Stupid RPG

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Closer Look: Stupid RPG

The first of far too many in a long running series by a notable and divisive ZZTer

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Feb 28, 2019
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There's probably no ZZTer who was more divisive than the author of Stupid RPG, Knightt. When it comes to petty community drama, he made sure to weigh on in it. He ran his own alternative ZZTer IRC channel called #loungeact, welcomed newbies, and gained a following from his supportive nature. In the early 2000s, "Knightt-lackey" was both a genuine insult, but also a way for the less popular ZZTers to group up and stake a claim in a community turning hostile towards them.

Knightt is unique in that he is quite possibly the only person to ask for his games to be removed from the ZZT archive after one staff disagreement too many, which made his Stupid RPG series somewhat rare for a few years if you didn't know where to look for it. The games were still available on his personal site as well as the joint ZZT/Megazeux archive Zeuxworld. The games, surely have something to them. Everybody knew about Stupid RPG, and whether you were a #loungeact regular or glad to see him leave the ZZT community for the 3rd time in a year, there's no doubt if you were there in the 2000s you knew the name well.

Nearly everything Knightt actually released was a part of this series, with countless remakes, demos, special editions, and 24 Hours of ZZT entries under the SRPG moniker. Honestly, that alone might be the reason everybody knew about Stupid RPG, it was impossible to avoid.


The following content contains material which may be offensive to some audiences. This material does not necessarily reflect its creator's current opinions /behaviors.

Specifically, content following this notice contains depictions of or references to:

  • Homophobic Language, Ableism

Before I start actually going into the world itself, let me just drop the content warning here. See, this is a comedy ZZT game of late 90s vintage. Humor at the time meant... one of the main characters is named F*gnuts. Awesome.


The game begins with a lot of cutscenes, of little importance and not particularly humorous. Knightt takes what was by then a pretty dated approach to cutscenes, making the player walk across the board to the next, trusting the player to stop and watch rather than the far more popular method of pinning them in a corner and having a passage forward.

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Man: I'll have theeeeee....

Melborp: GOD DAMMIT!!!

Man: Hrm. I don't know what I want.

Melborp: AHHHH!!!! SPICE GIRL!!!

Man: W....what?!?!?!?!?!?
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

It's got that classic 90s humor of "ugh, the SPICE GIRLS" that I think would've been actually pretty dated by the time this game was released. This was the era of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync for boys who wanted to get angry at music popular with girls.

"Pointless but fun" is probably the tone Knightt's going for with the game as a whole. Just vaguely parodying RPG tropes in a post-Final Fantasy 7 world.


The march of the cutscene continues with the crew's hideout. The main characters are introduced here, Jed, Lance, F*gnuts, and Nitwit. F*gnuts fears that Lance is dead when he's just sleeping. Then they all play pool.

Knightt was extremely proud of that pool table, which appears on the title screen as well for several SRPG games. I was pretty disappointed that the characters don't actually do anything but stand on the side of the perfectly still table. Knightt and Nadir had plenty of bad blood, 90% of which I'm sure was petty teenage drama, but Nadir would definitely have animated something here versus Knightt not adding the extra polish.


We are three boards in and already breaking the fourth wall to explain that nothing Knightt does makes sense. Knightt would go on to run a ZZT company called Random Inc.


Having to walk across the board like this honestly makes it feel more tedious. It doesn't help that so far none of the characters seem likable in any way. You just know right away that you're in for a slog.

President: Okay, everyone, I guess you all
know why you were called down here.

Melborp: Our chocobo head bread isn't

President: No.
In fact, it's selling quite well.

Noseblood: Look, I really don't care.
Give me my damn money, Savant.

President: My name is Savant Idiot.

Noseblood: Good for you.

President: I assume you all have heard of
The Stupid Legend.

Melborp: Five crystals protect the planet.
They contain the life force of the world.

Noseblood: Playing FF7 lately?

Melborp: Ask Knightt.

Well, anyway, each crystal has a name...

The Weird Crystal.
The Mental Crystal.
The Crazy Crystal.
The Insane Crystal.
And the most powerful of them all...
The Stupid Crystal.

President: Ok. But what happens if one
should be shattered, or used differently?

Melborp: Everyone and everything dies.

President: Wrong.
For that to happen, all of them must be

Karey: So, where do we come in?

President: Imagine what could happen if
we owned them all...

I need to just edit this transcript since it's so dang long. We get a reference to chocobos which combined with some president scheming some evil plan makes me think back to Final Fantasy 7 and wish I was playing that instead. Also the explicit callout to the game being blatantly inspired by FF7. Fortunately, Knightt doesn't play things note for note, and it's more a case of "FF7 had this, so I will too" rather than a direct ripoff of FF7's storyline.

I only just now noticed that "Melborp" is "Problem" spelled backwards.

Jed: Yo, Nitwit. Read this.

Nitwit: Karey is 25, going on 3. She works
for a major company, and enjoys long walks
on the beach.

Jed: Sounds good to me.

Nitwit: You don't like walking.

Jed: Shut up.

Nitwit: Well, here's your...hey, wait...
5 crystals, scattered around the world,
are the source of the planet's life.

This is known as the Stupid Legend.

F*gnuts: Whee.

Nitwit: These crystals are worth much.


F*gnuts: But, people with money get


Nitwit: I say we find these crystals and
sell them.

Jed: You kiddin'? If they go to the wrong


Jed: I'M IN!!!

F*gnuts: Me too, man.

Jed: Well, Lance is in. 'Cuz I say so.

Still going with the opening cutscenes. At last our heroes have their quest to collect the Stupid Crystals just so they can be sold to the highest bidder.


There's a little banner for the game and then things can finally actually begin.


Of the possible team members, Jed is the character controlled by the player. Your first task is to leave the hideout and catch up with F*nuts and Nitwit. However in order to do that, the player needs to discover the passcode to open the door. This isn't very difficult since there's really not a whole lot to explore in the base.

You can check out computers which offer a chance to preview an SRPG themed Maniac Mansion parody called Stupid Mansion, investigate the pool table, fail to wake up lance, and collect some late 90s powerups for a boost to HP/MP.


It is the 90s and there is pan pizza and Surge. The last RPG this series looked at was Aeris's Algorithm which had very few RPG battles. I was expecting more of the same here since this is a parody first and foremost, but there are actually a number of RPG battles, in two different formats. So unlike Algorithm, picking up Surge is important, but not that important since magic can only be used in major battles.


The one room of the base whose purpose isn't immediately obvious is locked for now.


Nitwit suffers by having his bedroom also be right behind the front door. The player needs to find the passcode by just exploring the building a bit. The billiards ball on the ground is a 7, and there's a jell-o mold in the fridge shaped like a 2. The three is written on some paper in the locked room which can be picked via a credit card found in a kitchen drawer. Choosing the incorrect password results in losing 30 health with no explanation as to why.


The outside world looks... extremely like a 24 Hours of ZZT contest entry. Just a simple path with some object based enemies scattered around haphazardly. There's no real thought or care put into these boards and they exist mostly to just pad out the game's length.


Knightt opts for the single object RPG battle engine here. Coming in contact with any enemies causes a popup to appear and a fight to ensue. It's not explained, and the usual way these things pretty much always work means that these two attack choices are high accuracy/low damage or low accuracy/high damage.

Knightt however takes a far stranger approach, where both attacks check if the object is blocked in a random direction up to 5 times, activating a specific message and damage result once the block check returns true. If it never does the attack is a miss. This oddly means that both attacks have the same chance of inflicting damage, and the only difference is how much damage is dealt. Stabbing does 2-6 and slashing does 3-10. There is no reason to pick anything other than slash because of this.


The battles aren't completely pointless, as they are a source of MP for boss fights. Unfortunately they're also as tedious as they look. RPGs usually have starting enemies get defeated with a single hit to ease the player into whatever combat system there is, and also to keep battles moving quickly when the player has almost no options available to them.

Unfortunately ZZT RPGs rarely have meaningful progression, and so these fights now are no different than the fights at the end of the game really.

There's also an always present danger that the game is still running during these fights. Enemies not in combat can still move between attacks and possibly start another battle while the first is still going. This is really bad if it happens since then you're fighting two battles against the sum of both enemies' HP and they'll both keep attacking until the ammo counter reaches zero since there's no way for ZZT to realize you're fighting two enemies. Knightt does a decent job spreading things out, but it's enough to make me opt to avoid every encounter as much as I possibly can.


Though it doesn't take long for that danger to become very real.


Thankfully that path is never traversed again. The tunnel leads to an abandoned building and Jed emerges onto the city streets. Taco Bell and convenient store parodies introduce themselves with their large signs.


Which is an odd design choice since they also have multiple signs outside their doors explaining what they are.


The Taco Rat is currently closed, but the convenient store is open. Jed nearly catches up to the others who head into the back room.

The store has some items on display including several cans of Surge, moldy cheese, a crowbar (which is called out as a cliche ZZT item), and the old standby, several books with different titles.


They're at least nice in that the offer a glimpse into the community at the time. Although the Evan Darrow reference is pretty dated even for then. Congratulations to the late Draco, who was famous for his achievement of having had sex, something most teenage ZZTers only dreamed of.


I don't understand how ZZTers weren't getting laid all the time with these smooth moves.


The backroom is locked and only for employees. I guess Jed is the only one who doesn't work there?

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Ya want da key?
Yeah, I 'want da key'.
You's be makin' fun of me????
Look, pal, I'll geeve ya da key...
Gee. Thanks.
...fa a price.
Da Save-A-Little ain't be luttin' me in.
What did you do??
You don wanna know, kid.
I'm sure I don't.
Do you's be wantin' to see yo necks
No. In fact, I want to be 18 forever.
Look pal, jus' git me some ov da good
stuff in da store.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Back outside, the mysterious Silent Bill is hanging out next to the store and offers up a key for helping him. The player needs to actually go in and find out the door is locked first.


Which is as simple as failing to flirt with the cashier again. The player receives a "Random Drug Container" and can run back out and finish their quest.


Knightt keeps bringing up fellow ZZTer of the era Tseng, and I think there's some pretty strong Tseng influences in Knightt's work. (I believe Tseng was the first to make the sort of RPG engine we've seen earlier for one.) Both the Stupid RPG series and Tseng's own Gem Hunter series feature a very large cast of eccentric characters that are supposed to be funny and/or badass but generally aren't actually either. In the Closer Look for Gem Hunter: Special Edition, I complained that the characters didn't have enough screentime to develop personalities, and that's definitely the case here as well, but probably more so as right now the main cast all seems very replaceable with one another. I'm just saying, if this game didn't have F*gnuts, nobody would notice, and we'd all be better off.


The backroom is more of a dungeon to explore? There are enemies to fight (read: avoid), and what look like multiple paths, but bathrooms to the west and east are closed off.


The north leads to the president's office, which is behind a password protected door. One of the signs has "Anam" written on it, which just so happens to be the correct password spelled backwards.


This leads to another cutscene, where Jed breaks down the door to the office and begins to yell at the president before being joined by F*gnuts and Nitwit introducing themselves as "THE INSANE AMIGOS!!!" before the passage opens and the player can proceed to the first proper RPG battle.


Rather annoyingly, the battle begins the moment the player enters the board, with Hiroth attacking while the player has no idea how the fight is supposed to work.

The mechanics are pretty simple. There's a basic attack, a per-battle magic spell available, and the ability to reduce damage for a limited time by defending.

The player-looking smiley in the corner serves as the instructions, and points out that you can have 43 MP by this point in the game. Except, if you're like me and hate tedium, you won't have 43 MP because you've been avoiding enemies as much as possible. I entered with just a dozen points.


The fight is very difficult, but possible after getting a few rolls. It probably would've been easier had I bothered to get more MP or used the defend feature which lasts not set number of turns, but a set number of ZZT cycles meaning you can squeeze more out of it if you attack as quickly as possible while blocking.

Throughout the fight both characters (I assume it's both of them) trade insults at each other and some not particularly good battle music plays. (Update: The music is apparently the battle theme from Final Fantasy 3.)


The fight ends with Hiroth's defeat and Jed picking up some cash. As you can see, it was still a very close battle. Hiroth also drops a key item: a note.


Yes, Hiroth is the game's equivalent of Sephiroth, down to carrying the legendary sword Masamune.


I mean, I should've expected this from a game with a character named F*gnuts, but damn if this ain't some vintage teenage homophobia and ableism on display here.

ANYWAY the Taco Rat is open now.


It's basically what you'd expect a ZZT fast food joint to look like, save for the absolute behemoth of a Sprite machine. There's lots of customers to talk to so I opted to begin by doing just that.


Oh no! It's actually enemies to fight! Including the main cast of Seinfeld, which had only just ended less than a year prior.


Except Jerry Seinfeld is the only actual enemy. The other patrons do just let you talk to them.


The prices on the Taco Rat menu are pretty inflated to be of use. It's easier to just avoid fights rather than get beat up in them to be able to afford rich man's soft drinks like Pepsi.


One big issue with this game is the ambiguous exit syndrome. On the first iteration of this board, the edges led nowhere, said nothing, and the general emptiness of the road would all lead you to believe that there's no way to leave this board other than through the passages here.

Now the player is able to continue down the street... to the left. There's no guidance that more of the town is now accessible and this sort of thing bugs me constantly in ZZT games.


The next part of town consists of a bar and a locked up government building, and a lone punk wandering the streets who talks about how it's not safe to leave town.


The bar is full of people, all with little to say other than some bad jokes about the quality of the drinks and another ZZTer cameo that shows no personality as to who the actual person was. (It's C_A to be specific.)

It also does this color changing disco floor effect that was popular in a lot of ZZT worlds' depictions of night clubs. Since the player always covers up a tile, it gets missed by the color changing code causing the player to leave a rainbow trail behind them as they run across the room which is a much prettier side effect than the actually pretty miserable to look at aesthetic of a constantly flashing floor.


You can talk to Joe behind the counter, but there's nothing of note that happens for doing so, just some more generic dialog.

The whole room may seem pointless, and it is, but it's pretty apparent why Knightt included it, and that's because the band is performing a PC speaker rendition of Final Fantasy's Chocobo theme. It's... almost there. It just sounds a little bit off in the translation to ZZT's music system. Listen for yourself:

Still, it's pretty clear that Knightt was excited for it. It even appears in the end credits for a second time. It is definitely worth pointing out in advance that the credits lists the music as being done by Masamune and not Knightt.


Speaking of dated 90s tropes, it's the nut house! This is the next dungeon. As the party approaches the door, an unknown party member pipes up to ask why they'd have any reason to go inside. Jed points out that the note from Hiroth said to think backwards which is enough justification for the team to proceed.


Early on, I'd say Knightt's graphics were adequate at best, with the game generally not being pleasant to look at, but between this blinding white floor and the flashing disco floor of Joe's bar, the quality keeps lowering.


The waiting room has a bunch of more non-joke NPCs to talk to, including a small child you can choose to kill after they tell you that you suck. Shockingly however, are two NPCs that give information that's actually relevant.


This now 27 year old is the objective of this dungeon for some reason, and Melborp's love of gambling... well, doesn't seem to matter at all, but it at least actually fleshes out a character for once.


Lastly, is another woman named Lara who... explains how the RPG battle system that's already been experienced works. You can harass her and fail to flirt if with her if you really want.


The path leads to a cutscene where we meet the young scientist Emcee who decides this is the day they escape.


His plan is to act actually crazy and get to a doctor and proceed from there I guess, but he's pretty quickly shot down by the receptionist as the doctor isn't there today.


So instead he just slams through the door and runs straight into a guard.


I wasn't expecting the cinematic to transition to gameplay like this, but the player gets to take control of Emcee for a bit, starting by fighting a guard.


Oddly, Emcee can use magic outside of major battles, and also do so without using any MP, which you can justify by saying the MP stat is of Jed's party. It works out though and it's pretty safe to just spam lightning over and over again.


Though the split doesn't last long, as Emcee immediately bumps into the insane amigos, and they join up. The player then gets to run down a hall, through a door that can be unlocked now, and down another hall where another door leads to still another cutscene.

Emcee: Wait a minute.

Noseblood: Go to hell.

Emcee: What did you take?

Noseblood: The Mental Crystal.

Jed: You idiot, give it to us!

Noseblood: No.


Noseblood: Agh.


Noseblood: Hello?

President: I have a new mission for you.

Noseblood: Ugh. Excuse me for a moment.

This attempt of a serious plot moment falls flat because the player doesn't know what's happened until it's already happened. Jed and crew didn't go here to obtain the Mental Crystal, they went here because it didn't make sense to. So Noseblood beating them to it doesn't really have an impact.

Noseblood: Yes?

President: I have found something useful.

Noseblood: Hm?

President: According to the Stupid Legend,
you only need one crystal to control all.
But, to destory life, you must have every

Noseblood: Hm. So, can I trade this one?

President: Go ahead.

Noseblood: Ok.

President: Wait.

Noseblood: Yeah?

President: The famous mad scientist Emcee
Skwair is in here. Find him. Bring him to
me. And that's not meant in an obscene way

Noseblood: Okay.

Noseblood: Here's the deal.
You tell me where I can find Emcee Skwair.

Jed: Never heard of him.

Emcee: Shut up.
I am him.

Noseblood: Ok then. You're coming with me.

This sure is a stupid RPG. The rules suddenly are changed so that only one of the four crystals is relevant, which might be sloppy writing, but is a bit more likely to mean the game's plot will actually get to move along. One crystal = total control over life. Cool, so now the bad guys have completed their objective and its up to our homophobic heroes to put a stop to their evil plans.

Except Noseblood then trades the crystal away for Emcee, figuring he can just get one of the other three crystals still out there. I hate this.

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