All great tones to achieve when creating a campaign.
Sometimes, though, the group needs a laugh.
When delving a dungeon filled with the undead minions of the black-cloaked overlord has become a grind, or the horrors of the apocalyptic landscape hit too close to home — maybe a change of pace is called for.
GMs should not be afraid to add some levity. Maybe it’s just a one-shot done with comedy in mind. Maybe it’s a short adventure arc featuring over-the-top and colorful heroes or equally outrageous situations. Maybe the trolls in this world are still ugly but the good guys, who talk like they just graduated from Oxford.
Coming up with a comedy-themed campaign is not tough. Here are some approaches that might work if you want to farce it up.
Honey, I’ve Armed the Kids
Yep, your adventuring party is now a family, including the kids, maybe a pet, even grandma. Let the midadventures begin. This is National Lampoon’s Vacation meets The Croods. Shrunk by a mad wizard to ant-sized? Vacation went awry and got dropped into some unfamilar territory? Hey, look, vacation at the actual Count Dracula castle? What can go wrong with that?
Keeping it lighthearted means that none of the encounters are lethal, just scary. And in the end, so long as everyone ends up back at the hotel, all’s well that ends well.
What can go wrong, will go wrong. This is the adventure of mishaps. Sword breaks. Car stalls. You land on a banana peel. At every step of the way, some hazard occurs that spins the PCs around and sends them off seeking an easier path.
And as heroes, the power of choice should be something silly too. Anyone can have power attack or laser vision. But how many heroes can shrink to the size of a dime or have monkey grip or have reach like Stretch Armstrong.
Your d20 comes up 1? Well that isn’t the only result to incur a fumble — how about anything under 10? Or any roll or result including the number 13?
Here, the villain gloats at the ineptitude of the heroes. Heck, even some of the allies will laugh at you too. Underdog meets Adam Sandler. This is for Plastic Man and Ant Man and Ash Williams and every goofball that tried to do good. I’m looking at you, Tick.
But in the end, they always end up saving the day — barely — and getting the girl (unless they turn into a deadite). The big hospital bill is just a bonus.
Yes, Scooby Do meets Doctor Who. Sometimes the threat is real. In that case you’ve got no choice. You have to …
… run away.
The monster of the week can be quite a frightening thing — and overpowering except for some fatal flaw, which hopefully will be revealed before the start of the third act.
In any event, this is fun because there is usually a chase scene, and running through, around, up on and down below, dodging this way and that, can be a blast.
A variant on the chase is the race. This d20 minigame rifs off the Cannonball Run and Gumball Rally movies of the 1970s. But even if you don’t have Dungeon 93/Polyedron July 2002 around, just trick out a car, roll up some goofy player characters and race those NPCs across the country.
This one is about ending up in bizarre situations, encountering stranger folk along the way, and maybe even getting one over on the other drivers (who should also be a strange assortment).
This is the Keystone Cops meets Sheriff Buford T. Justice. So hit the gas and lay down some rubber.