D&D Is No Joking Matter
I can’t remember a game session where at some point everyone was not laughing. Playing D&D is fun and the wise-cracking and joking that goes with it are as much part of the session as rolling dice. Yet there is not the great repository of RPG jokes or Dungeons & Dragons cartoons you would expect. Why is it a hobby that can create so much mirth and be filled with so many creative people, produce so slittle written D&D humor.
The Joke is on Us
There is no doubt that role-playing gamers are geeks and nerds to the core. Even those of us who haven’t seen every episode of Star Trek:TNG and don’t work in the computer industry are pretty geeky by everyday standards. And there is one defining feature of a geek or nerd – poor social skills – and telling jokes is about all social skills and having the art of developing a rapport with your audience. It is hard to tell someone else’s jokes let alone develop our own brand of D&D humor without these skills.
There are D&D humor and RPG jokes out there but most are either pretty poor or just so geeky it is embarrassing to admit you understand the jokes. However a few people have brought role-playing and humor together.
The first and possibly most successful take on D&D humor genre is Murphy’s Rules. Originally appearing Space Gamer magazine, these cartoons poked fun at those little inconsistencies in the rules of RPGs, wargames and board games. The cartoons now appear in Pyramid from Steve Jackson Games and a collected Murphy’s Rules is available.
Appearing in Dragon magazine during the eighties, Snarfquest was the first D&D humor comic, long before Knights of the Dinner Table or Dork Towers. Written and drawn by Larry Elmore, who went on to produce some of the most memorable D&D artwork, Snarfquest followed the hapless adventures of Snarf. Mostly slapstick humor, it wasn’t specifically D&D humor or even general RPG jokes, but a gentle riff on the whole fantasy world idea. Sadly, the collect book of Snarfquest is no long available.
The Geek Humor Revolution
Prior to 1997 Murphey’s Rules and Snarfquest were pretty much it for D&D humor but then the internet started to bring geeks together. Suddenly there was a market for geeky comics and titles such as Knights of the Dinner Table and Dork Tower took off. Unlike previous attempts at RPG based humor, these comics focused as much on the life of the players as it did on the game itself. It wasn’t until 2003 and the web comic The Order of the Stick that D&D jokes came back into focus. Since then there has been an explosion of web comics covering every aspect of a gamers life and some of them even managed to be funny.
The Written Word
Its notable that everything above is comic or cartoon humor. None of it is the written word. Authors like Terry Pratchett have taken off the fantasy genre but it seems that much of the D&D experience doesn’t translate into the written word very well. Certainly not if you are trying to find humor as well. On the net there are some very occasional gems, such as Celebrating 30 Years Of Very Stupid Monsters.
A D&D Joke
When is comes to straight jokes, the sort a stand-up comedian tells, they are very scarce. Fortunately most jokes are very adaptable so you can produce your own D&D humor. For example this classic:
Person 1: My dog has no nose!
Person 2: How does he smell?
Person 1: Terrible!
can easily be adapted, e.g. “My dragon / orc / troll / etc has no nose!” though I recommend you start with a better joke. Check out Laugh Lab for scientifically proven better jokes.
Professional D&D Humor
Even for professional comedians, such a geeky subject as role-playing is hard to make funny. In Tough Gig with Dara O’Briain, Dara has to spend two days with a bunch of live-action role players and at the end, perform a gig based what he has learnt. You can watch parts 1& 2 but part 3 below contains the actual performance.
Whether it is because the sort of people who play D&D lack the social skills necessary to tell jokes or whether D&D is simply not a very rich vein of comedy I don’t know, but we seem to lack a large body of D&D jokes. Having no illusions of my own ability to tell jokes I will pass over the opportunity to fix this state of affairs and leave you with this pure D&D cartoon from Murphy’s Rules.