The Spawn of Fashan

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Spawn of Fashan was a tabletop role-playing game created by Kirby Lee Davis in 1981. Only about a dozen copies sold, and the game would've vanished into obscurity had not Dragon magazine decided to publish a review of it in their April Fool's issue for 1982. The reviewer could not tell if the game was supposed to be serious or not, and decided it was a parody because a serious, real game could not possibly be that bad.[1]

The game's name subsequently appeared many times in the classic "Real Men, Real Roleplayers, Loonies, and Munchkins" list as being the favorite game system for The Loonie. There's a reason for this.

If you actually want to see what the game's rules were like without having to actually read it yourself, an online review is available on RPG.Net. It's not pretty.

Tropes used in The Spawn of Fashan include:
  • After the End: Fashan allegedly suffered a nuclear war 2000 years before the period in which the game is set, which is blamed responsible for many of the setting's oddities.
  • Artistic License Biology: No few of the creatures native to the land of "Boosboodle" run on this trope. A good example is the concor, "the Fashan viper". It can grow as large as six feet long -- but its weight in pounds is only one-tenth its length in feet. That means that the average concor -- 3.5 feet long -- would only weigh about a third of a pound. By comparison, a three-foot python can weigh upwards of five pounds or more -- the concor would have more in common with a pipecleaner than a python. And this is a creature that's supposed to swallow its prey whole.
  • Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: The "Foklom" is just the ordinary brown bear. The description makes no bones about it.
  • Contemptible Cover: A bizarre, blocky artwork, a title in a stock Letraset rub-on character set, and other than the price, everything else on it was added using a typewriter. All this on a thin fawn-colored faux-parchment stock.
  • Dancing Bear/Watch It for the Meme: The only reason anyone seeks out this game today (indeed, the only reason anyone ever sought out this game) was because of just how bad it was or to find out why it was The Loonie's game of choice.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Numerous examples. A particularly choice one:

The creature is immune to bladed weapons (and cannot suffer damage from them)...

  • Epic Fail: The game as a whole. Early reviewers thought it was intentional parody, but Davis has made it very clear that it was a serious effort.
  • Fail O'Suckyname: Just about every unique name in the game's setting. The land of "Boosboodle"? Monsters called "maki", "gruf" and "foklom", among others? Cities named "Biddles" and "Crumbudz"? And the only ocean on the world map is helpfully identified as the "Sea of the Salt Water Fish".
  • Fantasy Character Classes: A bizarre mix of the familiar and weird is presented for the user to (sort of) choose from. There is no magic system, so there are no magic-using classes, but many of the options have strange abilities that apparently aren't magic but act just like it.
  • Fantasy World Map: Page 86 is a crudely hand-drawn map covering an area that stretches from just below the game world's equator to just above its equivalent of the Tropic of Cancer. Assuming the game world is the same size as Earth and spherical, that makes it approximately 1800 miles north-south, about 1625 miles wide at the equator and 1490 miles wide at the tropic. In this Australia-sized area there are two rivers (which if they're drawn to scale are on the order of twenty-five to fifty miles wide), one lake (or maybe inland sea), two tropical rainforests, a single mountain chain, and four cities which are all in a tropical savannah between the forests and rivers. At least some of the tropical savannah is explicitly labeled as extending out of the tropics and into the temperate zone. There are mysterious bean-shaped areas labeled "Outer Human Habitation Zone" and "Influence Zone", and we are helpfully informed that above the tropic at the top of the map is "North, Where Melvin is Standing Now." No, really.
  • Fictional Currency: Davis's ability to come up with ridiculous names somehow failed him here, as he resorted to calling the game's monetary unit the "Bank Note".
  • Five Races: Averted. There are humans, and only humans, in the world of Fashan.
  • Game Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Davis seems to have been completely unaware that his campaign map covered an area nearly the size of Australia, and laid out its geography and features as though it were the size of Pennsylvania. Or smaller.
  • Game-Favored Gender: As noted below, female characters halve their strength, constitution and hit points. The blank character sheet provided with the game also assumes your character will always be male, as there's no place on it to indicate your character is female.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: "Intuition", an undefined ability possessed by all female characters, apparently as a sop for having all their physical stats halved.
  • Giver of Lame Names: Davis. See Fail O'Suckyname, above.
  • I Am Not Making This Up: A phrase found with astounding frequency in reviews of the game.
  • It Amused Me: The explicit reason given on page 87 for providing a character sheet blank, a reference sheet for the gamemaster, and a key to both:

These are handy sheets that we wanted to include for the fun of it.

Not because they would be helpful or useful, or because they are necessary to the game. But because it was fun for the author to do so.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: PDFs of the booklet can be found with a simple Google search. Certainly no one in their right mind is ever going to reissue this turkey. Except Davis, who did so in 1998 so he could charge $20 (and then $50) a copy for it.
  • Land of Four Cities: In a campaign map the size of Australia.
  • Missing Episode: Numerous tables and other content invoked by name in the rules (such as the Destiny Table) do not exist because the game was allegedly designed to be "open-ended" and they were to be created by the gamemaster specifically for the culture/civilization in which his campaign is set. There is nowhere in the rules where this content that had to be self-generated was collected in a list for the convenience (and edification) of the gamemaster. The issue is further confused by the author's lack of concern over making sure the names used to refer to other parts of the rules actually matched the titles of the relevant sections.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The herbivorous monster called a "gruf" is described as "a floating set of the major human nerve organs -- the eyes, brain and spinal cord" with burning green flames in their eyes.
  • No Woman's Land: Male characters roll their characteristics "normally", but women have their dice for strength, constitution, and hit points halved, while their dice for charisma are multiplied by 1.5, and they automatically get an undefined ability called "intuition". And there's no place on the character sheet to even note that your character is female.
  • Random Number God: Hell, it's an entire War in Heaven of Random Number Gods. It seems like every sentence in the game has its own table to roll on.
  • Rhetorical We: Davis routinely refers to himself in the plural.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The author had at best a casual relationship with English grammar, usage and spelling.
  • Sequel Hook: Its cover claims that it is "Book One of the Fashan Role-Playing Series". Section IX of the book is a one-page listing of the "Games of Fashan Cooperative" planned release schedule for 1982, but the only further work in the Fashan series promised is a newsletter. (Suffice it to say, it's a one-book series.)
  • The Six Stats: Averted. A Fashan character has the stats Strength, Dexterity, Reflexes, Constitution, Intelligence, Charisma, Courage, Courage, Courage, and Senses. And yes, that's not a typo -- there are three Courage scores; apparently the second and third ones were only used if the character had a special (and undefined) set of combat skills. These numbers then become the basis for upwards of fifty additional calculated statistics.
  • So Bad It's Good: Not as a game, of course, but as a piece of (unintentional?) comedy.
  • So Bad It's Horrible: If you actually try to use it as a game.
  • Stealth Parody: One of the suspicions about its origins, though years later Davis insisted it was all completely serious.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The author goes out of his way to insist he and his rules aren't sexist. Really. See No Woman's Land and Game-Favored Gender above, though.
  • Word Salad: Parts of the rules are so dense and incomprehensible that they approach this trope.
  1. He was wrong. Davis made it clear years later that it was the real thing.