I needn't have worried. Fiasco was awesome and we had a blast. For those who don't know how it works: there are different playsets that offer characters, relationships between those characters, things the characters want to do, objects they have and locations for the story to take place in. You choose a few of those and then go ahead with telling the story that comes to mind. After a few scenes, you choose some events that will truly fuck the situation up (the Tilt) and tell some more of the story until you arrive at the Aftermath, where you establish how your characters will come out of the whole thing. That is then told as a series of one-sentence scenes, like a montage in a movie.
We used the Los Angeles 1936 playset – think Chinatown or L.A. Confidential. After some dice rolling, we came up with a crime boss with a dirty cop on his paylist. The cop extorts money from a nightclub manager, who employs a recently immigrated singer from Germany, who had a one-time fling with the crime boss. We also had a bar of gold with a serial number and a swastika, a Mauser pistol, a Jigsaw Gothic mansion overlooking Hollywood and we wanted to find out about the town's dirty past. We rigged a die for that last item because we all thought that it would fit the rest of the setup.
We decided that the Nazis were trying to buy themselves some influence (hence the gold, in the possession of the singer) and that a party was given by the owner of the mansion, Judge Strauss. Invited were all our characters, just about everyone who is anyone and the German consul.
Albert, the crime boss invited because the consul wanted to talk business, but he was more interested in seeing Sonja, the singer, who had just turned down his proposal of marriage. He brought along the dirty cop, Gabriel, to keep an eye on things and Sam, the nightclub manager, was catering the party – at least until he overheard a conversation about the gold. Sonja and Albert had a small fight, Gabriel stepped in and offered to “take care” of Sonja, which resulted in some goons taking Gabriel outside and roughing him up. We ended up with Sam listening to a secret meeting between the Judge and the consul and getting discovered and Sonja and Albert in the process of getting together again. At least until Gabriel came back in and took a shot at Sonja, since she was clearly no good for his boss and he wasn't about to take a beating for some hussy.
We then rolled the Tilt and added “An out of control rampage” and “Confusion and then pain”. With Sonja's brains all over the table, people panicked and things weren't helped by the shoot-out between Gabriel and Albert. Albert was shot, the Judge's wife was collateral damage and a fire broke out when tables with candles were toppled. Which was lucky for Sam, who was just about to be tortured by the consul to find out who sent him to spy. The distraction of the mass panic was all he needed to free himself and to get out of the mansion, probably killing the consul in the process (we let him fall into the sword of a suit of armour because … why not). Gabriel also got out and since the police were already on their way, he tried to hot-wire one of the cars parked in the driveway.
When we rolled the Aftermath, we found that Gabriel would die, but Sam would come out of the whole mess with his life, but not much else. So we let Gabriel see the package of explosives (maybe placed to kill the consul, who knows) just that fraction of a second too late. Sam tried to get the police or the press of the FBI to listen to his story about the Nazi gold, but no one was interested and we watched the club go from the place to be to a boarded-up failure.
It was an epic fiasco. At first we were a bit at a loss, but as soon as we came up with the idea of the party at the mansion, things started to come together. We all added ideas and had a lot of fun getting our characters in real trouble. Dead characters are not out of the game, but get to tell their story in flashbacks, which served to really establish the relationship between Albert and Sonja in our game. I did some research of my own to get a map of 1936 L.A. and some photos of the places mentioned, just to add some flavour to the game and I liked that most of the locations were real (or Noir-quotes). And if I ever play another RPG set in that time, I so want a Dusenberg Torpedo Phaeton.
We absolutely plan to try out more playsets, probably London 1593 next – although Objective Zebra looks very promising as well. If you like roleplaying (or maybe improvisation theatre) and if you like it when things don't work as planned for your character, then I highly recommend Fiasco to you. We were four players which worked very well, but Fiasco can also be played with three or five players. All you need is the Fiasco sourcebook, a playset (those are free) and some d6 in two colours.
Check out Boathulhu, our second Fiasco