Dark / Serious vs Silly / Lighthearted what kind of Pathfinder plots do you prefer?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

As both a player and a GM, I've personally always been a fan of dark, serious, even melodramatic plots in my campaigns. But I've played with several other players who hate that. I'm not just referring to the Bard that feels compelled to crack jokes even when it isn't appropriate, but players in general who just don't engage with serious storylines.

Don't get me wrong, I love shenanigans... But I love drama more. And there is plenty of room for humorous breaks in drama.

I had a terrific group of players once that adored the extreme end of dark-plots... Where their characters went through irreparable trauma to their breaking points. They weren't sadistic or masochistic, playing the drama for them was like enjoying a good tear-jerker.

So I have to ask. As a player (and as a GM if applicable) what kind of stories do you prefer? Serious or light? Silly or dramatic? Or anywhere in between. If you have specific stories that'd be great (just mark any spoilers if you're talking about a Paizo product)


I like them all. As a GM I very it up, even the most serious of adventures can have some levity every now and then. Plus, it keeps things fresh.

As a player, all are equally fun.


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I prefer Serious with silly Sidequests.... when the main hook gets silly things tend to fall apart, but a nice bar brawl is always nice.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Depends on the group and mood at the time.

Sometimes it's good to roll out serious drama.
Sometimes it's good to turn the whole session into one long joke.


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Paraphrasing a script-writing tip I read once: Make is serious, make it dark, but for god's sake crack a joke every once in a while to break the tension. (( specifically this went along with the scene from Avengers where Iron Man almost died ))


I'm like you, hasteroth. I prefer serious/dark over silly/lighthearted. Most people in my area feel the opposite so I'm 'that guy' around here. Thankfully, the difference in preferences is apparently appreciated as I now play my fair share of games. Silly though the games may be (or soon become) I can still enjoy them my way, and, in the process, unintentionally be a bit of a joke myself!

Dark Archive

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Best thing is obviously playing silly things straight :D Like, most interesting PCs I have seen are the ones that concept wise seem like joke characters, but in actual play are played straight. They aren't one note "Hehehe see what I did there" with player trying to force a running gag, they are actual characters with personalities and quirks that affect how they react to things.

Melodrama is honestly more silly than acknowledging how fantasy can be rather silly at times and just rolling with it.


My gaming group has its cake and eats it too. We've had some dark and tense moments in many campaigns, but overall its the DM who keeps the tone and atmosphere tense, and the players who crack the jokes, and everyone is comfortable with this formula so long as one side dosn't overwhealm the other.

Sovereign Court

I like political intrigue and a more serious tone. Occasional light hearted and silly moments are fine. I don't like epic stories where fate of the world/universe hangs on the PCs.

Sovereign Court

In my opinion, the campaign should always take itself seriously, but that in no way means that it should always be serious. The Zelda games are a pretty good example of this, though more cartoony than an RPG would be. The game world itself is relatively light, but the characters within the world are pretty dang upset when Gannandorf starts to wreck stuff up.

I don't like melodrama where the characters writhe in torment over the mistakes they've made. Suck it up. Move on.


I think I land in the middle (by the waterfall) when it comes to light versus dark. Like, we have fairly drawn out, dark and / or serious spans and events in our games, but us as players take given (whether intentionally or unintentionally given) opportunities to crack some jokes and make light. I love both sides and feel a campaign filled completely with one side but largely lacking the other will eventually make it tedious to play and, even boring.


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Anywhere in the spectrum is fine, as long as everyone at the table is on the same page.

Liberty's Edge

Saldiven wrote:
Anywhere in the spectrum is fine, as long as everyone at the table is on the same page.

Absolutely.


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I like a mix. I like a gaming sessions to get at least a few legitimate laughs amongst all at the table, but it also pisses me off when the game grinds to a halt because a gag is drug out too long. I don't get to game every week anymore, so it's important that the game continues to move forward.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

I usually design my games with a serious bent, but my sessions themselves tend toward the comedic a lot. I set the plot up as though I'm telling a very serious story and let my players turn it into a comedy.


LizardMage wrote:

I like them all. As a GM I very it up, even the most serious of adventures can have some levity every now and then. Plus, it keeps things fresh.

As a player, all are equally fun.

I echo LizardMage's thoughts. I like to GM and play in every such scenarios. Right now in my campaign things are taking a dark turn but someone in the party will inevitably do something hilarious at just the right moment to boost party morale and break the tension in the room when things are at their darkest.


I prefer a mix of the two.

I think that some things should be light hearted, but others should be serious.

Too dark and the darkness consumes. When injected properly though, it can have serious impact.

I tend to go serious, but that doesn't mean dark, with moments of levity, then whip out the dark when it will have the most impact.


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World War I, aka the Great War, was a horrific experience for anyone in any of the armed forces. It was the first time so much protracted war was fought in so many places and began to see the fruits of mankind's ability to find more efficient methods of killing other humans. Trench warfare has become something of a euphemism for nasty, brutish fighting against an equally entrenched and focused enemy but it was a harsh reality for the fighters of the time.

From an article at the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/par t-three/10418323/first-world-war-jokes.html:

Telegraph: The jokes that hid the terror of the Great War wrote:

The automatic reverence hitherto shown to authority was eroded by the experience of war. The process is evident in the pages of the Wipers Times, the newspaper produced by the British 24th Division between February 1916 and December 1918.

The tone is caught in a mock advertisement which asked: “Are You A Victim of Optimism?” It went on to list telltale signs of the “dread disease” including waking up in the morning “feeling that all is going well for the Allies” and believing “our leaders are competent to conduct the war to a successful conclusion”. The ad went on to propose a cure for the condition: “Two days in our establishment will effectually eradicate all traces of it from your system.”

Be dark. Allow humor. Humor in the midst of the darkness is a human reaction. To not allow it is to deny a part of what makes us human and doesn't actually add to the verisimilitude.


Roleplaying brings out my silly streak. Thus, I roleplay paradoxical characters such as a gnome paladin detective. My current GMPC is a perky teenage gunslinging bloodrager who serves as comic relief, as an impulsive loose cannon, and as the voice of reason.

The settings I maintain as a GM cannot be silly, because that would undermine the awesomeness of the players' victories. But I am only one step away from silliness; my games are lighthearted and good-spirited. A lot of villains will listen to a high Diplomacy roll. The ninja in my Jade Regent campaign had a policy of making a deal with a villain now and assassinating the villain later.


It depends on the game, really. For the most part I like a mix of the two (most of the games I'm in on PbP), with occasional forays into games that tend strongly one way (The Walking Dead of Golarion) or the other (Legendary Planet: Goblins in Spaaaaace).


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Title wrote:
Dark / Serious vs Silly / Lighthearted what kind of Pathfinder plots do you prefer?

Yes. :)


I think you all know what my answer is going to be...


Weird.


Generally pathfinder is lighthaertes, the darker games we set aside form World of Darkness stuff. Pathfinder is all about the fan stay and wonder and power, crazy shutoff happens and it's awesome!

Sovereign Court

Blindmage wrote:
Generally pathfinder is lighthaertes, the darker games we set aside form World of Darkness stuff.

Is it ACTUALLY darker? I always got the impression that it was generally 'darker' in an emo/goth kid sort of way. The kind where the players can have fun with wallowing in their conflicted emotions.

(Admittedly - the closest I've come to playing the system was the video game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.)


I'm going to answer by responding to a statement you made:

hasteroth wrote:
And there is plenty of room for humorous breaks in drama.

This does not work for me: if I'm depressed, and dark things are amost guaranteed to make me depressed because I'm that extreme of a personality, I expect the entire world to either sit down and shut up or unleash their full righteous and serious fury upon the problem until it or the universe it exists in is destroyed.

So naturally I stay away from as much darkness/seriousness as possible because I don't want to ruin other peoples' fun by having that happen.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Blindmage wrote:
Generally pathfinder is lighthaertes, the darker games we set aside form World of Darkness stuff.

Is it ACTUALLY darker? I always got the impression that it was generally 'darker' in an emo/goth kid sort of way. The kind where the players can have fun with wallowing in their conflicted emotions.

(Admittedly - the closest I've come to playing the system was the video game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.)

For my group, it's MUCH darker. We really push our own boundaries in that system. More than once we've had to call a stop to game because it was getting too intense to a full IC conniver satin and we had to switch to a more narrative style, describing our characters rather than being them.

With pathfinder, we very very rarely get that intense, it may b exciting, energizing and fun, but not super heavy on anxiety and emotions.

Sovereign Court

Blindmage wrote:
full IC conniver satin

Why does roleplaying a character who conspires with a high luster fabric qualify as being dark? :P

Liberty's Edge

Heh, love the response. I definitely agree that humor shouldn't be suppressed in a serious story, there's a pretty big difference between the dark humor or OOC tension breaking found in a serious/dark tabletop campaign, and the type of humor found in something lighthearted or even silly.

PC death has always been an interesting thing to me. Some players just dismiss the emotional impact of a PC death from what I've seen, as though their characters' feel little to nothing over it and OOC they don't care at all, beyond the impact it has on the party's functionality. Though I have seen players become accusatory and vitriolic towards other players and the GM when their character died. But the group I used to GM for were emotionally impacted both IC and OOC during the few deaths that occurred.

In one campaign the party Rogue was visibly aggrieved over the death of the Sorcerer (both IC and OOC) and had his character have a full blown rage-filled meltdown at the dead body of the Necromancer that killed him. There was no hard feelings towards me as the DM, the Sorcerer rolled a new character who was introduced in the next session. Everyone was emotionally affected by the death, to them it was like when a favorite character in a novel is killed.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Blindmage wrote:
Generally pathfinder is lighthaertes, the darker games we set aside form World of Darkness stuff.

Is it ACTUALLY darker? I always got the impression that it was generally 'darker' in an emo/goth kid sort of way. The kind where the players can have fun with wallowing in their conflicted emotions.

(Admittedly - the closest I've come to playing the system was the video game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.)

Yes.

WoD - Especially oWoD - could get many magnitudes darker than Pathfinder. The main difference is the sheer unknowns. There are some things you can't predict, at all, and the fact that it's a modern setting can make it worse. It hits closer to home.

Pathfinder is always fantasy. There are hit points, average thug with a knife likely isn't a threat. The same isn't always true.

Super high lethality combined with a modern setting that everyone is corrupt in is generally as dark as it gets. Pathfinder just can't emulate it, and it wouldn't necessarily be good to emulate it.

Pathfinder is generally high fantasy. Stories of the fantastic and epic. The other can be stories about what goes on in the basement of the creepy house down the street.


I like to mix very dark and very silly. Not at the same time, but at the turn of a corner. I want the situation to change quick. It gets really surreal and strange. The silly moments makes all the dark moments seem so much darker, you can grasp the true weight by the contrast. The darker moments makes the silly moments much more thought-provoking than just plain silly. Moves away from "Hey-hey, I'm trying to be funny, wacka-wacka!" and moves into the question if the situation is actually more tragic than fun.

I can't stand having only silly element, though. Just keeping it dark would work. But that is really hard, you need to apply nuances without any of them getting pretentious. I also really hate stories that try to be dark (they approach the darker subjects) but still stays more PG than the news covering war, situations in third world countries or other catastrophes (this is the case for many Hollywood movies).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

My experience has been that no matter how serious you run your story, players will make it silly by just being themselves. I mean, my last DM had a really well-built world, lots of political conflict and opened each session reading an excerpt from a science book to set the tone...and we STILL had armor made from ancient soda cans, we still destroyed half the setting and forced him to change things dramatically when our halfling treehugger idiotically shot lightning at a large pile of dormant radioactive metal to try and break a piece off, my paladin still talked with an AHNOLD accent and our Tarrasque was still a rancor action figure and our great wyrm red dragon was still a Beanie Baby. And I've never had more fun playing the game!

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