I was wondering how to build a comedic adventure for D&D (or at least get some tips on it). The DM guide mentioned the multiple ideas for campaigns and one of them was comedy! I tried to start writing one and, to be honest, I began to feel it was really dumb and not funny. So I am asking everyone, how could you factor in comedy to make a good, entertaining adventure?
First and foremost: get a handle on your player's senses of humor. If you've a group that loves slapstick but hates punning, the "dungeon of alliterative animalia" likely isn't going to be fun.
The remainder have worked for me.
- Absurd names. Mayor Dinky Winky the Underequipped of Phallidon. A beggar who proudly lists his lineage to 10 generations of beggars.
- Fumbles need to be:
- relatively harmless
- situational humor: make certain that fumbles work with the situation at hand.
- fair: Just as bad for the bad guys as the good guys.
- Hyperbole: the town drunk isn't just drunk, he's falling don stinking drunk and singing "I'll take you home, Kathleen" (or other pub song classics) at the top of his lungs. The Sword-lunker is big, burly, and none too bright. It helps if the PC's and NPC's all have a stat that's in the penalties, to provide a comic weakness
- Failure seldom hurts the PC's... It merely inconveniences them. A failed sneak doesn't result in a twig snapping... it's a loud flatulent moment or a loud rip of clothing (depending upon the scatalogical tolerances of the group).
- Over the top discussions... Ranting villains, frothing at the mouth; sneering and leering; do the funny voices to boot. Think Boris and Natasha, or any Scooby Doo villains, or Dirk Dastardly. (If you know them not, go watch some old cartoons.)
- Highlight any player who made funny moments. Give XP for bad puns, slapstick descriptions, or overplaying the disadvantaged stat.
You are referring to a genre, in which case it appears that you as the GM see yourself as the sole author of this adventure.
However, that isn't entirely true. The players have just as much authorship in this "comedy" as you do.
Now. That being said. You get to set the stage and prepare all the secondary characters. Thus you need to ask yourself...is this slap-stick or is this a witty novel? Slap stick would be easier, because the more ridiculous the "back drop" the more encouraged your players will be in creating the actually comedic atmosphere for themselves. Which is the real trick. Although witty isn't out of play either.
In one of my recent campaigns, the name of the world is Trogdor. Setting the stage for a serious lack of seriousness right off the bat! The only thing I can do is to omit my own need to rigidity and loosen up the need to "sound" serious. Another instance would be creating NPCs with outrageous names & stories..."a kid named apple (who was very round, and always wore a deep blue tunic, purple stains on his face from his constant snacking from the berry patch)"
As mentioned before, the comedy will come from the players. As GM, you can nudge them in the right direction by making it bluntly obvious they are allowed to have a little more fun with it. Perhaps there is a village that has a culture of worshiping chickens, and the chickens wear clothes and are carried around, so they never have to walk for themselves.
If it's ideas you are looking for here are a few more:
There are two villages in the middle of a war, over the color of a shine between them. As it turns out, all of the villagers on both sides are color blind, and the characters need to figure out how to explain that.
Like mentioned above (the blueberry looking kid named Apple) take any social norms and swap them around. The skinny nerdy kid is herald as the town champion. People get drunk on water, and drink ale without effect.
Not a single weaponsmith they come across makes swords, spears, or maces. Where ever they go they are able to purchase rubber-chicken (1d6), licorice whips (1d4), or dirty-socks-filled-with-ore (1d8). The armory sells wooden-barrels held together with twine, or on the lighter side down-feather pillow arrow.
Spells can remain the same, have the same effect, however the descriptions you give can change. EX: Lvl 3 Wizard Spell "Gaseous Form" -- the target begins to make discordant sounds from the backside, a green haze envelopes the target and begins to float. Lvl 2 Cleric Spell "Darkness" all of the creatures within the effected area spontaneously have dark sunglasses appear on their faces (in the case of a gelatinous cube, its just visually confounded by the idea)
As a more serious answer, our light-hearted, "beer and pretzels" D&D game usually has comedic moments because we don't take it too seriously. We make fun of our failures, riff on each other, and generally be silly sometimes.
I'm not sure I would force comedy into a D&D game. But here's the closest thing I would try: Make the premise silly and let the comedic moments come from the players. Take a trope and mix it up.
Play kobolds out to burn and pillage that damn tavern the adventurers keep meeting up at.
Play princesses out rescuing the kidnapped prince.
Play incompetent bad guys.
Play heroes that are constantly taking credit for other heroes' successes.
Play bored clerics with useless gods.
Play adventurers seeking stolen treasure to return it to the dragon it belongs to.
One thing to take into account is that everything can be reflavored without actually affecting game play. For example in the campaign I'm running now the first encounter my party ever came across was a giant spider in a fun house, except the spider was made out of cotton candy and other forms of confectionery goods. It's "poison" was actually just concentrated sugar that gave them a burst of hyperglycemia.
An example I haven't actually tried before could be reflavoring entire classes, perhaps for NPCs. Imagine in a medieval setting you have an absent-minded Buck Rogers type character who crashed his spaceship into the tavern. He has a laser gun integrated in his suit, a cloaking device, a jet pack, and a bunch of other nifty devices that only he knows how to operate. Sounds like you'd have to bend a few rules to do it? Not at all, just reflavor a D&D 3.5 warlock and the only difference is in presentation.
Beyond that, don't be afraid to throw in some form of seriousness in it, just to accentuate the humor. Just think back- would Scooby Doo be quite as entertaining if it weren't for the fact that the team was actually doing something worthwhile. The comedic aspects really popped out against the darkish setting and became something to really be noticed without overdoing it.
- Get the players' buyin first. If they are on board, half (or more) of your humor is off your plate and on theirs. They will also not plan to make the uber-burly and serious fighter for the slapstick game. They may still make the uber-burly fighter, but they will know what to expect and won't be disappointed at a light-hearted game.
- Dagger of Flatulence. A +3 dagger (when the other weapons tend to be +1 or 2) that inflicts a random person in a 10 foot radius with loud and stinky flatulence for an hour.
- Don't over think the plot. Make the plot very simple and straight-forward. Any good movie that has all these twists and turns in the plot are rarely funny. Most of the funny adventure movies are a series of encounters that you pretty much know the solution to early in the first act.
- RP Awards. Give an on-the-spot 10 XP any time someone makes the group laugh. Or maybe another use of a minor power (whatever is appropriate to the system).
- Weird objects. Dagger of Flatulence being the Fighter's favorite weapon. Maybe the Wizard does not have a wand, instead he has a sword of smiting (that works as a wand).
- Personality quirks. Maybe the fighter is an abject coward and will run at the sight of a Kobold (but will stand toe-to-toe against a dragon and be able to win against it). Maybe the thief does not steal, but is a reformed thief and "donates" to charity by sneaking into the room with the charity donation box and then puts in his donation. Break stereotypes in ways that "break" the character's concept a bit.
- Finally, run a VERY serious campaign for a while. Nothing makes me want to cut up and be a wise acre than a very serious adventure/campaign. It's good to use as the roleplaying equivalent of a palate cleanser.
If you're looking for some tropes-in-action, seriously consider reading both Order of the Stick (which focused on abuse of the 4th wall) and ErfWorld (which is brutally Punnishing as well as chock full of reference-based comedy and other gags). Both are in highly rules-based, obviously-a-game settings and both capitalize on this fact. (Both are also decent webcomics, to boot.)
OotS (First page): http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0001.html "I understand, we are being converted to 3.5e"
Erf (Page 1, Book 1): http://www.erfworld.com/book-1-archive/?px=%2F001.jpg "Lord Manpower, the Temporary"
One good place to "borrow" ideas from would be Kingdom of Loathing. It's a free MMORPG with incredibly funny classes, locations, weapons, skills, etc. You can have your Seal Clubber, wielding an asparagus knife, fight a Goblin Beancounter in the dungeon below Cobb's Knobb.
I am currently GM'ing a comical campaign called "Fridgeria."
The game itself is made through Skype. You basically take the role of foods and other stuff you might find in a typical fridge. Available classes are
- Spaghetti Rogue
- FruitRanger and a
Much of my design was based off KOL, but I did come up with the original names. The fascinating part about the whole game was that even though it all was "Improvised" my design was connecting with each other forming a chart when the story took flight.
I'd say if you want to know how to make one, you gotta know your puns, know your references, Improvise Daily.