Jason Shiga’s Bookhunter is awesome. It’s a 1970s action movie-style comic with a library detective investigating how a rare book got stolen. In the prologue our heroic detective blasts one of his own men with a shotgun (in the vest) so he can slide across the floor behind the guy who’s stealing books from the library in an effort to keep objectionable material out of circulation.
The main story is a police procedural whodunnit with some good reveals and nice action bits at the climax. I absolutely loved the forensic book-construction details bandied about. Jason Shiga obviously has done his research, and it made the whole thing feel like it was written for us librarians who wish we had all that rare-book knowledge.
Hicksville is a comic by Dylan Horrocks about comics and their creators in all their weird diversity. It’s amazeballs.
There are a lot of stories going on here, but they all circle around the fact that Leonard Batts has showed up in Hicksville, New Zealand to do research on Dick Burger, an international superhero comics magnate from the town. Nobody in the town wants to talk about Dick. And there’s Sam, a local comics creator (though everyone in Hicksville is a comics aficionado) who’s been fired from his last job for not being funny enough. There are more people too, including characters in everyone’s comics.
Huge chunks of story are told in minicomics by the characters involved (including Sam’s trip to LA where he’s given the opportunity to sell out), and there are scenes from the Captain Tomorrow comics, and there’s this crazy historical comic about New Zealand being pulled into the Southern hemisphere that dogs Leonard wherever he goes. In the end Leonard stumbles on THE GREATEST LIBRARY IN THE WORLD (emphasis mine).
The whole thing deals with comics as an art form, as a way of making a living, as movie-fodder, as fiercely debated local gossip. If you care at all about comics you should really really read this. I can’t believe it took me this long to do it.
I played my first Fiasco game on Saturday with Jonathan (who’s a boardgamer and RPG dabbler) and Jamie (who had never played a tabletop RPG before). I’d just bought it at Emerald City Comicon, so it all seemed very serendipitous.
Fiasco is a GM-less storytelling game and it’s often pitched as “a game for creating a Coen brothers movie.” Unlike a more traditional RPG, the dice are more of a pacing mechanism than strict determinants of success and failure. Characters are generated through the relationships they have with each other before you really get into the specifics of what makes them tick. The other keys to the game are Needs, Objects and Locations. Each of those, along with the Relationships, are supposed to be things that will get the characters into a huge mess of trouble.
The game rotates through scenes focusing on each of the player characters. Halfway through a Tilt element is added, and then in the end you show what happened. Setting things up is done through a mix of choice and randomness based on the charts in each Playset (which are a basic setting).
Our game was set in the old west. We had a sick lazy Sheriff, his “doctor,” and his deputy. The doctor and deputy were trying to steal Widow Tompkins’ inheritance and get away with murder. The sheriff just wanted some pie (and everyone else at his beck and call). In the end, the doctor got away scot-free, the sheriff was an invalid being tended to by a disgraced deputy.
The game is definitely fun. There’s a lot of choice and everything feels pretty meaningful (as far as sitting around telling stories about made-up people can be). I think the next time we play, I’d want to push our scenes to have slightly higher stakes and stronger conflicts. We could have ramped it up to be a bit more madcap by the end. A gun was drawn in anger, a widow was defrauded, but it never got out of control.
Part of that was just because this was our first game and we were learning the ropes. We sometimes stumped ourselves deciding what the next good scene might be, and we could sometimes go a bit overboard in the establishment, leaving little for the scene itself to do. I can see how with a bit of practice and sense of short clear questions that the scene will resolve this game will produce some awesome experiences. I can’t wait to play again.