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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