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Bells & Thistles: About Humor

Not What It Says It Is (part 1 of 3)

Meera Barry
February 9, 2000
The more astute of you...yes, you, the clever ones, noted that I had said in my last column that these would be **my** solutions for "the common pitfalls" of humour gaming. In no way should any of these be construed as _THE_ solution. This isn't a scientific process, and my mix of chemicals may prove explosive to your batch of friends. I can tell you now -- some of the answers I am about to provide are hazardous to your health. Some of the answers are right on...some are right off the wall, and some of them are right at Alberquerque, straight on 'til morning. That ought to be enough disclaimer, but just in case: the following may be too warm to drink. Not responsible for broken windshields. Caution: Railroad Crossing. Oh, and never ever drink and swim.

There are two comments I'd like to apply as a baseline to every article I write. The first is, "Like, duh, this is, like, my own opinion, y'know?" [Yes, Valleygirl is my native language.] I'd like to qualify that to two capacities. First, my opinion doesn't represent any of the companies I may work for or volunteer for -- in fact, sometimes it doesn't even represent what I really think. It may change given some brand new, sparkling revelation that is so incredibly brilliant I see the light and change my opinion instantly. It's happened... um...twice. It could happen again. Second, it's an opinion. It's not fact, it's not the only way things go, and it's only as good as it works. It may not work for you.

The second comment I'd like to apply is, "When I provide solutions, I'm not responsible for troubles outside my scope." This is something that's very important in gaming. Some of our groups are, how should I say it? Dysfunctional...and not just in that cute "Critical Miss" e-magazine way, either.

You know what I mean. It's what makes a lot of gamers feel bad to be pigeonholed as, well, gamers. It's the guy who doesn't shower... or the powergamer in the group, the guy who quotes (in the appropriate accent) all the lines from movies you hate, or the gal who GMs diceless in a "you versus her," confrontation and you all die. Often. (Well, she might be your Paranoia GM, and you might be fine with that, but it has been known to suck, too.) It's the gamer who plays the bubbly brainless blonde barbarian, and giggles at that frequency that reminds one of fingernails being drawn down chalkboards. And, of course, because you're desperate to game, you might not want to dump these people and wait until "the Pretty People" all decide gaming is cool. [As noted above -- I have my idiosyncracies, too.]

There are clowns, there are freaks, and there are people who defy those quaint conventional descriptions... who seem born to make your gaming uncomfortable. What you want to do about it is up to you. I am giving you 50 some lines (on my screen) of disclaimers because I don't want to hear, "Well, that would have worked, but I have a bozo in my group who keeps me from doing it right." Tweak the bozo's little red clown nose, and show him (or her -- I've known female bozos) the way to his (or her) little clown car. There is a wealth of resources for fixing these gaming group problems, so let's not clutter my column up any further, shall we? I'll do enough of that myself.

Whew. Let's get to the cool stuff.

What are the common pitfalls of humour gaming? To start, I'd have to say that, well, it's a serious disadvantage (worth points in GURPS!) to not have a sense of humour. It's a serious disadvantage (to your friends) to not have a sense of humour and think that you do. I don't know if there's any cure. I'd suggest a combination of relaxation techniques and humour therapy (often related to throwing cream pies, memorizing knock-knock jokes, and being spanked in a fun, giggly way with jingling batt.) (Sure hope I got the right accent on that. I can never tell if it's a southern accent or a northern one...)

If you happen to have someone without a sense of humour in your group, you may want to rethink your intention on playing a humourous game. Often to be outright obvious as to the humourous content...isn't funny. (On the other hand, sometimes, the inevitable, "Like, duh," can be worth a giggle or two. I know some of you are thinking, "Rules! There have to be some rules around here!" Too bad. Humour can be found in a random results table, but it doesn't have stats of its own.)

Not being funny is different.

Not being funny is the common cold of the humour system. You know all the signs...sniffly, running punchlines, aches and off-center puns, and the headache of having to explain your jokes.

That reminds me. I have something terribly embarrassing to admit. Normally, unlike talk show addicts, I can keep this stuff to myself, but I feel like all of you are my close, personal friends. Each and every one-of-the-dozen of you who read this. [grin]

I can't tell jokes.

Shhhh. Most of the time, I don't even try. It's something about having the repertoire I have of jokes -- someone says something that reminds me of a punchline, and when I quote the punchline, any kind of smooth telling of the joke is then virtually impossible. I generally do this backwards outline of how the joke would have worked, and leave the listener to the exercise of figuring it out themselves. This doesn't work.

I have been authorized, now, to call my Official Joke Teller (a good friend) give him the ingredients, and have HIM tell the joke. (There ought to be some clever name for this position. Speaker for the Jokes? Jokeman, and his Sidekick, Straightliner? Jokesperson Spokesperson? Teehee Teller? Comedian-on-Call? It was recommended "Jokespard" for me (from, apparently, shepherd and cowherd) by a previewer of the column. Suggestions apprecitated.) While you may not have someone with the special talent to call upon, it is working relatively well for us.

Telling jokes isn't always appropriate. It can liven up a session of gaming...but it can definitely backfire. For example, I did a bunch of bad Rebman jokes during a LARP at AmberCon NorthWest this last year. I don't think I've been forgiven. (I was playing a psychotic Merlin. I think it was in character to say, "The problem with Rebmans is all the little groups they have. You know. There's twenty-thousand leagues under the sea." I shoulddabeen lynched.)

Alright, I'm going to have to digress again. Sorry. Maybe Sandy will split this article in five parts and give you a whole work-week of it or something. That'd be cool. But that's completely besides the digression, if that tells you anything about my current state of mind.

[Editor's note: Okay, continued!]

Meera Barry

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What do you think?

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