Design & Development01/13/2006

Why We Aren't Funny, Part 2

We're hoping this column becomes your window into roleplaying design and development -- or at least the way we approach these things here at Wizards of the Coast. We'll handle a wide range of topics in weeks to come, from frank discussions about over- or underpowered material, to the design goals of a certain supplement, to what we think are the next big ideas for the Dungeons & Dragons game. All of this comes bundled with a healthy look at the people and events that are roleplaying R&D.

This week, Dave Noonan replies with reader feedback to Why We Aren't Funny.

Peace! Friendship! Freedom! Fireball!

A few weeks ago in our column about humor, we asked for examples of funny things that had happened around your D&D table. Here are the best replies we received. (I edited them a bit. Some of you are outrageously bad spellers!)

Thanks to everyone who wrote in!

It helps if you pronounce the hyphen

From Jacob:

DM: The marilith disarms you.
PC: But I'm a monk. I'm not using any weapons.
DM: My bad. Let me do this again... she dis-arms you.

Houston, we have a problem

From Luke:

During a crazy traveling-the-planes kind of campaign, the PCs were exploring a mechanical complex.

In the center was a tall "wizard's tower" kind of structure surrounded by scaffolding. So they clambered up and entered through a door near the top.

Once inside, the door sealed and a loud roaring was heard from below. The look on the players' faces when they realized they were inside a space rocket was priceless.

As Columbus writes "Spain" on the right edge of the paper…

From Dan:

DM: The passageway ends. You can go left or right.
David: Let's go left.
Jacob: Wait. Let's go right.
David: Why right?
Jacob: Well, I just think that because we fought the trolls back in a room that was on the right, we should go right.
David: [Incredulous] What?
Jacob: I'm on the edge of the paper. If we go left, I'll run out of paper.
David: OK, let's go right.

Spelling counts

From Bob:

A player passed me a note to tell me that he was disguised as a "pheasant." He was extremely surprised when the bad guys entered the tavern to see his character in a bird costume, trying to be discreet.

This will be the motto for my next group

From Alexander (who gets extra points for translating it for us):

In a game many years ago the group of PCs entered a cave. Somewhere down there they met a large group of dwarves. Badly outnumbered, they tried to be friendly and greeted the dwarves …

Cleric: Friede! (Peace!)
Fighter: Freundschaft! (Friendship!)
Rogue: Freiheit! (Freedom!)
Mage: Feuerball! (Fireball!)

As you can imagine, it took quite some time to return to the original storyline where the dwarves where supposed to be friendly...

Guards rarely take Knowledge (nature)

From John:

Our rather motley crew (consisting of two half-dragons, a wood elf, a half-celestial, two drow, a thri-kreen, and a human sorcerer who could turn into a dire bear) simply walked through the barracks, telling the guards to lay down arms. Obviously, they did, their mouths agape. After all, the castle was in the middle of the desert, and most had never seen such creatures. We passed through like some kind of horribly powerful circus troupe.

Shortly afterward, we heard a captain berating the guards, and then the captain and his bodyguard showed up to get us. Remember that spellcasting dire bear? As the captain raised his sword, the dire bear turned him to dust with disintegrate.

Of course, we were all taken aback by this, but what about his bodyguard? As the DM pointed out, they were desert dwellers and had never seen such a thing as a "bear" before.

One of the guards pointed at the bear, his face aghast, and yelled, "It's some kind of f***ed up camel!"

And the druid said, "I'm lookin' for the man who shot my paw."

From Danny:

Our party of hearty adventurers was deep in the Underdark, mounted atop giant lizards. Horses were out of the question at these depths, so we had been given the lizards as gifts. Heading into the dark tunnels, our cunning ranger took point, his eyes ever-watchful for danger.

The tunnel opened up into a cavern where we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by duergar. We growled at the ranger and asked, "All right, Bright Eyes, what do we do now?"

His reply: "Circle the lizards!"

Step One: Make the "Thhhhup!" sound fifty times

From Curtis:

My players were wreaking havoc on the kobolds by a liberal use of charm spells. They would charm the sentry, then get him to lead the party to the perimeter guards and eventually into the tribe's main location, distracting the guards long enough for the party to get the drop on them.

One tribe heard the distant combat as the party took out the perimeter guards and therefore barricaded themselves in a building.

PC: [To kobold] We think your tribe is in terrible danger! You must get them to come out of the building right away! There is a threat coming! Hurry!
DM: The kobold runs up to the building and swings open the doors.
Kobold: [Shouts into building] Guys! There is …
DM: [Makes sounds of fifty crossbow bolts impacting flesh, followed by a dying kobold scream.] The doors to the building again slam shut.
PC: Well, that didn't go as planned.

Sometimes DMs don't get enough sleep

From Andrew:

DM: You see a dead man being eaten alive.

Math is hard

From David:

In a campaign that I DMed, a mid-level cleric was doing some investigation using the spell speak with dead. He was allotted four questions. The corpse answered the first question promptly.

Cleric: So ... how many questions do I have left?
Corpse: Three.
Cleric: What? That was a question?
Corpse: Yes.
Cleric: [Dismayed] What? Are you serious?
Corpse: Yes.

Can't see the forest for the trees

From Christopher:

A new player joined us. The DM introduced his new character, a sneaky rogue, by having him follow us, hiding behind trees and bushes, as we walked through a forest.

The player rolled his first Hide check -- a natural 1. A spectacularly bad roll. Everyone in the party clobbered his Hide check with our own Spot checks.

First PC: Hey! What's that over there? Second PC: What? Where? First PC: Behind that rogue. Is that a tree?

He's good at rock-paper-scissors, too

From Joe:

My friend's 13-year-old son, Alex, plays a rogue/barbarian that, as an extension of his own personality, is blusteringly brave until there is any kind of real danger, in which case it's 50/50 that he'll leave you to die.

Alex is constantly telling his dad, the DM, "I'm walking around with my bow at the ready ... I've got the arrow in my hand, and if I hear or see anything, I'm going to nock the arrow!" He goes into great detail, in spite of warnings from his dad that it won't really make a difference as far as game play goes. You'll either make your Spot/Listen checks, or you won't. This eventually became a point of annoyance for the whole party.

So one day, my half-orc monk proclaimed, "I'm walking around with my hand like this ... [holds up open hand] ... but if there is any sign of trouble, I'm going to hurry up and do this ... [curls hand into fist]."

Now, when we think we're about to go into danger and Alex seems nervous, I just put a finger to my lips, hold up my other open hand, nod as if I'm making great tactical plans, and curl my hand into a fist. "Eh? Eh? I'm ready!"

If you insist …

From Toben:

DM: You are in the town of Maven. Where are you hanging out?
Rogue: Um ... what's in this town?
DM: There's an inn and a big mansion on a hill.
Rogue: Is there any sort of town square?
DM: Yes, there is a large central town square with a set of gallows.
Rogue: Cool! I'm hanging out there!

There's only one way to find out

From David:

The party was walking across a rope bridge in an arboreal world -- trees of magnificent size growing out of a dire mangrove swamp a couple hundred feet below. A PC on the bridge asked a few questions about the environment, none particularly germane, then finished up with the question that sealed his fate:

PC: How deep is the swamp?

Even if the swamp had been only a foot or two under the PCs' feet, there was no way any sort of depth could be judged by eye. My patience had been frayed to a frazzle, so I rolled a die, indicated that there had been a successful attack upon the PC by one of the bridge guards, and then reported:

DM: It's 15 feet deep.

It rapidly dawned on the rest of the group that the only way anyone could get that information was to have passed through the swamp on their way to its bottom.

The avalanche of laughter crippled our game. And "15 feet deep" has become a standard answer among my gaming group whenever anyone asks a question that they couldn't possibly know the real answer to.

Maybe if we attack during naptime

From Joseph:

Nothing has generated more overall humor (of the running joke kind) than this reason for not exploring a giants' cave:

"Not to metagame or anything, guys, but even the kids are like CR 9."

About the Authors

Design: David Noonan is a designer/developer for Wizards of the Coast. His credits include co-designing Dungeon Master's Guide II, Heroes of Battle, and numerous products for the Eberron campaign setting. He lives in Washington state with his wife, son, and daughter.

Development: Jesse Decker is the development manager for RPGs at Wizards of the Coast. His credits include a two-year stint as editor-in-chief of Dragon magazine; design work on Complete Adventurer, DMG II, and other RPG titles; and development work on numerous D&D products, most of which he can’t talk about yet.


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