Two weeks ago, I posted about a game called Fiasco and its potential use as an outlining tool. Since that post, I’ve been working on a custom Fiasco playset, step one along the process. While there is no shortage of playsets offered by Bully Pulpit Games, with new ones posting every month, I decided to start with the creation of my own for two reasons. First, I really wanted to set the story on Mars, largely because I’ve been reading a lot of Ace Doubles lately. Second, I thought it would serve as a fantastic world building tool.

In terms of the latter, I was very happy with the process. I chose to create the four sets of lists required of a Fiasco Playset in an order intended to start with the most unique to the story and drill down to the most universal ones. That order: Locations, Objects, Needs, and Relationships.

Locations was a fantastic process. The table required 36 elements broken into six wider categories, so it meant not just thinking about the broad areas of Mars where a story may happen but specific elements within each broad area. It meant questions about both what mundane locations would still exist on my Mars, as well as what locations could spur intriguing stories. Objects, likewise, ended up being a mix of what we might consider the mundane as well as bizarre.

While I’ve created both Needs and Relationships tables, those are the ones I’m most likely to revisit. Perhaps that says something about my writing style, or perhaps it says something about underestimating those particular tables. While it’s true that people tend to have similar needs and relationships wherever they go, I have concerns that either or both tables are underwhelming. The next step in the process will probably involve refining both how I plan to use these tables to outline, and the actual elements in the tables. Relationships, especially, is important as it’s the most used tables. A standard four person game tends to have four relationships, two needs, one object, and one location. So, yes, I’m happiest with the least used tables.

At this point, even if I don’t end up using the playset to create the basis of a story, the world building that emerged from the Locations and Objects tables has been very helpful, and let me build a planet I’m excited about telling a story, or stories, in.

So I’ll share. Keep reading after the break, and I’ll provide a short background on my Mars and the Location and Object tables. Expect another post in one or two weeks that talks about the actual outlining process, and provides more finalized Needs and Relationships tables.

Welcome to Mars. Mankind has almost entirely left earth, leaving just one million on the planet after the great catastrophe. Mars, incompletely terraformed, has a population of around 25 million. Most of the rest of mankind has left the solar system entirely. On the red planet, people try to get by, and live lives. The largest city is Phoenix, the capital of Mars, located in the heart of the habitable area. Near the edge is the second largest city, Redfields. Between them lie the farmlands and ranches of Mars.


1. Downtown Phoenix

  1. Eighth floor of the Lancaster Building
  2. Bank of Mars
  3. North Park
  4. Club Ares
  5. The abandoned storefront at 315 Main
  6. The government building, 3am

2. Phoenix Suburbs

  1. The basement of 67 Harris Way
  2. Phobos Street
  3. The only gated community on Mars
  4. Armstrong High
  5. The grounds of the Hardford Mansion
  6. Meeting rooms of the Earth Preservation Society

3. Redfields

  1. The assay office.
  2. Terraforming Station Beta.
  3. Between lunch and dinner at Brenda’s
  4. Pik’s General Store and Dry Goods
  5. The abandoned attempt at a department store
  6. Headquarters of Mars for Martians Society

4. The Farmlands

  1. The Barn of Red’s Taproot Farm
  2. The Crossroads
  3. The corporate farm
  4. Fifty feet below the sorghum fields
  5. The market
  6. Vienna, population 750

5. The Ranches

  1. Doc Thorich’s vet office
  2. Sheep pen of the Lazy T Ranch
  3. Bar J Ranch, abandoned three years ago
  4. The Circle P, recently bought for thrice its value
  5. “The Anthill”
  6. The slaughterhouse

6. The Outskirts

  1. The only island on White Lake.
  2. Right at the edge.
  3. Cydonia, near the face.
  4. The crash site.
  5. The mysterious crater.
  6. Beyond the habitable zone.


1. High Tech

  1. The spaceship Halcyon
  2. A portable nuclear reactor
  3. An experimental ray gun
  4. A mobile drilling rig
  5. Plans for a space elevator
  6. The promise of cold fusion

2. Mid Tech

  1. A shipping truck and its cargo
  2. A computer and its files
  3. A video camera and its memory
  4. A phone and its contacts
  5. A keystroke logger and its logs
  6. An ebook reader and its collection

3. Low Tech

  1. A key to an unknown lock
  2. A jar of black paint
  3. A diary that could take down the government
  4. A still of “Mars Shine”
  5. A drug lab cooking Red Meth
  6. A starmap with a system marked

4. From Earth

  1. A Bible with notes in the margins
  2. A famous painting “saved” from Earth
  3. A flintlock pistol with two shots
  4. A small bag of diamonds
  5. A letter from home
  6. Remains of the last colonization ship

5. From Mars

  1. A crate of corn, or at least labeled “corn”
  2. A new designer drug called “War God”
  3. A rock sample from a government lab
  4. A bone recovered digging a foundation
  5. A seed, naturally freeze dried
  6. A carved figure, older than human habitation

6. From Elsewhere

  1. A fresh meteorite
  2. Europan Ice
  3. Mercury Lava
  4. Something found in the atmosphere of Venus
  5. A piece of non-human tech
  6. A capsule, back from beyond the system

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.