Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comedy Gaming: The Straight Man

Today I intend to tackle the concept of the comedy game. No really, I'm going to tackle it to the ground and give it the solid whoopin' it deserves. That said, here we roll. Given how much RPGs are supposed to focus on fun, the lack of comedy games is a tiff bizarre to me. Most likely it's because we're all being too pretentious and a silly game would simply knock the train off its wheels. Or we're already too silly at the game table for a comedy game to be much different from our ordinary games. Either way there needs to be more consideration of the comedy game as a whole. Ignoring it is like studying theater and only focusing on the tragedies and not mentioning the comedies. Sheer lunacy I say!
Today I'd like to look at the most important part of a comedy game. The straight man. Someone has to be the straight man. If you don't have a straight man then the silliness just spins out of control as participants try to one up each other to make their silliness stand out. In light of that let's examine who makes the best straight men.
The Players as a Group: Not letting your players in on the fact that you're running a comedy game can be an amusing bait and switch. Instead of fighting down boring goblins and kobolds again at first level you can have them face down dreaded dire chipmunks! Bonus points if they've got 3 sharp pointy teeth. Later on they can meet their nemesis the Pompous Pantaloon Pilferer who plans to conquer the world by cornering the market on undergarments. Running a theme can make it even better. Having them fight Jello Cubes and Perilous Pudding is all well and good but imagine the look on their faces when they run into such classics as the Gingerbread Man and Strawberry Shortcake as the major villians. That said the players may not be happy in their role as the straigh men. This can lead to them switching up and playing the silly for all its worth. That isn't a bad thing in an of itself, unless you haven't planned for the eventuality and provided a straight man to replace them. Because without a straight man you're comedy is going to fall apart.
The DM: A good choice as you can control your own level of straightmanness. This does count on the players to bring the silly, but with the right players and the right input up front it shouldn't be a problem. Just remember to have a few silly npcs along with all your straight men to keep the players on their toes. Overall I'd say this is the better choice of the two.
To explain, no there is no time, let me sum up. Whether or not you play the straight man as the DM depends on two things. First, your players ability to keep the silliness going. In most cases I doubt you'll have issues with this at all. Second, your personal desire to surprise the players with a comedy campaign. After all, dropping the players down the rabbit hole can be so much more appealing than trying to find just the right monster to challenge both your Power gamer and your Storyteller. So get out there and run a comedy game dammit!

Looney out and about like saurkraut (Motivational posters will return on Friday)

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