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Funny...to Play


I love Feng Shui.

I take that back. I would not marry Feng Shui, and I wouldn't do its dishes, and I certainly haven't picked up all of its children. I do, however, enjoy its company, even if it has a habit of breaking my teacups.

In mostly a metaphorical sense, of course.

I have never played a game of Feng Shui. I have never run it, and I have only occasionally thought of characters or scenarios for it. Still, I believe Feng Shui was written for me. Not just because I'm a RDL fan girl. It was written in a way that fits my style. I quote bits of it aloud for grins.

...But is it funny?

This probably should have gone into my introductory column, but I was expressing my once-every-four-years girl gamer angst.

How did I get into humour and roleplaying?

I read a question that led to an epiphany, of course.

I think I know who asked it, but I'm not confident enough to quote him on it. I think it may even have been on Usenet. The details aren't really important: it's the question that needed asking.

Does anyone play humour games?

Lightning...struck my brain.

First, I had to ask my husband(-to-be, at the time) what he thought. We were on our way out to buy a copy of Critter-Tek (still haven't picked it up, though) from the store about an hour's drive away. He said yes, then looked hesitant.

Macho Women with Guns.


People -have- to be playing these games, right? Despite the fact that buying a stick of gum in HoL can be an all-night adventure, we've played it. Hey, we managed a funny TOON-Wraith crossover. We play Paranoia. We introduced people to gaming with "Kobolds Ate My Baby". I bought figurines for our MWWG games...

Are we exceptions to the rules? Well, no. We break the rules. We have been known to belabour the point. We belabour the point so much it tries to start a union. We belabour the point so much that after we beat the dead horse that's dragging it along, we have been known to set fire to the bridge it passed and wave over a passing Mongolian horde.

Erm. Yeah. I think you understand what I mean.

Back to Feng Shui, then. Now, to me, this is a game intended to be played for laughs. While I can see serious games of it being run, the stunts and over-the-top cinematic action require a different energy than say, a Kult moodiness.

I'm not saying that Feng Shui is unintentionally funny. Any game where sound-effects directly give you a bonus knows it has one foot in the muck of the humour pile. It's not unintentionally funny like, say, The Everlasting. (Which is hilarious in that, "This is the RPG your parents were worried you'd get into," way. At least...I hope it was unintentional.)

Paranoia is one that gets a lot of mixed responses, and not just between the different versions. -I- think it falls into the "intentionally funny" category. The guys I know who run it have been fantastic. One of them is surreal, the other is, well, "hyperactive."

It's a rare treat, and not often played. To misquote Barbie, "Humour is hard." It's something you stumble into...from a quote that catches your fancy ("I'm losing my brain now, aren't I?") or a revelation of how skewed your situation really is ("You mean, I wake up naked and tied to a pole and this is different from when I -tried- to do this last week? Oh dear."). I said on the forums from my last column: Trying for humour is like trying for failure. I'll stick by that for a little bit longer.

WEG's Men In Black adaptation game has a mechanism whereby you get extra opportunities for having worked in one of their "punchlines" into the game. I thought it was an interesting challenge, although I never really figured on wrangling it into, well, Men In Black. (I was more thinking of taking the cards and trying to do the same thing with Ars Magica.) (And besides, I think Nightlife does "Men In Black" better...)

A challenge, indeed. To be funny, you don't want it to sound forced. It has to be almost incidental, casual, and extremely relevant. Being funny is like being brilliant -- when you're not, you're dumb. (Okay, I'll relent. "You're average." Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrre.)

(Boy, I hope you're grinning now. Otherwise, I'd look dumb.)

Since NO ONE likes to look less than brilliant [that better?] I'll start my next article with discussing the common pitfalls of humour gaming, and my ways to avoid them.

Until then!
-- Mb

What do you think?

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