One of the advantages of tabletop gaming lies in the in-person interaction between the participants. It is a kind of interaction that cannot be duplicated in other types of games, including conversations held through the “chat boxes” common to online role-playing games. Even the grittiest of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns have moments of levity, and those moments become the fuel for private jokes between those present, often producing laughs years after the game session that spawned them.
One way to chronicle those jokes is by creating a “Quote Sheet,” a simple list of the one-liners that reduced the group to tear-streaked laughter, the dates on which they were spoken, the players who spoke them, and some brief notes about the game situation, if the quote isn’t completely self-explanatory. Periodically reviewing the recorded quotes with players is essentially a review of happy memories, which is helpful for bringing game participants together, especially if the relationships between them – either inside or outside the game – are strained.
Of course, most of these quotes derive their humor from in-game circumstances, and therefore aren’t particularly funny if taken out-of-context or read by someone who wasn’t playing at the time. They are the epitome of “you had to be there” humor.
As an example, I ran a game years ago that made partial use of the D&D module, In the Phantom’s Wake. The module basically used a cursed nautical item to teleport the party onto a ghost ship adrift in an unknown sea, and the adventure’s objective was to find a way to return home while enduring constant attacks from the ship’s cursed, undead crew. The party wasn’t powerful enough to simply stomp across the ship, destroying every sailor they met; instead, they were forced to scurry from place to place, hiding in doorjambs, behind coils of rope and open hatches, trying to find a way out. It was a harrowing experience until one of the players, searching for a place to hide, asked if there was the tried and true lifeboat-with-a-canvas where he could take refuge. There were none drawn on the map, so I said there were none. The player replied, “What? No lifeboats on the undead ship? Oh, well, I suppose they don’t need them, anyway.”
After 45 minutes of suspenseful, fearful creeping about, the joke was a welcome break, and the whole table erupted in laughter. Today, 15 years later, we still laugh about that moment. Not that the situation seems riotously funny, even looking at it in writing above. The humor is amplified by the circumstances, which were literally between my players and I.
An interesting variant on this theme is to convey these moments through images. A recent post on Tankards and Broadswords shows how a particularly artistic player “mapped” the progress of an adventure, highlighting the peak moments with the sort of humor described in this post.
Do you chronicle humor in your games? If so, feel free to comment on the method(s) you use, and how the results affected your game.