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Interview with Jason Morningstar, Designer of Fiasco and Co-Owner of Bully Pulpit Games

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31 Jan 2019 00:00 #291199 by AndrewMcAlpine
Andrew McAlpine: Jason, thank you for taking the time to...

In this Q & A, I talk to celebrated game designer Jason Morningstar about his design philosophy, his company's embrace of the Drip platform, and the intersection of play, history, and politics.

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31 Jan 2019 05:23 #291200 by Nashorn80
I find that as I've grown older I don't enjoy vanilla D&D as much, partly because violence has very little consequence- at least for the players.
A lot of players are playing for escapism rather than enagagement and emotional conflict, and the grounded reality of violence is less appealing than action movie violence.
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31 Jan 2019 07:31 - 31 Jan 2019 09:37 #291203 by GorillaGrody
Good interview!

I’ve never said no to a Morningstar\BP jam, though over time I’ve started to develop some issues that this interview clarifies for me.

At the end of Fiasco or Carolina Death Crawl, I’ve often felt as if I’ve performed a set of activities rather than played a game. I keep waiting for that magic moment where every one looks at each other and says “wow, that was great” and instead it’s always more like “hey, we just performed some promising activities.” Performing activities deriving from acting exercises is not equivalent to having staged a play. In theater, warm-up exercises are there to help you flexibly serve a solid theatrical result, usually a script. Even in looser, avant-garde forms, there is a finished result, and an audience who receives that result and sends feedback back to the players. Bully Pulpit games can, like improv exercises done for their own sake, feel meandering and pointless.

In this respect, his explicit distaste for fantasy makes sense to me as a way of explaining his design philosophy. He has a firm attitude about “being didactic” but doesn’t mention ideology. Fantasy, in fiction and in games, always has rules, and uses those rules to generate dramatic reversals and revolutionary change. In realism as an aesthetic form, however, one just has a series of misfortunes and is told to figure it out for oneself.

It’s like getting work outsourced to you from an indifferent boss, or being told that Kamala Harris is the best choice for president because hers is the best narrative we could derive out of careful polling (which after all is the apotheosis of realism). Holy shit, yeah...that’s what his games feel like. They feel like I just got through a round of exit polling about what kind of game I’d like to have been playing in the first place.

Give me fantasy, please! And the roll of a die to use as incontrovertible leverage when attempting to prove our shared fantasy true! I instinctively distrust anyone who distrusts fantasy (unless what they mean is that they’re tired of Tolkienesque tropes, which, yeah, but it’s not the same thing).

OTOH, what he has to say about violence as a medium of exchange in games is something I’m going to carry with me into my next RPG. It’s a great thing to point out.

In all, he seems like a smart and feisty guy. I like him.
Last edit: 31 Jan 2019 09:37 by GorillaGrody.
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31 Jan 2019 08:45 #291213 by Shellhead
I first heard about Fiasco nearly a decade ago, and I wouldn't mind trying it. It sounds like an experimental approach to role-playing that really emphasizes the role-playing. But every attempt at describing the gameplay always makes Fiasco sound very meta. And the people that I roleplay with tend to be old-school roleplayers. Their go-to games will always be D&D and Call of Cthulhu, and anything else is a hard sell. Our games tend to be more focused on tactical roll-playing than actual role-playing. But I have also done a fair amount of diceless role-playing, which seems closer to the intent of games like Fiasco. There is a strong element of yes-and-[insert complication] resolution that often leads to better stories than dice-rolling.

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31 Jan 2019 08:53 #291217 by Erik Twice
Fiasco is one hundred perfect dice-less roleplaying with no rules telling you what you can or cannot do. So it is completely opposed to "rollplaying" in an old school manner.

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31 Jan 2019 09:49 #291224 by Gary Sax
This is an amazing interview. That also tells me I'm not super interested in chasing down his games (that's a compliment!).
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31 Jan 2019 14:21 #291247 by GorillaGrody

Erik Twice wrote: Fiasco is one hundred perfect dice-less roleplaying with no rules telling you what you can or cannot do. So it is completely opposed to "rollplaying" in an old school manner.


In fairness, Fiasco requires a whole bucket of dice, and whole set of modules to be printed out. For a rule set that’s meant to translate beyond “gamerness,” it really requires a lot of minute preparation. Probably a boxed set is a good idea.

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03 Feb 2019 10:49 #291394 by AndrewMcAlpine

GorillaGrody wrote: In fairness, Fiasco requires a whole bucket of dice, and whole set of modules to be printed out. For a rule set that’s meant to translate beyond “gamerness,” it really requires a lot of minute preparation. Probably a boxed set is a good idea.


Yeah, we didn't go into it in the interview, but from what I gather Fiasco in a Box will be a truly pick-up and play game--no dice, no handwritten setup, just shuffle and go, which I think is a good move to help this game reach a larger audience. That said, I think the Fiasco setup is one of the most fun parts of the game, so it may a lose a little of that magic.
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