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Skip the GM

Its not all together unheard of, but I’m one of those rare RPG players who prefers GMing to being a player character. I love world building, I love sculpting back story, and I love coming up with narrative on the fly. While I don’t mind playing a PC, being a GM is really what draws me to the game. It feels good to put my creativity into overdrive.

That said, sometimes I don’t have the energy or I want a different experience. There are a variety of games out there that allow you to skip having a GM all together. From games where everyone gets to play a character to games where you get to solo play, there is a great variety out there to delve into. Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about some of my favorites. First off, let’s start with a Fiasco.



Fiasco is one of my favorite RPG experiences to this day. Set up to emulate a Cohen Brothers movie, Fiasco focuses on small time people with big time ambitions that go terribly awry. It’s a one shot, meaning you get a full story in one session, character creation included. All you need to play is some pencils and paper as well as two different colored six sided dice, normally black and white.

You start the game by picking a playset, which is like your setting. The book contains a few, but there are many more online for free. They range from suburban tragedies to touring rock bands to slasher camp flicks. You can play Fiasco for a long time without repeating the same playset. Each one has so many options in it, however, that you’ll want to play some of them a few times to see all the different places you’ll end up.

After choosing the playset, its time to build characters! You do this by rolling a bunch of six sided dice into a central pile.  Your going to use these to pick out your relationships with other characters, objects, locations, and needs. These will be the base of your story.


This is a little example from one of the playsets. So, let’s say its my turn and I grab a dice showing the number five. I place that between two characters. That means they are connected by crime. Later on, someone will perhaps put the number two between them. If we look at crime and then look at what number two is under that heading, it says “Killers.”

Great, we know those two characters are connected because they are killers.

By the end of the set up, everyone will have a relationship with the character on their left and right. They will also be objects, needs, and locations all determined in the same manner. This is when the players finish character creation by… chatting.

Yup. No stats, not endless options… everyone just discusses the results of their dice until it makes sense. Were killers, right? Maybe we’re part of the mob or maybe we’re cops. The other relationships might give this context, maybe not. If it sounds fun, you get to go with it. Give yourself a name and you are good to go.

When its your turn, you get to either set a scene or resolve it. To set a scene, you think of something your character wants to do. It has to have a positive and negative outcome. “I want to convince you to take on a new contract with me, even though you’re out of the killing game. Success means you do and failure means you have pangs of regret and actually try and protect the target.”

Then, you just role play it out. It is a lot of improvisation. The other players watch and decide how it goes for you. If they want you to succeed, they give you a white dice. If they want you to fail, it is black. You get to roll with it and move on. A lot of times, its more fun if you fail. The characters you play in Fiasco aren’t necessarily sympathetic.

If the game goes well, it will slowly go off the rails until something is on fire, multiple people are dead, and everything everyone holds dear has gone away.

In other words, it ends in a Fiasco.

Interested? Click here to grab the pdf.

Digging in the Sand

Bones. So many bones. How many people have been buried here?

You find a rusty long sword and a small, golden vulture head worth 250 gp.

Red Sand

The sand here on the edge of the sacrificial ground is loose and looks recently churned.

Vulture Priest

The Vulture Priests are the enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. They seek to bring the eternal silence, the end of all things. Decay and obedience is their only god.

Armor Class 6 [13]
Hit Dice 1 (4hp)
Attacks 1 × Beak (1d4 or by weapon)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
Morale 8 (11 when at their temple)
Alignment Lawful
XP 10 
Number Appearing 2d4 (1d6 × 10)
Treasure Type D
Immune to the Divine: The spells and powers of clerics and paladins have no effect on them.
Weapons: They frequently use wickedly curved daggers, which they use for sacrificial purposes.
Soul Clouders: There is a 10% chance that any Vulture Priest can use the sleep spell once per day. The targets are still awake, but they are beset by such a deep depression that it has the same effect as sleep. They may only watch what unfurls around them.