'Flabbergasted!' Brings RPG Hijinks into the Roaring (19)20s!

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When most gamers think of the 1920s they think of Call of Cthulhu. While that iconic game has explored plenty of dark corners of the decade, the time was more known for good feelings and little restraint. The Roaring 20’s roared because the world was looking to forget the muddy meatgrinder of the Great War and much of the world was going through an economic upswing. The times wouldn’t last, but there’s nine whole years for some laughs and shenanigans. Flabbergasted!, from design house The Wanderer’s Tome, brings hijinx a-plenty to the gaming table. Designers Fleur and Chelsea Sciortino sent a review copy upon my request as I love to look at games where combat isn’t a central pillar of play. Did the good times roll? Let’s play to find out.

Flabbergasted! centers on players getting into comic misunderstandings and sitcom-style scrapes. There’s no saving the world, no hidden Cthulhu cultists, just a group of friends who get into trouble and get out of trouble week to week. The game cites Jeeves and Wooster and Fawlty Towers as inspirations. For those looking at a broader sense of influences, farces like Three’s Company or snobs-versus-slobs comedies like Caddyshack would fit here too. You could probably use this engine to run games set in the 70’s and 80’s though it would be a shame to not look at the fantastic art in the book from the original era. Ricardo Bessa, Andy Bennet, Dozerdraws and Fleur Sciortino breathe a lot of life into the fictional city of Peccadillo. The fictional city lets players not sweat “historical detail” during their adventures.

Players choose from one of four classes: the Aristocrat, the Well-to-Do, the Staff and the Bohemian. Each class gets access to abilities useful to their station they can use during the episode. For example, the Aristocrat might throw a temper tantrum that draws everyone’s attention to them while the Bohemian might be able to talk someone into an existential crisis. Using these scene cues may also affect your character’s social standing, which is split between dignity and scandal. Don’t worry about doing too much scandalous stuff; the game is set up that leaning towards one way or the other unlocks different opportunities and secret societies to join. Most of the group might be goodie two shoes who go to the Governor’s Ball every year, but there’s likely one black sheep that shows up at the Wicked Masquerade instead.

The players then put together their social club which is the reason the characters hang out and go on adventures. They may never get around to playing badminton with all the breakups and pranks going on, but it still gives the players a chance to focus on where their adventures start. I really liked that this included building the rival social club full of antagonists. Those rotters over at the tennis club always make snide remarks about how badminton is not a real sport, so there is opportunity to pull one over on them. The clubs also give players a chance to build something since characters remain fairly static. While I liked this element, I would have liked to have seen some other options besides social clubs discussed as a general setting. As soon as the book mentioned rivals, I thought of the episodes of Cheers featuring Gary’s Old Town Tavern and realized that this could be used as a fun hangout show RPG. Perhaps a supplement can explore bars, hotels or private investigation agencies as a central setting. The game flirts with cozy mysteries in a few places and I wanted to see more behind those ideas.

The system plays lightly with a d6 dice pool using 5s and 6s as successes. The attributes are more like approaches than hard ratings. Do you use Creativity & Passion to impress the Governor by launching into a song? Bravado & Persuasion by showing off those very expensive fencing lessons you took as a kid? One of the scene cues that every character can pick up is a nickname. Do something that involves the character’s nickname once per session, it will succeed. These are given out during play which reflects as an excellent way to callback to earlier adventures in the series.

The GM advice in Flabbergasted! structures the game like a TV show. I am a fan of this style of GMing and the designers go into character arcs and spotlights to show how episodes should alternate between external plots and plots directly connected to a main character. In addition it offers some pre-written campaign structures along with 70 plot hooks. That’s a lot of great support in the main book and much of this advice works in any RPG.

Flabbergasted! takes a unique spin on trying out a sitcom RPG. With the right group, you’ll be in stitches.
 
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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

jaerdaph

#UkraineStrong
So, Call of Cthulhu meets...Seinfeld?

It's a show campaign about nothing!

Player: So what does an episode adventure session look like in this?
GM: Well what did your PC do this morning?
Player: Got up, ate breakfast, and read the paper?
GM: That's an episode a scenario!
 





I was a kickstarter backer for this, not out of any realistic expectation that I'd ever actually get to play it, but more because it looked fun and funny. And it is.

The main inspiration is very definitely Wodehouse, you basically play a bunch of upper-class twits running about having shenanigans and silly low-stakes but very serious feuds with other upper-class twits with differing interests (the example used most often in the book is a society of tea enthusiasts and their continual attempt to thwart the plots of a rival club of coffee connoisseurs via car races, pranks, ludicrous disguises, and competing as to which society can succeed in getting Lord Flibbleton to attend their gala). There's no supernatural elements, and no combat at all.

The art is excellent and suits the material well, and the printed product is high quality (though oddly enough, the book stands a couple of cm higher than most other RPGs on my shelf, not sure what's going on there). But yeah, highly recommended if this genre interests you.
 

I was a kickstarter backer for this, not out of any realistic expectation that I'd ever actually get to play it, but more because it looked fun and funny. And it is.

The main inspiration is very definitely Wodehouse, you basically play a bunch of upper-class twits running about having shenanigans and silly low-stakes but very serious feuds with other upper-class twits with differing interests (the example used most often in the book is a society of tea enthusiasts and their continual attempt to thwart the plots of a rival club of coffee connoisseurs via car races, pranks, ludicrous disguises, and competing as to which society can succeed in getting Lord Flibbleton to attend their gala). There's no supernatural elements, and no combat at all.

The art is excellent and suits the material well, and the printed product is high quality (though oddly enough, the book stands a couple of cm higher than most other RPGs on my shelf, not sure what's going on there). But yeah, highly recommended if this genre interests you.
Exactly what I was hoping it would be. Definitely picking up, now.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Just watched the Doom that came to Gotham last night, so while it is more Cthulhu seeing another 1920s inspired setting is serendipitous. I was wondering about Edwardian stuff too, so that fits too.

Does Flabbergasted touch on prohibition, gangbusters, the rising prosperity in black communities and increasing independence of women?
 

So, Call of Cthulhu meets...Seinfeld?

It's a show campaign about nothing!

Player: So what does an episode adventure session look like in this?
GM: Well what did your PC do this morning?
Player: Got up, ate breakfast, and read the paper?
GM: That's an episode a scenario!

It's more low stakes than no stakes. Instead of busting up the Silver Twilight Lodge's ritual to stop a summoning, you're busting up their poker night because one of their members was mean to your sibling.

For those who don't want a straight up comedy, one of the campaign frames is a cozy mystery game where you play a mystery reading social club that meddles in solving cases.
 

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