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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full Tilt

If you're into RPGs outside of the norm, you may have been following a little game called Fiasco. Well, I still haven't read it, but I've been keeping up with the Chatty DM and his various explorations of the game. Like he notes, there's a lot of really interesting things that it does, mainly in building up the plot and then sending everything down in a crazy fashion. For this post, I'm going to talk about a little something called "The Tilt".

It's a Fiasco!
The basic gameplay of Fiasco begins with networking. You roll dice, and then use them to establish relationships between the characters. The entire point of this portion of the game is to build up a sticky mess of relationships, of affairs and rivalries and plots just waiting to explode. That's not quite enough to make for the plot, though. There's a crucial step which follows the relationships, and this is what we call "The Tilt".

The Tilt is the One Big Thing that suddenly goes terribly wrong with everyone's schemes. Maybe somebody accidentally dies, or there's an unanticipated intervention from the outside. Maybe the cops come down hard on a drug ring, throwing everyone's plans out of whack. From that, the rest of the game spirals downward, into chaos and mayhem and the like. Obviously, this isn't how all stories are told. But it got me thinking, because the idea of a Tilt mulled around in my head, ever since, waiting to make a connection.

Messes in Paris
I was watching an animated series called Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a retelling of Alexander Dumas' classic novel. For those unfamiliar with the premise, it's about the revenge of a guy named Edmond Dantes. Betrayed by his friends and cast into a massive political prison, he suddenly comes into great wealth after an unexpected escape. In the 20 years that have transpired, his betrayers have wormed their way into high Parisian society, and become involved in all of the entanglements which that entails.

And then Edmond returns, under the alias of The Count of Monte Cristo, and proceeds to exact a meticulous revenge. As I watched, I suddenly realized: this was all a great Fiasco setup, and the crucial Tilt was the Count himself. In fact, that's essentially what the entire series is about. The Count stirs up all of these buried affairs and the corruption hidden beneath the surface, eventually causing disaster for everyone's lives.

Using It in Your Game
The idea of a Tilt can easily spice up your game, even if this scenario doesn't quite match up. The basic formula is this: throughout the first part of the game, people and organizations are making careful plans as to what they're trying to do. The PCs probably have their own plans and goals, and may be moving things around to achieve that. Through the second part of the game, something big happens to shake everything up. Something that nobody expects. It's also something from the outside, not something from the inside.

The rest of the game is spent seeing how everyone reacts to this massive Tilt. It should continue to keep throwing everyone's plans out of whack in some significant way for a while, until the chaos itself drives everything to a climax. The result should be a dramatic and memorable campaign. It doesn't have to be in the style of Fiasco, even. It doesn't have to be a tragedy, or even a dark comedy. Reckless adventure, lighthearted comedy, even a fantasy epic can all benefit from a Tilt of some type.

So, what are you waiting for? Take that game, and throw everyone a screwball monkey wrench. It's a fail-proof plan! Right?

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