Wacky fun vs gritty realism

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RichD

  • 18
Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« on: January 16, 2012, 12:35:46 PM »
I am currently playing a Hocus in a PBP game of AW on RPOL.  (Did I use enough acronyms there?)  Anyway, Trout is a follower and teacher of the Way of Water defined as equal parts Musashi samurai training, Aztec sacrificial worship, and climate science by way of the Book of Revelation.

So I've been throwing in various terms involved in weather reports as holy writ and tying in stuff from the past that is even vaguely related to water as part of his philosophy.  For example:

"You must choose your own path, Chack, but as the Rain God himself has said, Squalls coming from sou-southwest.  Small craft warning."

"Did you hear that, Chack?  Did you mark the words of the Rain God?"  Trout exclaimed in excitement.  "Have been unable to reach you!  The Rain God has been trying to reach us Chack! Go out into the city and tell our brothers and sisters to come to the sunken ship.  I call a Condensation!"

Trout then leads them all in a grand procession procession towards the sunken ship singing one of their most sacred hymns.

In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease...

So these kinds of lines having been getting thumbs up from my fellow gamers and naturally enough I've been working more of them in.  Trout of course is deadly serious when he does these things but I am definitely throwing the meta-humor for the players. This has caused me to become concerned that I am "doing it wrong".

Now, I know that anything my personal gaming group is fine with is fair game, so if I am the comic relief for right now then so be it.  I was curious about how things have been in other people's games.  Did you ever have a situation where the wacky threatened to undermine the apocalypse vibe?

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2012, 05:34:40 PM »
We have a new player in our group who's a bit more gonzo/camp/silly in some of his ideas than I'm used to.   I was a little worried, but I figure it's his game, too, so let him bring it.  I can still play it straight, and put my fingerprints on it.  In some ways, a silly concept can be more disturbing than a serious one when the horror train gets rolling.

I did draw the line at having an NPC gang member worship Voltron, though by the end of the session I was starting to regret it.  I could have some good bloody fun with that...

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Chroma

  • 259
Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2012, 08:14:06 PM »
We had a potentially "wacky moment" in our session yesterday:

Dusk the Skinner had just finished sleeping with Weaver the Hocus when all hell was breaking loose around Weaver's camp.  Dusk escaped out the back, clad only in a clutched blanket and subsequently suffered harm from a rioting mob and got the 7-9 on the Harm-roll... I looked at "drop whatever you're holding..."

Had to ask the rest of the players, who all found the thought hilarious, but felt it would've greatly distracted from the grim and serious tone of the riot, so I picked something else...

...at any other time, it would've been the right choice.  *laugh*
"If you get shot enough times, your body will actually build up immunity to bullets. The real trick lies in surviving the first dozen or so..."
-- Pope Nag, RPG.net - UNKNOWN ARMIES

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2012, 02:10:49 AM »
There's plenty of that type of thing in the source material, after all. Look at the kids in Thunderdome or Adam Ant in World Gone Wild. Its really just an extension of the cultural reference without referents in the character names. For a Hocus especially, the cargo cult mentality makes a lot of sense.

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2012, 07:10:35 AM »
We had a potentially "wacky moment" in our session yesterday:

Dusk the Skinner had just finished sleeping with Weaver the Hocus when all hell was breaking loose around Weaver's camp.  Dusk escaped out the back, clad only in a clutched blanket and subsequently suffered harm from a rioting mob and got the 7-9 on the Harm-roll... I looked at "drop whatever you're holding..."

Had to ask the rest of the players, who all found the thought hilarious, but felt it would've greatly distracted from the grim and serious tone of the riot, so I picked something else...

...at any other time, it would've been the right choice.  *laugh*
haha I was just gonna post this reply when I saw yours Chroma. As the potential victim of a "wacky" moment I have to agree that the final decision to opt out of that direction was ultimately the right one. I think sticking with grim and dark was the way to go, even if it rendered me unconscious. :)

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2012, 12:11:12 PM »
I will say though, outside of that particular moment, we probably would have had you drop the towel.  It just didn't fit for that tone.

So, to answer the OP, I'd say it's truly a case by case basis.  For the most part, I love references to the past, punny names (I had a character who worshiped St. Rbucks...just a starbucks sign that lost it's A).  They add a lot of flavour for me, and I enjoy the quick chuckle that comes with a good name.

That said, there's times where the humour has to take a back seat.  When things are getting really heated, that may not be the best time to introduce your cult's new uniforms as Fast food mascots.

There's a time and place for everything, and having humour dotted throughout AW makes it an okay place to live sometimes.  So I say there's nothing wrong with it, just use with caution.  Don't kill someone else's moment.

(Sorry if this is a disjointed post, writing at work isn't the most conducive place to write thought out responses)

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2012, 07:33:13 PM »
In my experience, cultural reference humor winds up being funny to the players but quickly turns creepy. I mean, picture the Fast Food Hocus from the outside. . .

You've heard about this guy, The King, and his cult before but you've never seen them. Supposedly they all eat some sort of sacramental meat. Maybe its some animal they raise, maybe its the people who give them shit. Before they come over the rise you can already hear them doing this weird chant. Its slow, low tone and seems to carry for ever. Just over and over.
"Magic makes is speeeeeeeeecial. When you're with Burger Kiiiiiiiiing."
When they come over the hill there's like twenty of so of them, all glassy eyed and in worn but identical blue shirts, grey slacks, little cardboard crowns and a motley assortment of weapons. looks like they don't have any animals with them. The leader, though, he's the real scary one. He's got this long, blood red coat trimmed in fur and a giant plastic head with a psychotic smile and a big version of the crowns his cult wears. The thing's cracked and the paint is peeling off of it. When he sees the Hold he raises a hand and all of the guys behind him stop dead and go silent.

What do you do?


So. . .yeah.

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2012, 11:11:58 PM »
Now I want to play a Faceless with a BK mask.
-Jeremiah

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2012, 12:22:39 AM »
Double bonus points if everyone assumes that "The King" is an Elvis impersonator for a few sessions before the scene above.

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DannyK

  • 157
Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2012, 04:16:27 PM »
My favorite theory of humor is McGraw and Warrens Benign Violation Theory:
Laughter and amusement result from violations that are simultaneously seen as benign.

Here's a nice article about it. 
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/04/ff_humorcode/all/1

The relevance to AW, I think, it that it's the MC's duty to make everything a threat -- so I think it's fair game to make the funny not-so-benign sometimes, like having Trout's followers kill people based on their interpretation of Trout's pop culture references.  It takes a careful hand to make this fair without leaving the players feeling like they're getting screwed for their cleverness. 

I think you can also prevent this kind of in-game humor from getting cheesy by keeping the humor all this side of the fourth wall; Trout is very funny to the players of the game, but he's a serious religious leader within the game world. 

In the world of humor writing, Terry Pratchett is very good of this, creating scenes and dialogue that are funny to the reader while being sad or grim to the characters involved.

Re: Wacky fun vs gritty realism
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2012, 01:00:24 AM »
Just wanted to add the two sentences I printed out to remind myself how I should probably not react when things get to funny/wacky/meta-humorous: Do not retaliate with overdone horror to make things serious again. Do not just "go with it" and end up in a far too cheerful mood.

I don't know if that's any help but it helped me quite some times because I tend to go a little bit overboard in one direction or the other when I improvise. Reminds me to think about the actual situation at hand.
a friend in need is a friend indeed