An Homage to Floyd Fentkin

"I'm comin' down on you like a bucket o' tornados."

Floyd was the stupidest and most fun role-playing character I've had so far. I'd like to reminisce and share a little of the joy.

In order to optimize his build, I had made Floyd a wood elf. They're much like regular (high) elves, except that they also get a bonus to Strength and a penalty to Intelligence, and they live in the boonies. Huh, I thought to myself. They're hick elves. So I gave him a slow, southern drawl. I checked with the DM before we started the campaign, because it occurred to me that this might be offensive. The DM, our only southerner, loved it, so I was in the clear.

Floyd had a habit of using big words, like "negotiatize" and "ensharpenate". It made him feel erudite.

When the party first discussed how they were going to haul around all their stuff, Floyd offered to carry the donkey.

The party explored some ruins, found a tunnel, emerged fifty feet away, and looked back. Quoth Floyd, "Hey, that looks like the ruins we was just in! I bet it was made by the same people."

When our situation worsened: "We just got out of the frying pan and into the skillet."

As the party was discussing in hushed voices whether a suspect NPC was leading us into an ambush: "You'd tell us if this was a trap, right?"

Despite getting only one skill point at most levels, he took four ranks in Intimidize (minus his Charisma penalty), just to go with the threats he liked to make before combat. He rarely rolled to intimidate, because the rules were stupid, but he enjoyed having the skill. Here were some of his best taunts:

Floyd had a big heart. He cried when his orc friends (beaten and tied up after a strange illness had turned them irrationally violent and monstrously strong) dissolved into goo. He vowed to come back and free all the slaves on an island city after the "save the world" quest was done. He helpfully wrote "mugger" on the forehead of an unconscious ogre, with his dagger, to warn future potential victims.

Floyd was also curiously inquisitive. When a large onyx was used as a spell component, it cracked and became worthless. Floyd was fascinated by the fact that it was worthless, despite still being a large onyx. I mean, if you broke it along the crack, you'd have two small onyxes, and they'd be worth something, right? So he carried it around with him, because it was weird. His party wound up on a plane of force, where slowly moving walls of force provided the only "ground". When they rode a flying carpet over the top edge of a vertical wall of force, Floyed wanted to know how that edge would interact with objects, so he tapped it with his pickle spoon. He then had only the handle of a pickle spoon, and was sad about it. (Why did he have a pickle spoon? Because he had a big jar of pickles, of course. Also he had some threats involving eyeballs ready to use at the first opportunity to interrogate someone.)

The party's cleric, Wanda, thought that Floyd was adorable, and was not-so-secretly in love with him. (Well, it was a secret to him.) He converted to her worship of Xygag, the god of chance. This laid the groundwork for an unforgettable scene when, late in the campaign, the party met Xygag in person. Their god had just given the party an amulet that would allow them to randomly visit the various planes that held important pieces of our "save the world" quest, since we weren't high enough level to plane shift ourselves. The amulet's randomness was somewhat patterned, and the rest of the party started discussing how best to use it.

I said, "While the others are busy strategizing, Floyd challenges Xygag to a game of Caltrops."

Caltrops is a press-your-luck dice betting game that the DM had invented. (You can find it here.) It is played with caltrops that have numbers carved into each end (or a bunch of d4s, if you're a wuss about sharp chunks of wrought iron). You can try to roll bigger sets of bigger numbers, for a higher score than you got before (and risking losing your whole score), or you can keep your existing score.

The DM looked surprised and asked, "Does Floyd have a set?" I pointed to it on Floyd's character sheet. It had never come up since an off-hand comment at level 1, when I mentioned that Floyed used to play Caltrops with the orcs who visited his family's farm. He nodded. "Okay, what are the stakes?"

I looked over Floyd's inventory. "A worthless, large, cracked onyx." We decided to play only one round. The DM got ready to roll some d4s (because we're wusses). Floyd said, "Wait a minute. We ain't establishaited what I get if I win. Thought you could outsmart me, eh?"

Xygag replied, "No, if you win, I have to take the onyx, because it's worthless. If I win..." The DM trailed off, and received a note from Wanda's player. "If I win, you have to marry Wanda."


What happened next, well, there's just no way I can do it justice. He rolled a low score. I rolled a slightly better score. He rolled better yet. I rolled better still. He rolled a really good score. (Players' eyes were getting wide at the unlikelihood of it, and I swear I am not shitting you or embellishing this. I have witnesses.) I rolled an improbably good score. (There were surprised gasps.) He rolled an extremely good score. (There were astonished cheers.) I rolled an impossibly good score, better than I had seen anyone roll, ever. (There was bellowing and swearing with both shock and the knowledge that the game was effectively over.)

The DM rolled again... And beat my score. I sure as hell can't describe our reactions, but if you were in Boston on October 27, 2004, you might have some idea.

That was it. I think I made a token roll to confirm that Xygag had won. The DM offered me an out-of-game out from the terms of the bet, but I was happy with the result.

And that was how Floyd married Wanda Fentkin, in a cermony officiated by their god.

Alright, denoument/side note time.

If I believed in ghosts, I would suggest that Gary Gygax had taken over our dice for a minute, enacting the will of the god named after him in order to give us a singularly spectacular experience with his game. Since I don't, I'll just have to mention that wildly improbable things happen all the time, and it would be probabalistically very weird if they didn't.

In retrospect, despite having cleared the slow southern drawl with our one southerner, playing Floyd the way I did risked being problematically classist. I think I largely avoided that because he had enough personality that nobody would have summed him up as a "stupid hick".

I refrained from hitting the party over the head with Floyd's stupidity. All it took was one or two funny/stupid/adorable quotes per session, to make him thoroughly memorable and enjoyable, without irritating people or hogging the spotlight. I made a list of some of his potential taunts ahead of time, so that I wouldn't have to rely on improvisation alone. (Wanda's player enjoyed them so much that she contributed several suggestions.)

The fact that Floyd was a munchkined out "glass cannon" with four dump stats and at least seven attacks per round was irrelevant to our enjoyment of him, aside from his race and stats indirectly being the inspiration for the fun. Luckily, nobody minded his badassery, except for the one time a vampire dominated Floyd and had him attack the party's barbarian. (Floyd charged, leapt over a bush, and in one single maximized Power Attack, dropped the barbarian from full hit points to "only alive because of the house rule that you die at negative Con instead of -10 HP". The barbarian's player had a bit of an existential crisis after that, but it was honestly mostly his fault for reasons I won't get into here.)

Certain types of you are wondering about Floyd's munchkinry. The rest of you can go look at cat pictures or something.

This was D&D 3.5. Floyd depended on the third-party feats Power Double Weapon and Improved Power Double Weapon, which make double weapons more viable. I had okayed them back when I was running a game for the same group, though nobody wound up using them, and I was keen to see how they would play out. Although the next DM came up with a bunch of custom rules, mostly pertaining to magic and classes, he kept my rulings on third-party feats for convenience.

The Dex requirement for Greater Two-Weapon Fighting was the big obstacle, and reaching that feat was a primary goal. We used a point buy system for ability scores, so I put everything I could into Strength and Dexterity. Yes, Floyd was a fighter with four dump stats, including Constitution.

Floyd had eight levels of fighter (for the feats), two levels of Barbarian (for rage and uncanny dodge), and two levels of Exotic Weapon Master (for the stunts Flurry of Strikes (extra attack, with -2 to all, like a monk's flurry) and Double Weapon Defense (+1 shield bonus to AC when using a double weapon)). Starting with Barbarian at level 1 got him a few extra skill points. The DM allowed up to two flaws, so Floyd took Gullible (which was itself fun to role-play) and Idiotic to get more feats.

Aside from Flurry of Strikes and raging, most of the munchkinry was in the feats: Sign of the Sword (+1 to attack with swords, -1 to attack with non-swords), Two-weapon Fighting (attack at only -2 for each hand), Weapon Focus (+1 to attack), Power Attack (exchange to-hit bonus for damage), Power Double Weapon (full Str bonus on off-hand damage), Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (extra off-hand attack), Weapon Specialization (+2 damage), Improved Power Double Weapon (use 1.5x Str bonus on primary and off-hand damage), Savage Health (half of rage extra HP are treated as temporary HP), Improved Sunder (sunder at +8 total, due to feat and 2-handed weapon), fracture (+5 damage to sunder (or +2 if object has equal or greater hardnesss, which was no concern due to adamantine sword)), Improved Critical (expanded crit threat range), Greater Two-Weapon Fighting (yet another extra attack). (He never wound up having to sunder anything, so those two feats were wasted. I was saving them for a surprise, and they just weren't needed before the campaign ended.)

The DM had us using Action Points, which meant that Floyd could have extra rages (important due to low barbarian levels and Con), take an extra attack, or double his Power Attack damage whenever he needed to.

Particularly useful items: A Lesser Crystal of Return meant he didn't need Quick Draw, and it also proved handy a few times when his sword wasn't on his person. The Bloodstone property (Magic Item Compendium) in his sword and Predatory Vigor added to his cloak helped a bit with the lack of HP. The sword also had Spell Storing, and Wanda would cast some random spell into it, without telling Floyd which it was; he'd find out the next time he hit something. (Blindness and Bestow Curse were popular, of course.) The Belt of Battle is overpowered, but its best use (for an elven Cuisinart like Floyd) isn't to take an extra full attack once per day. Instead, use it three times per day for an extra move action, to enable a full attack when you would otherwise have had only a single attack due to moving. It's like having limited access to the Dire Charge epic feat. A Greater Crystal of Mind Cloaking was added to his armor after the incident with the vampire. (This would be swapped out at night for a Restful Crystal, after a devastating nighttime ambush with Floyd unarmored.)

If Hasted and using Flurry of Strikes, taking an extra full attack with the Belt of Battle, and an extra attack with an Action Point, Floyd could have had seventeen attacks in one round, each one with 1.5 times his Str bonus. At level 12. Hot damn.

And yet, the other players fondly remember Floyd as a sweet, entertaining knucklehead.

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