The Bard to Kill Ballad of Fansy: Gaming’s Greatest Troll

Adam Mathew
Games PC Gaming
Games PC Gaming Fantasy

In the primordial chaos of the Y2K World Wide Web – when players were still plumbing the depths of how awful they could be to one another – there existed Everquest and Fansy. He’s one of the earliest fossils we have of a bad faith player, a creature of pure malevolence. In more mainstream terms: Fansy was a proto-troll on par with the antics of ‘Jenkins the Griefer‘ of Make Love, Not Warcraft infamy.

Amusingly, Fansy the wood elf was also a diminutive level 5 Bard. He was a polite and infectiously upbeat pipsqueak – a perfect ray of sunshine nestled in the exact centre of a hurricane of text-based abuse, IRL death threats, and the corpses of his many, many victims.

In terms of personality, his closest modern analog would be Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf. Fansy was a sweetly enthusiastic babe in the woods who nonetheless had nothing but contempt for anybody on the Naughty List. His rallying cry said it all, really…

A corpse of Fansy's victim.
Learning things the bard way (image credit: Fansy)

“GO GO GOOD TEAM!!!”

Oddly, Fansy had chosen to make his gumdrop home on the Sullon Zek server, a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and cotton-headed ninny-mugginses. A 2001 census suggested that 80% of the server held Evil-aligned players. Even if you were a peak level Good player with a Justice League of a clan to support you, you’d still become ice-cream for freaks. Wall-to-wall player vs player murder, along with every slur imaginable would be your gameplay experience until you logged off in defeat.

Sullon Zek was Sony Online Entertainment’s island of misfit toys, a place to ditch undesirables. It was the basic online equivalent of 18th century Australia. Needless to say, this was no place at all for a user who had, presumably, chosen his name to be a portmanteau of the words ‘fancy’ and ‘pansy’.

Nevertheless, through the middle of this PvP hellscape, skipped Fansy the level 5 troubadour. He self-identified as a “troubledoor,” however, and by God did he earn the job description…

GRIEFINGS AND SALUTATIONS!

Before we continue it’s important that we wrap your head around three important bits of info. Firstly, the server was a staunchly no holds barred Thunderdome where absolutely anything went. Your average mosh-pit has more structure and decency than this man-made purgatory did, and that’s how its aggressive, hardcore denizens liked it.

Second thing to know: there was one regulation that even the worst of the worst had to abide by. Anybody on level 5 or below could not be killed by other players. This was mandatory as it was more or less hardcoded into the core Everquest experience as a training wheels measure. It became the bedrock rule that Fansy built his house of pain upon.

Thirdly, EQ wasn’t like modern MMOs like World of Warcraft where death is barely an inconvenience. Being murdered in this game would set you back several hours, possibly a month worth of progress.

Fansy’s plan was simple and ingenious. Armed with PvP-invincibility and employing the text-chat equivalent of a big, s–t-eating grin, Fansy would go fishing for jerks in a pond that did overfloweth with them. His opening hails varied. Sometimes the young elf would conduct an earnest survey on who liked ice-cream. Other times he’d genuinely enquire as to your favourite Skittle colour. His was orange.

When the responding abuse shower had died down, Fansy would prove to be as impervious to insults as he was to player damage. He’d gleefully inform his audience that his best good friends, the sand giants, would hear of his mistreatment. That, or he’d simply walk up to a group and open with: “Warning evil heathens! Since I am a moral man with good ethics, not an evil slimeball like all of you, I am giving you a warning to leave Oasis now! This is a good guy zone!”

A pack of ten sand giants follow Fansy.
All aboard the pain train (image credit: Fansy)

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

What happened next would involve some clever game mechanic chicanery, half a dozen or so sand giants, and true grit. Fansy could be killed by AI enemies in the world, but this didn’t necessarily mean that being a Bard – even an insignificant level 5 one – didn’t have its advantages.

Our hero had hit upon a technique known as training (or, in modern gaming parlance ‘kiting‘). He’d effectively attract the attention of utterly lethal beasts, cast a “Selo’s Sonata” spell to make his little legs windmill faster, and then he’d lead his new admirers on the kind of chase you’d set to The Benny Hill theme song . Pretty soon Fansy would chug his way back to the jerks — a one-elf steam engine tugging a multi-carriage train of death. Next stop: right in the lap of any player deemed naughty in his sight.

As the sand giants descended upon Fansy’s victims, like a pack of wolves let loose in a daycare centre, the bard would tongue lash the evil doers to ensure they knew he was the monster wrangler responsible. “Gotta Catch ’em All!” or “You’ve Got Mail!” were some of his favourites.

Four sand giants chase a player.
Sand giant delivery service (image credit: Fansy)

THE ULTIMATE BARD BOY

To say the strat was effective would be an understatement. Once this kiting shtick was more or less perfected it became damn near inescapable. There were some hiccups, sure; sometimes the young bard would get railroaded by his own creation. Unperplexed, Fansy would loudly forgive his sand giant friends for their indiscretion. In his own words: “if you really love someone you can forgive them.”

In no time flat the elf became a blight upon the many villains of Sullon Zek. The more they hated him, the more Fansy’s appetite for justice grew. Trekking back through his chat records is a guilty pleasure, a journey more sodium-encrusted than a walking tour of a salt-flat. Next to none of it is printable here, but we’ll try to give you an idea of the basic categories of invective.

It’s sad to see how little gamers have changed in 17 years. There’s the usual high-school-level homophobic remarks and suicide requests. Mothers are brought into it too, of course. In the many mock “A/S/L?” requests Fansy does, he amusingly paints himself as a 14 year old male from Florida, but the enraged mob impotently ascribe him new backstories. Sometimes he’s an elderly burnout. An abused kid acting out. A bored middle aged dude with nothing going on IRL so he has to “do this.” The projection on display is breathtaking.

No insult could find its mark on the indefatigably positive Fansy, though. Witnesses say he simply didn’t break character and his sand giant train ran for days straight and hours on end. To hear some folks tell it, by comparison Tokyo’s train schedule was less efficient.

Fansy uses the selos spell to move faster than the sand giants.
You orc to be more careful (image credit: Fansy)

THEY SEE ME TROLLIN’, THEY HATIN’

Without a shred of irony, the growing mob of people spewing insults at Fansy – some of them threatening doxxing and worse, on a server purpose-built to enable mankind’s worst impulses – started to cry “harassment.” Fansy’s antics left a trail of nothing but rage-quits and official complaints behind him. It didn’t take long for the SOE GameMasters to materialise and investigate the noise complaint.

On Jul 07, 2001, a GM named Aerendar appeared next to Fansy and the following exchange took place. Aerendar says, ‘lol Nice train.’ Fansy says, ‘everyone keeps saying they’ll petition me.’ Aerendar responds, ‘It would do no good. Tis ok to train on this server.’ The case, it seemed, was open-shut.

Looking behind the scenes and back across the years, we have it on good authority that many SOE staff loved Fansy’s antics.

“Fansy in particular hit on something amazing,” mentions EQ team member Holly Dangdale when we turn our interview to the topic of legendary trolls. “We realised he was just a super passionate player [who contributed side projects that also enhanced the EQ experience].”

At some point, years after his antics, Holly says the real-life Fansy visited the studio with a laptop to showcase some of his MMO-related programs. When word got out about who he was, office productivity went out the window. Star-struck staff members dropped what they were doing and clamoured for group photos with him.

The NPC in World of Warcraft, Fansy Goodbringer.
Fansy was later immortalised as an NPC in World of Warcraft

ELF ESTEEM

Fansy had his admirers back in the salad days, too. He drew rare compliments from the great unwashed hordes when he managed to arrange 25 sand giants into a lethal conga line. A few of his sworn enemies even asked if he could do it again, for screenshot purposes. Like-wise, when other veterans saw him coming, the smartest among them began to afford him a begrudging respect, in the hope he’d pass them by.

Here’s a typical exchange, paraphrased. Fansy: “Ho! Adventurers, has evil been smitten here?Obvious evil-doers: “Yes Fansy, no evil here. Everybody is good.” At this point, the bard would shout an enthusiastic slogan for Team Good and take his crusade to another area. Upon reaching the new locale, he’d pose the question again and, nine-point-nine times out of ten, some mouthy idiot would talk trash. Fansy’s retort was to cheerfully daisy-chain death upon the lot of them.

Over the course of four days Fansy and “his” giants would lay waste to roughly 400 players, a decent chunk of the entire server. The fury became so great that SOE was forced to answer a particularly exasperated SZ player on its official EQ blog.

The user question read:

[Dear SOE] Fansy, a level 5 bard, spends his time training SGs in Oasis using selos. Yes, there are not rules on SZ, but NO ONE CAN POLICE HIM, because no one can cast on him. No one can snare him, no one can root him, if he gets trained, he simply runs away. Unfortunately, those in his path pay for his invulnerability. Is something being done about this? Please say yes, because this is getting ridiculous!

The jig was up. SOE dispatched another GM to Fansy and politely asked him to cease and desist. The technicality they went with was Rule 13: the “Play Nice Policy” that was being nullified as Fansy’s victims were unable to resolve their conflict with him through combative recourse. It was pretty limp-wristed. A warnable offence, not a ban-able one. Fansy (with his account on its final warning from previous hijinks) decided to do the gentlemanly thing and retire, undefeated against an entire server of elite players.

Two players chat to Fansy after they die to his sand giants.
New exploit, same end results (image credit: Fansy)

ELF PUT ON THE SHELF?

To prevent a host of copycat Fansies — and there were one or two who joined in alongside him, like sidekicks to a superhero — SOE closed the loophole. Immunity for players below level 6 was removed in mid to high level adventure zones and additional restrictions were placed on how and when bard songs could be used.

After he was acknowledged by the devs in their blog post (and was roundly cursed or celebrated on every major EQ forum) Fansy was elevated from travelling minstrel to MMO rockstar. He made an indelible mark on the biggest MMORPG of the time and his legend went on to influence the social consciousness of the industry entire.

Also, being that he had a natural gift for creatively interpreting the rules to mess with people within server bounds… yeah, you just know that Fansy found other shenanigans to do. He rode again many times. One of his sequels involved luring greedy players into a lockable vault by laying down a trail of copper coins into it. Another involved charming Priest of Discord NPCs in Riverdale to slay other players.

But those will have to be a trolltastic tale for another time, perhaps…

Adam Mathew
I've seen and played it all – from Pong on a black-and-white CRT to the 4K visuals and VR gloriousness of today. My only regret after a decade of writing and 30+ years of gaming: hitchhiking's no longer an option. My thumbs are nubs now.
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