Sunday, March 11, 2012

Silliness, Seriousness and Wonder

I really do enjoy gaming, as DM or as a player.  It's a nice escape without completely shutting out the world or ingesting poisons or losing money gambling.  And it always involves thinking.

When I'm running a campaign, I like to have an equal balance of silliness, seriousness, and wonder.  I'm not sure if anyone noticed in the write-ups of the previous campaigns how each of those played a part in the world. Typically, the silliness shows up in some of the odd random monster or event rolls.  I have a list of some funny (at least to me) items,  monsters, or scenarios that I like to pepper into the game.  Like the time in the CSIO game when the group was trailing a clue through the sewers and encountered a burglary in progress.  As they came up on the two orcs leading the 6 goblins, one of the orcs said "Well, about time you jerks got here.  We've been trying to get through this door which Two-Toes said you were supposed to have open.  What gives?"  And the orc looks expectantly at the leading PC for an answer.  Or in my version of Blackmoor Castle & Dungeon, when the PCs are investigating the "elevators" and they push the red button.  Two kobolds in orange vests and hard hats show up to see what the problem is.  I've got about a dozen more, but too many of my players read this so I can't list them yet.

As for serious moments, those should flow easily and steadily from the campaign hooks and play.  When I had started DM-ing, finding good serious play moments were difficult.  I wanted something that would get the players as emotionally involved as the characters.  If I let the players just roll up characters, there was nothing to latch onto as a DM.  Having them write up backgrounds helped, but they usually weren't very tied to the setting.  When I started the kobold campaign, I required that they all be members of the same clan.  And that worked.  Later, when I was a player, the DM made us start as 0-level characters from the same little fishing village which gave us all a reason to be together and have a connection.  In the Space 1889 Savage Worlds game, the GM required us to work with the person on our right to find a connection between those two characters.  It was tremendously useful to have something in common to call upon to get the group interested in one of several hooks I would throw out there.

Wonder: that's vital in any rpg.  There must be something to make the players (and by reflection, the characters) say "Wow..."  The failed plot hooks I mentioned previously were one such device.  Using nonstandard magic items is another.  Taking a few minutes at the start of the game to describe some event or person is another.  In the current Traveller campaign, I rewrote the history of the Imperium and added in some aspects of Star Master and Buck Rogers.  I'm still working on getting them to wonder.  They do have a Serious hook and have had Silly moments.  I'm hoping the new alien artifact I created for the game will inspire the wonder.....but first, I've got to break their sense of normalcy.

Anway, I'm rambling.  Maybe there's something useful in here.  Maybe not.  Until next time, remember that it's a game and you should always have fun.

Post a Comment