Fiasco: All The Damn Time

Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco is a hell of a game. I could write a few thousand words here about how and why it’s wonderful but you’ve already read other great recommendations of it online. The best, most persuasive argument for the game is simply to play it with clever, thoughtful players, so go do that if you haven’t.

Since playing it for the first time, earlier this summer, I’ve written or co-written a few playsets for the game. Some of them are scheduled to see the light of day in the future. One, though, is so crazy that I think it requires playtesting and advice to be gathered from the Fiasco community at large, to make sure the damn thing even works.

All The Damn Time

All The Damn Time

This is that playset: AtDT-Playtest-Edition

(It’s a PDF file.)

Here’s the gist of it: Sam Howard is a man unstuck in time. Some kind of quantum-level shenanigans have him traveling to and from key moments in his life. But if one Sam Howard managed to mess things up the first time, who’s to say that even more meddling Sam Howards can make things any better? Will Sam improve his life by futzing with his own history or will he turn a life of perfectly ordinary mistakes into a paradoxical catastrophe?

Who plays Sam Howard, by the way? You all do. You play Sams from different points in time. Good luck with that.

To be clear, this is a terrible starter playset for the game. If you have never played Fiasco, do not start here. Pick almost any of the great Playsets of the Month from the Bully Pulpit Games website, or play one of the sets that come packaged in the game book. If you’ve played the game a few times already, though, and you’re willing to tax your skills a bit, I’d love to hear how (or if) this playset works for you.

(Now for some advice, right up front. The Relationships are specifically designed to work across multiple Sams, young and old, but the first group is especially suited for the youngest two Sams and the sixth group is specially designed to “wrap around” from the oldest to the youngest Sams. You can tinker and meddle with the possibilities, of course, especially if you want a smaller story with Sams separated by shorter lengths of time. It should work either way. Just remember that the Relationships are open to interpretation.)

I’d like to especially thank Jason Morningstar and Logan Bonner for looking over this set once already. If it sucks, though, it’s my fault.

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comments ( 20 )

  • ReplyRob Donoghue 17 Aug 2010

    Dammit, you mean a third party swing at this stuff needs to look _good_? Like, really, REALLY good? Damn you Hindmarch. DAAAAAAAAMN YOUUUUUUUUUU!

  • ReplyChris Norwood 17 Aug 2010

    Wow. This looks pretty great! I’ll try to play it sometime soon, but I do have one suggestion right from the start.

    In addition to a “Movie Night” section, you might want to include a section of books about this theme, which would obviously include Slaughterhouse-Five and The Time Traveller’s Wife.

  • ReplyDaniel M. Perez 17 Aug 2010

    Haven’t played Fiasco yet, but that won’t be the case for too long soon. So downloading for future reference.

    Get it, future reference. Ha!

    I’ll go stand in the corner now…

  • ReplyJosh Rensch 18 Aug 2010

    Dan Bayne and the crew are going to give it a shot some time next week. I gave it a quick look over, looks interesting.

  • ReplyTom Gurganus (tomg) 18 Aug 2010

    This is fantastic! Chris (Norwood from above) brought it to game night last night and my mind is still twisting. Primer is an awesome movie that hurts my brain in a good way. I’m hoping this will do the same. Can’t wait to play it.

  • Replyreverance pavane 20 Aug 2010

    Thankyou! You’ve given me a wonderful idea with your wonderful playset for one of my own.

  • ReplyWill 23 Aug 2010

    Thanks for taking the time to look at it, y’all. I hope you’ll get a chance to play it and come back with some playtest notes afterward. I’m really eager to see if this works… or if it’s a damned fiasco.

  • ReplyJeremy Keller 9 Sep 2010

    So I played it last night with Josh, Dan, and Mark. I think we all really enjoyed it. You can’t help but have fun with all the twists and turns that naturally arrive of time travel, especially with this particular concept.

    What went well:
    I especially liked the how the names of Abby and Eric show up in the setup items without comment. Even though Abby wasn’t selected as any of our items in common, it was easy to work her into the narrative and spark some drama.

    I really like the concept of starting with the youngest Sam and telling the story in a linear fashion until the oldest Sam kicks off the time travel. It really helps to emphasize that the first go around the table is about set-up: placing the revolver on the mantle to be used later instead of going in guns blazing.

    Once the time traveling starts happening, everything gets more kick ass, exponentially, every scene. So cool.

    What could be better:
    I would like some firmer advice for how to play the first, linear round. Most of the relationships are about before or after an event. So going into it, playing the youngest Sam, I was thinking that I had to lead my scene towards that event. In hindsight, I don’t think that was best. It gave me a really tight window in which to play my next scenes. Better if I play with no clue as to what the event is and then Dan, who played the next oldest Sam, defines that event as something in his recent past. That way there’s a better understanding of what we’re driving for in future scenes and more of a window to drill down to that, even if it all gets messed up with time travel. Make sense?

    All in all, a great experience. Thanks for making this.

  • ReplyDaniel Bayn 9 Sep 2010

    About half way through our session, I grabbed my notebook and prepared to record all manner of valuable insights. It remains almost entirely blank.

    This is a great playset. I’m a big fan of Continuum, but the freedom to screw with causality was truly liberating. We ended up with a narrative that evoked the best qualities of Primer and Snatch.

    Some tilts (and maybe aftermath results) specific to time travel would’ve been appreciated. Things like “Witnesses his own Death,” “Changed the Outcome by Observing It,” or “Bam! Time Clones!!” would’ve helped complicate the narrative in a way that was more directly related to the premise. The standard ones worked fine, it just seems like a missed opportunity.

    I love time travel, when it’d done right, and I loved this game. Take that for what it’s worth.

  • ReplyJosh Rensch 9 Sep 2010

    I played with people Jeremy mentioned. I agree with a lot of what he said and here is what I thought differently.

    – I thought the tilt should have a different set than the base game. Some would have been difficult to deal with.

    – As with Jeremy, the first round is the toughest to figure out. Dan was on my left and was the younger version of me. Our relationship was before/after Quantum incident. The problem was we made the rule that the first round there would be no time travel. This made figuring out the scene after the incident difficult.

    – The toughest play-set to grok I have read. Granted it said that at the beginning, but it bears mentioning. I was playing with experienced story gamers so that helps when I had trouble with things.

    Overall, we all had a blast. The aftermath was very Primer like.

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  • ReplyWill 1 Jun 2011

    A fuller version of “All The Damn Time,” including a revised Tilt table and playtest notes, is slated to appear in Magic Missile this summer. This is your last chance to offer notes before I lock the manuscript and send it off.

  • ReplyNeal Haggard 7 Dec 2011

    This looks very interesting. Was it every published? I’m searching for ‘Magic Missile’ and ‘journal’ and ‘All the Damn Time’ and coming up empty. Any chance the revised rules could be published somewhere else?

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  • ReplyTrent Hamm 27 May 2014

    Is the PDF link dead? Did the file move?

    • ReplyWill 28 May 2014

      I’m still sorting out some issues from the recent site migration and updates. “All The Damn Time” should be available again soon. Thanks for writing!

    • ReplyWill 31 May 2014

      The file should be available again now, though note the new URL.