[Fiasco} What is your favorite playset? More importantly, why is it your favorite?

edited November 2012 in Story Games
Over in the Bite-sized actual play thread, I was asked why Flyover was my favorite playset. I thought that was an interesting thing to think about. I like Flyover a lot, but it wasn't obvious why it clicks with me more than similar playsets (Main Street, Tales From Suburbia, and Last Frontier all seem kinda similar). Here's what I wrote over there:
Short answer: because Marcy Lowell is such a bitch.

Longer answer: I've actually never played Main Street, but I have played Tales from Suburbia. And it was a good game. But those playsets felt a little bit more generic. Flyover has a little more material in there to spur on the imagination. The flyover playset has little narrative threads that run through the various elements, that let you take them and build things. So Marcy Lowell shows up in a lot of games of Flyover, and she's always terrible in beautiful, awful ways. And the airport is always involved in smuggling or drug dealing or something. Or the Mexican drug dealers and the tear stained letter written in badly broken Spanish...

Flyover also gives you a small town setting. Everyone knows each other, at least a little. The small town setting means that there's plenty of isolated spots and abandoned run down barns to hide your meth labs in. But it's not the crazy isolation of The Ice (another great playset), so you can still go into town and have a shootout in the community health center or whatever. I can picture Flyover country in my head and spin out cool specific details real quickly and easily without them feeling like I'm just using stock, generic settings.

Of course, Flyover is also the first playset that I played, so maybe it's a mental reaction to the discovery of something new. It's also the playset I've played the most (five or six times at least) which may also relate to my liking it.

Flyover has never failed to give me a great setup and an entertaining game.
So the question is... Which is your favorite playset? What makes it a better playset than all others?

Comments

  • Flyover is also my favorite playset, for many of the same reasons. It was a culmination of many lessons learned in assembling Fiasco playsets, and it is the one I point to as the standard for best practices. If you are going to deviate, Flyover's structure is a good point of departure.
  • I will always love the Nice Southern Town because of "church friends" being on the "enemies" list.
  • Dragonslayers with Dresden a close second. I like playing with the tropes and twisting the tale/tail. The Dresden Files for the same reason, but in a modern setting.
  • Manna Hotel is wonderful, evoking a Lynchian flavor without descending into wink-and-nodding allusion. I love it to pieces, and "Relationship: Family: Identical twins" is my favorite Fiasco thing of all.
  • I certainly haven't played even half of them, but I'd go with Nice Southern Town so far. Mainly because it's anything but nice. Sometimes it's only passive-aggressive snarky comments, but other times it's blackmail and murder.
  • Manna Hotel has some great stuff in it indeed. The badger, the twins, Bingo!. The favorite of those I played so far. But I have not played enough to really make a decision.
  • I love lots of playsets, but I think Lucky Strike is my favourite. It's a familiar generic setting for most players, and the military context keeps the characters tightly connected. I also find that it encourages players to incorporate lots of NPCs, since it's a camp populated with lots of other people. I like playing it with 1940s popular music in the background.
  • Heh... I've played too much to make a decision, it would seem. I've demoed it or played it at every con I've attended since its release (and at one con, pre-release). I'm not entirely sure which I've played more than once; and I'm not sure which I'd choose if given total free rein.

    *Probably* Vegas, Baby! or Lucky Strike, because they are so instantly comprehensible to most folks. Everyone's seen a Rat Pack movie or any one of a host of modern caper/mob movies; and everyone's seen war films or M*A*S*H (inaccurate mental concepts that are at least internally consistent are sufficient for my play!). And The Ice has this sort of splendid isolation (without being, like, one-cabin-style isolation) that I think helps create a sort of austerity in play--but maybe I've just seen The Thing too often and use it to inform my mental models instead of more-accurate sources like actual photos.

    [Aside: I think Nice Southern Town is my least favorite, because I'm southern and, at larger cons, I play with non-southerners. It can get... insulting? petty? stereotyical?... pretty quick. I suspect that regular house play experiences are very different, if only due to more cultural homogeneity among the participants.]
  • The Badger thing is the best thing i EVER read in a Fiasco playset!

    Until now i played Gangster London, *the university one*, News Channel 6 and the one with the Zoo.
    We really liked the game at the Zoo a lot but i think the playset has really weak needs. Also it can surely use the lighter aftermath table in my opinion. Could just have been our game though.

    From playset design i really really like Gangster London since it seems to establish so much athmosphere in it's list and the weapon table is awesome.
  • I always love the Fiascos that tend towards more normal, and less gonzo, and so I'm putting in my vote for Flyover as well. Some of the reasons are the same as above, but one of the other things that the playset does really well is give a lot of fun details that still end up with relatively 'normal' characters.
  • "Vegas, baby!" here. It was the first time I played Fiasco and between the awesome people at the table and a great setup, it just rocked my world.

    Mission to Mercury is probably a close second, just because that con session was filled with despicable people doing terrible things in an awesome fashion and the playset really did push us down that path :)
  • With players who agree ahead of time not to take it into the wacky? Nothing satisfies me like LA 1936.

    For wacky, hands down: Touring Rock Band.
  • I've had the most fun with "Dragon Slayers" so far. It's an easy entry point for players who are familiar with D&D or even just World of Warcraft. There are so many tropes and expectations that you can play with without actually having to roll any dice.
  • …[Flyover] is the one I point to as the standard for best practices.
    I remember having heard this recommendation and taking it to heart when writing Vegas, Baby!. I'm not sure I drew the right lessons from it, though.
  • I always love the Fiascos that tend towards more normal, and less gonzo, and so I'm putting in my vote for Flyover as well.
    For non-gonzo Fiascos, "Flyover" is my go-to choice. The best single game I ever played used it. On the other hand, I'm usually eager to embrace gonzo, and nothing says "gonzo" like a tiny zoo run by the electric utility.
  • Wow, I am really gonna have to try Flyover now!

    I have yet to play a playset twice (unless I'm mis-remembering). But I think my favorite so far was Transatlantic, though I've enjoyed all of them!
  • edited November 2012
    Gangster London.

    Guy Ritchie inspired stories just seem fit the Fiasco rules perfectly. One of the best pickup games I've ever been involved in used this playset. It's better because black comedy in the British style can't be topped.
  • edited November 2012
    Truth be told, it doesn't really matter. You can take any playset and say "It's about Japanese school girls" or anything you want and it works in 95% of all lists. For me, it's about the structure of the game. The playsets are just coulisses.
  • True. The playset doesnt matter that much. The best game I ever had (IMHO) was from a playset I didnt expected much from. (It was dungeonslayers, and none of the players was much into it, but it was the second Fiasco session that day and we wanted to chill out with something easy. In the end we told a totally epic story of good vs evil no one expected to happen)
  • Gangster London.

    Guy Ritchie inspired stories just seem fit the Fiasco rules perfectly. One of the best pickup games I've ever been involved in used this playset. It's better because black comedy in the British style can't be topped.
    "There's no money, there's no weed. It's all been replaced by a pile of corpses. "

    Yeah, I need to give this playset a go.
  • I think the playsets rather much matter, when they're setting-rich. When they lean too heavily on easy-to-write Relationships ("father and son;" "siblings"--yawn) and Needs (yes, yes, we know--everyone needs to get even, everywhere, in ever genre...) then they become a bit interchangeable.

    I'm brought to mind of the Black Adder stuff: same jokes, same relationships, different time periods. Window dressing.

    But the seriously well-written playsets couldn't possibly be shifted to new times or places--they would become incoherent. (Hmm... but I just got an idea for a mash-up mode of play... Hmm.....)

    Also, you're not taking into account playset with (a) special rules and (b) custom Tilt and Aftermath tables.

    So... uh, yeah. Playsets are the killer app of Fiasco, not signaling with black or white colors or doing comparative dice math.
  • I'd argue that Relationship: Family: Siblings is the sort of thing you actually need to balance out the detailed, setting-specific elements that can get claustrophobic. Sometimes a very general choice allows you to make it fit perfectly, where Relationship: Lost in Time: Roman Emperor and Patrick Swayze's Body Double will not. So a nice mix of catch-all and covered-in-setting-flavor is good.
  • I would think Need: To Get Even kinda gets to the core concept of Getting on With The Stupid that is central to Fiasco, so it really does fit across pretty much every genre, everywhere.
  • OK, a mix. But no one's yet added weight to "playsets are just coulisses" and "playset doesnt matter that much", which is what I was mainly answering. I do realize that hyper-specific Relationships can cause difficulties ("Wait, I'm this guy's house-bound mother but I'm *this* lady's spouse?
  • edited November 2012
    I'd argue that Relationship: Family: Siblings is the sort of thing you actually need to balance out the detailed, setting-specific elements that can get claustrophobic. Sometimes a very general choice allows you to make it fit perfectly,
    I agree. I recognize this from other games, where if the preparation only consisted of really far-out elements, the game became bizarre - almost surreal. You also sometimes need ordinary relations to explain other relations like "Patrick Swayze's Body Double".
    But no one's yet added weight to "playsets are just coulisses" and "playset doesnt matter that much", which is what I was mainly answering.
    I don't want to derail the thread, that's why I haven't answered. I just answered the OP by giving my impression after playing Touring Rock Band, Dragonslayer, and flicking through some more playsets to see if my impression was correct. If you want to discuss this some more, start a new thread, but I honestly don't think I have anything more to say - [edit] except perhaps elaborate what I meant with "It really doesn't matter". And when I wrote "lists", I meant any table; from relations to aftermath.
  • I'm totally okay with derailing the thread. I'm most interested in what we can learn to make better playsets in the future. So explicating your position is totally in keeping with the reason for the thread existing. "All playsets are interchangeable coulisses" is a fine position to take, but you have to answer the more important "why?" question.
  • It's Gangster London, for me. That was, for me, the best game we played (and we've played a lot over the last couple of years). Cockney gangsters and/or bent coppers are my favourite characters to play, though.

    But, more generically, it's a playset where everyone in your group can grok the tropes and cliches of the setting. As long as you've got that, it's gold. Dragonslayers doesn't appeal to me, I don't know why, but I had an excellent game using the Cthulhu playset with the German name, which is another reliable trope-vein for roleplayers.
  • edited November 2012
    "All playsets are interchangeable coulisses" is a fine position to take, but you have to answer the more important "why?" question.
    Cool.

    First of all, I really think the idea of playsets work. I actually think that this is how roleplaying games should be written. But I also think it's important to see what the playsets really are. In my point of view: coulisses. And that's why I think the playsets work. Because they can be "locked in" to the game structure without any hassle.

    Lets talk about structures. All games has structures. The most common one is game mechanics, which are procedures that you follow. Fiasco has a game play structure: a procedure for how you advance the game. If you were going to start the game with the tilt, the game would have a different structure and probably render a totally different game.

    Now, if I like the structure of the game - especially a game play structure as in Fiasco - it doesn't really matter what kind of setting I'm playing in. I know that I will have a good time (if we also consider that I'm accompanied with good participants, of course).

    So what does the playbooks do? Are they totally pointless? No, because what they do is to plant a thought into the participants' minds - a common theme that changes how they interpret the elements in the game. We have this in other games as well. In Apocalypse World, when you create fronts, you decide which scarcity that you will use which will colour the entire session. A drooling monster is treated really differently in a game master's mind depending if the scarcity is hunger, envy or decay.

    That's why I say that you can play Japanese school girls as a theme in all the playsets and it will work with 95% of all the results in the tables. The tables will decide if it's going to be social realism, drugs or supernatural elements, but they will still be about Japanese school girls.

    [edit] added "as a theme" in the above paragraph.
  • That's why I say that you can play Japanese school girls in all the playsets and it will work with 95% of all the results in the tables. The tables will decide if it's going to be social realism, drugs or supernatural elements, but they will still be about Japanese school girls.
    Um.. OK, I guess. I'm not sure how I'd play a Japanese school girl with these Relationships on either side:
    * The Black Market: Army CID investigator and informant
    * Replacement Increments: Fish out of water farm boys

    Or these:
    * Religion: Agnostic and Unguite proselytizer
    * Family: You'd be parent and child if androids had children

    Assuming one isn't utterly throwing the main premise of the playset out the window, I can't imagine Japanese school girls in Camp Luck Strike [hell, that would border on downright creepy, given the context!] or on Star Station Sigma.

    That said, I can imagine someone saying, "Hey, we're gonna play this playset, but everyone has to be an anime-style Japanese school girl, somehow". But that's no different than saying "Hey, let's play D&D/VtM except everyone's a Japanese school girl." That's basically a drift of theme or a hack of the setting.

    [... Which is part of what made me mention "mash-up" a bit higher up-thread, after all.]

    Now, try this: play Fiasco, but use a playset with absolutely NO setting-rich elements (it should be trivial to make such a set: be utterly generic and bland). I doubt that you'll find the experience on par with playing using a strong playset.
  • edited November 2012
    That's why I say that you can play Japanese school girls in all the playsets and it will work with 95% of all the results in the tables. The tables will decide if it's going to be social realism, drugs or supernatural elements, but they will still be about Japanese school girls.
    Um.. OK, I guess. I'm not sure how I'd play a Japanese school girl with these Relationships on either side:
    * The Black Market: Army CID investigator and informant
    * Replacement Increments: Fish out of water farm boys
    I did write 95%, right? :) Farm boys aren't that hard, though, by explaining that the "girls" are transgender or crossdressing.
    Or these:
    * Religion: Agnostic and Unguite proselytizer
    * Family: You'd be parent and child if androids had children
    I can also see those two work with Japanese school girls. Family - the android girl has created another android girl, as an example.
    Assuming one isn't utterly throwing the main premise of the playset out the window,
    But my point is that Japanese school girls (or bank robbers sharing loot or whatever) can be the theme for all playsets and it will still work with most results in the tables. In my example you should throw the original theme out the window. I will edit my previous post to clarify this.
    Now, try this: play Fiasco, but use a playset with absolutely NO setting-rich elements (it should be trivial to make such a set: be utterly generic and bland). I doubt that you'll find the experience on par with playing using a strong playset.
    Which is my point when I write "...what they do is to plant a thought into the participants' minds - a common theme that changes how they interpret the elements in the game. "
  • Now, try this: play Fiasco, but use a playset with absolutely NO setting-rich elements (it should be trivial to make such a set: be utterly generic and bland). I doubt that you'll find the experience on par with playing using a strong playset.
    I'd go the other way: play Fiasco, but use a playset specifically geared toward your Japanese school girls theme. If the playset doesn't matter, than playing with this playset will be no better than playing "Japanese school girls" with some other playset. My hypothesis is that you'd discover the opposite, over repeated runs of the experiment.

    I think saying that "it is possible to play Japanese school girls with any playset" is not at all the same as saying "playsets don't matter".

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