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H is for Humor

Either the delight or the bane of a GM's existence, humor seems to be almost omnipresent in roleplaying games, or at least in their implementation.  I've played "serious" games before, games where the plot was grim, the tone dark, etc.  But it is hard to sustain, particularly over time.  At some point, someone cracks a joke or does something wacky and everyone is laughing.
For some GM's, this is extremely frustrating. I saw a Call of Cthulhu game at a convention get wrecked because two of the players were complete clowns.  I've seen tense moments get ruined by people who rely on humor to manage discomfort.  That's some of the difficulty of the craft there.  (It's also a good reason to get the social dimension diffused by eating dinner first, as I mentioned in my last post.)
But I for the most part just roll with it.  I tend to run fairly light-hearted games without a lot of adult or serious themes.  For one thing, my son is in the game, and he is still a little young.  I also just like to laugh myself, probably more than I want to tell a gritty story.  It's a great payoff when you can do a serious game that really sucks people in, but I don't find such games a joy to run long-term.
By the other side, I'm not a huge fan of silly games like Toon or Paranoia.  Those likewise seem to have little long-term appeal to me.  For me, the sweet spot is something akin to the television show Burn Notice--serious plot, mixed humor/serious action, humorous interpersonal dialog.


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