Spoilers for: Special Spirit Squad 3
Let’s talk about Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Or, more specifically, about how every role-playing campaign set in a fantasy universe inevitably seems to end up referencing it.
Our dungeon master did so in our very first session. Now, we were just five people who, apart from Ko and Nate, had never played together before; we were still feeling one another out, trying to discover what kind of tone our campaign would have. Were we going for a strict fantasy atmosphere? Or were we going to allow for more contemporary influences? Were we going to be dominantly silly, or mostly serious?
With a giant toad lady running around belching one-liners in a Kermit-the-frog-meets-doctor-Claw voice, it seemed quite obvious that we were going for silly. But how silly? The witch sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail would prove perfect to test the limits of how far we were willing to suspend our character’s personalities for the sake of comedy.
The moment we learned that we were to investigate a witch that was captured by peasants, we knew there was a Holy Grail bit incoming. I did not look forward to this at all; I like the odd reference, but to re-enact whole scenes is a bit too on the nose for me. And, sure enough, it would be Glurf – both the character and her player – that would pull the brakes on the skit.
The other three seemed down to re-enact the whole sketch, but me as a player controlling a Lawful Good character whose defining characteristic was a deep-founded feeling of being misplaced, I just couldn’t let this go on. For me, this was the limit for how much I was willing to suspend my character’s personality to allow for a comedy bit. Glurf’s heartfelt “THIS ISN’T FUNNY!” came from both the player and the character. We interrupted the sketch and brute-forced the diplomatic solution, as paradoxical as that may sound. I had stumbled upon my limit and put a stop on the silliness.
When I told our dungeon master that I wanted to turn our sessions into prose, he agreed to give me access to his notes on the first few sessions. Turns out that we would have recieved some fat bonus XP for appeasing the DM and re-enacting the whole scene. Whoops. Sorry for that, guys.
We might have missed out on that juicy bonus experience, but we learned something invaluable about our group: The limits of silliness. In hindsight, this was the first sign that we would be able and willing to play things for drama, too. The DM’s pop culture references never got quite this gratuitous again, either.
Thank you, Monty Python, for allowing us to discover the limits of our silliness through one of your timeless sketches.