Opportunity Actions: A Fiasco Review
“I don’t care if you’re the Pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; something can all go wrong.“
Fiasco is not, by strict definition, what I’d necessarily lump in with your standard role-playing games. It’s really something else. It’s a starting block for storytelling in a particular style. I’ve often heard this style referred to as “Cohen Brothers”. Fair enough, but I think the definition is far broader. Before I get into that, though, let’s open the lid on this.
The Look Of It
First off, I have to say, the presentation is incredibly quirky. That works in Fiasco’s favor. Everything’s very blocky, the fonts are all off-kilter, and there’s no traditional portrait style art at all. It’s got a sort of minimalist style reminiscent of great film posters of the fifties, such as The Man With The Golden Arm, Love In The Afternoon, Vertigo, and others. While these movies are not all of the same genre that Fiasco hopes to emulate, the influence of that look gives Fiasco a very distinctive feel.
A strange thing happened the first time I read through this game. I started thinking about the rule set, and came to the realization that I wasn’t aware of one. I went back to the book. I looked at specific rules. I already knew them. The reason for this has something to do with me, but it also has something to do with the manner in which it’s written.
I am an improviser and an actor. Much of what this book details are things I have learned, unlearned, and re-learned throughout the entirety of my life as a performer. Also, I have an absolutely atrocious attention span (but a gift for alliteration, it seems). At times, I have been known to read something and absorb it without even being totally aware of what I was looking at.
The material, though. Fiasco, either by accident or design, integrates the rules into a very conversational book. It is very clear with its direction, and offers tips side by side with the hard and fast rules of the game. It’s almost as though the game is giving you play advice while you’re learning how to play it. If you’re curious how something works, just flip ahead to the “Things To Look For” header, and you’ll probably find your answer.
As rules systems go, this one’s complex enough to handle the different variables a play group will encounter while being intuitive enough to let people just play the game. If there’s a game I’d ever recommend to get non-gamers into role-playing, this is really it.
This game is so often described as “Cohen Brothers – The RPG”. It’s a cute idea, but I think the concept is much deeper than that. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good Cohen Brothers movie. Give me Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, or Burn After Reading any day of the week. Scores of directors have worked in this style, being a caper story lousy with offbeat characters. A short list of some of my favorites, in no particular order:
- Snatch (2000), directed by Guy Ritchie
- Reservoir Dogs(1992), directed by Quentin Tarantino
- Pulp Fiction (1994), also by Tarantino
- Clockers (1995), by Spike Lee
- Comic Book Villains (2002), by James Robinson
- and many others
Regardless of what famous film people you attach to the genre, Fiasco is all about the caper, and, as the title implies, a caper with horrendous consequences. Like a lot of RPG systems that try to appeal to wide audience, Fiasco is a universal system, one that includes a few settings (called “Playsets”). Unlike a lot of those games, Fiasco doesn’t falter in the slightest when it shifts from setting to setting. You never feel like you’re playing what is basically an overlay on top of the system. Since it’s a game that relys on story more than anything else, you don’t need to worry about accidentally mixing your sci-fi/fantasy/zombie apocalypse rules (though that can be fun).
Playing The Game
I must confess. I have yet to play through a Fiasco. I wanted to read through it and get a sense first. I’ll hopefully get a game in soon. Hell, if all goes well, my comedy team will work it up into a show format. That’s something you could never say about D&D.
And, if that STILL wasn’t enough, you can go to the Bully Pulpit Games website, where they churn out a new Playset every month. Want more? RPGGeek (as well as others) has a list of unofficial playsets that fans have thrown together. With all of these different Playsets running around, it’ll be extremely easy to find one you like. Even then, if you want to make your own, it’s as simple as picking a movie style you like, filling in the lists, and running hog-wild. Which means, if you are a writer here at RPGMusings you can finally play My Little Pony. (That was for you, psychopez!)
If you don’t own this game already, fix that. This looks like a good game to play, and, even if you don’t get to right away, it’s a great read. There’s even a suggested viewing list in the back for movies that inspired the writer and should inspire players. For additional buffoonery, check out the “Resources” section in the back. You may already be an accessory to a felony just for reading it!
So, the bottom line:
- Look & Style: Awesome!
- Rules System: Fantastic! (although it might be intimidating for more strategic gamers)
- Subject Matter: A recipe for an incredibly good time.
- Support from the makers of the game: Unparallelled.
You get the sense that this was written with an appreciation for the great movie thrillers. After a read, I imagine Hitchcock playing with John Cassavetes, Quentin Tarantino and Vincent Price. A boy can dream.
Anyone else have anything to say about this? Let the conspiracy out, and watch who you let into your threatened squares.
(Dig the new logo I did special for this post!)