Here’s what I learned from the most recent external playtest: Where the rules are unclear, people fall back on what they are comfortable with. Unfortunately, “standard” gaming techniques break Fiasco pretty bad. It’s not some ground-breaking new design, but there are things you do that are at odds with conventional tabletop wisdom. So the rules have to be crystal clear about procedures, and call out what to do when, and flag points where what you do is a little off kilter. So how to do that?

I’ve been steadily revising a cheat sheet, a “what to do when” document, so I atomized that into a very detailed outline. Like this detailed: Keep any die that resolves a spotlight scene for your character in front of you throughout the game.

It’s four pages long and was a pain in the ass to put together. Then I cut and paste my current text into the outline by paragraph, wherever it referenced the outline. And here’s what I learned – there are big chunks of assumption, places where I don’t talk about what to do, when. There’s redundancy. There’s stuff that is presented subtly out of order. It was a really instructive and eye-opening exercise. It’s going to make the game text much, much clearer. I recommend it!

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3 thoughts on “Outlining

  • December 16, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Oh, yes. Any structured way of approaching a procedure or process will do the same – whether it’s a table, a diagram or an outline. It’s a technical writer’s trick that I learned when that was how I made my living. Lay it out clearly in a logical structure, and you’ll see all the gaps and assumptions staring at you (and there will always be some).

  • December 17, 2008 at 8:25 am


    Chris Lehrich had a great post about this over at the Forge some years back – here it is. Maybe it’s useful to you; I read it with awe etc.

  • December 17, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Thanks Matthijs, that’s useful. And Chris is rich – it is extremely annoying as a process.

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