Wednesday, August 20, 2014

[Actual Play Report] Fiasco: Saturday Night '78

When the mob hitman punched the undercover cop in the police station parking lot, I knew we had a fiasco on our hands.


The Setup

There were six of us, all veteran gamers, and all new to Fiasco except me (only by a hair's breadth, though) so I stepped back to facilitate the others. Saturday Night '78 won out over Flyover and News Channel Six. I was secretly happy because if we were gonna play Flyover I wanted in on the action, dammit!

I don't know if it we were trying too hard to connect everything at the beginning or if we just got a Setup that was more nonsensical than most, but there was an early speedbump in trying to get a coherent starting situation going. We got there eventually, but we had dry-erase markers and relationship maps drawn up, which made me wonder about getting through the game in two hours (hint: we were not done in two hours).

The situation was complicated enough at the start that 2 of the guys just used their real names for their character names. We had:
  • Mitch, playing Mitch the mouthy dance club boss, a has-been former rival of
  • Todd, playing Jackie the breakout disco star, coked-up daughter of a New York state senator. Her last dance partner, secretly an undercover cop assigned to protect her, was killed, and now her new dance partner was
  • Matt, playing Karl Correia, an undercover cop assigned to protect Jackie, but who was still sweet on
  • Ben, playing Tammie, secretly pregnant lover of Karl and
  • Joe, playing Joe, mob hitman employed by Mitch to kill Tammie's twin sister, who was Jackie's dancer partner as well as an undercover cop.
Whew.

Act I

Real early on, we set up a rivalry when Joe punched Karl in the police station parking lot. Everyone got arrested, Tammie let slip she was pregnant, and most importantly, Joe's car got impounded with Tammie's dead sister in the trunk. Karl got assigned to protect Jackie and as they started training for the Discocentennial dance party to be held in Mitch's club, Mitch started plotting against Jackie. See, she was the actual target. Joe fucked up and killed Tammie's sister, Sammie, instead. Mitch gave Karl and Jackie some doctored coke but it went all wrong for Mitch. The two dancers performed like nothing anyone had ever seen, leading Mitch to start obsessing over recreating this disco super-soldier coke. Oh, and he also sent Joe to kill the right person this time.

Joe knocked out Karl on the steps of Jackie's brownstone and dragged him and the seriously impaired Jackie inside. He didn't even bother to tie her up, she was so wasted. Joe just set fire to the house and walked back to his car. Karl had come around, coaxed Jackie into fishing in his pants for his penknife, freed himself, and crashed out the window carrying Jackie - right onto the hood of Joe's car! Joe got out to flee but Tammie came out of nowhere driving Joe's car (recently freed from the impound), Sammie's corpse riding shotgun. She tagged Joe with the front fender and sent him to the pavement. That left crazy pregnant Tammie with three unconscious or incapacitated people. What to do, what to do...

Apparently what to do was take everyone to an abandoned slaughterhouse, tie them up, and start torturing them until someone told Tammie who killed her sister. It was Sammie's idea. Joe was first, since Todd was still playing Jackie as completely useless and drugged out of her mind and Karl was a cop. It was interesting here that this was Karl's scene. He had us establish it, and most of the early interaction was between Joe and Tammie, but Karl finally got all those stereotypically great lines like "You don't want to do this!" and "It'll be worse for you if you kill him!" and "It won't bring Sammie back!" Inside, Karl was wrestling with his duty as a cop to save Joe's life. Joe, the scumbag who had been banging Tammie behind his back. Tammie took bolt cutters to Joe's pinky finger and Karl made up his mind. He reached his leg up and managed to reach the ankle holster. There were two shots, then screaming, then end scene.

Jackie had the last scene of Act I, and we learned that Tammie lived but lost the baby, Joe and Karl never made it to a hospital, and Jackie was still going to dance in the Discocentennial celebration. Especially if she could get more of Mitch's crazy coke.

The Tilt

Confusion, followed by pain
A dangerous animal (possibly metaphorical) gets loose

Act II

It was really, really late when we begun Act II. All the attempts to maintain continuity and our longer-than-normal setup phase were dragging us into the wee hours, so we made a group decision to just do one scene per player for Act II. Joe started it off duct-taped to Karl's car, his hand roughly bandaged, while Karl tried to set up a meeting with Mitch somewhere public, like a zoo. Mitch just hung up (dammit, no rampaging elephants!), Karl had Joe start driving over to Mitch's club at gunpoint.

Tammie's last scene was a flash-forward. She was in court, and Jackie and Karl were there near her. All she asked them was, "Can you ever forgive me?"

Karl replied, "You need to start by forgiving yourself."

Jackie just said, "Of course I forgive you!" We weren't sure Jackie knew where she was or even what she'd been doing the last couple scenes. Or ever, really.

Then it was back to the present and Mitch's club, which was packed with people. Some of them were even there for the Discocentennial. As things progressed, however, it became apparent that most of them were undercover cops or people working for Jackie's father, Senator Wolfe (there's your dangerous animal). What happened next had the "confusion followed by pain" covered. Karl tried to accost Mitch, but Mitch had several cops on his side in his VIP room. Plus, Karl's tape recorder had been pickpocketed on his way up to Mitch. He had nothing he could use to touch Mitch. Mitch, who was Senator Wolfe's biggest drug supplier. It was the 70s, man.

Aftermath

We were all amazed at how prescient the Aftermath table results were. Even though Mitch tried his damndest to "win" in the narrative, most of the other players picked up on the strategy of poisoning a player's dice pool with mixed dice. Meanwhile, Todd (Jackie) wasn't really doing anything to antagonize anyone, either in-game or out, so although Jackie ended up with a small pile of dice, it was a monochrome pile.
  • Mitch (white 2): Mitch failed at disco dancing, and with the heat and suspicion brought on by the Discocentennial debacle, he failed at being a drug dealer. Mitch could never move on, though. Year after year, he'd travel to more and more backward countries as disco died, trying to recapture his heyday and failing every single time.
  • Joe (white 6): Joe avoided jail time because there was no conclusive evidence that he'd killed Sammie. He learned an important lesson about doing work for drug addicts, however, and kept his head down after that. A little smarter, a little older, and with nothing to show for his efforts, Joe kept on in much the same way he always had as the 1980s crept over the horizon.
  • Tammie (white 2): Tammie was convicted for the murder of her sister and went to fucking jail, where he still saw Sammie's corpse from time to time. Sometimes it rocked a small bundle in its arms.
  • Karl (white 5): Karl got thrown off the force for good and ended up manning a tollbooth. His existence was so banal he almost didn't notice that the latest guy to drive through the tolls was missing his pinky finger. Karl looked up in surprise and recognition, but the man was already gone.
  • Jackie (white 11): Jackie danced her way to the Discocentennial championships and won. Her coked-up meandering through life (and the lottery of being born a senator's daughter) ensured she never pissed anyone off so badly that they tried to kill her again.
We all loved Fiasco. What I'd probably do next time is, now that we have several people in the group who have experience with it now, is split any future games into 3 or 4 player chunks, as they recommend in the books. I also wouldn't worry so much about keeping internal consistency, because that really dragged the time out. Shorter scenes, more dialogue, less attachment to the characters. There's a very strange effect that happens where you know going into Fiasco that the dude you're playing is not going to make it out in one piece, but goddammit, you try anyway. You try like hell.