Note: This is the third post in my series on our first experience with Fiasco, and why I designed a new playset for our first game. It makes sense to start from the beginning of this series of posts, though. That’s here.
Also, apologies for the delay. I had a lot of grading to do last week, and some other responsibilities to take care of. I meant to get this posted sooner, but anyway, here it is now!
So far, I’ve discussed what led me to Fiasco as a game, as well as preliminary thoughts on scenario design. Then I discussed the particular concerns I kept in mind when designing my playset for a mixed group of Korean and western/Anglophone players.
This time around, I’ll try summarize the game. Since I think nobody will mind, I’m going to briefly mention at the outset who was playing, and what their characters were, since the issue of a culturally mixed group of players is part of what I was exploring in this playset.
For this playthrough, we had one Korean player (Miss Jiwaku) plus four expats (three who have been in Korea less than five years: Nick. Katrina, and Ian; plus one–me–who’s been here more than a decade). From whjat I gathered, Ian and Jihyun’s only previous experience with RPGs was our past session of Dread. Nick had some experience with RPGs; I don’t know about Katrina’s background and forgot to ask.
Setup took a little longer than usual, in part because due to a couple of players’ late arrival, the pizzas we ordered showed up right in the middle of the process. Nonetheless, we built up a network of relationships, needs, motivations, and locations. At this point, we were playing quite fast and loose with the choices, not really carefully following the rules in terms of dice. Next time, I want to use the dice more strictly in this step, but it wasn’t a dire issue at this point. We also selected more “needs” and “objects” than the game is designed for, which did complicate things… though it worked out well in the end.
Also, happily, Ian had read my little preface to the game. I’d expected we’d be playing the game set in 2012, but he suggested that setting it in 1997, during the Asian Financial Crisis (called by Koreans simply “IMF” because of how South Korea had to adopt austerity policies to get IMF aid during the crisis). This was a time when many Koreans were desperate for cash and nobody among the players would be getting paid (not foreign hakwon teachers, not Korean hakwon staff, nobody); we figured that would lend an edge of desperation to the game. We agreed, and though we slipped occasionally–references to the internet and to cell phones slipped in, only to be modified to pagers and, well, no internet–the reasoning worked. Which alerted me to one thing: flexibility is nice, but the playset needs to be designed to reinforce the time setting. I had USB drives and internet stuff in the playset, which don’t work if the players choose 1997 as the setting. (Let alone the pre-1997 option.)
As for characters and their relationships: since I can’t lay out everything visually, characters in sequence correspond to players who sat side-by-side.
First, there was Scott (played by Miss Jiwaku): a naïve, hard-bargaining, but rather innumerate Korean-American hakwon teacher: his RELATIONSHIPS were as a former coworker of Jenna’s, and a foreigner-soccer-league buddy of Damien’s. He was also, it turned out, desperate to fall in love with a Korean virgin, marry her, and carry her off to K-Town in L.A.
Next came Jenna (played by Katrina), a somewhat conniving female English who had recently been fired from the hakwon where she’d worked with Scott (with whom she maintained a former co-worker RELATIONSHIP), and had been newly hired at American English #1 Hakwon, where she had established a Friends-With-Benefits RELATIONSHIP with the young, supposedly very-Christian hakwon secretary, a young Korean woman named Ju Yeon. Jenna also had an OBJECT: videotapes (originally a USB drive, but modified for 1997) of herself and Ju Yeon having sex, which she intended to use against her, if things went bad between them.
Ju Yeon (played by me) was a secretary at the hakwon where Jenna worked. She talked a lot about her ill sister who was in the hospital, and her poor family whom she needed to support, but in fact besides her Friends With Benefits RELATIONSHIP with Jenna, she also had a one-night-stand RELATIONSHIP with a male Korean teacher at the hakwon, a fellow named Yun Sik. Ju Yeon got a round, apparently; she also had a pretty dire NEED: to get out of Korea.
Next came Yun Sik (played by Ian), a native Korean guy teaching at the American English #1 Hakwon. Besides his one-night-stand RELATIONSHIP with Ju Yeon, he also happened to have a criminal RELATIONSHIP (specifically characterized as a “Theft” relationship) with a GI named Damien (yep, the same Damien who was Scott’s soccer buddy). Yun Sik also had an OBJECT in common with Ju Yeon: he wanted the bank account information from the hakwon, to which he believed she had access during her trips to head office. A second OBJECT was in play as well, in conjunction with Yun Sik: A duffel bag of hallucinogens, though it was more connected with Damien… at least at the beginning.
Finally, there was Damien, a GI (I think a corporal) whose RELATIONSHIPS were soccer buddies with Scott, and fellow-thieves with Yun Sik. Damien was a fast-talking scumbag intent on stealing the OBJECT mentioned above: the duffel bag full of hallucinogens, and he was intent on getting both Scott and Yunsik in on his plan. Damien also had a (unnecessary, but funny) NEED, to take down some “business rivals” (other GIs with an illicit drug side business).
As for LOCATIONS, there were two:
- The Smoker’s Balcony at American English #1 Hakwon, the workplace of Jenna, Ju Yeon, and Yun Sik, and
- Jenna’s Apartment–a location that only showed up a couple of times. (About even with the Drunken Maple Leaf, a Canadian expat bar… or, actually, I think the bar showed up more often, in something like three or four scenes.)
In retrospect, I think a table at The Drunken Maple Leaf would have been a better second location.
Once setup was finished, it was time to get the game going. In the interests of keeping this post readable, I’ll tell the story as it unfolded, skipping who set what scene and who resolved how. (Also, because I can’t remember all twenty dice and resolutions.)
The gist of the opening scene was that Scott met up with Damien after a game of soccer with the Russian team, who were famous for dealing illegal drugs after games. Damien proceeded to talk to him about how he had a comparable business opportunity, and finally talked Scott into joining him in “getting” some drugs… Scott insisted he would stay in the car, but that if he could do that, he was willing to get involved.
The next scene was between Jenna and Ju Yeon, at Jenna’s apartment. It was the morning after a late-night booty call, and the apartment had been cleaned up. Ju Yeon finished cleaning up as Jenna woke up, barely getting her hand out of Jenna’s purse in time not to get caught. As usual, there was money missing from Jenna’s purse, but she would never have realized that Ju Yeon had taken it unless she’d been too drunk to turn off her hidden sex-camera the night before. Reviewing the tape after Ju Yeon left, she realized two things: Ju Yeon had noticed the camera, and looked straight into it: she knew they were being taped; and Ju Yeon had swiped money from her purse… and seemingly not for the first time.
Later that day, Ju Yeon was messing with a computer at the hakwon office (probably playing some cheap computer game, since this is pre-internet-boom) when Yun Sik walked into the office. He tried to chat her up, she talked with him a little, until finally he asked if she’d been paid lately. She let loose a stream of crocodile tears… her sister was dying, her sister was sick in the hospital, her family needed help, needed money for food and hospital bills… she was desperate, almost crying, and he urged her to pull herself together. He had a way to help, and promised he would do so, though she would have to help too…
In the next scene, Yun Sik and Damien met up at The Drunken Maple Leaf, the expat dive bar in their neighborhood. Damien was single-mindedly working on bringing Yun Sik into his plan, and the won signs (or dollar bills?) were sparkling cartoonlike in Yun Sik’s eyes, though he was pretty uncomfortable with the proposition that he could get involved in the drug trade.
The next scene followed concurrently in the same space, when Scott walked into the Drunken Maple Leaf. Yun Sik and Scott sized one another up, while Damien ran interference. Basically, Scott was angry to be getting a smaller cut of the profits, until Damien convinced him that they could each get 35% of the spoils. (Meanwhile, Yun Sik was skeptical that Scott would get anything for “just staying in the car.”) However, by the end of the scene, fast talk had prevailed and Scott and Yun Sik were in on Damien’s ill-conceived plan… which was to steal Damien’s GI rivals’ drug stash (the duffel bag of hallucinogens). Everyone except Scott and Yun Sik could see Damien was eager to leave his partner(d)s-in-crime swinging in the wind, of course, but the scene ended when Scott raised a toast to their doing business together.
(Nick/Damien’s “Sure, we can split it 35%/35%/35% — thirty-five percent each, okay?” was side-splittingly funny, especially when Jihyun/Scott just went with it like it made perfect sense.)
The next (late) morning, Scott met his former co-worker Jenna for dumplings, and caught up their lives since Jenna had moved on to her new job. It became apparent that Scott was desperate to meet a girl, and Jenna mentioned a girl at her workplace, Ju Yeon (who, secretly, was her FWB). Scott was intrigued, and eager to get Ju Yeon’s number, perhaps thinking that now he could finally afford to marry a nice Korean girl and bring her home to L.A….
The following scene involved Jenna and Yun Sik at The Drunken Maple Leaf, chatting after work. At the beginning of the scene, neither had any idea about the other’s sexual history with Ju Yeon, but after some gossip, Jenna realized that Ju Yeon was not the girl she’d represented herself to be… Yun Sik implied that she was “easy” and had slept with lots of guys, and Jenna, a bit shocked, didn’t let on about her own experiences with Ju Yeon. But she did try to call Ju Yeon, who answered the phone with the usual sob story: she was at the hospital, with her dying sister, cry and weep, hang up. Jenna concluded the scene by telling Yun Sik that Ju Yeon was at the hospital.
The next scene was Ju Yeon’s, but while I could have played it badly, I set up the scene, and let others resolve it. I set it outside “The Drunken Maple Leaf,” where Ju Yeon had brought Scott. Just as she got to the front door, she realized that this was where Jenna had just called from, and tried to talk Scott into going somewhere else… but her feminine wiles–all the way up to the offer of sex right away if they could go to his place–were rejected: Scott was an old-fashioned boy and didn’t want to deprive Ju Yeon of her virginity prior to marriage. (More side-splitting laughter here, and still more when Ju Yeon confusedly asks Scott, “Are you the gay?”) So they went into the bar, and Ju Yeon almost immediately fled to the bathroom, refusing to come out for the rest of the scene, but allowing the other characters to fight among themselves. (Someone, somehow, gave me a positive die for this scene, though I can’t see quite why.)
As I recall it, the next scene after that, Yun Sik approached Ju Yeon at work again, explaining to her that the plan was for her to go to the accounts department next time she got to the head office. She was supposed to collect the accounts information not just for her own branch of the hakwon, but also the information for the corporate heads of the company. Ju Yeoon, for her part, insisted that she be treated fairly, and was on the verge of crying a little more about her desperate family when she hinted she would “take care” of Yun Sik if this plan went off right: she cupped his family jewels, which is a pretty strong hint.
Next Damien got Yun Sik and Scott together and explained the heist in some detail: specifically, Scott and Damien would infiltrate the quarters of Damien’s rivals, while Yun Sik distracted them by calling them off base to try buy some drugs from them. Scott insisted on staying in the car, but Damien talked him out of it, explaining the plan could not work out that way… and the scene ended as Damien sent Scott into the room of his rivals, whom he named D-nice and Jax.
Then came the Tilt section of the game, when it was time to decide just how things would specifically go haywire. I had the highest result with my two white dice, and Ian has the highest black dice result, so we ended up with TRAGEDY: DEATH AFTER AN UNPLEASANT STRUGGLE and MAYHEM: MAGNIFICENT SELF-DESTRUCTION. We decided (prematurely, I think) that the former Tilt element should apply to the Scott-Jenna-Ju Yeon-Yun Sik sex-and-bank-accounts subpot, and the latter to the Scott-Damien-Yun Sik-bag-of-hallucinogens-heist subplot.
And then things got really screwed up… but I’ll save that for next time…