Friday, October 30, 2015

Sincere silliness

I was thinking about why I really like a particular band and it lead to a gaming thought. A DF gaming thought.

Here is why I think my DF game works. And partly why it's lasted so long.

It is sincere in its silliness.

That is, we do all the things that are cool about heroes fighting monsters in tunnels for treasure.

We also do all the things that are silly about that, too, and take them and own them.

We love all of these things.

We do our level best to make them the most appropriately cool, or the most appropriately silly.

And we play them sincerely.

It doesn't matter if the Church of the Good God (Motto: "Good God, y'all!") is silly. It does matter that we love the joke inherent in it, execute it well, and go after it sincerely.

It doesn't matter if it's kind of strange that there are giant megadungeons full of monsters and loot. Again, we make the jokes, embed them in it, and play it sincerely.

It's not ironic enjoyment, but sincere enjoyment of something twisted ironically. It's a hard difference to explain in words, but I can feel the difference between "make it a joke" and "enjoy the jokes." We and the game are in on the same jokes - laughing with the game elements, not at them.

That's why I think it keeps going. No ironic enjoyment here. Nostalgia flavored but looking back for inspiration not elusive fun that was never really had.

Just sincere silliness.

Or, in a single word: sincerity.


  1. I think it has a lot to do with the movies and books we grew up on, they were funny yet had a heart, and cared about what they poked fun at (Samurai Cat, Hitchhiker's Guide, Mel Brooks, Strange Brew, the Evil Dead movies, Conan the Destroyer (vs Barbarian, which I still love, but is much more serious), and of course Indiana Jones.

    1. I think for all of them, they goof on the stuff they love. They don't just mock it and try to enjoy the mocking. That's not sustainable.

  2. Couldn't agree more. Batman and James Bond are the classic examples of a character that tends to swing wildly between campy fun and growling cynicism, but for my money the sweet spot lies smack between the two extremes. Heck, the latest Mad Max movie nails this by combining over the top theatrics with a complete lack of disregard for deeper messages and cinematic gravitas. It is chock full of action and spectacle without ever veering into the realm of "camp". If it's awesome, it makes it into the movie with no apologies. You don't like it, go back to your Fellini movies, egghead. The rest of us will keep on laughing and enjoying every aspect of this stuff, no pseudo-intellectual justifications necessary.

  3. I think there's a point to a game where it has too much silliness, but as long as you avoid crossing that line very campy stuff is fun. About the only time it wouldn't work for me would be in a serious horror game, though I don't think I've played in one of those since high school.

    1. Yes, but there is a line on both ends - too much silly, too much serious - for just about any game.

      But really it's about how you approach it - silly in a mocking way is unsustainable, I think. Serious in a strict and stressful way is equally unsustainable. But either end of the spectrum is okay if you're really enjoying all the aspects of it with sincerity.

  4. I'm sorry, Citizen, but "sincerity" is not allowed on friend Computer's Internet at your clearance level. Attempting to smuggle sincerity on to the Internet is treason. Please report to your nearest confession booth.

    (Why, yes, I was just browsing some Paranoia PDFs I got from Bundle of Holding a while back, why do you ask?)

    1. The Sincerity Society would make a great treasonous organization in Paranoia!

  5. I really don't mind joking around while playing because that is what happens when you are having a good time. The main thing I like is for the adventure to make sense when it is solved. I had a DM when I was younger that always made adventures that when you finished them they made sense and you could figure out where you made mistakes if you a had thought of something different earlier. I don't like things too cheesy though, I much prefer that the adventure is straight even if there are jokes along the way.

  6. Ha! You know, I had basically this conversation about good black metal metal bands. Which, to me, basically requires being the kind of band that doesn't break kayfabe. You go on stage with a ton of hair product and styling designed to look like you slept in a coffin, a wardrobe made out of a pick-and-mix of horror and medieval movie costumes (optional extra weaponry), do ridiculous gothic horror voices, and just generally embrace and revel in the full regalia and high drama of the style.

    And you don't break kayfabe while doing this. You respect the job you're doing and do it as damned well as you can.

    Because black metal is like wrestling and Commedia dell'arte - you're here to play your character, your character might be ridiculous, and damned if you aren't going to play your ridiculous character as well as you possibly can, and with all the commitment to quality you can, because people came to see that ridiculous character. Because it's still awesome.

    Hopefully they also do good music, but I'll forgive bad music for a really good performance - either way I got my money's worth.

    The Dungeon Fantasy line is like the lusciously over the top black metal bands, it's like the pagentry and theater of pro wrestling and wrestlers staying in character even if they're on a talk show, it's like clowns and Commedia dell'arte - the role is out there, but that's no reason to slack off and that's no reason to disrespect it.

    Dungeon Fantasy doesn't break kayfabe.


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