Today’s #RPGaDAY topic is “An Unexpected Gaming Experience”. This is actually last year’s Day 10 topic, or rather, it was my take on Day 10’s topic, which was “Largest In-Game Surprise Experienced”, which wasn’t all that interesting to me back then. This year it’s supposed to be “Where Do You Find RPG Reviews”, which is also… meh.
A different unexpected gaming experience than last year: it was the last time I was at Gen Con, I believe. I had moved away from Maine, not thinking that I’d see those people again in the flesh except for rare occasions, and I get a message: our friend Derek suddenly got the weekend off, so he came up from Arizona and would I like to play Call of Cthulhu with him?
One year ago today, the topic wasÂ Funniest Game You’ve Played. I really haven’t played much since that post, so the answer will remain the same.
The thing about humor in games is if itâ€™s forced, itâ€™s not funny. Thatâ€™s why I donâ€™t go for comedy games. I prefer the humor to come up naturally within a game. To put it in movie terms, you know Michael Bayâ€™sÂ Transformers? The first one? Thereâ€™s the government agent guy and heâ€™s the forced humor in the movie: an overacting cartoonish insult to the audienceâ€™s intelligence. But there he is, somehow stripped down to a Superman-like-logo t-shirt that heâ€™s wearing and goofy boxers! Isnâ€™t that hilarious? Oh, and now heâ€™s being peed on by Bumblebee. Haw haw.
That type of thing is just painful.
Thatâ€™s been my experience with comedy RPGs. Instead of the funny just happening, itâ€™s pointed out.
Some of the funniest bits have come from games where people are playing it straight and serious. Eric vs. the Gazebo. The Head of Vecna. That one thing where two Call of Cthulhu characters wound up being eaten by a ghoul because they kept fighting over who was going to use a shotgun on the advancing creature until it was too late. All stories from games that were played straight.
Too many funny moments come from non-humor games, like in our serious Blue Planet game where our down-on-her-luck waitress, who was built out to be incredibly observant (like Shawn Spencer from Psych) never, ever, ever once succeeded on notice or spot or observe something roll. All these points, all this effort to fit a character concept and the dice constantlyÂ betrayed her. Each time Amy rolled to notice something, the table cracked up in laughter.
Or the Shadowrun 4th edition game where a rigger using a drone with twin machine guns firing, firing, firing at a ghoul jumping off a building to the street â€“ and every dice I rolled for the ghoulâ€™s dodge comes up a success. We pause the game as we recover from the ninja ghoul breaking the game.
Amidst a carnival in Lacuna, where cockroaches are pouring out of exploding balloons and clowns and someone says something completely that fits right in with the situation but those of us around the table, a step removed from the action, suddenly realize how bizarre that comment is and we laugh, louder and longer than we would in, say, Toon.
No, give me a serious drama and the sparks of humor shine a bit brighter. Give me a Game of ThronesÂ episode and a contemptuous smile by Tyrion at just the right moment. Thatâ€™s what I like.