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Roleplay > WoWJan 30, 2016 2:00 pm CT

Role Play: Humor in roleplay

Everyone wants to be a hero — or rather, everyone is the hero by default in World of Warcraft. Sometimes people want to be villains — which is great, because every good story needs some kind of opposition. And then you have the people who eschew both hero and villain, taking a far more wisecracking look at the world of Azeroth and poking fun at it all.  And hey, who can blame them? Azeroth is a fantasy world full of fantastical creatures that are all just a little over the top — and it’s also full of in-jokes, references and humor.

But humor in roleplay is almost a double-edged sword, much in the same way as playing that straight-laced hero or dastardly villain. Comedian characters, light hearted types that refuse to take the world too seriously are incredibly fun to play, but it’s dangerously easy to take it too far. How do you avoid crossing the line from being funny to being incredibly irritating? How do you use humor in roleplay without going overboard?

Comedic characters

So you’re looking to create a funny character — that’s great! The game lends itself to comedy just as easily as it lends itself to deeper tales. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when you’re developing a character specifically for a comedic role.

  • A reasonable backstory. Sure, you’re making a funny character — but that character should have just as much reason to exist on Azeroth as anyone else. Keep in mind that while you’re welcome to create any kind of character you want, characters that deliberately break the lore aren’t as likely to be widely accepted by other roleplayers. Sure, a character with an outrageous, lore-breaking backstory might be funny to you, but it’s probably going to get you very little in the way of interaction with other roleplayers.
  • A reasonable attitude. There’s a difference between a funny character, and a character that simply spits ridiculous words or randomly screams at a moment’s notice. One of these is the kind of character other people want to speak to, the other is one they’d more than likely try to avoid at all costs. Try peppering your character’s past with a variety of tall tales or funny anecdotes, things that other players can relate to. You want people laughing with you, you don’t want to be trying to force them to laugh at you.
  • A grounded history. You don’t have to make a character that is all seriousness all the time, but they should, theoretically, have just as much reason to exist in the world as anyone else. They should have some kind of purpose for traveling the world beyond telling jokes, even if they’re literally a stand-up comedian traveling Azeroth to tell jokes. There should be a why, a reason as to why they’re doing this — and that doesn’t necessarily have to be tragic or completely serious either, but it helps ground the character and give other players something to relate to.


Humor in roleplay

Okay, you’ve got the character. Now go be funny. That’s not as easy as it sounds, is it? It’s hard to pinpoint the correct way to use humor in roleplay, harder still to just tell you what people will find funny. Humor, and in particular what people find funny, is a completely subjective thing. It’s easier to tell you what people generally don’t find funny.

  • Disruptive roleplay. Casually walking into a bar and just interrupting a group’s conversation to crack some jokes isn’t going to score you any points on the social niceties front. Neither is the random screaming mentioned above. At best, all it’s going to get you is a swift addition to a whole lot of ignore lists.
  • Demanding attention. Along the same lines, walking up to someone and demanding they talk to you, listen to your stories, or just bombarding them with a series of jokes is probably going to be poorly received. Yes, of course you want attention — what good is a joke, if you haven’t got anyone to tell it to, after all — but demanding that attention isn’t going to get you in anyone’s good graces.
  • Begging for a reaction. And right along with demanding attention is this one. Look, you might think you’ve told the funniest story on the planet, but if people aren’t laughing, it probably wasn’t as funny as you thought. Sure, you want to be funny, but maybe the other people around you aren’t in the mood for humor at the moment. If a joke falls flat, don’t get up in people’s faces about it, just chalk it up to bad timing and move on.


Taking it too far

There’s nothing saying you have to take everything in the game seriously. Honestly, with how many comedic quests and situations our characters are routinely thrown into while leveling, it sometimes feels like maybe we should be treating the world with a little well placed tongue-in-cheek humor. But roleplayers that like to use humor in roleplay sometimes take that a little too far, turning every situation and every conversation into a joke, whether the people around them want to be light-hearted or not.

And there’s nothing stopping you from taking that kind of perspective on the world of Azeroth and its inhabitants, but it’s not going to do you any favors. There are also a lot of people who really like the serious moments of roleplay, and prefer a good session of angst over a lighthearted evening of telling tall tales and getting drunk in the local tavern. The worst thing you can do when you’re trying to pull off humor in roleplay is to force your hilarious antics on people who really aren’t in the mood to deal with them.

Roleplaying is a social activity, and people choose who they do and don’t want to spend their time with while roleplaying. So you want to choose your moments wisely, and you also want to keep an eye on the roleplayers around you. You might want your character to lift people’s spirits, but other roleplayers may not feel the same way, particularly if they’re roleplaying a character that’s going through something difficult. Observe the people around you, take note of their behavior, and if they seem like they’re getting annoyed, dial the hilarity down a notch.

Using humor in roleplay is fun, but keep in mind that humor is subjective, and entirely up to the whim of the person on the receiving end. It’s not just about having a funny story to tell — it’s about whether the person listening really wants to hear it. So spend some time coming up with funny stories and things to do, but make sure you’re also spending time figuring out your audience while you’re at it.

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