Nov 132013

playset_cover_los_angeles_1936 On Thursday, November 14th, a Fiasco went down at Games People Play.  We told tales of greed, ambition, and murder most foul!

About the Game

Fiasco is billed as a game where you play characters with “big ambitions and poor impulse control”.  It’s played in two phases: in the first, players collectively choose the relationships and story elements that are going to fuel the subsequent Fiasco; in the second, players invent characters and narrate their inevitable downwards spiral.

The elements in the game are drawn from Playsets, which provide a setting and a cornucopia of heady elements to populate your game with.  They define who your characters are, what they’ll be doing, the things they’re fighting over, where they’re doing it all, etc.

Once the setup is over, the game becomes very narrativist, with only a few rules to restrict how the story goes.

What Went Down

Our game happened at Games People Play downtown, which mostly hosts Magic: The Gathering events but also welcomes other ludographic pursuits (they have Open Gaming on Thursdays, check them out!).  Josh and Nat both brought playsets, with settings ranging from D&D Satire to 1970s Communist Germany.  In the end, we settled on Los Angeles 1936, and a cast of desperate ne’er do wells sprang off the pages.

Newcomer Alissa appeared on the scene for the first time (and did great job playing Vincent Ross, a barman caught between a rock and drug cartel).  Josh played Lonnie Viola, a criminal lawyer with ambitions of movie stardom, Nat played the Reverend John Hooker, the affluent shepherd to a flock “devout” Hollywood society players, and Sam adopted Richard Smalls, a film producer fallen on hard times.

Lonnie’s trying to help Vincent get rid of a vial of pure heroin (a weapon in an attempted murder).  Richard is blackmailing the Reverend, who’s sleeping with the producer’s estranged wife.  And that’s before we started narrating anything.

Fiasco’s a long-time favourite on the scene, and we knew we’d have a good time.  It’s not got a lot of “crunch” in the rules, which can be a turn off, and it’s emphatically not a story about competent people.  As long as you know what you’re getting into, it’s almost always a good time.  If it sounds like something you’d like to try, watch for our next game and come join us!

Poor suckers...

Poor suckers…


 Posted by at 4:05 pm
Nov 112013


From the Scene’s point of view Hal-con was a success. Although sadly a session of Dogs in the Vineyard was cancelled due to health reasons, all would-be dogs were awarded higs cards containing implicit invitations to visit this site and learn more about the Indie Gaming Scene.  If you’ve come to this site and are reading this paragraph after receiving such a card know that you are a welcome and respected member of the Halifax Indie Scene.

Nat was running a Fate Accelerated one-off adventure (similar to the one we play tested at Games People Play a few weeks ago).  It was a hit again. Most players were new to FATE and it was fun to watch the rules affect the way we all played. It drove us to create colour in order to gain mechanical advantage.  The use of fortune always resulted in creating new fictional content which itself triggered future bonuses.  Several cycles of this taught us all to ‘invest’ in fictional ephemera colour in order to draw on advantages later.  Though I see FATE as an clearly gamist oriented system – it does make us tell stories tactically.

If you see yourself in the photo above please comment below.



 Posted by at 2:55 am
Oct 272013

The Scene played Ben Robbins’ Microscope during ‘Spooktakular’ at  Boardroom on Barrington on October 31.

While most roleplaying games have you adopting the roles of a individual characters, Microscope zooms way out.  The action doesn’t track the rise and fall of heroes’ hitpoints, but of entire civilizations.  Play begins with a Big Picture, a sentence describing what the game’s going to be about.  Something like An ancient civilization rises and falls or A sick Earth is left behind and a new home found among the stars.  Ours was Humanity comes to terms with other species gaining sentience.  Within that idea, you create nested Eras, Events, and Scenes that illustrate and explore whatever themes you find most compelling.  Players have immense authority (you can establish an entire civilization by writing it down on an index card-and nobody can stop you) but are also very vulnerable (the cackling maniac sitting next to you can nuke that civilization on his next turn-again, nobody can stop him).  There are a surprising number of rules, and it’s not really like any other games we’ve played, so it does take some getting used to.  Once you get into the swing of it, though, there’s a very interesting dynamic of throwing your ideas onto the table and having them come alive or fight back as other players pick them up.  Definitely engaging: HIGS recommends, if only for the novelty.




We had an excellent time playing!  Our premise got a bit nuts right out of the gate, with sentient squid displacing humans as the top dog on Earth.  Nevertheless, everyone at the table was involved, and nobody was really finished by the time we called it quits.

You can find out more about Microscope (and the just-recently-released-sequel, Kingdoms) over at

Screenshot from 2013-10-30 21:17:46


 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Oct 232013

Gillan-FinalGirl-thumbOn October 24, in anticipation of Halloween, Sam, Josh, Kieva, and Jake met at The Boardroom Board Game Cafe for the latest incarnation of “the scene”.   The first tihng that struck me is WOW what a great venue.  Clean, bright, spacious, comfortable, friendly staff, licensed—the Boardroom is all I could have hoped for and more.  While I like to keep the scene ‘on the move’  I am pretty sure we will return early and return often.

As for the game it was also a delight.  The Final Girl by Bret Gillan is quick to pick up and play.  Easier I felt than Fiasco. But it invites comparison to Fiasco in many ways.  Both seek to emulate a certain schlocky style and genre of cinematic narrative.  Both have a hardwired plot arc that ensures a story will have a traditional beginning middle and and end.  However The Final Girl simplifies and refines the process.  The plot arc is there are some people, in a place, and a thing or person trying to kill them.  The story will be about how all the people, except one, get killed. The mechanisms that determine whether or more importantly when people get killed is luck tempered with “relationships”.


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[Fiasco] Science comics and the lightning girls sex tape

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Oct 202013

scienceDr. Peculiar? Captain Ironic… this was my first ever session of Fiasco, hosted by Nat.  An awesome game so why can’t I remember anything!  I’ll update this play report if I can find some details recorded somewhere else.


Thanks to John Gallant for the following photos taken at Quantum Frontier:



Thanks 600_218415582


[S/Lay w/Me] Last Bastion against Ignorance

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Oct 192013


First time to play S/Lay w/Me Sam was “You”, and created Baldric,

Sam chose the scholar at the citadel. His scholar was ancient, bearded, and hobbling but fluid, fearsome and immaculately dressed. The Citadel housed a library and museum,
the sole repository of human knowledge in a dying world wracked by desolation and ignorance. It was built on an island at the centre of a great crater-like moat or abyss
or something; it was accessible only by a single narrow footpath, with fatal precipices on either side.

Throughout the session we took liberty with each other’s authority very frequently and fluidly – probably I did this more than Sam. For example he stated his goal was to
protect the knowledge inside the citadel, later this was clarified to “ensure it would never be lost”. Yet I interfered a little and told him that despite it appearing as
if his goal was to preserve the knowledge in the library, it was just as likely that he strove to keep people out of the citadel because of his fixation on Sophia, a
beautiful an ageless woman who seemed to have always resided there, known only to him. He had no problem with me casting aspersions on the sincerity of his stated goal.

In the first Go, the scholar stood guard on the path and watched as yet another group of pilgrims, they came from time to time, gathered at the base of the path. He’d
dealt with such before. He considered it part of his duty to prevent the ignorant or unworthy from entering the citadel, lest they corrupt or carry off the knowledge
necessary for the eventual rejuvenation of civilization. In his 72 years at his self-assigned post he had yet to judge a single supplicant worthy.

Oct 182013

fae-pageheader21Last night Nat introduced us to Fate Accelerated (‘FAE’) at Games People Play.  The Scene is still moving, much at random between peoples homes and other venues.

Nat took the opportunity to play test an adventure he’s planning to run at HalCon next month. Set in a post-apocalyptic society struggling to rebuild on the ruins of an older civilization, there was a sense of hope, growth, and optimism underlying that toil and struggle.  Of course that hope was being threatened by a mysterious crisis at the opening our adventure.  Nat handed out the clean and simple FAE character sheets and we got to work choosing aspects, high concepts, approaches and of course names.  We ended up with: Jane – a reclusive,  misanthropic, hunter-tracker-animalwhisper; Ratso E. Smithsonian – a slippery huckster with delusions of brilliance; and Beam Hopscotch – a methodical hydro-engineer with a dream of delivering clean water to all the denizens our little scrap of civilization.

The adventure began on a riverboat and lead quickly into exciting combats, urban reconnaissance and a commando infiltration of a jury-rigged nuclear reactor.

Things that really worked

  • The group was instantly prepared to buy-in to the problem/mission presented to us.  Character creation was largely independent and we didn’t develop and back story or lay down any relationships. Despite have extremely diverse characters there was an unspoken term in our social contract that we would at least have our characters engage the problem the GM presented to us and accept as a starting premise that they were all on this riverboat with a united purpose. Although this was unspoken with our group it might be important to put that out front if starting this game with a new group.
  • GM’s clear vision of the setting and theme.  Nat’s comfort and familiarity with the post-apocalypse / near future setting really showed as he was able to deliver colour and invent elements as needed.
  • Nat’s explanation of aspects and encouragement to make them vivid and specific yet versatile really helped too.  He sent each of us back to the drawing board when our aspects were to bland or generic.
  • Using ‘zones’ for positioning also worked surprisingly well, at first I was reluctant to use any kind of a battle map.  Nat used a white board as terrain/map and bottle caps as miniatures.  I expected that such a technique would give us the worst of both worlds, the tedium of a grid layout but without enough exactitude to prevent infinite quibbling about range, line of sight etc etc…  In practice it turned out fine.  The board gave us just enough positioning information to inform and inspire our tactical imagination but narrative positioning reigned supreme.  For example saying “I am staying hidden behind various obstacles and keeping out of sight” worked fine.  Once established, with a roll if necessary there was no drawing of lines with rulers through props and furniture etc..
  • FATE may well be the ‘perfect’ universal system by my own subjective and unarticulated standards.  However that might prevent me from playing it a lot more.  Part of my pleasure in indie game exploration is the race to the bleeding edge. I need to see painful and egregious flaws and errors, possibly just concealing a glint (or mirage) of genius to feel like I’m on that edge. … (Ha ha just joking Fred, I’m going to be playing a lot more FATE/FAE in the future)
 Posted by at 2:18 pm

[Explorers] We were expendable…

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Oct 032013


On October 3rd 2013 the Scene met at Sam Fraser’s house. We play-tested a new game, still  in development, by Tom Vogt called Explorers.

What can be more ‘indie’ than a not-yet-published game by  an independent game designer? I found the rulebook accessible and the game easy to prepare for; it met the ‘lazy GM’ test.  The new players were very quick to catch on and play got under way smoothly.  We had a very good time and everyone is looking forward to a next session.

Anyway this post is more or less a place holder for a more detailed play report depending on Tom’s interest in publicity. Check back later.

Tom if you’re reading this the image above links to your website.

Jul 022013

Josh briefly dabbled in the OSR movement by inviting impromptu players at the Quantum Frontier game night to play “proto d&d”.  Basically proto d&d is playing the game as though you were making it up for the first time based only on rumours about chainmail, Gygax, Arneson etc.  I started with a few fundamental ideas about how d&d is played with the intention of creating all new rules, as needed, through actual play.

I can’t really comment on whether that experiment worked because its not really even what we did.  Instead, I made up a d&d home-brew variant. Picked a pre-published TSR module Treasure Hunt and drafted 3 willing volunteers to play it with me. It worked fine as a one-off but didn’t lead to anything immediately new.

This project was inspired by stories about Eero Tuovinen’s OSR Sandbox


Thanks to John Gallant for the following photos taken at Quantum Frontier:

proto-players proto-dice

 Posted by at 6:12 pm