[Playtest report] The Big Fiasco at the Manna Hotel LARP

So I’ve been working for a while now on a Fiasco based parlor larp. The idea was to build a relationship map between a set of PCs using Fiasco playsets, then write them in a little more detail to make them into a one-shot live action character. We finally had the actual game on saturday, and it worked out pretty well. But the process had a few kinks in it. If I try this again, I’ll be changing up how I d things a little, using what I learned this time.

First, I started by generating a couple of circles of Fiasco characters. I decided to have each circle use a different Fiasco playset. This was partly as more experimentation (how well can you mesh together four playsets?) and partly to avoid repeating relationships or objects/needs/locations.

I chose a couple of playsets that fit loosely together. All four playsets were from the Playset of the Month. I didn’t want to add even more variables to the experiment by using fanmade playsets just yet. (Though if I do this again, I could see combining Dragon Slayers, Dwarf Fortress and Keeping on the Borderlands for a fantasy fiasco.) Flyover is set in the middle of the United States somewhere, and The Manna Hotel is set in middle-of-nowhere, Kansas. So those two go together naturally. They formed the initial seed of the game. Then I added in News Channel Six, since a news program fits into any modern setting at all. And a Touring Rock Band staying in the hotel added some additional mayhem, so why not?

I generated each playset’s circle of characters just as you do in normal Fiasco: roll some dice, allocate them to different characters, create some relationships and shared objects/needs/locations. This is one point where you could tell that Fiasco playsets weren’t exactly made for this purpose. Sometimes relationships and needs would require adding other characters or NPCs. Which would require somebody play those characters in the larp. And sometimes the options involved contexts or needs not resolvable in the larp’s context. Mostly, I avoided those relationships, which restricted choices somewhat.

I made four groups of three characters apiece. Then I made some connections between the circles, because I didn’t want the game to be four mini larps going on simultaneously. In normal Fiasco, you have a relationship with two other PCs: one on the left and one on the right. In order to make the circles interact, I gave each PC a relationship with someone in a different circle. Since there were three PCs in each circle and three other circles, each circle had a PC connected to each other circle. Each cross-circle relationship had one element from one layset, and one from the other playset. I didn’t roll any dice for cross-circle connections, because by this point I had a good idea what each character was, and I was trying to build the most interesting connections between circles.

At this point, I had a giant web of complicated connections. Just as in regular Fiasco, I was brainstorming while choosing relationships, and now I started nailing down details on who was who and how they related to other people. Who was being blackmailed and why? Which smalltown folks were the rockstar tied to? At this point I also started writing the actual character info sheets. After trying to figure out how to present information, I eventually settled on giving the information that would be on a Fiasco notecard (“Relationship: Roxie Heart. Friends: By Court Order. Need: To get some respect… from a rockstar”). Then I’d write a few paragraphs fleshing that information out for the player.

The complicated web of relationships was great, so long as I had exactly twelve players. As September went on, it became clear that we’d have fewer than that. So I had to construct a plan that accommodated the smaller number of players. I was originally going to take two circles of three and make them into a circle of five or smaller to deal with the smaller group. But now I had actual PCs on the table and stuff being written for them. And as I looked at that stuff, it actually was very hard to modify all the relationships and reconnect them elsewhere and still have characters that were mostly the same.

In the end, I just ignored the playset based circles altogether. I picked out the six core characters with the strongest plot threads running through the game, and made a circles charting their relationships into a circle. Then I saw how the other peripheral character tied into the game. Two PCs (Candice Cross and Winston / Winona Slater) fit into the game individually, as their ties were primarily to the core characters. The other PCs had strong relationships to each other. So if I wanted to include Dwight Dickerson, I’d also have to include Georgia Van (and vice versa).

This change of course required modifying a couple PCs a bit (Howard Roberts was the one forging documents for the sheriff, instead of Marcy Lowell). But it required less drastic changes than my original plan would have. Anyway, this was an issue I created for myself by trying to follow the Fiasco creation rules a bit more closely than really was needed. Once I started following my own methods of larpmaking, it worked out. In the future, I’d just make a circle of Fiasco character that was as large as my minimum number of players, then add on extra optional characters with relationships crossing the circle. (Possibly give each PC three relationships, then optional characters might add a fourth.)

When we finally played the game, I did use the black/white card system mentioned on G+ before. It worked okay, but not spectacularly well. It might be better suited for tabletop play rather than larp play. I did like how it made the GM something like the man in the diner from The Booth at the End. somebody would attempt something, and I’d say “If you give up a white consequence, sure.” If they didn’t have one, then they could fail and use up a black consequence instead, and get that result. (I don’t feel that I pushed the negatives hard enough on black consequences, though.)

People seemed to have fun. Occasionally the game did seem like it was a few separate larps with minimal interconnections. But there were enough connections that something happening in one circle’s plot would spill over to other circle’s plotlines.

I may also have chosen some more low-key relationships and needs than would have been ideal. The game went off without any violence and mostly white collar scheming. This isn’t bad, exactly. I just wonder if there was enough drama inherent in the game overall. Next time, I might endeavor to make sure that one or two PCs have a more action-y sort of goal.

I had fun, and I might try using Fiasco playsets to plan larps in the future. It didn’t actually simplify the middle to late stages of planning, but it speeded up the early brainstorming part greatly. A couple kinks were discovered, mainly because the playsets and setup rules weren’t written for exactly this purpose. But it worked well enough, and I learned some things that will make it easier to use for future times.

One comment

  1. […] Teapot Dome Games Skip to content HomeAbout ← [Playtest report] The Big Fiasco at the Manna Hotel LARP […]