Flabbergasted: Review

The fine folks over at the Wanderer’s Tome sent us a copy of Flabbergasted, a hilarious roleplaying game inspired by things like Fawlty Towers and other fascial upper society folks. In Flabbergasted, you take on the role of one of four archetypes, join a social club (maybe a secret one?), and cultivate your reputation while going on adventures and getting into mischief.

A handy explanation video

The game is framed in the form of a television series, with episodes comprised of various game sessions, which combine to form a season, the players taking on the role of a cast, and a director serving as a GM. I’m a huge fan of this framework, as it uses familiar terms for new players and reduces the barrier to entry. Everyone knows what happens in a season of a show, but a campaign? You’ve got to play a few RPGs to put that together or be in the military or something. This makes it so I feel a lot more comfortable inviting my non-RPG friends to take a look at this game that I think they’d love (in Flabbergasted’s case, I’ve got a couple offhand).

Flabbergasted takes place in the 1920’s fictional town of Peccadillo, inspired by London, but also fake and beautifully detailed in the book. This is sort of the last great window for the rich upper crust to lay about and do nothing all day but join social clubs and have fun (I mean, they still do this, but at least we have rosy nostalgia glasses about this era). The Great War had just ended, jazz was booming, and change was coming, with radical new ideas like Women’s Suffrage were starting to crop up. We also get a nice aside explaining that the game should be welcoming, lighthearted, and comedic. It’s easy to make a game set in an era where classism is deeply engrained in society, and assume you’re supposed to burn down the system and become revolutionaries. While that might be fun, this maybe isn’t the game for it. Instead, play a progressive who sneers at cultural norms, and mock those who strictly abide by them, or a caricature whose outlandish behavior by holds them back. “Well I just couldn’t let a woman drive the getaway car, who cares if she’s ace.” “For Heaven’s sake Harold, get in the car or we will be caught” “But what if someone sees!”

A thing I noticed going through the art, while the location and era are historically very white and male, many of the character portraits are not. It’s a subtle thing, but I’ve seen plenty of people turned off of classes and options in other RPGs due to depictions of the characters (I know one person who won’t play a paladin because all paladins are women. Apparently that was an art trend in the 3e D&D books). So its nice to see a mix here.

Mechanically, characters get to select four powers based on their archetype. These are called Scene Cues and are usable a couple times per session. They give you things like Throw a Tantrum for the Aristocrat. You’re comfortable causing a scene to get your way. You’ll also get four traits, which you rank with ability points, including Bravado& Persuasion, Culture & Etiquette, Wit& Sharp, and Creativity & Passion. More points is better, and from here it’s a basic d6 dice pool. You roll a d6 per point and need some number of successes to win. A 5/6 is a success.

The unique part of Flabbergasted, is the Social Standing rules. Many things alter your standing, and some of the Scene Cues automatically do it. As you gain Scandal, you progress towards Scandal, and as you gain Dignity you go that way. This serves as a tracker for your character’s social standing in general and is a nice meter to track in game.

Social clubs are the other big area of the game. Your group has a social club, which is the core of their reason for getting together. Your club has a theme, name, location where you meet, a slogan, and a rival. While gaining renown for your own club is all well and good, it’s nothing if you aren’t making your rivals look bad in the process. And if you’re legitimately above all that, well your rivals aren’t. Your club begins with 10 members and gaining new members is a core component of gaining renown (and new funds), which sort of functions as the main reward mechanism in the game. In fantasy RPGs you become a duke and retire to your castle. In Flabbergasted you start as a duke who might own a castle, or at least your uncle does. What do you do now? Join a social club of course.

Chapter 6 Writing the Script might be one of the best “How to DM” chapters in an RPG book I’ve seen and should be very translatable across a variety of settings and game styles, even with your classic kick in the door dungeon crawl fantasy stuff. The reason I say this is because the advice is all about writing out a script, showing you how to prep for what you need as you go. We get story hooks (70 of them) if you know what you’re doing and want to pick a random one, a pre-written campaign (2 of them) if you want someone to do most of the leg work for you, and a sandbox setting if you’re open to that style. The season breakdown for the pre-written campaign is my personal favorite part. It’s broken out by episodes, and helps the director understand the pacing of a story. What beats need to happen when, how to build an arc, and that sort of thing. With examples. The Brabble Manor sandbox gives you everything you need to run a sandbox campaign, and between the three styles, you can piece together whatever you need to run a ton of campaigns starring your Clubs.

The book wraps up with a chapter on Other Odds & Sods, and it’s just things to help you know get into setting. This stuff is super handy, especially for someone who hasn’t watched a lot of the shows, or might feel a little awkward getting into character. First, we get 1920’s slang, like Hornswaggle (dupe or swindle), Cheese It (hide), Butter and Egg Man (rich person with money to burn) and its just delightful to pepper into your games. Then, we get some sections on fashion, which is unexpectedly really important in a game like this, and while the essays are nice, the accompanying pictures do a ton for folks like me (My wife described some new fascinator she was thinking about buying to me just last week. And then had to explain what a fascinator was. Where was this book then?) Then we wrap some food, and drink recipes, and a bunch of random tables for whatever you need. Always helpful in an RPG.

Flabbergasted is the Bee’s Knees and I can’t wait to spend a night jawing away with some pals, getting into hijinks around the table over some giggle juice.

One thought on “Flabbergasted: Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: