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Author Topic: Grim and Dark Hilarity  (Read 3388 times)

rgrove0172

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Grim and Dark Hilarity
« on: August 24, 2016, 01:49:13 PM »
I recently became aware of a Scandinavian translation of a reportedly grim and dark fantasy RPG called Symbaroum. After a little research I was hooked. The atmosphere put forth by the author and the artwork included fairly dripped with the somber, menacing ambience promised. As a big fan of this kind of gaming I ordered a copy right away and began my typical hunt for all things connected with it - reviews, modules, expansions, adventures, fan based stuff etc. and this before my copy even arrived.

This hunt led me to the welcome discovery of a few recorded game sessions on Youtube. Thrilled I sat back to watch how some other gamers plunged into this gritty, morbid and corrupt world of ancient mystery and evils and harsh, gloomy survival. The result?

 The GM and his players did a pretty good job of recreating The Brady Bunch on vacation in Symbaroum. Continuous joking, silly references, modern approaches to game encounters, ridiculous NPC portrayals etc. (A wagoner was depicted as a Kentucky hillbilly) did their very best to completely lose the flavor of the game. The GM would read some very effective descriptive paragraphs only to follow with some jovial, ridiculous follow up. The effect was nauseating.

Now Ive seen this type of thing before where players and sometimes even the GM seem to completely ignore the intended ambience of a certain game, and I suppose as long as they all share in this desire to defile the experience the author intended that's fine. Its their game afterall but I have to wonder. Why play a GRIM, DARK, SOMBER, SERIOUS, GRITTY game with the approach of a Saturday morning cartoon. (Do they even still exist?)

The internet is full of such transgressions and it never fails to amaze me. Now before someone goes off and calls me a grumbling old kill joy, I understand the occasional light moment in any game. A little comic relief is almost necessary and is a staple in most dramas be they movies, books or a game... but that's not what Im talking about and you all know it. When a supposedly dark, austere and gloomy game is played in same way as a Dungeons and Dragons the animated series episode one has to wonder WTF?

So the question is... what is wrong (right) with these people? Why do they pick a game with an atmosphere so obviously counter to their group's personality? How can you not feel just a little guilty for dancing all over an author's clearly evident intentions for his work?
« Last Edit: August 24, 2016, 01:51:20 PM by rgrove0172 »

Rincewind1

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Grim and Dark Hilarity
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2016, 01:52:47 PM »
I feel you man.

And there's nothing wrong per se - some games' premise just doesn't mesh with some people. I have in my own gaming groups people whom I love to have over for WFRP but would never invite them again for CoC or Kult.

Also, thanks for reminding me of the game - a buddy of mine was gushing over it's illustrations, time to check it out if it's in English.
Furthermore, I consider that  This is Why We Don't Like You thread should be closed

Battle Mad Ronin

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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2016, 02:34:38 PM »
I read the 'Symbaroum' (in English) and enjoyed the atmosphere and art.

If I were to play it, I would probably still joke around a lot. I think the fun of hanging out with your friends and making jokes shouldn't be seen as an interference with atmosphere, but as a way of establishing contrast with the more somber moments of game play. Gaming sessions in my group will often go like that, we act crazy most of the time, then something appropriately dramatic happens and things get intense.

When a die roll decides everything, when the stakes suddenly rise, when Hit Points are low, that's when the suspense happens and the mood is set. In a heartbeat the tone changes and everyone is 100% engaged. All the craziness, the off-game banter let us blow off steam, and that allows us to focus that much better when the shit hits the fan.  

That being said of course you've still got some groups who will be more inclined to silliness than others. If I wanted to play a really intense, no-nonsense scenario I would explain to my group "This is how it's going to go down" and play for a limited time, rather than run a long campaign. I think too much intensity and mood setting often goes against the intended purpose and crosses over into making people jaded and more likely to get explosively silly at inappropriate times.

Necrozius

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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2016, 02:37:13 PM »
We always played WFRP and Dark Heresy with lots and lots of laughter out-of-character. However our PCs were always miserable assholes trudging through the grimmiest and darkiest stuff. Sometimes such settings are so over the top that we can't help but make fun of it.

rgrove0172

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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2016, 03:11:20 PM »
I apologize for using this one quote as my response is more towards a general approach rather than the quote specifically..

I think the fun of hanging out with your friends and making jokes shouldn't be seen as an interference with atmosphere

Why is it 'hanging out with friends' is automatically synonymous with 'jokes' and silliness in the first place?

When two friends get together to play a competitive game of chess they can spend hours almost in silence, concentrating, focusing and occasionally moving a piece. IN the end they would claim to have enjoyed themselves a great deal... no laughing and screwing around needed.

A group of friends get together and challenge another group in a game of touch football. They spend a couple hours grunting and puffing and killing themselves. In the end, they drink a few beers and talk about how great it was. No jokes and silliness during though.

Why is gaming any different? Why couldn't a group of likeminded gamers get together, spend a couple serious hours experiencing a dramatic setting and save the X rated commentary and 3rd grade humor for later?

I ask this because it does indeed seem to be a real rarity. Ive read countless threads and articles on gaming which seem to insinuate that this kind of behavior is expected, unavoidable, and relished by most. It just seems incongruous with a game that stresses a more sullen, guarded tone.

Soylent Green

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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2016, 03:47:29 PM »
The short answer, if you want a really tightly themed, stylised game you have to have a set of players that are totally committed to that vision.

Now personally I find most games make more sense through the lens of a Saturday morning cartoon. Apart the fact most game settings feature fantastical elements of some sort or other - not a great start if you want to keep things grounded - you tend to be immersed in a world rife with coincidences, short on consequences and where things happen and unnaturally accelerated pace. Villains tend to have over-elaborate schemes, characters come up with the dumbest plans (because in the the player are amatuers just improvising stuff they have personal experience of) and frankly the whole thing doesn't bear much scrutiny.

You can embrace it, gloss over the cracks and just go with what is the most fun like a Saturday morning cartoon character or fight in and let all the  jarring inconsistencies pull out of character.

I would guess this isn't a widely shared view but I can't help thinking that when other gamer reminisce over their oh so serious past campaigns there isn't just a touch of selective memory and embellishment going on.
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Tod13

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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2016, 03:49:33 PM »
Quote from: rgrove0172;915176
Why is gaming any different? Why couldn't a group of likeminded gamers get together, spend a couple serious hours experiencing a dramatic setting and save the X rated commentary and 3rd grade humor for later?

Taking your second question first: our jokes usually involve statistics, software development, molecular biology, cancer genetics, or some combination of the four.

There is probably some confounding due to self-selection criteria. The people that choose RPGs as a hobby want more interaction with their friends than a silent chess game would provide. If I wanted to be quiet, I'd play a one person computer game or read or write (books or code). Most of the people I play with are the same way.

Omega

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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2016, 03:59:07 PM »
Quote from: rgrove0172;915176
I ask this because it does indeed seem to be a real rarity. Ive read countless threads and articles on gaming which seem to insinuate that this kind of behavior is expected, unavoidable, and relished by most. It just seems incongruous with a game that stresses a more sullen, guarded tone.

um...

Because some groups do indeed play somber or deadly serious. And some play anything but.

Like EVERYTHING in gaming... yep. Varies wildly from one to the next.

And it goes the other way too. Silly or light hearted RPG? Some groups going to play it as grim and somber.

What you saw in the play video was... drumroll please... Not representative of everyone playing. Though I have noticed that a way too high a number of session videos tend to the crass or comedy side.

And no. This sort of behavior is not "expected" at the table.

rgrove0172

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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2016, 05:46:55 PM »
Quote from: Soylent Green;915181
The short answer, if you want a really tightly themed, stylised game you have to have a set of players that are totally committed to that vision.

Now personally I find most games make more sense through the lens of a Saturday morning cartoon. Apart the fact most game settings feature fantastical elements of some sort or other - not a great start if you want to keep things grounded - you tend to be immersed in a world rife with coincidences, short on consequences and where things happen and unnaturally accelerated pace. Villains tend to have over-elaborate schemes, characters come up with the dumbest plans (because in the the player are amatuers just improvising stuff they have personal experience of) and frankly the whole thing doesn't bear much scrutiny.

You can embrace it, gloss over the cracks and just go with what is the most fun like a Saturday morning cartoon character or fight in and let all the  jarring inconsistencies pull out of character.

I would guess this isn't a widely shared view but I can't help thinking that when other gamer reminisce over their oh so serious past campaigns there isn't just a touch of selective memory and embellishment going on.


I cant help but agree with your final assumption, as said Ive seen plenty enough to believe that even in games that try and steer clear from such behavior (as I do) it creeps in anyway.

I cant however identify with the "Saturday Morning Cartoon" lens however. If I, and many gamers Ive know, had to practice our hobby from that perception I think I would try something else. There is certainly a place for such antics when friends get together. We do it when boardgaming, watching sports, playing cards and what not but there is also a place where it isn't welcome. Certain RPGs are included in those, in my opinion.

rgrove0172

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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2016, 05:52:48 PM »
Quote from: Tod13;915184
Taking your second question first: our jokes usually involve statistics, software development, molecular biology, cancer genetics, or some combination of the four.

There is probably some confounding due to self-selection criteria. The people that choose RPGs as a hobby want more interaction with their friends than a silent chess game would provide. If I wanted to be quiet, I'd play a one person computer game or read or write (books or code). Most of the people I play with are the same way.

I wasn't trying to demean anyone with the 3rd grade comment. However, just because the subject matter is mature doesn't mean the direction of the humor is. I was a Firefighter/Paramedic for 22 years. Much of the sickest, most immature, completely inappropriate humor surrounded medical practices, gruesome discoveries while in the field etc. Terminology and concepts discussed = College Graduates, actual subjects of the remarks = 3rd grade.

The assumption that RPGrs are socially minded is of course one narrow viewpoint. I can point to any number of examples in my experience where that was not the case. Ive had many players and friends (and am somewhat this way myself) where the inclusion of a social element is a 'necessary evil' in order to engage in the hobby. Playing solo is great but to truly experience the story in all its glory you need multiple personalities involved. I suppose someone with that particular affliction could enjoy the best of both worlds!

rgrove0172

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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2016, 05:54:18 PM »
Quote from: Omega;915187
um...

Because some groups do indeed play somber or deadly serious. And some play anything but.

Like EVERYTHING in gaming... yep. Varies wildly from one to the next.

And it goes the other way too. Silly or light hearted RPG? Some groups going to play it as grim and somber.

What you saw in the play video was... drumroll please... Not representative of everyone playing. Though I have noticed that a way too high a number of session videos tend to the crass or comedy side.

And no. This sort of behavior is not "expected" at the table.

Your probably right of course. Its an unfair assumption Ive made based on my experiences only. Its hard not to form your own conclusions based on what you have personally experienced though, its may only be my opinion but afterall its the only opinion I have!

Soylent Green

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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2016, 06:13:41 PM »
A lot I guess depends on what the term "Saturday Morning Cartoons" evokes. For me it's raw excitement, economy of storytelling and unassuming, good, clean fun. I'm thinking of the good ones, Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles or even older shows like Thundarr the Barbarian.
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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2016, 06:17:24 PM »
Quote from: rgrove0172;915162
So the question is... what is wrong (right) with these people? Why do they pick a game with an atmosphere so obviously counter to their group's personality? How can you not feel just a little guilty for dancing all over an author's clearly evident intentions for his work?


Remember when I was very careful not to say you were playing your game wrong because it worked for your group in a previous cluster of a thread? This is why. I didn't want to "wrong fun" you. It's their game. As long as everyone is having fun, they are doing it right. As for the author's intentions I point you to one Stephen Chenault, driving force behind Castles and Crusades and the default campaign setting from that company called Aihrde. When queried once from a customer about the correct pronunciation of that world, Mr. Chenault responded, "It's however you pronounce it. It's your world now." It may be Stephen's baby and personal campaign world, but he recognizes that once it is published, it belongs to everyone else too.

Also, there is the fact of where people play the game. In this, I mean differences in immersion, not physical location. Some folks LARP, fully immersed as much as possible. Others sit around a table but take on the persona, mannerism, and voice of their character, like acting out a read through. For others, it's theater of the mind and the quips, and physical atmosphere have little to nothing with how they see the story for themselves.
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Omega

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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2016, 03:57:24 AM »
And of course. If you give a bunch of goofballs a serious game. Chances are high that they arent going to play it seriously. They might. But dont count on it. And if you have a somber group then getting them to lighten up for a cheery game can sometimes be harder than persuading clams to open.

Call of Cthulhu seems to epitomize this.

nDervish

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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2016, 10:32:05 AM »
I haven't seen the video(s) you're talking about (and don't particularly care to; watching actual plays isn't really my thing), but two possibilities come immediately to mind:

1) If a situation is tense, then a lot of people will reflexively start cracking jokes to relieve that tension.

2) There are a lot of people who enjoy playing Warhammer games saturated in over-the-top everything and dark humor.  The term "grimdark" was, at least according to some sources, coined specifically in reference to that style of play.  I'm sure that grimdark Symbaroum is a thing, too.

Quote from: rgrove0172;915176

Why is gaming any different? Why couldn't a group of likeminded gamers get together, spend a couple serious hours experiencing a dramatic setting and save the X rated commentary and 3rd grade humor for later?


They certainly can and many do.  Perhaps such groups are less likely to make actual play videos?  Or perhaps videos made by "serious" groups are less popular than those made by "silly" groups?

Quote from: rgrove0172;915205

I was a Firefighter/Paramedic for 22 years. Much of the sickest, most immature, completely inappropriate humor surrounded medical practices, gruesome discoveries while in the field etc.


If I understand you correctly, this sounds like an example of my #1 above, although in this case, the bad humor is being used to defuse disturbing situations rather than tense ones.