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How to make your game more lighthearted

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  • How to make your game more lighthearted

    So I have a problem that I clearly need some outside input on, and what do you know there is a whole forum full of people easily accessed.

    My current campaign is wrapping up in a couple session, and one my players' complaints throughout the whole campaign has been that there is always something horrible happening. They've started calling my setting Gotham because of how miserable everything seems to be.

    My main plot elements throughout the campaign have been:

    A group of half-demons working to gain more power and destroy the heroes (and recruit one of them).
    A mob that has been smuggling alien goods and weapons into the city.

    These are my two big plot drivers and almost every session has been connected to one of these groups or the effects of their actions. I feel like this gives the story focus, it makes each session have a meaningful impact and makes every character that appears (even the one-shot villains) matter because of their connection to events at large.

    However, this is clearly not what my players would like to see

    It seems the obvious solution so that I don't do this in the future is to have a more lighthearted and fun campaign, but I'm beginning to doubt I know how to do that. It seems silly and kind of pointless to just have a random meaningless bad guy show up. Maybe there are other lighthearted story hooks out there, I guess I have a hard time thinking of them.

    Sorry for having such an open-ended question, but I'm not even sure where to start addressing the issue.

    Has anyone else ever had a game that was too serious? How were you able to address it? What are ways to keep your game light hearted and cheerful? Literally any advice would be appreciated. I just want to make the best game possible for my players.
    Last edited by Jexxen; 20th October 2016, 07:55 AM.

  • #2
    Re: How to make your game more lighthearted

    I usually have the opposite problem, at least as a player.

    When trying to determine the tone of a campaign, I look for "touchstones:" sources of media that are good exemplars of what we're all looking for. These are good guideposts. So, just ask them. If Gotham (the show? the city?) is too dark, what works for them? My guess is that it might be something like the new Supergirl or Flash shows? (which I've never watched, so what do I know ...).

    Some interludes to break it up from the relatively heavy stuff of demons and alien weapons might help, too.

    That being said, your half demons and Intergang-esque plotline strike me as very much the break and butter of superhero comics. Superhero comics, imho, cover a ton of ground in tone. And, a common mistake is that people don't peg it down more than that. You don't really have that problem, as you seem to have a nice open line of communication. But, for my money, this stuff doesn't sound all that dark compared, to things like drug addiction, violent murder, "The Dark Knight," and so on.

    Your players' tastes may be fairly specific on this point, and you're a good GM to be catering to them. So, ask them for a little more guidance. Some examples, which will give you something to work from. The old Justice League cartoons, which I happen to think are excellent and strike a nice tone, are also available on Netflix, just in case that helps.


    • #3
      Re: How to make your game more lighthearted

      in all honesty my friend, if it's your fault then the players are just as guilty for making the game uber-serious and dark....

      When i was in the navy nearly all of our games we'd have dealt with some uber-serious crap (Twilight 2000, Rifts, Robotech, Morrow Project, and a host of other game systems and campaigns)...

      But we'd always find something to make jokes about, be it some gallows humor that made everyone laugh or saying things like the following.... "Oh yeah we're screwed in the bad way...." "There's a good way to get screwed?" "Think about it for a second..." "Oooohhhhhhooo!" or "Oh yeah, this blows in the bad way..." "There's a good way for something to blow?" "Think about it for a second..." "Damn it, you did it again you gutter minded gutter snipe!" "Oh boy we're totally F***ked in the bad way..." "I ain't falling for that one again!" "Good, that means you're finally in the gutter with the rest of us."

      i guess what i'm trying to say, is that humor is a natural aspect of the human condition. just because things are dark as all get out... you shouldn't wallow in it to the exclusion of all else. always toss something in to make people laugh their butts off. heck, Bull-E Boi and his Bull-EE Boiz gang were something we tossed in just for a laugh. a wanna be gangster rapper who's been very successful with his drug trade, whores and other crimes that he's been able to fund his failed attempts at gangster rap. Hetty from NCIS Los Angeles is taller than he is, and he's even smaller in other areas and always went with the biggest is the best. his smallest car was a white and gold escalde SUV with it's flashing diamond hubcaps (it's the smallest thing ah gotz boizes!" (of course his hookers on his elbows are rolling their eyes on that one). all his personal body guards are wearing white suits with gold & diamond buttons and gold or silver plated guns encrusted with diamonds, ect. of course i put in where one of the Bull-E Boiz guards who drives said escalade showed off his 50AE gold & silver plated and diamond encrusted side arm to the other gangers and explained about Bull-E's love of big and bling. and mentioned that he'd already replaced all the diamonds with fake diamonds and ditto with the gold & silver without Bull-E Boi knowing he'd done it... and how stupid Bull-E Boi could be for someone with such good business sense. that had everyone (including people just sitting back watching the game at the con) laughing their butts off (one of the players had to get up to go pee before we continued... though i blame the baby kicking her in the bladder for that one).

      so just just tell everyone to relax while you game and you should naturally feel some good natural points for that humor can pop up and release tension.


      • #4
        Re: How to make your game more lighthearted

        Neither story thread is inherently dark, but it depends on how the results of the demons and gang activities come off. Are you showing things like demonic possession and ritual sacrifice on-panel (so to speak)? Is the fact that any Earthly law enforcement agency is likely hopelessly outgunned by your alien weapon smugglers made plain? Or are you pulling those punches a bit? How is everything going down? Is the tone and feeling of the game that the heroes are just limiting the damage or can they make a difference and save the day?

        Light-heartedness is in the execution. Very few topics (usually ones of extreme violence and/or sexual themes) are unable to be expressed in a fairly light-hearted superhero tale. If comics are your thing, consider Grant Morrison's All Star Superman. The main character is dying from page one, the bad guys are ridiculously close to winning at every turn, one page is famously dedicated to staring the concept of suicide right in the face, and the world comes close to ending, but never does the series lose its hopefulness. You know that the hero will prevail, and while it may be hard, the sun will rise once again tomorrow.

        You've just got to tap into the hope for a brighter future, and get your players to step up to get it there. They may be feeling like their characters can't make a difference, which is common in the sort of Xanatos Gambit stories that it sounds like you're running. Give them one or two solid definitive victories here and there. Let them feel like they are accomplishing something.

        (Granted, I don't know your game beyond what you've told us, so my thoughts may be slightly off-base.)
        SuperFerret's Shoebox of Solitude - My RollCall thread
        Savage City: Welcome to the Jungle - My Custom M&M Setting


        • #5
          Re: How to make your game more lighthearted

          Really appreciate all of the advice everyone, thank you.

          American_Patriot: We make a lot of jokes out of character but there isn't a lot of joking around in character. There are NPCs we laugh at and ones we make fun of, but it is all happening above the table so to speak. I think if i can bring some of that humor in game it would defintely help to lighten the mood.

          SuperFerret: I think your post really hit the nail on the head. It gave me a full-blown epiphany. My players will regurally stop the latest villainous scheme, but they have more inconvienced the baddies rather than full on thwarting them. I think giving them more oppurtnities to make a really big impact on the villains plans will do a lot to help with how "Gotham" my campagin has been. Like you said, it comes down to giving them some hope.