story?


Elrita “Boomer” Buchanan (Mia) was a local of Sucker Creek and the resident expert monster hunter, just like her daddy, and his daddy before him. Her heart had been broken into a billion pieces years ago, and she had a not so secret crush on Booger, who she thought could put all those pieces back together.

Relationship: Monster Hunters… when not huffing butane. Boomer and Booger knew the swamp like the back of their hands and spent every waking moment hunting for the beast… that is when not taking a hit for courage.

Object: Chump-Hunting…Fancy hotted-up paintball gun. Named Nancy. And retrofitted to fire from butane tanks instead of CO2. Like you do.

Bobby “Booger” Coover (Tim) was an entrepreneur at heart. While Boomer wanted to catch the beast for the sake of it, Booger was interested in the payout. Or at least using monster hunting trips to scam outsiders wanting a look at the secrets of Sucker Creek.

Relationship: Swamp Friends. Ufo Investigators. As soon as Booger and Jeff met, the city slicker was immediately fascinated with the swamp monster, but thought that if it walked on land and swam in the water, it must be a lizard-fish, aka, an alien. Together Booger and Jeff would find it.

Need: To profit from misguided beast hunters. Namely Booger, profiting from Jeff. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as aliens!

Jeff Daniels (Sean) was a city-slicker by Sucker Creek standards because he came from Truckee. Even after being in town for a spell, working on the Starfield Acres project, people treated him like an outsider. Jeff had a fancy for Boomer, but she was in love with Booger, and he didn’t stand a chance. What really ate Jeff up though was that nobody would give him a nickname. So he’d call himself “Jeff, just Jeff” often. Eventually people started calling him “Just Jeff” but it wasn’t the same.

Relationship: Troublemakers. You bring he rifles. I’ll bring the beer. Jeff and Dingo has lost their job at Starfield Acres simply because of holding a beer in one hand while on the job. The two of them were fun loving miscreants that didn’t really care which way the wind blew them, the followed it into no good.

Need: To explore a legal way to stop the Starfield Acres II project. After being fired off it Jeff and Dingo had a grudge and they wanted some revenge on the big money Starfield project people. But they were smart enough not to get on the wrong side of the Sheriff. Instead they planned on claiming the monster was an endangered species and that the new housing project was destroying it’s habitat. To prove it though, they had to catch it!

Duane “Dingo” Buchanan (Colin) was coming back from his foray into the big city (Truckee) and after getting fired from the project, hoping that his family would take him back in. His big sister Boomer was always looking after him and she gave him a spot in the basement, away from all the mason jars filled with moonshine, on the old mattress the dog used to use. Which he could share with Jeff. Dingo didn’t really want for much, and perhaps that’s why he did so well in the end. Well, which is to say, no completely terrible.

Relationship: Family – Siblings. Boomer was his big sis and always had his back. Because of these too we introduced a few other Buchanan’s as well. Namely their little 9-year old sister Poodle (yes, if you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen that name before) and Pa Buchanan, the croc-hunter who came back only when something bit back.

Location: The spawning channel – rabid racoon den. Everyone knew about the racoon den, and that it was best to stay clear of it. But when really drunk, and convinced the monster was out there, a racoon, especially one with neon pink paint on it (from Nancy above) could often appear as the monster itself, or perhaps the monster’s brood!

Elrita “Boomer” Buchanan (Mia)


The play is the thing

Our first round of scenes were all about color and introductions. We started with Dingo showing up, head hanging low, asking his sister for a place to sleep for him and his buddy Jeff. Next we saw Boomer and Booger out monster hunting, huffing butane, and talking about how Booger and Crystal just broke up. Third scene was Booger and Jeff being introduced and discussing the possibility that the “monster” was actually an alien, and that discovering a real one could mean big money for everyone in Sucker Creek. The forth scene showed Jeff and Dingo conspiring against Starfield Acres and generally being up to no good. It also established Jeff’s crush on Boomer.

Lets get in some trouble

Knowing the 2nd round was the round before the tilt, we all worked towards putting our characters in precarious situations.

Dingo and Jeff went and did some monster hunting of their own, only they happened upon the rabid racoon den instead and armed mostly with beers and poorly aimed rifles, the left mostly with rabid racoon bites.

Boomer and Booger went “real”  monster hunting at the same time and while out Boomer told Booger her true affections. That her heart had been broken into a billion itty bitty pieces and he was the one that could put them back together again. When the gunshots went off (the scenes were done split-screen), Boomer fell into Booger’s arms and her love for him was just as sure as monsters in swamps!

Boomer and Booger, announcing their betrothal realized they’d have to get permission from Pa first before they married. Pa was a surly son of a gun. And Ma was a free-spirited woman who came and went as she pleased.

Jeff and Boomer, conspiring to stop the project and make a fortune together, decided to approach the mayor… only they found him golfing with the Starfield Acres corporate elite and when the tried to catch him at the 12 hole, slipped in the mud and fell in a sand trap instead.

The Tilt!

Feeling pretty good about the trouble we had gotten ourselves in already and the impending doom (Pa, the Mayor, catching the monster, and the nuptials) we rolled some bones to get:

Failure – You thought it was taken care of… but it wasn’t.

Mayham – A dangerous animal gets loose!

Act Two

Pa arrived (which was a blast for me to play) and though at first dismissing his son (cause Dingo is pretty much a screw up) when he heard it was fired just for drinking beer on the job and that he had been bit by a coon, they had a bonding moment raiding the coon-nest with shotguns.

Pa also allowed Boomer and Booger to marry (she was already pregnant) but only if Booger could best him in a crotch kicking contest. “Poodle, fetch me my steel toe boots.”

Boomer caught the monster! But forgot to lock it up. She wanted to give it to Booger as a dowry. Booger wanted to turn it into money. Jeff wanted to use it to stop the Starfield Acres project. Nobody got what they wanted!

The mayor, against his better judgement went out to the Buchanan lot to see the beast, and when it wasn’t there, things got ugly. Boomer, insisting that Nancy (the paintball gun powered by butane) was up to the task of stopping the beast, got shot and a bit exploded (only a bit) but the overzealous Dingo. Boomer, who was mauled by the beast, watched everyone in her life pass her up to try and catch it.

And through all this Jeff never got a nickname!


Just as bad as you might imagine. Jeff lost an arm trying to blow up the Starfield offices and ended in jail, bunked up with “friends of of the mayor” (he had shot the mayor during the monster ruckus).  Boomer had kid after half-mosnter looking kid, while she watched Booger marry Crystal. Booger ended up working Walmart. shudder. Dingo did the best really. He got rabies, but that passed, and eventually went back to work for Starfield, hating himself but at least making a buck.

The monster. Which may have been an alien. Which may have been a lizard-fish. Which may have had gills, or claws, or who knows what. Well, about that monster, nobody knows. Except maybe Boomer, and she’ll never tell a soul.

Actual Play – Rainbow Mountain

playset_cover_rainbow_mountainPlayers: Karen Twelves, Dennis Jordan, Regina Joyner, and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: Rainbow Mountain

Our normal DCC game was cancelled so we had a game day at our new place. Yay! We started with some Cards against Humanity, then a few games of Castle Panic, and then, nice and warmed up, we played a little Fiasco!

I haven’t played the other American Disaster playsets yet, but I look forward to. This one was great.

The Setup

Clemency Caroline (Karen) – Sister-wife of Michale Tree. Clemency grew up on Rainbow Mountain and it was the only thing she ever knew. She was married to Michael Tree, and with the first wife (Meridith) in poor health, she stood a good chance of becoming first wife herself.

Relationship: Work – Michael Tree’s right and left hand (sister wives)

Location: Secret Places – The Meal House’s attic.

Rebekkah (Regina) – A new recruit instantly taken in my Michael Tree as a new wife, and favored above all others. Rebekkah was sweet and innocent, with no concept of her privilege.

Relationship: Community – New Arrives. Rebekkah and Hank arrived at Rainbow Mountain on the Green Machine together. A giant green bus.

Need: To get into…the locked room.

Hank Spyrakos (Sean) – The dupe, in almost every sense. Hank’s life had fallen apart and believed Rainbow Mountain would be a new start for him. But his life stunk because his brother ruined it…and going to Rainbow Mountain was even worse, as he was the hated there being the black sheep child of the disgraced Sister Wife that left the commune.

Relationship: Family – Older Sibling. Spruce Meadow Tree is Hank’s older half-brother, son of of Michael Tree and Grace. When Grace got pregnant with Hanks Father (the Sherrif) she was cast out of Rainbow Mountain and took Spruce with her. It’s all very messy.

Need:To get to the truth…about the state police investigation.

Spruce Meadow Tree “Tripp” (Dennis) – the Prodigal son of Michael Tree, who after his mother left the commune, turned to a life of crime. Tripp was a wheel-man that turned state’s witness, but that went south, so he was hiding out in the only place he knew, Rainbow Mountain…and offering up Hank as a peace offering to get in.

Relationship: Romance – Uncomfortably sharing a love partner. Both Tripp and Clemency Caroline were secretly having sex with the nearby farmer’s daughter Cindy Peppers. Communicating with anyone off the commune, was bad enough, secretly having sex with them… would have either one of them exiled!

Object: Outside world – Free clinic birth control pills. Tripp had connections outside the commune to get things people needed, especially those things that surrounded fertility (birth control pills, plan B, and pregnancy tests).

Clemency Caroline (Karen) – Sister-wife of Michale Tree.

This whole thing is incestual  enough to need a family tree.

Rainbow Mountain Faimly Tree
Rainbow Mountain Family Tree

Play is the thing

We opened up with Hank and Rebekkah’s arrival together as bus buddies and their automatic segregation. Rebekkah taken in as Michael’s chose, and Hank given shit duty. Literally. Shit duty.

From there we established the tension between Rebekkah and Clemency Caroline (she always goes by both names, never just Clemency, and certainly not C.C.) over who would be the next 1st wife after Miriam passed (she was very sick). Clemency Caroline guarded the role. She had been one the commune all her life, this 18 year old “sprout” couldn’t just come and usurp her.

Karen established that Michael’s birthday was coming up in a week, and that everyone on the commune was preparing their gifts for him. The tradition being that the truly devout had been working on their presents at least since his last birthday, if not further back. Animals were raised by handed and slaughtered for a meal for him. Other things, all hand crafted had been given to him every year, and Rebbekah was told about his birthday with only a week’s notice. She thought that she might have the greatest gift of all though…a child in her womb!

That scene pretty much put the rest of the game in motion. Clemency Caroline went about trying to make sure the usurper miscarried, everyone else on the commune was feverishly working on presents, Rebekkah wanted to confirm she was pregnant, Tripp profited from all kinds of secret deals to supply pregnancy related products form the outside, and Hank pretty much just suffered, having to do three times the work, because nobody else was doing theirs.


Death, after an unpleasant struggle.

Mayhem, magnificent self-destruction.

After the tilt, things definitely got hairy. Hank saw Clemency Caroline push Rebekkah down a flight of stairs and tried to call his father (the Sherrif) but he chose Tripp as his accomplice to break into the locked shed out back rumored to have a phone in it, and when Tripp realized he was calling the cops, panicked and cold clocked his own brother.

Clemency Caroline sought out do Rebbekah at every turn and the young sprout lied about being with child, only to have the bleeding of her miscarriage revealed. The state police arrived (tracing the cut off phone call), death and arrests ensued.


It was bloody, Clemency Caroline, Miriam, and Michael Tree all died in the confusion. Tripp went and served his time. Rebekkah (17 as it turns out) was taken back into custody by her parents and sent off intensive therapy. Hank had it the best off in the end (I think an 8 white) and was hitchhiking on the lonely road with Betsey, the loyal goat from Rainbow Mountain.

As for the commune, it was shut down and Farmer Peppering (Cindy’s father) bought the land for pennies on the dollar. Brutal.

Thoughts on the game

I like playing the downtrodden character, it’s fun to be the guy who gets the short straw every time, but in doing so I forgot about ambition. Hank was a fine character, but not motivated to do much of anything (despite two needs being adjacent to him) till the very end, which was really just to get out of this horrible (as he saw it) place.  Not sure what Hank should have wanted, but I’m going to try and make sure I don’t forget next time to make him want something.

Hi/Low status was interesting in this game when it switched, mostly between Clemency Caroline and Rebekkah, as the former tried to control, but ultimately feared the latter. There was a bit of the same status shift (again from fear) between the brothers when Tripp thought Hank was savvy to his reason for being at the mountain. That is fun stuff to play with.

Actual Play – Camp Death (10/20/2012)

Players: Karen Twelves, Ben Monroe, David Ackerman, Michelle Formoso, and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: Camp Death

This game was an introduction to Fiasco for Michelle, and a 2nd game for Ben and David, so my initial goal was to be very explicit and procedural about how the game was supposed to be played.  Yeah, that lasted about five minutes as I immediately became enchanted with the game itself.

Twin Power

Several rules all collided to create an interesting coincidence. Karen, who was sitting on my left, picked a work relationship between her and Ben (on her left). Later that got drilled own to Forest Ranger and Camp Councillor. I picked a Local relationship between myself and Michelle (sitting on my right). That later was drilled down to Crazy drunk and Camp Councillor.  So, we would have had something of a dilemma as there can only be one Camp Councilor. Karen solved the problem beautifully by making the two of us Family -> Identical twins. I was Teri, she was Terri, and one of us was the “real” camp councilor, the other was just along for the ride. Which was which we would figure out in play. AWESOME.

We had three needs in the game. Karen and I shared “to get even… with every last one of those motherfuckers” which planted us firmly against everyone else, but fortunately we let that develop organically, so that when it came out we had motivation (power and money of course).  David and Michelle shared “to get away… with the money before anyone realizes it’s gone” and David and Ben shared “to get out of… a stifling relationship”.

The needs did a great job of keeping us busy and away from the horror threat. In fact they did such a good job that as the game was going along we kept thinking, uhhhh, we need some more killing. We got there, but it it took some brainstorming to make it happen.

Thoughts on the game

I loved being Karen’s twin. We did all the rediculous 80’s twin pranks you can imagine. I had sex with the ranger pretending to be my twin. We had a scene were I was in it but Karen declared it was actually her and we swapped character tents for a scene.  It was great!

I set my first scene going for the lowest stakes I could possibly imagine. Who will get out of bed to answer the phone that won’t stop ringing. It was great.

The first death did some wonderful things. It happened on accident. The owner of the camp (an NPC) showed up to inspect our progress and was was greatly angry that the park ranger wasn’t doing a good job up-keeping the small portion of the camp that was technically state forest property (the lake and surrounding structures, including the rickety lifeguard tower). Mr. Phillips (the camp owner) climbed up on top of the roof to show the ranger how shingling was done. The ended up having a tug of war match over a shingle, he “slipped” and went falling off the top of the tower into the back of the Ranger’s truck. His head landing right on the claw end of a hammer.  So, here was the beauty of this scene:

  1. Mr. Phillips came out of the gate as a strong, imposing, high status figure that had the rest of us scrambling. He needed to be in the cross-hairs and he was. A good NPC is a dead one!
  2. It really got the ball rolling on this being a ominous, horror game. Before that it was all camp hi-jinks  This showed that we were all in danger. And that we were in danger from a mysterious source.
  3. We wouldn’t know the ranger was the killer till later, but this made awesome foreshadowing in retrospect.

We decided on the “I always knew there was something wrong with that one” option for revealing the killer, which is essentially the group decides by consensus who it was.  This wasn’t really easy to do, as we had two deaths already but none of them that could be pinned on someone (both accidents).  It looked like there were two potential culprits. One who would have acted out of greed, trying to get her father’s money (the camp director’s daughter) and one, a supernatural threat, something Cthulhu-esk that “protected” the site from human interruption.  We decided, both because the camp was feeling more “haunted” than anything else, and because we liked the idea that all the humans players were super small minded and just didn’t have it in them to kill, that that it was a supernatural horror… which of course was the ranger. The whole thing wrapped up very much like a Lovecraft story. Horrible things were unearthed accidentally by man and by the time we had any idea what they were (not that we really did), it was too late.

I really disliked the “stunt dice” mechanic. Normally in fiasco people die whenever we want them to, and I’m sure in a horror game we could have had plenty of deaths. Instead of the stunt dice aiding pacing to ensure deaths, I felt like they hindered us. We ended up only having 4 deaths in the entire game, because there were 4  stunt dice. Had the stunt dice not been there, we would have had a lot more, I’m sure. The were a good reminder (seeing red on the table meant someone had to die) but the drawback of feeling bound by them outweighed any pacing advantage they gave. I think the playset is just fine but in the future I would play it without the stunt dice and let the players decide when someone needs to die.

I have to say it again, I loved being Karen’s twin. Usually, I think because we are in a relationship, Karen and I either play characters that are distant from each other, or even antagonistic to one another. I loved that in this game we concocted this “us against them” bond. Phillips had our money. The ranger (you know before we thought was all Cthuhlu monster) needed to respect Terri’s authority as camp councilor. Whoever they were, they had done us wrong (or so we believed) in some way or another. My one regret in this was type casting Karen’s Terri as the up tight one. I started the game playing the slacker drug-addled sister, which kind of forced her into the responsible role.

Ben pulled an absolutely awesome move. We had this object that I had totally forgotten about: “The power lines have been deliberately cut!” Right when things were getting ugly, (post tilt) he pulled that one. The lights all go out. The phenomenon lasted across several scenes, including one feeble attempt to get the generator turned on, or check the fuses or whatever, that led Teri into the basement, and of course, to her doom.

One of the tilts was something along the lines of “something stolen has been stolen again”. Naomi and Pam had stolen Pam’s late mother’s pearls (from her father), and those pearls because the total MacGuffin of the game. Everyone was chasing after them (even though most of us didn’t know what the treasure was, we just overheard them talking about valuables), and Naomi and Pamela were in turn trying to secure them. This of course, just put us in dangerous predicaments… where we died horribly! Yay for greed leading to disaster.

As appropriate for a 80s slasher film we had lots of sex. And everyone that had sex died, or turned out to be some unholy monster. Remember that warning kids: have sex and huge fanged monster is going to eat out your insides and wear you like a flesh puppet.

One liners:

Forest Ranger: “I’m sorry. Who are you again?” <pause> “Where are my pants?”

Pamela Phillips (owners daughter and crazy drunk): “Never do lines [of coke] before breakfast.”

Actual Play – Home Invasion (8/24/2012)

Players: Hazel McDonagh, Karen Twelves, Sean Nittner, and Noel O’Brien
System: Fiasco
Playset: Home Invasion

I’ve never seen so much unintentional gaming evangelism. Karen and I were in Ireland and excited to game some with her friends. Since we were staying at Noel and Hazel’s house, gaming with them was an obvious choice. Plus, well, they are awesome. Hazel started off disinterested, so we planned to do a three player game. Karen pulled out a few playsets and without any of us noticing suddenly Hazel was in the conversation helping us pick out which playset to use. She narrowed it down to two she liked. From those two Noel picked Home Invasion. And suddenly, all four of us were playing. It was like magic.

One thing we didn’t do much of, or really at all, was bring in the fantastic or supernatural. We were tangled up enough in our own schemes that having an “outsider” that was actually, you know, an outsider, didn’t fit. We thought about it a few times, but stuck to our guns. Played up a privileged rich girl (who died) and all of our characters (who tried to dodge the blame).


“A Brown-nose like you have his finger in everyone’s pie.” – Mayor Thomas Nasser mixing metaphors.

“If my daughter wants to jump off a cliff, you think I’d let her?I might be tempted…” – Even Thomas Nasser didn’t like his daughter Jean.

“Shit. Did you get robbed?”
“No. Yes. Slowly.”
“I knew it was wrong to put her in the boot (trunk) of my car.”

The men in our story. John Estings and Dennis Kramer

“That was punishment. That wasn’t work. Works is for poor people.” – Jean Nasser describing her community service.

“I got you a store, baby!”
“I got you ten grand!”
“I got you your dad!”

The women in our story. Rosalind Bryskett and Esther Abraham (Thomas Nasser’s illegitimate daughter by her mother Jean).

Strong elements of the game

Location – Behind closed doors. Long occupied house without a stick of furniture in it.  This was a lot of fun. Rosalind and Esther both were self employed but doing terribly. To hide their destitute they had sold all their furniture and did all their business (house cleaning and interior decorating) on site! When Dennis showed up at their house unexpectedly it was awesome.

Twist – Tragedy – Death out of the blue – We started Act II with Jean being found dead at the base of her stairs in her home, and then spent the rest of the act telling flashbacks that explained how it happened (and how we all ended up in the Nasser’s house). I do so love putting characters in the cross-hairs. We knew everything revolved around Jean, but we wanted to manipulate her. Killing her forced us back on each other.

Thoughts on the game

This wasn’t my strongest Fiasco. I had two needs (to get revenge on the Nassers) and to break free of the home associations rules, but didn’t feel either of them putting pressure on me. I think this is one of those cases where I needed to create the pressure. Frame myself in a scene being fucked over and needed to fix it.  Also, since no player represented the Nassers or the Association (I was actually the most senior member, but hated it) I didn’t have resistance there.

I actually liked playing the totally myopic Jean. She was totally self absorbed but in a way I could relate to. Her life had been spoon fed to her and she basically had been ignored by her parents, so she became the entitle rich kid we all expected. Her father was horrible though, so I really didn’t mind her being horrible as well. Hmm.

We have several elements that didn’t come up much in the game, and frankly I think that was fine. The ones that excited it were at the forefront of scenes, the others faded to the background.

It was such a good time gaming with Noel and Hazel. They both did awesome jobs playing Mayor Thomas Nasser!

Actual Play – Dragonslayers (5/26/2012)

Players: Sean Nittner, Dennis Jordan and Thomas Smallberry (I need your last name Thomas)
System: Fiasco
Playset: Dragonslayers

Many props to Logan Bonner for this playset. After a day of chasing kids around, promoting Big Bad Con, and generally doing everything but gaming, I was very content to play a nice, fast pace, very vulgar game of Fiasco.

The Score

This is the score from the playbook, which we read just before playing. It pretty much summed up our entire game experience.

‘If you want to keep those hands, get them off my magic cloak.”

The bumpkins in this pissant mountain town could never have taken down that dragon. Their biggest hero hasn’t seen battle since Drozzek rode down from the Smoking Mountains three wars-to-end-all-wars ago. That old fuck they call their town wizard fried his brain with one too many “elixirs of awareness” and can’t even light a campfire
with all his spells combined.

So yeah, we rode into town, a bunch of outsiders ready to solve that problem. Solve a motherfucking dragon. And no, we don’t care what they think. And yes, we’re fucking heroes. These yokels should worship at our feet. They didn’t blast those mummies to dust or make a deathtrap built with technology lost centuries ago their bitch. And
they sure as hell didn’t slay that dragon.

That’s our dragon, and its gold is our gold. So unless you’re bringing us ale and whores, get the fuck out before we transform you into a turkey and serve you for dinner. Continue reading Actual Play – Dragonslayers (5/26/2012)

Actual Play – The Nut People (5/6/2012)

Players: Xander Matthews, Mia Blankensop, Karen Twelves and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: Nut People

Well, of all playsets to be the first one I’ve played twice, I didn’t expect it to be the Nut People. But, when life hands you a pile of pecans, make pecan pie I guess.

Notable quotes

“Forbidden love nuts.”

“Saving is for ugly people.”

“You good at trying to, or are you good at fixin?” “…Yeah.”

“You slept with my Sugar?” “It wasn’t sleeping, it was just hate’n” Continue reading Actual Play – The Nut People (5/6/2012)

Actual Play – Havana 1953 (4/1/2012)

Players: Chris Bennett, Karen Twelves, Jon Edwards, and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: Havana 1953 (by Chris Bennett)

First off, there is no April Fools joke here. We played on 4/1. There were no shenanigans. Period. End. Dot.

This game rocked pretty hard, which is a credit both to the four solid players we have, the liquid high five awesomeness of Fiasco, and Chris Bennett’s very well done playset.

By the way Bennett, notice that I’ve written your name four times (now five) and spelled it correctly every time. I know it’s so shocking that it almost looks like I’ve gotten it wrong because I got it right, but really I got it right. I’m sensitive to that as my name has been misspelled “Nitter” by people ranging from hosts at restaurants (where you’re like who really cares) to Human Resources morons who are too lazy to freakin’ copy and paste my damn name off the application and then can’t figure out why the name they have on file doesn’t match with my SSN!

Reservations, party of 1

When I went down stairs to let Chris into Karen’s apartment I told him I really knew nothing at all about Havana, much less Havana 1963. I’m pretty sure it is in Cuba. I imagine that means cigars and warm nights. That’s about it. He seemed pretty confident that the playset would tell me everything I needed to know. I’m guessing from the steaming pile of awesome sauce that covered our entire game he was right.

So rather than tell us all about the time period he just had us read the score, which I did out loud to everyone at the table.

Yay for playing at home and not having to drive afterwards. We all made Cuba Libres and I enjoyed the heck out of three of them. We used original Coca-Cola out of glass bottle and a very yummy run — WAIT A SECOND. I’m doing that thing where a game review turns into a food review. Next!]

The Setup

Using the Bennett method (that’s six Chris), we first mapped out top level relationships between everyone. I was first player (by virtue of something I can’t remember), from their the seating order went Sean -> Jon -> Chris -> Karen.

Here is what we got:

Freja McTavish – A dutch model who was adopted at birth by Irish immigrants and raised in the united states, down in Havana doing a Coca-Cola commercial

Relationship – Work: Model and Photographer.
Need – To get out of our obligations (the Coca-Cola photo shoot specifically)

César Galán – Photographer exiled form Nicaragua because his art challenged the corrupt regime. He worked in Havana both to cover his expenses and to hide his revolutionary work. His art focused on those disenfranchised by wealthy corporations and and uncaring government. It was agreed by all to be incredibly moving.

Relationship – Visitors: Political Exiles
Location – Havana Proper: VIP table for Frank Sinatra in the Capri Casino

Rubino Morales – The Nicaraguan minister moved by César and summarily exiled for his attempts to change the status quo. Betrayed by his assistant Miguel Ortega (Nicaraguan Secret Police informant), he had fled the country but hoped to buy his way back in, by cheating the casinos in Havana.

Relationship: Crime – Casino Cheaters
Object: Valuables – Pair of Havana Tropicana (later rules to work in the Capri) craps dice weighted to always roll 7 or 11.

Maja Jørgensen – Dutch security systems executives, sent to Havana to show the casinos that they should use tested Dutch security measures to protect their investments rather than the mob “insurance” scams they were being pressured into using. Maja was aware of her estranged sister Freja and hoped her presence in Havana would not complicate her work. The characters were played by the same actress, of course.

Relationship: Family – Separated at birth
Object: Untoward – Portable film camera hidden inside a Spanish bible.

Freya McTavish (Jørgensen) (see above)

Holy crap on stick. I could tell just from this setup that we hit upon solid gold. Real motives. Real tragedies. A splash of the implausible (siblings separated at birth, both gorgeous Dutch women in Cuba played by the same actress, I mean, c’mon).  I was convinced that this game would rock the house. And it DID!

The play is the thing

I got the first scene. My phrasing for your scene options in Fiasco is “Do you want to open or close the scene?” I think that is a pretty succinct way to describe the active player’s choice. I chose (as I almost always do) to open.

Freya and César were on the beach of Havana doing a photo shoot. Freja was dressed in a white and red bikini holding a bottle of Coca-Cola as the waves lapped up over her ankles.  Onto the scene burst Rubino, who had to tell César that he had just found their apartment ransacked by the NSP (Nicaraguan Secret Police)! Damn, I thought that was a pretty hot way to open this game.

From there we got to see César and Rubino’s convictions. Would they flee because the NSP had found them, or stay committed to their cause. For my part I wanted Freja deep in this business early on. She was only a model, but she was enamored by the passion of César. Being handed a white die, we agreed that the only place the two exiles could go to speak privately was Freja casting tent, and she wasn’t letting them in there without her. She was the revolutionaries first fan!

Chris carried the torch with a flashback scene (we had several of these throughout the game) of how César and Rubino met. I played the part of Rubino’s lowly assistant Miguel, who Rubino constantly chastised for smoking in his office. (Note, smoking cigars became a major theme in our game. They were always associated with the person hiding something. Even to the extent that Rubino and César had a secret language where the way Rubino smoked (or the fact that he was smoking at all) conveyed private messages to César. Much like you would expect from medieval Japanese fan waving).

Rubino expected to be bored by yet another starving artist trying to get funding from his government, and had even told Miguel to interrupt their meeting in five minutes with an “important phone call”. Instead though, he was captivated by César’s powerful and anti-goverment, anti-corporate message. This was a fun time to hand Chris a black die, as I played Miguel entering the office to tell Rubino about the “important phone call”, then being shooed out of the office by the moved Rubino, and then making a phone call of his own to the NSP to report Rubino’s treasonous plotting.

Finally the first round of scenes was wrapped up with the introduction of Maja and her relationship with Rubino. She had the weighted dice, the security system schematics, and the offer to make the casinos. He had the connections to get in and pull of the “fake” heist. The only problem was their motives. Maja (which everyone mispronounced “mah-ha” instead of “my-ā”) wanted to steal the money and give it back (ala Sneakers). Rubino wanted to go big AND go home. He hoped to swindle the casinos out of $250,oo0 so he could buy his way back into Nicaragua.

The second round of scenes built even more tension

Freja, César and Rubino scheduled a Coca-Cola photo shoot in the Capri, right next to Frank Sinatra’s act as a cover for Rubino’s gambling excursions. The idea would be that Freja would make such a scene with her photo shoot that nobody would notice Rubino… and if they did, she would just come over and kiss the dice for good luck, making it very difficult for the casino to protest without looking very bad themselves. A rock solid plan, nothing could go wrong…

And of course, it all went wrong.

It started with Frank Sinatra seducing Freja. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Why aren’t you at my table. Come, sit with me.”

After Freja disappeared, Maja, who had been observing from a distance was called in to act as her double. She (being the same beautiful actress, but dressed in a “business executive” suit) pulled a Jamie Lee Curtis from True Lies act and with a red and white table cloth, some sultry adjustment of her clothes and a flourish of the hair was the next Coca-Cola model.

Distraction in place, Rubino hit the craps tables, and he hit them hard. His greed got the better of him and he pushed to far. Ending both him and Maja downstairs to have a discussion with the mob. Rubino managed to talk himself out of the situation, diverting the blame. Things went less well for Maja.

And speaking of going less well, César had his own unpleasant encounter. Abandoned by everyone he was left alone at the photo shoot. The camera did some trick photography to show the shadows of Coca-Cola bottles across his face to give the “prison bars” look as he looked onto Frank Sinatra’s performance. This foreshadowed the immediate appearance of Miguel Ortega, now much more than an informant, Ortega was leading the NSP to find César and Rubino.

For his convictions César earned a savage beating, right there on the casino floor. Almost poetically, nobody noticed, or if they did, they didn’t care. César had become the subject of his own message. Miguel however, was truly after the artist, but after the ex-minister that had narrowly evaded him. He left César alive. Broken, but alive.

Maja final scene was another flashback. One set when she first arrived in Havana and learned that Freja was here too. She arranged a meeting over coffee, where she revealed herself to her long lost sister. At first Freja was confused, the doubtful, and finally elated. Here happiness at finding her family dampened though when Maja told her that she sought her out specifically so that the two could make an effort to avoid each other. Two tall blonde fair skinned women in Havana was bound to draw unwanted attention. Much to Freja’s dismay her family reunion was a brief as it was unexpected.

The tilt

Guilt: Greed leads to killing
Paranoia: Somebody is waiting for their moment.

Act Two – Headline: Beautiful model found dead on the Havana beach!

We took a little break after the tilt to stretch, refresh our cocktails and percolate the effects of the tilt into our narrative. I didn’t need time. The moment I saw the “greed leads to killing”, I knew how I was going to open the first scene.

A beautiful day in Havana. The sun glistening off the waves as they lap up onto the beach. The camera passes over a large group of people crowded around something out of view by the waterfront. From different directions two people push through the crowd and emerge in front of them at the same time. César and Maja both came face to face and the looked down, and camera followed them, to see the dead body of Freya McTavish. Cut!

That was pretty much the scene. Jon added that when the moved the body, beneath it was a old Spanish bible, which he took before the authorities arrived.

Somewhat surprisingly from there the story took something of a downbeat. In retrospect I think it was necessary to built tension for the finale. We had some flashback scenes of Freja and Frank, of her getting footage of him meeting with the NSP and the mob (taken inexpertly by Freja with the film camera in the Spanish Bible). This became the lynchpin piece of evidence that César needed to get leverage of Miguel Ortega, and have current president of Nicaragua replaced!

Also, we saw a more tender scene of Maja talking to Freja again after her encounter with the mob. She had been told that she had better let the mob into the family business, or their would be dire consequences. Having refused them, she realized she might not live to return home. The didn’t kill her right there in the casino, but her days were numbered. Knowing that she decided that she should make her peace with Freja. The model was just about to be carted off by Sinatra’s assistants when Maja caught her. They had a sweet sisterly moment and Maja gave Freja a dress she had brought along, so that Freya could go out with Sinatra and not be wearing her Coca-Cola bikini she was modeling in. It was very sweet, it was also the doom of Freja.

The last scene we saw the model in was with Rubino, who picked her up after her date with Frank. He gave her a ride but it was back to his place instead of hers. When she refused his advances and left his place in the middle of the night, she was startled to hear the name “Jørgensen” called out. She turned, and was shot down by the mob, who of course thought she was Maja, as she was leaving from Rubino’s apartment and wearing Maja’s dress. Beautiful.

The Aftermath

César came up with low black. Horrible. Though the president had been deposed and a new administration was in office, it was just as corrupt. He had a moment of protesting along side Che Guevara but ended in a body back in a trunk of an NSP car.

Rubino came up aces. Something like White 15. He was reinstated in the Nicaraguan government (although to my surprise, not the new President) and once again had Manual as his personal secretary.

Maja came up with low black as well, ruined. She returned home having failed her assignment and drawing unwanted attention from the mob, effectively closing of a lucrative opportunity for her family. The disapproving from look from her father was enough to crush her spirits.

Freja turned out almost alright, almost. I showed scenes of media executives reviewing the footage, of her ad campaign, nearly accepting it but finally saying, “Cuba is too hot right now, we need something local and less controversial” and shit canning her work. A letter was sent though, from the McTavishes to Maja, with pictures of Freja growing up. A token to give back the Jørgensens some small piece of the daughter they lost.

Thoughts on this game

Damn, these scenes were hot. I mean everyone just brought it to the table.

I need to find a way to randomly pick my setup options without pissing every one off. Whenever I play Fiasco, someone (or most everyone) wants the dice all sorted and lined up by number to know what options are out there. I want to pick at random what the connections will be.  But once they are all sorted the only way I can do that is to close my eyes and grab a die, which invariably knocks one over or scatters them. I think next time I’m just going to pick up any die… roll it and then use that value. I like things being random at first.

Much credit to Bennett for delivering a solid play set. As I mentioned I had no real knowledge of the setting, but found it was very easy to jump into. This gave me a lot of inspiration to get off my ass and get working on “Women on the edge” (my playset planned for Pedro Almodovar movies).

The scene opening with “my character is dead” was a move I stole from Lenny Balsera. He said he opened the game with it once. That didn’t feel right in this game (at least not a first) but it was perfect after the tilt. I took incredible glee in shredding my own character tent!