Having discovered Fiasco – an amazing narrativist pen-and-paper RPG – a while back via Tabletop, I have played more than a few games in the meantime and had some thoughts on how to improve the RP experience, particularly with inexperienced players at the table.
The first thing to do is to introduce a new house rule: If the player does not establish a conflict (whether it's with another PC, the environment, or even themselves) two minutes into their character's scene, they get a black die, no discussion. There are few things in this game more boring than scenes where characters walk from point A to point B and get a white die for it because nobody on the table can think of a feasible way of how walking in a straight line can go wrong. No, if that kind of scene is established, the player gets a black die, and it's their job to contrive a misfortune that befalls them as a result.
The next recommendations concern the Set Up phase:
- Do not focus exclusively on your character's relationships with your neighbors'. In practical terms, define no more than three things total (Categories and Details) about your character, spreading the rest of your dice among other players. The game is about the ensemble dynamics, and your character only becomes fully yours once you give them a name. Until then, let other players throw you the hardballs, and answer them in kind.
- When choosing Categories, pick the ones that bring the most relationship diversity to the table. For the very first one, a criminal relationship is always a good starting point.
- When choosing Details, always pick the one available option that gets your creative juices flowing. In other words, if there is one that makes you go "Wow, that is sooo messed up!", take it, even if you have no idea how it would work.
I may add more if I can think of them.