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Flippancy in FRP

The earliest version of this article made its appearance in THE POCKET ARMENIAN, a Diplomacy fanzine for which I was a contributing editor. I don't recall precisely, but I was probably 15 or 16 when I wrote it. Rewritten a bit, it appeared in DIFFERENT WORLDS #9. On the whole, I think it holds up rather well. FRP, by the way, means "fantasy roleplaying".

Yes, it's time to venture into the dungeon again. Corridors of stone. Fearsome beasts with fang and claw. Another day, another gold piece. Ho hum. It sounds like it's about time to liven up your gamemaster's expeditions a bit.

Now, some Americans (translation: people who live on the North American continent outside the pale of civilization, viz., the New York metropolitan area) have gotten the idea that New York FRPers are "chaotic." They feel that New Yorkers try to screw each other, botch up the GM's world, and in general make things miserable for the GM. Indeed we do. There's nothing so satisfying as a successful stab in the back, an elegantly vicious scam. The idea of FRP, after all, is to have fun, and playing another ho-hum valiant fighter for right and justice gets rather insipid after a while. Let's sow a little confusion for a change.

But being "chaotic" isn't the only alternative for a jaded FRP player. Another possibility is silliness -- or flippancy. Playing flippantly will undoubtedly annoy your compatriot players, who are "serious" and attempt to maximize their gain on each expedition -- and the TSR-groupie whose idea of a good expedition is a dungeon-crawl in which X monsters and killed and Y gold pieces gained will doubtless be furious. Well, let them rot in hell. Such people are scum, anyway.

Here are some suggestions for being flippant:

Buying Things

One good way to begin an FRP expedition on the right note is to purchase a few things which are obviously necessary but not on the GM's price list. Badger the GM until he gives you the GP cost for a nickle bag. If you're chaotic, a torture kit is an obvious necessity, as it will enable you to extract useful information from recalcitrant monsters. If the GM puts his foot down at this sort of stupid waste of money, you can confine yourself to items on the price list. A thousand large sacks will undoubtedly prove themselves highly useful, and, if nothing else, one can leave iron spikes behind to mark one's trail through the dungeon. I know one player whose sole weapon was horse barding, which he would heave at monsters in the hope of crushing them. Another carefully scrimped until he had enough cash to buy a large galley to take into the dungeon. The GM quickly discovered this, and told him he didn't have the encumbrance to carry the thing; so we made a bonfire of one large galley on the third level. I don't know what subsequent parties made of the remains.


Delineation into the TSR-norm alignments of Chaos, Law, Neutrality, Good, and Evil is the result of an obviously faulty and insidiously Midwestern worldview. Any intelligent person (this classification, self-evidently, excludes anyone who lives in a state between New York and California) can see that the world is considerably more complex. Thus, an intelligent GM may allow other alignments, especially if he doesn't realize your intentions. For the Monty Python fan, "Silly" is the obvious alignment. Hedonism is another good one; and a double-axis alignment system which makes a great deal more sense than TSR's is the Economic/Civil Rights one, which pits libertarians versus socialists and progressives versus reactionaries. What do such characters make of those who adhere to the traditional alignments? Obviously, anyone who follows Law is a Statist, and to be abhorred by any true libertarian.


Religion, naturally, is not the same thing as alignment at all. In the Catholic Church, for instance, St. Francis of Assissi and Torquemada could hardly be considered of the same TSR-style alignment. Even if the GM refuses you a strange alignment, you can be the devotee of a strange religion. Two popular religions in New York are the Mimeo Mythos Cult (who worship the Great God Gestetner) and the Holy Sativan Church. Another popular set of churches are the Orthodox Church of Our Lord Slayer of Heretics, and the Reformed Church of Our Lord Slayer of Heretics -- which churches, naturally, consider each other heresies.

Naming Your Characters

Naming a character is very important. Most players are insufficiently imaginative to come up with anything more interesting that Durin the Dwarf or Boromir the Strong. If you are going to be flippant, you need a flippant name. There is a whole literature of fantasy parodies from which one may choose a name, BORED OF THE RINGS being especially popular. Conax the Chimerical, Goodgulf Greytooth, Cheech Wizard, and Dildo Bugger have all been characters of mine at one time or another.

One need not content himself with names like these. Matt Diller has a habit of naming his characters with perfectly ordinary names like Roscoe, Chumley, Dudley, and Bruce. Somehow, one does not expect the mighty-thewed barbarian with the rune-sword and loincloth to call himself Dudley.

Inventing names that are amusing is not terribly difficult. Xerox the Illusionist, Tim the Enchanter, Dumdum the Strong, Keebler the Elf are all possibilities. (Dumdum is an interesting fellow -- he doesn't think too well, but boy can he open doors. "Dumdum! Door! Door! Open!")

There are many ways to come up with flippant names, and not all are listed here. One of my favorite characters is Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfernspledensclittcrasscrenbonfriediggerdingledangledonglebursteinvonknackerthrasherapplebangerhorowitzticolensicgranderknottspelltinklegrandlichgrumbelmeyerspelterwasserkurstlichhimmleeisenburgerbratwurstleggerspurtenmitzweimacheluberhundsfutgumberabeschonenedankerkalbsfleischmittleraucher von Hautkopf ap Rabinski of No-Fixed-Address.

Magical items need not have mundane names. Ralph the Singing and Dancing Sword, Eldritch Cleaver, and Durinblade Elfsbane are all swords I have known. A friend named his magical ax Friend, after Dirty Harry's name for his .44 magnum.


Mapping is boring. It slows down an expedition, since you'll have to get the GM to describe each sight in excruciating detail. The rest of the players will sit around yawning while the mapmaker strives to make his portrayal accurate to the last tenth of an inch. Maps are never any use anyway, since a clever GM will have set up his dungeon so that it can never be accurately mapped -- with portals, non-Euclidean geometry or the like. (My favorite trick is to plot a dungeon on polar graph paper and describe it as if it were on normal paper.) Anyway, you always get lost, so why bother? The best way to avoid mapping is to volunteer to do the mapping and then to draw random shapes on graph paper. The other players will be upset when they find out what you've been doing, but so what? They're schmucks for insisting on a map, anyway.

Silly Actions

If you begin to get bored of an expedition, you can always begin to do silly things. Occasionally this can get you killed -- but after all, it is only a game.

If you're looking for a few monsters to fight, marching down a corridor and shouting "Monsters, Monsters! Come out, come out, wherever you are!" will probably do the trick.

Politeness is a must in a dungeon. Always knock on doors before entering -- even if it alerts nasty critters on the other side, good manners are a necessity. Before engaging in combat, it is considered polite to introduce oneself and one's companions. Always be polite and gracious to defeated enemies. ("Kind sir orc, if you would be so kind as to lead us to your treasure, my companions and I would be glad to refrain from killing you.")

Monetary Systems

With a bit of economic knowledge, one can set up truly bizarre situations an in FRP world. At one time, the Slobbovian Empire had an incredible inflation rate -- the Slobbovian robotnik was equipped with a floating decimal point. In 836, you could have bought a ham sandwich -- maybe -- for 4.3 x 1017 robotniks. In the 840's, Slobbovia was on the gravel standard and gold was totally worthless. One of the prominent wizards of the land used his Philosopher's Stone to convert worthless gold into valuable lead. This was rather discouraging to parties who returned from expeditions laden with all the gold from a dragon's lair.

In the Empire of Bozart, I set up a hexametallic standard -- silver, gold, electrum, platinum, adamantine, and valiantine were all monetary currencies. Bargaining might work as follows:

"I'll give you 200 gold for that cart of grain."

"Let's see, the current market price on gold is 400 silver pieces per ounce, or 32 platinum. How about the same thing in platinum?"

"Hell no, with the gold rush and the adamant finds in Kreebor, platinum is dear money, and going out of circulation. I'll tell you what, 3000 in silver."

"No, look here. Silver is worth more than gold, yes, but you've devalued your offer by a third!"

"All right, forget it. I'll pay you in Thalassan credits."

"What's the current exchange rate on Thalassan credits?"

"To gold, silver, or platinum?"


To be successfully flippant, imagination is all one needs. It is not difficult to foster confusion. All Hail Discordia!

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