Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement
containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's
humour, something I've always found tricky in RPGs.
What Fools These Mortals Be? (Phil Masters) looks at
generating character for comic games – which starts with the
intriguing suggestion that while action-adventure games define heroes
by their skills (guns, driving, etc.) and dramatic games by their
advantages (reputation, charisma, allies, dependents), what may be
most important in a comedic game are a character's disadvantages
(and other limitations on the character's ability to be impressive).
Where comedy is about the perversity of the universe and how it does
things to you, the levers it can pull to do those things become
important. The article goes on to suggest some standard comedic roles
(straight man, bumbler, casanova, and so on), and how traits can be
chosen for comedic effect (Bad Sight isn't funny, Bad Sight combined
with "too vain to wear glasses" can be). I don't tend to run
deliberately comic games, but this article makes me want to.
Dying Is Easy; Comedy Is Hard (Matt Riggsby) looks more generally at
the business of running comic games, starting with some theories of
humour (though not touching on Antony Lynn's instructional idea, that
group laughter at someone getting something wrong allows you to learn
what is "wrong" without having to admit that you didn't already know
it). The article goes on to explore how much comedy to use (an
all-funny game, or funny incidents between more serious stuff), how to
reconcile comic violence with a need for perceived risk, and ends with
some practical mechanics of humour. This is a decent companion piece
to the first, though working at a rather lower level - if you've read
much literary analysis then much of this material will be familiar.
Eidetic Memory: The Monster Mash (David L. Pulver) contains "silly"
dungeon encounters: proselytising goblins, a restaurant, and a lich
made from a teenage girl – who's doing the detective thing and
treating the PC dungeon raiders as serial killers. They're one-shots,
and they really need to be set in a fantasy world that follows some
fairly standard patterns: the teenage lich is only funny by contrast
with normal liches, and so on.
Animating Your Life (Kelly Pedersen) has a template for bringing a
cartoon character into real life, very clearly derived from Who
Framed Roger Rabbit? – even including a power limitation that is
essentially "only when it's funny".
Terry Toucan & the Puzzle Pals: The House of 10,000 Sock Monkeys!
(J. Edward Tremlett and Christopher R. Rice) is a light Scooby Doo
homage that will, in theory, eventually fall through into real horror.
This will need very careful GMing to pull off.
Random Thought Table: Amongst Your Weaponry Are Surprise and
Anticipation (Steven Marsh) deals with ways of setting up humorous
situations into which the PCs can insert themselves, as distinct from
ones that play out on their own, using mystery and anticipation.
The first two articles are the really solid ones here for me, and
between them they should make the core of a useful toolkit for running
comical games or for inserting humorous episodes. I'm certainly more
interested in trying out something along these lines than I was before
I read this. Pyramid 101 is available from