Friday, February 24, 2012
That's Just Silly
The silliness I'm interested in is gnomes riding on giant shrews, flail snails, heel-kicking leprechauns, talking dogs, Tom Bombadil, and clockwork owls. It's not just comic relief; it's not necessarily played for laughs at all, though it can be.
T&T embraces this sort of play more than most other RPGs, which is why it came up recently. I have a vague sense that silliness isn't as common as it once was. That feeling has been around since the arrival of Vampire: the Masquerade, with its emphasis on dark emotions and tragedy. Silliness became distinctly uncool after that.
A fine line separates the silly from the fantastical--and a fine string connects them. A flying carpet is silly, but it's also a fantasy standard. We don't see the silliness anymore because it's familiar. The same goes for cat people, walking trees, Baba Yaga's hut, beholders--most of the contents of the Monster Manual would draw snickers or outright guffaws from people who don't play RPGs. (See Jared Hindman's blogs on Stupid D&D Monsters for hilarious examples of this.)
If you want your campaign to step outside the mundane and become fantastical, then you need to step into territory that borders on or even crosses into silliness. That's the price and the risk of jumping away from familiar tropes. Elements that break fantasy's tried-and-true, off-the-shelf stereotypes should be embraced, even if that introduces some silliness into the game.