This time last year, I had a chance to review and play, my favorite game for 2010, Fiasco (here and here). A few weeks later, I had a chance to talk to Fiasco’s author, Jason Morningstar. Last week, I saw a tweet that said a new Fiasco book, the Fiasco Companion, was in production. With obvious excitement I shot off an email to Jason, and he not only confirmed the tweet, but was kind enough to answer a few questions about the upcoming Fiasco Companion.
DNAphil: I think it is safe to say that Fiasco has become a real break-out hit, with articles about the game all over the net, including the geek imprimatur from Wil Wheaton himself. How does it feel as a designer to have such a reception for your game?
Jason: Of course I’m gratified and a little surprised and certainly very proud of Fiasco. It makes me happy to hear about people playing and enjoying it. I set out to do some very specific things with the game, and Fiasco’s enthusiastic reception really validates my choices.
DNAphil: Fiasco with it’s core rules and the ingenious plugin playsets is a self-contained game. What then prompted you to start writing the Fiasco Companion? Was there anything you felt was missing from the game, or was it time to elevate the game up to a new level of play?
Jason: There’s nothing missing, but there’s a huge body of technique – both as a player and as a writer of supporting material like playsets -that isn’t articulated because it isn’t strictly necessary. It’s good stuff, though, and I find myself talking about it a lot to people who ask for feedback on their playsets. For example, gently laying on a story or two across multiple playset elements is a really good practice. In Flyover you’ve got the Latino center, the airport construction, Mexican drug dealers, and the Lowell family popping up here and there across Relationships, Needs, Objects and Locations. Sometimes none of those things enter a session, but they inform every session, and that’s cool. So we talk about that, and dozens of other similar things that make a playset excellent. The same goes for stuff you can bring as a player – endowment, reincorporation, all sorts of editing techniques, lots of stuff.
DNAphil: Of all the Fiasco playsets which have been released, what is your favorite? For me it’s a tie with Tales of Suburbia or World Tour.
Jason: I love each and every one like the unstable child it is. I think my favorite-favorite is High School, which will appear in the Fiasco Companion. The one I’ve played the most is A Small Southern Town, which is based on my wife’s home town and thus near to my heart.
DNAphil: So I have to ask…is there a Chicken Hut in her home town?
Jason: There’s no Chicken Hut in Elkin, NC but there is a Speedy Chef, which is what inspired me.
DNAphil: In playing, what was the craziest combination of Relationship, Motivation, Location, and Object you have ever seen come up in a game?
Jason: We had a game of Lucky Strike where the Relationships strongly implied that one character was really two wildly different people. In the rules I say “if it comes out unsatisfying and weird, just redo it,” but we decided to hang tough and make him a bizarre soldier who had two personalities that both had a unique rank and specialty in the Army. As icing on the cake, we had six people for a five player game, so that character had two players taking turns. It worked wonderfully and was pretty hilarious.
At Dreamation 2011 I had a game that was extremely gritty and hardcore until the very last scene, when the woman playing the scatter-brained love interest of a charismatic cult leader announced that her character was actually some kind of weird dryad tree spirit. We all rolled with it and she transformed, healed a guy who was dying in the predictable gun battle, and ended the game as a gnarled oak tree. I was surprised.
DNAphil: Can you give the Stew Eaters five reasons why Fiasco Companion will make their Fiasco games hotter than a stolen U-Haul with two tons of cartel coke inside.
- Reason one: A whole chapter on being a better player. Advice on editing, using time to flash back and flash forward, endowing your friend’s scenes with cool details, reincorporating details, giving narrative gifts, and generally tearing it up.
- Reason two: A whole chapter on ways to change the game, including playing “melancholy Finnish tag-team style” and using stunt dice. Stunt dice? Oh, yes.
- Reason three: A whole chapter (see a trend?) on hacking the game, writing your own playsets, Tilt and Aftermath tables, and making it truly your own, all with worked examples.
- Reason four: A bunch of new playsets – High School, Regina’s Wedding, Mission to Mercury, and maybe some surprises. These were all hand picked to demonstrate concepts within the text and show the game’s potential extremes.
- Reason five: I can’t really talk about reason five, but you will certainly enjoy it.
- Bonus reason: Extensive interviews with educators, actors and writers (including some names you will certainly recognize) about using Fiasco to support pedagogy, performance, and the creative process. Really insightful, interesting stuff.
Thanks again to Jason for taking the time to give us the skinny on the upcoming Fiasco Companion. Right now the book is being targeted for “late spring.” We will keep you updated as the book gets closer to hitting the shelves.